Jennifer Konen: Candidate profile, Sugar Grove village president
Village: Sugar Grove
Occupation: Real estate broker
Employer: Anton Agency
Civic involvement: Kaneland Youth Softball Little League coach; Girl Scout troop leader; assisted church with funeral lunches; assisted the Sugar Grove Chamber of Commerce with their golf outing in 2019; planning to assist with the 2021 Sugar Grove Corn Boil
Q. How do you view your role in confronting the pandemic: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state and federal authorities?
A. I view the role of the village president as the leader and role model for our village. I understand that people have different beliefs and perspective, and I encourage/respect individuality, but during a pandemic we need to listen to the science and govern based on facts. Our residents and businesses need to feel safe and supported. It's our job to make sure they are well-informed with timely, accurate information.
Q. Did your town continue to adequately serve its constituents during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to providing services. If not, please cite a specific example of what could have been done better.
A. The village staff did a great job at the onset of the pandemic. They continued to serve the public and stay open for business. The staff implemented safety procedures including placing phones in the vestibules of the community development office as well as village hall. This prevented direct contact with staff while still providing service. Additionally, we allowed staff to work from home to keep the numbers down in the office. We held board meetings remotely for the safety of the board, staff, and public. We purchased sanitizing equipment to be used in every police vehicle as well as in the buildings where needed.
Q. In light of our experiences with COVID-19, what safeguards/guidelines should you put in place to address any future public health crises?
A. The village started using an emergency and community notification system called Nixel. This allows the police, fire protection district and village the ability to put information out to the community in real time. This system will be extremely important to the village and its communication with residents moving forward. Additionally, I think sanitizer stations will remain in place moving forward. We need to ensure we have an appropriate amount of PPE on hand without over stockpiling and tying up dollars in inventory.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. The village staff and the village board have made appropriate cuts when they were needed. At this time, there are no additional cuts I would recommend. I continue to talk to staff about creative ways to give back to our taxpayers, where appropriate. An example was the recent reduced liquor license fees for the 2021 year. Although this helps local business, we are still thinking about creative ways to help the residents.
Q. What do you see as the most important infrastructure project you must address? Why and how should it be paid for? Conversely, during these uncertain economic times, what infrastructure project can be put on the back burner?
A. An important infrastructure project is finishing the water main replacement project in Dugan Woods subdivision, which has deteriorated due to soil conditions and prone to breaks. This will be paid for with revenues from water usage. A future project would be water storage at the north side of town. This will likely need grant funding support. It will also need to wait until we have some bonds paid off in the next few years.
Q. Do you agree or disagree with the stance your board/council has taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in the community? What would you change about that stance, if you could?
A: I realize this was and is a controversial topic and our board was split down the middle with the tie being broken by President Michels. I supported potential sales in our community. The law is not written much different from that of alcohol sales yet there are tighter sales practices. It's an industry that's not going away now that it has been approved in our state. My position was to take a proactive approach in drafting an ordinance that created parameters that the village could live with. The only way we could get medical marijuana was to allow recreational as well. No business would open in Sugar Grove unless they could do both. There are plenty of residents that have a medical marijuana prescription, yet we are telling them great ... go somewhere else. The village board needs to look at all possible revenue opportunities. We now have data that shows that IL has reported 1 billion dollars in legal marijuana sales for 2020. I have spoken with law enforcement in a town that operates a store. They are not seeing problems at their facilities. The people trying to buy are law abiding citizens doing it legally. The problem exists with illegal sales. Who knows what is actually in marijuana that is sold illegally. Regardless of whether we allow it or not, I need to educate my children. Cannabis is legal in our state and I want to ensure my children understand the consequences of using drugs.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about
A. We have a need to build a new village hall and allow the police department to take over the existing building. The police department is cramped and they have been for years. If we build a new village hall we could bring community development, finance, and administration under the same roof. The IDEA is to build a village hall on a property close to galena and IL47. The village hall would be located on the second story of the building, potential board room and office space on a 3rd floor, with retail space available below. I believe we can start a town square with green space for concerts, farmers market, ice skating in the winter while jump starting our small boutique retail. The village would start the community square off with our investment in village hall, and work with the land owner and developer to build off our capital investment. After all, the residents realize that this village has real possibilities. It's time to take action and work hard to achieve what we all desire. A place to shop, dine, and gather as a community.
Q. What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A. I am a business woman, a wife, a mother, a neighbor, a friend, a trustee, and a resident. I wear many hats and each and everyone is important to me. I will lead this village out of the status quo and in a direction that brings all our neighborhoods together. I am an open communicator and I seek information from all parts of the community. I will utilize the board members to help develop our town. They have great insights and are underutilized. I am a creative thinker and collaborator. I am not discouraged by a disagreeing prospective, I am encouraged by the conversation. Being elected as the Sugar Grove Village President is not a job I take lightly. I am excited to work openly and honestly, representing the residents of this great community.
RESPONSE TO PRESIDENT SEAN MICHELS FEBRUARY 24 FACEBOOK POST
IN RESPONSE TO PRESIDENT SEAN MICHELS FEBRUARY 24 FACEBOOK POST – SCARE TACTICS DON’T WORK IN SUGAR GROVE. THE RESIDENTS KNOW BETTER.
On February 23, I had the distinct pleasure to be interviewed by the Daily Herald Editorial Board with current Village President Sean Michels. I have shared the video on my website and Facebook page. Mr. Michels also shared the interview – with the specific commentary regarding my proposed vision of developing a Village Center.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE – TRULY
First, I would like to point out that his comments only further emphasize that Mr. Michels is not open to new ideas and creative thinking. While our vision for future development of our community may be conceptually and directionally similar, it is abundantly clear that our current Village President believes that conceptual designs and ideas he has created (a decade ago) are the only relevant solution in this ever-changing environment and economy.
REGARDING MY VILLAGE CENTER CONCEPT
Breaking down Mr. Michels’ comments one-by-one – addressing his falsehoods:
FALLACY: There will be no property tax revenue generated from this project.
TRUTH: The first floor of this building will be created for retail space. Property taxes are paid based on the lease agreement. Effectively all retail space will pay property tax.
FALLACY: The Village Hall will cost $10M - $20M.
TRUTH: After consulting with our Village staff and using rough numbers, the best estimates we have come back with have been around $4M.
FALLACY: This will fall on the back of residents. We will need to increase fees to cover this project.
TRUTH: Again, after consulting with our Village staff and Finance Director, we could approximately spend up to $7.5M today on this project without affecting our daily operations or services with no increases anywhere.
TRUTH: In the past, we did not have these creative options available to us to fund a Village Hall and start a Village Center – but today is a new day. We NEED to think outside the box and work with our knowledgeable staff to create new, unique and better solutions. Of course, this has to be discussed in detail in our board room. Our Trustees will make the ultimate decision once they are presented with all the facts and information.
TRUTH: Sales tax will be generated through the retail space, as well as rental lease income. These are additional revenues for the Village, not just a drain to our budget.
I ask that you look at my candidacy, vision, developmental ideas, and understand my intentions for the community I hold so dear. You have a Board and Village staff intently working to find ways to create a revenue stream, not an additional burden. I am interested in moving our Village forward.
You need leadership working for you, not holding you back.
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