Mayor Sandack called the Workshop meeting of the Village Council of the Village of Downers Grove to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Village Hall. Present: Mayor Ron Sandack; Commissioners Marilyn Schnell, Martin Tully, William Waldack, Sean P. Durkin, Geoff Neustadt, Bruce Beckman; Village Manager Cara Pavlicek; Assistant Village Attorney Ann Marie Perez; Deputy Village Clerk Linda Brown
Absent: Village Attorney Enza Petrarca, Village Clerk April Holden isitors: Press: Samantha Nelson, Downers Grove Reporter
Residents: Diane Meyer, 6035 Dunham; D. T. Garges, 6024 Dunham; Steve Bales, Bales Mold Service, 2824 Hitchcock; Marge Earl, 4720 Florence; Jane Amorosi, 5742 Dearborn Parkway; Jay Dockendorff, 5329 Main; James Kyroudis, 4740 Belmont; Greg Bedalov, Downers Grove Economic Development Corporation; Kent Ebersold, 1519 Hillcrest;* * Tom Novotny, 4809 Stanley
Staff: Liangfu Wu, Director, Information Services; Bob Porter, Police Chief ; Doug Kozlowski, Director, Communications; Phil Ruscetti, Fire Chief; Andy Matejcak, Director, Counseling and Social Services; Dave Fieldman, Deputy Village Manager; Jeff O’Brien, Senior Planner, Commmunity Development; Mike Baker, Assistant Village Manager; Megan Bourke, Management Analyst; Brandon Dieter, Management Analyst; Robin Weaver, Interim Diresctor, Public Works; Mary Scalzetti, Director, Community Events; Tom Dabareiner, Director, Community Development; Steve Sanderson, Assistant Finance Director
Mayor Sandack explained that Council Workshop meetings are held the second and fourth Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m. The meetings are video taped live and for later cable cast over cable channel 6.
The Workshop meeting is intended to provide Council and the public with an appropriate forum for informal discussion of any items intended for future Council consideration or just for general information. No formal action is taken at Workshop meetings. The public is invited to attend and encouraged to comment or ask questions in an informal manner on any of the items being discussed or on any other subject. The agenda is created to provide a guideline for discussion.
Mayor Sandack led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. Mayor Sandack then called for a moment of silence in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the September 11 attacks on the United States.
MANAGER 1. Active Agenda and Informational Items
a. Zoning Ordinance Amendment – Off-Street Parking and Loading. The Manager asked Tom Dabareiner, Director of Community Development to comment on this item. Tom Dabareiner , Director, Community Development, said this amendment involves two separate ordinances. He reviewed the parking regulations saying that many that are still in place were first introduced back in the 1960s. He said the numbers in the chart displayed on the overhead screen are based on nationwide figures from the American Planning Association and are considered generally accepted parameters. Mr. Dabareiner said that these changes proposed will increase landscaping areas, promote shared parking, and improve visibility in parking areas. One example, the Jewel on Ogden Avenue, has 260 parking spaces, while the requirement will be 230. Good Samaritan Hospital’s new requirements would be 2,500+ spaces, and they have 2,600. The requirements for the 75th and Lemont shopping center would be 2,300, and they already provide 4,600 spaces. He indicated that the Plan Commission reviewed the amendment at their March 12 and April 2 meetings and recommended adoption by the Village Council.
Commissioner Beckman said that some of the retail facilities along Ogden Avenue are using commercial parking spaces to rent parking space to students of North High School. He asked what effect that would have on minimum parking regulations. Mr. Dabareiner said that is something the Village would need to explore, saying that hopefully in leased parking situations the peak times are not conflicting with the retail use. He indicated that planners encourage shared parking as long as there are no conflicts. Commissioner Schnell asked Mr. Dabareiner how the Village will publicize the new regulations, and he responded that they will use cable channel 6, newsletters and newspapers.
Commissioner Waldack said he had a large number of questions regarding this item, and thanked Mr. Dabareiner and Mr. O’Brien for going over those questions with him and responding to some of his concerns. He said it is time to update the ordinance. He thinks that the 75th and Lemont center would be a better shopping experience with more greenspace. He is also concerned about the change in the size of the spaces. The Mayor said that the intent of this amendment makes perfect sense, in terms of modernizing the ordinance and providing simplicity to the regulations. He then asked about overnight parking for reverse commuters and whether there are provisions being made for those workers. Mr. Dabareiner said there have not been any provisions explicitly included. They might be candidates for a shared parking arrangement.
b. Special Commercial Event License – Downers Grove Rotary Club Oktoberfest. The Manager said this is the 7th Annual Oktoberfest to be held on Village-owned property.
