Melissa Schladt: 2021 candidate for Fox River Grove village board
Four candidates for three, 4-year seats
Village: Fox River Grove
Occupation: Pharmaceutical Portfolio Management and Strategy
Civic involvement: Current village trustee and volunteer at annual community events. Previous chairperson of the FRG Planning and Economic Development Committee (PEDC), board member and committee chairperson for District 3 PTO, and coach for FRG Recreation Council
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. In the case of a national crisis such as the pandemic, it is important to have a common vision for resolution. That said, I believe federal and state agencies are responsible for the plan of action to address the situation. As a professional in the health care industry for >30 years, I fully support adoption of and adherence to guidance set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA.) I see the role of village trustee as being a key advocate for the residents and business owners of Fox River Grove as it relates to implementation of state and federal government execution plans.
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. Fox River Grove has continued to serve its residents and business owners effectively through all the disruptions caused by the pandemic by implementing several timely solutions. The Village quickly adopted a virtual format for official meetings, and provided access information to residents. As unemployment surged, the Village implemented a financial relief program regarding water and sewer service, eliminating late fees and service shut-offs for multiple billing cycles throughout 2020. Additionally, the Village was quick to modify outdoor seating regulations by issuing temporary permits to increase the available service area, enabling restaurants to stay in business while complying with tighter social distancing guidelines and capacity restrictions. The current leadership team is also exploring implementation of a business assistance program that would specify the qualifications and allocation plan for the Village's anticipated first installment of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) grant funding.
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. Impact assessments and lessons learned regarding this pandemic will most certainly be performed. The results are likely more applicable at the state and county level as villages like Fox River Grove do not have a public health department. Areas of opportunity for our small community are continuing to improve the speed and accuracy of communications to the residents and business owners in an emergency/crisis situation, and providing feedback to county and state officials about where implementation of pandemic safeguards at the local level went smoothly versus when it had challenges.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. Fox River Grove can ease financial burden for the taxpayers by starting with the basics, such as removing administrative fees or late penalties related to village-provided services. Additionally, the Village has had success in achieving best pricing for outsourced services by bundling contracts with other local municipalities. We need to do more of this.
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. Downtown redevelopment has been a village goal for some time. It is the key to long-term success for the Village. The implementation process has proved to be multistep and not without challenges. Repurposing the main blocks of downtown will not only provide access to desired services and restaurants for the current residents, but will also act as a stimulus for future growth by creating jobs, improving the overall infrastructure and aesthetics, and growing revenues for the Village. The current leadership team has made recent progress in this process, and we hope to achieve key milestones regarding land acquisition in 2021. Monies to acquire the properties of interest are included in the upcoming budget. I also support continuing to invest in key infrastructure maintenance, i.e. water and sewer systems, for our aging community. Any programs not core to the operation and maintenance of the Village, especially non-budgeted proposals, should be deprioritized.
Q. Do you agree or disagree with the stance the board has taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in the community? What would you change about that stance, if you could?
A. In 2019, Fox River Grove's Village Board approved changes to its Zoning Ordinance introducing guidance to regulate Adult-use Cannabis establishments. The guidance specifies the types of cannabis businesses allowed and requirements regarding their location, operation and surveillance systems. I did not vote in favor of allowing any cannabis establishments in our community. The final Ordinance does contain a clear and comprehensive set of regulations including compliance with the Illinois State Act. It limits the allowed cannabis business types to dispensing organizations only, and requires approval of a Special Use permit to operate a dispensary in the Village. With these limitations in place, if the Village were to receive a Special Use application, I would be more apt to support it.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. Something that I personally observed during 2020 was a renewed sense of community. As a result of everyone dealing with the need to stay at or near home during the pandemic, I believe many Americans have reconsidered various aspects of their lives. Volunteerism and service to others have elevated in priority. I see an opportunity for Fox River Grove to harness this renewed interest by utilizing the internet/Social Media to match small-scale community service projects and needs with people looking to volunteer and provide skills and service hours. Whether it be a list of potential Eagle Scout refurbishment projects at the numerous parks, or the opportunity for Cary-Grove HS students to organize parking or prepare food for a town festival, a community volunteerism database linked to our village website would resolve resource and volunteer staffing issues in a timely and efficient manner.