Lester: The rundown on Mount Prospect's push to end gravel driveways
Finish paying off your kid's college tuition or spend thousands to replace your driveway?
Mount Prospect resident Mike Schwarzbeck says that's his quandary as the village cracks down on a long-standing ordinance requiring residents to replace gravel driveways with blacktop or concrete or be fined $250 a day.
Schwarzbeck, whose youngest daughter is a senior at Bradley University in Peoria, told village officials during a hearing last week that he wants more time to pave his double-wide driveway, which one contractor told him will cost $12,000. But the jury's still out on whether that request will be granted.
He declined to comment further, as have other gravel driveway owners who say they fear blowback from the village.
Several residents say the situation is becoming heated and that village officials are getting an earful from resistant residents.
Bill Cooney, Mount Prospect's director of community development, tells me the gravel driveway ban was put in place in 2004 for "cosmetic and safety reasons." It wasn't, he says, a contentious vote.
Residents at first were given five years to comply, and the deadline was extended to Jan. 1 of this year. Recently, the village began to issue $250 tickets to those who have made no efforts to replace their driveways.
Back in 2004, about 50 gravel driveways existed throughout Mount Prospect. Now, Cooney says, just a few remain.
Who else bans gravel?
How common are ordinances like this? The Northwest Municipal Conference says it keeps no record of the prevalence of rules against gravel driveways. Our archives show Carpentersville went through a similar saga last year.
Saves streets and sewers
Mount Prospect Mayor Arlene Juracek, elected in 2013, backs the village's efforts to eliminate gravel driveways.
"Though we were once a farming community, over time we've become more urbanized and we have a lot of different considerations," she said. "Part of it's the impact of the gravel driveways on sewer systems and streets."
Juracek tells me she and six others from the village's Sister Cities Commission traveled to Sevres, France, in mid-September.
The southwestern suburban French city and Mount Prospect have developed a strong relationship in recent years, Juracek said, with Sevres recently renovating its library to "look more like an American library."
She also had a bit of time to enjoy French food and wine. "Nothing tastes as good in America as it does in France," she laughed. "It's the butter. It's the freshness."
New hearing officer
The College of DuPage has named a new hearing officer less than a week after Joseph Morris resigned from the post. The board this week selected retired federal judge David Coar to conduct the private post-termination hearings for former COD Treasurer Thomas Glaser and former Controller Lynn Sapyta, who were fired this month after being on paid leave since June.
Peter Lubin, Sapyta's attorney, said he's appeared in front of Coar and has "nothing but the highest regard" for him. Coar served as a Northern District judge for 16 years and a U.S. bankruptcy judge before that. He was an associate dean at DePaul University's law school and taught at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Joe Kabbes, Harper College's astronomy outreach coordinator, says more than 250 people showed up at the college observatory Sunday evening to catch a glimpse of the rare supermoon eclipse.
"It ended up being a big party out on the lawn," Kabbes said. Though most of the day had been overcast, "the clouds cleared and the skies opened up at about 8:30. The entire crowd erupted in cheers."
A month in Fox Lake
It's been a month today since the shooting death of Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, and many questions remain unanswered. One that's not is whether there's a feud between the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force and the Lake County coroner's office, which clashed earlier in the investigation.
Task Force Cmdr. George Filenko assured my colleague Lee Filas yesterday that he and Coroner Thomas Rudd are on good terms, speak several times a week and shared information on lab results as recently as Wednesday.
As part of Fermilab's 40th anniversary celebration of the Robert Betz Prairie, once the world's largest prairie restoration project, the national physics laboratory will host a Prairie Harvest Saturday, when volunteers from Batavia and surrounding towns will help diversify the prairie by gathering seeds from about 25 different types of native plants.
Here's Democratic state Sen. Melinda Bush on a bench in downtown Grayslake, minutes before she spotted GOP opponent Mike Amrozowicz scouting out office space a few hundred yards from her own office. The 31st state Senate race, like several in the suburbs, is expected to be a barnburner in 2016, with both sides spending a boatload on mailers and advertisements. Bush tells me she's prepared to see Gov. Bruce Rauner's political action committee spend $2 million to defeat her and reclaim the seat once held by Republican Suzi Schmidt.