January 04, 2012 | 08:15 AMIn 2011, the city approved purchasing an $875,000 aerial ladder fire truck and an $800,000 parking meter kiosk system, all while continuing to work on projects in the Tax Incremental Financing District such as a new skate park and new traffic signals downtown.
So, what's in store for 2012?
Mayor Jim Connors, who will run for re-election this year, shared his thoughts Tuesday afternoon about the future of the city and set some goals to accomplish for the new year.
It's probably not common knowledge, but there have been inquiries regarding restaurant projects on the outlots at the Target/Best Buy stores. However, there's been a hang-up — liquor licenses.
The city doesn't have any remaining appropriate licenses for restaurants, which would serve all types of alcohol products.
A municipality is limited on the number of full liquor licenses it can give out depending on population. The city is at its limit, but officials are hoping a change in state law would allow the city to have more licenses.
Connors said the city has asked its local state legislators to look at the matter and help out the city.
"There are businesses that have inquired about those lots, but if there are no licenses, they are not interested," Connors said.
He was quick to point out, his desire is not for more bars or saloons in the city. Those interested in the outlots would typically be chain restaurants such as Applebee's or Chili's, just as an example.
Connors said he doesn't know if the effort with the legislators will help, but he is hoping the plea that these businesses would bring jobs and additional sales tax would help.
"If it is tied to jobs, maybe we might get some help," he said.
Connors, who had a goal when he took office to close TIF No. 4, said another main goal is to complete the projects on the TIF list. He said he would like to see the entire list completed, which includes items such as east end boat slips, park redevelopment, Main street intersection and traffic light improvements, museum area enhancements and the skate park.
He also said TIF funds could be used to purchase the Geneva Theater, but he said the facility would then have to be self-sufficient.
Originally, several council members and Connors himself wanted the TIF closed by the end of 2012. However, he said he doesn't now if that remains realistic.
"I think we need to do these projects," he said. "These are items we wouldn't be able to do without the TIF."
He said the money already is collected and the project list was put together a couple councils ago.
His main goal for 2012 revolves around one of those TIF items — improving the traffic signal timing at the intersections of Main and Broad and Main and Center streets.
Currently, the council is awaiting engineering information on what can be done to improve timing for traffic flow.
"There has to be some improvements that can be made," Connors said.
The city's Public Works Committee also is looking at what can be done near the intersection of Highway 50 and Peller Road, where the road narrows near the BP gas station.
"There are lots of ideas going around," Connors said. "People are coming up with things to look at. Everybody has their own expertise they are bringing."
Connors also would like to continue improving the overall efficiencies at City Hall and the way city government functions.
He said some changes may be occurring with the city's Communication Committee, which will focus now on better communication with the residents, possibly through newsletters and the website.
But, changes to other aspects of city government are on the way. Come April, Connors will have a relatively new council. Incumbents Todd Krause, Frank Marsala and Tom Hartz all decided not to run for re-election.
"If I am fortunate to be elected, I will work with whoever," he said. "The glass is always half full."