Intergovernmental collaboration alive and well in St. Charles

Posted July 8th, 2010 in general, partnerships & collaboration by btownsend

Representatives of government agencies gather at Primose Farm for a monthly intergovernmental meeting.

 

In St. Charles, residents are served by a variety of governmental agencies that work diligently to provide high quality services, programs, and facilities for the community. These agencies include the City, Park District, Library District, School District, Township, and County. With all of these entities providing services, it can be difficult to understand who is responsible for what. For that reason, it is important that the local government representatives communicate regularly regarding their programs and activities.  The current economic climate will also force more government entities to look at working more closely to serve common populations.  

In St. Charles, intergovernmental meetings are held on a monthly basis. Representatives from the City of St. Charles, St. Charles Park District, St. Charles Library District, St. Charles Community School District, St. Charles Township, and Kane County get together to discuss new projects, upcoming events, organizational initiatives, or other news. The meeting location rotates between city, school, park, and library facilities.  

At the July 8th meeting, the following items were among those discussed:  

  1. the establishment of a St. Charles Arts Council;
  2. the status of the Arcada Theatre marquee project;
  3. bids for the Pottawatomie Park pool improvements;
  4. the planning for Belgium Town Park (located on N. 9th Street);
  5. the announced retirement of Park District Executive Director Jim Breen;
  6. the school district’s expanded role in upgrading and maintaining the pool facility at the Norris Recreation Center; and
  7. the library’s proposed building expansion program and community outreach efforts.

These meetings are a wonderful opportunity to get together, network, and communicate. During conversations that I have had with colleagues from other cities and villages, they have expressed admiration for the efforts that we take to work collaboratively. These meetings are just one example of how committed government officials are to serving the residents of the community.

General Assembly fails to complete pension reform

Posted May 11th, 2010 in city services & programs, general, partnerships & collaboration by btownsend

Last week, the Illinois legislature failed to complete pension reform by not passing any legislation regarding public safety (local police and fire) pensions. There was legislation drafted and considered by the Senate, but it was not called for a vote due to opposition from municipalities. Now, you may be asking, “Why would municipalities OPPOSE pension reform that is supposed to save taxpayers money?” Let me explain.

The proposed legislation establishes a 2-tier pension program for police and fire employees. The changes in pension benefits are logical and St. Charles supported them, In fact, St. Charles and other cities, villages, and towns support all provisions of the reform bill, except one. That provision has to do with an enforcement mechanism that was ill-conceived and could have an extremely detrimental impact on city services.

This enforcement language would go into effect 1/1/15, if no other statutory alternative is enacted. It would apply if employers (cities and towns) fail to make the required pension contribution, as determined by the Illinois Department of Insurance, within 90 days of the date due and would allow the State Comptroller to deduct amounts from state funds (sales tax, income tax, telecommunications tax, etc.). Further, it would allows action in circuit court if state funds are not available.

Municipalities oppose this language for 3 main reasons:

1. We do not believe that the Department of Insurance calculations are always fair and reasonable. St. Charles typically uses its own actuary to determine the pension payments required. This has served us well for many years.

2. By allowing this type of “garnishment,” the legislation asserts that pension payments take precedence over ALL OTHER CITY SERVICES AND PROGRAMS. We simply cannot agree with this. It does not allow for extenuating circumstances or other factors to be considered. Quite frankly, the legislation determines that pension payments must be made without regard for any other obligations of the City.

3. The enforcement language was not included in the prior pension reform legislation and the public safety unions are gaining something that others do not.

In summary, the public safety unions were able to secure something that would assure that pension payments could be given precedence over all other local government expenditures. Municipalities were not prepared to agree to that. The Pension Fairness Coalition issued a statement regarding the issue – PFIC Statement HB 5873 FINAL. This letter from Ed Paesel also helps to explain.

Recent communication with state legislators regarding this matter have been promising and there is a strong belief that the matter will be taken up again in the near future. I hope that is true.

In the meantime, I encourage local residents to contact their legislators and tell them that public safety pension reform should be enacted.

