A week from Election Day, Rolling Meadows mayor makes pitch to businesses
Rolling Meadows Mayor Len Prejna made his pitch Monday to local business leaders about a city on the upswing.
In a week, he'll learn if voters agree.
Prejna delivered his second address to the city's business community Monday during the Chamber of Commerce's 14th annual Taking Care of Business Luncheon.
But the address might have doubled as a campaign speech, with the April 2 election fast approaching and two of Prejna's three challengers -- Alderman John D'Astice and Planning and Zoning Committee Vice Chair Dave Whitney -- in the room.
The fourth candidate, Alderman Joe Gallo, wasn't there. But during Prejna's 20 minutes at the podium, the mayor referenced the value of grants city staff have applied for and received -- an apparent reference to a controversy that erupted in February, when Gallo was criticized for seeking a grant without council approval.
"2018 was a good year. 2019 was even a better year," Prejna said during the noontime luncheon at Meridian Banquets on Algonquin Road. "And we look forward to the fact that the citizens of Rolling Meadows can look at lower taxes in 2019, more businesses arriving here, and more grant money so that we can improve our infrastructure."
Gallo filed grant paperwork with the National Safety Council in January using his city email address, but aldermen voted 5-2 Feb. 12 to formally advise the Itasca-based organization that the city didn't authorize the application, effectively withdrawing it. The grant was aimed at expanding a pilot program of technology in city fire trucks that digitally alerts drivers of oncoming emergency vehicles through phone apps.
At the time, Prejna said though Gallo's idea may have been promising, the council didn't give him the authority to submit the application. Gallo said he is a valid representative of the city, and his submission was only preliminary in nature.
On Monday, Prejna said the city continues to write and receive grants using city-contracted engineering firms, including Christopher B. Burke and Baxter Woodman, as well as Nicor and ComEd, among other agencies. It's led to $23 million in transportation upgrades over the past 23 years, and $10 million for public safety in the last 15 years, he said.
"What a lot of people don't realize is how important grants are to the city," Prejna said. "It speaks well for what our staff does and how we do with our money."
One recent example is the upcoming Kirchoff Road resurfacing project between Hicks and New Wilke roads -- set to begin any day now after years of planning -- which utilizes a federal/local cost-share split. The city will be on the hook for $811,000, after a federal grant covers $1.5 million.
"We're using that to bring businesses down to the city of Rolling Meadows and to put the shine back in Rolling Meadows," he said.