Hit’s, Misses, and a Great Idea


Applying for FEMA grant money.

On two 2008 storm water related projects the village is an applicant for FEMA grant money, to the tune of a couple million bucks. There’s also the opportunity to be a sub-applicant to the state for more of the same FEMA money. FEMA has nation-wide funds of about $25 million annually for precisely this type of work, and the state gets a minimum $500,000 extra to dole out as it sees fit. Starting during Mayor Krajewski’s term, our village government got pretty good at writing for grant requests and filling applications (way, WAY harder than it sounds).

Last year all of the federal money was granted, but like I said, our village staff is pretty good at putting together a grant request, plus we have the detailed engineering study and can produce proper plans documenting what’s to be done. FEMA likes that.

In 2007, the state awarded only a bit over $100K of the $500K available. That left almost $400K unused. We could use that each year easy. I emailed VM Pavlicek and asked if we are applying both as an applicant (for federal money) and as a sub-applicant (for state funds), and Megan is supposed to get back to me.

Home Rule Sales Tax (HRST) Hike

Tuesday council approved raising our HRST based take from ½ cent to ¾ cent. Technically, they’re raising it 50%. It does have a sunset clause and “become null and void at the end of the debt service issued for stormwater related improvements.”

Each ¼ cent of Home Rules Sales Tax currently generates $2,300,000.


Non specific Tele-Tax hike.

They also approved a 1% hike in the telecommunications tax, from 5% to 6%, a 20% raise in the rate.

The proposed increase will take effect on July 1, 2008. Revenue generated by this increase in FY08 is estimated to be $410,000, which will be used to fund expenditures in the Capital Projects Fund. The full year revenue generated by this tax increase for FY09 is estimated to be $820,000.

There is no sunset clause for this tax hike, because it fuels the Capital Projects Fund. The money can be spent on whatever the village says, whether it be sewers or streets…or a new Fleet Services building, a new Police Station, or a new Civic Center.

A Great Idea

Linda Kunze reads minds.

Staff has been working on this one off-radar, but it’s a great idea and deserves to see the light of day.

I’ve been talking about a single downtown waste hauler since the last election; then we can do recycling downtown, cut down on garbage truck traffic, and we could make our alleys and business rear areas look a lot better. The village could also place recycling cans around downtown; permanent ones instead of the temporary ones we see at downtown events.

Talk about a topic no one wanted to hear.

Linda Kunze, Downtown Manager of the Downers Grove Downtown Management Corporation, thinks it’s a great idea, is in a position to do something about it, and is pushing forward. The village has committed to build a total of three common dumpster areas around downtown, to centralize and clean up collection areas, making it very easy for downtown commercial businesses to recycle just like we do at our curbs every week.

This means tons of paper, cans glass, all going to recycling instead of to landfills, and we get cleaner looking alleyways. That opens the possibility for further development. Check Naperville’s downtown: there are a couple areas where there are backyard restaurant patios, and rear-facing clusters of shops on former alleys. I’m not saying that’s what will happen, I’m saying those types of things become possible.

The first centralized collection area goes in this spring, the two additional units the following year. Downtown Downers Grove will get the businesses invested in the concept and use. Council can help move things along by making it clear they support this, and expect businesses to get on board.

This is just one example of recycling bins. Here’s another where local artists design and build recycling receptacles out of recycled materials. The possibilities are many.

Bravo, Ms. Kunze.


Best Christmas card this year…

…from the residents of 5300 Walnut, Cameo Condos. Sent nominally by Lorraine Tresnak, it was a communal card with a 6 page insert:

“Dear Mark,

As the holiday season approaches we here at Cameo wish to extend our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for all the time and effort you devoted to our cause.

Best wishes and season’s greetings to you and your family.”

It’s signed by a bunch of the residents who live there. As sweet as any holiday treat I’ll have this year, that’s for sure. Thank you all, and you’re welcome!

The Bullet We Dodged

Lest you think the village could have any real control over a C&D facility, see what Woodridge is going through…

So when do we say "That’s enough"?

Like most guys, I subscribe to the hypothesis that when a project is 80% done, it’s done. From then on, it’s just clean up. Employing the rule of 80/20 to the stormwater issue, we should be able to get to that 80% finished plateau for about $68 million. The last 20%, the clean up, will cost the remaining $272 million.

So I guess my question is this:

Do we really want it all done? Do we really want every possible problem, no matter how small or how expensive it may be, to be completely addressed? Maybe there is just some areas of town, like 40th and Glendenning, that need to be open unbuildable land forever, regardless of how much developers want to build. Maybe these are areas where public condemnation needs to occur for the better good. I can think of a couple homes that should be bought by the village and torn down, and the lots left empty.

I know: Mark, getting cold feet? No stomach for the tough decisions?

There’s plenty of cheap shots to be taken on this one, but I won’t be taking them on anyone thinking maybe $340 million is a little pricey. Maybe, like our other taxing bodies have found along the way, there’s a plan B that needs to be examined before we jump headlong into a 30 year commitment that may end up with at least $300 million in additional interest costs.

I’m in for the 80% done at 20% cost. If only that worked in real life, eh?

Definition Update

It appears the new definition will be on the 1/8 council workshop agenda.

C&D Update: Winding Up Some Loose Ends

Tonight the resident volunteers of the Plan Commission voted to send a positive recommendation to council to adopt into our muni code a new definition of “recycling collection facility”. This effectively mirrors the state definition, which is very good for residents here in our village. Village also defers to the Illinois Environmental Protection Act for further defining, as separate and distinct, a “construction and demolition debris facility” and a “transfer station”. This is a 180 degree turnaround on a definition that originally said they were the same thing, and avoids opening a potential Pandora’s Box of problems for the village. In addition to the Plan Commission, the resident volunteers of the Environmental Concerns Commission acted in a key advisory role to village council on this matter.

Recycling collection facility. A facility or site designed for the purpose of receiving articles or materials limited to non-hazardous, nonspecial, homogeneous, nonputresable materials such as dry paper, glass, cans or plastic , which are to be transported to another location for distribution or processing, which may or may not be the principal use on the lot where located. The term “recycling collection facility” as used in this Zoning Ordinance shall not include general construction or demolition debris facilities as defined in 415 ILCS 5/3.160, and transfer stations as defined by 415 ILCS 5/3.500 , facilities located within a structure principally devoted to another use, facilities temporarily located on a lot under authority of a temporary uses, and facilities for collecting used motor oil which are necessary to an automobile service station.

The modifications clarify that construction and demolition debris collection facilities and garbage transfer stations as defined by the Illinois Environmental Protection Act are not included as a permitted or special use in the Village.

This will be work shopped at the council on 12/11, and I expect council will approve the following week at the regular village council meeting on 12/18, so I do not anticipate any further action being required. (I’ll post up if that changes!)

This ends a long period of uncertainty for several hundred residents of Downers Grove, and effectively commits our local government to observing and adhering to the intent and spirit of the state Environmental Protection Act.

There’s plenty of you out there that know what’s up when I say thank you for your help, for your emails to council, your voice, and for your kind words of encouragement. It was very gratifying to see residents and business alike, from many different perspectives, listen, look critically and thoughtfully, come together on a consensus, and make a difference.