Commissioner Durkin asked whether there will be training for the Rotary Club for liquor handling. The Manager said they are subject to the same Bassett training as other groups.
Assistant Village Attorney Ann Marie Perez said that staff makes sure they are aware of any changes and that there will be on-sight checks.
c. Plat of Subdivision for 2824 and 2830 Hitchcock Avenue. Mr. Dabareiner said this item consolidates two parcels into a single lot located on Hitchcock east of Thatcher. Both lots have buildings on them. By turning this into a single lot, the owners will be able to expand their manufacturing facility by 12,000 square feet. The Plan Commission considered this on August 6 and made a positive recommendation.
Commissioner Tully said he thought combining of the lots was a good thing, and that there are no variations involved. This allows the expansion of an existing business. The Mayor concurred with Commissioner Tully’s statement.
d. Special Use for a Drive-Through at 1931 Ogden Avenue. Mr. Dabareiner said this property is the site of the old Wendy’s which has been vacant since November 2005. The site will provide an additional Dunkin’ Donuts location. Since the site remained vacant for more than 18 months, they had to reapply for a special use. The Plan Commission considered this on August 6 and made the recommendation for approval with the condition of replacing the existing six-foot fence with an eight-foot fence. Commissioner Tully said that applying the criteria in this case is easy as the special use was there before. Again, there are no variations being sought. This also furthers the Ogden Avenue Master Plan goals, and there will be a new monument sign on the location. This will return a vacant parcel to a productive use on a major commercial corridor.
Commissioner Waldack noted that the reason for the special use permit request is only because the site has been vacant for 18 months or more. He questioned whether the Village should be requiring special use permits for changes of ownership and perhaps when drive-up facilities want to extend their hours.
Commissioner Schnell asked whether this is replacing the Dunkin’ Donuts further east on Ogden Avenue, and Mr. Dabareiner said it was not.
The Mayor noted at this time that Kent Ebersold of the Downers Grove Rotary Club had arrived and informed him that the Oktoberfest had already been discussed. He noted that Commissioner Schnell had commented on the lack of hats for the new Commissioners. Mr. Ebersold then brought the oompah hats for the Commissioners saying they needed to wear them every day for the next three weeks. He added that the Rotary was pleased to announce the beneficiaries of this Oktoberfest would include SEASPAR , DuPage PADS , Junior Achievement and the Health & Wellness Center.
e. Vacation of the Prairie Avenue Right-of-Way. Mr. Dabareiner stated that the applicants are requesting the vacation of the Prairie Avenue right–of-way that runs west of Belmont Road to Puffer Road. The right-of-way is unimproved and is 66 feet wide. There have been incidents of vandalism and fire in the right-of-way. Staff has contacted utilities and the Downers Grove Sanitary District and there is a sanitary sewer in the south half of the parcel. The Park District also asks that the entire area be maintained for potential access to their Golf Course. At its May 7meeting, the Plan Commission recommended denial of the petition and staff concurs.
Dr. Gordon Goodman , 5834 Middaugh, said he endorses the Plan Commission’s recommendation. An unimproved right-of-way is a valuable resource in his opinion. He said the concerns regarding vandalism can be treated in different ways, other than vacation of the right-of-way. Dr. Goodman suggested that the Village’s policy of 2003 should be revisited to place the presumption on the Village needing to retain all unimproved right-of-ways. Future consideration of any vacation should show that action is in the public interest. In the past unbuilt right-of-ways were considered problems; however, he thinks that is out of date and is an incorrect presumption. He believes the Council should revisit this right-of-way. Every piece of land in public ownership has strong potential for public uses, such as pedestrian paths, or bike paths, etc. It should be reviewed in conjunction with the Park District and County.
The Mayor said he thinks that is an interesting concept, but he is concerned that if they revisit the policy the question of compensation arises. Dr. Goodman agreed that the controversy about compensation was diverting. It put the emphasis on the wrong thing. He thinks the value and importance of the land to the Village should be the principal topic of discussion.
