Circling The Drain

Sinkhole and collapse of Diamond Lake Road in Long Grove.

Sinkhole and collapse of Diamond Lake Road in Long Grove.

Heavy rains last week caused some localized neighborhood flooding in Long Grove, and more dramatically, a sinkhole and collapse of a portion of Diamond Lake Road. The drainage pipe running under the road at Indian Creek was old and failing, and storm water pushed through a rotted hole and washed out supporting gravel around the pipe. As the water levels receded, gravel further slid out of place and fell back into the tunnel, causing the pavement to collapse and leaving a crater several feet wide. Thankfully, the problem was detected immediately by nearby neighbors, and no one was hurt in the incident. Lake County is responsible for Diamond Lake Road, and this repair was previously scheduled for August of 2016. Mother Nature has accelerated this plan to August of this year, with repairs anticipated to be completed by early September.

This illustrates the fragile health of our infrastructure. And this problem is not limited to Long Grove, but is a concern to our County, State, and Federal road systems as well. When money is short and budgets constrained, one of the areas that can be susceptible to underfunding is infrastructure maintenance. The cost of repairs to our aging road systems has escalated over the years. Our Village budget revenues have not kept pace with the rate of infrastructure repairs that are needed on an annual basis. The Village Board has for many years engaged a series of discussions, town hall meetings, focus groups, and a referendum question in an attempt to address this growing problem. Sometimes amid a controversy, we can overlook why a change is really needed. Big events like a road collapse capture everyone’s attention for the moment. And if we pay attention, before the moment drains away….maybe there is something here to be learned?

Where the Wild Things Are

Photo of a wild turkey taken this spring in a Long Grove backyard.

Photo of a wild turkey taken this spring in a Long Grove backyard.

Having lived in Long Grove for 17 years now, I’ve had many different types of strange and exciting wildlife encounters. One creature that I have not seen yet, however, is a wild turkey.  Recently, fellow resident and friend Jodi Smith posted a picture on facebook of a just such a bird, strutting across her back yard, near the forest preserve. So cool, and certainly something that we don’t see every day!

I used to sometimes see red foxes cutting through our neighborhood, and I have also spotted the occasional weasel. Living close to a creek means that I’ve encountered a number of snapping turtles over the years, and some of them have been as large as a dinner plate. One spring, a momma snapper crawled up the creek bed into my next-door neighbor’s yard and laid her eggs in a nest that she dug overnight. It just happened to be near the bus stop for Country Meadows, so the kids and moms alike were entertained watching her industrious labor. Later in September, the eggs hatched and we were again treated to the bus stop spectacle of many, many tiny baby turtles emerging from a hole in the ground to march, one by one, back down to the creek. How did they instinctively know the way? Another one of nature’s mysteries, I guess.

Deer and coyotes are common visitors to many of our Long Grove properties, and sometimes they co-exist peacefully, sometimes not. About ten years ago, I looked out my family room window to discover a newborn fawn, curled up under a tree in our back yard. It was Memorial Day weekend, and we watched and worried over that baby from a distance, as it seemed like the mother was never around and had possibly abandoned him. I have since learned that this is a common behavior for the doe to forage and leave the newborn fawn alone for long time periods. Eventually momma deer did shown up, and off they went into the woods. But it was not so happily-ever-after. Because of the warm weekend we slept with the windows open, only to be awakened at dawn the following day by the most blood-curdling braying sounds coming from the tree line next to our yard. A large coyote had the fawn by the neck and was carrying it off across our back yard! I screamed and the coyote dropped the fawn right next to our patio. In retrospect, maybe the coyote was a mother too, just trying to rustle up some breakfast for her children, but at the time I was more concerned with my young children waking up and having to see a dead fawn outside the kitchen window. Then something miraculous happened. As my husband was getting ready to relocate the carcass, the fawn seemingly rose from the dead, shook his head, and stumbled off into the woods to live another day. All that summer, we saw the same fawn and his mother hanging around our yard, and we enjoyed watching him grow. We named them Jesus and Mary. Jesus graciously thanked me for saving his life by eating my hostas, roses, and daylilies!

