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Burke: 'Tempest in a teapot'

Riverfront Commission has done a good job, according to mayor

Dixon Mayor Jim Burke
Dixon Mayor Jim Burke

DIXON – Calls for a change of leadership on the Riverfront Commission from a member who recently resigned are an example of “a tempest in a teapot,” Mayor Jim Burke said.

John Varga Sr. addressed a letter of resignation Tuesday to Burke, Riverfront Chairman Larry Reed, Vice Chairman Paul Miller and Sauk Valley Media.

Varga left abruptly at the tail end of the commission’s Aug. 13 meeting, saying he planned to resign.

“It’s a big joke,” Varga said at the meeting. “I’ve had it.”

Varga’s letter encouraged a change in leadership as well as implementing a more progressive way of accomplishing goals by restructuring the commission.

“The Riverfront is an economic driver for Dixon and an anchor for the downtown,” Varga wrote. “But it becomes inherent in any organization to refresh so growth continues.”

In the past years, the only accomplishments Varga has been able to achieve were getting a golf cart for the maintenance director and sealer and caulking for the colored mortar on the Riverfront, and even that came with big help from city officials, he said in the letter.

Reed and Miller have been in the same position too long, he said, blocking any new ideas from surfacing. Too often, new ideas were tabled or put off, Varga said.

“An organization can only grow when new people with new ideas and energy come into the picture and are allowed to voice their ideas and carry them out if the majority of the commission agrees,” he wrote.

New blood is on the way, Burke said.

As mayor, he appoints members to the Riverfront Commission. The appointments then are approved by the City Council.

He has a replacement in mind for Varga, Burke said.

He also reiterated what Reed said at the meeting: Reed is willing to step down as chairman if anyone else wants to take over.

“There’s been some disgruntled people that are taking shots at the Riverfront,” Burke said. “The whole thing is blown out of proportion. They’ve done a tremendous job. I don’t have any criticism of Larry Reed. He’s done a great job of heading it up.”

Also, a committee looking into consolidating the Riverfront Commission, Dixon Tourism and Main Street will recommend to the City Council on Sept. 3 a change to the structural makeup of the Riverfront Commission, said Police Chief Danny Langloss, special assistant to the council and head of that study.

Both Main Street and the Riverfront Commission have said they want to work together.

“It’s very likely there will be a merger between Main Street and the Riverfront,” Langloss said. “A positive change is going to come there.”

The move could put Main Street Executive Director Josh Albrecht in charge of managing both groups, Langloss said.

When asked what that would mean for Kay Miller, executive manager of the Riverfront, Langloss said that will be addressed as part of the recommendation, but the City Council will decide what happens to her position.

Miller is working without a contract for $200 a month. Her contract remains unsettled 9 months after the City Council voted 4-1 against paying her $800 a month. (Burke voted in favor.)

Commissioners questioned whether she raised enough money to merit $800 per month.

Meanwhile, commission members have tabled many items in the past 2 or 3 months, waiting to learn how the panel will be restructured.

Talks also continue on building docks to accommodate 13 boats at Heritage Crossing. The cost is estimated at $177,000; the commission would need to raise 10 percent of that if a grant comes through. It has raised $4,665.

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