Woodstock mayor takes stock of progress, challenges at State of the City address

Coming Route 47 roadwork, policing and attracting new businesses were highlighted

Woodstock City Manager Roscoe Stelford gives an update about Woodstock at the State of the City luncheon Thursday.

Woodstock officials discussed their achievements and challenges of the past year and hopes for the next at the State of the City luncheon hosted by the Chamber of Commerce Thursday.

The event, which is usually held in the spring, was pushed back to the fall so that it could be held in the Old Courthouse, which wrapped up renovations earlier this year.

“It was worth the wait,” Mayor Mike Turner said.

City leaders also discussed the upcoming Route 47 construction project, which they anticipate will begin next year.

Bike lanes – another hot topic in town – also came up. Turner said a path will be added during the Route 47 expansion project. He added the project will feature three new roundabouts.

Police Chief John Lieb also gave an update about the state of crime and policing.

“Our community is not immune,” Lieb said, noting an overall decrease in civility and a respect law enforcement. He added that Woodstock has installed automatic license plate readers on the perimeter of the city to address what he said was a “trend of criminals traveling (from) outside of our community.”

He added the department has also used new technology, like a system that captures a 3-dimensional replica of a crime scene and a drone system. He also said surveillance cameras were planned for Woodstock Square.

He also applauded the work of the police force, adding that he has observed a decline in respect for law enforcement but also civility in general.

“Policing is a people profession,” Lieb said. “We do it with honor.”

City leaders also talked about new businesses and the revenue sales tax has generated in the city.

“Route 47 makes up half the sales tax,” Finance Director Paul Christensen said.

Woodstock officials also extensively discussed using grant money to complete projects like road work in the city.

“Grants drive a lot of what we’re doing,” Turner said.

Director of Business Development Danielle Gulli spoke about new businesses in the city, and explained she gets questions about why the city doesn’t have stores like Trader Joe’s or Target. She said it because of local demographics – such as median age, income and employment – but that officials think those numbers are moving in the right direction to attract new businesses.

City Manager Roscoe Stelford said the city is “exceeding the state average in employment gains.”

He added the median household income also has increased, exceeding the state average as well. According to a slide presented at the event, the median household income in Woodstock was $77,333, above the Illinois average of $72,563.

Officials also talked about changes they’d like to see at the historic Woodstock Square, including the hope to attract a hotel to the area.

“We’re begging for a hotel,” Turner said. “Begging.”

The city is also looking at options for upgrading its recreation center and has implemented a system to streamline the process of seeking permits and other procedures.

Turner feels the city has made a lot of progress, but also acknowledged that he believes the city has more progress to make.

“The state of the city is strong,” Turner said. “We’re not resting on our laurels.”

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