A “behind the scenes” look at progress on 1st Street

Posted April 27th, 2010 in about, city projects, general, partnerships & collaboration, planning by btownsend

On Tuesday, April 27th, representatives of 1st Street LLC and the City of St. Charles conducted a tour of the Plaza Building to view progress on several tenant spaces that have recently opened, or are scheduled to open in the next few weeks.      

It was exciting to see the new activity and to hear from business owners who are so pleased with the 1st Street project and have made a decision to invest in downtown St. Charles.      

Here are some photos from the tour and the business owners that we met along the way.       

Mara Hauser, owner of The Hauser Group, explains the company’s business to Mayor DeWitte and Phil Wilmington from 1st Street LLC.
Boudoir, a nail salon, is scheduled to open in the next few days.
Richard and Jill Card, owners of Jeans & A Cute Top Shop, talk to Mayor DeWitte about what brought them to St. Charles.

   

This photo shows the progress on the interior build-out of Prasino, a new restaurant scheduled to open by July 1st.The interior of Brix Wine & Cheese is ready for furniture and fixtures.

 

The St. Charles connection to space exploration

Posted April 21st, 2010 in awards & recognition, general, partnerships & collaboration by btownsend

On Tuesday morning, I had the pleasure of attending a vendor appreciation event hosted by Cain Tubular at its facility at 310 Kirk Road in St. Charles. Now, I’ve been to local businesses for special events many times before, but I knew that this was something special when I was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement before they would even let me in the room!

Cain Tubular is a locally owned and operated business that is housed in a non-descript building at the corner of Kirk Road and Illinois Avenue. On Tuesday, the company was being recognized by NASA and Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne for its effort in creating a special metal coil that will be used in the J-2x rocket engine that is being developed by NASA to power Ares rocket that will transport the Orion Spacecraft. Orion will replace the current space shuttle as the next crew vehicle for the USA space program.

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) is the company that has been awarded the contract to develop the J-2X engine. Cain Tubular supplies its coil to a company called Arrowhead Global Solutions. Arrowhead then installs that coil in its product and supplies it to PWR.

It is so great to see a St. Charles-based company providing such an important product. The Cain brothers (John, Mike, and Bob) are continuing a tradition of excellence. They are the 3rd generation of Cains responsible for running the business and I learned that their grandfather also supplied components to NASA when he ran the business many years ago.

According to representatives of PWR, NASA looked at 11 other suppliers, and worked with 4 others, before finding success with Cain Tubular. The company worked for almost 2 years before it was able to perfect the coil that is required. The company had to meet very stringent design standards for this critical engine component. By way of example, Mike Cain told me that even a small leak in the coil would result in catastrophic failure and the loss of the entire engine and vehicle. In other words, perfection is not just something they had to strive for, it was a necessity.

Congratulations to John, Mike, and Bob Cain, the entire Cain family, and the Cain Tubular organization! I’m proud that you call St. Charles home.

Congratulations to the St. Charles Park District!

Posted April 9th, 2010 in general, partnerships & collaboration by btownsend

A look down the fairway of the first hole at Pottawatomie Golf Course (photo courtesy of St. Charles Park District).

Congratulations to the Park District Board, Director Jim Breen, and Course Manager/PGA Golf Professional Jim Wheeler on Pottawatomie Golf Course being ranked #15 on the list of best 9-hole courses in the United States by Golf World Magazine.

Pottawatomie Golf Course is owned and operated by the St. Charles Park District. It is the only public golf course in St. Charles and is certainly one of the most scenic in the Fox Valley. Pottawatomie Golf Course was originally designed in 1939 by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. It is a quality course that provides golfing opportunities for all ages and abilities at an affordable price.

Due to the beautiful weather in St. Charles last week, I was able to play a round of golf on Thursday morning with my 10-year old son, John. The course was in great shape and we had a fantastic time.

For those that have never experienced golf at Pottawatomie, I highly recommend it. For those that haven’t been there in awhile, I encourage you to get reacquainted with your old friend.

