Tag Archives: Sean Michels

Sugar Grove considering Route 47 name change

SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Village Board on Tuesday discussed the process of changing the name of the stretch of Route 47 in Sugar Grove to “Sugar Grove Parkway.”

The Economic Development Corporation (EDC) of Sugar Grove originally recommended renaming Route 47 to Sugar Grove Parkway for marketing purposes.

“All agencies and property owners will be notified to change all their records,” said Development Director Walter Magdziarz. “The postal service will continue to get their mail delivered to their address because it’s a state highway. The cost will be very low as well.”

The concept of change was the chief concern brought up in regard to the potential name change.

“I think it’s a burden for the people living there to have to change everything,” said Village Board trustee Rick Montalto. “I don’t think it will generate any business.”

Other members of the board brought up a different way to look at the potential name change.

“I think we were more rural in nature, so (the name change could be) more familiar,” said Village Board trustee, Mari Johnson. “I don’t think we should put (the name change) off.”

Village President Sean Michels referenced a local highway as an example of how the name change could be successful.

“People out east refer to Route 38 as Lincoln Highway,” Michels said. “I think Sugar Grove Parkway will catch on. I think now would be a better time since it would affect less people. Five years from now, I don’t think people will question it.”

The Village Board will vote on the Route 47 name change at its meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 20.

Sugar Grove discusses General Fund

SUGAR GROVE—After several months of a harsh winter, the Sugar Grove Village Board has found that it’s over the estimated budget for several departments, including Public Works department, Streets, and Building and Maintenance departments.

The Village Board on Tuesday discussed the details of the General Fund.

“Back in November we were expecting to have a surplus of $100,000, but with all the expenses we’ve had with snow removal and road work, we are thinking our surplus will be $12,000,” Village President, Sean Michels said.

According to Michels, the Village Board will focus on paying for overtime in Public Works and not spending as much in other departments. The village is currently over budget on salt, as well, and will need to defer other expenses.

In regard to the village’s expenses for snow removal and related costs, it had projected to spend $170,000 in salt for this winter. The actual cost for salt this year was $200,000. The extra $30,000 in salt expenses is a testament to how much snow has fallen this winter.

Overtime expenses for Public Works was exceeded, as well. The village had originally projected to spend $10,000 in overtime, but that cost is now up to $35,000. With salt and overtime expenses, the village has a total of $55,000 over its projected budget.

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Preparation begins for the International Crown

SUGAR GROVE—The International Crown, expected to be one of the LPGA’s largest events, will take place in summer 2016 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, and the Sugar Grove Village Board is ready to do what it can to ensure that the event is a success.

The Village Board is working closely with Rich Harvest Farms staff to plan the logistics of the International Crown for the duration of the event, and is concerning itself with the specifics of directing traffic, planning for emergencies, providing water out to the estate, and supplying police security to the course and facility.

All the planning for traffic and security for the International Crown event will be similar to what the Village Board did for the Solheim Cup in 2009, also held at Rich Harvest Farms. Village President Sean Michels said the village is already making arrangements for the International Crown event.

“The Village Board and I are working with Rich Harvest Farms to ensure that the International Crown is a great event,” Michels said. “On our part, a lot of the logistics and planning will be similar to what we did in 2009 for the Solheim Cup. Our Chief of Police, Pat Rollins, worked on the Ryder Cup in Medinah, Ill., and his expertise will help us greatly for the International Crown.”

At the Solheim Cup, Illinois State Police handled the traffic on Route 30, and Kane County Sheriff managed the security on the course and the facility. The Sugar Grove Police Department acted as a backup for the event, and they also managed any minor accidents. All of these responsibilities will be similar for the International Crown.

In addition to helping coordinate the logistics of the event, the Village Board is also working closely with the consultant for IDOT who is managing the road improvement plans for Dugan Road and Route 30, in an effort to also improve the traffic flow the day of the event. The road improvement plans are being finalized, with work expected to begin this year.

New sports bar to move into former Runway to Galway facility

SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Village Board on Tuesday approved a 2013-14 liquor license application for Round Up Sports Bar & Grill.

The restaurant will move into the building that previously housed Runway to Galway, located at 1942 Route 30 in Sugar Grove. The new owners anticipate opening the restaurant in March.

“The new owners have run a bar with a relative, but now they’re going out on their own,” Village President, Sean Michels said. They’re looking forward to coming out here.”

Board members during the meeting brought up different expectations that the village will have for the restaurant to make improvements to the building.

“I think there are lighting issues that need to be addressed. I didn’t think we did a service to Runway to Galway with how flexible we were with their lighting,” village trustee Mari Johnson said. “It was very dark and hard to tell that there was a business open. It never really popped as being an open business. By the time you saw the open sign you were past the restaurant.”

Village trustee Rick Montalto echoed Johnson’s statement regarding the location’s lighting issue.

“I agree with Mari that the lighting probably hurt the chances of Runway to Galway from succeeding,” Montalto said.

Village Administrator Brent Eichelberger said that the village will work with the owners of Round Up Sports Bar & Grill to implement the improvements.

“The owners are going to work with the village to improve some of the signing and lighting issues,” Eichelberger said. “We anticipated from the beginning that the improvements would be a multi-year process.”

Sugar Grove sets its hopes high for 2014

SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Village Board’s plans and projects for 2014 could warrant huge economic growth in future years.

The board will continue to lead a hotel feasibility study in 2014, originally initiated in 2013. The citizen survey prompted the board to conduct the study after there were many requests from it to bring a hotel to town. The consulting firm the board is looking at for this study is HVS International.

There are several road projects that are underway and will continue to progress in the coming year, including the Route 47 and I-88 project. They are currently in phase I of the plans to create a full interchange on Route 47 and I-88.

“For phase I, we submit the plans to IDOT Toll Highway for review, and they tell us what to modify,” Village President Sean Michels said. “We also look at the roadway and the preliminary design of the ramps and the widening of Route 47.”

The Village Board and IDOT are also working together to find out where they need to resurface, repair and add lanes for Dugan Road and Route 30. IDOT is also conducting a study to predict the future flow of traffic along Route 47 to Route 30 to plan for future construction needs.

A two-lane roundabout is also in the mix of plans to be worked on next year. Currently, the plans to construct the roundabout would include connecting Granart Road, Bucktail Lane and Route 30 to create a four-way intersection.

Road projects aren’t the only major plans for 2014. Within the board, a new beautification committee was born from the promptings of Sugar Grove resident Shawn Pjesky at a Village Board meeting last September

“The Beautification Committee is a brand-new group comprised of three people: Shawn Pjesky, trustee Sean Herron and (myself),” trustee David Paluch said. “We visited with a member from the Geneva Beautification Committee in October to get some ideas about what/how to start this project. Since our business district is not as big as Geneva’s, we are looking at a more concentrated effort in the village.”

The new Beautification Committee is planning on focusing on Route 47 and the various subdivisions in Sugar Grove, with the intention of keeping trees in the medians looking nice, and also sprucing up strip mall areas. The committee would like to receive feedback from the businesses along Route 47 to find out what they would like improved.

The group has also discussed the idea of placing planters on the sidewalk at various strip malls, with rotating plants based on the spring, summer and fall planting and blooming schedules.

“This Beautification Committee is a long-term initiative focused on elevating and improving the overall visual appearance of high-traffic Sugar Grove areas, while providing a consistent way to plan, report and organize those efforts,” Pjesky said. “We would like to be in partnership with local businesses, village leadership and community volunteers. Dedicated residents can volunteer to work on planned projects all the while helping to make a positive difference within Sugar Grove.”

In addition to programs to implement road improvement, increase economic development and beautify the town, the board is also continuing its project to implement fiber optics from Kaneland Harter Middle School to the Sugar Grove Public Library, Fire Protection District and Village Hall.

Michels remarked that the village does not have a precise completion date for this project, but it has made good progress this year.

“Once this project is completed, we would like to make the fiber optics available to businesses. It will reduce operation costs and streamline our technologies,” Michels said.

SG Village Board reflects on 2013 accomplishments

by Natalie Juns

SUGAR GROVE—When Sugar Grove Village President Sean Michels reflects on the village’s 2013, he thinks of the accomplishments and progress the Village Board made this year.

Progress with the Route 47/I-88 interchange and Dugan/Route 30 resurfacing, as well as a project to implement fiber optics and the planned groundbreaking of Ace Hardware and American Heartland’s Sugar Grove locations in the spring, are at the top of his list of achievements.

“We had a great year and accomplished a lot,” Michels said. “We moved forward with the Route 47 and I-88 project. This is a $20 million project, and the state is paying for the engineering up front.”

The Route 47 and I-88 project would implement a full interchange from Route 47 onto I-88 in Sugar Grove.

The Village Board also had the roads on the east side of town resurfaced, and progressed with its plan regarding the Dugan and Route 30 project. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is currently in the midst of a study to identify when and where to resurface, repair and add lanes to the project.

Several other road improvement projects made progress in 2013, including the two-lane roundabout that will connect Route 30, Granart Road and Bucktail Lane creating a four-way intersection. IDOT has invested $4 million into the roundabout project.

Michels said he counts Ace Hardware and American Heartland Bank’s prospective locations in Sugar Grove on the board’s list of accomplishments. Both businesses will break ground next spring.

“Both Ace Hardware and American Heartland Bank were two major projects this year, and I know they will be great additions to the community,” Michels said.

Village trustee Mari Johnson weighed in on the vast amount of commercial businesses that moved to town and the progress made with different developers.

“I think some of the accomplishments are the Mallard Point drainage project and the sale of lots at Prairie Glen to Orleans Homes,” Johnson said. “They sold 24 homes when they were expecting to sell 10 to 12. The approval of Ace Hardware is on our list of accomplishments, along with all the new commercial businesses, including Runway to Galway, Great Clips, Java Plus, Rush Copley, Cadence Health, SLKM Enterprises, Inc., and Cross Fit of Sugar Grove. Also, the Glancer magazine office moved to Sugar Grove on Main Street, and they now have a Sugar Grove version of the magazine.”

Michels is also proud of the progress the village has made with an extension of Sugar Grove’s bike trail and pathway.

“It will be great to have a bike trail and pathway where residents can bike or walk to different stores and restaurants,” he said.

SG Citizen Survey yields encouraging results

SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Village Board on Tuesday discussed the results of the village’s 2013 Citizen Survey. Results from the survey were generally positive, though residents reported dissatisfaction with economic development and cable TV.

The cable TV issue is essentially out of the Village Board’s hands, as Sugar Grove currently has a Cable Television Franchise Agreement with Mediacom.

“From the survey, we found they want more businesses and jobs. It’s all economic development,” village trustee Rick Montalto said. “As far as cable TV, maybe we should compare how many people have Mediacom now versus a couple of years ago. I dumped Mediacom this year. Now I have Direct TV (for television) and AT&T for Internet.”

An additional resident complaint pertained to the purity of the village’s water. Director of Public Works Anthony Speciale mentioned that they have brought up the purity of the water in recent years.

