Kenilworth, News

Kenilworth officials ramp up referendum outreach

Kenilworth voters should soon get postcards in their mailboxes reminding them to vote March 19 on a referendum asking if the village can issue up to $2.5 million in bonds to help pay for major improvements to Kenilworth’s decommissioned water plant.

Village President Cecily Kaz showed the postcard to trustees at the Feb. 20 village board meeting. She said residents can also get more information about the referendum, the project itself, as well as links to information on early and mail-in voting dates and locations, at the village’s website.

The project for which the bonds would be issued will cost about $8.4 million. Additional funding for it is predicated on using about $3.3 million in existing fund balances, and on raising at least $2.5 million in donations.

Village Manager Patrick Brennan told trustees during the meeting, “We’re hoping to exceed that (donation) amount, which will cut the amount we have to borrow.”

If residents approve the referendum, village officials estimate the bond issuance would add about $126 annually to the property tax bill of a Kenilworth home valued at $1 million.

The $8.4 million covers the most extensive, and expensive, revamp of the building and its beach facilities. As proposed by Woodhouse Tinucci Architects, chosen in 2022 to design beach and building improvements, it would:

• Place new staff and restroom facilities closer to the beach;
• Renovate the building’s second floor and lower level to include a multi-purpose room, new concessions, storage lockers and recreation spaces, as well as a new beach access ramp; and
• Create space in the building for Kenilworth Sailing Club’s boat storage.

If passed, the referendum could also cover the costs of a smaller project that would exclude boat storage and renovate only the second floor of the building, while closing off its first floor.

During the Feb. 20 meeting, trustees ratified an amendment to Woodhouse Tinucci’s existing contract, allowing the firm to start work on the next design phase for the project, including at least three public meetings, in an amount not to exceed $290,000. Woodhouse Tinucci was initially hired in November 2022 to handle the first design phase, at a cost of $120,000.

Since then, the village and Woodhouse Tinucci held public meetings and undertook a communitywide survey to help ascertain how much support residents might give to various levels of building and beach improvements.

In December, survey results indicated that a large majority of respondents (179 on Dec. 11 and 207 as of Dec. 18) considered the project either extremely important or very important.

Brennan reminded trustees that protecting the village’s existing shoreline is a separate project, one that the village has already decided must be undertaken, and which is not part of the referendum.

Late last year, the shoreline protection cost was estimated at $1.5-$1.9 million. Brennan said on Feb. 21 that the cost will probably be $1.5 million, and that about 70 percent of that could be covered by a grant from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, with money from the federal EPA.

“We expect to hear something (about the grant) sometime in March,” he said.

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Kathy Routliffe

Kathy Routliffe reported in Chicago's near and North Shore suburbs (including Wilmette) for more than 35 years, covering municipal and education beats. Her work, including feature writing, has won local and national awards. She is a native of Nova Scotia, Canada.

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