River Forest village board promises TIF funds for Town Center retailers

Board also receives ash borer relief money and agrees to review benefits for injured retirees

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Ian Fullerton

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Subsidies from an expired tax increment financing district will be delivered to two incoming retail tenants at the River Forest Town Center, village trustees agreed Monday night.

The village board approved an amended agreement that would see $335,600 go to a pair of yet-to-be-identified tenants currently in talks with Mid-America Asset Management, the leasing agent for River Forest Town Center at Lake Street and Harlem Avenue.

According to Mid-America, one of the likely tenants is looking to move into an empty space next to the Whole Foods grocery store at the plaza, while the other would prospectively occupy the space currently being vacated by Famous Footwear.

Approved unanimously by the board, the funds were originally allotted per a December 2010 agreement as incentives to help Mid-America secure leases and improve vacant space at the heavily trafficked shopping plaza. The TIF district that generated the money was dissolved around the same time, leaving some money for future projects.

Village Administrator Eric Palm said that the agreement marked a "re-commitment" of the funds, which would be paid out to Mid-America as sales tax dollars generated from the two tenants funneled into River Forest's coffers.

"Although the village is committing those dollars, it is not issuing a check tomorrow," said Palm.

Mid-America has yet to reveal the identities of the potential tenants, but has said that both are "national retailers with existing stores in this region." Current tenants at the plaza include Children's Place, Chico's, Panera, Whole Foods and the Designer Shoe Warehouse – the latter of which opened in October.

Palm said that the sales tax money was expected to be generated within two to three years, with work on the improvements hopefully starting this year.

Benefits process tweaked for injured fire and police personnel

Injured River Forest public safety workers will now have to undergo annual reviews to receive insurance benefits, according to a code amendment passed by the village board on Monday.

Under the state's Public Safety Employee Benefit Act, firefighters, police officers and correctional workers who suffer "catastrophic injury" in the line of duty are entitled to the entire premium of their health insurance plan.

In the case of their death, that money goes annually to the employee's spouse and children up to the age of 25.

The amendment, passed unanimously by the board, will establish policies for "determining whether an employee or former employee is eligible to receive benefits" pursuant to the PSEBA rules.

The village has spent a total of $600,000 on insurance costs for four former employees under the plan since 2003.

"[We're] not saying they don't deserve it, but the reality is that it's a costly benefit to administer," said Palm.

The new obligations would include a "reduction or elimination of PSEBA benefits" if a retiree becomes eligible to receive health insurance from another source, as well as an initial hearing and on-going reviews to determine an employees' eligibility for the program.

The amended processes would not affect retirees currently receiving PSEBA benefits.

Village gets grant money for ash borer tree removal

The board also learned on Monday that River Forest will be receiving $6,000 in county grant money to help with the removal and replacement of trees infested by Emerald Ash Borer beetles.

Last month, the village's Forestry Department removed 13 ash trees known to be infested with the Emerald Ash – a wood-boring, invasive species of beetle which threatens tree populations in the region.

The village injected chemicals into 288 trees in the past year as part of a project aimed at staving off the bug, which first appeared in the county around a decade ago.

"It does allow us to extend the life of the tree for several years," Palm said.

Palm said that the village has budgeted money for more injections this year. The grant money could pay for around 50 to 60 trees, he said, adding that the funds help the village budget for other projects, such as its viaduct lighting initiative.

Reader Comments

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Posted: March 15th, 2013 5:52 PM

That is addition by subtraction. Are you kidding. Lets give away our Money now, and HOPE you get something in 3 years. This Village has zero common sense. This is why the Village needs a Economic Development Commission. Lets get real and lets get serious. The village board brought in a asst administrator at 80K a year to juice up Economic Development. Where is it. ? And they still pay Houseal 50 K a year. This is getting to be like Frank Paris giving away money for law suits!

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