“Since 2007, we have improved the purity of the water from 52 percent to 72 percent in 2013,” Speciale said.

It was mentioned by several board members that although the purity level is high, it might be hard for residents to recognize the change over that many years.

Village President Sean Michels recognized that a high percentage of residents enjoy reading the village newsletter.

“I think it would be good to write a quarterly or semi-annual newsletter, since a lot of residents like reading it already,” Michels said. “More newsletters throughout the year would give us an opportunity to notify the residents of what we are doing throughout the year. Maybe, we could send it to them, as well.”

Trustee Mari Johnson brought up the idea of including a couple of pages of village information in the Sugar Grove Park District booklet.

“The Park District publishes a booklet three times a year. I think it might be a good idea to pay to have a couple of pages of village information in their booklet,” she said.

The survey results included compliments regarding Public Works’ Tree Replacement Program.

“We found that 90 percent of people would recommend Sugar Grove as a great place to live for people they know. We have a lot of happy residents,” Speciale said.

SG Village Board approves 2013 proposed tax levy

SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Village Board on Tuesday passed the proposed 2.4 percent increase for the 2013 Tax Levy with five yes votes, and two no votes from trustees Sean Herron and Kevin Geary.

Sugar Grove will collect $6.50 more from each property owner in the village. Board members participated in a discussion regarding the benefits and disadvantages of passing the proposed tax levy.

Geary said he wasn’t in favor of increasing the property taxes this year.

“I would like to see us hold the line on the tax levy. I think we need to tighten our belts,”
he said. “I want to send the message to residents that we can live in our means.”

Village President Sean Michels noted Geary’s comment, and then stated why he thought the board wouldn’t be able to keep the taxes flat this year.

“I would like nice streets and sidewalks and good quality of employees like we have,” Michels said. “In order to have that, we need to get out of the recession completely to get ahead. For this year, it’s going to require an increase; but in years to come, an increase in property taxes might not be required.”

Sugar Grove resident Joe Wolf added his two cents to the discussion.

“I understand how taxes affect us. The long-term effect on the village will deter us from not passing the tax levy,” Wolf said. “The quality of life is more important than lowering taxes. I hope you continue to use the money wisely. The $6.50 is worth taking.”

Herron then explained why he was not in favor of the proposed tax levy.

“As the newest member of the board, I walked on every single doorstep of the village,” he said. “Although, I didn’t talk to every village resident, I did speak to a lot of people. An overwhelming majority of the people said they weren’t interested in a 2.4 percent increase.”

Trustee Rick Montalto reiterated that the small tax increase wouldn’t affect residents negatively, but would help to increase the quality of life in Sugar Grove.

“The $6.50 doesn’t mean a lot. I’m afraid if we don’t levy it, people would notice the streets not being salted or new trees not being planted where other trees had died,” Montalto said. “I think the taxpayers would much rather see us taking care of the village than saving them $6.50. The problem is they look at the 2.4 percent increase and don’t realize how small of an amount that is delegated to the village board.”

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SG board discusses potential turnabout

SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Village Board on Tuesday discussed the possibility of placing a two-lane turnabout that would connect Route 30, Granart Road and Bucktail Lane.

Tim Sjogren from TADI, Inc., and Tony Simmons from HR Green, were available to answer questions from the board. The tentative plans would cut off an existing part of Granart Road and veer the road south, meeting up with Bucktail Lane and US Route 30 to create a four-way intersection.

The village of Sugar Grove is currently considering a plan to place a two-lane turnabout that would connect Route 30, Granart Road and Bucktail Lane and create a four-way intersection. The turnabout, once installed, may reduce accident rate volume and severity. (click for larger image)
The village of Sugar Grove is currently considering a plan to place a two-lane turnabout that would connect Route 30, Granart Road and Bucktail Lane and create a four-way intersection. The turnabout, once installed, may reduce accident rate volume and severity.

Village President Sean Michels explained the reasoning behind the tentative plans for the turnabout.

“IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) is funding this plan for a turnabout because they believe that pulling the intersection to the south will make it safer to cross the train tracks,” he said. “They are considering a turnabout that would basically be a four-way intersection that wouldn’t stop. If there was a stop light there, drivers would potentially have to wait for the light to cycle three times in order to go through.”

Village trustee Rick Montalto commented about the unfamiliarity that the community has with turnabouts and how that could negatively affect drivers and traffic flow.

“Because turnabouts are so foreign, you could run the risk of someone coming down this road during the night in a snow storm, and they might run into a tree if they don’t know the roundabout is there,” Montalto said. “Plus, Dugan is a dark road.”

Public Works Director Anthony Speciale weighed in on the potential lighting issue.

“Currently, lighting is not in the budget, and the roundabout doesn’t require lighting,” he said.

Sjogren explained some of the benefits of putting in a roundabout rather than a stop light.

“Traditionally, you would signalize this intersection, but the rest of the day, people will have to stop if we put in a stop light,” he said. “With a roundabout, drivers won’t have to stop during an off peak. Also, accident rates plummet after the initial installment period. The reduced speeds in a roundabout help decrease accident severity and accidents in general.”

Residents interested in discussing the roundabout can attend an open house on Tuesday, Dec. 3, from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Sugar Grove Library, 125 Municipal Drive.

Levy increase?

SG Village Board announces proposed 2013 Property Tax Levy
SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Village Board on Tuesday announced the village’s proposed 2013 Property Tax Levy.

Village President Sean Michels said that the village is considering raising the tax levy 2.4 percent for real estate taxes in 2013. The estimated property taxes are $1,518,162 for 2013, which is $35,461 (or 2.4 percent) above the 2012 extension amount of $1,482,701.

There were different opinions expressed by Village Board members about the proposed increase in property taxes for this year.

“I would hate to have a situation where residents are getting taxed out of their homes. I would like to find out how we could remain flat (and not increase taxes) and give the taxpayer a break,” village trustee Kevin Geary said.

Other board members discussed the potential disadvantages of not approving the proposed levy on property taxes.

“It’s a double-edged sword. If you keep it flat, you won’t have the funds for certain things. You would have to cut some services to the community,” village trustee Rick Montalto said.

Geary brought up another potential disadvantage to increasing property taxes for residents.

“The real estate tax could be as much as the principal on a house if we keep compounding. If we try to remain flat, it will force us to be more creative,” he said. “It will make us think very carefully about our budget. I would really like for us to take the lead and think about keeping the tax flat this year.”

A public hearing regarding the 2013 Property Tax Levy will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 19, at Village Hall, 10 S. Municipal Drive. The Sugar Grove Village Board is scheduled to vote on the tax levy on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

Sugar Grove conducting hotel feasibility study

SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove Community Development Director Richard Young and Village President Sean Michels announced on Tuesday that they are in the process of implementing a hotel feasibility study. They said they are looking to share the cost of the study with the Sugar Grove Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

Young explained that the cost of the study for the Village Board would be $3,600, but the village is reaching out to different sources for funding. Michels commented on the community’s need for a hotel.

“Based on the citizen survey, we need to conduct the study and bring a hotel here. I would really like to get this going before we get too close to the holidays,” he said.

The Village Board has a consulting firm in mind, HVS International, which possesses expertise in hotel management and assessment and is ready to provide guidance and different services for their study. Young is in the process of going back to the EDC board to find additional funds for the village’s expenses for the study.

Proposed Ace Hardware location scheduled to open in SG next spring

SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Village Board on Tuesday discussed the proposed Ace Hardware store that will be located on the corner of Capitol Road and Galena Road. The store will feature an outdoor selling area for seasonal items, an indoor shop, a 2,000-square-foot shop designated for selling premium cat, dog and bird food, and a 1,000 gallon propane tank for filling grills.

Village Planner Michael Ferencak, and Mark Driscoll, president and CEO at DriBar Ace, LLC, were in attendance to answer questions. Driscoll discussed their plans to open the store and details about the landscaping of the property.

“I am still hoping for a spring opening. We should have the financing in place by Nov. 5,” he said. “As far as landscaping, we would also like to have shrubs in portable planters in front of the building. For the front of the store, my intention is to have it designated as a seasonal spot. For instance, we could sell mums in the fall and replace them with Christmas trees in the holiday season.”

Village Board members expressed opinions about the landscape for the outdoor area.

“As far as planters, I support the planter idea. Maybe, we can soften the building landscape by planting trees in the islands in the parking lot. This would help the customer feel a warm feeling and save the business owner some money,” village trustee Kevin Geary said.

Driscoll expressed excitement over the location’s ability to feature select pet food.

“There is a fantastic opportunity to sell premium pet food in this area,” he said. “Right now, residents have to drive to the nearest Petco or PetSmart located on Randall Road or Orchard Road to purchase premium pet food.”

Village trustee Rick Montalto suggested an idea for the Ace Hardware location.

“You should make it a one-stop shop and include grooming, as well,” he said.

Village Board President Sean Michels verbalized his overall happiness about having an Ace Hardware store in the village.

“The plans for the store look very good,” he said. “We do want great commercial stores in our community.”

SGVB discusses incoming American Heartland Bank

SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Village Board on Tuesday discussed the new American Heartland Bank that will be located at Route 47 and Wheeler Road. A minor PUD amendment was required since the applicant, American Heartland Bancshares, Inc., did not have the architectural plans available when it was initially approved on Oct. 30, 2012.

James White, the attorney representing American Heartland Bank, presented the architectural plans to the board and specified how they adhered to the suggestions that were previously made.

The board discussed the aesthetics of the building and the continuity that the bank will have with other buildings on Route 47. Many of the board members had positive comments about the new bank.

“I think we will be lucky to have it in town,” village trustee Kevin Geary said.

In addition, a bike path will be located near the bank.

“We’re not sure of the exact location yet,” Community Development Director, Richard Young said.

The only issued raised during the discussion concerned the bank’s outdoor lighting.

“We want to have continuity with the parking lot lights. We need to take a look at what other businesses have in the surrounding area,” Village President Sean Michels said.

SG Village Board approves intergovernmental agreement with IDOT

SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Village Board on Tuesday voted to authorize an Intergovernmental Agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation.

This agreement is subject to attorney review but would essentially be an improvement project for Dugan and Granart roads. The cost of the project could be as much as $4 million. The village will front the amount and then be reimbursed by IDOT.

According to Village President Sean Michels, many commuters outside of Sugar Grove drive to the intersection in the morning and evening.

“There (are) traffic delays because of the location of that intersection to the railroad tracks and to Route 30,” Michels said. “So, by improving this intersection, it’ll help the commuter traffic that flows through that intersection.”

Michels acknowledged that the improvement will not facilitate “free flow” of traffic, but will be an improved rating compared to its current state.

The project is supposed to increase safety by there being a greater distance between the railroad tracks and the intersection.

“Right now there is some concern that people can get caught on the railroad tracks between a red light and a train coming,” Michels said.

Michels said the improvements will allow for more efficient traffic movements.

“Right now, people anticipate the car is going to turn right onto Granart, and let’s say (it’s) in the evening, and instead (the car goes) straight. And there’s a potential for an accident,” Michels said.

