Lake County mayors look back on 2019 accomplishments
The Daily Herald asked Lake County mayors and village presidents to look back on 2019 and identify their community's greatest accomplishment. Here's what they said ...
Larry Hanson, Antioch
Economic development and reducing the tax burden on the village residents continues to be our No. 1 priority. Building on the success of completion of Aluminum Manufacturer, Handi-Foil and the start of a new 160,000-square-foot Fischer Paper Company, Antioch is committed to attracting new, light industrial and commercial businesses to the village. A new "business district" was created in 2019 along Route 173, which should help to attract new retailers to the community.
Karen Darch, Barrington
It was a very exciting year for Barrington in 2019. We were thrilled to receive news that funding for our underpass of Route 14 at the CN tracks was achieved and we can continue to move forward on a project that will provide one train-free route through the village -- especially significant for hospital-bound ambulances. While we said goodbye to wonderful longtime staff, including Village Manager Jeff Lawler, our new staff, led by Village Manager Scott Anderson, has hit the ground running, building on the legacy of their predecessors. We began our 2020 Comprehensive Plan neighborhood meetings, and lots of neighbors and those from far and near enjoyed many terrific downtown and Barrington White House cultural and special events this year, like the first half of a Year of Courageous Conversations.
Martin McLaughlin, Barrington Hills
The Village of Barrington Hills is on track to, once again, lower the levy, making it the sixth consecutive year. Since 2013, the village Levy has been reduced by more than 24%. We will continue to lead by example, responding to our residents' desire to see tax relief. In 2019, the Village of Barrington Hills approved a revitalized Comprehensive Plan, which was recognized by the Barrington Area Council of Governments. The innovative format allows residents and those interested to explore the unique property rights and freedoms available within our 30-square- mile village. In conjunction with our continuing efforts to preserve natural habitat and open spaces, the Village of Barrington Hills has been recognized and certified as one of the first Bee Cities in Illinois, which was showcased at The Hills Are Alive Fall Festival this past September with a honey-tasting competition.
Beverly Sussman, Buffalo Grove
Buffalo Grove enjoyed a successful 2019 with the completion of several projects, such as the Prairie View Metra Station Area Plan. This was a community-driven plan with over 300 stakeholders and community members participating in the process. We also had the opening of the Shoppes of Buffalo Grove and the launch of the Engage BG Comprehensive Plan. Sky Fitness is in the process of adding 20,000 square feet to its existing building. We proudly supported the appointment of Police Chief Steven Casstevens to the presidency of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. We congratulate our former finance director Scott Anderson on his appointment as the new village manager of Barrington.
Donny Schmit, Fox Lake
This year, more than $8 million has been invested with more than 20 new businesses and several business expansions. Thanks, in part, to $5 million in grant funded projects, the village completed projects on Grand Avenue, Sayton Road and Frontage Road in 2019. Our parks and recreation department implemented several new programs and special events for 2019 in addition to completing a Parks and Recreation Master Plan. The police department implemented teen court, a partnership with Grant High School that has been very successful. The department also has increased community outreach through events such as the Halloween Howl and National Night Out.
Rhett Taylor, Grayslake
2019 marked the commencement of development of the Cornerstone business park on Peterson Road. Initiation of this project created a site for a new 1.4 million-square-foot office/distribution center now under construction that will bring over 250 jobs to the village. The village also worked with some other Grayslake taxing districts to retain Harger Inc., retaining 60 jobs and adding 20 jobs when Harger expands. The village continued its Grayslake Sustainable Business program, a public recognition program for local businesses that increases sustainability in their operations. In 2019, three new businesses joined the five other recipients of this recognition.
Bernard Wysocki, Green Oaks
We hit the ground running in 2019 and have continued to make significant progress in community engagement, public education, safety and infrastructure, as well as economic empowerment. Green Oaks rated No. 7 as "Best Place to Raise a Family in Illinois" out of 636 towns by Niche.com. Green Oaks has upheld its Triple-A credit rating, securing a $3.5 million bond necessary to carry out the villagewide road improvement project. To date, the village has successfully rehabilitated 8 miles of the village's total 26.8 miles of road. Green Oaks recently added new public works/utility infrastructure, and road and building construction on the newly established mixed use zoning district, allowing for retail, commercial and light industrial uses.
Kristina Kovarik, Gurnee
2019 was a great year for the village. The most visible enhancement is our new water tower on the west end of town. Our retail corridors remain strong and thriving. Six Flags Great America had a banner year with strong attendance. The shopping, dining and entertainment spending allowed the village to fund all its operations, pensions, debt obligations and capital improvements without a property tax for the 19th year in a row. With the opening of the Richard A. Welton Village Plaza on Old Grand Avenue, we were able to start our own tradition of a holiday display and look forward to adding to it each year moving forward.
