State Of The Village

STATE OF THE VILLAGE
Presented June 18, 2012
Franklin Park, IL


It is my, and the Board of Trustees, continuing pledge to increase our communication and transparency and to enhance our dialogue with our residents and businesses.  To that end, we present an annual overview, our State of the Village address, to you, our stakeholders.
 
I am pleased to say that the State of Franklin Park is strong.
 
It is strong, because of the cooperative working relationships we have forged with our residents, our business owners and operators.  It is strong, because of our partnerships with our colleagues at the Park District, the Library, our schools, Triton College and Leyden Township.  It is strong, because we share a collaborative vision for a prosperous future.  Thanks to these efforts, and the dedication of our professional staff, the State of the Village of Franklin Park is strong.
 
We have worked tirelessly to stabilize our finances and to correct the financial crisis we inherited.  Our commitment to budget discipline and fiscal responsibility has paid off.
  
For the first time, the Village has been awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association.  This Certificate is the highest form of recognition in government accounting and financial reporting and its attainment represents a significant turnaround in the way the Village finances are now handled and an equally significant accomplishment by our management team.
 
To be true to our pledge to the taxpayer, we must continue to apply the highest principles and best practices to our budgeting and operations.
 
Additionally, Standard and Poor’s issued an investment grade bond rating to the Village, making it the first time in Franklin Park’s history that the Village’s finances received an investment grade rating on its own and without credit enhancement.   Standard & Poor’s cited the Village’s efforts at professionalizing our financial management, streamlining our operations and stabilizing our budgets as the reasons for the upgrade.  This new rating allowed us to insure and issue bonds for the police station at a substantial cost savings, between $2-3 million over the life of the bonds.
 
To achieve these benchmarks, even during challenging economic times, demonstrates that the Village is on solid financial footing through good management and adherence to generally accepted accounting practices.
 
We will continue to work to solidify the Village’s financial health despite pressing issues over which we have no control.
 
Though we are seeing some signs of an economic upswing, that will result in increased income and sales tax revenue, we are far from a robust recovery.  We must continue our conservative revenue projections and disciplined budgeting in order to protect our taxpayers.
 
Throughout the state, pension obligations continue to take increasing amounts of Village revenues. The prior administration left a substantial deficit in the pension fund.  We must fulfill our contractual obligations, but we are also working closely with our partners in state government to structure future pension programs that are fair, yet conscious of taxpayer burden.
 
Our staff continues to follow the Board’s mandate to keep costs down.  I believe we have some of the hardest working and most professional staff of any municipality.  I applaud them for their commitment to customer service and their commitment to conservative spending.  In all endeavors, they put you, the taxpayer, first.
 
We have embraced innovation in fulfilling our pledge to increase transparency and communication.  We have expanded our website to include meeting agendas and minutes from our Village Board Meetings.
 
We all know how important it is to stay connected.  Now, you can ‘Like’ us on facebook and get all the up to date Village information.  Our facebook page, has become very popular and it is a great, timely and cost efficient way to communicate.  What we like is that we hear from you as well.  What we hear is overwhelmingly positive, but we also get legitimate concerns, issues and questions.  It is our goal to answer those quickly.  If we are not, let us know.  That is how we can keep meeting your needs and improving our service and procedures.
 
We have also begun an electronic newsletter and email blasts to keep you in the know on events, festivals and meetings, Village programs and even street closures and flooding.  If you are not currently on our email list, sign up on our website and start receiving our email alerts.  We can also send text alerts direct to your mobile device. 

One of our most exciting innovations to help foster greater participation in Village government, is our Telephone Town Hall meeting.  We call Franklin Park residents and ask if they would like to stay on the line to participate in a Town Hall.  Residents are able to join without leaving home or interrupting their busy routine.  It isn’t easy to just stop what you are doing and drive to a meeting.  This allows greater participation and fits everyone’s busy lifestyle.  We can discuss important projects and initiatives the Village is working on and answer questions.
 
If you want to participate and do not have a currently listed phone number, call Village Hall, go on our website or write your phone number on the return portion of your water bill.
 
Getting your responses to our programs and policies is important to us.  Over 44% of our residents responded to our trash survey.  You gave us definitive results and allowed the Board to move forward to negotiate a trash removal contract that met your needs and lowered costs.
 