The Village Board agreed to have TADI do the engineering services for the two roads. They will analyze the traffic flow and come up with a plan to improve the intersection.

“It could be just as simple as moving the intersection to the south so it lines up with Bucktail (Lane),” Michels said. “Or it could be as radical as putting in a roundabout where cars don’t stop—they get into a traffic pattern and circle the roundabout and get out where they want.”

The engineering service cost is $228,400; IDOT will reimburse the village the amount.

The project is hoped to be completed by next year but expected to be completed by 2016, just in time for the LPGA International Crown, which will take place at Rich Harvest Farms on Dugan Road.

“We want to be able to accommodate that traffic so that we can make a perpetual tournament that comes to Sugar Grove every two years after 2016,” Michels said.

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Rollins takes over as SG police chief

SUGAR GROVE—Interim Police Chief Ron Moser on Monday handed over the reins of the Sugar Grove Police Department to his successor, Patrick Rollins, who took over as the department’s new chief of police.

Rollins has spent the last 23 years working for the Lombard Police Department, working his way up from a probationary police officer to deputy chief of police, a position he has held for the last 12 years—nine of those years as deputy chief of administration and three as deputy chief of operations, supervising 68 officers.

He’ll spend his first week working alongside Moser to transfer information about the internal workings of Sugar Grove’s department.

“I’ll be making introductions, going over policies and procedures and the budget, and other department heads will talk to him too,” Moser said. “The county functions, the sheriff’s office, the state’s attorney’s office, our record system, how we store evidence—all the things he’ll need to know to manage the department.”

Rollins, who was selected from over 130 applicants in a multistage interview process, has extensive credentials. Moser described him as “very knowledgeable.”

In addition to a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of New Mexico, Rollins has trained at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va., and is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Center of Public Safety Executive Management Program. He has worked extensively alongside fire departments to determine the causes of fires.

He received the Director’s Award for his performance at the Command Officer’s Southern Police Institute, launched the Violent Intruder Program in DuPage and Cook counties to increase awareness of school and community protection, and has command experience with community and sporting events, including the 2012 PGA Ryder Cup.

“I’ve been able to assist Lombard with many projects on the technological side, and we’ve been able to push out so that what the officers can do in the car is the same that they can do in the station. That’s a huge accomplishment,” Rollins said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had in my career. I’ve had plenty of strong highlights, but also some sad times with the types of cases I’ve ended up working. There have been some tragic ones. So I am bringing a lot of experience to Sugar Grove.”

Village President Sean Michels said that Rollins had impressed him in interviews.

“The thing I really liked was his commitment to getting out and working with community groups, like the churches and the Park District,” Michels said. “He really seems to be the type of guy who wants to get out and get to know people and get involved. He’s a personable guy.”

That willingness to work with the community was essential, Michels said, because the village wants to continue its community-oriented policing approach.

Rollins said that he wants to begin getting to know residents immediately.

“I’m going to be meeting internally with the department and the village department head, board, civic groups and schools, so you’ll see me out and about and available,” Rollins said. “I’ll be listening to their needs as well as their concerns.”

Rollins lives in Naperville with his wife and two sons, ages 15 and 4, but said he is looking forward to getting to know more about Sugar Grove.

“It has great potential,” he said. “I know it has a great opportunity for continued growth as the economy rebounds. I’m from a background of working at a family-owned grocery store, and I understand it’s not the size of the community, it’s how you deliver the service.”

Although Rollins said he has several goals for the department, he declined to share them, saying that he wants to tell the officers and staff first. He described his management philosophy as “flexible and adaptable,” and said that he wants to “make sure we’re visible out there in the community and provide great customer service.”

Michels said that expanding the emergency management program, which prepares the department to deal with a natural disaster, and using technology to maximize the department’s resources, are current priorities.

Moser, who came out of retirement to serve as Sugar Grove’s interim police chief, said that while he will miss Sugar Grove, he plans to keep teaching online criminal justice courses for Columbia College in Missouri and working as a consultant. He and his wife plan to spend their winters in Las Vegas, and he said he is looking forward to warm weather and palm trees.

“Although I hate to leave, I came here with the understanding that it was an interim position,” he said. “We’ve made some progress here. We’ve moved to a centralized dispatch system, increased our fleet (and) improved our training. I like to think that I did some good things here, and I have a really good feeling about leaving.”

Michels said that the village was grateful for Moser’s service and felt confident it had found the right replacement.

“We wish Chief Moser all the best in his retirement, and we thank him for his exemplary work over the past year. We are confident that Chief Rollins will continue and expand on the strides that Chief Moser made, and that Chief Rollins will more than live up to his reputation as an outstanding, committed law enforcement officer who leads by example and with professionalism,” Michels said in a statement. “We look forward to having Pat as our chief and ask the community to welcome him.”

Sugar Grove recognized for financial reporting

SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Village Board at its July 16 meeting received a Certificate of Achievement in Excellence for Financial Report from the Government Finance Officers Association.

This is the 12th year Sugar Grove has received the award.

The award represents achievements of the Village Board and staff for its governmental accounting and presentation skills. Sugar Grove satisfied nationally recognized guidelines in its last fiscal statement.

The village remained in the black in its last fiscal year, creating a small surplus.

Finance Director Justin VanVooren was the person primarily responsible for the award. Village President Sean Michels thanked VanVooren for his diligent work in number crunching.

“It’s difficult to go through the budget line by line like we do, but it’s good to exercise transparency and be recognized for that,” Michels said.

SG board honors 2 residents

SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Village Board on Tuesday gave proclamations of appreciation to residents Stan Schumacher and Lil Adams for their community service.

President Sean Michels read the proclamations, which gave an overview of their volunteer work.

Schumacher served 28 years at the Sugar Grove Community House, spearheading youth sports programs such as the Northern Illinois Thunder Softball Team. He’s known for his love of nature and his work to outfit the Community House with ample trees and landscaping features.

Adams served at the Sugar Grove Community House for 36 years, and oversaw numerous projects and Community House improvements. Michels noted during the proclamation that Adams shoveled snow and maintained the building so it was always open for use with scout meetings, weddings, and luncheons.

“Adams is a true example of the spirit of voluneteering,” Michels said.

Schumacher and Adams received standing ovations from those at the meeting.

Schumacher said he was honored for the recognition.

“I appreciate all the years I’ve spent working at the community house,” he said. “The young adults group has especially been rewarding. We’ve got some good people on the board who will continue to think of it as their home, as we always did.”

Board trustee Robert Bohler said Schumacher and Adams put forth the most efforts on behalf of local youth.

“You guys really created the Park District programs for all these years,” Bohler said. “A lot of memories were created. The community appreciates those memories.”

Mallard Point still an issue of contention for Geary

by Cheryl Borrowdale
SUGAR GROVE—Long-simmering tensions between Village President Sean Michels and his challenger, trustee Kevin Geary, spilled into public view just weeks prior to the April 9 election for Village President.

Geary has accused Michels of arranging “a backroom deal” that caused Mallard Point residents to experience another decade of groundwater problems.

Though Geary ultimately retracted his accusation that Michels and the village had acted illegally after the Village Board approved the public release of minutes from a 2003 executive session at Tuesday night’s Village Board meeting, he continues to maintain that residents have not yet received the truth.

The issue
Geary has long been critical of the village’s handling of drainage problems in the Mallard Point subdivision, which caused flooding in some residents’ basements for years and caused nearby farms to lose acreage to flooding. He originally charged that “a backroom deal” had taken place between Michels; Engineering Enterprises, Inc., a company owned by Michel’s father, Jim Michels; and Village Attorney Peter Wilson.

Geary released hundreds of pages of documents to the Elburn Herald, including a May 19, 2003, letter that released MB Financial, the development bank that completed the troubled subdivision after the original developer abandoned it, from responsibility for completing the bypass storm sewer line. Geary said the agreement led to Mallard Point residents experiencing another decade of flooding and groundwater problems.

“What the village did is a backroom deal without the consent or knowledge of the board members not to have that drainage point put in, (and) this is the result of all the flooding,” Geary said. “What makes it a backroom deal is that in order for this to be a legal maneuver by the village, it has to be brought before the entire Village Board, and the board has to vote on the transaction and it never was. I’ve been on the board for 14 years, and I never saw this until I started digging deeper and deeper.”

Michels dismissed Geary’s claims as “bogus” and a “wild turkey shoot.”

“He’s looking to sensationalize the election,” Michels said. “It’s an election ploy. He’s trailing significantly, so he’s trying to do a Hail Mary … it’s bogus. Why is Kevin coming out with this now? Why just before the election? It makes me upset because there’s nothing to it, but yet Kevin keeps trying to bring something out of it.”

When the board voted on Tuesday to release the minutes from an April 15, 2003, executive session, which discussed the village’s agreement not to continue pressing MB Financial to install the drainage, Geary backed off his accusation that the board’s actions had been illegal, but maintained that the village still refused to take responsibility for failing to ensure the subdivision had proper drainage.

“Maybe I was a bit harsh with that analysis (that the village’s actions were illegal), but I think the residents need to have the truth, the God’s honest truth, of what happened,” he said.

Michels said that Geary’s retraction didn’t surprise him.

“It’s typical of Kevin. He’s usually the first to accuse and the last to get the other side of the story,” Michels said. “Unfortunately, it’s a normal response from Kevin. There’s usually more to the story than what Kevin presents.”

The Mallard Point story
The story of Mallard Point is a complex one.

The subdivision’s original developer, Apex Development Corporation, went bankrupt in 1996 after encountering high groundwater levels in Mallard Point that quickly became an expensive problem. When Apex abandoned the subdivision without installing the necessary drainage or creating the homeowner’s association that was supposed to maintain it, it left behind half-completed houses, residents with flooded basements, farmers with flooded fields and a legal nightmare.

It took 16 years for the issue to get resolved, as a complicated legal standoff took place between the village, the Rob Roy Drainage District, the banks and developers involved, Kane County, the residents and the farmers who lived downstream. Though the 30-inch diameter drainage pipe installed in 2012 resolved the flooding problems for all but a handful of Mallard Point residents, Geary has continued to pursue the issue.

Geary said that there was “something stinky” about the way the village handled the release of MB Financial’s letter of credit in 2003.

The bank came in with the second developer, the James Corporation, and took over the completion of the subdivision in 1996. MB Financial had to submit a letter of credit, guaranteeing the village millions of dollars as security that a list of public improvements, such as roads and sidewalks, would be completed.

When the village released the bank’s letter of credit in 2003 without the bypass storm sewer line being completed, Geary said the village was “deliberately protecting engineering firms, law firms, everybody but the residents.”

Wilson said the charges that he, Michels and the board had acted improperly in releasing MB Financial from completing the bypass storm sewer line are false.

“The question of whether it was a secret thing is baloney,” Wilson said.
The newly released minutes from the April 15, 2003, executive session show that the board met in closed session to discuss threatened litigation from MB Financial—a meeting that was perfectly legal—and that no action was taken in that session.

