CRETE | Candidates for the Crete general election in April met with about 125 residents Tuesday night at the Crete Public Library to share their visions and ideas for the future of the village.
A citizens group called Crete Conversations hosted the forum. The group discusses current and upcoming events in the Crete area.
Four candidates are running for village president: incumbent Michael Einhorn, along with Brent Humecki, Donald Seehausen and Elbert Shaw. Six candidates are running for three trustee seats: incumbent Mark Wiater and newcomers Karen Tellef, Stephen Johnson, Ken Sadowski, Dean Gaffney and Patrick McCormick.
Candidates spoke on topics provided by the citizens group.
Economic development that will result in additional property and sales taxes for the village and township was a popular focal point. Einhorn and Wiater noted several new businesses recently coming to Crete, such as Kohl’s and Culver’s.
Seehausen and several of the trustee candidates felt the village had missed other opportunities for additional development, especially commercial.
Sadowski felt more development focus should be placed on downtown Crete and its “hometown charm."
Einhorn told the crowd that the groundwork for future economic development is based on the realities of the current economy. He also said that one of his goals has been to separate commercial development from residential areas.
“Homeowners have told me that they want to see commercial development,” he said. “But they also tell me that they want it far enough away from their homes and subdivisions to not have a negative impact.”
McCormick stated that unemployment was an issue many residents brought up to him. He believes that there are training programs available that could be brought into the village and help make changes in the local employment.
“The people tell me they want change,” McCormick said, “especially in the unemployment numbers.”
Another popular topic was the loss of value on homes. While the lagging economy took the brunt of the blame for home prices, candidates also pointed at the current administration for raising property taxes.
In December, the administration adopted a budget that included raising the levied amount of property tax money requested from the state. Humecki questioned why the taxes were raised instead of cutting costs.
“I think the current government had an option to keep taxes where they were and cut costs instead,” he said.
Gaffney told the crowd he believes the village needs to be managed more like a business. He said the village could expand services to residents without increasing costs.
The quality of the water in the village also was an issue.
Crete has several deep wells that supply water. The village has never failed any state or county quality tests, but residents have concerns about the taste and clarity of the water.
Most candidates acknowledged the issue, but they varied on what options are available. The majority of the focus was on improving water infrastructure, as opposed to obtaining Lake Michigan water.
Johnson, who was a trustee in 2002, said the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and state officials would not approve any attempt to hook up to lake water.
“We have always passed all of our quality tests,” he said. “They will only grant connections to lake water for municipalities that are having serious quality issues.”