We learned that you are satisfied with the current service and wished to continue with unlimited trash, removed weekly, including yard waste and bulk items.  Because YOU participated, we were able to lower costs, address service issues and improve our community.  Most importantly, because we were able to negotiate a contract that lowers prices, our seniors will no longer pay for trash removal.
 
In another innovation aimed at saving money, you supported the referendum authorizing the Village to shop for better prices for residents and small businesses by combining electrical service for all individual customers into a single bid.  As a result, of this electrical aggregation process, Franklin Parkers could now see approximately 10-14% savings on their monthly ComEd bill.
 
The Village has entered into an agreement with Integrys Energy Services to supply our electricity at a greatly reduced price.
 
Speaking of electricity, it is no secret that I am committed to sustainability.  Preserving our environment has been a life-long passion of mine.  It is my goal, supported by our Board of Trustees, to make Franklin Park the premier economic and environmentally sustainable village in Illinois and to serve as a model for other cities.
  
To that end, we have undertaken a variety of initiatives, including establishing a Sustainability Working Group, to support that goal:

We have an Integrated Pest Management policy that emphasizes simple, inexpensive prevention practices eliminating the cause of pests by minimizing access to food, water, and hiding places.
 
We only use natural lawn care on Village-owned properties and encourage residents to embrace similar practices.

We increased the size of our recycling bins, encouraging additional recycling that reduces the Village’s removal costs.

We have placed four charging stations for electric cars, two at the Metra station and two in the Village parking lot.  Walgreen’s will also be installing an electric charging station.  Not only does this encourage electric cars and reduce fuel consumption, but also it encourages motorists to utilize our Metra station and support our local retailers.

We will also be purchasing two electric vehicles for our Building Department.
 
We partnered with the Park District on their annual Earth Day celebration and added interactive booths about renewable energy, easy methods to increase recycling, natural lawn care, advances in alternative fuel sources and the Village’s on-going sustainability efforts.  As part of the Earth Day celebration, we also presented information on electric vehicles and high fuel-efficient vehicles.
 
We have a partnership with Northern Light Energy to pick up used cooking oil to be converted to diesel fuel.

Nowhere is our commitment to sustainability more evident than at our new police station.
We broke ground in March for this new state of the art facility on the site of the former Unilever property.
 
The police station will serve as a model for efficiency and sustainability.  The 36,500 square foot building incorporates high performance lighting and energy efficient systems to keep energy costs down.  It is utilizing recycled materials in the design and construction of the building to reduce pollutants and includes paving materials that reduce flooding.
 
The project utilizes green infrastructure to capture, filter, infiltrate and detain storm-water runoff.  These benefits will be felt throughout the region.
 
The use of permeable pavers and porous pavement in the parking lot will limit runoff and reduce sewer overflows.  The grant also provides for a cistern, bio-swales and wetland detention basins, designed to improve water quality and reduce peak flows from the site.
 
But most importantly, our new station will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our Police Department.
 
Cutting-edge technology will allow our officers to stop crime and vandalism before it happens.  It is critical that we ensure that those who risk their lives daily have every resource possible to guarantee their safety and to assist them as they keep our families and neighborhoods protected.
 
The Franklin Park Police Station will also serve as a regional center; collaborating with police departments in neighboring communities on area-wide task forces and implementing new crime prevention programs.
 
This year, our Police Department was awarded a grant from the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System to provide technical support for cameras to monitor the Intermodal Train Yard.  The grant will also provide training to our officers for train yard incidents.
 
We continue our Click It or Ticket campaign with a grant again this year from the Illinois Department of Transportation.  This program has increased safety on our streets and for the traveling public.
 
The Police Station will be the location for Village Board Meetings, courtroom appearances, and police business.  Later, the site will feature a public recreation area with a walking path around the constructed wetland basins.  We look forward to the opening of the Police Station in the summer of 2013.
 
The first obligation of government is to safeguard the public.  I want to thank the leadership of Police Chief Mike Witz and all the brave men and women who serve with him for securing the safety of our families and our neighborhoods every day.
 
This year we have seen noticeably less gang activity and a reduction in graffiti.  Our schools are safe with very few incidents.
 
