Elburn residents to help build village’s future as officials continue work on new strategic plan

Elburn residents are generally positive about their town, using words such as “welcoming,” “up and coming, growing town with a small-town feel,” “full of awesome volunteers,” “small town surrounded by corn fields, open space and forest preserves,” and “a good sense of community” in recent focus groups facilitated by planning consultants working with the village of Elburn to create an updated strategic plan.

The focus groups were part of a process to update Elburn’s strategic plan, which was last completed four years ago in 2017-2018. The village is working with the same planning consultants from the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University. One of the planners, Jeanna Ballard, attended the Committee of the Whole meeting on Feb. 7 to present the draft results of their work to Village Board members and the mayor.

Ballard said that items on the residents’ wish list include growth that maintains community connectivity and walkability and economic development in the downtown area, with a variety of businesses, including family-oriented restaurants.

She explained that residents are OK with growth, but they would like it to be balanced, with an emphasis on maintaining the charm that exists in Elburn today.

Ballard said they see parks and recreation as something to invest in further, with more opportunities for all age groups and interests. The recruitment of high-quality employment, such as doctor’s offices and a medical campus would provide more opportunities for residents to stay in town to work, and planned senior housing would allow older residents to remain in town as they age, she said.

Village staff and elected officials added items such as adequate staffing levels and succession planning to meet the needs of that growth, maintaining aging infrastructure such as roads and sewer, the need for a comprehensive communication plan and the ever-present challenges of finding funding and new revenue sources.

Staff and officials discussed ways to prioritize goals, while separating them into short- and long-term, routine and complex.

Ballard said that she and her colleagues will come back again soon for the next steps in the process, which will be to identify a primary person responsible for each goal, what their role will be and where the funding will come from.

“We have done a ton of planning,” Village President Jeff Walter said. “Now we’re going to execute it. It feels good.”

In other village news, Building Commissioner Tom Brennan reported that the Dollar Tree will begin interior work on the building soon. When asked about a rumor of a possible drive-through, Brennan said he hasn’t seen anything related to that from the owners.

The Village Board approved a professional services agreement on Feb. 7 with Engineering Enterprises, Inc. for road work to be accomplished this year. The total cost for design and construction will be $1, 068,292, and will include village-wide patching, crack sealing and striping, as well as resurfacing for specific streets, including parts of Reader, Pierce, Shannon, Lilac, Willow, Nebraska, Kansas and South streets.

The work will begin in April with bidding and contracting, and construction is set for August, with a completion date in mid-October.

Police Chief Nick Sikora reported on a train that blocked the First Street crossing from 3 a.m. on Feb. 7 until 12:15 p.m. Fortunately, it did not block the crossing at Main Street/Route 47, he said.

This is the second time recently that a train blocked a crossing in Elburn, with the last one in December. When Sikora followed up on a complaint he had made to the Illinois Commerce Commission for the December incident, he said he was told that states have no jurisdiction. They told him that only the Federal Railroad Administration can regulate such incidents, and that the village has no recourse in such a situation, he said.

Sikora said that one of the police department staff members monitored the site to prevent people from driving around the gate, and when he was needed elsewhere, they placed barricades there to keep people safe.

The ICC representative told Sikora that the railroads generally try to minimize these incidents, and gave him a contact with the Union Pacific Railroad to address the situation.