Wilmette officals look at village’s future
Wilmette Police Chief Brian King chatted last May with a dispatcher in the police department's communications center. The center's communications and 911 systems will be replaced and upgraded in 2013. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
WHERE: Wilmette, Kenilworth
WHAT: villages, parks, school districts
Updated: February 19, 2013 12:23PM
WILMETTE — Officials who peered into 2013 at the end of 2012 said their “to-do” lists this year will include managing development and building projects, guarding public safety and the public purse, and keeping a wary eye on Springfield all the while.
“This will be one of the busiest years we’ve had recently,” Wilmette Park District President Jim Brault said, with administrators juggling four separate projects.
First, the district will shut its Centennial ice rinks down between April and the end of August to do a $2 million upgrade of the complex’s refrigeration and HVAC systems. Then the Wilmette Golf Course is set to close in August and reopen in 2014 after its $2 million upgrade, Brault said.
The district may also build a four-court paddle tennis facility at West Park for at least $1.2 million, he said, and officials also hope to complete the district’s long-mulled Lakefront Master Plan this year.
Wilmette School District 39 Superintendent Raymond Lechner said science will be big in 2013; both completing the expansion of Wilmette Junior High School’s science facilities, and completing the five-year phased rollout of the district’s new science curriculum.
District administrators will expand Mandarin Chinese education availability, currently open to fifth grade students, to sixth grade classes, Lechner said. They will also continue to gearing up for changes in core education standards set for 2014,
More worrisome is the potential shift of teachers’ pension liability from the state to local districts, he said: “How we would pay for that is my prime concern.”
Wilmette Village President Chris Canning said how Springfield legislators decide to handle its public safety pensions will also affect local governments.
“Every day that (public safety pension reform) doesn’t occur has a short and long term impact on the village’s financial situation,” he said.
Even a change in teachers’ pensions impacts the village, because “It puts a greater burden on our residents, making it harder for all of us to raise the funds we need to deliver services residents expect us to provide,” Canning added.
Outside of pension and revenue uncertainties, however, Canning said Wilmette can look forward to positive developments this year. That includes the start of construction on the proposed Marriott Hotel in west Wilmette, and progress on the multi-story commercial-residential project proposed for 611 Green Bay Road.
At least one change is in the works for the village’s police department, Police Chief Brian King said. Its communication center, which has been in operation since 1968, will get a new radio console and 911 emergency system. The new console will replace one purchased in 1991. The current 911 phone system has been in operation since 1992.
King said his department will also step up its heroin education and awareness programs this year, in the face of increasing heroin-related police activity.
In neighboring Kenilworth, village officials will work this year to determine how best to upgrade aging infrastructure without the financial flexibility of home rule status, Village Manager Patrick Brennan said.