by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—Elburn Village President Dave Anderson recently looked back on the accomplishments and challenges of 2012 this week, and found a few in each column.
According to Anderson, Elburn’s most significant accomplishment was perhaps the 20 percent savings the village, homeowners and small businesses realized on electric rates, based on a negotiation on an aggregated usage amount.
Elburn was one of the first communities to initiate an aggregation saving program in the spring of 2011. Of the 20 communities that did lock in rates in 2011, most obtained higher multi-year rates, while Elburn instead chose an initial 12-month term, for a savings of $435,000 in the first year.
When the village negotiated another contract a year later, the rates were even lower than the previous year’s, and the village was then able to lock in a 24-month contract at 4.72¢.This rate was a 20 percent reduction in the previous rate of 5.79¢, and is on track to save $500,000 this year.
“When you can get 20 percent savings on anything, that’s a good thing,” Anderson said. “My hat’s off to the board and to Erin Willrett (for these decisions).”
Anderson said the decision to increase water and sewer rates for residents again this year was a tough one but necessary, due to increased costs, decreased revenues and an aging infrastructure in need of maintenance. He said he is happy that the village was able to more than offset that increase with the savings on electricity.
Closing in on an update of the village’s comprehensive land use plan was also a satisfying note for 2012 for Anderson. Armed with a $100,000 grant from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the village was able to obtain feedback from residents and high school students about the future they would like to see for Elburn to inform the 20 year plan. Elburn’s comprehensive plan was last updated in 1990.
The rehabilitation of the waste water treatment plant’s housing structure was also a high point for the village, Anderson said.
“The work done now will minimize the maintenance cost for future taxpayers,” he said.
Anderson said he was also happy to have addressed the storm water issues in the Cambridge area west of Lions Park.
Tops on Anderson’s list of challenges was trying to obtain consensus from the board on the Elburn Station development.
“We will have further discussion,” he said.
Village trustee Ethan Hastert has already asked that it be a topic for the first board meeting in the new year.
“The bottom line is that Shodeen owns that land,” Hastert said. “We’re going to need to work with them.”
Hastert said he feels the village did a good job of listening to the residents of Elburn and reflecting that in their dealings with the developer. He said the village will need to come to terms with Shodeen in the new year regarding the land.
Concerns about the number of rental units versus single-family homes and the density of the development are two major issues they will need to further discuss and deal with, he said.
Both Anderson and Hastert mentioned the large payout the village had to make this year toward the police pension now that Elburn is at the 5,000 population mark. The village had to come up with a payment of $162,000 this year, and will need to find a way to fund the pension at a rate of 21 percent versus the previous rate of 11 percent, under the old rules.
“We’re going to have to pay for it,” Anderson said. “That’s what got the state in the situation it’s in. If it’s money we owe, let’s pay it.”
However, Anderson said that it does take money away from the general fund and other things on which the village could spend its money.
“I would love to replace all of the Ash trees we lost, but we just don’t have the money for that,” he said. “I’ve got hundreds of ideas, but they all cost money.”
Hastert said he also had a long list of things that he would like to see done in the village, such as adding another person or two on the police force, a new mower, chipper and technology to upgrade the village’s water delivery. He agreed with Anderson that you can’t spend money you don’t have.
According to Hastert, the village has done a good job of holding its costs down this past year while still doing a good job of providing services to the residents in the most effective and efficient manner. He said that the village was able to obtain a few grants and low interest loans in order to accomplish specific projects, such as the waste water treatment plant.
Both men see money continuing to be an issue for the village and will continue to work to keep the budget in line.
Anderson, said he is optimistic about the future.
“The economy is slowly starting to turn around,” he said. “Building permits are up above what was budgeted, and sales tax revenues are up.”
Anderson counts the expansion of Bob Jass Chevrolet as one of the big bright spots in the past year. The sales tax realized from businesses in the village stays within the village, he said.
“He (Jass) believes in Elburn,” Anderson said. “That’s been a real, real positive. It’s a big change and a beautiful building.”
Other businesses, such as Verizon, two new exercise facilities, and the expansion of Schmidt’s Towne Tap, the art studio, Five O Tattoo and Chico’s Tacos, all contribute to the bottom line.
“Hopefully, the new pancake house will open before year’s end,” Anderson said.