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Things running smoothly with new Kirkland officials, president says

KIRKLAND – Not long after the local consolidated elections in April, the village of Kirkland gained not only a new president, but also a new village clerk, attorney, treasurer, engineer, building inspector and police chief.

Aside from Police Chief Andy Davenport and Treasurer Bill Newkirk, who filled seats that were vacated by resignation, all appointments were made by Village President Ryan Block after evaluating whether current office holders were the best fit for the village.

“In theory, when a village president or mayor comes into office, they have the ability to appoint those positions,” Block said. “After I found out I had been elected, I did some investigative work to see what kind of options were out there.”

Block added that it was not initially his plan to have sweeping new appointments, but he thought it would be a time to refresh the administration after conducting interviews alongside various board trustees and further engagement with residents.

After taking office, Block said that everything has been going smoothly, although it was tough when former Village President Les Bellah died.

“It’s definitely new here ,and with Les’ passing, it was difficult to get the tribal knowledge, so it was a bit of a learning curve to get up to speed,” Block said. “But we have a great working relationship, and the trustees have really stepped up to figure out how we can progress and move forward.”

New Village Clerk Carol Stiegman said she was hired after the interview processes had been completed and was weighing the decision after being six years away from retirement.

“I had a couple of trustees in passing [ask] if I would take the job if they offered,” Stiegman said. “My decision has been for the best, and I am very happy here. It’s nice when you see familiar faces come into the office and you’re able to chit-chat.”

The job has not changed all that much since she took office, but it did require a lot more organization and tidying up, she said.

Stiegman spent 14 years at the village of Hampshire facing a number of responsibilities, including utility billing and payroll.

Mick Gronewold of Fehr-Graham, an engineering and environmental firm, was chosen as the village engineer by Block, who has an engineering background and was impressed with what the firm brought to the table.

Gronewold said his consulting services for Kirkland mostly will be devoted to road resurfacing and similar projects. However, he is consulting with DeKalb County for the replacement of a bridge on Pearl Street in Kirkland, which Block said will be an expensive project. He also is working to secure permits for cleaning out Bull Run Creek.

Block said that Davenport has done a good job maintaining police coverage across the village.

In the next couple of weeks, offices at the Kirkland Village Hall will be rearranged so that Kirkland police will operate in the front of the building and the village president will be operating in the back to provide the public with easier accessibility to police services. Davenport could not be reached for comment Friday.

One of the changes Block worked on was creating a simplified budget-planning process with Newkirk, the new treasurer.

“In the past, it was hard to read where allocations went,” Block said. “We wanted to get a simple budget appropriation that the public could understand without having to have an accounting degree.”

Under fiscal 2018 projections, the village of Kirkland will have a small surplus of about $6,300. Revenues totaled nearly $869,000, while expenditures totaled about $862,000.

“The goal is to at least be balanced, but different needs arise,” Block said. “The district was targeting a surplus going forward, and a majority of our revenue comes from property taxes, which aren’t affected by state budget constraints.”

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