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Acri set to work on budget, says I-74 footprint will be 'neat opportunity'

It's just past 7 a.m. on a Wednesday, and Moline Mayor Stephanie Acri is in her city hall office, dressed in a black suit and heels, talking on a cellphone to a city council member.

Days begin early for Acri who won the mayor's job in April. Her decisive victory came after four months of back-and-forth legal sparring prompted by incumbent Mayor Scott Raes' challenge of her nominating petitions based on a technicality.

Acri developed her early morning habit when her children were younger and she was working as an engineer at Alcoa, now Arconic. Early hours allowed her to talk to overseas clients living in a different time zone.

Now she launches her days between 4:30 and 5 a.m. with exercise and yoga, then begins a long jog through appointments and activities. This includes city business as well as working at Evans Manufacturing, the machine shop in Rock Island where she is president and CEO.

Getting an early start creates "much more time in your day," she said. "You can really knock out the work."

Coming up on her schedule today (Oct. 10) will be a city council work session to discuss City Administrator Douglas Maxeiner's budget proposal for 2018, his first since beginning his job in June.

The city is "revenue challenged" because of a downturn in receipts that might be attributed to construction of John Deere Road that made access to businesses difficult, Maxeiner said. "We're hoping it's a one time blip," he said.

To cover a shortfall, he is suggesting a transfer of $400,000 from the city's reserves to the general fund. He proposes repaying the money by selling excess property. "The city owns quite a few parcels," he said, adding that some were purchased to facilitate the John Deere Road project and will no longer be needed.

Maxeiner is not recommending any tax rate increases, but is suggesting a new fee — adding a monthly charge of $1.93 to residents' garbage bills to pay for leaf collection/processing that now is subsidized by income and sales taxes.

Among Acri's campaign issues was maintaining the quality of roads, so she'll have a keen eye out for that portion of the budget.

Overall, she doesn't expect the budget process to be too painful. "Moline is in very good shape," she said. "We have resources."

Recent economic development projects include ground-breaking for a $33 million senior living project that will go where the former Moline Lutheran Hospital once stood; opening of 31 market-rate apartments in the former Chase Bank building at 5th Avenue and 15th Street; and ongoing work by Mike Whalen and his Heart of America Group to turn Moline's Fifth Avenue Building into a boutique hotel that should be finished in late 2018.

SouthPark Mall has seen improvements and new out-buildings are being constructed; Acri expects more development along John Deere Road as the road-widening project finishes.

The Element by Westin, an extended-stay hotel that is part of The Q multi-modal station development also has opened, and Acri is not particularly worried about funding that would bring an Amtrak passenger train to the station from Chicago.

"I'm confident it will come," she said of the funding and subsequent rail service. "I do believe it will take awhile." In the meantime, the multi-modal station is a stand-alone success, she said. "It doesn't need a train."

Another project she is excited about is the future development of land that will be freed up when the Interstate 74 bridge is realigned. "That footprint is such a neat opportunity," she said.

What's being talked about currently is "green space to draw people to enjoy our beautiful riverfront" as well as residential, retail and restaurant development, she said.

The Chicago-based Lakota Group has been hired by Renew Moline, a nonprofit economic development organization, to interview stakeholders and develop a plan. An open session for the public to view ideas and offer their own is expected to be held in early winter, a spokesman for Renew Moline, said.

As for the other Illinois Quad-City mayors, Acri said she sees them at least three times a week at community events as well as scheduled meetings. What they have to say is "very helpful because if one city is dealing with some issue, another city may have already dealt with it. We're working to address similar issues. There's no strong territoriality."

Acri figures she devotes about 40 hours per week to city business and about 40 hours per week to her business. But the pace doesn't wear her down.

"The days are long, but the work is really interesting," she said. "No, I can't get it all done. It's not like I go to bed and it's all off my to-do list. But I enjoy it. It's challenging. The wins are so rewarding in government."

 

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