Fire Chief Steve Iovinelli and his committed team of firefighters and paramedics also put themselves in harm’s way for all of us.  We all owe them a debt of gratitude.
  
Chief Iovinelli, as well as all of our Directors and staff, has adhered to our mission of offering the highest quality of services at the lowest effective costs.  The Board has mandated that we run streamlined operations and exercise fiscal discipline.
 
The Fire Department, rather than disposing of outdated equipment, found a way to sell an older model fire truck to a village in California, outside of Yosemite National Park, for $21,600.
 
This year FEMA awarded our Fire Department with a $333,000 grant to purchase a new fire engine. 
This high-tech fire truck includes safety features that will help protect our firefighters and will allow us to better serve our community during emergencies.  FEMA received over 5,600 applications from fire departments across the country and Franklin Park was one of only 40 municipalities to receive the grant.
 
Given our proximity to O’Hare International Airport, and being one of the largest industrial district in Illinois, it is critical that we have the very best firefighting  equipment available.  Winning this grant helps us tremendously in this effort.
 
Even though safety is foremost, and flood prevention and infrastructure are important, we are after all, a Village of Neighbors.  We are a Village of all ages, interests and backgrounds, who make their homes here in order to enjoy a high quality of life.
 
Thanks to the Let’s Move Initiative, which we began last year, we are becoming a healthier and more connected community.
 
The Let’s Move program establishes guidelines to create a healthy start for children, empower parents and caregivers, provide healthy food in schools, improve access to healthy, affordable foods and increase physical activity.
 
One of the greatest benefits of the program is that it brings the community together.  The Park District expanded their Community Gardens and added a Mini Mile Race for children during the Annual 5K Fun Run/Walk.  The Village established a Farmers Market.  District 84 applied for a Safe Routes to School grant and is adding school gardens and a gardening club.  The schools continued their support for daily exercise for children.  In addition, the Library displayed books and developed a reading list for nutrition and exercise.
 
It is working together that keeps us strong and now is keeping us healthy.
 
Our Farmers Market, now in year two, is gaining more and more vendors.  Having the rich bounty of summer available supports our Healthy Initiative as well.  The Market creates a meeting place for neighbors to come together to enjoy the summer weather, to exchange healthy recipes and to recapture a community spirit.

Throughout the summer, our residents join together in our community garden, volunteer to plant flowers along Franklin Avenue, and pitch in to clean and beautify our Metra Station.
 
This is a Village of Neighbors and we encourage people to enjoy our festivals, our Farmer’s Market and to hold block parties with their neighbors.  These types of activities bring neighbors together and in communities where families know their neighbors, we see safer and more vibrant communities.
 
Honoring those who built this community, we continue to fulfill our commitment to lower cost senior grass cutting and snow removal.
 
We also are increasing our partnership with local schools and this year we did so through a Vehicle Sticker Design Contest.
 
The art students at East Leyden High School were challenged to create a design based on the Let’s Move Initiative.  The winning design was submitted by Alex Mennella and is featured on this year’s sticker.
 
We also asked third, fourth and fifth grade students from District 84 schools to tell us what, if they were Mayor for a Day, they would do to make a positive difference in our community and to sustain our earth.
 
The writing contest resulted in dozens of essays that had excellent ideas including increasing recycling, planting more trees and conserving water and electricity.
 
The winning essay came from Kamila Trela of Passow School who suggested that our residents use timers in their homes to save on energy costs.
 
Railroad Daze is a time honored tradition in our community.  But tight budgets and recessionary times have caused many communities to cancel or scale back festivals.  We solicited sufficient corporate sponsorships to support Railroad Daze and make the event revenue neutral.  This great family outing has been preserved through working together with our business community to support our quality of life.  Again, by working together, we were able to sustain our annual Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony.  The children in our town look forward to this yearly event and thanks to Nestle, a donated tree from a resident and many other sponsorships, we were able to stage a great event and purchase new decorations for the Village which will be used for years to come.
 
Working together, sharing goals, sharing a vision, is what will allow all of us to share in a more vital, prosperous Village.
 
Out of respect for the taxpayer, we have continued our successful pursuit of state and federal funding to purchase needed equipment and improve our streets, sewers, curbs and other community assets.
 
