Retail rebound in Montgomery this year? : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Retail rebound in Montgomery this year?|
|Village president cites recent store openings, looks ahead |
|by John Etheredge|
Will 2013 be the year that significant retail development resumes in the Village of Montgomery?
Village President Marilyn Michelini said recently she is hopeful the village will gain some new stores over the next 12 months.
The village experienced a major retail boom from 2004 to the outset of the recession in 2008 when 'big box' retailers including J.C. Penney, Menards and Wal-Mart opened in the village.
The new stores generated both jobs and significant sales tax revenues for the village.
But the surge in retail development slowed dramatically in 2009 as the recession took hold of the economy.
Michelini, however, said the pace of business development in the village remains slow, but she is hopeful the pace will soon pick up.
"We recently had several ribbon cuttings (at smaller businesses)," she noted, adding, "Merlin's is building a new store on Route 30 and Coffman Truck Sales (on Ill. Route 31) recently enlarged their business by building a new showroom."
Michelini continued, "We do have some big projects coming in, but we can't talk about them right now. However, we may have some information to announce after the first of the year."
Michelini noted she is also looking forward to the expansion of the River View Diner on South East River Road (Ill. Route 25) just south of Mill Road over the next several months. The restaurant now operates out of a building that was originally constructed as a Pizza Hut in the early 1970s.
This past year the village board approved the restaurant owner's plans to construct a new building for the restaurant immediately north of the existing building.
Michelini said the restaurant owner previously acquired the property immediately north of the restaurant and will have a former gas station that now stands on the property demolished.
"They do such a big business," Michelini said of the River View. "It's a wonderful business and the new restaurant (building) will be a tremendous improvement for that corner."
Michelini added the village has also received a proposal to re-open The Mill Tavern at Mill Street and North River Street. The board, she said, will soon review the proposal.
Last month the board also authorized village police to proceed with a required background check on a business owner seeking a liquor license to open a sports bar in the former Blockbuster Video store on Douglas Road.
Michelini will complete her third and final term as village president after the April 9 election. She has served as village president since 2001. She announced in November that she would not seek a fourth term this spring.
Michelini said before she leaves office she would like to see the board secure a loan or sell bonds to finance a long-planned project to replace about three miles of break-prone water mains in the unincorporated Boulder Hill Subdivision.
The board has deemed the project necessary to limit water main breaks and improve water quality to sections of Boulder Hill. Over the past year several Boulder Hill homeowners have complained to the board of finding rust in their water.
The village's engineering consultants have estimated the cost for replacing the mains at about $8 million. They have advised the board that the village could finance the expenditure through a bond sale or, possibly, a low interest loan that would be issued by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
To pay back that expenditures, the consultants have calculated the village will have to increase the water bills for Boulder Hill water customers about $15 per month.
Michelini acknowledged that Boulder Hill residents will not like paying an extra $15 per month for their water service, but noted the village has no other alternative.
"We have to fix them," she said of the mains.
Michelini noted the village did not have jurisdiction over the installation of the mains as Boulder Hill was developed from the mid-1950s through the late 1970s.
"We inherited this problem (with the mains) and now we have to do something about it," she said.
Michelini added that perhaps the extra cost per household will be less than $15 per month if the village can finance the project through an IEPA loan.
Michelini said she would also like to see the board finally designate a source of funding for a long-term vehicle replacement and capital improvement program and move forward with its study of a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district along Orchard Road on the village's west side.
"I do want to see the work continue on the TIF (district)," she said, adding, "From what I've seen the numbers very much justify us doing a TIF."
Michelini explained that funds generated by the TIF district could be used to pay for public infrastructure improvements that will be necessary to make properties along Orchard Road suitable for business development.
"Because of the stormwater problems that are out there right now, that area is not going to develop unless we do a TIF," she said.
Michelini said she also supports the board designating a source of revenue to pay for a vehicle replacement and capital improvement program.
In 2011, village staff recommended the board seek passage of a referendum to increase the village's sales tax one-quarter of a cent to pay for a vehicle replacement and capital improvement program.
The board, however, has yet to act on the recommendation.
Michelini maintained the need for additional revenues is there.
