Lots of information
by Melanie Jongsma
LANSING, Ill. (September 7, 2018) – Over 100 members of the Lansing community attended last night’s State of the Village presentation held at Lansing Public Library. Five representatives of Lansing’s government—Mayor Patty Eidam, Village Clerk Vivian Payne, Village Administrator Dan Podgorski, Police Chief Dennis Murrin, and Director of Communications Ken Reynolds—spent more than two hours updating the public on a variety of topics and then answering questions. Reynolds, who opened the event and introduced the roster of speakers, said, “Our goal this evening is to provide factual information as to where our village currently stands, and then to also listen and address individual questions in a one-on-one manner.”
Highlights appear below, along with links to more detailed information in cases where we have already published a story.
After over two years of planning sessions regarding the Fox Pointe venue, the Village will hold a Grand Opening/Ribbon-Cutting event on Friday, September 28, at 5:00pm. The inaugural event at Fox Point will be Lansing’s Autumn Fest, October 5–7. Reynolds distributed flyers about the ribbon-cutting with more information.
Though Autumn Fest is the only event scheduled at Fox Pointe this year, Mayor Eidam assured the public that the schedule for 2019 will include a variety of events, not just concerts. The Village intends to take “small, careful steps” with regard to filling the Fox Pointe calendar, to ensure that all the logistics (including parking) are in place and Lansing is ready for the growth that Fox Pointe could spark. The goal is for residents and visitors to enjoy not only the performances, but also other downtown businesses and amenities.
Human Relations Commission
Mayor Eidam provided an update on the formation of this Commission, whose purpose is “to promote inclusion to the Village administration on community-related issues. The Commission is responsible for designing and recommending innovative programs that enhance community involvement among all Lansing entities in order to increase cultural competency and improve inter-group relations.” It was at the September 4 Committee of the Whole meeting that the names of the nine proposed Commissioners were released: Michael Bolz, David Iwaszko, Jamica Quillin, Rich Schaeffer, Micaela Smith, Darvel Stinson, Regina Titsworth, Lionel Valencia, and Bobby Wright. The Village Board has opportunity to reach out to these citizens and ask questions in preparation for the September 18 Board meeting, where Trustees will be asked to vote to approve them as the Human Relations Commission.
The Lansing Journal has reported on the Human Relations Commission throughout the process. To review those stories, use this link:
Mayor Eidam listed the top three goals of the Human Relations Commission:
- To unite all community entities to build a mutual understanding and respect for diverse cultures.
- To be a catalyst in developing civic pride among all Lansing residents to foster personal equity.
- To communicate via channels and methods that enhance accessibility to and solicit involvement from all Lansing entities.
Customer service at Lansing Municipal Center
Mayor Eidam posted the photos and names of three new Village employees who are enhancing the customer service culture at Village Hall—Esmeralda Solorio, Nina Cuellar, and Christina Garcia. “Along with their extremely pleasant personalities,” said Eidam, “they have had instruction and training on communication and treating our residents with courtesy and caring. I’m very proud of them.”
Reynolds took the podium to describe the various ways the Village tries to communicate information to Lansing residents:
- Face to face
- Village of Lansing website
- Village of Lansing Facebook page
- Other social media platforms to a lesser degree (Twitter and Instagram)
- The Looking at Lansing newsletter (which is delivered to nearly 15,000 addresses)
- CodeRED notification system
Lansing Police Department
Chief Dennis Murrin’s presentation included the following highlights:
- There are currently 61 sworn officers, the most since 2008.
- Calls for service, Traffic stops/citations, and Community Policing have all increased in the past two years.
- LPD is replacing the white Crown Victorians with black Ford Explorers.
- LPD added a UTV (Utility Task Vehicle) through an $18,000 grant from the Justice Assistance Program.
- Lansing has its own 911 center.
- Last year, LPD upgraded all duty handguns.
- Electronic ticketing is in the budget for this year, which will replace the handwritten ticket system.
- The next Citizens Police Academy will take place in January 2019.
- After years of applying for various grants and being declined, LPD has seen a “windfall” of success in grant writing over the past two years, receiving approximately $600,000 for equipment and hiring.
