LOWELL | The decision by Democrat Phillip Kuiper to go after the 11th District state representative seat has left the 4th Ward Town Council seat wide open.
Democrats will choose between George Brugos and Al Cottingham in the primary election race.
Brugos, 66, a retiree of the Lake County Sheriff's Department and a former Lowell Police Commissioner, filed to run for the seat a few years ago.
He withdrew after learning his position at the time as director of the Lake County Drug Task Force would put him in violation of the federal Hatch Act because his salary was paid by a federal grant.
Brugos said he remains interested in serving the town and believes he can bring much to the position.
"I want to make sure the town stays up to date with the police, the fire department, the ambulance service. ... We need at least a five-year plan. Ten would be better," Brugos said.
Currently, all agree the volunteer firefighters and the Lowell Police Department are operating with too few people. Securing safety for the community as it expands is key, Brugos said.
Brugos said one way to increase rosters when money is tight is through grants, an area in which he has expertise.
"I'm certified nationwide for grants," he said.
Another big issue, Brugos said, is planned growth and the vitality of the downtown.
Brugos wants to help the town entice green, light industry to expand the tax base and bring new jobs, he said.
Brugos suggested a attracting a recycling company would be a good fit.
Cottingham, 71, a retired steelworker, has run before, but never won public office.
"I went up against Phil Kuiper twice, and I got beat twice," he said.
Cottingham's son is also named Al Cottingham and sits on the Tri-Creek School Board.
"I'm just hoping we can get a group in there (the town council) that can get along, work together to get some good ideas," Cottingham said.
Cottingham said he likes to be involved and would work well with others on the council.
While he favors reasonable annexation, Cottingham questions current efforts to annex westward, including the Republic Services landfill.
"What does that dump want out of Lowell?" he asked. "They've got to want something," he said.
The construction and demolition landfill operator has not nixed the notion of coming into Lowell's boundaries, a move that would cost the company in tipping fees and taxes.
Cottingham said he believes growth will not pick up in the near future.
"The schools are down 200 kids. There's not going to be this boom of housing like he had before, not with gas at $4 a gallon," he said.
Needs created from earlier growth need to be addressed, though, Cottingham said.
That means finding ways to put more firefighters on the daytime roster. Hiring one full-time firefighter as is now planned doesn't make sense, he said.
"What can one guy do?" he asked.