Improving our infrastructure makes our residential neighborhoods more desirable, helps alleviate flooding and makes us more attractive to new businesses.
 
We received a grant for over $400,000 to resurface 12 blocks of residential streets along Emerson, Hawthorne and Elder from Waveland to Pacific.  Reeves Court and Pearl Street from Belmont to King Street will be completely rebuilt using a Surface Transportation Grant.
 
The four-block reconstruction and resurfacing of Cherry and Birch was entirely funded by a $600,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration.
 
Our new 150 horsepower motor for the King Street pumping station, which will reduce energy consumption, was funded by a $94,000 grant from the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and a $13,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, requiring only $30,000 of Village funds for this major improvement.
 
Thanks to grants from the Department of Commerce and the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, the Village was able to replace, at NO cost to the taxpayer, inefficient lighting with high efficiency T-8 lamps, saving the Village almost $50,000 a year.  These grants also provided for upgrades to LED street lighting, deterring crime and providing cleaner, cheaper energy.
 
A $200,000 grant was used to remediate the site of the Crossings Two on Franklin Avenue at 25th Street.  This will allow us to be turn-key ready as the economy improves and investors show interest in the site.
 
We continue to reinvest in our infrastructure and prioritized projects in the Irving Park / Mannheim Railroad Yard area, including sewer upgrades and sidewalk improvements to increase the attractiveness to industrial users.
 
It is our partnerships with our State legislators, and our working relationships with our Congressional representatives that have enabled us to secure these many grants.  I want to thank Senator Don Harmon, Representative Skip Saviano and Congressman Mike Quigley for their dedication to the people of Franklin Park.
 
We also have two very hard working lobbying firms, one in Springfield and one in DC, that spend countless hours uncovering opportunities and advocating for Franklin Park.  It is because of their hard work that we are outpacing many of our neighbors in grant awards and being able to restore aging infrastructure at a faster pace.
 
Our vigorous reinvestment in our business areas is showing dividends.  Though the recession continues to affect business expansion and growth, we are seeing increased activity and investment in Franklin Park.
 
Our staff has an active Business Visitation Program that works closely with our businesses to uncover any obstacles to their growth and prosperity and to encourage their expansion and re-investment in Franklin Park.  We want to make sure that high quality, sustainable jobs stay in our Village.
 
We are retaining and expanding existing business.
 
Interplex Daystar, is a custom metal stamping and injection molding company that sits directly on the site line of the proposed Elgin-O’Hare expansion project.  We worked closely with the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois Tollway to facilitate a fair and swift purchase of their 52,000 square foot facility at 11535 Franklin Street and Interplex has expanded into an 112,000 square foot facility at 11130 King Street, saving over 70 jobs and adding numerous new jobs in the future.  Had the Village not acted swiftly, they would have moved out of state.
 
Expansions continue.  We are pleased Reebie Storage and Moving, is adding space at 11050 King Street.  Also, Swissport Cargo Services, a product warehouse is expanding and Wein Baur, a company specializing in wholesale wines and spirits is expanding at 4041 Tugwell.
 
Midwest Can will be adding over 100 jobs when it opens next month.  PNC Bank is taking over the old Blockbuster space, building a larger branch with a convenient drive thru.  Chicago Records Management has made a significant investment and expanded into the former Luxury Motors.  The expansion is creating over 100 construction jobs.  Multi-group Logistics is growing and is now leasing parking space to accommodate their expanded fleet.
 
Most importantly, the revitalization of our industrial parks and commercial corridors will increase revenue to the Village from business and lower the tax burden on the homeowner.
 
We are welcoming more new businesses than ever before.  Advanced Fire Equipment and Affordable Fire Protection, Multi- Tech Cold Forming, Dual Manufacturing, Carriage House Auto Body, Ringspann Corporation, Northern Light Energy, Safe Traffic Systems Schiller Park Auto Sales, a car warehousing operation, and Merry Maids have all chosen to make Franklin Park their business address.
 
We are also showing vitality in our commercial corridors in the last few months.  We have seen several new retail additions including Tom and Jerry’s Resale and Antiques, two cell phone stores including EY Mobile, Robby’s Corn #2 and Ziomara’s Boutique have all located in Franklin Park.