Joe Mancino, Hawthorn Woods
The village of Hawthorn Woods celebrated several accomplishments in 2019, but among the top cause to celebrate was Hawthorn Woods being named the America in Bloom National Champion in our population category among all cities and municipalities in the program. Additionally, Hawthorn Woods has worked over the past decade to be a prominent leader in environmental efforts, and in 2019 was named the Environmental Champion by America in Bloom. We competed for this award against cities large and small across the nation, and Hawthorn Woods came in first place for the efforts we champion in our community. Our residents share in this honor, as we collectively make Hawthorn Woods a special place to call home.
Gerry Daley, Hainesville
Of the many things that were accomplished in Hainesville this past year, the one that I am most proud of is the completion of "The Gathering Place." What was a 1-acre, weed-filled, unused piece of land just north of the village hall has been converted into a small, welcoming park containing multiple pollinator gardens, a walking path, picnic area and a gazebo. It was funded through a ComEd grant and village funds. The gazebo was donated by Mr. and Mrs. George Duberstein. It will be dedicated next spring.
Kevin C. Richardson
Kevin Richardson, Lake Barrington
The Village of Lake Barrington's 2019 accomplishments recognized and reflected the premium that our residents place upon our being "an oasis of gracious countryside living." The hard work of our residents expanded our commitment to publicly-accessible open spaces, while also creating new community-building events for residents and their families and friends. Equally important, the past year saw important recognition for the work of the Veterans of Lake Barrington Shores as they spearheaded our successful effort to win a Governor's Hometown Award in the category of Veterans and Military Families. As part of our focus on community beautification, the village completed its Healthy Hedges project, which replaced the buckthorn trees on Old Barrington Road adjacent to the village hall. In addition to our annual fall "Barn Stomp," 2019 saw Lake Barrington's first-ever "Concert in the Park" at Freier Farm this past July.
James McDonald, Lake Villa
The village of Lake Villa's greatest accomplishment in 2019 was the continued redevelopment of the downtown business district. In 2019, Lake Villa completed streetscape improvements on Cedar Avenue, which includes new sidewalks, landscaping, trees, decorative lighting, decorative features and new signs. The village was also able to attract a new destination business -- Harbor Brewing Company -- to a building that has been vacant for more than a decade. The village purchased two dilapidated houses, demolished them and made the property shovel-ready for future commercial development.
Thomas (Tom) Poynton
Tom Poynton, Lake Zurich
Continuous improvement in municipal finances, services, infrastructure and community engagement. By the end of 2019, the village will have concluded six years of ongoing progress toward its strategic goals and objectives, including sound financial management, infrastructure investment, service improvement and unparalleled transparency and engagement. We've received awards this year for Sunset Pavilion and our 20-year Community Investment Plan; resurfaced Old Rand Road; established Kuechmann Arboretum; attracted 21 new businesses; and welcomed the construction start for the new Lifetime Fitness center. We're proud of what we've accomplished so far, and we're looking ahead to keeping it going in 2020 and beyond.
Terry Weppler, Libertyville
The past year has been busy with infrastructure improvements. New utilities were installed on East Rockland Road to begin a multiyear stormwater improvement project. Stormwater work also was done in Charles Brown Park to increase capacity and help prevent flooding in the Ames through Drake subdivision. The village also completed the new Metra train station downtown. No tax dollars were used, as the work was completed with commuter parking fees. The new Prairie Crossing Metra station was also completed in 2019. Several important studies were completed involving future financial spending, future capital needs and park improvements.
Elizabeth Brandt, Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire continues to hold a strong fiscal standing, including a balanced budget and the eighth straight year of a flat .241 property tax rate, which is used to fund required police pension contributions and public safety. Several major capital projects also were completed, including a cross-town water main connection to provide system stability and redundancy, and a connection to Buffalo Grove's water system for use in emergencies. The village celebrated construction of two new parks, in addition to the grand opening of the 302-unit 444 Social luxury apartment complex. Lincolnshire commissioned a villagewide drainage study to assess the impact of stormwater on certain areas. Results are expected in the first quarter of 2020. A second school resource officer began working at Stevenson High School to support and build relationships with the student body.
Dominic Marturano, Lindenhurst
Although we've had a number of significant accomplishments this year, I will highlight our progress with the proposed Briargate subdivision. The village board has approved rezoning, preliminary plat, site, and landscape plans for the 230 age-restricted (55 years and older) single-family homes. The Briargate subdivision will be on Route 45, south of Falling Waters Boulevard, and construction is anticipated to begin in 2020.
Bill Jacob, Long Grove
Long Grove had another productive year. We successfully completed the Old McHenry Road reconstruction project in the heart of our downtown, in collaboration with Lake County. The conclusion of this project culminated in a street lighting ceremony, where newly installed streetlamps were turned on for the first time in the village's history. The village also completed the extension of our public water main and reconstruction of Robert Parker Coffin Road. These improvements have dramatically transformed our historic downtown and have been well received by property owners, merchants and our residents. We began the effort to overhaul our permitting process to make it more efficient and easier for residents and business owners to obtain permits.
