O’Fallon will stress diversifying its economy to safeguardlosing ground during economic downturns, Mayor Herb Roach told residents at arecent Town Hall meeting.
Roach explained the push for development at Illinois 158 andReider Road, along Interstate 64, as one of great potential for the city,stating that they can’t wait for the rest of the city’s targeted commercialareas to fill up before developing another one.
“If you wait, you’ll be behind the curve. If we want tocontinue growth, we have to,” he said. “We can’t get too dependent on one kindof business. We want to diversify, so when the economy takes a hit, we’re OK.There will always be dips, valleys and high cycles.”
Roach said water is already out in the Reider Road area, andsewer work is anticipated for about 250 acres on the west side closer to Illinois 158. The east side will be more challenging.
“We are looking at ways to make that happen, plan for thefuture,” he said. “We have active interest out there. We’ve been talking tosome developers. It’s not pie in the sky.”
Roach mentioned that such businesses as a distributioncenter and light manufacturing could be placed there.
“This will help us continue our growth. It might become areality quicker than some of us anticipated,” he said.
Other business happenings
More new businesses have opened and updates for existingbusinesses are under way in O’Fallon, noted Grant Litteken, assistant cityadministrator.
Litteken shared a report from the Community DevelopmentDepartment as to what projects have been approved, and what might be coming,during the July 11 town hall.
Litteken said Southview Plaza is expected to be razed by thespring, with hopes for another development to take its place.
Lion’s Choice, a fast-food restaurant specializing in roastbeef sandwiches, opened July 10 to “rave reviews,” he said.
“It is one of thefirst Lion’s Choice in the country to serve breakfast,” Litteken said.
It is in the former TimHorton’s along Green Mount Road. Previously, a Lion’s Choice was located nearWalmart in the early 2000s, but closed as the sole Southern Illinois location.
Starbucks is now open on U.S. 50, across from Walmart.
The McDonald’s on U.S. 50, near the Walmart complex,will undergo a remodeling, Litteken said.
Lincoln Park Villas, a senior living community near thelibrary, is now moving residents in, he said.
An office building near Moto-Markon U.S. 50 has opened.
Some of the approved projects that will be open in thefuture include Park Ridge Station, a commercial lot near Venita Drive.
Two high-quality IMAX-type screens have been approved in twophases for Marcus Theatres, and the first one at O’Fallon 15 Cine is expectedto be open by Thanksgiving.
Johnny’s Car Wash will be at the former Car Credit City loton U.S. 50.
First Street Exchange, a two-tenant building including acafé, was approved in June. It will be in the old EMS building at 131 E. FirstSt., and Brad McMillin and Kevin Harris are the developers.
Litteken also discussed more residential homes being built — themost in any metro-east community, he said.
“We are the fastest-growing community in southwesternIllinois,” Litteken said, touting the city’s efforts for smart growth. “And it’salso one of the fastest in the St. Louis metropolitan area.”
Public Works projects update
In other reports, Jeff Taylor, director of public works,updated residents on construction projects that are in the works. He alsoreported on curbs, patching and other usual maintenance work. (See Mayor Roach’s column this week.)
Taylor also reported on curbs, patching and other usualmaintenance work. He said the Presidential Streets Stormwater RemediationProject, which is three phases, is on target. The first two phases have beencompleted.
Council candidates sought
Roach, who served as an alderman for six years, and CityClerk Jerry Mouser, who served 19 years, joined four current aldermen inexplaining what serving on the city council entails.
Several residents raised their hands that they wereinterested in finding out more information.
By the next municipal election in April, nearly half of theO’Fallon City Council could change, an estimated 5-6 seats at this time.
“We could have these positions coming available in the nextfive to eight months,” he said.
Ward 5 Alderman Courtney Marsh resigned last month becauseof moving. Applications for the seat are being accepted through July 20. Thatperson would serve until the April 2019 election. Roach said he would interviewcandidates after the application deadline.
Three aldermen are running for St. Clair County governmentpositions in the Nov. 6 election: Matthew Smallheer, Ward 4, is the Republicancandidate for County Board District 18 and does not have a Democratic opponent;Richie Meile, Ward 1, is the Democratic candidate for County Board District 23;and Andrew Lopinot, Ward 5, is the Democratic candidate for treasurer.Depending on election results, those seats could be vacated.
Mayor Roach said a couple aldermen may not seek re-election,to be announced later.
“You’ve got to do it for the right reasons. You’ve got to doit because you care about this community, you care that it continues to be thehometown where families want to come, where businesses want to come. We don’twant to lose that,” he said.
Roached called the city his family.
He said an alderman must be prepared for the timecommitment. It’s more than attending two city council meetings a month. It iscommittee meetings every Monday.
“The time commitment is important,” he said.
Thirdly, he said, an alderman must be prepared “to make amistake.”
But learning that doesn’t prevent one from getting thingsdone, he said.
One must be ready for people to be upset with them.
“In your ward, some people will want it done this way, andother people will want it done that way. Your role is to represent all thepeople in your ward,” he said.
Roach said aldermen have to study — read things at home.Sometimes, you can get a document that’s up to 100 pages.
“Be prepared to listen to the other side. The only way wecome to the best result is to listen to both sides,” he said. “Be prepared tospeak your mind.”
Also, make sure you keep to the topic, not attack.
“Don’t make it personal,” he said, advising to talk about the subject matter, notthe individual.
“It’s good to have different voices,” he said. “The moreinput we get, the better off we are.”
“Whatever you do, and however you do it, is a reflection ofeverybody else that serves on the council,” he said.
Roach said some residents have come to talk to him already.If people couldn’t attend the meeting, he wants them to contact him.
“We need good people to willing the make the commitment forthe time and energy do to the job,” he said.
Mouser advised anyone interested in publicservice needs to listen to the people.
“Go on the street. Start talking to residents,” he said.
Ward 3 Alderman Kevin Hagarty agreed that communication iskey. “You have to be available,” he said.
Ward 1 Ross Rosenberg said he walks and talks to about25-30 residents at a time. He estimated he spends about 25 hours a week on citybusiness, talking to constituents. He has learned that you will be disagreedwith.
“You’ll get shots fired at you. The key is not to fire thesecond shot. Say, ‘Thank you very much,’” he said.
Roach said that City Administrator Walter Denton will getany appointee or elected new council member up to speed on what has beenhappening in the city.
At Monday’s City Council meeting, Roach announced that morethan 900 views had been counted of the Town Hall meeting on the city’s officialFacebook page.