November 3, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Solomon Islands: City Government: Aurora Beacon News: Weisner's master plan

Peace Corps Online: State: Illinois: February 8, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: Illinois : November 3, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Solomon Islands: City Government: Aurora Beacon News: Weisner's master plan

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Weisner's master plan

Weisner's master plan

Declaring that "the future of the city begins today," Mayor Tom Weisner Wednesday unveiled his plan to hasten the revival of downtown with sweeping technology upgrades and an overhaul of the area's aging water and sewer system — all while investing some $60 million for a new central police station. Tom Weisner, elected mayor of Aurora, IL in 2005, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Solomon Islands.

Weisner's master plan

Weisner's master plan

Aurora mayor's first budget outlines projects

By Ed Fanselow
staff writer

AURORA — Declaring that "the future of the city begins today," Mayor Tom Weisner Wednesday unveiled his plan to hasten the revival of downtown with sweeping technology upgrades and an overhaul of the area's aging water and sewer system — all while investing some $60 million for a new central police station.

All three projects are part of the mayor's proposed 2006 budget plan, which relies on nearly $150 million in borrowing and the first city property tax hike in more than a decade.

The linchpin of the plan is a new, city-wide, wireless Internet network that would be the first of its kind in Illinois.

The new technology — along with a city-owned fiber-optic network — would help attract new businesses and new residents to the city by making Aurora "the regional leader in technology," Weisner said.

The two systems would cost the city about $15 million.

"These days, telecommunications infrastructure is just as important as any other form of infrastructure," he said. "If you can't connect, you can't compete."

At a press conference announcing the program, Weisner said he envisions a day when a downtown Aurora office worker can walk to a riverfront park on his lunch break, sit on a bench and access e-mail from a laptop computer.

A citywide wireless Internet system, he said, also would benefit local students.

A recent survey by the East Aurora School District showed that only about 20 percent of third- and fourth-graders could log onto the Internet at home.

Internet available to all

Under the current plan, the city would offer basic wireless Internet access to all residents at no cost, while charging for higher-speed access.

"This is a way that we can close the digital divide between those who can afford (Internet access) right now and those who can't," Weisner said.

The Wi-Fi network, as it is called, also would improve city services by providing in-vehicle Internet access to police officers, firefighters and city inspectors, Weisner said.

"This will allow our work force to be much more effective than they are today," he said.

Water and sewer system

The city also would spend nearly $50 million to replace the antiquated downtown water and sewer system, which Weisner said has become a major roadblock for developers looking to build here.

Bringing the system up to current standards, he said, would cost nearly $50 million, part of which would be paid by the Fox Metro Water Reclamation District

Weisner also has asked the City Council to approve two new sprawling tax-increment-financing (TIF) districts on either side of the Fox River, which he said should help spur development along the riverfront and along Routes 25 and 31.

The new TIF fund would be started with roughly $15 million in bond money that the city would use to purchase and clean up so-called "brownfield" areas, properties that have been environmentally contaminated by industrial uses though the years.

Weisner said some of the money also will be used to create a riverfront park and band shell that will serve as a venue for concerts, festivals and other special events.

Police headquarters

The most expensive budget line-item is a proposed $60 million project to replace the city's deteriorating, 40-year-old police headquarters at 350 N. River St., which Weisner said has become an "embarrassment" to the city in recent years.

"We're not only talking about its age and appearance, though," he said. "We're talking about its functionality and the impact that an antiquated building has on the department's performance."

The building, which also houses the Aurora Branch Court, was built in 1966 when the city was home to just 60,000 people and about 120 police officers.

Since then, the population has nearly tripled, and the police force has grown to include 288 full-time officers.

Weisner said the city is still considering several sites for the new facility, but it likely will come in the form of a "four-, five- or six-building campus" rather than one all-encompasing building.

Sending on to council

Other major projects included in Weisner's proposed budget are:

•$2 million to $6 million to build a highway interchange at Interstate 88 and Eola Road.

•$5 million to replace and resurface roughly 40 miles of city streets,

•$2.8 million in 2006 and 2007 to refurbish the Illinois Avenue and Downer Place bridges.

•$800,000 to remove the North Avenue Dam.

•$725,000 to refortify the GAR Memorial Hall on Downer Place downtown and turn it into a local Civil War museum.

"We want not only to save this historic building;" Weisner said, "we want to make something out of it that can be a magnet to bring even more people into our downtown."

Weisner plans to bring the budget proposal to the City Council Finance Committee members as soon as this week.

The three-member panel will review the plan before forwarding it to the full council for a vote later this month. According to Illinois statutes, the city must approve a budget before the end of the year.


When this story was posted in November 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Aurora Beacon News

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