Life Amplified

Trustee Talk

In this series, elected officials from the Tinley Park Village Board discuss issues related to the activities of the committees they chair.

Trustee Talk
Michael G. Mueller, Community Development Committee Chairperson
Issued: March 25, 2021

Mueller ResizedI wanted to address some recent concerns in response to an article in the Chicago Tribune about a potential incentive for a new restaurant at the Boulevard at Central Station.

The Village Board is considering approving a $300,000 incentive agreement on April 13 with a new restaurant to be operated by Ed Nemec, who was formerly affiliated with the Dancing Marlin in Frankfort. The proposed concept is an Italian-inspired, tapas-style menu, a concept that would complement other Downtown Tinley businesses. Plans include building out 6,900 square feet of space, which will include a 134-seat restaurant, a full bar, an outdoor dining area and banquet space.

Part of the Village’s Strategic Plan includes “continuing to develop the downtown in order to further Tinley Park as a vibrant destination.” The Boulevard as a whole is an exciting project that will bring more residents and visitors to the downtown area while providing new retail spaces, which will attract businesses to the area.

The business owner will be investing approximately $1.9 million to build out the new restaurant concept. Of that project cost, the developer will be contributing toward the build-out cost, along with the Village’s incentive. The Village will use the TIF increment generated by the overall development to provide $230,000 for TIF-eligible expenses and $70,000 in sales tax sharing over five years.

Providing incentives to attract new businesses that have extraordinary costs is a common tool used in economic development by municipalities throughout the country. The Village has been trying to bring a new mixed-use project to Downtown Tinley for the last 15 years at this location. When the Village Board approved the initial agreement for the Boulevard at Central Station development, the Village required that a full-service restaurant occupy Phase 1 of the development. 

The developer has brought forward a restaurant that the Village believes will be complementary to the downtown. COVID-19 has made it more challenging for businesses to get started, and therefore partnerships with municipalities are needed more now than ever. The Village believes this restaurant can be successful in Downtown Tinley, and the investment is in the space. In the event the restaurant is not successful, the space has been fully built out for a future restaurant, and that initial investment will remain.    
The use of the TIF funds are restricted, and separate accounting of the TIF funds must be maintained. In short, if development doesn’t happen, tax increment may not be generated. To learn more about TIFs, please visit the Village’s website.

In an effort to attract new businesses to town, the Village has worked with our existing businesses in a variety of ways. Downtown Tinley businesses are eligible to apply for our Oak Park Avenue Grants to help with facade improvements, retail build-out, code compliance and signage. The following businesses were awarded grants:

  • SIP Wine Bar ($70,000)
  • Avocado Theory ($70,000)
  • Ed & Joe’s ($5,000)
  • Cuzin Pizza and Neighborhood Bar ($15,000)
  • J.W. Hollstein’s ($14,350)
  • 17326 Oak Park Avenue ($70,000)
As a result of COVID-19, the Village developed an Outdoor Dining Grant that awarded $39,000 in assistance to our existing restaurants who were able to offer outdoor dining. This past year, we launched a Noteworthy News electronic newsletter for our businesses to have quick access to important information like the Payroll Protection Program and DCEO’s BIG Grant, among so many others. One business in town obtained a $50,000 grant as a result of the Village providing this information. 

Our goal is not to hurt other businesses by providing this incentive, but rather to create additional vibrancy and synergy in Downtown Tinley to help our existing businesses continue to thrive.

Trustee Talk
William A. Brennan, Public Safety Committee Chairperson
Issued: Jan. 29, 2021

