How should a $35,000 donation be used to improve downtown East Dundee?
East Dundee officials are considering the best use for a $35,000 donation earmarked for downtown beautification and marketing efforts.
Staff members have suggested putting the money toward decorative signage, which Village President Lael Miller said would align with the goals of a recent strategic planning session. The village board on Monday referred the discussion to the general village committee, which is expected to research the concept and provide guidance on how the signage should look and be displayed.
The trustees on the committee -- Scott Andresen, Kirstin Wood and Jeff Lynam -- also could explore using the funds for something entirely different, such as riverwalk improvements or another beautification project, Village Administrator Jennifer Johnsen said.
"It's at the village's discretion, as long as it does cover downtown depot and culinary district activities," she said.
The donation was made available to the village through an agreement with Carpentersville manufacturer Otto Engineering.
Company President Tom Roeser has invested millions of dollars the last several years into improving various properties in East Dundee and surrounding communities. A deal with the village allows Roeser to recoup a portion of his redevelopment costs through tax increment financing dollars.
The agreement was amended in 2017 after a dispute over a property at 220 N. River St., Johnsen said. In a settlement, the village was granted a time extension on refunding Roeser for some project costs, documents show. The total reimbursement paid by the village also increased from $547,000 to $652,500, which Roeser says covered his legal fees.
In turn, Roeser agreed to give back $35,000 to be used for downtown improvements. He said he particularly hoped to emphasize the culinary district, a concept that village officials and stakeholders have used to market the downtown as a dining destination.
"There should be more publicity about the culinary district," Roeser said. "That area down there is turning away from bar food and into nicer dining. And I was supporting that effort both with my investments in capital assets, but also with this $35,000."
If the money is used for signage, Johnsen said it'll be up to trustees to determine whether to incorporate the dining theme. Downtown developers donated a sign to the village about a year ago designating the area as a culinary district, though the village board recently discussed removing it.
Other potential sign options include a display case, a monument or signage directing traffic off Route 72 into the downtown, Johnsen said. Officials also encouraged business owners and community members to weigh in on how the funds should be used.
Should the project exceed $35,000, Johnsen said, the village would attempt to fill the gap in its budget for fiscal year 2020, which begins May 1.