Tag Archives: Thomas Renk

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.”

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.

Wine shop proposes opening in Sugar Grove

by Cheryl Borrowdale
SUGAR GROVE—A new wine shop may be coming to Sugar Grove, following the Sugar Grove Village Board’s 5-0 approval of a special use permit, a liquor license and several zoning variances for 34 Terry Drive.

Wine in the Grove, a business proposed by Sugar Grove residents Gayle Deja-Schultz and Carl Schultz, would sell wine and other specialty food items, offer wine and beer service in the store and on its patio, and host wine tastings and other events. Deja-Schultz said the patio would likely have six tables with umbrellas for shade.

The board hammered out the variances and permits with Deja-Schultz for nearly an hour, issuing a liquor license and discussing requirements for parking, patio size, fencing and landscaping.

The shop, which will be located in the same building as Rocky’s Dojo and Gym, will have a 20-foot patio that faces the entrance ramp to Route 56, equipped with an ADA-accessible ramp. In order to accommodate the ramp and maximize patio space, the board granted Deja-Schultz a setback variance that allows the shop to have a three-foot setback from the property line instead of the standard five-foot setback. They also specified the types of landscaping and fencing board members thought were necessary to make the high-visibility area attractive.

Parking was the largest concern for some members of the board, who noted that the 48-person capacity of Wine in the Grove called for an additional 19-20 parking spots in the attached lot according to zoning regulations, but that Deja-Schultz was requesting to have zero additional parking spaces.

“The common sense of it is, there really is enough parking there,” Deja-Schultz said. “I think the parking on that building is more than adequate.”

Although the nearby Old Second Bank agreed to allow Wine in the Grove to use 10 spaces when necessary, Deja-Schultz said that paying for the liability insurance for those spaces was a “deal breaker.”

“I would love to bankroll a $100,000 business, but it’s getting to the point where a small business owner (can’t make it),” Deja-Schultz said.

Ron Troutman, owner of the building, said that he thought the additional spaces were unnecessary because in nearly 30 years, he has never seen the parking lot full.

“I’ve got other people wanting that unit there. I’ve got an astrologer, two psychics. I’d rather have the wine shop. You know, Jesus comes back and he likes wine, he turned water into wine,” Troutman told the board. “I’ve been retired for 12 years, and I’m there every day, and parking has never been a problem.”

Trustee Thomas Renk said that he was reluctant to grant a zero parking space variance because the board’s responsibility is to protect all involved, including the property owner.

“I don’t want to handicap you in terms of what you would be able to bring in with future businesses,” Renk told Troutman.

“We’re also trying to protect the tenants and anyone else who would move into that vacant storefront,” Village President Sean Michels said.

Trustee Mari Johnson proposed writing a contingency plan into the parking variance that would allow the village to require Deja-Schultz to expand parking capacity or enter into the agreement with Old Second Bank at anytime, if the village determines that additional parking is needed.

Board members voted 5-0 to approve the parking variance with the contingency plan.

Signatures hold up Mallard Point easement vote

by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove Village Board members on Tuesday were slated to vote on easement agreements for the Mallard Point and Rolling Oaks drainage project. Following a 15-minute-long executive session, the board announced that no action would be taken because signatures are needed from the two landowners involved in the deal.

“The agreements, as outlined with all of the landowners we need to get easements from, are agreed to, at least as to the primary one (owned by the family of Sugar Grove Police Chief Brad Sauer)—it’s completely agreed to,” Village Attorney Steve Andersson said. “As to the smaller landowner, I think it’s virtually all agreed to. But nothing’s changed; everything is good, and we are waiting on signatures.”

Andersson then asked the board to indicate whether or not they were “good with the direction (they’re) going.” All board members replied “yes” to the question.

“Full steam ahead,” trustee Thomas Renk said.

The easement agreements are just another step in the drainage project process, which will culminate in the installation of a pipe—30 inches in diameter and 8,800 feet long—intended to convey water from the Mallard Point and Rolling Oaks subdivisions to the Drainage District ditch located near Jericho Road and Route 30.

The Village Board last week authorized an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with Rob Roy Drainage District No. 2. Following an easement agreement with landowners, the next steps will include special assessment, Army Corps of Engineers approval, project bid approval, a Kane County IGA, pond/wetland proposal approval and SSA levy.

“As soon as we can get (signatures from the landowners) … we’ll do our part,” Village President Sean Michels said.

Hughes fired by SG Library Board

Photo: Beverly Homes Hughes, accepting the Sugar Grove Citizen of the Year in 2010, was terminated as Sugar Grove Library Director July 14 by a 4-2 vote by the Sugar Grove Library Board. The board has yet to release a statement as to the reason behind the termination. File Photo

2010 Sugar Grove Citizen of the Year let go with no official reason provided
By Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove’s next library director will have some pretty big shoes to fill.

