Name: Tom Grell
Office Sought: City Council
1. What is your largest priority for Woodstock if elected?
The platform for my candidacy is promoting smart growth, while maintaining the charm and character Woodstock is known for. I have been in Woodstock for over 40 years. For many of them, growth was not looked at as a positive for our community. I think that former mindset has put us behind many of our neighboring communities. Having lived here for many years, I know many of our town’s residents, and I ask them what they are looking for in Woodstock. People are looking for more variety in Woodstock. More places to shop. More places to dine. More places to go for family activities. I want to be a part of bringing that variety to Woodstock. I would like to help attract manufacturing business back to Woodstock.
These additions will help create jobs and the revenue that is sorely needed for our city’s streets. After a task force was assembled by the City of Woodstock, it was determined that it will take $60 million to fix the streets in town. With the current spending of $1-2 million annually on streets, it is crucial we grow revenue streams to address this overwhelming issue.
2. What changes should Woodstock make in the future?
I would like to see more of a proactive approach when it comes to the look and overall impression of our community. I love and support our Square, and will continue that if elected. It is beautiful, and the centerpiece to our town. It is also a big reason people come to visit and choose to live here. However, what I notice is once you start getting away from the Square, many of the areas in town seem to be in disrepair or poorly kept. This goes for both some commercial and some residential areas. Stretches along Route 47 are in shambles. We have a newly widened Route 14, prime for new developments. It is easy to tell where Crystal Lake ends and Woodstock begins. I pulled into town one day and saw a Real Woodstock sign hanging at the corner of Routes 14 and 47. The sign was crooked. The grass was overgrown. I recently saw the Woodstock City sign hanging upside down for days. This is not the impression I want people to have of Woodstock. This responsibility falls on the City of Woodstock, the business owners, and the residents of Woodstock.
3. How do you feel about Woodstock’s video gambling?
Video gambling is really not a big issue as far as I am concerned. I don’t believe it is up to local, state, or federal governments to tell anyone whether or not it is okay for them to spend their money on video gambling or gambling in general. I know many business owners in town who have them in their establishments. I think they have done a nice job in creating separate areas for those wanting to partake. I also know people who enjoy sitting down and playing. It is a source of entertainment for those who choose to play, and a source of revenue for both the business owner and the city. I would be open to reviewing the agreement the city and business owners have when it comes to the division of the revenue generated.
4. How do you feel about Woodstock’s TIF district?
I understand that the TIF district is a hot topic, and I have heard arguments for and against it. I will admit I went back and forth on this issue when it came up. We already pay extraordinarily high taxes in this state, and I am very vocal about my displeasure regarding them. However, as I stated earlier, I would like to see positive growth in Woodstock. Woodstock needs to be competitive with our neighboring communities when it comes to bringing in residents and businesses. The policies in Springfield have made many manufacturing businesses leave Illinois altogether, for other states that have chosen to be more business friendly.
I invite people to look at the map of the TIF2 district. (woodstockil.gov) The TIF2 district covers 562 acres that sorely in need of development and revitalization. If Woodstock is going to be competitive, we have to be willing to give incentives to contractors and business owners so they want to come and invest in Woodstock. I am not inferring we need to be another Crystal Lake or another Huntley replica. What I am saying is we can take some notes regarding their successes, and tailor it to what will work best for the growth we need. I think if we qualify good solid businesses, make smart and transparent choices, we can have long term success. I’m afraid if we wait, we will continue to fall behind.
5. How do you feel that Woodstock should work with the school board on housing within the TIF district?
As we know, the largest portion of our property tax bill goes to District 200, and this is due to the lack of school funding from Springfield. I have two children currently thriving in District 200. I want the best education for them, along with every student who will attend our schools. District 200 has two high schools which are both just over 50 percent capacity. The district as a whole is just over 70 percent capacity. If we want to attract residents to help fill our schools, we need to support quality education.
The TIF2 district is 562 acres. From that 55 acres are residential, with 270 existing housing units included. I think the City Council should look at what kind of student population increases District 200 gets from the TIF2 district, and review it from that point. Most of the current residential development is occurring outside the TIFF2 district, along McConnell Rd, and both the North and South ends of town. The property taxes that go to the school district from these homes would not be affected by the TIFF2 district.
6. What should Woodstock attempt to do with the Old Courthouse?
The courthouse is the focal point of the Woodstock Square. I am 100 percent behind the efforts being made to restore it, and find suitable uses for it. It is an already big draw for Woodstock, which can be capitalized on, only making it even more valuable to our city. The city took over the courthouse when it was in a state of disrepair, due to years of neglect from the former private owners. A lot of time and money has been spent to bring it back to its former glory. I have heard many options such as a boutique hotel, business meeting areas, banquet hall, art gallery, and museum, to name a few. I would be open to any viable options as long as they make fiscal sense, and keep with the theme of the courthouse. Their needs to be a return on the money invested, and I would be on the side of what best suits that need.
7. What else should voters know about you?
Personally: I have been a resident of Woodstock for over 40 years. My children attend school here. We are supporters of local businesses. I volunteer for Gavers Barndance, and was nominated as a board member for the Gavers Community Cancer Foundation. My son and I volunteer around town over the last couple of winters to help shovel sidewalks and driveways for those who physically cannot do it. The only reason I am running is because I love this town. I care about it the quality of life for our residents and the people who visit Woodstock. I want to be involved in helping make Woodstock the best it can be.
Professionally: As a sales account manager, throughout the course of my career, I have been tasked at making solid financial decisions for the companies I have worked for. I needed to invest their money, and partner with companies that would bring a strong return on that investment. I consistently grew my sales year over year. I know what it takes to grow, and grow profitably.
I hope to earn your trust and support on April 2.