Village might create community development director post

RANTOUL — A village of Rantoul community development director position could be created.

Outgoing Village Administrator Jeff Fiegenschuh, whose last day on the job was Friday, recommended creation of the position.

Village departments have been undergoing reorganization this year. Inspections Director Dan Culkin retired from a full-time position in May, and a committee of staff and elected officials was formed to help the administrator with reorganizing the inspections department to increase efficiency.

A neighborhood services coordinator position was created to which Brenda Runyon was hired.

After Mike Loschen resigned as community development director, the position was reorganized, and Ken Turner took over the position of HUD/grants administrator.

“Over the past several months, our team has been looking at ways to complete the reorganization by bringing economic development into the fold,” Fiegenschuh said in a written report to the board at last week’s study session.

“This concept will ensure that our economic development official works closely with our inspections and planning people This increased communication will ensure that potential developers receive one unified message on what is allowed and not allowed.”

Fiegenschuh said the village will advertise nationally to fill the position if the village board approves the addition.
Board trustee Hank Gamel said community development “represents at least two of the pillars of the Rantoul Tomorrow Initiative ... from neighborhoods to economic development.”

Gamel said the village needs to be proactive.

“We don’t want the (economic) interest to pass us by because we’re not ready,” Gamel said, urging the board to support creation of the position “because it’s a milestone in progress.”

Human Resources Director Katherine Johnston said the position would carry a proposed salary of $90,000-$126,000 a year.

Residency limit adjustment
Public works Director Greg Hazel asked the board to waive the current requirement that the public works department’s assistant director live within 4 miles of the village.

He asked that the limit be expanded to 20 miles, similar to the allowable limit for police lieutenants.

By doing so, Hazel believes the village will be able to entice a larger and more-qualified number of candidates for the position, which has been vacant since Pete Passarelli left earlier this year.

“The after-hours response in the event of emergencies typically falls on the director,” Hazel said of any need for the assistant director to live nearby.

Said board trustee Jennifer Fox, “I get it that we’re trying to get more qualified applicants, but I’m never a fan of letting residency go.”

The board was asked to consider the measure at its Sept. 12 meeting.

Transfer of utilities
Hazel also told the board that the Air Force — nearly 25 years after the closure of Chanute Air Force Base — is nearly ready to transfer ownership of the utilities on the former base to the village at no cost.

The village has operated the utilities under a lease agreement since the closure.  

The utilities include stormwater, sanitary sewer, potable water, and electric distribution.

The village earlier purchased the natural gas system.

Microloan for prep academy
The board was asked to approve a $20,000 microloan to Midwest Prep Academy.

The seven-year loan at 2 percent interest would enable the academy, which started operations this year in Rantoul after several years in northern Illinois, to outfit its own fitness equipment. The academy currently uses Forum Fitness Center.

The prep academy is leasing fields, locker rooms and classroom space from the village.

The academy “would prefer to have their own equipment and space, which will also be available in the off season to Rantoul residents,” Economic Development Director Rebecca Motley said.

The academy operates from July-November.

Property transfer
The board was asked to accept  the transfer of three parcels in the 900 area of the former Air Force base — an area that includes the old base landfills.

The board approved environmental covenants for the sites, which also include the new solar facility, in the spring.

Hazel said the village will have no liability for the property.

“It falls on the (Department of Defense),” Hazel said.

The board was also asked to accept a 2 1/2-acre parcel at the corner of Century Boulevard and Flessner Avenue from the Robeson/Roessler Group.

Hazel said a sanitary main divides the property, “so it makes it difficult for true development, but it would make additional parking or green space. Certain development could be on it, or it could be offered to an adjoining property.”

Zoning plan
The board reviewed the zoning ordinance update final draft as recommended by the Planning and Zoning Commission and presented by representatives of the Regional Planning Commission.

Fiegenschuh said the change makes the village’s zoning code much more uniform and non contradictory.

“The whole reason we did this was to simplify the code,” Fiegenschuh said. “We’ve had a lot of complaints about the design guidelines and how different they were. In fact the new hotel that just went up didn’t meet our former guidelines. It hindered development.”

Fiegenschuh said the new code is more developer friendly.

“It’s more streamlined,” he said, “and we don’t have language that contradicts language elsewhere in our code.”

Advertising proposal
Human Resources Director Katherine Johnston asked the board to consider amending village policy that requires that every village position be advertised “in a newspaper of general circulation.”

She said some of the village positions are highly specialized, and not having to advertise locally would reduce costs to the village.

“The proposal would require that the HR manager list any open position in at least three physical or web-based locations,” Johnston said. “This allows us to better target our applicants. We can save a little bit of money and get better-qualified candidates.”

dhinton@rantoulpress.com

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