FRANKLIN GROVE — When Mayor Bob Logan presented his State of the Village addess last week he presented an eight point plan to offer solutions to the challenges that face the village as they move into 2013-2014.
Franklin Grove has proven itself to be a fertile ground for volunteer solutions when needs have been recognized. The car show, park projects, Farming Heritage, Harvest Fest, Business Association, Women’s Club, FFA, the PTO, the Township, the Library, the historical society, the A-FC Schools and a number of other groups have provided people, finances and other resources to help bring things together when called upon to do so.
In times past we have been able to count on grants from the state or federal government to assist us with local problems. Those days are gone, and maybe forever. Now, we must look to ourselves and the people of our community for answers. To borrow a phrase - “It Takes a Village,” not just a group of six or eight village board members, but an entire village with a vision of what can be done, working together.
If we believe that people should have all the government they are willing to pay for, no more, no less, and I do believe this, then we must continue to limit local property tax increases to a minimum that meets our operational needs, seek grants when available, keep user fees to a minimum, collect all debts, and go to our tax payers with a referendum for major projects that need to be undertaken and no reserve is available. If we avoid a “spending” problem, we will be able to avoid a “revenue” problem.
To assist with the housing issues, I suggest that our Community Development Committee look into ways of encouraging property improvement. How can we do this?
We could begin by recognizing well kept properties; We might want to create a cooperative to share excess building materials and tools. We might find it necessary to provide additional assistance for hardship cases including poverty and aging, using existing volunteer groups, or possibly forming a task oriented volunteer group to help provide labor and other resources.
We should consider creating a foundation or investment group to purchase and redevelop foreclosed properties and remove the blight from our community they have become. I suggest we allocate at least a nominal amount in our budget as “action” money.
Our businesses all need a shot in the arm or they will not survive. We must continually focus on using our resources in a way that builds our community. We have already made a commitment by using our local bank as our depository to keep lending resources in the community. We must use local services when ever possible and continue to buy what we can locally, even when it costs a little more to do so.
We can conduct surveys that would suggest additional services and products that existing businesses might provide to increase their bottom line. Let us encourage those with an entrepreneurial spirit to do something new, and encourage them when they do, to provide additional goods and services rather than smothering their fresh new ideas with an old wet blanket. We might consider short term incentives where possible to help businesses get over the hump of a startup or overcome short-term obstacles.
We have been plagued recently with a number of burglaries, vandalisms and disrespect of persons and their properties. Without fear of reprisals, we must stand up and speak out when we are witness to such activities. Here we need to lead by example.
If we cower in silence because of fear or indifference because of apathy, the bullies, thieves and thugs win the day. Let’s get back to the day when neighbors had each other’s backs. Let’s foster a zero tolerance for the type of bad and criminal behavior that threatens the personal security, joy and happiness of our homes and neighborhoods.
The bad actors and true criminals have not forgotten that here are 168 hours in a week; we must not either. Our police officers are good people and good at what they do - let’s help them do their job, by providing an extra set of eyes, working to give them more community presence, and additional tools, such as computers in the car to make their time more profitable. We may want to institute a “hot line” for tips to fill gaps in our investigations. Encourage and support their efforts.
We have done well in accounting for the finances of the village and taken the advice of our auditors when they spotted weaknesses. We need to engage in an aggressive effort to find additional resources that do not take more from our citizens. That includes seeking for grant funding, low cost loans, and outside investment in our community. A passive approach will probably get us by, it won’t move us forward.
As an example to others, and to insure we can provide essential services, we must repair and maintain village properties as much as our resources allow. When we set our spring cleanup day, let’s set some targeted goals.
We await grant funding to replace the south well pump house, restore the water main under the tracks, and upgrade the sanitary sewer system. We may have to seek contingency plans if that money doesn‘t come to us. We have engaged in cooperative talks with Ashton in an effort to meet emergency requirements for both villages that may be expanded to reduce day to day operating costs for the two villages.
We are entering a new era in our public works department as we do each time a person retires and a new person comes on board. We need to build on the gains we made during Don and Ron’s time together, as Ron and Jorden’s work together. We have great expectations on how Jorden will grow into the job. We need to provide the direction and support our staff need to do the job we want.
As much as it takes a vision, and it takes a village, it has been said that everything rises and falls on leadership. That means on this team, the mayor, the clerk, and the village board,. if good things are to happen. What’s our job? Our job is to take input from the village and create, and then impart a vision. We are be the chief promoters, cheerleaders and coaches if you will. We must make a commitment personally to dig in and make a difference. Are we up to the challenge? I say yes, but if not, let’s get there.
There are ways to acknowledge the contributions of the people of our community. When we cannot reward with money, we can express appreciation in a hundred ways.
Encouragement ignites the fires of imagination in the minds of other would-be heroes as to how they might contribute.
I suggest we consider a major annual community social event a dress up or black-tie affair. I’d call it The Academy of Awards to draw attention to those who really do make a difference in Franklin Grove.
We have been stymied by what has been going on all around us. It’s time for us to take charge of our own destiny and the community we serve. Let us lay aside any pettiness and press toward a goal. Look around us, we must become the mentors to engage, to recruit, to train and encourage a new generation of leadership for Franklin Grove.