One of the things that I do on a regular basis as Village President is respond to questions from our residents. Hardly a day goes by when I am not interacting either by email, phone, traditional letter, or in person with someone who has a question, concern, complaint, compliment, or problem that they would like for me to solve. By and large, I enjoy working with the public and this desire to be of service was the main motivation for me to run for office. Of course, we all know there are individuals in every community who can be difficult and think nothing of treating elected officials with disdain. But the vast majority of residents that I hear from simply seek to understand, and it is satisfying to know that I can usually help. Below is an example of a recent inquiry I received, about the lack of sidewalks in Long Grove, and my response:
I have lived in Long Grove my entire life, and I have not yet involved myself in the Village’s proceedings. Recently, though, I began to wonder why Long Grove does not have any public sidewalks or pathways. When I asked around, no one seemed to have a sufficient answer. Lincolnshire and Buffalo Grove, and many other surrounding towns, have sidewalks. Has there ever been talk of building sidewalks or pathways along the roads, or at least along the major roads, of Long Grove? I would be able to walk or bike to local stores if these were available, but as the roads are now, it is simply too dangerous to leave my driveway without driving. I believe our village would be much safer and healthier if we were provided with viable sidewalks along our roads.
I’m sure I don’t have to convince you of the benefits of public sidewalks. Implementing the sidewalks would probably entail massive construction operations at a large cost. What is the main factor restricting Long Grove from building sidewalks?
If possible I would love to be involved with any progress in this area.
Thank you for your time!”
“Dear (name withheld for privacy),
I am a big fan of the many walking trails in and around Long Grove, and I would love to see more sidewalks for connectivity. The reason you don’t find many public sidewalks is due to our minimal form of government set forth in 1956 when the village government was established. Long Grove provides only minimal services to the residents (no large scale water & sewer, police protection through the county sheriff, majority of roads are private or state & county owned, etc…) and in return for this we pay no Long Grove property tax. Since the village does not levy any property tax, our income is very limited and consists of mostly sales tax income, building permit fees, and small miscellaneous revenues from things like fines, vehicle stickers, and video gaming. We do receive some income through the state of Illinois such as motor fuel tax and LDGF funds, but these are very precarious given the state’s current financial woes. You are correct in your thoughts about the large costs of building sidewalks. At this stage, it presents a real challenge to a village with a very limited income. Your examples of Buffalo Grove and Lincolnshire both charge a local tax, and this allows them to have a larger municipal budget for infrastructure such as sidewalks. The village tried putting forward a referendum two years ago asking for a small tax earmarked to pay for maintenance for our public roads, and it was defeated by 80 percent of those who voted.
All that said, we do have many public walking paths that have been required in all new developments starting in the late 1980’s. The goal is to one day get all these neighborhood paths connected, and we have a village pathways committee that meets quarterly and helps to advance this. We have had engineering done on a sidewalk to run from Heron’s Creek forest preserve all the way to downtown Long Grove on the west side of Old McHenry Road. Fifteen years ago the cost of this was well over a million dollars, and we did get some partial funding awarded from the state through a grant that the village submitted. This grant money has since been withdrawn due to the efforts by the state of Illinois to cut costs. The village has been supportive of the state’s efforts to complete the widening and improvement of Route 22, and a sidewalk along the south side from Rt 83 to Old McHenry Road is in the plans. The village asked for this and will be committing 20 percent of the funds for this pathway. Because of financial reasons with the state, this project keeps getting pushed further into the future, last I heard we are looking at somewhere beyond 2020 for completion. Aptakisic Road is being widened by the county, and sidewalks have been included on both sides in the plan as requested by Long Grove. So the village is trying to get these improvements made when we can, as county and state roads through our village are widened.
One thing you could do to get involved is to attend a village board meeting, and let your thoughts be known during public comment. Every year the board sets an annual budget, and if enough residents speak up more money could be allocated to pathways. You could also join the pathways committee–we are always looking for additional community volunteers. I first joined this committee fifteen years ago and look at where I ended up! Seriously though, let me know if you are interested, and I promise no one will coerce you into running for Village President.
If you want to know more please give me a call and I will be happy to answer your questions. Thanks for reaching out to me and for your concern in making our community an even better place to live.
Village President Underwood”