McHENRY – The city’s progress depends on “partnerships, cooperation and collaboration” to face the economic challenges that lie ahead, McHenry Mayor Sue Low said in her annual state of the city address.
Low lauded McHenry’s administrative staff and outlined several communitywide accomplishments and projects of 2012. She spoke at Wednesday’s McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon, held at the McHenry Country Club, 820 N. John St.
“When people ask me what makes McHenry a great community and how we manage to grow yet maintain that small-town feeling, I tell them it is our people,” she said. “People like each one of you. We are here to serve you, but we also rely on you. Together we will accomplish our goals; of that I am confident.”
The annual Chamber luncheon gave Low a campaigning opportunity as she faces a challenger in the mayoral race for the first time in a decade. Steven Cuda, a former McHenry mayor, is seeking to replace Low in the April 9 election.
Low has served as McHenry mayor since she was appointed in 2003 by her predecessor, Pam Althoff, now a state senator. Cuda, an attorney in Woodstock, served two terms as McHenry mayor, from 1993 through 2001.
Early in her address, Low noted that 2012 was the “third consecutive year the City Council has frozen the tax levy, realizing the strain homeowners are already placed under, despite the fact this is lost revenue for the city.”
Among the developments highlighted in the address: the police department’s partnership with schools on safety, a dog park set to open this summer, commercial growth activity and a major road construction project.
In December, the police department and the McHenry Township Fire Protection District teamed up with area school districts to form a safety committee to improve school security with ongoing training, meetings and increased awareness.
After more than six years of searching and planning, the Parks and Recreation Department, led by director Pete Merkel, secured a 4-acre site as the city’s first dog park.
“The park will include a dedicated area for small dogs, large dog exercise area, a shelter and tables, and water fountain,” Low said.
In the economic development front, the city issued three new commercial building permits and 64 permits for commercial and industrial additions and alterations, an increase of 14 percent from 2011, Low said.
Also last year, 17 new businesses opened and five either relocated or expanded their operations.
The city anticipates a $7 million state road construction project to further commercial development and ease traffic congestion. An improvement project for the West Elm Street and North Richmond Road intersection, also known as West Route 120 and North Route 31, is funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Construction on the project, which will widen Richmond Road near Panera Bread and Applebee’s, is expected to begin this summer.