Mayor Tim Baldermann delivered his annual state of the village address early Wednesday morning, touching on the importance of governmental partnerships, needed repairs for Interstate 80 and upcoming development in the New Lenox.
“This village and any village will only be successful if all the different entities work together,” Baldermann told the crowd at the conference center at Silver Cross Hospital.
The annual speech was hosted by the New Lenox Chamber of Commerce.
Baldermann explained why the village had helped the New Lenox Fire Protection District —with a $450,000 loan — reopen one of its fire stations that had closed after voters failed to approve a tax increase for a fifth time last March.
The loan was to keep the station open until a referendum could be passed, which did happen later in November.
Baldermann said that while the village had received some criticism for not keeping to the wishes of the voters, it decided that public safety was more important, and eventually “the community came around.”
“If you have a shuttered fire houses, your village won’t be successful,” he said. “If you have failing schools, your village will not be successful. If you don’t have an amazing park district (and library district) that provides great amenities, your village won’t be successful.”
On infrastructure, Baldermann said that “I-80 is a disaster” and that he will not allow his 16-year-old daughter to drive on the I-80 bridge over the Des Plaines River due to safety concerns.
The I-80 bridge has been recently deemed “critical” and “a high priority for replacement” in an inspection by the state.
“Infrastructure isn’t glamorous but it’s critical,” Baldermann said. He and members of the Will County Governmental League will meet with Gov. JB Prtizker in Springfield on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss needed repairs for the highway, he said.
Baldermann supports the idea of giving I-80 to the Illinois Tollway, which has the funding and means to fix the highway in half the time it would take the state, he said.
He said while he understands that people are wary of paying tollway fees, they are also shopping online more and more, which has increased truck traffic on these roads.
“What we should expect is that these companies that are making billions of dollars should be contributing to the infrastructure they are using and abusing.”
Locally, the village has worked with the county and the state to procure about $50 million for improvements at the I-80 and Route 30 interchange on the west side of town which, Baldermann said, will help market that part of town for further development opportunities. Work on that will start this year.
Infrastructure improvements in the village also include the new proposed wastewater treatment facility on Laraway Road, which will take about four years to complete.
There was some controversy with the original location for the facility last year, but the village was able to work with its residents and come up “with a location that makes sense,” Baldermann said.
On growth and development, Baldermann pointed to the 55 and older senior housing community that is proposed near the Silver Cross Hospital campus, saying that the village has waited for development in that area to fit its needs as well as its vision for the community’s future.
“We realize that the future of New Lenox is far more important than getting a quick win today, so we held out,” he said.
With 612 detached homes proposed, the village will see more development and amenities needed in the area, Baldermann said. He and village staff have met with hotel and restaurant developers in the past week who now want to come to the Interstate 355 corridor.
The development will also benefit the school districts with added impact fees without adding more students, said Baldermann.
Among some of the new businesses Baldermann highlighted that are coming to the village was Three Corners Grill and Tap which will take over the old Floyd’s Restaurant location on 901 E. Lincoln Highway. There is a new CVS adjacent to the Metra station under construction as well, and Pete’s Fresh Market is also on its way.
Baldermann said that the village is continuing to “market ourselves well beyond our borders” to continue further “quality growth” within the village.
The annual Christmas in the Commons celebration saw people visiting from 70 different communities last year, he said.
“I guarantee you many of them said ‘this is where we should live," Baldermann said, "this is where we want to be.’”