James Kyroudis , 4740 Belmont, said he is one of the petitioners seeking this vacation. This property has been neglected for 80 years and that speaks to how important it is to the Village. His perspective comes from living next door to the site. His petition states his motivations, one of which is obviously safety. He realizes this is his final step in this request and he is seeing nails placed in the coffin from the Plan Commission’s recommendation for denial. Mr. Kyroudis said that he began the vacation process in July 2003. He and Mr. Dockendorff hired an attorney in Fall 2003 who began the vacation process. The attorney indicated that the Village staff upheaval in July 2004 created a standstill. Mr. Kyroudis contacted the Mayor who assigned Mike Baker to help with the request. Mr. Kyroudis and his wife met with the Mayor and several staff members at the time, and the consensus was that by 2005 the Village Council would vote on the recommendation. Two members of the staff involved in the petition have since left, and now it is September 2007. He reviewed the time-frame and everything he did including reapplication in 2006, paying his fees, and encountering more setbacks. Originally, the school supported the request for vacation. He then gave Mr. Baker copies of documents for the Council depicting the history of the request, including costs incurred, copies of documents sent by Village staff to the various agencies. Mr. Kyroudis said he has followed staff’s advice as to how to approach this, took the petition to the Plan Commission and they slam-dunked the request saying it could be turned into a subdivision. In reality, Mr. Krudes said that he lives next to a problem. So he requests that either the Village clean it up, fence it, or vacate it to him for maintenance. He doesn’t care about extra land as it will only increase his taxes. He is concerned about the safety of his family and living next to this situation. He said he would really appreciate some feedback.
Jay Dockendorff , 5329 Main Street, said that 4741 Puffer is an investment property of his. He said that the Village has three options with regard to this property: Build a road, maintain the right-of-way, or vacate it. He said that if there is a reason to extend Prairie, then it should be done. As for maintenance, he asked why it is an eyesore and a haven for mischief. Mr. Dockendorff said that more recently they were told the property was needed for emergency vehicles, and he frankly cannot understand that at all. Looking at the aerial photograph, emergency vehicles can access Puffer much easier than through the right-of-way. He believes conversion of the property is the best decision for the city, and he can live with any option as long as something is done.
Phillip Barr , 4602 Puffer Road, said he spoke at the Plan Commission and heard the appeal for the property which is 66’x400’, which is two buildable lots in the Village. He asked what is to keep a future owner from building on this property. In his opinion, it makes common sense to give the property to Puffer School to extend their playing fields. He said that Mr. Dockendorff already has income property on Puffer Road, and this would add to his ability to add to his property. As for the Village neglecting the property, two years ago Mr. Dockendorff’s tenant used the right of way for access, and he neglected the property at that time. Puffer Road was extended just to reach 4741 Puffer Road, owned by Mr. Dockendorff. In Mr. Barr’s opinion, the person using the driveway needs to maintain it. As for the fire, it is of questionable origin. Mr. Barr said that he lives on Puffer and hasn’t seen any vandalism. Mr. Barr said that Dr. Goodman recommended earlier that the property should be given to District 58, and he thinks that would be the best if the Village chooses to vacate the parcel.
Mr. Dockendorff said that Puffer School did not want the land. He believes that most people would say his property is in better condition than it was before he bought it. The renter does better than the prior owner.
Mr. Kyroudis noted that there is talk about an underpass and in his conversation with Mike Baker, Mr. Baker said that the right-of-way would be too close to the proposed light. Mr. Kyroudis said this site would be a good connection to the Park District property, and would also be a great entrance for a golf course. There are possibilities for the property.
Commissioner Tully expressed his appreciation to the public for their comments. He said he doesn’t fault anyone for making the request, saying he recalls why the policy was enacted in 2003. He said in the last six years vacations have only occurred in very exceptional circumstances. He explained that the policy for vacation of a right-of-way has two steps, the first of which is to determine whether staff has found that the property will not be used for any Village purpose at any point in time. That is important to him in terms of potential future use, no matter the length of time. He has always viewed the policy as presuming that a right-of-way will not be vacated. The second step, should vacation be determined, would be compensation. Commissioner Tully said in this specific case it is significant that staff has determined that the vacation should be denied. In a public hearing, the Plan Commission agreed, and the Park District also objects to the vacation. He noted that the petitioners have legitimate concerns in this case regarding maintenance and safety, as well as general monitoring of the parcel. He is not insensitive to those issues and is concerned as to what can be done to better the situation. He apologizes for the fact that action has not been taken to date. He also apologized to the petitioners that the process requesting the vacation has taken so long.
Commissioner Beckman commented that he believes the staff and Plan Commission have provided the Council with more than adequate information in support of retaining the property. He does have concerns with the issues of vandalism and arson. He asked the Village Manager if that information is available. The Manager said she would provide that information before next week.
Commissioner Schnell concurred with the comments made and feels there is reason not to vacate the property. She said, however, that the Village’s lack of maintenance is traditional for an unimproved right-of-way. Residents who abut the property have been relied upon to maintain the property. She suggests that it might be time to revisit that policy since non-maintenance makes it attractive for nuisance situations. The Council has heard this type of complaint in the past. She noted that there are other rights-of-way in this same category. She agrees with Commissioner Tully’s comments on this vacation.