Trustee William BrennanIt’s been a long and difficult road, but it seems we’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic and the adverse effect it’s had on everyday life. With vaccinations ramping up and restrictions being slowly lifted across the state and country, it’s my sincere belief that we’ll start to see a bit of normalcy return to our lives soon.
As many of you know, the State of Illinois, the Cook County Department of Public Health and the National Guard have opened a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Tinley Park Convention Center. It’s the first in the Chicago area, and its creation involved a massive effort between the Village’s Public Safety team and the aforementioned organizations.
The site is anticipated to be there for three to six months and will vaccinate as many as 5,000 people per day, but these numbers could fluctuate depending on demand. In addition to negotiating with the State and County for the use of the Convention Center, the Village is also providing safety, security, EMS and logistical support for the operation. The associated costs will be reimbursed up to 75% through the federal disaster declaration and other federal funding sources that become available.
Vaccination registration is required by visiting the website or by calling (833) 308-1988. Vaccinations at the site are available to those living or working in Cook County. If you live in Will County, you can check out the State’s Vaccination Site Locator to find a site near you. Many stores, such as Jewel-Osco and Walgreens, are offering vaccinations, so be sure to check out if there’s a location near you.
No matter where you go, though, the availability of appointments will be dependent on how many doses each location has access to. The vaccine has only been available for two months, meaning many sites have limited supplies right now and are waiting on additional vaccines to accommodate the large number of people who are seeking appointments. Your ability to get an appointment is also reliant on where you fall in the vaccination phase. Currently, the State is in Phase 1B, which includes members of the general public age 65 and older, as well as police, firefighters and other essential workers. As the State moves through future phases, more of the general public will become eligible to get vaccinated. If you can’t get an appointment the first time, keep trying!

In addition to helping tens of thousands of people get inoculated to the virus, the Convention Center site will also have a beneficial effect on tourism. The people that come here for their shots will inevitably shop in our stores and dine in our restaurants. Staff working at the site are already staying in our hotels, which provides a nice boost to our local economy that I’m sure will aid in our financial recovery from the pandemic.
I’m proud that the Village was prepared to battle the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to a comprehensive contingency plan created when the first signs of the virus were beginning to show up abroad over a year ago. Kudos to the entire staff – especially Emergency Management, Fire, Police and EMS – for being able to maintain their high level of service, even as workers were getting sick and had to quarantine. Part of this is due to an internal contact tracing plan developed to keep track of those who’d been exposed to COVID-19 and those they may have been in contact with after exposure. This helped us keep staff levels viable while tracing and quarantining were ongoing. In all, we were able to modify our operations to meet demand, and staff responded exceptionally well.
All of this goes to show what good planning and collaboration can do in a crisis. Thanks to great planning by our public safety departments and cooperation with the counties and the State, we were able to get through the eye of the storm. I’m looking forward to sharing brighter skies with all of you very soon and gathering again in person like Tinley Park does so well!

Trustee Talk
Diane M. Galante, Finance Committee Chairperson
Issued: Dec. 23, 2020

Trustee Diane GalanteBefore I start, I just wanted to wish everyone a happy holiday. It’s been said time and time again, but it bears repeating: It’s been a tough year filled with countless challenges. I think everyone deserves to enjoy a little holiday fun!

As your elected official, it’s my honor to help maintain the Village’s long history of good financial stewardship. To that end, I’m pleased to report that the Village Board recently approved several tax levy abatements that will ultimately save residents hundreds of dollars on their average property tax bills. The Village’s required 2020 levies to pay outstanding bonds and interest payments due in the upcoming calendar year are being reduced by nearly $1.9 million, which directly translates into reduced property taxes. The total amounts abated represent 68.7% of the total debt service of the Village and Tinley Park Public Library combined.

At the same meeting, the board also adopted a property tax levy request for Tax Year 2020 in the amount of $28,143,499 million, a 2.08% increase over the previous year's requested tax levy dollars. Knowing how difficult this year has been on many families, the Village worked hard to keep the overall levy increase to less than 5% of the prior year’s extended levy.

Allocating certain revenues each year to pay our bonds helps keep property taxes lower and is preferable to raising taxes and then giving a rebate, as some other communities do. That money should stay with our residents from the get-go. An added bonus is the fact the administrative costs associated with issuing rebates is virtually nonexistent with our method.

Over the past 10 years, the annual average residential tax savings generated by abatements on homes with a market value between $150,000 and $350,000 is between $157 and $366. During this same period, homeowners have received and benefited from cumulative savings of between $1,570 and $3,663 on the Village portion of their tax bill because of the abatements, which have totaled more than $43.3 million for the past 10 years.

Due to the reduction of the required tax levy for debt, the Village’s tax levy is $1.9 million lower than if abatements were not approved, reducing the Village tax rate by an estimated $0.119 per $100 of Equalized Assessed Value, and by an estimated $0.011 to the library rate.

