Moline: At-large race pits incumbent against former fire chief

Originally Posted Online: April 01, 2013, 12:31 am
Last Updated: April 07, 2013, 8:08 am
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By Dawn Neuses,

Two candidates familiar with city government are vying for Moline's aldermen at-large seat in the April 9 election: incumbent Stephanie Acri and Ron Miller, Moline's retired fire chief.

The remaining four offices in Moline's nonpartisan municipal election -- mayor and three alderman slots -- are uncontested. Incumbent council members David Parker Jr., 2nd Ward; Dick Brown, 4th Ward; and Kevin Schoonmaker, 6th Ward, will get new four-year terms.

Two-term Mayor Don Welvaert is not running for re-election. Ald. Scott Raes, 3rd Ward, was the only person to file candidacy papers for mayor, and there are no write-in candidates. Ald. Raes will take office as mayor at the May 8 at the city council meeting.

It will be up to Ald. Raes, after he is seated as mayor, to appoint a 3rd Ward aldermen to complete the two years remaining in his aldermanic term. His appointment will need to be confirmed by the city council.

Ald. Acri took office April 26, 2011. She was appointed by Mayor Welvaert to fill the term of Gary Brown, who died in March 2011.

She is a mechanical engineer and owner of Evans Premium Manufacturing Inc.

Mr. Miller retired as Moline's fire chief in November 2011, when the city council was considering privatizing EMS. He works part time atFriendship Manor in Rock Island.

Ms. Acri said when she joined the city council it quickly became apparent a lot of decisions were made each week that, in turn, had an impact on other things in the community, from safety to services."That is why it is so important the city council pay attention to what we are doing and make good, solid decisions every week," she said.

Ald. Acri said her strengths are in budgeting and projects. "I am used to dealing and determining what is the best investment. It is what I am good at," she said.

While you never can have all of the information,"I gather up the information I have and ask enough questions so I have a thorough understanding of the issues and our options to make sure I make the best choice with the resources available," Ald. Acri said.

"We have limited resources and I want to make sure we are spending each dollar effectively and efficiently to improve the lives of the community and our citizens," she added.

Mr. Miller said his strengths come from 30 years working for the city. He said he knows how the city operates, the budgeting procedure and has taken part in negotiations. Mr. Miller said, if elected, he would consider sitting in on union bargaining sessions.

He said city council members don't usually participate in bargaining. Instead, they base contract decisions off what they are told by city administration and staffers, Mr. Miller said.

"I think the city's biggest deficiency is deciding how they spend their money. Over the last several years I have seen, as I sit in city council meetings, spending based on pet projects while needs and services get passed over," Mr. Miller said.

He said the dredging of Riverside Lagoon in 2011 is an example."It was good they could dredge the lagoon, but it came at a time when the city was trying to address a big deficit in the budget. Moline was cutting personnel at that time," Mr. Miller said.

The dredging cost $332,396. According to city documents, the dredging was paid with a $190,000 state legislative discretionary grant and $142,396 from the stormwater utility fund. The lagoon is a stormwater detention basin.

The state grant had to be used on a project and stormwater revenues have to address related needs. None of the funds spent on the dredging could be used to paysalaries and benefits, according to city engineer Scott Hinton.

Ald. Acri cited two deficiencies needing attention -- rising pension obligations and addressing sewer system replacement while maintaining the city's remaining infrastructure to high standards. She said both are long-term issues.

As for pensions, "it is about sustainability and how we manage that in the future," she said, adding the city's obligation will continue to grow. Changes will depend on the state legislature, Ald. Acri said.

Moline's biggest strength is its hard-working employees, Mr. Miller said. That strength could be built on by continuing to make sure the city hires the best, most qualified employees, he said.

Department heads and the city administrator are required to live in Moline. Mr. Miller questioned if the requirement prevents the city from hiring and/or promoting the best people."It could be you have a 30-year employee (who could fill the position) who lives in Rock Island or East Moline and they want you to move to Moline to be a supervisor," he said, adding not everyone will be willing to move.

"I do not see the (residency requirement) as a necessity to being a city employee," Mr. Miller said, adding it may be necessary if the person hired was new to working for Moline.

Ald. Acri said the people of the community are Moline's biggest strength. "The people who live here love this community and are dedicated to doing what they can. They are concerned about the future of Moline in a good way. To improve that, I encourage citizens to contribute, to speak out and support the things they believe are important so we know how they want Moline as a community to proceed," she said.

Ald. Acri said she wants citizens who feel positive and negative about Moline be engaged. "The citizens need to know what value they have to contribute," she said. "Their voice needs to be heard and people making the decisions want to hear different ideas and what people truly want."

Mr. Miller said he knows the inner-workings of the city and will speak up. "I will not allow anything I believe is unethical in the city to continue to go on," he said. "I will challenge and call it out."

As for the noncontested candidates,Ald. Raes is in his third term and in 2009 was appointed mayor pro-tem. He is a senior vice president and trust officer for First Community Trust.

Ald. Parker was appointed 2nd Ward alderman by Mayor Welvaert on Oct. 9 to fill the unexpired term of Richard Meredith, who resigned because he was moving out of the ward. Ald. Parker is a Realtor with Century 21 Cornelis-Simpson Inc.

Ald. Schoonmaker is completing his first term. He is vice president of Bank ORION.


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