By Joe Boyle
The present economic state of Evergreen Park has been challenged by the presence of COVID-19 as local officials prepare for what the future has in store.
Mayor James Sexton said he had a lengthy discussion of the local economy with Evergreen Park Village Treasurer John Sawyers. Both agreed that some changes will have to occur to combat the coronavirus, which will continue into next year.
"John believes 2020 won't be that bad," Sexton noted Monday night at the first in-person meeting of the Evergreen Park Village Board in three months. "But he also believes 2021 will be a challenge."
Sexton said a lot of small businesses have been hurt financially because of COVID-19. The larger businesses have actually performed well during the pandemic, the mayor said.
"Binny's, Whole Foods and Meijer have done great business," Sexton said. "But the small businesses, many of whom we had gone out to come here, can use some help."
Sexton suggested that perhaps a discussion can be centered on some relief regarding the liquor licenses for next year. The mayor said the smaller businesses will need assistance. A temporary move to allow some struggling businesses to pay half the tax could be considered. The liquor license tax rate for the more successful businesses could remain the same, he said.
Business that struggled included Unidad, 3339 W. 95th St., which has rebounded through outdoor dining. They did not offer carry-out deliveries. On the other hand, The Red Palm, 3020 W. 95th St., was never able to establish outdoor dining and was not able to reopen.
"The Plaza we know has suffered from the lockdown," Sexton said. "We need to talk about revenue enhancements."
Board members were in agreement that measures have to be considered to add more revenue for the village in 2021. One suggestion was to consider video gaming.
"Other towns around us are doing well with it," Sexton pointed out. "I'm not reporting we should do it. We have not had a reason to do it before. But it's something we can look at."
The mayor was perturbed that Dick's Sporting Goods had reached an agreement to open next year in the Chicago Ridge Mall. The owners of Dick's Sporting Goods will move into the vacated Carson's at the Chicago Ridge Mall. Sexton was angry because he had a preliminary agreement with Dick's Sporting Goods to move into The Plaza and they eventually backed out of the deal.
"I read where Dick's Sporting Goods is going to come to the Chicago Ridge Mall," Sexton said, referring to last week's front page story in The Reporter. "I guess they didn't want to come to 95th and Western. You are going to be hearing a lot more about that."
Sexton also reminded the board and the few people in attendance to fill out the form for the U.S. Census so the state continues to receive more legislative representation and more revenue. He also applauded the efforts of the Evergreen Park Fire Department, who responded to 297 calls last month.
The mayor also mentioned that Dr. John Hanlon has retired as the CEO of OSF Healthcare Little Company of Mary Medical Center. He has been replaced by Kathleen Kinsella as of July 1. A story appeared on Kinsella in The Reporter on July 2.
"John will be sorely missed," Sexton said. "Kathleen Kinsella will do a fine job."
The mayor also mentioned that along with the ongoing pandemic, the village also has some other health concerns.
"There is another virus out there and it's the West Nile," said Sexton, who once had the disease and recovered after a long recuperation. "I just want people to be careful."
A business license was granted to Advocate Children's Medical Group, 9730 S. Western Ave., which is a call center. Masterwireless Boost Mobile has been approved to move to 8734 S. Kedzie Ave. They will provide cellular sales and service.
Sexton said that he recently attended the Evergreen Park Farmers Market at the Yukich Fields parking lot, 8900 S. Kedzie Ave. The farmers market is open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Thursday through October.
"I was there last week and there were a lot of people there," Sexton said. "Beth ( Novotney, director of the Office of Citizen Services) has been doing a great job."
The mayor and board members were honored by members of the Evergreen Park Chamber of Commerce at the meeting. The chamber is also sponsoring a golf outing on Friday, Aug. 7 at Fountain Hills Golf Club in Alsip.
No village board meeting will be held on Aug. 3. The next board meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 17 at the Village Hall.