Wilson explained in an interview that the terms of MB Financial’s letter of credit did not require the bank to complete the drainage line—that responsibility still belonged to Apex, the original developer—but that the village had tried to “strong arm” the bank into completing it anyway by refusing to release its letter of credit.

For a time this appeared to work and MB Financial completed about two-thirds of the drainage line, but when the bank ran into groundwater from an underground aquifer that escalated the cost, it refused to go further and threatened to sue the village unless its letter of credit was released. The village had no choice but to comply, Wilson said, and the May 19, 2003, letter—the one that Geary originally alleged was evidence of “a backroom deal”—documents that acknowledgement to MB Financial.

“They had an absolute right to have that letter released once they completed (everything required by the letter),” Wilson said. “(The board) couldn’t take action in the executive session, and they didn’t have to take action in the open session until the bank asked to have the letter of credit released. The drain tile was not covered by the letter of credit, and everybody knew that at the time. The village knew it, Kevin knew it and the bank knew it.”

The minutes from the 2003 executive session show that Michels asked whether the work had to be completed, and Village Engineer Dave Burroughs of EEI said no, that the drainage work was part of the Rob Roy Drainage District and that not fixing it would only affect the wetland area.

“This drainage area does not affect the current subdivision,” the notes record Burroughs as saying. “Fixing it will not alleviate the sump pumps that run continuously in the Mallard Point subdivision.”

Geary was absent from the meeting that night.

Discord on the board
Village trustee Mari Johnson, who is supporting Michels in the election, said that Geary’s allegations were false and upsetting.

She pointed out that the board had reviewed the release of the letter of credit in open session on Sept. 2 and Sept. 16, 2003, before releasing it, and that Geary had seconded the motion to release the letter of credit.

“When trustee Geary does these things, he’s impugning the integrity of our board, our engineer, our lawyer, every member on the board,” Johnson said. “He’s pointing the finger at himself—he is the village. He wants the people to think that he is on the outside. He keeps saying, ‘the village, the village, the village.’ You cannot serve on the board for 14 years, vote yes on everything, and then make yourself out to be an outsider.”

Johnson said she found Geary’s accusations personally offensive.

“I don’t understand why he’s making this an election issue, and he’s impugned my integrity, because I am the village, and I am not happy about it. If I was sitting on that board and thought that it was not right, I wouldn’t vote yes. I’m upset. Why would you try to make a board that you’ve been part of all this time look bad? What does he have to gain from this? I feel like I’m fed up. Enough is enough.”

Geary was not at the April 15, 2003, executive session and said that he had been misled into thinking that the drainage issues had been resolved at the board meeting on Sept. 16, 2003. The minutes from that meeting show that Geary inquired whether the retention pond at Mallard Point was operating as it was designed to; Burroughs answered that it was. Had he known the drainage issues had not been resolved, Geary said that he never would have voted to release the letter of credit.

“I specifically asked about the drainage, and I wanted to know if the drainage system was working properly so that people’s basements didn’t flood, and I was told yes. So I guess shame on me for not inquiring as to whether, prior to that meeting, there was an executive meeting, and shame on me for not knowing that there was. But that still doesn’t excuse the village for not providing full information at the meeting about the plan to not have the bank put that pipe in.”

He said that even though the board had released the minutes from the 2003 executive session, it still did not answer the question of responsibility.

“So the bank is released from liability for putting that pipe in, so who is responsible?” Geary asked. “If the village was asleep at the wheel and forgot to have the drainage pipe put in the letter of credit, then I believe that the village would be responsible, but then the village got a letter from EEI stating that the pipe didn’t need to go in.”

Michels said that the village had done all it could do to resolve the drainage problems.

“I think the board has done everything in its power to help the residents of Mallard Point and to represent all the residents that it serves,” he said.

The real problem, Michels said, was that Geary simply didn’t remember the details about what happened 10 years ago.

“Kevin is lying in the fact that he says he did not know anything about it. He just probably forgot, but it was approved in open session,” Michels said. “We’ve never done anything to jeopardize the public’s trust in the government. We did not do anything illegal, that’s why we have a council and a village clerk and we keep everything public. I think Kevin’s just not realizing or remembering what actually happened. It wouldn’t be the first time … Kevin has a pretty selective memory.”

Michels also pointed out that he has recused himself from voting on any contract involving EEI to prevent conflicts of interest, but that Geary had voted in favor of every proposal put before the board involving EEI.

Claims of secrecy
Geary also said that the village had withheld documents about Mallard Point from him and that, even as a trustee, he needed to submit Freedom of Information Act requests in order to get copies of emails, letters and other documents related to Mallard Point.

Trustee Rick Montalto said that Geary had been gathering documents about Mallard Point from the village for a long time and was unwilling to let the Mallard Point issue go.

“I know Kevin, I get along with him. I know Sean, I get along with him,” Montalto said. “Any (documents) we want, we can pretty much get. Kevin felt that something was being kept from him personally; he thinks that there’s some big conspiracy theory. He was given all of the emails (between Village officials about Mallard Point), and repeatedly I’ve heard the village attorney say that he’s gotten everything.”

Geary said that all he wanted was the truth.

“I’m all about the truth. If we can get down to what the truth of this matter is, then I’ll be happy,” he said. “I think the village owes it to every one of those residents down in Mallard Point. I still feel that even through this, with the release of the information, we haven’t gotten to the truth. There’s still not a complete picture of what went on down there.”

Geary also countered Johnson’s assertion that he was the village.

“While I have been elected to serve on the board, I am not the village. I am a representative of the people. If that makes me an outcast or someone who is not part of that group, so be it,” he said.

Update given regarding Settler’s Ridge bond case

by Dave Woehrle
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove Village Attorney Steve Andersson on March 19 provided a legal update to the Village Board regarding the court case against the developer of the Settler’s Ridge subdivision.

The village is seeking $5.5 million in unpaid bond fees.

Kimball Hill Homes, a private builder founded in 1969, built 110 houses in Settler’s Ridge in 2005. When the real estate market collapsed in 2007, Kimball Hill filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

“At that point in 2007, the village wasn’t sure what would happen in Settler’s Ridge,” Andersson said. “It took two years for Kimball’s case to get through the courts. Then the real headache began.”

The land is owned by TRG, a commercial real estate investment firm from California, and LCP Settlers Ridge Development of Texas.

In 2010, Kimball Hill was officially declared in default by Sugar Grove. The bond money, however, was not paid back.

“By December of 2012, after several court appearances, it was clear Kimball was playing games and delaying the process with appeals,” Andersson said.

Kimball Hill ended up making a counterclaim against LCP and TRG, which the court eventually dismissed.

Prior to a court appearance on March 15 of this year, Anderson was able to use what is known in law as “discovery,” a pre-trial civil procedure to obtain evidence by the opposing party in order to establish self-evident statements in regard to liability.

“The idea here was to get Kimball to admit things that (are) almost impossible to deny at this point, in order to be granted a summary judgment,” Andersson said. “Hopefully, these multiplying court costs will make them come to the table to finally settle these matters. But as anyone involved with the court systems can tell you, these things can take a long time.”

The attorney fees for the village thus far are $59,000, but that cost is being split with the village of Montgomery, as it is also seeking reimbursement from Kimball Hill Homes, Andersson said.

Village President Sean Michels said he felt for the residents of Settler’s Ridge, because some residents complain of poor roads and sidewalks.

“This is taking a long time, and some of the roads in the area are getting bad. We can fill in pot holes and help out where we can, but this has been a tough time for the people of Settler’s Ridge,” Michels said. “They have been patient, and I hope they know we’re moving in the right direction in the legal process.”

Andersson and Michels said any other changes in regard to the case would be brought to the attention of the Village Board and the Homeowner’s Association of Sugar Grove.

Local Eagle Scout recognized at Sugar Grove meeting

by Dave Woehrle
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove Village Board trustees on March 19 recognized Eagle Scout David Chandler Barnhart with an official proclamation.

“Whereas, Boy Scouts of America is a vital force in the development of our youth through its many programs, which encourage the ability of its members to do things for themselves and others, and whereas, one of the major objectives in the scouting program is to develop citizenship through community involvement and services projects, Barnhart earns the distinction of earning his Eagle Scout Award,” Village President Sean Michels read to the board.

Barnhart then received a standing ovation from Village Board trustees.

Barnhart, who serves Sugar Grove’s Troop 41, worked extensively to improve the Conley Outreach program at the Kaneland Area Clothing Closet.

Scoutmaster Dave Seraphin was on hand to lend support. Seraphin said he’s given out about 35 Eagle Scout Awards in his time with the Boy Scouts, but added that what Barnhart has done in Sugar Grove is “truly remarkable.”

Barnhart wrestles competitively at Kaneland High School, and hopes to join the Marines when he graduates.

“We appreciate your commitment for the Sugar Grove community. You should be very proud of your accomplishments,” Michels said to Barnhart. “You will serve your country well into the future.”

sgpres2013

Election: Sugar Grove Village President

Incumbent squares off with long-time village trustee
Incumbent Sean Michels will face a challenge for his Sugar Grove village president seat from board trustee Kevin Geary.

Michels_SeanSean Michels
Sugar Grove Village President

Stats:
• Kaneland High School graduate
• Illinois State University graduate
• Aurora University graduate
• Sugar Grove Park District Board from 1995 to 1997
• Village Board member from 1997-1999
• Elected village president in 1999

Priorities:
• A continued effort to reduce real estate
taxes for residents
• Establishment of an intergovernmental agreement
with the Kaneland District
• Make an effort to complete developments
in which its developers have gone bankrupt

Sean Michels has spent the better part of two decades serving the public through various elected offices. A graduate of Kaneland High School, Illinois State University and Aurora University, Michels’ served on the Sugar Grove Park District Board from 1995 to 1997, and then served as a Village Board member for two years before he was elected village president in 1999.

Michels is the project manager for McCue Builders, Inc., and he has involved himself in the community via roles such as Park District coach and Sunday school teacher. He’s also a former Metrowest Council of Mayors Board member.

As president of Sugar Grove’s growing community, Michels defines his role as keeping the village moving forward in a positive progressive manner while being fiscally conservative.

“It is important to remember that the decisions that are made today will have a long lasting impact on how the village develops into the future,” Michels said. “This simple truth is why the Village Board and I have focused on our Land Use Plan and other planning documents to ensure that as we grow, our decisions will fit together in the long run.”

Michels believes that the long-term vision of Sugar Grove’s future development will help set short-term goals that are necessary to keep the village moving forward to meet any long-term goals, but cautions that the village must not overextend itself financially; rather, it must live within its annual budget. He notes that the village has earned a solid ranking of A+ by Standard and Poor’s, thanks to the fact that the village adheres to its annual budget.

Michels said he seeks re-election because he has the desire to make Sugar Grove the best community to live, work and raise a family. He works on that goal nearly every day by thinking about the next steps the village can take to attract new business, as well as what improvements can be made to make the quality of life better for village residents.

“I enjoy talking to the residents to find out what they like and what they think we need to improve on in order to make Sugar Grove a better place,” he said. “I understand that everyone wants to pay lower taxes, so I work hard to bring in new business to help reduce taxes, and to improve our quality of life.”