Commissioner Neustadt said that once this petition came up the Village did spend some time and money to install a fence and to address the vandalism. The Mayor said that this is not the best instance of customer service. He apologized for the lack of satisfaction in the past and said that this staff has made tremendous strides to improve customer service. He agrees that things have been done on the site, and hopefully there will be other ways to work with the School and Park Districts regarding the situation. He is unsure whether this is appropriate for a license agreement and that could be reviewed. He tends to agree with the Council members that this property should not be vacated, but he also agrees that the Village should be better neighbors and should work with the community to improve the conditions.
f. Watershed Infrastructure Improvement Plan Final Report. The Manager reviewed the background information on this Plan back to October 2006. She referred to the reports, engineering analysis, and public information meetings that have taken place in August. Another meeting will be held this coming Saturday.
Engineering and financial information is on the Village’s Cable station. Next week a motion will be before the Council to accept the plan. There are timetables approaching, and staff will begin distributing proposed budget documents. There are 55 projects that need to be done to improve the stormwater situation and these will be done over a long period of time. The high and medium priorities are important. The $340 million estimate is 55% construction costs and 45% representing soft costs or contingencies. Staff is seeking direction from Council that it is comfortable with the recommended budget submitted, and obtaining general parameters from Council as to sources of revenue with which they would be comfortable. Staff has identified four sources: 1) property taxes, 2) a portion of the Home Rule sales tax; 3) water fund or revenues from the sale of water; and,
4) detention variance fees, which would eventually be a stormwater impact fee. Staff would also want to see specific revenue amounts as well as specific expenditures in the final budget. The Manager reviewed the four recommended funding sources, saying the Village portion of a property tax bill is currently about $500 per year for a $389,000 market value home. The Village currently has the third lowest tax rate in DuPage County, not counting Oak Brook. If the Council were to consider a $.10 property tax increase, that impact on a yearly basis would be an additional $129.00 on a home valued at $389,000. She noted further that 73% of the tax base is residential.
As for the Home Rule sales tax, Manager Pavlicek said that state statute sets the first 6.75% of the sales tax. The Village also enacted a Home Rule sales tax of half of one cent, which is restricted to capital projects. She said they have been hesitant to discuss an increase to this at this time. As for the water fund, the Village resells water at a price high enough to cover the cost of maintenance. She noted that it is legal for the Village to bill customers at an increased rate, dedicating the increase to stormwater improvement funds. The Detention Variance fee (or Stormwater Impact Fee) generates $10,000 per month in the Village, and there is $1.2 million in that fund.
The Manager said this would come before the Council on the September 18. The Mayor clarified that the staff is looking for limited direction at this time. There will be more concrete discussions taking place before finalization occurs.
Dr. Gordon Goodman , 5834 Middaugh, commented on the Stormwater Improvement Fund, saying that the sources for funding identified by staff are appropriate. One feature of the plan that he does not think has been addressed concerns the stormwater improvements done on properties such as Lyman Woods or other Park District sites. He said that the Park District President requested some time ago that the Village participate in the capital improvements to cope with the stormwater problems in Lyman Woods. The Forest Preserve has agreed to a $250,000 contribution toward this fund; however, there has been no word from the Village on the requested contribution. He thinks it is appropriate to include that contribution in the budget process as part of the stormwater improvement plan.
The Mayor said he has had conversations with President Gelwicks. Unfortunately, this was not an allocated item in the 2007 budget, but it will be added for discussion in the FY 2008 budget.
Jane Amorosi , 5742 Dearborn Parkway, asked about the Brookbank discussion. The Mayor said it is the first item on the Consent Agenda.
Commissioner Schnell responded to the stormwater discussion saying it is logical to dedicate the Lyman Woods funds. She said that the Village received about $3 million from the Water Commission and asked if it would be prudent to transfer that money as part of the stormwater fund. Another aspect that was not covered that she’d like to discuss in the October budget hearings, is that a major part of the stormwater projects involve streets and pavement. She asked whether MFT funds could be used in that area.
The Commissioner said that to be fair to all residents, not everything should go into property taxes or the water fund. At the Ad Hoc Commission on Housing, property taxes need to be considered when determining the price of a house. She sees that a $.05 increase might be more appropriate for consideration. She also thought that an increase of some type in the water fund should be reviewed. To discuss increasing the Home Rule sales tax, Council needs more information on the sales tax rates of the surrounding communities.
Manager Pavlicek spoke to the $3 million that is in the Water Fund, saying that there is a long term infrastructure need in the water fund as well to address watermain breaks, etc. There may also be some income from the roadway funds depending upon the stormwater project.
Commissioner Waldack said he prefers a pay-as-you-go plan, and sees borrowing as an unwise decision. He thinks the Fund is an excellent idea. The Home Rule Sales Tax when adopted was dedicated to the infrastructure. He noted that property tax increases would be appropriate, as some of that money is tax deductible. As for the Home Rule Sales Tax revenue, it was meant for infrastructure, although some of the funding is going to cover the Fire Station as well. The Manager said that $723,000 is set aside for the Fire Station #2.
