Candidates speak out in Freeport mayoral race - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Candidates speak out in Freeport mayoral race

Posted:
Jon Staben Jon Staben
Kathy Knodle Kathy Knodle
Jim Gitz Jim Gitz
Freeport City Hall building. Freeport City Hall building.
FREEPORT (WREX) -

The poor economy and blight dominates the discussion on what needs to change in Freeport. You do not have to drive far in the Pretzel City before you hit vacant homes and abandon buildings. But each candidate says they have a plan to help revitalize the economy.

"I'm aggressively going after new, non-retail business to rebuild the base that we lost, it's understood we first have to build a good rapport with existing businesses. We have to retain what we have and aggressively go after new non-retail business," says Jon Staben, People's Party candidate.

"My first initiate will be to revitalize neighborhoods, to work on getting our roads in better condition, getting our sidewalks and lighting in better condition so that we have a look of prosperity. So when businesses do come to look at us they'll want to locate here," Kathy Knodle, Independent candidate.

"I think it is really important for us to focus on job retention, in the existing business that we already have 80 percent of all new job growth in the future is statistically going to come from our existing employers," says Jim Gitz, Citizen's Party candidate.

Gitz is Freeport's former mayor. He served two terms before leaving office. He beat Freeport's current Mayor George Gaulrapp in the primaries and is now running against political newcomers Staben and Knodle. They all say they won't let vacant homes ruin neighborhoods.

"We need to combine public safety and community development for a holistic approach for their neighborhoods. That is it's not just simply about fixing up a roof here and knocking down a house there, we need a comprehensive plan," says Gitz.

"We need to register building owners, vacant building owners so that we know who to call when there is a problem but I think it's a consolidated effort on the city's part dealing with it's own properties and then going to the community and getting their support in dealing with the rest of the decaying buildings," says Staben.

"We're working to get more money in the city budget for demolishing homes. As I said, the neighborhood groups are beginning to take more responsibility for the care of their neighborhoods which I think is a great plus because as I said many times it's going to take more than a mayor, or a city council or a city hall to solve the problems that we have," says Knodle.

Another major issue, the future of the City Hall. Knodle wants to see the option of choosing either the Carnegie Library Building or City Hall building be decided by the community.

"It's going to cost 4 million to renovate and the Carnegie Library probably about 2 million to renovate so do we renovate one of them and leave the other, as I said there are just many decisions and we are going to need the citizens of Freeport to be apart of that," says Knodle.

"The engineering reports I've seen suggest the City Hall building can be rehabbed, it can be made safe, it can be made into a very functional building and I believe that the will of the citizenry is that is what we should do," says Staben.

"Its my intention to move forward with a renovation, not necessarily a restoration but to put that building back into service. To gut the inside and turn it into a modern efficient office that the city can use," says Gitz.

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