Northwest suburban mayors look back on 2020
Not much seemed business as usual in 2020, but one thing that hasn't changed is our annual tradition of reaching out to Northwest suburban mayors and village presidents to ask them what their community accomplished in the year gone by and something they hope to accomplish in the year ahead. Today, we share the accomplishments of a challenging 2020. On Friday, we'll share the mayors' hopes for 2021.
Although 2020 has been difficult for us all, I could not be more proud of the way our community has banded together to meet the pandemic and social unrest challenges we faced in the last year. Beginning with our essential workers, especially our health care providers and first responders, all within the City of Good Neighbors have done their part with hard work, perseverance, and respect to help us weather the storms and to get back to at least a new normal as soon as possible. With the help of some very nice weather this summer and fall, outdoor dining at Arlington Alfresco in downtown Arlington Heights was enjoyed by all. Despite the economic strain of COVID-19 on municipal revenue due to decreased local business sales taxes, the village's prudent budget practices and strong financial condition enabled us to pass a Village Budget that includes a zero percent property tax increase for the second consecutive year. The village board also furthered its goal of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) by hiring a consultant to help us ensure the village is doing all it can do to be a welcoming and inclusive place for all. The consultant is now finalizing their work which specifically targeted optimizing a sense of belongingness, outreach, engagement, and inclusiveness for all members of the community and village employees.
Like so many municipalities, the Village of Barrington faced numerous challenges in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, our residents pulled together and we were able to provide support for our local businesses and take a leading role in helping our broader Barrington-area community navigate the issues we all faced. Despite significant revenue losses, the village was able to achieve a balanced budget through strategic cost-cutting and operating efficiencies (such as online services), and we continued to offer virtual cultural programming to our community through Barrington's White House. We worked with Lake County to complete the Hart Road intersection improvements, and we also worked with our park district, school and conservation partners to make significant improvements to Flint Creek between Langendorf Park and Barrington High School.
We are pleased to announce to our residents that we will now have lowered our levy for the seventh year in a row, operating government as efficiently as possible. The village has improved our road resurfacing and drainage programs as well as achieving CALEA accreditation, the highest standard possible for our law enforcement.
The year 2020 has proven to be truly challenging, in ways we never could have expected just 10 months ago. However, in addition to Bartlett's hard work addressing the pandemic, the village has continued to put energy into its economic growth with results that added some much-needed positivity to the year. We saw commercial and residential development and investment throughout the community, with more than 19 projects either under review or breaking ground. New businesses opened in downtown Bartlett, especially at the newly renovated Streets of Bartlett shopping center, which has gone far toward bringing the downtown business district closer to full occupancy. Projects underway include the family-friendly Culver's on Route 59 and three new convenience stores with fuel stations that are in various stages of completion. And Bartlett's industrial parks continue their impressive expansions. Pharmaceutical giant McKesson is currently completing its regional distribution facility in Brewster Creek Business Park. Logistics Property Company completed two speculative buildings at Stearns and Munger, and Conor Globe Commercial is going through the approval process for a 436,000-square-foot warehouse building, that if greenlighted, will be the largest building in the village.
This has been a very challenging year for everyone, but we have seen renewed community strength in Buffalo Grove. As a result of the pandemic, we initiated the BG Delivers campaign that encourages community spirit and support of both businesses and residents throughout this pandemic. From neighborhood events to a socially-distanced Farmers Market, our residents and businesses have shown their resolve to keep Buffalo Grove a vibrant and welcoming community. The village has seen continued and significant growth, investment and interest in our local economy in 2020. The following projects are underway in the village: Woodman's second gas station; Shell gas station on Milwaukee Avenue; construction continues on Link Crossing and a 70,6000-square-foot medical office building plus a 4,900-square-foot retail building for Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH). We have issued 2,700 commercial and residential building permits representing millions of dollars invested in the village. We are also broadening our connection with the community and our residents through the BG Resident Academy, streaming our public meetings on Facebook Live and streamlining permits and licenses for local businesses.
Even with all that 2020 threw at us, I am proud to say we have completed and advanced several important critical infrastructure projects that will keep our residents moving safely around town. Of special significance this year, the city council collaborated with partners at the Des Plaines Self-Help Closet and Pantry, our local food bank, to purchase a new building and remodel it for their use. Now more than ever, their services are needed in the community and we were proud to help them meet increased demand. I am encouraged by the generosity I've seen pouring forth from our community during these challenging times. Whether it was supporting local restaurants or donating to those in need, the residents of Des Plaines have truly embraced their neighbors.