Michels believes he’s the best candidate for village president because of his passion for Sugar Grove and the goals he has set for it—both short and long term. His short-term goals include an intergovernmental agreement with the Kaneland School District, and completion of the Route 47/I-88 interchange as a means to keep taxes down. Michels’ long-term goals involve the introduction of fiber optic to each home and business in the village, and a Metra station—moves that he believes would make Sugar Grove a premier community in the future.

“I truly believe this is what separates me from my opponent,” Michels said. “My goals lead the village to a brighter future. He simply does not have goals for the future of the village.”

If re-elected, Michels’ priorities for the village will include a continued effort to reduce real estate taxes for residents; establishment of an intergovernmental agreement with the Kaneland School District; and an effort to complete developments in which its developers have gone bankrupt.

“The village has been willing to work with the bond companies or banks to get necessary improvements done so that their obligations are completed and the lawsuits can be dropped,” Michels said. “The problem is that some of the groups feel it is cheaper to go to court than it is to make the improvements. We realize that the residents of the subdivisions are caught in the middle, but the village is also caught in a predicament.”

According to Michels, if the village makes the improvements, it will relieve the bank from paying the village back. But if improvements are not made soon, significantly more money will need to be spent because the road base will fail and need to be completely replaced.

“We continue to meet with any potential developer that offers to come in and take over these projects, understanding that it is better to get work done than make the lawyers rich,” Michels said.

If given the choice to write, pass and implement any single ordinance without opposition, Michels said he’d move forward with the Kaneland IGA.

“This will help keep taxes down for all of the residents of Sugar Grove by having new development pay for itself,” Michels said. “Developers will pay the impact fee to have a good school district, because developers know that a good school district sell homes.”

A video gaming referendum will appear on Sugar Grove’s April 9 General Election ballot. Michels believes video gaming isn’t as big an issue as the media has perpetuated in recent months.

“The people on both sides of the issue are very passionate, but most of the people do not seem to have an interest one way or the other in video gaming,” Michels said. “I believe the public will decide if gaming is popular or not by whether they visit the establishments that have gaming. (Otherwise), they avoid those places that have gaming.”

Michels said it’s hard to ask the state to fund capital projects if the village does not participate in the part of the funding program.

“I do not condone gaming, but I am in favor of video gaming to help our local businesses survive,” he said.

In terms of local business, Michels is pleased with the recent retail and commercial growth that the village has experienced over the past four years. He believes additional retail and commercial development is always needed to diversify the village’s tax base.

“The village continues to work to bring more business into Sugar Grove by actively soliciting businesses to locate in town through the Sugar Grove Economic Development Corporation and expediting the development review process,” he said. “The village has also extended critical infrastructure to commercial areas to make property ‘development ready.’”

And then theres the Route 47/I-88 interchange project, an addition that Michels said would be a critical improvement not only for Sugar Grove, but the region, as well.

“(The) project will be a catalyst for new commercial development that will help diversify the tax base for Sugar Grove residents,” he said. “In cooperation with the village of Elburn, city of Aurora and Congressman Randy Hultgren, the village has worked hard to get funds, once earmarked for the Prairie Parkway, to be reallocated to fund this interchange. It is with great optimism (that) a decision to fund this interchange will be made in the next few months.”

Kevin Geary Press PhotoKevin Geary
Sugar Grove Village trustee and Candidate for Sugar Grove Village President

Stats:
• College of DuPage, Waubonsee Community College
• Real Estate Broker/Managing Broker Licensure
• Sugar Grove Park District’s assistant baseball coach
• Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board
• Sugar Grove Village Trustee since 1999
• Volunteers on several other groups

Priorities:
• Diversification of the tax base for village residents
• Transportation improvements
• Achieveing open and honest government
• Move meeting start time to 7 p.m. for commuters

The first 23 years of Kevin Geary’s professional career were spent in telecommunications, where he held a number of professional positions, such as technical training specialist, customer service representative, and quality control process and metric engineer.

He’s spent the last 14 years serving the public as a Sugar Grove Village Board trustee.

“With my diverse background, I would like to bring my quality control, customer service, and business experiences to the table and apply my outstanding business skills to our village projects, programs and residents’ needs,” he said.

Geary’s education background includes coursework taken at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Ill., as well as real estate sales licensure coursework at Waubonsee Community College. He furthered his education with a real estate broker licensure in 2005 and a real estate managing broker licensure in 2012. He’s required to continue his education bi-annually.

Geary has spent the last decade working and building his own real estate and property management business. He has operated in civic roles such as Sugar Grove Park District’s assistant baseball coach from 1996 to 1999; a member of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board of Directors for over eight years; a Downtown/Main Street Re-development Committee member; Sugar Grove Corn Boil Board of Directors member for over 13 years; an associate member of the Sugar Grove Economic Development Corporation; and Holiday in the Grove volunteer.

Geary defines the role of village president as one to create a spirit of cooperation that brings benefits to the community and respect for the region.

“The village president is responsible to ensure the goals of the community are met in a measureable way, shares the outcome of annual evaluations and posts the results of any accolades and or corrective actions to be taken,” he said.

Geary said he cares a great deal for Sugar Grove, as well as his friends and neighbors throughout the community.

“I believe the best way to lead a community is to get involved, and the best way to really capture the needs of our community is to listen,” Geary said. “Public officials need to work together as a team. There is no ‘I’ in Geary.”

The long-time trustee is campaigning on the platform of achieving open and honest government, and said one giant step toward that goal would be the village funding video recording and online streaming of board meetings so that the taxpayers can stay informed on the issues before the board.

Geary also wants to move meeting start times to 7 p.m. in order to allow commuting residents a chance to attend meetings and “participate in the democratic process,” and said he has an additional goal to bring exceptional customer service and best practices back to the village.

Geary’s additional campaign priorities include diversification of the tax base for village residents over the next four years, and transportation improvements.

“(Transportation improvements) are not only a life safety issue, but a community development issue, as well,” he said. “With the abandonment of the Prairie Parkway project, Sugar Grove must seek as much funding as possible to aid in the improvement of our roadways that also support economic growth and ensure the safety of all who travel to and through our community.”

Geary said Sugar Grove’s first-class community and unique geographic location, coupled with world-class events and attractions (i.e. Rich Harvest Farms) put the village at a great advantage over its surrounding communities.

“There are several important projects that could benefit from Prairie Parkway funds, such as the addition of a full interchange at I-88 and Route 47, road improvements to the portion of Route 47 that is also Route 30, and Route 30 west to Dugan Road,” he said.

In addition to live streaming Village Board and Planning Commission meetings, Geary wants to “get Sugar Grove moving again.” He believes the best way to achieve that would be to do an assessment of village assets.

“I have been told that within our area, we have access to Fortune 100 and 500 business executives,” Geary said. “I would host a round table where these individuals would help the village determine Sugar Grove’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for commercial growth and development.

If he were given the choice to write, pass and implement any single ordinance without opposition, Geary said he’d target the continued awarding of no-bid engineering contracts to a preferred vendor with close ties to the village president.

“Under my administration, I would require a common sense bid process and see to it that the process is followed,” Geary said. “This process will allow the residents to see who is bidding, what they are bidding, and that the village is being responsible with the taxpayer’s money.”

In terms of Geary’s stance toward video gaming in the village, he said Illinois has made provisions within the law to ensure that local municipalities and their citizens have the opportunity to do what they feel is best for their community.

“After listening to the public comments (regarding video gaming), there was no clear direction given from the residents for whom we serve,” Geary said. “Per the discussion at the board meeting, I voted to suspend gambling at that time, with the intent that a referendum could be drafted and the community could vote on this highly debated issue. In my opinion this is democracy at work, and is the only way to truly determine the will of our community. At my urging, the Village Board has placed the (video gaming) question on the spring ballot.”

One area where Geary differs from his political opponent is the question of whether Sugar Grove should re-enter an IGA with the Kaneland School District.

“While some would say the popular answer would have to be in the affirmative, supporting the IGA, I believe the village in these unsure times will need every tool in its toolbox to get residential development moving again. I would further say that the village has over 20 years surplus of platted lots that have fees attached.

Geary said he would much prefer to talk about how to diversify the tax base for the residents, which he believes can be accomplished through commercial and industrial development.

“These types of developments can account for a significant part of our property tax base, and it doesn’t negatively impact our schools or other governmental services,” Geary said. “Additionally, if these businesses are a point of sale, sales tax dollars can be gained. This, in turn, would lessen the burden on the already overtaxed homeowner without having to reduce village services or programs.”

Sugar Grove Presidential Candidates debate

Candidates:
P. Sean Michels – Sugar Grove Village President
Kevin Geary – Sugar Grove Village Trustee

Moderated by Keith Beebe, Editor of the Elburn Herald
Filmed Wednesday, February 13 at the Elburn and Countryside Community Center

The Elburn Herald on Feb. 13 hosted a Sugar Grove village presidential debate between the incumbent, Sean Michels, and his challenger, village trustee Kevin Geary.

Both participants met at the Herald’s new location, 525 N. Main St., in Elburn, and proceeded to spend the next 40 minutes debating topics such as government transparency, village growth and business, video gambling, the Mallard Point/Rolling Oaks drainage issue, and the possibility of re-entering an intergovernmental agreement with the Kaneland School District.

The Herald hosted the debate as a way to kick off its role as co-sponsors in this year’s Sugar Grove Meet the Candidates Night, which will take place on Tuesday, March 12, at 6:30 p.m. at the Sugar Grove Community House, 141 Main St.

The debate between Michels and Geary was video recorded as a way to provide Sugar Grove residents with a fair and quality look at the two village president candidates in action. The entire video will be available on our website, ElburnHerald.com, beginning Friday.

Michels has served as village president since 1999, the same year Geary first took office as village trustee.

Debate Rules and Opening Statements

Question 1:

“Village trustee Geary has said that his campaign is based on the platform of offering open and honest government in order to be accountable to the people served by that body, creating a business-friendly climate within the village. What is the current business climate in the village, and what would you do to improve it? Also, define the current state of growth in Sugar Grove.”

Question 2:

“Define your interpretation of local government transparency. Do you believe Sugar Grove has maintained a consistent and thorough level of transparency. If not, what needs to happen for the village to reach and maintain a higher level of transparency?”

Question 3:

“The Village Board in 2011 chose to not renew its intergovernmental agreement with the Kaneland School District. What was your stance toward the Kaneland IGA at that time, and what would it take for you to consider re-entering an IGA with the School District?”

Question 4:

“You have suggested in the past that the money for the Route 47/I-88 interchange project go toward the improvement of the cloverleaf at the intersection of Routes 47 and 56. Do you still believe the cloverleaf improvement should take precedent over the initial interchange project? If so, why?”

Question 5:

“Why should the village of Sugar Grove allow video gambling?”