Casey Urlacher, Mettawa
The village approved another balanced budget and maintained the tax levy at the same amount for the 21st consecutive year. Our zoning, planning and appeals commission completed a multiyear study of the village's zoning ordinance and produced a comprehensive plan to update and modernize one of the most important sections of the village code. It is much more user friendly with the use of tables, matrixes and graphics.
Steve Lentz, Mundelein
After more than a decade of planning, IDOT's $540 million "Rebuild Illinois" infrastructure investment awarded Mundelein $129 million to widen Route 60/83 for 3 miles from Route 176 to the CN railroad crossing near Diamond Lake Road and a bridge to be built over the tracks. This is a major step for Mundelein, and roughly $9 million has been budgeted for land acquisition and other work in the 2019-20 fiscal year. In terms of redevelopment, Dziadus Development is redeveloping the former village hall site. The project will invest more than $7 million in the expanding downtown. This is an important catalyst to ignite other downtown growth. The project will bring jobs, additional dining, retail, and modern downtown lease space.
Dan MacGillis, Round Lake
2019 has been a year of partnerships for the village. Leasing a village building to the school district for a welcome center, allowing the fire district to use space at public works while the fire station is renovated, ongoing discussions about shared services with the Round Lake communities, working with the library on a building project and using resources of the park district are a few examples of the partnerships. Improving public infrastructure with a second CLCJAWA connection, resurfacing streets, and planting parkway trees maintains the village and new development like Gerber and Catholic Charities keeps Round Lake growing.
Richard H. Hill
Rich Hill, Round Lake Beach
2019's biggest accomplishment was getting the state of Illinois to pass legislation to consolidate the 650 local police and fire pension funds. This will allow for an average increase in earnings of 2% annually, 25% to 35% better than most municipalities and fire districts get now. This will go a long way toward stabilizing our pensions. Unfortunately the unions were able to get increased benefits in exchange for the taxpayers getting a break.
Terrance Lumpkins, Round Lake Heights
When I reflect about what the village's greatest achievement was in 2019, it is that we were able to complete two-thirds of the paving of the roads, leaving one third of the roads left. We also replaced quite a few sidewalks throughout the village. This is our sixth year of the tree removal program, removing the dead trees out of the easements.
Linda Lucassen, Round Lake Park
As we approach the end of the year and have one of our final events, our annual Community Tree Lighting, we reflect on what has been accomplished this past year. Our 2019 greatest accomplishments have been the partnership with Community Partners for Affordable Housing, our annual rental program and our police department, always working to help our community, have just partnered with Working Bikes, a nonprofit organization to provide a bicycle to someone in need.
Butch Buckley, Third Lake
The village of Third Lake is a community based around the lakes and "Where life meets the lakes." In 2019, we experienced our first full year with the new dam and spillway. We saw significant reduction in water level fluctuations and reduced flooding even with the county experiencing considerable flooding this year.
David Parro, Tower Lakes
2019 in Tower Lakes saw the completion of a 5-year, $260,000 green infrastructure project to demonstrate state-of-the-art best management practices for stormwater management using bioswales and engineered rain garden detention basins. This major improvement was funded entirely by federal, state and county grants, each of which was highly competitive. In addition, the required 50% matching value of the main grant was provided in the form of volunteer hours and public education. The installation has already proven effective at reducing flooding in two key areas and is delivering other water quality benefits. We won a regional award for this work, the Barrington Area Council of Governments' biennial Donald Klein Award for best community improvement project.
Roger Byrne, Vernon Hills
Mellody Farm has created synergy for our community. The retail component included 270,000 square feet of new restaurant and retail space. The interest created by this development has spurred growth throughout the village. Not only is Mellody Farm thriving with new restaurants and retailers, but also there has been increased economic development throughout the village as a result of this initiative. The issues faced during 2019 included the Retailer's Occupation Sales Tax and its potential impact to our economic engine, emerging laws regarding Recreational Use and Sale of Cannabis, and State Pension Consolidation planning. Each impacts the village's traditional revenue streams, state-mandated liabilities, or reputation.
Stephen Henley, Volo
Our biggest accomplishment in 2019 was the delivery of Lake Michigan water. After more than a decade of planning, engineering, and construction, the delivery of Lake Michigan water will ensure a sustainable, high-quality source of drinking water for our residents now and in the future.
Lincoln Knight, Wauconda
The village of Wauconda continued to move forward in 2019 with the completion of our strategic plan, which has created a road map for the village over the next three years. Of course, the village's biggest accomplishment in 2019, which closes out the largest project that was in the works for over a decade, and the largest project in the village's long history, is the delivery of Lake Michigan Water to Wauconda -- a clean and sustainable source of drinking water for our community. We are very proud to now be a member community of CLCJAWA and thank all of our residents and businesses for their patience and support of this project over the past many years.