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Kendall chairman details business growth efforts : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Kendall chairman details business growth efforts
Shaw notes county's 'balancing act' of providing services to more residents

by Matt Schury

5/22/2014

Transportation, dealing with growth and getting the local economy going were just some of the topics Kendall County Board Chairman John Shaw touched on when he addressed the Metro West Council of Government during their state of the counties luncheon last week.

Shaw began the address by taking note of the 335 public employees in the county and the 10 collective bargaining agreements that were settled last year. He noted that the county negotiated all those union contracts for the first time using in-house counsel from the States' Attorney's office.

"We saved a lot of money," he said.

The seventh annual luncheon, held at the Best Western Timber Creek Inn in Sandwich, featured Shaw as well as Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen and DeKalb County Chairman Jeffery Metzger. Each spoke about the plans, issues, concerns and obstacles they face in their respective counties.

Shaw briefly touched on a host of issues as he rapidly reviewed some of the things the county has been dealing with lately.

"Now we are in a little bit of difficulty fighting over per diems and some of us may go away, maybe I will. I don't know," he said.

That was the only reference Shaw made to the almost two year investigation into how 11 former and current County Board members collected per diems from 2008 through 2012. The estimated cost of the audit has been almost $25,000.

Shaw's overall theme was that Kendall County has continued to balance servicing the growth of the area with helping to develop the economy.

He pointed out that the county's budget is $70 million and the county's portion of the average annual property tax bill is about seven percent. He estimated this amounts to $266 of every $100,000 of assessed value on a bill.

"I get calls...and some of them are pleasant and some of them aren't, but I always ask, 'Can you add? Have you ever tried to add up the numbers on your tax bill?'" Shaw said.

Quite a bit of the tax bill goes to fire districts and school districts, he pointed out.

Moving on to the local economy, Shaw said they are "desperately trying to develop" it by attracting businesses. He recalled an economic roundtable the board held earlier this year that featured keynote speaker Rick Mattoon, an economist from the Federal Reserve Bank.

Mattoon said in February that the Fed is predicting 2.8 to 3.2 percent growth in the economy this year and expects about 3 to 3.4 percent growth next year, still below where the Fed would like to see it.

Shaw recited some statistics about the county's economy, noting that 24 percent of Kendall County residents are employed in education, 12 percent are in the social and health care services and 13 are employed in the manufacturing industry, while 10 percent are in retail services.

"Our biggest employer is Caterpillar--that came up in 1957 and was such a boost for out tiny county then," he said. "And as you know Caterpillar has threatened to leave us, which would be a disaster."

In December Caterpillar announced that it would be cutting 200 union jobs at its plant near Montgomery in Kendall County. The company decided to move its hydraulic excavator manufacturing to a newly built 600,000-square-foot plant in Victoria, Texas.

Shaw also said the county is currently trying to figure out how to bring to fruition a planned bridge that would extend Eldamain Road over the Fox River between Plano and Yorkville.

Funds secured in the 2005 federal highway bill are being used for engineering and land acquisition for the project. There was about $4 million from the federal government and the county contributed $1 million. The county is expected to spend the $5 million making the project ready for construction but they will still need funding to build it. However, if the county gets full federal funding, the project would still require a 20 percent match from local entities.

Briefly touching on public transportation, Shaw said the county continues to hope that a Metra station might come to Kendall County in the future. He pointed out that a Metra expansion study is being done along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad line "to see if we could possibly get some choo-choo train connections out in Sandwich."

Late last year the County Board approved sending a letter to Metra requesting they expand the scope of a planned study of Kendall County to include Plano and Sandwich. Officials at Metra have not given the project a timetable.

Shaw also noted that he is on the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and he voted to support the Illinana roadway project that would connect I-55 in Will County to I-65 in Lake County, Ind. He added that the project is expected to be a public and private partnership.

"We hope that we will be able to bring some big box warehouses coming out of Minooka," he said. "When those places are really full and bringing the trucks in and changing the product around to ship locally, they can support or employ up to 95 people, which is certainly good for us and we hope to bring more of those in."

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