Question 6:

“Village trustee Geary, you have been an outspoken critic of the drainage issue in the Mallard Point and Rolling Oaks subdivisions. Do you believe the Village Board acted swiftly and accordingly in its attempt to work with Rob Roy Drainage District No. 2 and solve the drainage issue? What would you have done differently?”

Closing Statements:

Full Video (39:44)

Photo: Winter tan

Couture Tan in Sugar Grove opened in December 2012. On Thursday, they held a ribbon cutting and customer appreciation day at the new business on Route 47. There were beverages, appetizers and special incentives to sign up for tanning. Guests included Rick Montalto Sugar Grove village trustee (left to right), Nick and Amanda Carico, owners, Anna Hoffman, manager, Carly McCue, associate, P. Sean Michels, Sugar Grove village president, Rich Young, Sugar Grove Community Development director, and Steve Ekker, Sugar Grove Chamber. Photo by Patti Wilk

LPGA returns to Sugar Grove

Rich Harvest Farms to host 2016 LPGA International Crown event
by Susan O’Neill
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove resident and businessman Jerry Rich will soon take it up a notch for those who enjoyed the excitement of the Solheim Cup in 2009.

Rich’s private golf course, Rich Harvest Farms, will host the newly created International Crown in 2016. The event is a global Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tournament that will feature not just the best female golfers from the United States and Europe, but from Asia and other countries around the world.

“At the Solheim Cup we had the largest event (the LPGA) ever had,” Rich said. “We had 120,000 people in Chicago—the greatest golf city in the world. Maybe this (new) event won’t approach the Ryder Cup that we just had at Medinah, but it will be huge.”

The International Crown is a match play tournament that will begin next year. The tourney will feature teams from eight countries competing for the crown that will signify the world’s best golf nation. Each of the eight countries will be represented by four players.

The four-day tournament will net the winners a total purse of $1.6 million, $100,000 of which will go to each member of the winning team.

Sugar Grove Village President Sean Michels said that convincing the LPGA to hold the international tournament in Sugar Grove was due in large part to how successful the Solheim Cup had been.

Michels said Rich didn’t waste any time beginning the conversation with the LPGA. The day after the Solheim Cup was over, Rich was already talking with LPGA representatives about the possibility of hosting another LPGA event.

When Michael Whan became LPGA Commissioner in 2010, Rich brought him to Chicago.

“I told him, ‘We’ve got to do something special,’” Rich said. “The greatest players aren’t just from America. They’re from Asia and around the world.”

If teams for the International Crown were selected according to the current Rolex Rankings, South Korea, U.S., Japan, Sweden, Australia, Spain, Taiwan and England would battle for the inaugural title next year.

“The International Crown will take women’s golf to the next level and allow fans to rally behind their homelands,” Whan said. “This is the first time we’ll pit country versus country for global bragging rights. In sports, there is simply nothing greater than wearing your nation’s flag, fans singing your national anthem, and bringing the crown home.”

Top-ranked American professional golfer Stacy Lewis agrees with Whan’s sentiment.

“Representing your country is the ultimate thing,” she said. “Getting announced on the first tee when you are representing the USA, it doesn’t get any better than that. It’s a goal of mine to be in the event.”

Rich Harvest Farms, owned and co-built by Rich, is a private, members-only club consistently ranked on Golf Digest’s list of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses. The 18-hold course has been described as a 1,820-acre showcase of nature and agriculture.

“With the experience we garnered from the Solheim Cup, we’ll be able to make the 2016 event even bigger and better,” Michels said. “It’s great for Sugar Grove and it’s great for the region. We will be working with the Aurora Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to ensure that local businesses benefit.”

The inaugural tournament will debut in July 2014 at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md., located just outside of Baltimore.

Michels kicks off re-election bid with fundraiser

Photo: A fundraiser was held to re-elect Sugar Grove Village President P. Sean Michels on Jan. 29 in the Pine Room at Bliss Creek Golf Course in Sugar Grove. Attendees included Sugar Grove and surrounding area residents, Sugar Grove Village Trustees, Elburn Village President Dave Anderson and Mayor of Aurora Tom Weisner. The Michels family is (left to right) Madelyn, Sophie, Nick, Abby, wife Valerie and Sean.
Photo by Patti Wilk

by Dave Woehrle
SUGAR GROVE—A heavy, unseasonable rainstorm wasn’t enough to prevent more than a hundred people from attending Sugar Grove Village President Sean Michels’ campaign kickoff fundraiser at Bliss Creek Golf Course’s Pine Room on Jan. 29.

Michels, who will run for re-election against village trustee Kevin Geary on the April ballot, has served as village president since 1999.

“I’m impressed with the turnout,” Michels said during the fundraiser. “We’ve been utilizing Facebook and other social media outlets to get our campaign rolling by connecting with more people, and it’s wonderful to see so many familiar faces coming out to show support.”

Michels’ family, friends and constituents socialized, ate pizza and discussed local issues during the two-hour event. Michels’ father, Jim, said the event was “a real shot in the arm” for the campaign.

“This is a contested election, so you can’t take anything for granted,” he said.

The event was co-sponsored and supported by Cordogan Clark and Associates, IBEW Local 701, Plumber/Pipefitters Local 501, Schram Construction, Producers Chemical and Morton Private Wealth Strategies.

Michels said his campaign will focus on his experience and accomplishments, and his continued vision for a better Sugar Grove. A pamphlet created by Friends of Sean Michels highlights his economic record during the recession, and notes that the village since 2007 has reduced its staff by 20 percent by implementing smarter technology.

“Lower governmental costs translate into lower taxes,” Michels said.

Michels also mentioned his work in creating the 25-acre Sugar Grove Sports Complex on Wheeler Road. A potential stop at Rich Harvest Farms for the 2016 LPGA Tour is also in discussion.

If re-elected, Michels plans to address target issues such as reducing real estates taxes, creating an impact fee agreement with the Kaneland School District, attracting more businesses to the Route 47 corridor, constructing a retirement apartment complex and establishing a Metra Station in Sugar Grove.

Michels addressed the crowd at around 6:30 p.m.

“I want to thank all of you for coming out tonight to show your continued support, but we are not done by any means. We need to establish a vision for the future, and we can only do this as a community,” he said.

Kane County Board member Melisa Taylor, a former Sugar Grove village trustee, said the election should be interesting.

“Both candidates are great men, and I think both would do a good job,” she said. “We’ll have to see what happens.”

Trustees Rick Montalto, Robert Bohler and David Paluch endorse Michels.

Michels spoke briefly of Geary during a pre-fundraiser phone call, noting how drainage problems in the Mallard Point and Rolling Oaks subdivisions have become a “political issue.”

“That situation was quite a fiasco because of certain individuals who would not compromise, but the issue has been resolved,” Michels said. “As far as Geary, I just don’t know what his message and plans are other than to cut spending, which is something I’ve done for years.”

A fundraiser was held to re-elect Sugar Grove Village President P. Sean Michels on Jan. 29 in the Pine Room at Bliss Creek Golf Course in Sugar Grove. Attendees included Sugar Grove and surrounding area residents, Sugar Grove Village Trustees, Elburn Village President Dave Anderson and Mayor of Aurora Tom Weisner. The Michels family is (left to right) Madelyn, Sophie, Nick, Abby, wife Valerie and Sean. Photo by Patti Wilk
A fundraiser was held to re-elect Sugar Grove Village President P. Sean Michels on Jan. 29 in the Pine Room at Bliss Creek Golf Course in Sugar Grove. Attendees included Sugar Grove and surrounding area residents, Sugar Grove Village Trustees, Elburn Village President Dave Anderson and Mayor of Aurora Tom Weisner. The Michels family is (left to right) Madelyn, Sophie, Nick, Abby, wife Valerie and Sean.
Photo by Patti Wilk
P. Sean Michels (right) in conversation with Tom Weisner, Aurora Mayor, and Bob Bohler (center), Sugar Grove village trustree. 		   Photo by Patti Wilk
P. Sean Michels (right) in conversation with Tom Weisner, Aurora Mayor, and Bob Bohler (center), Sugar Grove village trustree. Photo by Patti Wilk
Kathy Morton, Sugar Grove resident and Sean Michels supporter, having a laugh with Sean. 						   Photo by Patti Wilk
Kathy Morton, Sugar Grove resident and Sean Michels supporter, having a laugh with Sean. Photo by Patti Wilk
Kim Jablonski (right), Sugar Grove resident and Sean Michels supporter, came to enjoy the evening and also picked up a few campaining signs for her yard.                             Photo by Patti Wilk
Kim Jablonski (right), Sugar Grove resident and Sean Michels supporter, came to enjoy the evening and also picked up a few campaining signs for her yard. Photo by Patti Wilk

Geary hosts Town Hall meeting

Photo: Sugar Grove Village President candidate Kevin Geary held a Town Hall meeting on Jan. 31 at the Sugar Grove Community House, and spent the majority of the event fielding questions and concerns from village residents. Geary will oppose current Village President Sean Michels on the April 9 ballot. Courtesy Photo

by Mary Parrilli
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove village president candidate Kevin Geary hosted a Town Hall meeting on Jan. 31 in order to meet with village citizens and field their questions and concerns.

Geary, a resident of Sugar Grove since 1996, has served on the Sugar Grove Village Board since 1999.

“My goal is to engage people in government. I want people to participate, and to make the government their government,” Geary said. “I believe in an open and honest system.”

Village resident J.R. Mooney spoke first during the forum.

“Where is the town? Sugar Grove lacks understandable ‘townness,’” he asked.

Geary agreed, suggesting various ways to remedy the situation, including the recommendation that people participate in more town events, like the annual Sugar Grove Corn Boil. Geary acknowledged the significance of this problem, adding that it’s “worth it to look into more solutions.”

Business in Sugar Grove was another concern mentioned during the meeting.

“Yorkville seems to bring in a lot of business, Kevin. Should Yorkville be a model for Sugar Grove?” village resident Tom Spry asked.

Geary replied that, although Yorkville is a good model for business, it is essential to recognize that its economy was damaged by the national economic downturn, due to the mass housing buildup in the area, and many businesses were hurt. According to Geary, Sugar Grove is approximately 90 percent residential, which is about 10 percent less than the typical healthy city.

Geary also discussed the idea that updating the road system in Sugar Grove could facilitate commercial growth and make life easier for commuters. He suggested using federal funds to improve the U.S. roads in Sugar Grove, and advocated revisiting the idea of the Prairie Parkway.

“Why isn’t anyone bringing up the obvious lack of ethical practice that has been done in this town involving the current administrator, who gave $9 million to his dad’s business?” Mooney asked. “To me, that was unconscionable. The people better wake up and fix this, and make this honest, open and ethical.”

Village President Sean Michels’ father, Jim, is the president of Engineering Enterprises, Inc. (EEI). The firm has done engineering work for the village of Sugar Grove.

Geary stated that he would initiate, create and implement a system based on processes.

“By creating a strict process, just like a recipe for a chocolate cake, we can ensure sound results,” he said.

Geary said he wants to create a bidding process, and pass an ordinance along with it.

The recurring topic of the night was government transparency and accountability.

