Participation, development among top issues in Elmwood Park
Elmwood Park Village Manager Paul Volpe. | David Pollard~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 16, 2012 6:23AM
ELMWOOD PARK — Few things about running a municipality are easy.
Elmwood Park Village Manager Paul Volpe helps make sure the village stays viable and competes with neighboring communities, and at the same time, ensures more routine matters are taken care of, such as garbage pick-up being done on time. Volpe has been the village manager since June 18 and says his job is about helping people and helping the community.
Q: Can you briefly describe the top three issues the village faces?
A: One of the things that we clearly are focused here on is to increase participation from the community and enhance our responsiveness. Since June 18, we’ve had a number of different community meetings where we’ve heard from people on things like the flood mitigation project, cops meeting, we had the electric aggregation meeting. We have pretty active participation from the public at our Village Board meetings. We want to hear from people … The second issue is the flooding in town and we’ve already taken the initial steps, after an awful long time of planning, with the flood mitigation project. It’s a very difficult project that is going to affect a lot of people’s lives and we’ve got to get it right and get it done right quickly. Thirdly, is to complete and continue the development of Grand and Harlem. The good news about Grand and Harlem is that we had a great head start. We want to continue with that redevelopment. We got pushed back with the recession, as did anybody in the development business, but we are now at a point we can reinvigorate that development partly through the beautification of the streetscape that we are beginning. It does more than beautify the neighborhood. It also encourages new businesses to come into the area and also strengthens the good businesses that are here already, like Caputo’s and others, and allows us to leverage that strength.
Q: Given the economy, how would you describe the village’s finances?
A: We’re in great shape. We just got a great bond rating from S&P. We just issued our first series of bonds, which was very successful, in connection with the flood mitigation project. Year after year, we manage very tightly. I’m the beneficiary of many years of tight management here that has allowed this budget to come in with a surplus in most years. We’ll have another surplus for the last period. That allows us to do things to issue bonds for the flood mitigation project and not increase property taxes. It allows us to decrease the property tax levy by 5 percent.
Q: How is the state’s pension crisis affecting the village?
A: I’m proud that our municipal pension is well funded. We always meet our obligations, police and fire pensions. We do make the required payments each year and we’re continuing to do that. Last year we made above and beyond the required pension contribution to the police pension.
Q: What is the village doing to promote economic development?
A: Streetscaping on Grand and Harlem, we just completed streetscaping on Belmont. We did streetscaping on North Avenue and we have a grant application to expand streetscaping on North Avenue for another block … Parking is a challenge in our community and we attempt to be creative in how we approach parking. You want to try to accommodate both in a reasonable fashion. We are also engaged in the comprehensive planning effort with the Metropolitan Planning Council. Those planning efforts not only address the community holistically, they also address economic development.
Q: Do you think the village is doing a good job at conducting its business transparently?
A: I think we’re doing a great job in terms of transparency. We have a website where we continuously update that with village news and with village matters. We have two board meetings a month where the public is invited to participate in the matters that the board takes upon itself.