In all that we do, our prime mission is to manage our Village finances in a way that keeps taxes as low as possible while still giving residents the excellent quality of life they deserve. In financially difficult times, that charge is even more important than ever.

Trustee Talk
Michael W. Glotz, Public Works Committee Chairperson
Issued: Dec. 11, 2020

Mike GlotzHere in Tinley Park, we’re always looking for ways to make our streets better. As such, I’m happy to report that the Village Board recently approved an agreement with Will County to make improvements to 80th Avenue from 191st to 183rd streets and transfer control of the road in that area to the Village once work is complete.

Included in the agreement are plans to widen the road and install additional turn lanes and street lighting. We’ll also modernize existing traffic signals and install new ones, update the landscaping and sidewalks, and install a multi-use path and water main. Reconstruction of the structure over the Union Drainage ditch and I-80 is also part of the plan.

As I mentioned earlier, the agreement lays out a plan for Will County to transfer jurisdiction of 80th Avenue to the Village after construction is done. While Will County will retain ownership of the intersection, this jurisdictional transfer will allow the Village to control the roadway for future improvements, as well as for things such as snow plowing and salting.

Some of the costs of these improvements will be shared by Will County and the Village. The current estimated costs for the shared improvements are $7.3 million, with the Village responsible for the costs in excess of $5.6 million.

Will County will go out to bid in March, with a tentative construction start time in the summer. If all goes as planned, work will be complete by the summer of 2023. As always, I’ll keep you updated on the progress of the project at future Village Board meetings and columns.

Until next time, have a very happy holiday and a prosperous new year!

Trustee Talk

Cynthia A. Berg, Marketing Committee Chairperson
Issued: Oct. 1, 2020

Trustee Cynthia A. BergPutting on fun events in the middle of a pandemic can be a bit tricky to pull off. In fact, many other communities have suspended or outright cancelled events this year due to COVID-19. Luckily for Tinley Park, we’ve been able to reimagine some of our existing events to be more socially distant and create a few brand-new events that let residents participate on their own.

These new or reimagined events have been pretty popular so far this year. More than a thousand people came out to the two Music in the Plaza events the Village hosted this summer in Zabrocki Plaza, and we received more than 100 entries in our Benches on the Avenue Scavenger Hunt contest. The Cruise Night Parades that drove through various Tinley Park neighborhoods this summer were also a huge hit, with many residents commenting on how cool it was to see classic cars without ever having to leave their front lawns! Our Marketing Department continues to work diligently on ways to bring the fun to Tinley Park without compromising residents’ safety.

We’re going to keep the fun coming in October with our Halloween House Decorating Contest, which is going on now through Oct. 16 and asks folks to make their houses as spooky as possible for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the Tinley Park business of their choice. Also, trick-or-treating this year will be from 3:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, with recommendations in place to keep everyone safe and socially distant.

The new version of the Downtown Tinley Boo Bash, coming Sunday, Oct. 25, will conform to Phase 4 guidelines and provide all kinds of frightening fun. The re-imagined and completely free Boo Bash will take place at noon in Zabrocki Plaza, with safely sized groups of people walking through the event to participate in fun activities like crafts, costumes, trick-or-treating and more. Tickets will be available online Oct. 12, so stay tuned!

The Marketing Department is also in the early planning stages for this year’s slate of holiday events, which will be designed to be both fun and safe for all participants. COVID can’t keep us down!

On another note, we recently merged the former Community Resources and Marketing and Branding commissions into the new Marketing Commission. This new commission will work to support Tinley Park activities and events, the Village’s tourism initiatives and brand, and the Village’s community involvement and engagement strategies. I’m excited to get to work with this new commission and will keep you updated on all the great ideas it’s sure to produce.

Until we speak again, have a very Happy Halloween and stay safe!

