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Sandwich mayor looks back on 2018, ahead to 2019

December 26, 2018

Sandwich Mayor Rick Olson said he has been proud of the job all city employees have done during 2018. But there have been some minor problems and things he thinks will be resolved in the coming year.

One big disappointment was having to delay plans for a new police station, Olson noted.

Looking back, Olson said all council members are aware of the need. But the finances were not certain at the time, so the bids from 72 firms in 22 categories to remodel a vacant industrial building at 1251 E. Sixth St. – the former home of Designed Stairs – into a new police station were rejected last summer.

He said the aldermen were not sure of the city’s finances and how the new station might be paid for, so the project was postponed. The original bids totaled $4.6 million, but Olson said he could not say what they might be when the city asks for new bids.

“We will get the new station, but the council needs to get its financial ­situation in order for things to improve,” he added. “This was a challenge for some time but we’re getting this taken care of so we can move forward in the new year.

“Each person has their own idea about how a budget should be presented, and what we had was difficult to understand. But we’re now getting our financial records into the right position, and for next year we will finally have a budget that anyone can understand,” Olson said.

But even with budget problems, the city has still been able to get several projects taken care of in 2018, which included a new lighting project on Center Street.

“We ran into problems with the newly installed water mains, but those have been resolved. And we’ve received some good comments from the public about this project,” Olson said.

A project along Sixth, Lisbon and Main streets, near the Willow Crest Nursing Rehabilitation Center at 515 N. Main St., also was completed this year. The project included work on the water mains, sewers and sidewalks, and numerous other things that needed to be done.

“This was a problem area even for the previous administration,” he said.

Olson said a tourism committee was formed this year that will be improving communication between several groups to promote the various events as city-wide events, not as individual events.

“This means the city, park district, school district, Chamber of Commerce, churches, and other agencies are now working together, which I think is very important,” he said.

He said the city was happy to welcome Meadowvale to Sandwich when the company outgrew its facility in Yorkville and purchased another building here. It spent a considerable amount of money upgrading the new property, he said.

Olson said Jim Teckenbrock, executive director of the Sandwich Economic Development Corporation, helped Meadowvale find the new location.

And he said the former Sandwich Community Hospital is now part of the Northwestern Medical Group and is known as Northwestern Medicine Valley West Hospital.

“This is not something we did, but it is part of the community and I think it should be recognized because we now have a full 24-hour hospital, something no other community in Kendall County has. For a town of 7,500 people, I think this is quite remarkable,” the mayor said.

Olson noted that Sandwich has developed a reputation as a place to visit if you’re interested in antiques, collectibles and specialty items.

“We have about 20 of these businesses, and that’s remarkable for a town this size. People come here for the weekend from other states to visit these shops. When they’re here, they are visiting all our other businesses. It’s kind of like the Field of Dreams – if you build it, they will come. Well, in Sandwich, it’s already built and they are already coming. I think we always have been and will continue to be a town of destination,” he said.

He said Sandwich has had this reputation for 25-30 years.

When he came to Sandwich as police chief in 1994, there was talk of bringing the big box stores to town, but Sandwich did not meet those requirements, he said. So the big retailers went to larger neighboring communities–and today many of those same big box stores are sitting empty, he noted.

Olson noted that a Burger King is moving into Sandwich. While the city was not involved in bringing them here, they are being welcomed, he said.

He said Police Chief Jim Bianchi worked with school officials to put a police officer in the schools this year. There haven’t been any problems in the past, but this can help prevent them, he said. And the city has continued to keep its Dare program, he added.

Olson said he is very familiar with the need for good law enforcement. He served 39 years in police work, starting as a police cadet in DeKalb and ending up as Sandwich police chief for 16 years before running as mayor.

Looking to the new year, Olson said he believes the council will resolve the finance problem for the new police station.

“We needed a new facility when I came here in 1994, we still do, and we will get one,” he said.

Olson said that the city’s employees all do a great job and he is proud of them, as well as the other agencies the city works with. It’s a team, he said.

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