“I want more transparency, period. How do we do that, Kevin?” asked Sean Herron, a candidate for Sugar Grove village trustee.

Geary suggested many possible routes, such as putting all village actions on the website, recording video for each session and posting it online, and webcasting board meetings.

Several guests asked what actions it would take to get Geary elected, noting that there were not enough people in the room to make that happen. Geary suggests knocking on doors, educating themselves and their neighbors, and speaking up.

Sugar Grove resident Michelle Scales said she hosted a small get-together for coffee at her house and had Geary attend to speak to the group. She suggested that other people could do this, too.

During the meeting, Geary emphasized that he is riding on a platform of open, honest government, citizen participation, leadership and the maxim of “we the people.”

Cadence Health office to open in Sugar Grove

by Cheryl Borrowdale
SUGAR GROVE—When the new Cadence Health medical office opens this spring, it’s likely to both improve residents’ quality of life and draw more businesses to the area, Village President Sean Michels said.

Offering primary care and physical therapy, the office will initially have two or three physicians available by appointment only. The standalone office will be located at 414 Division Drive in Sugar Grove, though many of the details are still being hammered out, according to Christopher King, spokesperson for Cadence Health.

“A lot of it will be dictated based on community need,” King said. “We’re still some time away from (knowing) what the actual office will look like.”

According to King, the move is a good fit for Cadence, which operates both Delnor and Central DuPage Hospital.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for Cadence to expand our services to the Sugar Grove area, and that will allow us to offer residents high-quality care,” King said. “It’s a way for us to expand our footprint into that area.”
It’s also a good fit for Sugar Grove, according to Michels.

“It’s really just another nice amenity for our residents to be able to go to local doctors,” he said. “We don’t have many medical facilities (in Sugar Grove), so they are fulfilling a need. It’s a quality-of-life issue for parents, since they can take their kids to the doctor without missing a half day of school.”

Michels credited the developments to both good land planning and the growth of other area businesses. Extending Galena Boulevard provided a major intersection for developers to build on, and connecting Galena with Park Avenue provided better traffic flow for businesses. The opening of Jewel-Osco and Walgreens in the area helped attract more customers and more businesses to the area, he said.

According to Michels, Cadence has asked Osco’s pharmacy to stock crutches and other supplies that physical therapy patients may need, and the new Walgreens is already exceeding expectations for the number of prescriptions filled at the store.

Better health services are likely to fuel more growth in the village. An assisted living facility is finalizing plans to build on the north end of Wheeler Road, and another developer is considering building age-restricted apartments nearby for seniors, Michels said. Both housing options would be within walking distance of Jewel-Osco, Walgreens and Cadence’s medical offices.

“It fits in well with (Kane County’s) 2040 health initiative, where you can have people walking to get their groceries and to their pharmacy and to their doctor,” Michels said.

Michels said Sugar Grove’s demographics also make expanded senior housing options a good fit for the area.

“We have a lot of middle-aged families here, and the idea is that you could bring your parents to an assisted living facility in Sugar Grove so you can live near them,” he said. “I think it helps out our community as well.”

Michels said he hopes that the new Cadence facility would fuel even more growth.

“A lot of time it sort of feeds on itself,” he said. “We have Rush-Copley and the Cadence Health offices, and then users come in there. Maybe a coffee shop or a Dunkin’ Donuts might want to open up and serve the people who are coming in and out.”

SG Village Board approves temporary use of video gaming machines

by Chris Paulus
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove Village Hall on Tuesday was host to approximately 55 residents—some local, some from nearby villages—for the Sugar Grove Village Board’s discussion and vote regarding a proposed ordinance to temporarily allow video gaming in the community until the issue is included as a referendum on the April ballot.

The board voted 4-2 to approve temporary use of video gaming, with yes votes coming from trustees Bob Bohler, Rick Montalto, Mari Johnson and David Paluch. Trustees Kevin Geary and Thomas Renk voted no.

If the use of video gaming machines is rejected in the referendum, the license for use of the machines will be revoked.

Several members of the public in attendance spoke about the video gaming issue during comment, with many of the arguing points centered around ethical, moral, religious, political and economic grounds.

“For every dollar the state raises in gambling revenue, it costs the state $3 in social costs. We’re talking increases in bankruptcies, crime, divorce, unemployment, DUIs, foreclosures and, of course, a decrease in property values,” said David Smith, a representative of the Illinois Family Institute. “It’s not good public policy to bring gambling into your community, because what you’re doing is exploiting your own citizens to gain a revenue source.”

Vickie Haddaway, pastor of the Sugar Grove United Methodist Church, said that the UMC, in general, stands against gambling of any form.

“We feel that there’s already enough places for people to go, and we feel there’s already enough gambling in our state,” she said. “This preys on those who don’t have the resources, and all it does is diminish their capacity to enable themselves to better themselves.”

Some of the speakers in support of the machines spoke from a stance on economy.

“If we don’t level the playing field for the businesses in our community to make them competitive with other businesses that are surrounding our community, then those dollars will go elsewhere,” Sugar Grove resident Felice Coffman said.

Many American Legion members and supporters attended the meeting to support the use of machines.

“It is an equal footing for every business in town. You can’t just throw a protective bubble over Sugar Grove and pretend like our residents aren’t going to gamble—they just won’t gamble here,” said Cliff Barker, chaplain of the Sugar Grove American Legion. “Beer is legal in this town. So are cigarettes and so are lottery tickets. We could be a dry county. We could pass an ordinance. It wouldn’t stop alcohol sales— they’d just go elsewhere.”

Board members during the meeting expressed concern regarding the Sugar Grove American Legion’s economic situation. At the Village Board meeting on Dec. 18, Barker said the Legion would likely be out of money before the April referendum.

“I think we do (the veterans) a disservice when we take the position that to support them, we must immediately support gambling in Sugar Grove,” Sugar Grove resident Barb Nassaf said. “It is also a disservice to the people in Sugar Grove who are scheduled to vote on this topic within months. To open the back door to gambling now would be a slap in the face to the voting process here in Sugar Grove.”

Renk and Geary both said they thought the video gaming decision should wait until the April referendum. Paluch and Montalto, citing concern about the Legion’s economic status, said they hoped the machines would bring in revenue for the Legion.

“We appreciate the comments from both sides—people in favor and against video gambling,” Village President Sean Michels later said. “People are passionate on both sides. However, it’s important to realize that we’re talking about a maximum of $2 per bet. Video gaming is allowed in other towns, so we do need to balance the fact that we’re trying to allow our businesses to be competitive with nearby businesses.”

SG Walgreens holds soft opening

Store will officially open in early January
by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove Village President Sean Michels on Tuesday said he’s excited and proud to have Walgreens become a part of the Sugar Grove family.

The drug store, located at the corner of Route 47 and Galena Boulevard, is slated to open Jan. 6. Its soft opening was held Friday, Nov. 9, with several people, including Michels, in attendance.

“It’s a great location, and their build-out was excellent,” he said. “I’ve heard from quite a few residents who are excited about Walgreens coming to Sugar Grove.”

As a special gift, vouchers for flu shots at the Between Friends Food Pantry were given out during the soft opening.

Michels said Walgreens is just one of a few businesses that are new to the village.

“Walgreens is a big addition to Sugar Grove, as is Rush Copley (medical clinic),” Michels said.

Trustee Kevin Geary said Walgreens has been a long-awaited addition to the village, and Sugar Grove welcomes it to town.

“Several residents have spoken to the pharmacist and (have) commented on how helpful and friendly she was,” Geary said. “(Walgreens) looks like a winner for the citizens of Sugar Grove.”

The Sugar Grove location will also carry a liquor license, which the Village Board approved by a vote of 5-0 on Oct. 2.

Village Board approves Walgreens liquor license

By Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove Village Board members on Tuesday voted 5-0 in favor of a 2012-13 liquor license for the Walgreens store located at the corner of Route 47 and Galena Boulevard.

Trustee Tom Renk was absent from the meeting.

“I am glad to have (Walgreens) in town. I wasn’t sure if this would be a Walgreens that serves liquor,” Village President Sean Michels said. “(The building) is looking good. It’s all landscaped. The parking lot is done.”

The Village Board also voted 5-0 to amend a resolution that regulates the number of liquor licenses per class. According to a document from Village Clerk Cynthia Galbreath, the amendment is necessary to “reflect the granting of an additional license for the 2012-13 licensing year.”

Walgreens is slated to open in Sugar Grove in early November.

Prairie Parkway funding pulled

Money diverted to widen Route 47
by Susan O’Neill
ILLINOIS—Citizens Against the Sprawlway members recently gathered at their 11th annual picnic and rally, this time to celebrate the demise of the Prairie Parkway.

For the past 10 years, the group opposing the proposed Prairie Parkway has held the event on the last Sunday in August at Big Rock resident Marvel Davis’ farm. This year, after 11 years of waging their fight against the proposed highway, the grassroots organization said they were finally able to declare victory.

The Federal Highway Administration on Aug. 22 rescinded its 2008 decision to approve and fund the Prairie Parkway, a proposed 37-mile expressway that was to connect Interstate 80 with Interstate 88. Funding earmarked for the highway has been diverted to pay for widening and other improvements to Illinois Route 47, Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) spokesperson Josh Kauffman said.

According to IDOT District III engineer Dave Brobiak, the stretch of Route 47 beginning .6 miles north of I-80 in Morris and ending at Cross Street in Sugar Grove is in some stage of construction or study to widen and improve it.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Jan Strasma, Chairman of Citizens Against the Sprawlway. Strasma and his group, in conjunction with a number of other organizations, had continued to voice their opposition to the highway. They told IDOT that, rather than build a new road, the money should instead be spent on improving the current roads, especially Route 47. Then-U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert in 2001 had reintroduced the idea of the north-south highway between I-80 and I-88. He said that the highway would relieve congestion on local and state roads, as well as absorb the additional future traffic he said was inevitable due to an anticipated increase in growth in western Kane County, as well as Kendall and Grundy counties.

But Strasma and other opponents said that the outer belt expressway would act as a stimulant for rapid growth, eating up acres of precious farmland in the process.

IDOT in 2002 moved forward with plans for the highway, and identified a corridor through which it could be built. IDOT marked the deeds of landowners along the corridor, which meant that if owners wished to make an improvement to their property, they had to notify the state first. The state would then have the option to purchase the property.

Opposition to the parkway became more widespread as farmers and other landowners realized the impact the road would have on their property. Davis, whose farm helped people visualize what would be lost in building the highway, said her property would be divided in two by the proposed road.

Big Rock and Kaneville residents voted overwhelmingly against the parkway in non-binding referendums.

Not everyone was opposed to the highway, however. Village officials interested in growth, such as Sugar Grove Village President Sean Michels, said they saw the highway as a stimulus for commercial and other development in their towns and beyond. Michels did not see the choice as either the parkway or the improvements to local roads. Sugar Grove officials supported both the highway and the widening of Route 47.

Meanwhile, Hastert hastened progress on the Parkway when he obtained a $207 million earmark for the highway in the federal government’s 2005 transportation bill.

