I want to thank the citizens of Riverside for allowing me to serve them for the last 10 years as a trustee on the Riverside Village Board. I want to thank Jack Wiaduck and the village board in 2001, for appointing me. I also want to thank the citizens of Riverside for electing me to a four-year term in 2003, and then reelecting me again in 2007.
Thank you to our two village managers, Katie Rush and Peter Scalera, our police and fire chiefs, and to all the employees who provide selfless service to the village. Thank you to the trustees that I have served with on this board. There have been many highlights in the past 10 years. Here are some of them:
An aggressive road improvement program was started.
Improved the Tot Lot at the Big Ball Park.
Completed construction of Patriots Park.
Improved the water system in the village.
Built a new public works building.
Approved a comprehensive water meter replacement program that is almost complete.
Updated the zoning of the central business district.
The exterior of the water tower has been refurbished along with lighting, new curbs, street paving and landscaping.
Working with the Army Corps of Engineers, we rebuilt the Groveland berm, 75 percent of which was paid for with a grant from the federal government.
Working with Nicor, upgraded the century-old low-pressure gas system to a safe and more efficient high-pressure delivery system.
Completed the Centennial Plaza project finally with the improvement to the surrounding streets, curbs and landscaping around the plaza.
Our police department began an aggressive program to arrest and convict drunk drivers. This program continues today.
At the end of 2008, we all faced the crash of the stock market and the beginning of a recession that knocked our economy flat and caused our village board to reevaluate the future. We saw the remodeling of the Arcade Building stop. The building became an eyesore, but thanks to Mr. Giuseppe Zappani, the building was rescued and is restored.
My biggest disappointment is the lack of continued CBD development and reinvestment. The Village Center is a beautiful building, but it continues to lack a key tenant on the ground floor.
Will the Arcade Building attract tenants? Is the hiring of an economic development coordinator the answer? Should we offer incentives to sales tax paying businesses?
Our business owners’ support providing more parking in the CBD. Instead we have an empty lot, which was previously acquired for this purpose, and unfilled promises to provide access to the Mason Lodge and St Mary’s church parking lots.
Who is right? Are we interested in the success and views of our business owners? The village must continue to work closely with the business leaders and investors to maintain and enhance this area of our community.
What does the future hold? The village of Riverside needs more income to sustain the service levels we are providing. Additional revenue is needed to cover police and employee pensions, maintain the parks and public buildings, and maintain and upgrade equipment and buildings that we own.
Deferring pension payments and reserve allocations for equipment needed in the future are only adding to the long-term financial issues affecting our finances. Several years ago, the village administration predicted that lack of revenue growth would prove to be a major threat to our community’s future. Ideas proposed to enhance revenue did not meet with success.
The current majority on the village board has suggested that revenue was not the issue. I think today that even they concede that cost cutting alone will not solve Riverside’s looming financial problems.
These problems are further complicated by the state’s financial problems, which continue to erode revenues long relied upon to supplement our limited local tax collections.
In the absence of solutions to the current economic climate and the state’s financial woes, Riverside’s service level can only be maintained by careful use of reserves, but these, of course, are limited.
At our current pace, reserves run out by 2014. And then what? Will residents and business owners accept and invest in a community that is in decline? Only time will tell, but if not, municipal services will diminish unless we are willing to pay the premium in new taxes which will be required.
The newly elected village board should pursue the following initiatives:
Continue to seek savings through careful expense management, but do not hesitate to ask the citizens for a tax increase to be used for the general fund if core service deterioration seriously diminishes safety, quality of life and community legacy issues.
Sell the Northgate water tower property. It was placed on the market in 2008. It is time to sell this property and use the money to carry out badly needed maintenance to the train station roof or for restoration of the recreation center.
Develop a plan that has a list of projects that can be considered by the voters in 2014, when one of our current bond issues expires.
Aggressively lobby our Illinois state senators and members of the General Assembly to make meaningful and manageable changes to the state pension plans, and to stop cutting of the sharing of tax funds that should go to the state’s local governments. The burdens these changes are having on small non-home rule communities like Riverside threaten the very fabric of our community’s quality of life.
Reconsider the use of the empty village lots that are in the center of town. The two lots were purchased to provide parking in the central business district. If this village board is not going to use the property for the purposes originally intended, then it is time to make a decision which will help to improve the economic climate of the village. If we don’t invest in our future then who will?
Finally, let me express my thanks to my wife and family for their support over the last 10 years. It has been an interesting journey.
Thanks Riverside citizens.
John Scully was a Riverside village trustee from 2001 to 2011. His second full term as a trustee ended May 2. He did not run for re-election.