Kane County can look forward to toll-free Longmeadow Parkway in 2024

Corinne Pierog: ‘This is a mark in the win column’

The state gave Kane County $17.5 million for the construction of the Longmeadow Parkway. But that was only half of the money needed to eliminate planned tolls.

GENEVA – Two of the biggest changes Kane County residents can expect in 2024 is the opening of the Longmeadow Parkway and the county taking ownership of Cougar Stadium instead of the Forest Preserve District.

Board Chair Corinne Pierog said the opening of the Longmeadow Parkway over the Fox River – without tolls – will be “a huge economic driver” for the entire region as Kane and southern McHenry County commuters will have an additional way to cross the river to and from work and avoid traffic backups.

“This is a mark in the win column,” Pierog said. “Everybody said I could not get the [money] from the state for it. I said, ‘I can try.’ ”

The first allocation was $17.5 million in the state’s fiscal 2023 budget and an additional $12.5 million in the 2024 budget, she said.

And there was local buy-in, she said.

“McHenry County gave us $1 million. Cook County promised another $1 million,” Pierog said. “And we will provide the rest of the $3 million needed to eliminate the toll.”

As for the stadium where the Kane County Cougars baseball team plays, it needs upgrades to keep it competitive with other minor league ball teams, Pierog said.

“We are looking at working with the Forest Preserve District and have some advocacy downstate to see if the county can absorb the stadium,” Pierog said. “And with that we can apply for grants and see what other opportunities we can get without taxpayer dollars.”

Kane County Cougars player Cesar Trejo grabs a ground ball during a practice at Northwestern Medicine Field in Geneva on Thursday, May 4, 2023. The Cougars’ season opens May 11.

There are restrictions as to what a forest preserve district can do, but a county has more flexibility, she said.

“We will see what we can do to help restore and build up the stadium so it can be competitive,” Pierog said. “We want certain bells and whistles. It’s important to keep the baseball team here in Kane.”

The goal is to have the county own the stadium and have the same type of relationship the forest preserve has with Cougars owner and president Dr. Bob Froehlich, she said.

A tourism project that will start this year is a completed engineering study on the Fox River Trail for canoe site launches, Pierog said.

“They will have locks so people can lock up their canoe and paddles and go into town or walk on the trail,” Pierog said. “We will start with a few areas, a little at a time, to measure how successful they are. Then we will continue to grow them through the whole stretch of the river in Kane County.”

The promise of 2023 was to complete a study and begin an Economic Development Council of professionals from a variety of fields for the purpose of assisting businesses to locate in the area, she had said last year.

This is the year to launch it, she said.

The intent is to have a public-private partnership in the region.

“If a business cannot find anything in Geneva, instead of going to DuPage, we can say, ‘Take a look at Elburn,’ ” Pierog said.

In the same vein, having multiple counties involved allows the council to suggest another location in Illinois, so they don’t leave the state.

“We’re working on that. … We’re going to launch it in 2024,” Pierog said.

The county also will be using the remaining $25 million of the American Rescue Plan Act money, along with existing funds, to build a new Health Department that won’t have an impact on taxpayers, she said.

The current Health Department is in an old doctor’s office located behind Advocate Hospital in Aurora.

“The site is yet to be determined, but we’re looking at the Judicial Center complex,” she said.

The county just completed an assessment of its workforce compensation with the goal to look at external equity, she said.

“We need to start adjusting our own compensation so that we are clearly competitive,” Pierog said. “Not the highest, not the lowest, but to sustain our workforce. We can no longer be a training ground but a place people come to.”

The county also is looking to do a strategic reassessment of its financial policies “to make sure they are truly in line with the board’s goals,” Pieorg said.

“We are going through budgeting collaboratively to decide … what general goals are of the board so the financial policy can reflect that – whether this current board or the next board,” she said.

Also on the horizon is studying the county’s aquifers to get a better understanding of the water quality and quantity and looking at a new strategic plan for the county because the last one was done in 2006.