Trustees all in as OP speeds remake of OPDC

President resigns, economic development group seeks $721,500


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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Oak Park Development Corporation leaders returned to village hall Monday with an updated plan for reorganization, which includes establishment of a new board of directors and executive committee, a new name – Oak Park Economic Development Corporation, and, on both sides of the negotiations, a new sense of urgency.

OPDC also announced Monday it had received the resignation of its president, Sara Faust, who will remain with the organization for up to the next six months to assist with the transition. Faust's resignation had been expected and was seen by some at village hall as a necessary condition of the increased funding and autonomy the group sought.

The reorganized economic development group will establish an eight-member board of directors and executive committee to include the village president, a village trustee and the village manager as non-voting members and five at-large directors with voting authority. The Oak Park EDC also will establish an executive director position.  

The group also is asking for a 2014 appropriation of $721,500, more than double the 2013 appropriation of $300,000. 

Trustee Colette Lueck, who said last month that the village should not invest "three quarters of a million dollars without understanding the return," said at Monday's meeting that moving forward with the plan makes sense.

"In funding year one, we are making a commitment to year two," she said. "We're making a commitment to $700,000 in year two and going forward. I don't think we have any choice." 

The appropriation would include $567,500 for four full-time employees, $84,000 for operating expenses, $60,000 for marketing and $10,000 for employee training. In addition to the executive director position, the overhauled organization will include a development director, a project director and an office manager. Beyond Faust's exit, the status of other current OPDC staff members is not clear.

Village Trustee Adam Salzman questioned the breakdown on salaries versus marketing expenses, noting that 77 percent of the organization's annual budget would go to employees. 

"When presented alongside marketing, it can look a little bit lopsided," he said. "(Village Manager Cara Pavlicek) talks about getting the right people on the bus. We need to get the right people in the right positions."

The proposal puts the executive director's annual pay at $120,000, the development director's pay at $170,000, the project manager's at $80,000 and the office administrator's at $40,000. The plan also sets aside $80,000 a year in bonuses for staff for successfully securing development projects. Finding a tenant for the shuttered Dominick's grocery store in Oak Park, for instance, could result in bonuses for staff, Marty Noll, OPDC's longtime chairman, said. Noll is also chairman of Community Bank Oak Park River Forest.

Village Trustee Peter Barber suggested that marketing funds of $60,000 might not be enough to get the group's message out. 

"I think the money is enough to start," he said. "I encourage a year two marketing budget at a higher rate."

Oak Park's village board is expected to take final action on the proposal at its meeting set for Jan. 27.

The proposal notes that current members of the OPDC Board of Directors "are expected to submit their resignations" and a nominating committee will meet to pick new directors.

"It will be solicitous of members from the existing board of OPDC and others in the community to provide continuity and also to find the skills and strengths that the new EDC will require," the proposal notes. "Once elected, the new board will name an interim executive director from several identified candidates to operate the company until a permanent executive director has been found."

The interim executive director was expected to be chosen by Feb. 28, according to the proposal. But Village President Anan Abu-Taleb said he'd like to see the organization move faster.

"I would like to have some certainty about having an interim executive director by the end of January," he said. "We have a lot of people knocking on the door today. I don't want to miss another month of not having certainty for the market."

Remaking Oak Park's economic development effort – both at OPDC and within village hall, has been Abu-Taleb's priority since his election last January.

Noll said his organization already has a list of potential candidates for the interim position. 

"Some we have spoken with and some we have not," he said. "They will take the position knowing they need to staff the organization. We know we need to be in business quickly."

This is the second time OPDC presented plans to village trustees. In early December, the economic development group presented a preliminary proposal for reorganization, following criticism from the village board for being ineffectual.

Noll told village trustees in December that the reorganized OPDC would be "nimble and agile" and fully accountable to village hall.


Reader Comments

18 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

What are the facts?  

Posted: January 20th, 2014 10:18 PM

It takes more than just OPDC to bring new business's into OP. Where is the accountability of the Village? Why did so many business's leave and go to Forest Park? Why can't OP attract and/or retain a balance of business's for the community to thrive? How was Village Manager Cara Pavlicek hired? Why did she quietly resign from her past Village Manager position....Who missed this? Where are the facts and the real truth?