Sometimes our wildlife gets a little too close for comfort, as we discovered one spring when a raccoon decided that our attic would be the perfect spot to set up her nursery. Telltale sounds in the night led my husband to set up video cameras to survey the nocturnal goings-on. Yes, the joyous sight of a mother raccoon and her babies was captured on film for us to enjoy. I will never forget the fun of being in Arizona with the family for Spring Break, and watching footage of momma raccoon wiggle and shimmy her furry backside into a tiny hole in our shake shingle roof in Long Grove. The wildlife “experts” that we hired to relocate the varmints conveniently left their ladder against our roof for easy overnight critter access. Party at the Underwood’s while they are out of town! We even posted a video of it on youtube—raccoons are REALLY good at climbing a ladder.

Despite the occasional crazy mishap with our local creatures, I really do love being where the wild things are. One of the joys of living in our Village is having the opportunity to observe nature up close and personal. Wildlife can be unpredictable, but also endlessly fascinating.

Tapping Into the Future–Part 1

Village Board Members at work on July 14, 2015

Village Board Members at work on July 14, 2015

Village Hall is undergoing some minor renovations this month, and our Engineering Firm, Gewalt Hamilton and Associates, was kind enough to host the Village Board meeting last night. One major piece of business we accomplished was the approval of an engineering proposal from GHA for the design of the extension of our village public water system. Currently, the village-owned deep well near Sunset Foods only serves the businesses in Sunset Grove Plaza, and last night’s action set into motion the ability for that system to serve the entire historic downtown. Work is also progressing towards a connection to Lake Michigan water through the Northwest Water Commission, which will have the capacity to be delivered through this downtown watermain loop. Expansion of our municipal water system is key to opening the flow of economic development in our downtown, and the Village is working hard to enable several new opportunities to develop.

Harbor Chase Senior Living is set to begin demolition soon of the old Midwest Bank building, and completion of this development is planned for February of 2017. They will be a major user of the newly expanded water system, and are contributing towards the cost of installation. In addition, this development will bring much needed revenue into the TIF district. The costs of the expansion are being born by the developers and users, not the residents. The Village expects to close soon on the sale of the Archer building pads, and the expected development of these lots will be for restaurant use, which is heavily dependent on water. Our existing downtown businesses and restaurants will be able to connect to the new water lines, bringing better quality. And most exciting to consider is the opportunity that a resident is exploring, to relocate a well-established craft beer brewery from the city of Chicago to Long Grove. The revitalization that this new addition to our downtown could bring is significant, and the Board is collaborating to help make this a reality. In addition to spurring economic development, our enhanced water system will provide added capacity for fire fighting. The stage is set for our downtown taps to soon be able to dispense higher quality deep well water, eventual Lake Michigan water, and craft beer brewed locally in our historic downtown. If these goals can all be accomplished, a flood of new possibilities for Long Grove awaits.

Long Grove’s Hollywood Moment

Meeting host Anthony Anderson at the filming of "Eating America" in 2014.

Meeting host Anthony Anderson at the filming of “Eating America” in 2014.

Last Friday I attended a meeting of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus in Chicago, and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel was one of our speakers. I noticed that he travels with a media representative and photographer, which is thankfully not a part of my everyday job! I did, however have a fun opportunity to be filmed last summer during Long Grove’s Strawberry Fest as part of the Food Network show, “Eating America.”

I truly never thought my degree in Foods/Nutrition Dietetics would come in handy in my role as Village President, until I received an email from a Hollywood producer. They were interested in featuring our Strawberry Festival as one of eight unique American food festivals in their new series, to be hosted by actor Anthony Anderson, star of TV’s “Blackish.” Would I be interested in being a judge of the culinary contest? It was a tough job assignment, but I guess somebody needed to do it!

Spending the afternoon with a film crew from Los Angeles was surprisingly easy. They were very complimentary of our Village and the people they had met. I heard time and again that they were delighted that “everyone is so friendly, cooperative, helpful, and most importantly, on time.” I was especially impressed with the camaraderie I saw exhibited by our local chefs and restauranteurs. In a spirit of friendly competition, they really rose to the challenge of creating unique dishes featuring strawberries as a key ingredient. Providing expertise to the judging was the executive chef from the acclaimed Chicago restaurant TRU, and the head of the Chicago Food Bloggers. We were tasked with picking an overall winner in items as diverse as Strawberry Ricotta Ravioli, Strawberry-Watercress Soup, and Strawberry Macaroons. It was a delicious but difficult decision! The trophy for the winning dish went to Adam Ullrich from the Village Tavern for his Shaved Beef Sandwich with Strawberry Salsa.

