FOX LAKE – Bringing a hotel and restaurant to Lakefront Park would be Village President Ed Bender’s first priority if he is re-elected in April.
The terms of the village president, three of six trustees – Kevin Burt, Valerie Griseta and Jon Mumford – and Village Clerk Kimberly Mate are up in April. All five have said they will run for re-election.
Mate was appointed to the position this year after the last clerk resigned.
The five are running as a slate of Focused on Fox Lake Party candidates with the goal of increasing economic development, Bender said. He is finishing his first term as village president and was a trustee for eight years before that.
His said his focus has been to get the village’s financial situation in order and increase savings from less than a month’s worth to a year’s worth by early summer.
“We paid very close attention to our expenses,” Bender said. “We reissued bonds. We closed at bonds that were at say 7 or 8 percent and reissued them for 4 or 5 percent. We went to the departments and asked them to watch very close what we’re spending.”
Now, he said, he and the rest of the board can turn their attention to other priorities, mainly bringing a hotel and restaurant to village-owned Lakefront Park.
Bender has been working on the project for several years, he said, but took the idea public this week when he brought a few developers to Tuesday’s board meeting. The village hasn’t decided on whom it would work with or under what circumstances, he said, but he has a rough concept of what officials would like there.
Besides the restaurant and hotel with 60 to 80 rooms, Bender would like to see a boardwalk, marina and swimming pool, he said.
There are two entities interested in the idea: Choice Hotels and a group of independent investors, Bender said.
The village board has not discussed whether to sell the property or set up a long-term lease.
“My personal position, right now ... I would like to keep the land and give it on a lease basis so we have a monthly or yearly flow,” Bender said, adding that it’s “strictly a business decision as the numbers play out.”
Except for man hours, the village has not invested any resources or tax dollars into the project.
Besides pursuing development at Lakefront Park, Bender said he intends to push economic development in other ways, including hiring an economic development or marketing director.
That idea was put forward by Trustee Donny Schmit at the last village board meeting.
The board was brainstorming short-term and long-term goals as part of a budget workshop.
Trustee Nancy Koske also proposed changing the building department into a community development department.
As the village board dealt with financial issues, it was thinking on a one- to two-year basis, Bender said. Now it needs to think more long-term, he said.