After 44 years, Elgin might be getting ice cream trucks

  • Jim Cremeens, 69, of Elgin, started driving an ice cream truck in May as a seasonal post-retirement job. He loves the job, he says, and is trying to get the Elgin City Council to overturn an ordinance prohibiting the trucks.

    Jim Cremeens, 69, of Elgin, started driving an ice cream truck in May as a seasonal post-retirement job. He loves the job, he says, and is trying to get the Elgin City Council to overturn an ordinance prohibiting the trucks. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/15/2017 9:50 AM

Ice cream trucks have been banned in Elgin for 44 years, but that might change if the city council sides with a local vendor who says the community would love that.

"I dispense joy and happiness everywhere I go. They should let that happen in Elgin," said ice cream vendor and resident Jim Cremeens, who approached city officials about overturning the ban earlier this summer. A discussion is expected within the next month.

 

Mayor David Kaptain said he endorses the change and believes several others on the council would, too. "I have no problem with bringing ice cream trucks back," he said. "I think there are benefits to the community."

Community Development Director Marc Mylott also said he sees no reason to keep ice cream trucks out of Elgin. The city's ban applies to all food vendors, not just ice cream trucks, and Mylott said he will recommend easing restrictions for the latter only, at least at first.

"I would recommend starting with a pilot program, like we did for backyard chickens and like we might do for the honeybees," he said.

Carpentersville and South Elgin require ice cream truck vendors to get a local permit or license and go through a background check, which Kaptain said he'd want in Elgin. Others, like St. Charles, only require a county health department permit.

The origin of the Elgin ban is unclear.

Mylott and Kaptain said they heard it stemmed from concerns over a child being killed by an ice cream truck. The meeting minutes for the 1973 Elgin City Council's vote "prohibiting peddling from vehicles" mentions children's safety but makes no reference to fatalities in Elgin or elsewhere. The ban passed narrowly in a 4-3 vote.

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Over the years several newspapers articles, including one from 1990 in The New York Times, quoted suburban officials as saying a child was run over and killed by an ice cream truck in the early 1970s in Carpentersville.

But Kate Cundiff, library assistant for the Fox River Valley Public Library District, said she and others have researched the issue and have found no evidence that it happened in Carpentersville.

"There are several articles that mention it happened in other parts of the country, with the date and the name of the child, the name of the driver and even the company," Cardiff said. "(Regarding Carpentersville) there is nothing, just super vague references across every media."

Carpentersville Police Chief Michael Kilbourne said he, too, can't verify the story he's heard over the years. The village rescinded its own ice cream truck ban in 2012, with officials telling the Daily Herald its origins were unknown.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Cremeens, 69, said he didn't know about the Elgin ban when he started driving an ice cream truck in May. He retired from a job in sales and figured it would be "a gas for a summer job of a couple of months."

Sales in Elgin were gangbusters those first two weeks, with lines of up to 30 people in one west side neighborhood, until police stopped him during Memorial Day weekend, he said. Officers told him about the ban and let him go without a citation, he said.

Cremeens said he's taken his business to other suburbs but is hopeful Elgin will open its doors soon. He works for a company based in Glendale Heights whose drivers are instructed to be mindful of safety, he said.

"We tell the children to look both ways if they cross the street. After they have purchased (ice cream), we tell them to cross behind the truck so they can see who's coming," he said. "I got mirrors everywhere, six or seven mirrors. We're constantly pushing safety. It's all about the kids."

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