Taking our concerns to Springfield

Posted March 18th, 2010 in general, partnerships & collaboration by btownsend

The rotunda of the State Capitol Building.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, members of the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference and the Metro West Council of Governments traveled to Springfield to meet with state government and legislative leaders to discuss several issues of importance and areas of concern. Mayor Don DeWitte and I represented St. Charles. This was an important trip for all of us, given the fiscal condition of the state and our cities. But, financial matters weren’t the only items discussed.

 

    

Municipal representatives take time for a group photo outside IDOT headquarters.

The major discussion topics included:   

  • protecting municipal revenues and maintaining the local government share of the state income tax
  • pension reform (the pension fairness coalition platform)
  • support for red light camera enforcement and city support for responsible reform measures that protect the use of this valuable enforcement tool
  • protecting municipal control of water supply

 

We were able to meet with Senator John Millner, Representative Randy Ramey, and Representative Tim Schmitz, all who represent St. Charles. Mayor DeWitte also spoke briefly with Senator Chris Lauzen from Aurora. In addition, we met with Senate President John Cullerton, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, Senator Bill Brady, and Senator Dan Rutherford.  From the House of Representatives, we met with Representative Barbara Flynn Currie and also talked briefly with Representative Carol Sente.  

Mayor DeWitte talks to Senators Radogno and Rutherford regarding the challenges facing municipalities and the need to maintain the local government share of income tax.

Senator Christine Radogno and Senator Dan Rutherford respond to municipal concerns.

Representative Barbara Flynn Currie discusses the state budget.

Senator Bill Brady responds to questions from municipal leaders.

Senate President John Cullerton talks about the state's capital program.

St. Charles also discussed the continued need for transportation improvements in the area, including the reconstruction and widening of East Main Street in St. Charles and the construction of the Red Gate Bridge project.   

Mayor DeWitte listens to Secretary of Transportation Gary Hannig discuss IDOT's plans for 2010.

Overall, it was a valuable trip. We made our positions known and engaged in productive dialogue with many state government officials. However, it is clear that there are competing priorities and that the State of Illinois has tremendous challenges that will require a great deal of work on the part of Governor Quinn and the General Assembly. I hope that they can work collaboratively to solve problems and work for the benefit of all citizens, especially those in St. Charles.   

First Street excels during downturn

Posted March 5th, 2010 in about, city projects, partnerships & collaboration, planning by btownsend

  

Progress in bringing new stores and restaurants to St. Charles has accelerated in the past few months with many new establishments opening, or planning to open, in the First Street area. The developers of the project, 1st Street LLC, have recognized the need to be aggressive, and offer attractive and flexible leasing terms to businesses. Those efforts have paid off with leasing of retail space approaching 90%.  

The fantastic bakery Il Giardino del Dolce offers wonderful pastries and cookies (I love their coffee cakes). And, they offer delicious sandwiches and pizza slices at lunch. JP Jewelers is also located on 1st Street and the owner is a local resident who is well-known for his strong attention to the customer and providing quality products.   

The most recent addition is Wok n’ Fire restaurant. If you haven’t been there yet, I highly recommend it. And from the large number of people dining (or waiting to dine), I’d say I’m not alone. The Pan Asian cuisine is fantastic and the decor adds to the quality of the dining experience.  

Tenants that have signed leases and will open during 2010 include:   

  • Prasino restaurant
  • Ginger Root Hair Salon
  • Boudoir French – a themed nail salon and day spa
  • Jeans and a Cute Top Shop – women’s apparel (opening their 2nd store – the original location is in Wheaton)
  • Brix Wine and Cheese
  • Pizzeria Neo – a brick oven pizza restaurant

These tenants will contribute to the new energy in downtown St. Charles that has been spurred by existing tenants and other area businesses including Za Za Trattoria, Eddie Caruso salon, and Rx Cafe (in the former Knight’s Court space on Main Street).  

And, it has been recently announced that McNally’s Irish Pub will be moving to the 1st Street area by Memorial Day, 2010. Maurice McNally has purchased the former Miguel’s restaurant space at 109 W. Main Street and will be starting the renovation process soon.  