The series debuted in August of last year, and our Long Grove episode aired in early September. It was a kick to watch and the show really showcased Long Grove in a great way. This kind of media exposure is priceless and was a lucky break for our Village. My screen time amounted to a few seconds here and there, but it created one of the most memorable experiences so far in holding this office. And if the Food Network comes calling again for Apple Fest…I am ready and willing!


Summer Concert Series Kickoff

The 2015 Long Grove Sunday Concert Series Opened on July 5th

The 2015 Long Grove Sunday Concert Series Opened on July 5th

The Long Grove Arts and Music Council marks its 10th Anniversary this year. For the past decade, our Village has been the lucky recipient of free Sunday afternoon concerts held for all to enjoy in our historic downtown. From their humble beginnings in the summer of 2006, the volunteers who make up the Arts & Music Council have grown the organization into a 501(c)3 not-for-profit which relies exclusively on donations from members of the community. The summer music series has expanded to feature eight concerts in July and August, featuring a diverse array of quality artistic talent in styles such as Bluegrass, Folk, Classical, Harmonica, and Blues. The first concerts were held at the gazebo in Buffalo Creek Park, and when the need for more space became apparent they moved over to Towner Green. When Sunset Pavilion was built in 2011 the concerts moved again to Fountain Square, and this year the venue has returned back to the lovely Towner Green. An added bonus this year is the new wine bar, “UnWined” just opened in the Victorian house at the end of Towner Green. Residents and visitors can bring a picnic and enjoy a glass of wine or other favorite beverage while soaking in the sights and sounds of a summer concert in the open air. It’s like a mini Ravinia-style experience in our own downtown!

These hometown concerts are one of the things that I have grown to love best about summer in Long Grove. The music is top-notch, the weather is almost always pleasant, and it is supremely relaxing to be downtown among friends and neighbors. This Sunday I was reminded again how fortunate we are in our community to have individuals who work year after year, to create this kind of cultural enrichment for us all. This is truly a community effort, as it takes financial support from merchants, the Lions Club, the Village, and generous residents for this concert series to happen. It was a beautiful day for the kickoff event, and Grammy Award winning harmonica player Howard Levy did not disappoint. You have seven more opportunities this summer for a slice of bliss, free of charge, Sundays at 4:00 in Towner Green. Don’t miss out!

Arts & Music Council Board Members (L to R) Jane Primack, Carolyn Denaro and Walter Roth help sell friendship bread at the concert.

Arts & Music Council Board Members (L to R) Jane Primack, Carolyn Denaro and Walter Roth help sell friendship bread at the concert.


We Get By with a Little Help from Our Friends


My friends (L to R) Steve Lentz, Mayor of Mundelein, Joe Mancino, Mayor of Hawthorn Woods, and Tom Poynton, Mayor of Lake Zurich.

My friends (L to R) Steve Lentz, Mayor of Mundelein, Joe Mancino, Mayor of Hawthorn Woods, and Tom Poynton, Mayor of Lake Zurich at a recent Lake County Municipal League meeting.

Today, an article appeared in the Chicago Tribune on the topic of the proposed IL Route 53 extension and the recent concerns being voiced by the municipalities directly in the path of this road. As Village President, I joined with the Mayors of Hawthorn Woods, Mundelein, Kildeer, and Round Lake to sign a letter to the Tollway Board and CMAP to express our collective concerns over recommendations regarding land use in the highway corridor. We are asking for more information and specific details regarding a proposed oversight body, a Corridor Planning Council, which has the potential to override local municipal decisions on how land along this roadway could be zoned and utilized. Our voices have been heard, and I do believe that more information will be forthcoming in the months ahead. But this is just one example of the ways in which Long Grove works together with our neighbors to enable positive changes.

Recently our Village Board approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Village of Buffalo Grove to work cooperatively towards tightening up our code enforcement. Under a two year agreement, Buffalo Grove will assist us with property maintenance inspections, issuance of tickets, and administrative adjudication proceedings. Why is this needed? Because by partnering with our neighboring towns or agencies to get services done, we can increase efficiency and save both time and money.

You may have heard Governor Rauner talk about the need for our various units of government in Illinois to combine and share services. This is nothing new to Long Grove. We have partnered for many years with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office for our police protection. The Village currently contracts with both Ela and Cuba townships for various road maintenance services and use of their equipment. This summer, we have partnered with the Village of Kildeer to cooperatively bid road repair contracts to take advantage of volume pricing. Having a minimal government philosophy means that old Beatles tune is right on–we do “get by with a little help from our friends.”