Craig Steagall Unleashes Broadside Against McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler over Metra State Land Purchase

Calling the proposed Metra station purchase McHenry County Board Chairman “Ken Koehler’s boondoggle,” Craig Steagall took the Dave Letterman approach in a Northwest Herald ad yesterday. Steagall has property across the tracks that was under consideration by Metra for a Ridgefield Metra commuter station. The contents of an earlier ad appear here.

He says the deal is

“tainted with Chicago-style politics and Blago stench.”

Steagall throws out all sorts of nuggets including a company named “Lily Pond Stone L” having purchased land to the northwest which was the third site considered for $12,165 an acre. Lily Pond Road, of course, is the southern boundary of the site Woodstock zoned for a minor league baseball stadium. Both the price and the hint that the purchaser wants to mine gravel are interesting.

In addition, mention is made of the McHenry County Ethics Committee. I wonder what that is.

Here is the text,

1-It is on the wrong side of the tracks. Legal counsel says I am too wordy – this is concession to their counsel.

2-Take the time to find the right location!! Go northwest, so southwest, but go on the south side of the tracks. The City of Crystal Lake has held informational meeting touting the grand expansion of Highway 14 with a grass medium strip and expanding to 4 lanes between Crystal Lake and Woodstock. It is logical to tie a new Metra station into road infrastructure designed for the traffic volume associated with a 650 to 750 car Metra parking lot. It is not logical to buy property then study what needs to be done to make a pig’s ear work. Metra will destroy downtown Ridgefield and turn county roads into major traffic arteries that are ill-suited for handling Metra station traffic.

3-Metra, you have stated you have studied 3 locations. The third location, near Lily Pond Road recently sold for a price of $12,165 per acre. The Hana Family Ltd sold to Lily Pond Stone L, on April 9th, 2009. With land prices this low and continuing to drop, Metra’s opportunity to find a straight approach off of Highway 14 is excellent. Metra, perform more due diligence before you cave to the political pressure.

4-Save me, Craig Steagall, from this bold and reckless offer. Metra, if you are buying Ken Koehler’s property for appraised value and it is $12,165 per acre, I will purchase the property from Metra for $13,000 per acre. Metra makes $835 per acre and we save Metra, Ridgefield businesses and countless homeowners who will be negatively impacted from this illogical and dangerous (because of the roads) Ken Koehler boondoggle. The feedback I have received lumps the current situation into the typical Blagojevich style government that has made Illinois fodder on the Dave Letterman show.

5-Prudence and legal counsel dictated I omit Number 5. My apologies. However if I do run another ad, which I hope I don’t, I will share the sad saga of a developer who bought property across the street from Ken Koehler’s 84 Lumber sale. The delevoper’s property was also purchased from Ken Koehler. It is a woeful tale. Having just met with the developer who bought the adjacent property, I believe new information has come to light that calls for an investigation of the travesty committed in the construction of 84 Lumber, Country Club road construction issues and the subsequent flooding that occurs on the developer’s property.

6-Metra, this is a quagmire that will only get more legs if you purchase this property. It is tainted with Chicago-style politics and Blago stench. And the citizens of McHenry County know barnyard smells.

7-Save Metra spokesman Michael Gillis from himself. Michael Gillis stated to the Northwest Herald that road improvements would be decided by a traffic study. BUY PROPERTY AND THEN DO TRAFFIC STUDY. McDonald’s would not put a golden arch in a corn field and then perform a traffic study to determine how to get traffic to their site. Some rudimentary level of competence must be applied to a site location, oft times described as common sense. The only reason this site makes sense is that a politician wants to sell his property during an ugly economic period. If he doesn’t get it sold now, he may not be on the County Board when it will sell. Fixing the roads to make this pig’s ear work is a waste of taxpayers money and destroys much of what citizens find attractive about rural McHenry County. IT’S ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE TRACKS.

8-The McHenry County Ethics Committee has not had a chance to review this land sale by the county board chairman. Give the committee a chance to weigh in before making a decision. This might require the time necessary for a committee chairperson to be appointed by the county board chairman – aka Ken Koehler and an actual ethics committee to be established by the county.

