By Dee Longfellow

For The Elmhurst Independent

It’s typically the first official business event of the new year. Every year, as many as 100 members of the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ECCI) greet one another for the first time since the holidays on the second Thursday in January at Community Bank of Elmhurst (CBE) for the Mayor’s State of Our City address. Like most events, this year’s plans had to be changed.

Speaking from CBE’s Business Center, bank president Rich Reichert welcomed the audience, most of whom were attending virtually, as the program was broadcast on Elmhurst.TV. Reichert commented on working in the times of COVID-19.

“I have never been so proud of our employees and Board of Directors,” he said. “Without [a second thought], they continued to serve our community while keeping our customers and themselves safe.”

ECCI President and CEO John R. Quigley began the program with his annual “State of Our Chamber” message.

“The Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020 ranks as the most-challenging of times over my 21-year tenure as ECCI’s president and CEO and three decades of Chamber service,” he said. “We feel blessed to be relatively healthy when so many businesses and individuals have not survived this economic and medical crisis.”

Quigley announced that this January’s scheduled 102nd Annual ECCI Awards Gala has been postponed until at least April, possibly as late as July as a mid-year celebration. He did announce the ECCI’s 2020 business and individual honorees, which include: A.J. “Toche” Terrones Business of the Year—Edward-Elmhurst Health; Ambassador of the Year—Betsy D’Onofrio, Inland Home Mortgage; Chairman’s Award—John Quigley; and Civic Hall of Fame—Scott and Charity Ahlgrim, Ahlgrim Funeral Home.

He, too, was proud of his office’s ability to step up and keep things operating during the pandemic.

“I would’ve preferred that it not take a world-wide pandemic and economic crisis to validate the indispensable role that our Chamber plays within the Elmhurst community,” Quigley said. “It was legendary … Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne … who [said], ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’

“And when the going got tough in 2020, the Elmhurst Chamber never once stopped going.”

Current Board Chair Desiree Chen of Elmhurst University also gave brief remarks.

State of Our City address

Morley began his remarks thanking the City staff for their hard work especially during the pandemic over this past year.

“We have 300 full-time and seven part-time employees, 17 elected officials, four committees, 16 Boards and Commissions and hundreds of volunteers,” he said. “I’m proud of the hard work [they’ve done] during this most difficult year. Not only did we survive, I believe we are stronger than ever.”

Morley said he was grateful to be granted executive authority by the City Council during the past several months to move things forward and make decisions more quickly. His first order allowed for temporary daycare. Another was to suspend late fees on water bills and halt disconnections for the time being. Restaurants were allowed to serve outdoors after 5 p.m. and then were allowed to expand into their parking areas and mark off more of the sidewalk with take-down barriers.

“We have issued $35 million in PPP loans and 1,000 local businesses took advantage,” he said. “Community Bank of Elmhurst and Lakeside Bank stepped up to help our businesses.”

The City received federal funds in the amount of $2.4 million through the CARES Act, which Morley said helped cover budget gaps.

The mayor mentioned the peaceful protests over the summer and how the entire community—but especially downtown businesses—stepped up to protect themselves and their neighbors.

“We made the best choices,” Morley said. “A temporary hiring freeze, we cut programs like the trolley, parade funding, the purchase of vehicles. The biggest thing we did was cut back on paving. We typically replace from three to seven miles of streets every year, but it’s the place that spending is most flexible. This year, we actually took a year off paving, but we kept patching and maintenance.”

Of course, it doesn’t help that the state of Illinois continues to be a thorn in the side of most communities due to its own financial struggles, often making cities and villages pick up the slack.

Morley said the City’s fund balance is expected to be at 25%-33%, or $12- to $16-million.

“Our current fund balance is $16.2 million right now,” the mayor said. “The emergency cash fund is at $1 million. What makes it tough is the shape the state is already in. We expect a shortfall of $6- to $9-million. Still, we maintain a Moody’s AAA rating so we’re ready for G.O. bonds.

“We were able to keep taxes flat and yet maintained our city services.”

Morley noted that construction has slowed down somewhat, but it is expected to pick up later this year.

“The Zoning & Planning Commission heard more than 25 cases this year,” he said. “A total of 6,200 permits were issued for $163 million in new construction. In addition, there were 60 new home permits given.”

Morley ended with the announcement that he would not seek re-election.

“What I will miss most are the people I get to work with,” he said. “From the elected officials to the staff and residents.”

Finally, Mayor Morley added a rather touching thank you to his wife Nancy whom, he said, has been a support to him for the past 14 years as he has served the City of Elmhurst, first as an alderman, then the last eight years as mayor.

To watch Mayor Steve Morley’s full speech, visit ElmhurstTV.com or find the link at the City’s web site at Elmhurst.org.

 

Comments are closed

Sorry, but you cannot leave a comment for this post.