June 2013

Gifford Park Association
General Membership Meeting
June 20, 2013

In attendance
Bill Briska, Doug Tomsha, Moe Lee, Carol and John Anderson, Warren and Christine Tejes, Dan and Pat Miller, Roy and Linda Voss, Dorie Alpha, Chris and Karen Bach, Barbara Evans, Mark and Glenna Preradovic, Mark Billings, Eric Echevarria
President Bach called the meeting to order at 7:03.

Approval of Minutes
A motion was made by Barbara Evans and seconded by Carol Anderson to approve the minutes of the May meeting. Motion passed unanimously.

Treasurer’s Report
Bill Briska reported that our accounts are currently:
Checking $7728.31
Money Market Account $9918.92
CD’s $80,577.84
Total $98,225.07

ROPE officer Report
Eric reported that his last day as the ROPE officer for our neighborhood was to be June 29th but it has been extended to July 27’th. He has moved from 326 E. Chicago, buying a house on the west side. He still owns a rental property on Chicago St. (“Secretary’s note: It needs unveiling. Let’s all bug him until he does it. : ) )He said he and his family needed more room. Eric mentioned that he has enjoyed working with us in our neighborhood. He grew up at 212 Franklin so he knows there is a lot of good in our neighborhood.
There is to be a meeting held on July 2’nd to discuss the ROPE program. Our neighborhood may be put together with the one north of us and have one officer living at 326 E. Chicago. A new ROPE Officer has been suggested for the Mulberry neighborhood. The city is considering expanding the Crime Free Housing unit. They deal with landlords and problems in rental units. Eric added that there were reports of drug dealing going on at 305 E. Chicago, the house next to the pocket park. They were encouraged to move and did so. Police are currently looking for a guy that goes by the name of Chocko. He reportedly asked a girl to pull her pants down.
Eric mentioned that the city is planning on erecting a tower for a tornado siren, perhaps at or near Warwick and DuPage. He is meeting with the residents to discuss it. Perhaps a new site will be chosen. The location and height are dictated by mathematics. John Anderson suggested that it go on the hill that once held the Grand View mansion.

Moe Lee asked about the status of the Larkin Home facility at the corner of North and College saying that it looks closed. Eric responded that they are rearranging how they are housing their kids. For a time, eighteen or nineteen kids lived there. That facility houses all boys and the one on Park Row houses all girls. Eric added that they get runaway reports from the Larkin Center almost every day. They have to report when kids are missing and the police dept. has to respond. Kids are often home by nightfall.

Linda Voss asked about the big drug bust in Elgin that she has been reading about. Eric said that it was a year long process culminating in 60 or 70 arrests. The FBI and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) partnered with Elgin in the bust. The current emphasis is on heroin in Elgin. The drug of choice used to be cocaine, now it is heroin. The city did recently catch a leader of the heroin drug ring out of Poplar Creek.

Dan Miller thanked Eric for being our ROPE Officer. Much applause followed.

Mark Billings on the Summit Park Neighborhood
Mark reminded the group that he used to be very active with the Gifford Park Association. (Secretary’s note: He was the President of the GPA for a term, chaired the Housewalk once, and chaired the Dream Committee when we rehabbed 132 N. Channing.) Since he moved to Hill St., close to Ann, he co-founded, with several others. the Summit Park Neighborhood Association. Their boundaries are basically Addison, Liberty, Dundee and Summit. He was in attendance to give GPA a huge thanks for the $2500 gift we gave them to enter into the city sponsored tree planting program. The neighbors have already matched the gift with door-to-door canvassing last summer. The combined volunteerism and gift will culminate in the planting of an estimated 45 trees — the most in the neighborhood’s recent history!

Mark informed us that the Summit Park Neighborhood association initiated the city’s first sculptural neighborhood entry sign at Dundee and Ann (2009) and an interpretive history monument sign at the NW corner of Fremont and Hill (2011). We are working with the city Parks and Rec, Bethesda Church of God in Christ, Second Baptist Church, the Elgin Breakfast Rotary and the – Elgin Heritage Commission in our latest initiative to publicly document Elgin’s African American history with interpretive history panels at Newsome Park. This site once housed the city’s first African American Church. Our goal is to showcase Elgin African American leaders who were descendents of the original “contraband” — and who also settled near Fremont Street– and who then rose to local, regional and national prominence.

