Chain O’ Lakes towns look at past year, what’s ahead at state of the villages event

Richmond looking to pedestrian and bike paths, Spring Grove eyes wastewater and roads

Village presidents, from seated from left, Toni Wardanian, Donny Schmit, Mark Eisenberg and Steve Henley, answer audience questions posed by Chain O' Lakes Chamber of Commerce board member Kathrine Pfister on Jan. 17, 2023.

A year ago, Richmond Village President Toni Wardanian was looking ahead to her town’s first marijuana dispensary, and Spring Grove President Mark Eisenberg touted housing growth but with waste treatment issues facing the village.

At the Chain O’Lakes Chamber of Commerce’s now-annual luncheon, held Wednesday at the Camp Duncan YMCA in Ingleside, Wardanian and Eisenberg joined Fox Lake Village President Donny Schmit and Volo Village President Steve Henley.

The four shared with the 100 chamber members in attendance what is going on in their villages now, and what they expect to see in the near future.

The chamber itself also had news to share, Executive Director Therese Matthys said. In the past year, the business association has added 190 new members for a total of 415.

The luncheon, first offered last January, saw attendance double, Matthys said.

The additional growth has allowed the chamber, which has a split membership between McHenry and Lake county addresses, to add a social media specialist and increase its reach, Matthys said.

We want different neighborhoods to walk to downtown safely.”

—  Richmond Village President Toni Wardanian

First up with updates on Richmond, Wardanian said progress can be slow at the municipal level. Last year, she mentioned the village was seeking a Chicago Metro Agency for Planning grant to help Richmond plan for pedestrian and bike traffic.

That grant was secured, and the village’s first meeting with experts at Epstein Global is set for Monday.

What Richmond hopes the transportation study does is help to connect the village’s east and west sides, making it more walkable for residents, Wardanian said after the luncheon.

“We want different neighborhoods to walk to downtown safely” via new pedestrian and bike pathways that are “more than painting a bike lane” on the side of a road, she said.

The village also has begun to receive sales tax income from its marijuana dispensary, Spark’d. Opened in August, Spark’d is on track to bring in $160,000 a year to Richmond, Wardanian said.

For Spring Grove, the biggest news of 2023 was starting, and completing, an expansion of municipal water to businesses on Route 12 and Industrial Court.

But wastewater, and how to treat it, continues to be a concern for Eisenberg.

The village’s wastewater treatment plant, opened in the early 2000s, no longer meets Illinois Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, Eisenberg said. However, that plant only serves 148 users in Spring Grove’s commercial corridor.

A $9 million upgrade to the existing plant was approved by the Village Board last week, “and we are currently working ... to try to find federal assistance” to pay for those upgrades, Eisenberg said.

An upgraded wastewater plant would provide sewage treatment for 150,000 gallons a day, up from the existing 75,000, Eisenberg said.

He also noted that a majority of the village’s households are not connected to the municipal water or sewer lines. Spring Grove has allowed only “1-acre zoning” since the early 1990s, and those neighborhoods are on private wells and septic systems.

Those same large lots also mean more road miles needing maintenance but fewer houses paying toward those improvements, Eisenberg said.

Special service areas, in which homeowners are charged directly for road maintenance, has helped cover the cost. However, Spring Grove capped that SSA fee at $500 a year, and with construction costs tripling in recent years, those SSAs no longer are covering expenses, Eisenberg said.

“We are looking for grants” for road maintenance, he said, adding that the village’s high per-capita income level hurts the likelihood of receiving those grants.

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