Steingraber Addresses Infrastructure Issues in Kenilworth's 'SOTU'
Kenilworth held its annual Citizens Advisory Committee last week, and discussion focused on much-needed infrastructure improvements.
Despite the threat of an approaching storm and below freezing temperatures, approximately 30 residents and community members gathered at the Kenilworth Club on Jan. 31 for the 3rd annual community meeting organized by the Kenilworth Citizen's Advisory Committee.
“We're lucky to have gotten the turnout we did," KCAC President Valerie Foradas told Patch, “It's a good way to introduce the candidates to the community early.”
Candidates in the library, park, school and village April elections were in attendance, as were the current presidents of each board, who gave updates on projects and financial conditions. Dan Koels, a village board trustee, described the event as Kenilworth's “State of the Union."
District 38 School Board President Karen Hartman spoke of upcoming renovations to the gym at Joseph Sears Elementary School. Changes would include new floors, roofing, lights and bleachers. Dr. Kelley Kalinich, the district's superintendent, told Patch in a phone interview that the bids for construction will be addressed at the April 18 meeting.
Meanwhile Tom Feeney, park district president, admitted to losing money last year, and attributed the drop in revenue to construction to Joseph Sears in the summer of 2010. The school allowed the park district to use their building during the summer, but parents opted out of programs because they were afraid the renovations would translate into asbestos exposure. Village Manager Bradly Burke explained to Patch over the phone that camp registration generates a significant portion of park revenue.
Village President Fred G. Steingraber closed out the evening with his run-down of Kenilworth's affairs. Steingraber set the tone for his speech with a tale of Native Americans preparing for the upcoming winter, and transitioned to touching on fiscal and infrastructure concerns in the village.
Steingraber mentioned the “long delayed infastructure needs” Kenilworth has been putting off, which include the police vehicles that are already two years past retirement status, various road improvements and upgrades to the 120-year-old sewer system.
“The sewer system is totally outdated and the risks we face are not insignificant," he said adding that, "In three or four particular places we could have a real emergency on our hands and we need to preemptively and systematically upgrade our sewers.”
Village board hopeful William Russell echoed Steingraber's sentiments on the sewer system after the meeting disbanded, calling it a “hidden liability."
“Despite running deficits for years, we budgeted this year a balanced budget, with a small surplus,” said Steingraber. The budget was balanced by a variety of methods, including consolidating two departments thus saving $125,000, raising fees and by outsourcing street cleaning to Glenview. Kenilworth's street cleaning equipment was breaking down, according to Steingraber.
Steingraber spoke of the importance of looking at zoning regulations downtown, which are “absolutely vital and critical if we want to attract more commercial tenants."
“We have limited revenue from commercial taxes, unlike Wilmette or Winnekta” Steingraber said, “and as we come out of this recession we need to get aggressive on a marketing plan for Kenilworth."
But he ultimately assured that the village was heading in the right direction.
“Wilmette says they're thriving through this recession." he said, "We can't say that, but we are driving through the recession – and we've got a GPS."