As for increasing the Home Rule Sales Tax, Commissioner Waldack said he would like to see them hold off on that for a while. He sees increasing water rates as a possible source as well. He would delay a telecommunications tax increase and a hotel tax increase. The Commissioner said that he could see a portion of the MFT funds used as they are related to stormwater improvement. He saw possible increases in impact fees also as a potential source. He then asked about credits from the County since work on stormwater done in the Village certainly affects the County. Manager Pavlicek said that the Village would not have the right as a municipal government to require credits from the County; however, there may be something in their program that the Village could utilize.
Commissioner Neustadt said he thinks the DuPage Water Commission rebate is something the Village should look into as well as the detention variance fees. Commissioner Beckman said he is comfortable with the balanced approach staff has taken, and he believes the first two recommendations would be the best producers. The impact fees would be relatively small in total, and he asked what that money is used for today. The Manager said that the detention variance fees are in the capital fund as a cash balance. They need to be spent. The Home Rule Sales Tax has only gone into the Capital Fund since 2006. Commissioner Beckman said that it seems there’s a lot of room to maneuver. He would be comfortable with spreading the allocation as well as looking at new dollars.
Commissioner Durkin said that it’s ironic they are talking about this today as he spent a weekend in Springfield for the Illinois Government Finance Officer’s Association Annual Conference. He was approached by a number of public finance companies that know about the Village’s $350 million project. He supports the pay-as-you-go program, and right now there is a stable environment on interest rates. Rates could go down for General Obligation Bonds in the future. He supports the stormwater improvement fund, and is staunch on his position regarding property taxes. If the residents are asked to pay a percentage, the key is that it is tax deductible. He noted that the water rate adjustment includes those who do not own property in the Village.
Commissioner Tully thanked the staff for their broad approach. Council is being asked for direction to narrow down the options. He supports the Stormwater Improvement Fund as the money in and out could be accounted for. He agrees that diversity is the key, saying that some revenue sources are more stable, such as property taxes. User driven funds can vary, but having diversification is important so that not only one source is affected. He would be reluctant to increase Home Rule Sales taxes, although stormwater improvement does fall within capital projects. The Water Fund might serve as a bridging mechanism. He said that there were concerns about administrative costs related to a stormwater utility fee; although a stormwater utility is more equitable than property taxes as it relates to the amount of runoff generated by the site. The Village should always be on the watch for other sources including grants, etc. He agreed that the pay-as-you-go approach is ideal, unless opportunities arise that staff sees as appropriate sources of revenue.
The Mayor said the Council is endeavoring to address a community need. The Village has recognized from an engineering level the lack of maintenance, and this is a long term project that must be addressed. He sees the pay-as-you-go as a bit of wishful thinking, and his recommendation would be to look at bonding. He agreed that the Stormwater Improvement Fund makes sense as it makes the expenditures transparent. The four potential sources listed by staff make eminent sense right now, but will require more discussion during the budget meetings. As for tax rate comparisons, he suggested that they look at the Village’s portion only. For six or seven years the rate has gone up 3 or 4%; however, it started at 0.28% while Addison was at 1.2%. The Village is still the third lowest in property tax rates in DuPage County with the exception of Oak Brook. The reason the Village’s infrastructure is not in good condition is because the Village hasn’t paid attention to it. Continually deferring maintenance turns into a reconstruction project rather than basic maintenance. The Village needs to be bold and honest in its decisions for the Village. Mayor Sandack said that every year the Council has pleaded for more residential involvement in the budget process.
g. Proposed Ethical Standards – Ordinance Amendment and Policies. The Manager said this is to adopt the State Official and Employees Ethics Act including a single resolution with four exhibits including a standard for Village government, a standard for Village Council campaign practices, a standard for Village Council participation in outside organizations, and a standard to prohibit interest in contracts. Mayor Sandack said he gave the Village staff, including the Legal Department, his thoughts on rules of government ethics, campaign reform, etc. He said that the Village has an obligation to do better than what it has done in the past.
Mark Thoman , 1109 61st Street, said that he considers this a positive thing and congratulated the Council on its unity in this regard. He sees this as a good ordinance and fulfills promises made during the election process. He would like the Council to consider an Ethics Committee or an Ethics Officer. He referred to the Illinois Attorney General’s website, and urged the Council to consider this.
Commissioner Schnell said she considered this a great first step.
Commissioner Neustadt said that the Illinois State Board of Elections has an electronic means to handle campaign contributions, etc., and he recommended piggybacking onto that site to save time for the Clerk and staff.
