LANSING | Komo’s Food Mart, Guiseppi’s Pizza and a PetSmart store. The Veterans of Foreign Wars and corporate offices of Land o’ Frost.
Those are area businesses or institutions, some of which had been located in Lansing for decades, that have left during the past four years. Village president hopeful Donald Sciackitano said he thinks village government needs new leadership to keep more business from leaving.
Sciackitano, who lost to Village President Norm Abbott by a slim margin in the 2009 municipal elections, will challenge him again April 9. He said Abbott has not been aggressive enough in trying to bolster the Lansing village economy.
“His record of economic development in Lansing in the past four years has been nothing short of a total disappointment,” Sciackitano said about Abbott.
He cited the failure of village officials to replace the old Shannon’s Landing tavern at the Lansing Municipal Airport when the bar closed down in 2010. He also cited the fact that airport staff moved to the building once used by Pyramid Alarm Co. on the airport property.
“It renders useless a prime site for a new airport tenant,” Sciackitano said.
Village officials have said they are negotiating with companies to bring in a restaurant to the airport, and moved from the Ford hangar into the Pyramid Alarm offices when that building was donated to the village.
Sciackitano said he thinks Lansing’s record of recent years in economic development lags behind other communities. He cites the fact that Munster was able to turn a one-time Carpetland USA store into a variety of shops, and said the River Oaks West shopping center in Calumet City has added “a wonderful array” of new national retailers.
Abbott is critical of Sciackitano for mentioning Munster’s development.
“Does he tell anyone that the Carpetland site was vacant for 18 years?” Abbott said.
But on a larger scale, Abbott said his efforts to bolster Lansing’s business climate have been hampered by the national economic struggles of recent years.
“Maybe he hasn’t been paying attention, but everybody has been struggling,” Abbott said, adding that in his first two years he coped with existing financial problems that were passed along to him.
“Our bond rating was down to a B, and we had some bonds we couldn’t sell,” he said. “The first two years were more about keeping the ship afloat.”
Abbott also said the projects he is trying to develop, such as a replacement to occupy the former Sam's Club on Torrence Avenue, take years to complete.
“It takes a lot of time to develop new businesses,” Abbott said.
On other issues, Abbott said his Village Party slate will hold events in February and March to give people a chance to meet the candidates. The slate includes Abbott, Donna Kooyenga for village clerk and incumbent trustees Terry Kapteyn, Dan Lyzenga and Mikal Stole.
Abbott also cited the “professional people” he has brought to Lansing to help run village government, including the hiring of a full-time village administrator.
“We have not had these kind of people here in the past. It is going to help us tremendously,” Abbott said.
A village administrator will help Lansing government run more smoothly and provide coordination of economic development projects, he said.
Because of the hire, the village president's job was reduced to a part-time position and the salary slashed from about $110,000 to $15,000 annually. The changes take effect after the April election.
Sciackitano remains skeptical of the village hires, saying he believes local residents elect a village president to perform many of those duties.
“He is now paying a village administrator $130,000 to do the job that the mayor was elected to do,” Sciackitano said.
Sciackitano's Progressive Action Party slate includes Kelly Hasse for village clerk, and Michael Manno, Humberto Rivera and Timothy Williams for trustee.