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 18th, 2014 12:52 AM

Troublesome to read that while Martin Noll promises that OPDC will be fully accountable to village hall; there's no mention of transparency. Not too surprising since neither the new Village President nor any board member has been willing to address the single issue that has plagued our local government operations for decades and continues to do so today.


Posted: January 17th, 2014 11:27 AM

Noll and Gallagher are/were bankers. I therefore assume that their proposal IS supported by what they'd require from a non-taxpayer funded business loan request - a business plan supported by numbers. Is that document available online? I appreciate their efforts and intentions, but this article focuses more on staffing, organization, and salaries......rather than dollars and breakeven analysis. Field of Dreams - build it and "development/dollars" will come?!? I've seen that movie in OP before.

June from Oak Park  

Posted: January 17th, 2014 10:48 AM

@OP, I agree that OP lacks long term vision. Why not just move the employees to Village Hall & save rent they pay to US Bank

dystOPia from OP  

Posted: January 14th, 2014 6:34 PM

In order to re-coup their annual budget of $721,500, the Oak Park Economic Development Board would need to generate an equivalent amount of some form of revenue that would not have been realized 'but for' their efforts (the 'but for' test). Such revenue would be primarily in the form of increased property taxes. $721,500 of annual property taxes is roughly equivalent to $29,000,000 of property value.


Posted: January 14th, 2014 6:32 PM

The budget is irrelevant with out effective strategy and deal makers. Is $1M too much - not at all if not managed effectively. OP lacks strategy and vision -

Hmmm from Oak Park  

Posted: January 14th, 2014 1:22 PM

And to piggyback off of Q's what they've done and continue to do warrant an average of ~$140K salary for the four employees? If pressed to answer I would heavily lean towards no.

Q from Oak Park   

Posted: January 14th, 2014 11:36 AM

The question that everyone is not asking is how many businesses have opened in Oak Park because the Oak Park Development Corporation brought the new business in to Oak Park.

go get 'em...  

Posted: January 14th, 2014 12:31 AM

1.count all the vacant properties in the village 2. list the locations 3. list the stores and services Oak Parkers need and want 4. seek new businesses 5. streamline what's required to open a business Did I miss anything? Why is it so complicated

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: January 13th, 2014 6:10 PM

What kind, and how much, economic development needs to be generated annually to justify $721,500? How will this be quantified (property taxes, sale taxes, etc.)? How will it be differentiated from economic development that would have occurred without the OPEDC?


Posted: January 13th, 2014 3:47 PM

Having the OPDC makes sense if there isn't duplication of economic development by village hall staff; but who is this group acountable to? And why was this setup seperate from village hall? To skirt government employee benefit issues?


Posted: January 13th, 2014 2:32 PM

Perhaps the $721,500 is a "nimble" bargain. Perhaps not. What I'd like to see at this meeting is a breakeven analysis of the previous years $300,000 budget and the financial support/breakeven analysis for the $721,500. What "development(s)" can OPDC/Ms Faust point to in the past 5-10 years? $300,000 is chump change for previous spendthrifts on the board, but it is $3 MILLION for 10 years! Where's their report cards? I mean they couldn't possibly be requesting $$$ with a "trust me!" Right? Right?

99 Weeker from Oak Park  

Posted: January 13th, 2014 2:15 PM

I'll work for $140K. Where is this job posted so I can apply? My skills are a working knowledge of Microsoft Excel and Word.

Dick Lane from Oak Park  

Posted: January 13th, 2014 1:26 PM

And they can all run the Clown Booth at Day in Our Village!

Dave from Oak Park  

Posted: January 13th, 2014 12:54 PM

It adds up, if you consider that the staffing figures don't necessarily equate to salary (remember, that budget will cover their benefits, etc.) and also that most of the _work_ will presumably be done by the staff--the marketing budget would be for collateral, but the phone calls, and beating the street would be done by the people on payroll. I imagine.

crazy! from Oak Park  

Posted: January 13th, 2014 12:47 PM

Why do they need an office manager for 4-5 employees? What will that person "manage" all day? Every other company small company have people during multiple tasks, can't they manage the office themselves?

more wastefull spending  

Posted: January 13th, 2014 12:31 PM

sounds like a good gig, I think I'll apply.

Marty J. Stempniak from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: January 13th, 2014 12:22 PM

$141,000 for each employee, and only $60,000 on marketing the village? Something doesn't add up here.

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