Commissioner Tully said that ethics is an amorphous concept. There was a lot of flotsam and jetsam in the last election about ethics. He doesn’t want to see this create more problems. He said this is really a five-part ordinance. There are standards for Village government, campaigns, outside organizations, interest in contracts, and home rule policy. There is a lot of information and he hopes that there will be a lot of discussion before votes are cast.
Regarding the Master Ordinance to Amend the Village’s Ethics Act, Commissioner Tully said for the most part it is fine. He had a question regarding some definitions, e.g. officer, which is broadly defined to include volunteers on boards and commissions. It is important to have those individuals understand that they will be obligated to meet the requirements of the provision, and be subject to penalties for violations. He thinks most Board and Commission members today are unaware of the impact this might have on them as volunteers. He does not want to discourage volunteers, but feels it must be stated on the application form that there are certain responsibilities in relation to the Master Ordinance.
Commissioner Tully then commented on some terms such as “prohibited political activities” which relate to Village employees on Village time. In Subsection B 1 .32 he doesn’t believe the terms “director” or “official” were defined. Exhibit 1 regarding Standards for Village Governance might be unnecessary, opening the Village up to formal problems down the road. As an example he noted the phrase: “everyone should have access to the Village with a minimum of personal inconvenience” which is vague and undefined, unduly opening the Village up to issues. Truth in government is a great concept, but the statement is that “no official shall knowingly omit significant facts,” again without definition of “significant facts.” He gave other examples in Sections 6, 7, 13 and 14.
Commissioner Tully then addressed Example 2 regarding political campaign practices. He feels that there is a problem with trying to micromanage campaign funding. There are many rules and regulations already in place. He does not think they should be discouraging people from running for office. He reviewed items 3-9. Commissioner Beckman asked how much more Commissioner Tully has to cover. Commissioner Tully said that this affects the community and potential candidates, and the ordinance goes into detail. He feels if they are going to have an open discussion on this, he knows no other way to review this. Commissioner Beckman asked whether it could be broken down into smaller parts. Commissioner Tully said he was going to suggest that and he has no problem with that. There is no rush to pass this next week, as there’s no election for Village Council for another 18 months.
Commissioner Beckman said he thinks they could get this in place within a reasonable period of time, and he knows the community feels the need, but he doesn’t think there’s a profound need to address it immediately. Commissioner Beckman said he agreed with some of Commissioner Tully’s comments, but felt if it could be broken into small sections they could have a more effective discussion.
Commissioner Tully said he has written his comments, which were distributed. He feels an obligation to touch on some of the other parts. The second regarding prohibiting interest in contracts can be reviewed, since for example, the Community Grants Commission is made up of members who love the arts, and often some of their organizations are seeking grants as well. He wants to see the Council spend serious time on this before voting on it.
Commissioner Beckman said that the voters spoke loudly and clearly that there must be a better way to conduct Village government. This is an important vehicle to achieve that. He sees this as a crossroad where the Council can take this document and build an effective ethical standard. He wonders if some of this might be boilerplate, and he is anxious to move to the next level.
The Mayor said that this is important to him. He respects Commissioner Tully’s viewpoint. They are not trying to scare anyone away from serving or volunteering. The Mayor said this was distributed on August 14 for review. Part 1 is essentially adopting state statute, and it is the full state statute. The Village was somewhat criticized that it only had part of the state statute in place. As for the Standards for Village Governance, he sees them as reasonable expectations. There is plenty of common sense written in. He said that the standards for campaign practices will not hurt any incumbent. We cannot put high standards on people who are not elected, only on those who win. If someone repeatedly wants to run and receive financial contributions, there is nothing to prevent that. Voters do not want constant campaigning. The Mayor said he does not believe this will hurt an incumbent from serving. He does not believe they need constant electioneering and campaigning. Some language can be added with regard to retiring campaign debt. They are discussing knowing violations, not missteps. All this does is hold the elected officials to a higher standard than has existed before. He thinks they should move forward, not necessarily next week, but sometime in the near future. If it is not perfect, he said that is fine because what they had before was not perfect. He is cognizant of unintended consequences, but they can make adjustments. They are not trying to hurt anyone, but instead are aiming for transparency and accountability. He said it will be put in the vendor’s contract that they cannot give money to elected officials, which is pretty easy. He thinks not moving forward or overanalyzing this is not productive. He understands that there are some items that need to be clarified, and there needs to be some cleanup language.
Commissioner Beckman asked when the Mayor would like to see this adopted. The Mayor responded as soon as possible.
Commissioner Beckman said that there are some statements made by Commissioner Tully that should be considered and perhaps incorporated.
