Laura Brehmer: 2021 candidate for Algonquin village trustee
Four candidates are running for three, four-year seats on the Algonquin village board.
Age: No response given
Occupation: Substitute teacher
Civic involvement: Algonquin village trustee; homeowner's association president/board member (16 years); Community Unit School District 300 parent volunteer (13 years); animal rescue volunteer/foster family (10 years); religion teacher (7 years); District 300 Leadership Academy member; Feed My Starving Children volunteer; and Mobile Food Pantry volunteer
Q. How do you view your role in confronting the pandemic: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state and federal authorities?
A. A trustee's role can be a combination of all three depending upon which aspect of the pandemic is discussed. Constituent's concerns are relayed to the Village which can then be elevated to state representatives and the Governor's office. The Village's local disaster emergency declaration following the Governor's disaster proclamation was needed to obtain COVID grant funding for businesses; modify operations temporarily for better coverage; and conduct Village business via remote meetings. The Village eliminated the scheduled water/sewer rate increase and halted temporarily water shut-offs to assist constituents impacted by COVID. The Village works with residents having difficulty paying their water/sewer bill. Village collaborated with businesses to implement outdoor dining, hand-washing stations, holiday commerce program & shop local marketing plan. The Village was awarded $350,000 through the IL Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity's Local Cure/Economic Support Program to qualifying businesses. The Village created a program for businesses, whereby, their expenses to operate pursuant to the Restore Illinois plan can be deducted from their liquor license renewal fee.
Q. Did your town continue to adequately serve its constituents during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to providing services. If not, please cite a specific example of what could have been done better.
A. Yes, the Village of Algonquin continued to provide quality services to the community despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic. The Village already offered many services online (water/sewer payment, permit application, schedule inspection, Fix-It app for reporting issues, etc.). The Village recognized a need for online virtual building inspections. The Community Development department, Innovation & Technology department and International Code Council collaborated to create and implement online inspections. The online inspection appointment ensures safety & efficiency for residents, businesses and contractors.
Q. In light of our experiences with COVID-19, what safeguards/guidelines should you put in place to address any future public health crises?
A. Even the top scientists and doctors don't have a complete understanding of COVID-19. All we can do at this time is follow the guidelines and recommendations on social distancing, washing hands and wearing masks.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. The Algonquin Village Board adopted a Financial Resiliency Plan on April 28, 2020 to address the economic impact of the pandemic. This plan gives the strategy and steps that should be implemented in making budget and operating decisions to adapt to negative financial conditions. Some of the first actions were to freeze open positions and hold capital expenditures. The actions are reassessed based on current conditions and factors. This plan allows the Village to be in a proactive approach rather than reactionary. It has been an invaluable tool to guide the Village during these challenging times.
Q. What do you see as the most important infrastructure project you must address? Why and how should it be paid for? Conversely, during these uncertain economic times, what infrastructure project can be put on the back burner?
A. Water and sewer construction is the most important infrastructure project since it's crucial to have safe drinking water and an environmentally-compliant sewer system. A low interest Illinois Environmental Protection Agency loan will be utilized for improvements to the wastewater treatment plant. The revenue from water and sewer fees will be allocated toward improving the existing water and sewer distribution systems. The adoption of the Financial Resiliency Plan by the Village Board in April 2020 has given us a strategy for making budget and operating decisions. Implementing this plan early on and routinely monitoring for potential negative economic variables has assisted the Village's financial sustainability. Currently, the fiscal year 2021-2022 Village budget is being presented and discussed. The Village is being financially prudent in its infrastructure projects.
Q. Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
A. The pandemic crisis is a fluid situation, at this time businesses that don't adhere to the Governor's order based on the current tier can be reported to the appropriate County Health Department and the Algonquin Police Department.
Q. Do you agree or disagree with the stance your board/council has taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in the community? What would you change about that stance, if you could?
A. The Village Board voted unanimously to deny recreation marijuana sales in our community. I agree with this stance prohibiting recreational marijuana sales.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. We should protect our natural resources, especially drinking water. Algonquin and many neighboring communities rely on shallow aquifers and/or the Fox River for drinking water. In the past, there has been a sufficient amount of water in the aquifers to meet demand. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. The aquifers are not replenishing as quickly as water is being withdrawn from them. Both McHenry County's Water Studies and Kane County's 2030 Land Resource Management Plan indicates that regions could experience water shortages in the future based on population projections and aquifer replenishment data. We need to protect the critical groundwater recharge areas that replenish the aquifers and the surrounding land use. We also need to continue improving the watersheds and their tributaries. Some may comment to tap into Lake Michigan water. This water is allotted per a U.S. Supreme Court decree and is unavailable. We need to balance smart growth that also protects a long- term water supply so we're self-sufficient.