"Right now we received about $400,000 per year in MFT (Motor Fuel Tax) money (for street maintenance project) from the state," she said. "But it costs about $1.2 million for us just to keep our roads in good condition. If we don't do the maintenance and let them deteriorate, we will have to rebuild roadbeds, which is much more costly. We have to somehow find the revenue to do this."
departure a key event
Michelini described the past year as eventful for the village, especially due to the departure of long-time village manager Anne Marie Gaura.
The board voted 4-2 in April to approve a separation and resignation agreement with Gaura who had served as the village's chief executive since 2001.
The board approved the agreement even though Gaura had a full year left on her contract with the village. Under terms of the contract, the village was obligated to pay Gaura $179,500 in salary and benefits.
Voting to approve the agreement were board members Andy Kaczmarek, Stan Bond, Bill Keck and Pete Heinz. Board members Denny Lee and Matt Brolley cast the negative votes.
Kaczmarek said he voted to approve the agreement with Gaura because he disagreed with how village financial and personnel matters had been managed. He also said he believed the village needed a chief executive who is "not so aggressive and domineering, I guess."
Michelini, who twice appointed Gaura to continue to serve as village manager, said she was disappointed by the board's vote.
"I had worked closely with her (Gaura) and we had established a good, working team," Michelini said, adding, "I had the last word on everything that went before the board. There was nothing that went to the board for discussion that hadn't been approved by me in the beginning, but people have differences of opinion and that was fine."
Michelini said she believed that in ousting Gaura a majority of board members wanted, at the time, to be more "hands on" in the operation of village government.
"At one point they wanted to be sitting in on interview and now they just want an analysis or summary about why one (person) would be better than another," she said of the board.
Michelini added that she believes Jeff Zoephel, who Gaura hired as the village's first full-time finance director in 2002, is doing a very good job in his dual role as acting village administrator and finance director.
"I would definitely like to see Jeff remain in the position of administrator," Michelini said, adding, "But that would also require the hiring of a new finance director."
Michelini said she believes Police Chief Daniel Meyers and Mike Pubentz, director of public works, are both doing fine jobs managing their respective departments.
Michelini, however, is concerned the village may be understaffed in some departments.
"I think the new board will need to evaluate our staffing levels," she said.
Despite the tensions and disagreement over Gaura's ouster, Michelini said she believes municipal government "moved on seamlessly."
Michelini believes she has managed to maintain a good working relationship with the board.
"We don't always see eye-to-eye, but then that's not good government when you have everyone agreeing all the time. It's better to have a diversified board," she said, adding, "I think in the long run we all want the same thing for the village."
Michelini noted that senior citizen program started by the village three years ago has proven highly successful and continues to grow. The program features monthly luncheons, dime jingle games and informational presentations, all at village hall.
Michelini said she continues to support the Montgomery Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) in its effort to attract new tax revenue and job generating businesses to the village. The MEDC operates independently of the village with contributions from the village and local businesses.
Michelini credited the MEDC's Business Climate Enhancement Committee for helping to expedite the widening of Orchard Road this year by the Kane County Division of Transportation.
In addition, she said an MEDC bus tour of local business sites in October was well attended by area developers and helped create fresh interest in the village as a business location.
Michelini used the word "bittersweet" to describe her feelings about ending her public service career with the village after the April election. Before being elected village president in 2001, she had served on the village board since 1987.
"I kind of liked campaigning door-to-door. It was always an opportunity to get out and talk to people in the neighborhoods. That's the part of campaigning I'm going to miss," she said.
Michelini said she has yet to decide if she will endorse any candidates for election as village president or to the board.
Seeking to succeed her as village president are board members Keck and Brolley and a first-time candidate, Thomas Campbell.
Michelini, however, noted that Keck has served on the board for the past 20 years.
Referring to Keck, Michelini said, "I'm not endorsing here, but I can say Bill has seen the good times and the bad times. He has also always thought through the issues. He doesn't jump in and make a big statement right off the bat. He has thought things through and then has made good, legitimate points. I've always looked to him to kind of finalize things with his comments because some of those issues we've discussed we could have talked about for days on end."