Membership committee
Dorie Alpha reported that we have recently gotten three renewed memberships. Liz and John Marston, and Bob and Beth Tierney. Dorie mentioned that with her renewal, Karen Schock wrote a very nice note saying thanks to GPA for making the neighborhood a better place to live. Dorie added that we have some welcome buckets left so if you know of any new neighbors, let her know at [email protected]

Housewalk Committee
Bill Briska informed the group that everything is going along very well. We are in need of some extra help with little chores like errands, assembling things etc. If you have some time to help contact Bill at [email protected] (Secretary’s note: It has always been the philosophy of the Gifford Park Association that it is better to have ten people putting in an hour than one person putting in ten.) Bill complemented Barbara on her great job of getting sponsorships for the Housewalk. Barbara added that just today she received a gift certificate from a business to be given to homeowners. She added that she is making a push for Patrons of the walk – individuals or businesses. A Patron, with a donation of $50, $100, $250 or $500 gets a listing in the HW booklet. We currently have four individuals at $100 each, five businesses at $100 each, four patrons at $50 each. She reminded the group that a GPA member can get a $50 Patron sponsorship for $35. If interested, send your check, made out to GPA to Barbara Evans at 511 E. Chicago St. in Elgin. If anyone has a suggestion for a business that could be contacted about sponsorship, please contact Barbara at [email protected] Barbara added that Trish LaFleur is responsible for our very attractive sponsorship brochure.

Historic District Committee
Dan Miller reported that a new Gazette went out just after our last meeting. He again thanked Tom Hokenson for his working with Constant Contact to get it to look so professional. Dan added that it went out to 317 people with 137 (44.6%) opening it. The number sounds terrible but research says it is actually far better than normal. 152 opened our last Gazette. This Gazette had 60 clicks – people that clicked on a link to explore further. Most were looking at our houses for sale.

Dan informed the group that the new Historic District sign project is moving along slowly. We love the first mock up that was made except for the reflectivity. The company has been having a difficult time matching those colors on subsequent mock ups. The sign company asked for a meeting with us on Friday. (Secretaries note: Tony Sanchez who designed the sign, Karen Bach, Dan and Pat Miller, and Aaron Neal from the city all met with the representative on Friday June 21st. The meeting only lasted 45 minutes with the sign rep leaving confidant he can meet our needs. He will send along another mockup for our approval before the final order is made.)
New Business

Karen Bach informed the group that the GPA Board had met earlier in the week. Before the meeting she encouraged Board members to look at the list of projects that could be done in the Historic District that was put together by Fran Cella after she held the brainstorming session. She encouraged each board member to take on at least one of the projects and see it to fruition. She challenged the Board by saying, “What can we accomplish?”

House Plaques
Dan Miller said that he was struck at the last Mayor’s Award ceremony that there were no plaques awarded. It is the first time in twenty-four years that that has happened. He feels that GPA should encourage lots of neighbors to plaque their houses. “Let’s show off our pride in our neighborhood. Let’s have hundreds and hundreds of plaques.”
Carol Anderson asked if there are guidelines for what is necessary to get a plaque. Pat Miller mentioned that the most important thing is the original owner and date of construction which can often be gotten in Geneva. Dan added that there is a terrific amount of info on getting a plaque on our web site, including a link to the application. You can check it out here: http://www.gifford-park-assoc.org/building-plaque-process
Karen Bach suggested that we should have a seminar where we offered group trips to the Library, the Museum and Geneva to help people. Barbara Evans mentioned that several years ago Becky Minetti made a video explaining the process. Perhaps it is still in the library. Steve Stroud recently had a seminar on researching your house at the Historical Society Museum.

Bill Briska added that the first stop on researching your house should be the Historical Society Museum where Steve Stroud and David Siegenthaler have compiled files on thousands of homes in Elgin. There are lots of references in the museum and a staff that is interested in helping You may want to call for an appointment. 742-4248. Bill added that very soon there will be an on-line listing of house info. He reminded the group that to determine if a plaque is awarded the Heritage Commission also looks at architectural integrity, history, condition, historical significance. Most old houses in Elgin will achieve the minimal point level to get a plaque. The process can be daunting but there are plenty of people around to help. Karen suggested that we create door hangers to place on the door of a house that we would like to encourage the owners to plaque. Dan mentioned that at the board Meeting the board decided to reimburse homeowners half of the cost of getting a plaque. Plaques are $50 so if a homeowner did the research herself, GPA would pay $25. If the homeowner decided to hire Steve Stroud to do it GPA would pay half of $50 to $75 which is his normal fee plus half of the $50 plaque fee. Bill Briska reminded the group that if a homeowner has a plaque that is in bad shape they can ask the city for a new one. Contact Amy Munro at [email protected]