   

Main Street facade of the new McNally's

 

  

If you haven’t been to First Street recently, make it a priority. You can obtain quality products and services from top-notch businesses. And, you can park in the clean, safe, and convenient parking structure located in close proximity to all of these establishments.  

Come to 1st Street and see what you’re missing!

Thank you residents of St. Charles!

Posted March 3rd, 2010 in city services & programs, general, partnerships & collaboration by btownsend

 

The City of St. Charles recently presented the results of the 2009 Priorities Survey, a survey of residents on their opinions of St. Charles. 

The results showed the following: 

  • residents feel St. Charles is valued as a place to live,
  • communication with residents is viewed positively,
  • opinions of community appearance have improved, and
  • views regarding downtown St. Charles have improved. 

In fact, 97 percent of respondents rated St. Charles as a “good” or “excellent” place to live. This represents the highest rating received for this question since the inception of the survey in 1996. I believe this demonstrates that even though the City has been required to reduce some expenses, we’ve continued to meet the expectations of the community. 

St. Charles as a place to live

Also, I believe the survey has accurately reflected what the majority of residents understand – that the city has been doing its best to try to maintain services in the face of some very tough financial restraints.  

I invite all residents to read the survey results

Thank you to all residents who participated in the survey and, more importantly, thank you for your positive feedback on the services that the City provides.

City and Downtown Partnership Join Forces to Aid Arcada Theatre

Posted March 3rd, 2010 in city projects, partnerships & collaboration by btownsend

The City of St. Charles and Downtown St. Charles Partnership have announced an initiviative to help renovate the marquee at the historic Arcada Theatre

Arcada Theatre in St. Charles

The purpose of this project is to refurbish and enhance the exterior appearance of the historic Arcada Theatre in order to fulfill goals included in the City’s 2014 Strategic Plan, including: 

  • Preserve the charm and character of St. Charles as a captivating community.
  • Promote responsible business development and redevelopment.
  • Encourage and promote an array of arts, cultures, and businesses to contribute an eclectic and lively feel to the downtown.
  • Plan proactively and progressively with community and business partners for a continuing dynamic downtown.

The primary means of funding this project will be SSA 1-B proceeds, a special taxing district that only applies to properties in the downtown. The funding for the project is similar to the City’s facade improvement program that is available to downtown property owners. Should there be insufficient proceeds available from SSA 1-B, the intent is to pay the remainder from a proposed 5% admissions tax that would apply to performances at the Arcada Theatre.  

The City and Downtown Partnership will fund the work. The Partnership is providing a $2,500 grant through its signage, awning, and lighting program. The City will cover the balance. Ron Onesti, owner of Onesti Entertainment and operator of the Arcada Theatre, is required to reimburse the City for 50% of the cost of the work by collecting contributions through a non-profit Arcada Foundation that he is currently working to establish.  

There are benefits to the City assisting with this project. In addition to the obvious aesthetic benefits to the downtown, Mr. Onesti believes that the improved marquee will help him to attract additional “top notch” talent and draw additional patrons to the venue. This will generate additional visitors and the resulting economic impact for downtown businesses.

Additionally, the City and Partnership will be able to use the marquee for informational and governmental messages about our programs, services, or events. This will be mandated by the agreement and will serve to communicate better with residents, visitors, and others who pass by the theater. Many communities have these types of signs at their city hall or municipal center. Our setting doesn’t allow us to have our own sign, and, even if it did, the sign would be expensive to install and operate. Cooperating with the Arcada on this is a great opportunity for collaboration and improving communication to the community.

It has been reported that the east face of the marquee was damaged by a truck that backed into it. The truck that damaged the marquee fled the scene and the offender was not identified. It was a basic hit and run. Therefore, there is no insurance claim to be filed. Additionally, it is my understanding that the damage was relatively minor and repairing it would have been akin to putting new doorhandles on a jalopy – it just isn’t worth the investment to repair something that really needs more significant renovation.

At the present time, the agreement that spells out the obligations of all parties is being drafted. Once all parties have approved the document, it will be presented to the City Council with a final cost estimate and the sources of funding.