Newsletter May/June 2014

Town of Cortland

Newsletter

May/June 2014

 

Hello Friends and Neighbors,

 

To say that this winter was exceptionally brutal would be putting it mildly! The record breaking snows and extreme temperatures made it difficult on all of us, especially Town staff.  I commend our Public Works Department for the job they did keeping our streets plowed and reasonably safe to drive, despite area-wide salt shortages. All of our snow­plows were deployed throughout the winter to combat the snowstorms and the drifting snow that followed.  The Town of Cortland has approximately 63 miles of roadways and alleys; our four plow trucks accrued approximately 6500 miles this winter.  That’s a lot of plowing! At one point during the winter our three full-time Public Works employees worked 34 days straight, rotating in shifts around the clock, to keep our streets open.  At times they were assisted by our Water/ Wastewater Department employees.  If you thought you saw me driving a snowplow, you were not hallucinating- I did what I could do to assist our staff.  I would be remiss if I did not thank Trustee Chuck Lanning for procuring the use of DeKalb Municipal Airport’s giant earthmover in order to clear eight foot snowdrifts from Loves Road and other areas that were prone to heavy drifting.  I also appreciate the efforts of our Police Department, as Officers responded all win­ter to numerous motor vehicle crashes and vehicles that left the roadway and became stuck in ditches along Route 38 and other arterial roadways.  I also have great respect for their efforts to consistently enforce the Town’s parking regula­tions during the snow events.  This enforcement, although not appreciated by some, helps to expedite the clearing of snow from our roadways.  I also want to thank our Town Hall staff and Clerk’s Office. While many communities closed their public buildings, the Town Hall was open during regular business hours every day, despite the extremely cold temperatures, in the event it needed to be used as a Warming Center.

I would like to take this opportunity to briefly comment on several topics that were highly publicized by local media.

The Town’s attorneys and I were able to negotiate an out-of-court settlement of a Judgment that was placed against the Town of Cortland pursuant to litigation that was brought  against the Town in 2006. The Town lost at trial and ap­pealed the court’s decision, only to lose that appeal in 2010. While it was publicized that the Town paid 1.75 million dollars to settle the suit, there was little said that the original judgment was for 2.1 million dollars and that interest was being accrued on that amount since 2010. While 1.75 million dollars is a substantial “hit” for the Town of Cortland, the judgment had grown to roughly 3 million dollars.  I believe we needed to get in front of this matter in order to cut our financial losses.  This was not going to go away on its own.  We were able to satisfy the judgment without any negative impact on the delivery of services to you, our residents.

I’m sure you may also be aware that it was necessary for me to terminate the employment of our Town Treasurer. This termination came after an extensive review of the Treasurer’s work by our staff and a financial firm that I brought in from the private sector which specializes in government finance.  Nothing criminal was suspected or had taken place. However, the manner in which business was being conducted for most of the past two years was shamefully inadequate and clearly not what is required or demanded from the Treasurer. The good news is that this problem was suspected by our Department Heads and staff and that immediate action was taken to resolve the problem.  At the time of this News­letter the Town’s FY2015 Budget has been prepared by the contracted firm of Lauterbach and Amen and all looks well, due in large part to our Department Heads and their ability to work cohesively with their financial experts.

In December, the Town of Cortland and the Village of Maple Park ratified a Boundary Agreement which is similar to those the Town of Cortland already has with the City of DeKalb and the City of Sycamore. Despite numerous talks between Maple Park and Cortland officials, this matter had been at a stalemate since 2009. It was a pleasure to work with Maple Park Mayor Kathy Curtis in making this Agreement possible. It is in the best interest of both communities that we work together to create a blueprint for future annexations and development.

Since the last Newsletter there has been much needed rehabilitation of the interior  of the Town Hall and offices that are attached to the  Building at 250 South Halwood.  I expect that the Cortland Police Department will be relocated to those offices on Halwood by the time of this Newsletter.  The relocation of the police department will save the Town approximately $13,000 a year in rent.

All winter our Town’s attorneys have been communicating with Cambridge Homes in an effort to complete the remaining required improvements in Richland Trails. Talks are on-going with Cambridge Homes and the bonding company.  I have nothing new to report to the Richland Trails homeowners at this time.  Given our winter, I’m thankful that we were able to take over the maintenance of the Richland Trails roadways when we did.

Our Town Engineers have worked diligently with our attorneys to obtain easements to property which will allow the Town to mitigate problems of surface water in the Elm Avenue area. I hope to see grading commence this spring.

There has been interest expressed by local developers to begin the construction of residential homes in Robinson Farm and Nature’s Crossing Phase I.  Only two building permit applications have been returned to the Town for review at this time.  The number of building permits that the Town will be able to issue will be contingent on available irrigation space associated with our sanitary sewer system. Efforts are on-going to secure additional irrigation sites.

While new construction in Town is welcome and nice to see, as a community we have some “housekeeping” to do. I began an aggressive effort to rid the Town of abandoned/derelict residential homes. These homes are not only eyesores that reflect poorly on our community, but they also have a negative impact on property values. This is not an easy or quick process. At the present time I am in court seeking condemnation and demolition of the house at 85 South Somonauk Road.  We are preparing to do the same with four other similar homes in the Original Town of Cortland and one in the Chestnut Grove subdivision.

This year, we are attempting to determine Motor Fuel Tax projects for road improvements earlier than in the past. I hope that those projects can take place during the summer months as opposed to late fall.

In the FY15 Budget, we are allocating significantly more money for sidewalk replacement/repair. We should be able to complete twice the amount of sidewalks as last year.  We have also budgeted for the painting and lettering of the Spruce Street water tower and similar lettering on the water tower located near Cortland Community Park. You will also see improvements completed at the new Hetchler Park shelter and the new Suppeland Park shelter. ComEd will be pulling power to Suppeland Park so we can provide lighting for the memorial flag at East Meadow Avenue and Pampas Street and other areas of the Park as needs arise in the future.  Plans are being made to enhance the memorial by summer of 2015 and to re-dedicate the memorial in conjunction with the Town of Cortland’s 150-Year Anniversary. Plans are also being discussed to provide for off-street parking in the area of Suppeland Park and the addition of bleachers at the baseball field.

The Town has received a grant totaling $100,000 to improve the esthetics of some of our water detention areas. Specifically, $25,000 will be used to improve the area along Spruce Street and to the area north of Hetchler Park as well as $75,000 to improve the a rea just east of Cortland Community Park. We will have 2 years to complete these projects.

Construction has begun again on the North Avenue Lift Station Project.  Construction of the new Lift Station should be completed by August 2014. I ask for everyone’s patience as crews need to excavate the intersection of North Avenue and Prairie Street and the roadway going east of that location.

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome two news businesses to the Town of Cortland. Quality Recycling recently moved into 255 West Lincoln Highway, and Alfredo’s Welding moved into 280 West Lincoln Highway.  Both are located near the intersection of Route 38 (Lincoln Highway) and Loves Road. I wish both businesses great success!

Lastly, I apologize for the length of this letter but there was a lot of information you needed to know. It was unfortunate, but due to the extraordinary work load of our staff, we were unable to provide you with some of the Newsletters that are normally presented to you bi-monthly.

I am looking forward to a pleasant spring and summer and hope you will take advantage of the many family-oriented events being planned by our Parade & Festival Committee.

As always, I thank you for the opportunity to serve our community.

 

Russ Stokes

Mayor

 

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