“This is the work of many people,” Chief Murrin said, “not just me. This is the work of Village staff, the Mayor’s office, the IT Department, the Treasurer’s Department, all workin’ together.”
Capital improvements and infrastructure
Village Administrator Dan Podgorski also mentioned a number of grants that the Village has procured for various improvements:
- An SSMMA Grant will allow us to resurface Wentworth Avenue from Ridge Road north to Bernice Road by 2020. The project will cost $800,000, and the grant will cover 80% of that cost, about $640,000.
- A $250,000 grant from the Illinois Housing Development Authority will be used for the demolition of houses that are beyond repair. Staff are in the process of compiling a list of houses that qualify, and the Village will begin the process of acquiring the deeds to these properties.
- A Cook County Community Development Block Grant will provide $200,000 for the resurfacing of Indiana Avenue between School Street and Torrence Avenue.
The Board also recently approved $670,873 for street repairs and $100,000 for concrete restoration.
In addition, Podgorski described the Village’s plans to remove parkway trees that are more than 50% dead. Though this administration has increased the budget from $40,000 to $100,000, even that amount will be used up quickly because of the number of dead parkway trees.
In introducing Clerk Vivian Payne’s segment of the presentation, Podgorski pointed out that capital improvements and maintaining infrastructure are necessary to the long-term health of a village, and beautification is an important factor in attracting new residents and businesses who can contribute to the financial health that makes infrastructure maintenance possible.
Payne updated the crowd on the work of the new Beautification Committee. This committee has been busy planting flowers in the 56 large flowerpots that line our streets, at the History Plaza, and around the nine Welcome to Lansing signs around the village. A subcommittee of the Beautification Committee organized the annual Beautification Contest, which involved both residents and businesses. Thanks to the work of this volunteer committee, and a donation of flowers from Keith Grill at Gus Bock’s Ace Hardware, Payne calculated that the Village saved over $8,000 this summer.
Payne also reported on the eighth annual Clean-up Day, at which a record number of residents cleaned up enough trash and litter to fill a 30-yard dumpster.
Payne reminded residents that the ordinance regarding solicitors has been updated. There are currently no approved solicitors in the village, so residents who experience unwanted solicitations should call the police non-emergency number: 708-895-7150. “No Solicitation” door stickers are available for free from the Village.
Podgorski returned to the podium to briefly list the economic development successes the village has seen in the past two years. The difficulties of the Cook County tax burden make it necessary for a municipality to court businesses by offering a variety of incentives, including Class 8s, Tax Increment Financing, the facade program, property tax reductions, enterprise zones, revenue sharing, “anything we can get our hands on to compete and convince a business owner to invest in our town.”
Podgorski emphasized, “If you don’t think that the need to offer incentives to attract businesses is necessary, then you’re not understanding economic development, and you’re not understanding the landscape that exists and the competition that exists in the marketplace. If you don’t roll out the red carpet to get these businesses to come to your town, believe me, your next-door neighbor will.”
Recent development projects include:
- Dixie Kitchen relocation
- Rancho Grande relocation
- One Trick Pony expansion
- Cerro Grande Supermarket (in the former La Balanza location)
- Popeye’s Chicken
- Dunkin Donuts expansion
- Subway relocation
- Ace Pizza
- Ron’s Reels
- Tiny’s Flowers
- Party Chasers
- Planet Fitness
Future developments include:
- Proposal from Hilton for a Tru Hotel
- Proposed Candlewood Suites Hotel
- “Creative ideas” for the Landings
- A “pretty exciting development for the old Kmart property—we’re not ready to announce it yet”
- Removal of restrictions on use of the Ford Hangar for events
Reynolds mentioned three unique partnerships between the Village and various civic organizations:
- Partnering with Trinity Lutheran Church to offer the Lansing Loan Closet
- Partnering with School District 215 to share ideas, participate in the Career Fair, and bring back the Homecoming Parade
- Partnering with School District 158 to improve traffic before and after school
- Partnering with School District 171 to resurface one of their roadways
Questions and interactions
The presenters, along with the Village Trustees, stayed around for at least 30 minutes to engage with residents directly and answer questions.