Deciding the future of Long Grove's historic covered bridge will be among the most pressing issues facing the next village board.
Debate has swirled through town in recent years over what to do with the deteriorating 111-year-old landmark -- with options ranging from rehabilitating the structure and preserving it as a one-lane span, to relocating it as a modern two-lane thoroughfare.
Making the call will be a new village president, with Trustee Bill Jacob running unopposed for the post in the April 4 election, and a board that will include at least two new members.
Five candidates are seeking three trustee seats: incumbent Trustee John Marshall and newcomers Pat Tode, Rita O'Connor, Anne Kritzmire and Bobbie O'Reilly. O'Connor, Kritzmire and O'Reilly are teaming with Jacob on the Voice of Long Grove slate. Marshall and Tode are running independently.
O'Connor, a real estate broker/manager and attorney, said she understands the bridge's iconic value to the village, but needs more facts before she can make an intelligent decision.
"Corporations spend bazillions and years creating brands, so it's identified with Long Grove, and it's very special to people," she said.
Noting the cost of repairs could reach $1 million, she said establishing a public/private partnership to solicit funds could be the preferred solution.
Kritzmire, a managing director of marketing and strategy, said she wants the bridge to be "very carefully taken care of."
"We need to get some numbers, get some good sets of facts, those that bear into the historical designation, those that bear into what does it actually cost, what are the different options, and lay a good set of balanced, comprehensive, yet simple and easy to understand facts in front of the people who would have to foot the bill," she said.
Both she and O'Connor suggest a referendum to get voters' take on the options.
Marshall said the will of the people does not lean toward changing the bridge.
"Back when money was really tight for our village, we knew that this was going to be a problem," he said. "The steel structure is in relatively good shape. The wood structure and roof are in bad shape. Something has to be done."
At public meetings on the bridge, Marshall said, the overwhelming majority of residents said they want the bridge preserved as a historic landmark.
"There are people that go out of their way to go over that bridge," he added. "I'm not sure it's a good idea to change it, although I like the idea of somebody chipping in."
O'Reilly, a Realtor who previously served on the Buffalo Grove village board and the Lake County Board, said she unequivocally wants the bridge to remain as it is.
"The community feels about the bridge the way they do about the downtown," she said.
"When people have weddings at the church down the way, they come and have pictures taken in front of the bridge, because it's a symbol of Long Grove," O'Reilly added. "Money is important. Financial stability is important. But sometimes there are things that are more important than finances, and this is one of them."
Tode, a retired Chicago police detective, said he also favors keeping the status quo on the bridge.
"People gather around it," he said. "It's on all our literature. It's in the (village) hall. It's on a plaque behind the (village) president's desk. I think it's something worth keeping and preserving."