The Federal Highway Administration issued its record of decision approving the Prairie Parkway project and the final environmental impact statement in 2008, making the project eligible for federal funding. Hastert resigned from Congress later that year.

Citizens Against the Sprawlway, in conjunction with Friends of the Fox River, filed a lawsuit in 2009 against the FHWA, stating that IDOT had preselected the route prior to conducting the environmental study of its impacts. Attorneys from the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), a Chicago public interest group, represented the group.

With the flagging economy and a slowdown of development, as well as the state of Illinois’ financial woes, funding for the highway stalled. Beginning in 2010, IDOT cut the Prairie Parkway from its six-year Highway Improvement Program and continued to omit it from subsequent annual updates.

In addition, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning did not give the Parkway a high funding priority in its “Go to 2040” land use and transportation plan for the seven-county area.

This paved the way for the FHWA’s action to rescind its record of decision for the highway. Staff attorney Andrew Armstrong said that, when the state rescinded its record of decision, his organization filed to dismiss the lawsuit.

According to the Citizens Against the Sprawlway website, about $70 million in federal and state funds has been spent so far on the Prairie Parkway on studies of the need for the highway, environment and engineering, including $21.5 million for the acquisition of about 300 acres of land along the corridor. No actual construction has taken place.

Although the federal action effectively cancels plans for the Prairie Parkway, Kaneville Planning Commission Chair and IDOT Prairie Parkway Citizens Advisory Committee member Joe White emphasized that it doesn’t really change anything unless the state decides to lift the marks off of people’s deeds.

IDOT continues to protect the 400-foot-wide corridor between the two interstates. The corridor protection, filed in 2007, restricts affected property owners from making improvements to their property without state review and approval.
White said he doesn’t believe it was public opinion that put the brakes on the parkway. He believes that if IDOT had an open checkbook, the parkway would still be on the table.

Elburn Village President Dave Anderson would agree with that. He said that with the center line already designated, he believes that plans for the highway will resume if funding comes back. He supports the highway and said it is important in alleviating traffic on Route 47 and diverting north-bound truck traffic. He thinks it should be built, not just from I-80 to I-88, but all the way to I-90.

In the meantime, he said he supports keeping the funding local, and that Route 47 can use the improvements. He said he also supports a full interchange at Route 47 and I-88, something that Sugar Grove officials have been pushing for some time.

Michels said that he has already been in touch with Rep. Randy Hultgren to ensure that the funding stays local and remains focused on Route 47.

“We need to move fast and we need to be vocal,” Michels said. “I’m afraid things could be re-allocated.”

To game or not to game?

by Cheryl Borrowdale
SUGAR GROVE—So many residents packed Tuesday’s Village Board meeting to debate whether the village should ban video gaming that additional chairs had to be brought in to accommodate the crowd.

The issue, which was brought up two weeks ago by the Sugar Grove American Legion’s application to install five video gaming machines, generated more than an hour of public comments from community members and debate among board members. Proponents argued that gaming was a revenue generator in a weak economy and would draw business to Sugar Grove, while opponents argued that gaming would be detrimental to the community and would not generate the predicted revenues.

Cliff Barker, chaplain for the Sons of the American Legion, spoke on behalf of the organization, arguing that video gaming would improve the health of groups like the Legion, and that the revenue generated would be used to expand the scholarships and volunteer work the Legion does within the community.

“The state of Illinois passed the Video Gaming Act in 2009 with fraternal and veteran’s organizations like the Legion in mind,” Barker said. “Our members are active in the Corn Boil, Veterans Park, volunteering. We sponsor Little League and softball leagues, we contribute toward trips to (Washington) D.C. for Kaneland students; we have a new Joe Testin Scholarship. We’d like to do more.”

Barker also noted that if Sugar Grove opts out, residents might go to other communities to gamble, which would harm local businesses.

“It may result in the loss of a dinner at Fireside Grill or McDonald’s, the loss of a tank of gas at BP,” he said. “The Legion intends to spend as much of its revenue in Sugar Grove as possible.”

Jay Spoden of TAV Gaming, a Sugar Grove company that installed its first games at the Blackberry Bar & Grill in unincorporated Kane County yesterday, said that video gaming would generate jobs because the tax revenue goes into the state’s $31 billion capital fund, which pays for roads and infrastructure.

The machines would also be easy to maintain control over, he said. Only five machines would be allowed at a location under the state law, and only businesses with liquor-pouring licenses could apply. Since the village issues liquor licenses, Spoden said, it already has control over how many businesses could come into Sugar Grove and have video gaming. Technology also allowed close monitoring of the machines, he said.

“We know everything, how many spins per minute, how much money is being made, et cetera. Big Brother is watching,” he said. “If you get caught with somebody gambling under age 21, the first thing (the state gaming board) is going to do is pull your liquor license, not your gambling license, so people are going to be pretty careful if they can’t pour liquor for a year.”

Yet the economic arguments were not persuasive to many at the meeting. Keith Duff, a pastor at Village Bible Church, said he worried about the impact gaming might have on local families.

“As a church, we’re concerned about families and marriages, and those addicted to gambling have three times the divorce rate as those who aren’t,” Duff said. “Gambling is as much of a risk factor for domestic violence as alcohol use.”

Duff cited statistics showing that felony crimes and child abuse have also risen within three years of gaming being introduced in other areas.

“I certainly appreciate the organizations that could do more good with the revenues from (video gaming), but I’d rather raise money to do good in ways that don’t hurt people in the process,” Duff said. “It’s hard to raise money. We experience that as a church. But as much as I’d love to raise an extra couple hundred thousand dollars by putting gambling machines in the church, I don’t want to hurt families and children to do it.”

Father Bob Jones of St. Katharine Drexel Church agreed, saying that many Catholic churches have stopped offering Bingo nights because of the effects on parishioners.

“I know (video gaming) is just one form of gambling, but I see that communities have been hurt by legalized gambling. It hasn’t improved the community, it has brought in that element,” Jones said. “I encourage our board to really think long and hard about it. I think we should be very cautious. A number of communities have voted against this, and we should think, ‘why do communities not want this?’ I would be very hesitant to see it come into our communities.”

For Melissa Taylor, a Sugar Grove resident and Kane County Board member, the main concern was financial.

Under the Illinois Video Gaming Act, 30 percent of the money put into video gaming machines will be taxed, with a 25 percent going to the state and five percent to the municipality. Since the state collects the tax revenue and then distributes it to the municipalities, and since the state is billions of dollars behind in payments to schools, municipalities, Medicaid providers, vendors and workers, Taylor said there was no guarantee Sugar Grove would ever receive that money.

“While I have the utmost respect for the Legion and all the people in it, I’m not looking at the social part (of gaming), but the financial part,” Taylor said. “I don’t see the money coming back here. I see the state doing whatever it can to redirect it in another direction. That concerns me. Until I see the revenue coming in from other municipalities, I’ll believe (that the state will send tax revenues to the village) when I see it. If gaming comes here, how do you take it back out? I’d rather have someone else try it and see first. I’d like to see the proof in the pudding.”

Although the Legion understands the concerns others have about video gaming, Barker said, it’s a responsible organization and can be trusted to monitor the machines.

“The Legion is not willing to take chances,” Barker said. “If we handle this poorly, we put at risk our liquor license, our membership and our reputation. We have policies in place to make sure we do not fail. We’ve exceeded the state’s requirements for protections by having a separate room for the machines, constant video surveillance and placing the machines in the direct line of sight of the bartender. No one under 21 will be allowed in the room at any time, and we will continue our membership requirements currently in place so that we are better able to monitor things.”

Trustee David Paluch said that he had recently visited the Legion to see its setup, which relieved many of the concerns he had expressed at the previous board meeting, but that he still had concerns about the effect video gaming could have on the character of the village.

Though a number of local municipalities have opted out of gaming, including Elburn, Batavia, Campton Hills, West Chicago and Virgil, some nearby communities have decided to allow the machines. Paluch said that he spoke to someone on the Sandwich Village Board the day after the village decided not to opt out of video gaming, who told him that the village had been suddenly beset by a large number of applications for liquor licenses.

“They had seven bars where it was approved (because they had a liquor license),” Paluch said. “The next day, more applied. They had 16 or 17 try to come in. I don’t mind if a Chili’s or Applebee’s tried to come in here, but I don’t want to see places coming into Sugar Grove just to proliferate gaming.”

Trustee Rick Montalto agreed.

“I support the Legion in just about everything they do,” Montalto said. “But my concern is, if we allow the Legion now and then we try to opt out later, can we do that? We don’t want to regulate liquor licenses because places like Chili’s and Applebee’s serve alcohol. I don’t want to restrict those kinds of businesses.”

Other members of the board said they favored allowing gaming in Sugar Grove, noting that the state had already approved it and that state infrastructure funding was important.

“My concern is that we stand to lose state funding for our highways (because the capital bill will be underfunded) if we opt out of this,” trustee Robert Bohler said. “I have two nephews and a niece who are in the Armed Forces right now, and I believe that slot machines are more of a right than a moral issue. If we disallow these machines in our town, what rights are these kids fighting for? I don’t like to see bongs being sold in town, either, but we live in America, and this is a right people have.”

The debate prompted trustee Kevin Geary to suggest putting video gaming to a public referendum so community members could decide for themselves.

“I’m hearing from both ends, but I’m not hearing a clear answer as to what the public wants to do,” Geary said. “I did do a little bit of research, and we can still put a (non-binding) referendum on the ballot. I’m leaning in that direction so that we would really hear from all the public and not just the people here. I think an election would really give us a measure of what the people of Sugar Grove think. Whether it’s a yes or a no, I think that we should go along with what our citizens want on this.”

Both Paluch and trustee Thomas Renk agreed, saying that even though a referendum would be non-binding, they would pledge to vote according to the wishes of the community.

“I’m a big believer in majority government,” Paluch said. “I would be much more comfortable abiding by the wishes of our community.”

With just days remaining until a referendum would need to be added to the ballot, Village President Sean Michels said there was not enough time to do so, since the board could not vote on the issue until the next meeting, after the deadline for adding a referendum had passed.

Trustee Mari Johnson agreed, saying that a referendum was unnecessary.

“I can’t see us making (video gaming) illegal,” she said. “At $2 a game, to say that someone’s going to get addicted overnight, I don’t see that happening. I don’t think the Legion’s planning on getting rich quick off of this; I think they’re looking at it as an opportunity for patrons to remain in their establishment for longer than a couple of beers. I don’t think anybody who has a valid liquor license and a business is going to risk that over a few bucks generated by a machine. I don’t think it’s necessary to send this to a non-binding referendum. I’m fine with going ahead and allowing this.”

A straw vote on creating a referendum found the board split 3-3, with Renk, Geary and Bohler in favor and Johnson, Montalto and Paluch against. Michels broke the tie, saying he was against it.

“You don’t believe in democracy?” Renk asked.

“I believe that we’re elected to make decisions,” Michels said.

The board will vote on whether to opt out of video gaming at its next meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 4, at 6 p.m.