Commissioner Durkin suggested setting the date of September 25 or three weeks from tonight. He said he would like to have this done as well. He has complied with 90% of it already.
Commissioner Waldack said he was listening to Commissioner Tully and agrees that there is a lot in this document. He said that Commissioner Tully said what he wanted to say but more eloquently. He reviewed items which he also thinks need consideration, such as the requirements regarding acceptance of meeting minutes, or how some changes will affect other areas. Regarding Home Rule, there were statements regarding recommendations by the Village Manager and exactly how those recommendations would be proposed. He agreed with Commissioner Tully regarding campaign practices and closing accounts to prevent year-long campaigning. He said if applies to elected officials and not to challengers, then there are inequalities, prohibiting elected officials from seeking a different office. He agrees that they need to review this in pieces and require electronic filing of all candidates. He thinks elected officials and challengers need to have the process made easier. In addition, in regard to vendors, when the Council members get their green sheets, a list of the vendor’s political contributions should be included on the green sheets. If a vendor knows that they are shown as a contributor, it should discourage the contributions.
Commissioner Schnell said she would like a copy of Commissioner Tully’s comments. She agrees that there are points that need to be defined more carefully. She asked whether the Council would be ready to agree on Item 1 by September 25.
The Mayor responded that the Council should get their comments to the Village Manager as soon as possible. There is a set of rules now. The Council wants to be sure that whoever is an elected official is abiding by a higher standard. He has no intention of prolonging this discussion and getting into minutiae, or wordsmithing every line; he will not participate in that. He would prefer to focus on more important things. If there are things that prove not to work, they can be adjusted. This has been before the Council for a month and he has tried to have conversations with individual Council members.
Commissioner Tully said that much of what is being proposed is good, will improve the ordinances the Village has and will hold the Council to higher standards. No one who campaigned in the last election should be defensive about Commissioner Tully’s comments. He noted that he was not in the last election. He thinks there are some things that can be made better than they are. There were no surprises from his standpoint. The Village Attorney set these out about a month ago. Council members were asked to communicate back to the Village Attorney. He cannot communicate with the Council members without violating the Open Meetings Act. He had a good conversation with the Mayor previously. He thinks they have to figure out what they agree on and pass it. There are things he thinks warrant additional discussion. The whole issue of campaign fundraising, including opening and closing campaign accounts made for a great campaign tactic and may or may not be used again, but makes for bad policy.
The Mayor said he may be somewhat defensive, but he takes umbrage to the term “campaign tactic.” Most folks disagree vehemently with that characterization. It was not a tactic but a legitimate policy discussion. All candidates voluntarily closed their campaign accounts save one person. It was by and large agreed upon that in a community this size, in local elections, it is inappropriate to have campaigns continually seeking money, whether it is intentional or not, when one is not up for election. Closing the campaign account sends a clear message.
Commissioner Tully asked who is engaging in continuous campaigning right now, and the Mayor said no one is, and they don’t want it to happen again. They want to put in a set of rules that make sense.
The Manager said this would be put on the September 25, 2007 Workshop agenda.
2. Consent Agenda Items
a. Bid: Brookbank Storm Sewer and Water Main Improvements. The Manager said staff has negotiated with the low bid contractor successfully and asked for a simple roll call vote this evening. Commissioner Tully moved to authorize and direct staff to enter into a contract for the Brookbank Storm Sewer & Water Main Improvements with Archon Construction, Inc. Commissioner Durkin seconded the Motion. VOTE : YEA : Commissioners Tully, Durkin, Beckman, Neustadt, Waldack, Schnell, Mayor Sandack NAY : None Mayor Sandack declared the Motion carried.
b. Approval of Second Amendment to the EDC Bylaws and Conflict of Interest Policy. Commissioner Waldack asked whether the ex-officio members have already signed and was told they have.
c. Bid: Dunham Road Ditch and Storm Sewer (CIP Project SW-003). No comments.
d. Bid: Re-bid for the Undergrounding of Overhead Utilities for Acadia on the Green. The Manager stated that this has been a difficult project to complete. This is a rebid of overhead utilities for Acadia on the Green. At the last discussion there was a $750,000 total project estimate. The design of the secondary work had to be changed and verbal commitments were rescinded. The cost has increased to $941,060. This would be the final action to complete this portion of underground utilities. There are funds available in the downtown TIF budget and it will not affect the general fund.
Commissioner Tully asked if there is no more verbal commitment, and the Manager said that was correct. He is taking umbrage, as this is the second time this has come in tremendously over budget. This cannot happen again. This is five times more than it started out to be and although it is a worthwhile endeavor, it has been very frustrating. He said the intention was to make an aesthetically pleasing and attractive streetscape, but it has been too frustrating. He said he needed to vent as a taxpayer.