Trustee Talk
William P. Brady, Administration and Legal Committee Chairperson
Issued: Sept. 25, 2020

Trustee Bill BradyHere in Tinley Park, we have a great group of gifted, hard-working employees who use their combined talents for the betterment of the Village and its residents.
I’m pleased to announce a new member of the Tinley Park family, Angela Arrigo, a Tinley Park resident who started this past Monday as our Human Resources Director. Angela comes to us after serving most recently as the Assistant Human Resources Director for Orland Park.
We received 40 applications from many excellent candidates, and this was narrowed down to eight people for first-round interviews. Staff from the Manager’s Office and Finance Department conducted these meetings, and I joined them for the second round after the field was narrowed down to four candidates. While all the candidates I saw were excellent, I couldn’t help but agree with staff that Angela was the best candidate for the position.
Angela has more than 20 years of professional-level experience in various human resources roles, fostering organizational strategic objectives and driving operational HR efficiencies. She has proven experience in improving efficiencies in the HR delivery of services, and places high emphasis on providing employees with the tools they need to succeed.
Angela has a Bachelor of Science degree in commerce and human resources management from DePaul University. She’s also a Society of Human Resources Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) and has Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certifications. She also has Six Sigma Green Belt certification from Northern Illinois University.
I’d also like to congratulate our new police officer Cody Marciano, who will start with us Oct 5. Officer Marciano is already a full-time patrol officer elsewhere, so he won’t need to go to the police academy, and instead will start with our Field Training officers. He served the Village as an auxiliary officer from 2014 to 2019.
Yet even as we say hello to new employees, we also say goodbye to two others who have served Tinley Park admirably for years. This week marks the retirement of Community Development Department office coordinator Jean Bruno, who has been with us since 1997, and building inspector Gene Lode, an employee since 2003, will retire this Wednesday. Many thanks to both of them for their hard work and dedication to Tinley Park over the years. We wish you well in your future endeavors!

Trustee Talk
Michael G. Mueller, Community Development Committee Chairperson
Issued: Sept. 18, 2020

Mueller ResizedThere are several new and exciting developments in the works that point to brighter economic skies ahead for the Village of Tinley Park. Among these is the Brixmor redevelopment of the Tinley Park Plaza shopping center on the east side of Harlem Avenue, just south of 159th Street. Once complete, this plaza will be a great boon for Tinley Park and a catalyst for economic growth in the area surrounding it.

Brixmor’s ambitious, phased renovation plan will cost about $22 million and includes demolition of approximately 87,000 square feet of the in-line center and construction of new retail spaces to accommodate the retailers under contract, as well as others yet to be determined. Future renovations will include the creation of new tenant spaces, improvements to the north end of the in-line center, and separating the current in-line center into two buildings for better access to loading docks and service entrances essential for deliveries.

As our northern “front door,” this area is the first thing many people see when driving into town, so its vitality is very important to the well-being of the Village as a whole because its health – good or poor – ultimately reflects on the rest of the town. In addition to the shopping center, Pete’s Fresh Market has plans for the old Kmart across the street, and together these areas could be a strong catalyst for redevelopment that the 159th Street/Harlem Avenue corridor needs.

When you combine the draw of the current tenants with the enhanced retail spaces that Brixmor will bring, you get a synergy that should help draw other retailers to the center, reducing vacancy levels and increasing customer traffic. It’s a win-win for the developer, the retail establishments and the Village of Tinley Park as a whole.

As part of a redevelopment agreement the Village Board recently approved with Brixmor, the Village will offer financial assistance in an amount not to exceed $9.9 million, or 50% of the actual project costs, whichever is lower. Specifically, this financial assistance will come from a combination of TIF incremental revenues from the shopping center properties alone, and incremental municipal sales taxes (1%) from all the businesses located in the shopping center over a 10-year period. A maximum of $8.1 million of TIF-eligible costs are to be paid from the TIF increment generated, with the remainder (as much as $1.8 million) to be paid from incremental sales taxes.

Village assistance is vital, as renovations wouldn’t be possible without the strong partnership between the Village and the developers. Like many other areas in town, the 159th Street/Harlem Avenue corridor has been hit hard by the recent pandemic. That, combined with the higher taxes for businesses from Cook County, makes financial recovery much more difficult. With assistance and proper redevelopment, this area has the potential to become a prime destination for customers and give a much-needed boost to our local economy.

A ton of hard work goes into setting up projects like this, and I’d like to give a big thanks to the staff of our Community Development and Finance departments, who worked tirelessly to make this project happen.