Mundelein mayoral candidates debate infrastructure needs, other issues

  • Clockwise from upper from left, Dawn Abernathy, Steve Lentz, Robin Meier and Thomas Ouimet are running for mayor in Mundelein.

    Clockwise from upper from left, Dawn Abernathy, Steve Lentz, Robin Meier and Thomas Ouimet are running for mayor in Mundelein.

 
 
Updated 2/25/2021 10:26 AM
Editor's note: To clarify, Trustee Robin Meier voted to hire a company to demolish village-owned buildings on Lake Street in 2018. Trustee Dawn Abernathy opposed that contract.

Mundelein's four mayoral candidates discussed the town's infrastructure needs and other issues in an online forum Wednesday night.

Some also traded barbs during the session, which was moderated by Mundelein High School students and lasted more than an hour.

 

Incumbent Steve Lentz is seeking a third term as the village's top elected official. He's being challenged by village Trustees Dawn Abernathy and Robin Meier and Mundelein High School board member Tom Ouimet.

Lentz criticized Abernathy and Meier for votes they've cast against land purchases in town, saying those votes cast doubt on their commitment to revitalization efforts.

Abernathy returned fire by accusing Lentz of not being an effective leader. She said Mundelein needs a mayor who communicates with officials and the public better, "not just those who support their ideas."

"I haven't done what he wants. He doesn't speak to me," Abernathy said of Lentz.

Lentz and Ouimet disagreed about whether adding more residential developments to the downtown area is the right approach. Lentz said adding more homes creates customers for local businesses, while Ouimet said adding businesses -- not homes -- should be a priority at village hall.

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The condition of roads and other infrastructure elements consistently is a hot topic in town and was among the issues discussed Wednesday.

Lentz touted the action he and the village board took after a July 2017 flood caused millions of dollars in property damage. Officials quickly ordered studies by experts and then launched a $9 million flood-control project involving new sewers and other improvements.

"That took leadership," Lentz said. "That took drive."

Ouimet noted that the flood-control project is being funded by new taxes. Mundelein doesn't have enough cash saved or revenue coming in to pay for much-needed road repairs, he said.

Abernathy said she'd like to dedicate sales tax revenue from the town's cannabis dispensary to road repairs.

Both Meier and Abernathy stood by votes in recent years against the purchase of buildings on Route 45 near Diamond Lake Road as well as their opposition to the proposed construction of a public park there.

"It just was a bad idea from day one," Abernathy said.

The purchases weren't a priority, Meier said, nor was the park plan.

Meier and Abernathy didn't have enough allies to stop the purchases and demolition, but they were in the majority when it came to stopping the planned park Lentz had championed.

Lentz defended the project, saying it turned a blighted area into one of Mundelein's best views because it made nearby Diamond Lake visible to passersby on Route 45.

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