Commissioner Durkin said as liaison to the Downtown Management Board they would like to see why they are adding debt into the TIF fund. The Manager said it is not a debt, but will be paid out of cash. It was approved in the budget. Commissioner Durkin said they seem to always be drawing from that fund. He asked what the balance is at this time. He would like to see them have other programs come from TIF money.
Manager Pavlicek responded that part of the budget discussion will include the Downtown TIF Budget. Components like façade improvements and infrastructure, etc., can be initiated as part of the Strategic Planning conversations. There was an annual report provided to the Council, but staff can set up a time to go over this again.
Commissioner Schnell said that this shows that as they approach the next budget season, everyone needs to sharpen their pencils. The projected cost of projects has been much more realistic than in previous years, and yet projects are still going over the estimates too frequently. She said to have a good budget document they need to have true estimates. When they are inaccurate, they have to spend more time on the projects.
e. Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). The Manager said that a public hearing will be held Tuesday, September 18, 2007 for the Village’s application to DuPage County for Community Development Block Grant funds for the Prentiss Creek Neighborhood Center.
f. Request to Cancel a Council Workshop and a Council Meeting. The Manager said this request is to cancel a Council Workshop meeting on December 25, 2007 and a Regular Council meeting on January 1, 2008. The next meeting would be a Workshop meeting on Tuesday, January 8, 2008.
MANAGER ’S AND DIRECTORS ’ REPORTS
Fire Chief Phil Ruscetti announced that Saturday, September 15 will be the Passport to Safety Day at the Park District Recreation Center, 4500 Belmont Road, beginning at 10:00 a.m. Firefighters and police officers will be present to educate and entertain the young participants. Staff from the Village Operations Center will help the children practice calling 911. Good Samaritan Hospital will have exhibits, and Midwest University will be there with poison control information. He said that Marsha Giesler developed this project.
ATTORNEY ’S REPORT
Assistant Village Attorney Ann Marie Perez said she was presenting six items to the Council: 1) a resolution approving a second amendment to the EDC bylaws; 2) a resolution approving the final plat of subdivision for 2824 and 2830 Hitchcock; 3) an ordinance approving a Zoning Ordinance amendment regarding off-street parking and loading; 4) an ordinance amending Article 14 of the Zoning Ordinance; 5) A resolution authorizing a special commercial event license agreement with the Downers Grove Rotary Club; and 6) an ordinance authorizing a special use for 1931 Ogden Avenue to permit a drive-up window.
Tom Novotny , 4809 Stanley, said this is his second appearance before Council. He was present in May regarding Linden Place saying they have a continuing problem, and he presented a picture. New one-way signs have been installed on Linden Place. He and several neighbors were not notified of the public meetings. The meeting affected 19 different homes. Mr. Millette told him that the April 1 petition would be discussed on the Parking & Traffic Commission’s September 12 agenda, and that all residents would get an e-mail. Mr. Novotny said no notice has been received by the neighbors. Mr. Novotny then spoke with Robin Weaver on September 10. She informed him that the one-way issue is now on the Parking & Traffic Commission’s October 10 agenda. He quoted Walter Elliott on perseverance. He said he will be steadfast in his request that the one-way signs be taken down. Linden Place is 15 feet wide. He said that the Village’s survey said that there was “no need for traffic intervention,” yet the one-way signs were still put up without notice to people having access to Linden Place. Since the signs were placed, the cars have been traveling faster down Linden Place. FedEx, Post Office, UPS and DHL trucks ignore the signs completely.
Commissioner Waldack thanked Good Samaritan Hospital for the helmet give-away. He had the opportunity to meet with the young boy saved by the Trauma Unit, who had been in intensive care for two weeks due to a skateboarding accident that occurred in which he was not wearing a helmet. The boy said he doesn’t remember anything except waking up in Marianjoy for rehab two weeks after the accident.
Commissioner Tully said that on Saturday, September 15, 2007 at 9:00 a.m. Coffee with the Council will take place. He reminded everyone that on September 11 six years ago, terrorists attacked our country and we should never forget that. It is called Patriot Day, and everyone should continue to support the military, police and fire representatives who work to make our lives safer.
The Mayor said a Watershed Improvement meeting will be held on Saturday, September 15 at 9:00 a.m. in the Committee Room. On Thursday, he attended a ribbon cutting for Bradford and Kent’s remodeled display center and they unveiled their new monument sign on Ogden. It is a perfect example of utilizing good space. It may be the best monument sign on Ogden Avenue. He said that Bradford and Kent employs 40 people at that site.
There being no further discussion, the Workshop meeting was adjourned at 10:45 p.m. Linda Brown Deputy Village Clerk tmh