Belmont Underpass, Local Economy Among 2012 Highlights in Downers Grove
Mayor Martin Tully recapped achievements in business, infrastructure and sustainability during his annual State of the Village address Feb. 5.
A strong local economy and large construction projects in Downers Grove were among the many highlights listed by Mayor Martin Tully in his annual State of the Village address.
Tully gave the address during the Feb. 5 village council meeting, highlighting the village's achievements in sustainability, infrastructure, business, services, innovation and leadership.
"The state of our village is this: strong and resourceful," Tully said. "With the great recession not too distant in our rear view mirror, we are proud to be on strong financial footing, but are we mindful of the challenges that lay ahead and the curve balls that could come from many directions, too often from the state capitol."
One of the village's biggest achievements of 2012, Tully said, was the implementation of the storm water utility, which replaced the former property tax-based system with a monthly charge for all property owners. The utility was approved by the council in August and went into effect last month.
"The storm water utility created a permanent, sustainable, dedicated funding source for our storm water infrastructure system and maintenance," Tully said. "This will allow us to maintain our infrastructure in compliance with our local needs, as well as with the federal Clean Water Act requirements."
Tully said the village also created a monthly electronics recycling program, privatized downtown and train station snow removal to save more than $8,000 annually, and shifted all operating costs for the Grove Commuter Shuttle to Pace.
Working with the Downers Grove Fire Department, the village was also able to reduce the cost of vehicle maintenance while still improving services, Tully said.
Although 2012 was a busy year for construction projects in Downers Grove, the town's crowning achievement was the October completion of the Belmont Road grade separation—a $60 million project that reconfigured reconfigured the intersection of Belmont Road and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks from an at-grade crossing to an underpass.
"What a tremendous feat of engineering," Tully said. "Anyone who has driven down Belmont Road while there's a train going overhead can't help but marvel at the accomplishment. The only thing that the engineering accomplishment is dwarfed by was the tremendous efforts of many, many people over a decade to bring the project to a reality."
In addition to reducing traffic delays near the Belmont train station, the underpass has improved vehicle response times and increased access to nearby businesses in the Ellsworth Business Park. Tully said the project will also support economic development along the Belmont Road corridor for years to come.
The village spent $19 million on infrastructure upgrades in 2012, including the reconstruction of Grove Street and the construction of an award-winning detention basin at 2nd Street and Cumnor Road.
Tully also highlighted the village's "strong and diverse local economy," which was bolstered in part by businesses on Ogden Avenue. The village extended a sales tax rebate with Packey Webb Ford in September that will keep the dealership in town for more than a decade.
Another rebate agreement was used to lure a new Aston Martin dealership to Ogden Avenue in October. The dealership is expected to generate an additional $185,000 in sales tax revenue for the village each year.
"This was a huge coup for the village of Downers Grove," Tully said.
The village also benefited from national media attention last year, Tully said. The Tivoli Theatre was featured in a GEICO insurance commercial, and was also used for a taping of the Golf Channel's "Feherty Live" during the Ryder Cup—an event that brought together superstar athletes Michael Jordan and Michael Phelps for the first time.
In December, Forbes Magazine ranked Downers Grove among its 15 Friendliest Towns in Amerca. Downers Grove ranked eighth, and was the only town from Illinois to be included.
To capitalize on the recognition, the village recently teamed up with the Downers Grove Park District, the Downtown Management Corporation and the Economic Development Corporation to create a logo for display at local businesses, non-profits and government entities.
"Increased public awareness of Downers Grove on a national level brings advantages to our community, helps with our branding and creates opportunities that might not otherwise be there," Tully said.
Looking ahead to the current year, Tully said the village must continue to be innovative and mindful of lingering economic challenges.
"The lessons of the past few years will be instructive for many yet to come," Tully said. "One, in particular, will be the need to continually innovate wherever possible, and to cooperate, collaborate and consolidate local government resources whenever prudent and feasible."
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