Elk Grove Village
2020 as been a year of unprecedented challenges for our community and our country. Throughout this pandemic, the village has worked to extend relief and support to the community in many ways. First and foremost, I worked with the village board to approve two rounds of economic relief totaling $6.2 million directly to businesses and residents. The village was able to extend this relief because, despite the economic fallout from the coronavirus, the village remains on solid financial footing. This direct relief has been unmatched by any other local government in the state, but we felt that it was simply the right thing to do. The village also worked swiftly to assist businesses in navigating new restrictions and public health guidelines, setting up a dedicated business website to serve as a one-stop-shop for resources. Our economic development team worked directly with businesses to help identify production and sourcing capabilities that could assist in increasing production or acquisition of critical supplies. Additionally, the village launched Shop Elk Grove, a site to help residents safely patronize local retailers and services during the pandemic. Looking back on this year, what I am most proud of is how our community came together to support each other. During times of crisis, our natural response is to gather together, but during this pandemic, we have had to find new ways to support one another. Many residents and businesses reached out to the village asking how they could help. While we have had to forgo or modify some cherished traditions this year, holidays are a time to remember what is most important -- our families and our community. This is a lesson that our community has taken to heart throughout the pandemic, and it makes me proud to call Elk Grove Village home.
During his difficult pandemic year, the village board continued to focus on our residents and improving the community. I am proud to say that for the fifth consecutive year, the village board approved a zero percent property tax increase and no increase to the water and sewer rate for the sixth year. Residents and visitors are sure to enjoy our new and improved "downtown" area, south and west of the Metra train station! New plaza and park for community events, new sidewalks for better pedestrian connections, new landscaping, lighting and streetscape for pedestrian comfort have all been installed. Residents will be able to enjoy the well-designed public open space year-round. Our emergency management efforts, under the supervisor of our fire department, focused on leading our village's response to the pandemic and did an excellent job. In November, the police department again received accreditation from the Commission on the Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). This marked the seventh accreditation the police department has earned since 2001. Less than 5% of law enforcement agencies have received this honor, which requires demonstration of compliance with thousands of professional standards that cover all aspects of law enforcement operations, including use of force, internal investigations, employee conduct, social services, and more. Additionally in November, the village continued its dedication to supporting our veterans and we were rewarded with the U.S. Department of Labor presenting the Village of Hanover Park with the 2020 HIRE Vets Medallion Program Demonstration Award in recognition of its employment of military veterans.
Hoffman Estates' focus this year has been maintaining the delivery of essential services to our residents and business community, despite the pandemic. Fortunately, through proactive planning and fiscally responsible spending, the village was in a strong financial position in early 2020. Although 2020 revenues were reduced significantly due to impacts from COVID-19, the village was able to adjust its budget midyear to continue critical operations without cuts to services or staff. The village supported the business community by promoting local restaurants and providing local businesses with information on financial resources and changing health guidelines. village health inspections ensured that food establishments, as well as long-term care and child-care facilities, followed state guidelines in a rapidly evolving situation. Despite this year's challenges, the village completed a number of significant projects in 2020, including resurfacing or reconstruction of 36 street segments. The Shoe Factory Road bicycle path west of Route 59 opened to the public. Significant redevelopment activity took place at Bell Works, the mixed-use "metroburb" at the site of the former AT&T campus, which saw its first tenants move in late in the year. Construction was also completed on Bystronic's North American headquarters; a 15,000-square-foot addition to the AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital; and the new Holiday Inn Express hotel located in the 59-90 Entertainment District. While most 2020 events and festivals were canceled due to the pandemic, the village took the opportunity to reconfigure the Village Green, creating more usable open space for future events. On the entertainment front, the village executed a new 15-year, $11.25 million naming rights agreement for the village-owned NOW Arena (formerly the Sears Centre Arena).
2020 has been a challenging year for our nation and every community. The effects of COVID-19 have changed how we live and interact with our neighbors, with community events and family celebrations being canceled or conduced remotely over video. We are thankful to our health care workers, first responders, and essential workers, who have worked tirelessly to keep our community safe and healthy. I want to express my appreciation to Inverness residents for their generosity in supporting those in need, from donating personal protective equipment (PPEs) to our police and fire personnel to taking a stroll around the block with an elderly neighbor. In gratitude to Palatine and Barrington townships, the village provided a cash contribution to the townships' food pantries to support those in need. We are grateful for their service to our communities.
The Village of Lake Barrington prides itself for being "an oasis of gracious countryside living" and has worked hard through the pandemic to protect the well-being of both our residents and the businesses that call Lake Barrington home. Recently, our board of trustees approved a grant program to help local restaurants cope with the challenges created by the pandemic. This has been supplemented with an omnichannel communications effort that urges residents to show their support for local dining establishments. In addition, the village quickly acted this past spring to assist our entire business community by voting to waive this year's business, restaurant, and liquor licensing fees. We supplemented this by moving our permit and licensing processes online so that businesses can continue to work in a contactless manner. To enhance our residents' quality of life, we worked with the Lake County Forest Preserve District on revisions to our intergovernmental agreement that now allows bicycles on portions of the Grassy Lakes Forest Preserve Trail. The playground, splash pad, tennis courts, and ball fields at the village hall grounds saw a lot of use this year with people looking for family-friendly outdoor activities that respected social distancing. We are thankful to the Lake Barrington Countryside Park District for doing such a fantastic job at maintaining these amenities.
