As we head into the home stretch of 2017, it's time to once again take a look at the year that was. Last year, Daily Herald reporter Jim Fuller did an article on the challenges facing Kane County. Four specific issues fell under committees in which I either chair, or am a member. These include:
- Energy efficiencies to reduce operational costs
- Economically viable solution to the Settlers Hill development
- Reduction in Property Taxes
- Continued progress on Longmeadow Parkway
It is with great pride that I can report that Kane County has had positive results in each of these four items.
On item 1 - Energy Efficiencies, while proposals to retrofit the main government campus with alternative energy sources continue to allude us, we have made progress on the solar energy front for one of our off-site facilities. The Kane County Animal Control Building is in the process of installing solar panels on a lease agreement to greatly reduce our utility costs. If this program pans out as anticipated Kane County will see a $150,000 savings over the next 20 years.
On item 2 - Settlers Hill, we have been able to secure a management agreement with an independent third party to run the facility. Cost for construction will be reduced through agreements where contractors will pay the County to provide us with fill. Projections call for the facility to be revenue neutral during the initial five years of operation, and turn to a cash positive model thereafter. This regional attraction will be funded through the enterprise fund, with NO tax dollars.
On item 3 - Property Taxes, while the County was unable to lower our portion of the property taxes, we didn't ask you for anymore than you previously contributed. This is the 5th consecutive budget I have voted on which held the line on taxes. While the vote was close, we did the right thing in the end.
Last but certainly not least on item 4 - Longmeadow, it continues to move forward. By Spring 2018 all ancillary construction of the roads leading to the bridge will be complete. After over 20 years of discussion, the actual bridge itself will begin construction in 2018 - on time and under budget!
In keeping with the custom of reporting on the top 10 issues, I guess I owe you another 6. How about:
- Kane County Joins Class Action Lawsuit Against Opioid Drug Manufacturers: After years of increased opioid related deaths both nationally and right here in Kane County, the Board joined a multi-county class action suit against drug manufacturers for their part in promoting misleading propaganda creating false perceptions and misinformed decisions on the parts of doctors and patients.
- Rumor Has It We Considered A Soda Tax - Rumors Were Wrong: No, nope, uh-uh, no way. That pretty much sums up the County Board's thoughts on levying a soda tax in Kane County. When our neighbors in Cook County passed their infamous soda tax, we posted a comparison meme showing costs for a Coke in both Kane and Cook Counties (hint: it's 60% cheaper in Kane). It went viral with almost 250,000 organic hits and 2,400 shares. WOW. This wildly unpopular tax was eventually repealed in Cook, less than 6 months after its adoption.
- Summer Micro-Bursts - Elgin Area Hit Especially Hard: Late July saw some especially nasty weather, particularly in the 19th District. We were saddened to see some of the old oak trees completely uprooted and destroyed in our old neighborhood of Century Oaks West. To the north, much of West Dundee was flooded along the riverfront. Kane County was especially quick to respond and assist owners with vital resources and direction.
- Adaptive Signal Control Technology Implemented Along Randall Road: The 14 intersections from Big Timber to Huntley Road are being switched to a computer monitored traffic signal to better move traffic and alleviate construction.
- 1 of 5 Members To Oppose Impact Fees - Now If We Can Only Get 7 More: Back in March the Board voted to reduce the County's Road Impact Fees by 10%. I was one of 5 members who said that simply wasn't good enough to stimulate growth. The current fee structure has had a particularly negative impact on Elgin's industrial park along Big Timber in the 19th District. The fee actually serves as a disincentive to use the buildings for anything other than warehouses. No manufacturing, no commercial... fewer jobs. We touched on this subject in its own post. While we were unable to make the systemic changes to the ordinance needed, we are making progress. 6 years ago there was only 2 members in opposition. We'll get there.
- And We're Off! Kicking Off Our Re-Election: Finally, 2017 kicked off my re-election campaign for County Board. In June we held a successful announcement fundraiser, and in November we filed with more than double the required signatures for the nomination. Hopefully, this time next year we will be writing about our campaign victory in 2018!