Beverly Holmes Hughes, who has served as library director for the last 21 years, saw her employment terminated by the Library Board during its regular meeting on July 14. The board voted 4-2 on the matter, with President Joan Roth, Vice President Art Morrical, and trustees Julie Wilson and Bob Bergman voting in favor of letting Hughes go.

Trustees Bill Durrenberger and Daniel Herkes voted against firing Hughes.

Hughes, who was named Sugar Grove Citizen of the Year in July 2010, said she preferred to not comment on the firing, but did say she was surprised by the board’s decision to terminate her employment.

“I was told that the Library Board wants to move in a new direction,” she said.

Holmes wasn’t the only person shocked by the board’s decision. Sugar Grove Trustee Thomas Renk expressed his disapproval of the Library Board’s decision during the village’s regular Village Board meeting on Tuesday.

“I think the Library Board made a big mistake,” he said.

Durrenberger said he wasn’t ready to talk about Hughes’ dismissal, but did say that a press release may be issued at some point.

“We’re currently beginning the search for a new library director,” he said.

Art Morrical could not be reached for comment.

In the meantime, the board has hired Arlene Kaspik, who was library director for the McHenry Public Library from May 1991 until her retirement in June 2007, as interim director while the board searches for a new, full-time library director.

Outdoor vendor stands, boxes could be regulated

by Martha Quetsch
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove Village officials are considering adopting regulations for temporary vendors, such as food stands and movie rental machines, on private property in parking lots and outside of businesses.

The village’s existing Mobile Vendor Ordinance only addresses uses on public rights of way.

During a Village Board discussion on the issue on Tuesday, Trustee Thomas Renk said he was concerned about the village’s lack of regulations for temporary vendors on private property.

“Before you know it, we could have an assortment of businesses that are out of our control,” Renk said.

Renk said he did not want the village to become like Japan, where street vendors may sell almost anything, including beer.

“I’m not suggesting that would be a problem here, but it could get out of hand,” Renk said. “I would like to have some level of control.”

Village staff presented several regulations to the Village Board on Tuesday. Among those are requiring written permission from the property owner for the vendor; time limits for the vending structures; and proof of a health license if the vendor sells food. Other proposed regulations would establish the type of equipment the village would allow vendors to have and where they may locate, for example, within a certain number of feet from a business, on the pavement or on green areas.

Village officials do not want to amend the ordinance to prohibit short-term, nonprofit vendors. Renk suggested that if the village requires fees in the future, it could reimburse the fees to nonprofit vendors.

In addition to the proposed regulations, the board talked about requiring permit fees for temporary vendors, which some area towns impose. Oswego, for example, charges a $34.23 background-check fee and a $100 per-year fee, village staff said.

Regarding vending machines including movie rental boxes, Trustee Kevin Geary said the village should require a permit for every machine that is visible from the street.

Geary said he does not want the rules to be so restrictive that they may deter stores wanting vendor machines outside their businesses from locating in the village.

Another issue the board discussed was the need to regulate the appearance of vendor sites, which Trustee Melisa Taylor said was important.

Trustee Robert Bohler wants the village to prohibit collection boxes, such as one that was located in a commercial area in Sugar Grove in the past, because some people leave items outside the boxes.

“Sofas and chairs sat there for months.” Bohler said. “It was just an eyesore.”

Trustee Rick Montalto proposed that the village require vendors to post their contact numbers on the machines. Taylor also wants the village to keep a record of who owns each vendor business.

Trustee Mari Johnson instructed village staff to prepare permit and license options for the board’s future consideration. She also directed staff to determine how many temporary vendor structures currently exist in the village. Johnson served as village president pro tem Tuesday in Sean Michels’ absence.

Public invited to Candidate’s Night March 19

Sugar Grove Candidates Night will take place on Thursday, March 19, at 7 p.m. at 141 Main St. at the Community House in Sugar Grove.

Incumbent Village President Sean Michels is challenged by Perry Clark, former director of the Sugar Grove Economic Development Corporation.

There are three open village trustee positions. The five candidates are Robert E. Bohler, Rick Montalto, David Paluch, Thomas Renk and Joseph Wolf.

There are two open two-year library trustee positions. The three candidates are Christina Cella, Julie Wilson and William Wulff. There is one four-year term available. The two candidates are Sabrina Malano and Joan Roth.

There are three Kaneland School District Board open positions. The five candidates are Jonathan H. Berg, Kenneth L. Carter, Elmer Gramley, Cheryl Krauspe and Pedro Rivas.

There are three Sugar Grove Township Community House Board open positions. The four candidates are Lillie Adams, Dan Long, Stam Schumacher and Tim Wilson.

Each candidate in attendance will be introduced. Contested race candidates will provide a two-minute statement. Candidates for village president and village trustee will take part in a forum in which they will be asked a variety of questions.

Citizens may submit questions for the candidates in advance by sending an e-mail to Shari Baum, Executive Director, Sugar Grove Chamber of Commerce and Industry at sbaum@ sugargrovechamber.org.