We are working to encourage and sustain our commercial enterprises as well.
 
Our Buy Local, 3/50, program promotes buying goods and services in Franklin Park.  For every $100 spent in locally owned stores, $68 returns to the community; not true when you spend that money out of town or on-line. So we encourage everyone to honor our local establishments and BUY FRANKLIN PARK FIRST.
 
But we know we need to do more.  We need vital commercial corridors.  We need national and local retailers to offer a variety of goods and services in order to satisfy local consumers.  We need a strong retail presence to increase our tax base, so that less property tax is paid by the homeowner.
 
To achieve those goals, we have engaged with Abell & Associates, a nationally known professional commercial research and development firm to devise a Market Analysis & Commercial Redevelopment Plan.
 
It is critical that we be cognizant of economic, real estate and retail trends so we may best identify the commercial enterprises we should target for attraction.  This Plan will help us to attract 21st century jobs and investment to Franklin Park.
 
We also will focus on creating a downtown corridor and enhancing our variety of restaurant and entertainment offerings.  We will establish a roadmap to success - identifying our retail potential and attracting the right mix of compatible retail and service businesses.
 
The Franklin Park Partnership, our business advisory board, continues to work closely with the Village on economic development issues to keep our current businesses thriving and to help us attract new investment and opportunity.
   
Though the Partnership discusses a variety of subjects that are affecting business, overwhelmingly, our members told us that there was a lack of trained workers to fulfill existing jobs.   In this difficult economy, it was important to learn that there are good paying jobs out there – but that there are not always enough skilled workers to fill them.
 
Our goal is to retain sustainable employment for our citizens, to attract high quality jobs to our region and to retrain those workers who have been displaced.
 
In order to fulfill that goal, we moved quickly and invited representatives from Triton College and Leyden High School to attend our meetings and develop ways that our educators can more directly meet the needs of our businesses.
 
We have been participating in their career days and we are developing curricula to meet worker demand now and in the future.
 
Workforce issues and education were the topics at our annual Business Appreciation Lunch with over 150 Franklin Park business people attending.  Chairman of the Illinois Board of Education, Gery Chico, discussed the state wide challenge to improve the quality of education for all Illinois students and make education at all levels meaningful and relevant.  Mr. Chico praised our efforts at increasing our dialogue with the business community and the academic community and for more deeply engaging our business community in curriculum development.
 
We continue to advocate for the completion of the Elgin O’ Hare Western bypass and a Western entrance into the airport.
 
The South bypass will connect our industrial parks with the interstates and toll ways and give us a unique opportunity to revitalize our business parks and create jobs.
 
Besides securing an interchange that would benefit our industrial park and the advantage of revitalizing our business parks and attracting new jobs and investments, we also will gain significant stormwater detention that will help alleviate chronic flooding.
 
I serve on Governor Quinn’s Advisory Council for the Elgin O’ Hare Western Bypass and as such, I will be traveling to Washington, DC next week to advance the case for federal funding to support this project.  It is imperative that we do not lose momentum and that it retain its designation as a project of national significance and that the enormous benefits promised by the project become benefits realized for our Village and our citizens.
 
This project will be a game changer for our community and will allow us to expand our industrial base as this intermodal access increases.
 
Our partnerships throughout Cook and DuPage County, along with the commitment of our federal and state lobbyists and all our representatives are working together to expedite this project, complete this important roadway improvement and bring jobs and economic benefit to our community.
Working together.  You have heard me mention that a lot tonight.
 
That’s because it is important.  That’s because it is the cornerstone of how we get things done.  That’s because it is how we will, together, forge a prosperous future.
 
It is not just the tremendous efforts of our Board of Trustees and our staff.  It is all of us, working together, that will bring about the brightest future.
 
Let me conclude by thanking our Trustees for their public service.  Let me thank our staff for their work on behalf of our citizens, thank our elected officials for advocating for us and thank our businesses who show confidence in our community by staying and reinvesting and supporting Village programs.
 
Thank you.
 
Let me also thank our residents, who share the vision that this is our home and that we should nurture and cherish our neighborhoods and our families.
 
I look forward to the work ahead.
 
May God bless Franklin Park and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
 
Thank you.
 
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