The Mount Prospect Community Engagement Committee's villagewide theme of "Better Together" has proven to be an inspiration as we grapple with the effects of COVID-19. Not only did the village help hundreds of local residents during their time of need through our food pantry and emergency financial assistance programs, but our individual residents and businesses extended a helping hand to those in need by assisting their neighbors, supporting our businesses and exercising their personal responsibilities to mitigate the spread of the disease. We salute our first responders, medical personnel, parents, teachers and administrators, businesses, employers and village staff who are every day exhibiting resilience, ingenuity and energy during these trying times. We're very happy that we found ways to further assist our restaurants through our recent restaurant grant program; and were able to safely host record-setting early voting at village hall. Throughout the year, the strength of the village was affirmed by progress on several important projects. Both police and fire HQ's were completed and our public safety departments seamlessly moved to their new locations. The Maple Street Lofts parking deck is completed and construction on the residential apartments and row homes is progressing well. The 10 N. Main apartment construction is near complete, and the rapid occupancy of the 20 West apartments has confirmed the desirability of living in downtown Mount Prospect. Recognizing the importance of our community development efforts, we launched a successful online permitting/application portal to allow us to provide nearly all Community Development services online. Finally, we have secured a grocery store downtown, a longtime request of our residents!
Eleanor Sweet McDonnell
For the first time in many years the village passed a balanced budget. The village board also took its first step toward reducing its carbon footprint by bringing green energy to its citizens; 50% of the village's power will come from renewable sources such as wind and solar.
We all know that 2020 started in chaos and confusion with the pandemic and a political mess. Soon huge numbers of people began to contract the disease and pass into God's country and we learned what the word quarantined was all about. We in city management, after 11 years, learned about prosperity and bringing Prospect Heights into the 21st Century. We knew that sooner or later we could do that again. Our main line of progress had been working on the Sidewalk to Schools program which was completed at all five of our schools. At the same time, we chose the engineers who have completed their study and drawings. The initial estimate of cost exceeds $5 million dollars. Now what? We had to look for sales tax profits, but guess what our retail stores were all closed! Obviously we had to develop retail tax income. One first obvious resource was our successful pitch to a Korean infusion restaurant followed by Lexington's 69-townhome development. This will all be helpful to get back on track. But I really believe that our newly opened Zen Leaf recreational marijuana store will be of great help to achieve our goals.
The city activated a new Utility Billing online payment system for residents and businesses providing new ways to pay electronically. In response to COVID-19, the city awarded the Salvation Army $25,000 to provide COVID-19 housing and utility assistance for Rolling Meadows residents. In addition, the city provided an additional $5,000 of Temporary Family Assistance and $5,000 for a Business Assistance Program to help families and businesses. U.S. Census -- the city, with the entire country, participated in the 2020 census. Thanks to additional grant funding the Rolling Meadows Complete Count Committee was able to target the hard to reach population. New restaurants and businesses continued to open during the year in Rolling Meadows.
Despite the challenges of 2020, the Village of Schaumburg has much to be proud of as we look back on the year. The village continued providing critical services by adjusting its budget and was able to maintain the highest credit rating (AAA) for its solid financial management. After a 5% reduction in the tax levy last year, the village approved a flat property tax levy for 2020 in support of its residents and businesses. Our police department received its 10th national accreditation with a designation of excellence for continuing to meet the highest professional standards in public safety. Activity and development continued on the former Motorola property called 90 North, and we welcomed a variety of new businesses to the community. Even during these difficult times, our continued success in economic development was recently recognized by RE Journals, which named Schaumburg "Municipality of the Year" for Illinois. The American Public Works Association (APWA) recognized the village's Progress Parkway construction project as the Suburban Branch 2020 Project of the Year and our Roselle Road Pedestrian Bridge was awarded the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois (SEAOI) Excellence in Structural Engineering Award for Best Project. The village also placed third in the nation for the 2020 Digital Cities Award, which recognizes communities for improving citizen services, enhancing transparency and encouraging citizen engagement. These positive recognitions are a result of the hard work and dedication of the village board and staff to ensure Schaumburg remains an excellent community despite the difficulties of the ongoing pandemic.
One notable achievement was to work with the VA which resulted in the abandoning of an unfortunate spot for a Veterans Columbarium. Another achievement was to subscribe our village to a voluntary green electrical aggregation program which ranks us as #1 with the EPA Green Power Communities all across the country for green power percent of total electricity usage.
Our goals for 2020 were to continue the work of realizing key aspects of our Comprehensive Plan. While the coronavirus pandemic created challenges, we are delighted that we have been able to keep working toward these goals. We completed the widening of Irving Park Road, including a multimodal path. We are nearing the completion of the new Fire Station #31, and making headway on renovations to our Public Works facilities. And, we're proud that we've been able to do this with no impact on our taxpayers. Streamwood always prides itself on living within its means, and this is especially important now as so many of our residents have been hit hard by the pandemic.
Wheeling is known as the home of many beloved restaurants and taverns, including those on our famous Restaurant Row, and I've been impressed by the resourcefulness and resilience of these businesses as they navigate the severe challenges of the pandemic. The village's elected and appointed officials are proud to have worked together with staff to find ways to assist these and other Wheeling businesses by waiving fees, making it easier for them to serve outdoors and off their premises, connecting them with resources, and helping spread the news that they're very much in business and operating safely.