Organizer of Chilean delegation’s visit to Elgin touts the benefits of their trip
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org July 9, 2013 12:36PM
Members of the Chilean delegation attended Elgin's Fourth of July parade in 2013. | Sun-Times Media file
Updated: August 11, 2013 6:34AM
ELGIN — The visit from a Chilean delegation that ended Monday was more than just receptions and good times sightseeing with new friends from a sister city.
According to volunteer visit coordinator Elgin Fire Lt. Bob Bedard, the effort may result in business for at least two American firms, one of them with headquarters here.
Bedard noted that during their stay, officials from Elgin’s sister city of Cauquenes met with representatives from Elgin Sweeper. Bedard believes Cauquenes will purchase or lease a new or refurbished Pelican street sweeper.
“The demolition and reconstruction of their city has left debris all over,” Bedard stated in an email.
“They have hired a private company to clear the streets, but they can’t keep up. The Pelican doesn’t use suction — which can’t lift heavier items — but mechanically sweeps everything including bricks and wood into a bin to be transported to a collection site where they would take it to the dump 150 miles away. This would save them a ton of man hours in pickup and collection, thus freeing man hours to clean up other parts of the city that are still covered in shells and debris from the tsunami.”
An 8.8 magnitude earthquake and resultant tsunami hit Chile on Feb. 27, 2010.
Burns and McDonnell — an international engineering, architecture and consulting firm with headquarters in Kansas City and a regional office in Downers Grove — sent negotiators to talk to Cauquenes city administrators about assisting with waste management, water reclamation and reconstruction, according to Bedard.
Bedard also believes “the pieces necessary to consider an import/export business have started to come together as a result of this visit.”
Locally, there is a strong interest in bringing the organically processed and tinted yarns from Chile to Elgin shops, Bedard stated, and many restaurants in Elgin benefited from sister city-related visits, as did shops in town where the Chileans bought gifts.
In addition to seeing attractions and city-related facilities and attending events in Elgin, the contingency went to the fireworks at the Northwest Fourth-Fest in Hoffman Estates and saw other parts of the Chicago area, including Woodfield Mall and tourist attractions in the heart of Chicago such as Millennium Park, the United Center and the Magnificent Mile.
Without providing a specific number, Bedard stated, “Individuals and companies assisted with donations to help cover expenses. I expect to collect more over the next couple of weeks as those that made commitments follow through on their offers.”
As for what the city’s cash contribution to the effort may turn out to be, Bedard stated, “The city paid $2,469 to cover lodging (at the Holiday Inn in Elgin) and picked up some breakfasts costs. City vehicles were used to ferry the delegation, but no city money was used for fuel. Fuel was purchased by the sister cities project. At this time, it appears that the total miles put on the vehicles was just under 600. Even at the generous rate of $.59/mile, this amounts to under $350.”
At the June 26 city council meeting, members agreed by a 7-2 vote to contribute Elgin money to the effort, with John Prigge and Terry Gavin opposing the measure.
The Chilean delegation included Cauquenes city auditor-manager Elena Aranis Vilches; Councilman and Mayor-elect Felipe German Aquiles Vera Rodriguez; Rancagua firefighter and rescue specialist José Manuel Lavín Benavente; Cauquenes Superintendent of Firefighters Victor Manuel Yevenes Marquez; Rancagua firefighter/paramedic and disaster management instructor Edgardo Andres Escobar; and Maria Ibarra, a journalist from Chile’s capital, Santiago.
They paid for their own airfare and luggage costs, and “everyone of them was overweight on their luggage from all the gifts and purchased items,” Bedard stated.
Of the value of the visit, “Relationships are built through investments of time and resources,” Bedard stated. “Both sides have now invested in this process, and we are both finding it much easier to move forward with clear purpose on economic and educational initiatives.”
Bedard noted that his greatest memories related to the Chileans time in Elgin “will be the manner in which our partners extended themselves generously to welcome our sister city. It really was amazing. Gail Borden Public Library, Advocate Sherman Hospital, the Grand Victoria Casino, the League of Women Voters, and of course the city of Elgin all hosted banquets that impressed the delegates. Our Latino community stepped forward with delegates and interpreters who were of great assistance and comfort to our visitors.”
Bedard stated, “Our elected officials were highly visible in support of this effort, and this too impressed the delegates. Congresswoman (Tammy) Duckworth, Senator (Mike) Noland, Representative (Keith) Farnham, Mayor (David) Kaptain and numerous council members made time to meet with the delegates and promise cooperation with economic initiatives.”
Bedard also thanked Elgin’s Cultural Arts Commission, the Elgin Association of Firefighters Local 439 for their help, and Elgin Symphony Orchestra cellist Kerena Moeller and violinist Jen Leckie for playing chamber music at the reception held in Gail Borden Public Library. And he said that Elgin Community College President David Sam made a verbal commitment to assist with educational objectives there might be between Elgin and Cauquenes.