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2013: A year of many challenges for local government : Editorials : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
2013: A year of many challenges for local government

2013 was a year of continuing challenges for local governmental agencies as the national economy showed some modest signs of finally shaking off the grip of the 2008 recession. Here’s how we viewed many of the significant events:

*Perhaps the most significant story to come out of the Oswego School District over the past 12 months came in September when administrators notified the school board the district’s enrollment had decreased for the first time in more than two decades. The district’s enrollment on the sixth day of class for the 2013-14 school year stood at 17,716, a decrease of 29 students from the 2012-13 school year sixth day enrollment of 17,761.

The slowdown in enrollment growth should help relieve the pressure on the district—and its taxpayers—to provide additional schools and other facilities over the next few years.

Also during the past year, the district completed multi-million dollar expansion and renovation projects at both Oswego East and Oswego high schools. Completed on time and within budget, the projects are intended to increase the enrollment capacity at each school to 3,200 students. Given the slowdown in enrollment growth, the high school expansion projects may be the last of their time in the district for the next few years.

*Much of the Village of Montgomery was a construction zone over the past year, courtesy of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). Contractors for IDOT kept busy rebuilding and widening U.S. Route 30 between Goodwin Drive and Briarcliff Road, and rebuilding the Route 30 and Ill. Route 31 interchange. Both long-planned projects are scheduled for completion later in the new year. Both should serve to make traveling through the village easier and, most importantly, safer for motorists.

The election of Matt Brolley as village president in April along with the “Return to Reason” village board candidate slate seemed to do just that for a municipal government that had often been in turmoil over the previous two years. Since being sworn-in to their terms in May, Brolley and the new board have worked positively and constructively on a host of issues, most notably the proposed development of a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district on the village’s west side and a much-needed water main replacement program in the unincorporated Boulder Hill Subdivision.

*One of the most visible changes in the Village of Oswego in 2013 occurred just a few weeks ago as contactors for Alexander Lumber demolished the old lumber yard building that had stood vacant the past six years one block east of the Fox River in the village’s downtown. The high-visibility building had become the target for vandals and village officials were anxious to see it removed. The property remains for sale, as village officials continue to discuss scenarios for the re-development of the property and others in the downtown area.

The village lost a major retailer when the owners of Dominick’s announced in October they were shuttering all of their stores in the Chicago area by the end of this month. Dominick’s had operated a store in the village’s Oswego Commons shopping center since the center opened in 2002. But the business news was mostly upbeat for the village in 2013 as a South Korean-owned yogurt and dairy drink processor announced plans to open a plant in the village’s Kendall Point Business Center. The plant is expected to generate between 30 and 40 new jobs initially and up to 150 when the plant is fully developed. Village officials also expect to announce the name of a new tenant for the old Lowe’s store in the Prairie Market shopping center within the next few weeks.

*A highlight for 2013 for the Oswegoland Park District was the start-up of construction of a complete renovation of the agency’s Winrock Park pool in the unincorporated Boulder Hill Subdivision. When it opens this spring visitors will be able to enjoy a larger, zero-depth pool with eight lanes for competitive swimming, along with a remodeled and expanded pool house. The parking lot will also be expanded.

*The year ends for Kendall County government with an investigation into the per diem payments received by county board members between 2008 and 2012 continuing. To date, the investigation, under the direction of County State’s Attorney Eric Weis has involved an forensic audit that has cost county taxpayers over $21,000 and a grand jury that has subpoenaed meeting attendance records of some board members. Weis has declined comment on the investigation pending its completion. If the investigation is wrapped-up before the March 18 party primary election the findings could potentially impact Republican races for county board and clerk.

*The Fox Valley Park District, an agency that extended its service area into Kendall County to include a large portion of the west side of Montgomery about a decade ago, proceeded with the expansion of the Stewart Sports Complex along the north side of U.S. Route 30, adjacent to the village’s police station. When it opens in the new year, the facility will feature baseball, softball and soccer fields for league play and an important and needed facility for the Oswego-Montgomery area: a dog park.

*In this day and age when some question the future of libraries and the printed word, the Oswego Public Library District continued in 2013 to add cardholders and set records for circulating books and other items. We look for circulation numbers to further increase when the widening of U.S. Route 30 is completed next year and area residents find it even easier to access the agency’s Montgomery Campus Library off the four lane, divided highway at Goodwin Drive.

*It was a challenging year for the Fox Metro Water Reclamation District as its plant off Ill. Route 31 in Montgomery was flooded during the heavy rains that fell on the community April 17 and 18. Several of the agency’s customers in Oswego reported finding raw sewage in their basements following the storm. Meanwhile, the agency increased its user fee charges by 30 percent Aug. 1 to provide funding for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-mandated upgrade and expansion of its plant.

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