The future of downtown Batavia intrigues the men running for 6th Ward aldermen.
Incumbent Robert Liva and challengers Nicholas Cerone and Ron Rechenmacher discussed city business during a Daily Herald endorsement interview.
"The residents' vision (for the downtown) is more important than my particular vision," said Rechenmacher. He hears people say they want it to be more pedestrian-friendly, where traffic is not a main issue because there is a second bridge.
"Residents don't want it all (done) lickety-split," Rechenmacher said, adding residents have told him they want to make sure there is a good return on any money spent for improvements, including property tax money collected in the downtown specifically for improvements and economic investment incentives.
Liva wants the council to continue what it started, when it began working on improving the streetscape of downtown in 2012, on North River Street. "The results ... have been ultimately successful," he said, attributing increased occupancy along the street to the work done.
Cerone said the first step in creating a bustling downtown is "changing the perception in the business world, and that is that Batavia is not a business-friendly community."
The 6th Ward is home to subdivisions relying on retention and detention basins for stormwater control. City officials have recently discussed whether responsibility for maintaining those should be turned over to the city, and whether to charge every property in the city for stormwater work, through a new utility.
Liva favors a citywide stormwater utility. He also thinks the detention/retention areas could be improved, converting from bluegrass linings to native plants. A stormwater utility charge could also pay for repairing the eroded shoreline of the Fox River, he said.
Cerone said he wants the city to be more "proactive" on such issues for the future.
The long view
All three were asked what they would like to be remembered for years from now, should they be elected.
Rechenmacher said he would like to strive for a "perfect balance" between offering economic incentives to attract business vs. tightening the city budget to relieve tax burdens on residents.
Liva said times ahead will be more difficult, with less state and federal money trickling down to local governments. Liva believes there will be more aggregation of redundant services among the taxing bodies, and intergovernmental agreements such as the ones that have extended TriComm emergency dispatch service to North Aurora and Sugar Grove.
"I would love for it to be keeping Batavia an affordable place for Batavians to live," Cerone said. "I would love to look back and say, 'We weathered the storm and survived.' "
Does the downtown area get too much, or maybe not enough, attention from elected officials?
Cerone said attention is merited, relative to the attention paid to the Randall Road shopping corridor. "It needs to be the centerpiece of attention for development," he said of the downtown.
Rechenmacher said residents talk to him about the vacant and want filling them prioritized, while making sure the incentives are offered to businesses that are likely to last, not close in two years.
Liva said in city survey after survey, residents ranked "revitalizing the downtown" high.
"Randall Road seems to be better at taking care of itself in terms of regeneration of revenues," he said.
Rechenmacher spoke of "maneuvers" to get the Fox Valley Business Park developed. Neighbors were unhappy when the plan changed to allow a single plant, Rubicon Technology, to take much of the space. He noted Rubicon uses a lot of electricity, and the city has surplus electricity to sell, now that the Prairie State power plant in which it invested is running. "The city needs large electrical consumers. What are we willing to do to get them is kind of the big question," he said.
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