Homewood Mayor: We Need to Improve Intergovernmental Communication
Representatives from Homewood’s other taxing bodies appeared at the Dec. 11 meeting to ask the board to table a vote to spend nearly $1 million in economic development so a joint meeting could be held to discuss the decision.
Homewood trustees passed an agreement to provide $900,000 in TIF money for the development of a new downtown hotel, but not without considerable opposition from the village’s other taxing bodies.
Their chief complaint? The village failed to give them a fair warning of such a large impending financial decision.
“Our school district was taken aback by the sudden emergence of the proposed financial assistance package for the downtown hotel project …” Shelly Marks, School District 153 Board President, said.
In response, Marks presented the board with a list of questions compiled from her district, the H-F Park District, the Homewood Public Library and H-F High School District 233. She requested the board table the vote until they can address those questions and some of the other issues that have negatively impacted school district funding in the past—such as tax rate objections and non-for-profit conversions.
“Working together, we stand a better chance of protecting our mutual interests and safeguarding our taxpayers investment,” Marks said. “We want to make sure that what you consider doing is really tight so that we’re all benefitting.”
Homewood Public Library Trustee Greg Weiss also requested the vote be tabled.
“One of the things that I’ve learned as a trustee is the notion of due diligence,” Weiss said. “Before such important an decision is made, at the very least, all parties involved should sit down and discuss this prior to a vote, not after—begrudgingly and upset.”
Trustee Anne Colton agreed with both Marks and Weiss. The current lack of intergovernmental communication is a big issue that could have easily been resolved with little more than an early-notice courtesy email, she said. Still, she says she is obligated to consider the business end of the decision.
“At the end of the day … the money is controlled by the village,” Colton said. “I don’t want to add another layer of complexity—we need to stay business friendly.
Trustee Jay Heiferman also said he understands the concerns from the other taxing bodies. His opinion is that they can and will be addressed once the TIF incentive agreement is drafted.
“But least get something on the table so we have something to discuss,” Heiferman said.
Representatives from the developers and the village both addressed some of the submitted questions, but Marks never got her wish. The vote passed 4-1, with Trustee Ray Robertson voting, “no.” Trustee Tom Kataras was absent.
After the meeting, Marks’ face revealed disappointment but not defeat.
“I would have really enjoyed an active discussion,” Marks said. “I think, often, when we get many people in a room with a common interest to keep Homewood strong and viable, we can work together towards a really solid agreement that enhances business development and protects all of the governing bodies.”
At the end of the meeting, Mayor Richard Hofeld and Marks embraced. He too, said he intends to promote better intergovernmental communication and keep the other bodies abreast of their continuing decision-making.
Interior renovations for “La Banque” Hotel are scheduled to begin around the end of January. Developer Dr. Claude Gendreau says he hopes to have the 18-room hotel, located at 2034 Ridge Road, operational by the end of summer 2013.