Shawn M. Vogel: Candidate for Grayslake Village Board
Four candidates are running for three 4-year seats.
Occupation: Engineering Manager, Parker Hannifin -- Hydraulic Cartidge Systems Division
Civic involvement: Grayslake Economic Development Commission; Grayslake Heritage Center Chairman (emeritus); Grayslake Chamber of Commerce volunteer; Boy Scout Troop 96; Grayslake Historical Society 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: I view my role as a balance of all three aspects. As a Village Trustee, I provided leadership by advocating for economic grants for local businesses, by supporting efforts to delay or defer fees and the extension of business licenses, by supporting the suspension of water shut offs and late fees for water customer behind in payments, and by committing to provide necessary resources to continue critical services. I gave a voice to my constituents. Residents has differing reactions and opinions to the various regulations and mitigations. I listened to these opinions and tried to incorporate the information during our Board deliberations. For certain individual cases, I was able to assist in providing resolution. Lastly, as a non-home rule municipality, Grayslake needs to rely on the certain departments at the County, State, and Federal level for guidance and/or enforcement. Actions and responses falling within the purview of the Village were taken, and those action outside the purview needed to be deferred to other levels of government.
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: Grayslake was able to provide its usual level of service throughout the pandemic. Major projects, such as road resurfacing and other capital projects, proceeded as planned. Grayslake's Request for Service system, a tool to log and track resident requests, maintained a closure rate within statistical norms throughout the period with percentages in the high-90's. Normal day-to-day activities and annual projects were accomplished notwithstanding the additional demands and challenges of the pandemic. While the Aquatic Center could not open under pandemic restrictions, the Village was able to staff and execute its summer part-time Public Works program and meet the scheduled plan for the summer. The Heritage Center adapted its programming for virtual and individual attendance by hosting "pop-up" courtyard displays and online programming. When the Heritage Center could be open, the exhibits and rooms were reconfigured to allow for proper protocols crowd size. The Village also adapted its policies to worked with local restaurants in the downtown to allow for outdoor dining within streetside parking.
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: Grayslake has several emergency procedure and operation manuals that cover a variety of topics from storms, to electrical failures, to traffic/rail emergencies, to terrorism, and to water system interruptions. While public health events are generally covered in planning, the recent pandemic posed different challenges. No one had a "playbook" for this situation, but the Village staff remained resilient and flexible to the challenges. The Village instituted rotating schedules in Village facilities, separated field staff into individual vehicles, promoted online and mail-in services for residents and businesses, adapted public notification protocols, and conducted necessary in-person business by appointment with safeguards in place. The lessons and experiences are being collected to an updated emergency planning manual, and some elements may remain after the pandemic. Together, previous plans and the lessons/experiences of the pandemic provide the Village a robust plan that can deployed and adapted should another public health crisis arise.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: Due to Grayslake's strong financial position, created by low operating costs, use of contracted services, lack of debt, and fiscal defenses, the Village was able to provide all key and critical services without interruption. While certain amenities, such as the senior center, aquatic center, and museum, were closed or curtailed, the Village maintained the high level of services related to water and sewer, snow plowing, road resurfacing, garbage and recycling, building activities, and police services without interruption and without adding burden to the tax payers.
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: Grayslake has, for several years, developed and maintained a 10-year capital projects list. Of the projects on the list, I believe the most important infrastructure project is the completion of the water and sewer systems in the Central Range/Cornerstone property. With building activity underway, the completion of the Village's water system and water tower will attract additional business development. The current construction has generated interest from others, and the completed systems will accelerate the growth. This economic expansion will continue a Village objective of diversifying the tax base by providing nonresidential property tax dollars to local schools and other taxing districts, lessening the tax burden on our homeowners. The Village's fiscal planning includes a short-term (7 years) and long-term (15 years) forecasting model. The 10-year capital plan is a portion of the forecasting model, and the model is used to ensure funding for these projects in the proposed project year. As the Village Board contemplates decisions, the forecasting model is adjusted, so that the Board can maintain the project funding to avoid placing additional burden on the tax payers.
Q: Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
A: The Village took a consistent approach throughout the various phases of the Governor's orders. When presented with a complaint or concern, the Village would respond by sending officers to the location. The officers would remind the business of the Governor's orders and seek compliance. All complaints and concerns were forwarded to the County Health Department for follow-up. This approach is similar to other towns and was reviewed by legal counsel. The Village took additional steps to keep the public and businesses informed of changing conditions within the Governor's orders but using electronic media and automated phone messages, which also included an encouragement to comply with the orders.
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: I agree with the stance the Village Board took regarding recreational sales of marijuana in Grayslake. As a Board, we have consistently taken a cautious approach to many municipal issues. The question of use of recreational marijuana was decided by the State, but the State allowed the local municipalities to decide the question of cultivation, distribution, and sales. However, the State stipulated a timeline for municipalities to "opt-in" or "opt-out." With much of the practicalities of the legislation unfinished, the Board decided to ban sales of marijuana, but the Board also stipulated a review of the matter to be done by the Zoning Board with a report to be delivered to the Board. The ban also preserved maximum control for the Village while data on actual sales and implementation is collected in the State. This is an issue that has people on both sides. I will continue to listen to my constituents in conjunction with the Zoning Board's report and statewide data.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: As a continuation of the improvements made to Grayslake's downtown, the Village has an opportunity to expand the Heritage Center area to incorporate an open festival space. With the closure of the Oasis, the Village has expanded the footprint of the Heritage Center campus. Adjoining properties can be converted to festival space to host outdoor music concerts or book fairs. I proposed this concept some years ago, and a preliminary plan was developed. Now with the Village producing a supplement to the 2005 Comprehensive Plan, the festival space is in consideration. As the Village continues to promote the Village Center, an additional festival space can host events that grows the Grayslake downtown as a destination place, which strengthens the local businesses and strengthens the sense of community.