9-DEBATE – save me the potential embarrassment of mispronouncing words during a debate. I propose that we prevail upon the City of Crystal Lake for use of their auditorium and City Council chambers for the purpose of a TOWN HALL FORUM DEBATE. Ken Koehler/Craig Steagall/Metra spokesperson, moderated by Mayor Aaron Shepley. Let’s show government at its best – a rousing public debate on the pros and cons of the Metra station. Ken, fill in the blanks; METRA DEBATE – TOWN HALL MEETING
DATE______ TIME______ WHERE_______. (This debate may require renting a local school gymnasium, the outrage is building.)

10-IT’S WRONG – the Metra site selection has been compromised by a county board chairman with a litany of questionable self-serving actions during his term as county board chairman.

In very small type, the following appears below:

Thank you to all of the individuals who have shared their comments and support for putting a stop to this ill-suited Metra location. It is a sad commentary on our county government that the ads I have run highlighting this malfeasance were even necessary. The Metra site selection should have benefited from sunshine on the topic and not decided in back room political havens.

There are other elements of this story that should be aired, but I am growing weary of earning mileage points on my Northwest Herald ad purchases.

Updates will be posted on WWW.METRAQUESTIONS.COM in the future. Please type in full address and not simply Google metraquestions.

Want to post comments? Send comments to

Future Topics will include:

1. How a county official approached me years ago to build a cost effective McHenry County Animal Shelter on rural, cheap property that permitted steel construction.

2. The dismissal of Sue Ehardt as Department head for Planning and Development.

3. The discussion of why a wetland study is being undertaken by Metra and no wetland study was required for 84 Lumber.

4. More information on the road requirements for 84 Lumber and how a different standard may have been applied for expediency reasons.

5. Other Topics floating to the top of the septic tank of McHenry County politics.

6. A YouTube posting featuring a bike rider with a mini cam biking down Oak to Hillside to Country Club to the proposed Metra site. If Metra Board members have not taken the time to visit this third proposed Metra site, they can get a firsthand look at the destruction of rural roads and the danger of the rail crossing at Ridgefield and Country Club.

And finally, the Web site will soon feature an apology to Phil Pagano-Executive Director of Metra and Orest Chryniwsky, Senior Real Estate and Development Specialist Law Department. I regret they were thrown on the tracks. I believe both of these individuals are decent hard working civil servants who were working towards a land acquisition with the public’s best interest in mind. Political influences pushed them down a path that necessitated their falling in line and doing what benefited a politician rather than what was right for the Metra rider and the citizens of McHenry County. That pressure was not exerted by a singular Ken Koehler effort. Ken is powerful, but not that powerful he could swing this albatross without help.

*Note: To those readers who I have confused on the reference to Alden Road.
Explanation: The County has proposed expanding Alden Road-sometimes called Charles Road with 30 foot easements on each side of the road. The comparison I was making is if this road called for this type of expansion, then imagine what Country Club Road, Hillside, Oak Street look like after the County expands those roads with 30 foot easements. A forest of trees will be cut down, roads will be on residents front porch and the space available in downtown Ridgefield would require bulldozing of buildings to accommodate expanding the roads for proper width and easements.

Paid for by Craig Steagall

= = = = =
The top photo is of the gravel mining just north of Lily Pond Road.

The map from Google shows about where the train station would be located on Country Club Road.

Next there is a photo of the Route 14 Crystal Lake McHenry County Animal Control Shelter.

The picture below is of the property in question. Metra plans to buy 17.5 acres.

Other articles that might be of interest:

Alexander Lumber’s Move to Ridgefield, Proposed Metra Station Implications

Musings on the Proposed Ridgefield Metra Station

Ridgefield Businessman Takes on McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler over Proposed Metra Station

Metra Transparency Worse than McHenry County College’s

Metra Scheduled to Approve Former Flowerwood Land for Station in Ridgefield This Morning

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