Historic Home Marketing
At the board meeting Moe Lee and Tony Sanchez said that they would like to work at marketing our homes for sale. Moe said that she was impressed by the recent prototype of a flier that Craig Dresang made to promote our houses for sale. (Secretary’s note: It is attached if you would like to look at it.)

In e-mail correspondence with Moe Craig mentioned that he would like to spend about $500 to have a professional design the flier and then we would have to pay to send it out although a lot can be done electronically. Moe feels that she would like to get Tom Krebsbach and Craig to join the committee with she and Tony.

Karen Bach informed the group that the poor little doughboy in Davidson Park is afraid of the dark. Ali Hallock and Pat Miller have voiced an interest in taking the task of lighting the statue to make it prominent at night. Ali said that she is so impressed with how the Old Main cupola looks lit up and that we should do the same with the statue in our neighborhood. “Let’s show our pride to the people driving down Villa.”
Bill Briska said that the Historical Society is currently working on the idea of lighting the new windmill exhibit in Foundry Park. They have gotten bids of form 7 to $10,000. He is hoping the city will have some buy in. Bill added that they are currently in a fund raising campaign for the lighting and to landscape the area.

Strategic Planning Advisory Committee
Bill Briska informed the group that he is the chair of the newly created Strategic Planning Advisory committee. Their task is to advise the City Manger regarding suggested changes to our current strategic plan. Bill hopes to have the city manager come to a meeting sometime to explain his vision. Bill said that it is current cutting edge in city planning to have citizens input. The identified areas of our current strategic plan are neighborhoods, education, work force development, economic development and safety. The committee is currently working on the topic of Code Enforcement in Elgin. He said that he feels Sean Stegall, our current city manager is a very bright and open minded thinker that wants to refashion and change the culture of our Code Enforcement Dept. No one, nationwide is currently happy with how code enforcement is handled. He is encouraging a complete re look at how code enforcement works. He wants to refashion code enforcement. Perhaps changing policing into mentoring. Perhaps a different allocation of resources. Perhaps different, varied training. These changes could have an enormous impact on our city. He wants to couple crime stats with code stats to find problems. He wants people to rethink code so if you have any ideas for the committee, please contact Bill Briska at [email protected]

Barbara Evan asked if GPA should write a letter to encourage these changes? Bill said, “Yes.”
Bill added that we need to alert people that the discussion is in the wind and try to move things forward. It is a very complex issue. A good code officer is going to have to be a policeman, a mentor, a mediator, an architectural historian and a diplomat. Currently there is a black and white mentality. Carol Anderson suggested that they change the title of Code enforcement.

4th of July Parade
Steve Thoren has graciously offered to have two of his antique cars represent GPA in the parade. They will help promote the Housewalk. We need walkers to hand out Housewalk informational fliers. Dorie Alpha added that she would love to see some of our kids do it.

Save-A-Vet program and Bowes
The Mayor’s announcement of the possible city involvement of using Bowes for the program was in our recent Gazette. Pat Miller said that she was concerned by some of the things she read in a recent newspaper article. She was concerned that if each vet had a dog there would be a lot of dogs. They mentioned the vets might do car repair at the site. She reminded the group that there is no garage there and John Anderson informed us that open air car repair is not allowed in Elgin. Bill cautioned the group not to get too far ahead of ourselves. The program is a long way off with lots of hurdles to jump. First control of the building has to be gotten from the bank. Then to repurpose the building it will take an engineering, architectural and financial plan.

Neighborhood Craft Club
Karen Bach said that she is resurrecting a neighborhood craft club to have meetings starting in August on the 2nd Tuesday’s of the month. Members would be asked to share their homes to meet on a rotating basis. The host would provide the group a craft to make and drinks and dessert. $10 would be asked for supplies. The meeting will probably be in the evening from 7 to 9.

Carol Anderson moved and Chris Bach seconded a motion to adjourn. The motion passed unanimously.