Led by McHenry County Board Chairman Joe Gottemoller, thirteen members tacked the lid on the coffin of the township consolidation movement.
During the lengthy public comment period, in which the opponents of township consolidation dominated the podium, County Board members had the following on their desks:
Unlike the County Board vote to put whether the voters should be allowed to elect their Chairman in an at-large election, the vote on putting township consolidation on the ballot was defeated 9-13.
At least two who voted in favor of putting the at-large election question on the ballot two years ago, even though they opposed the substance of the question, were Gottemoller and Mike Skala, according to Andrew Gasser.
In a point of order, Mike Walkup challenged the right of Gottemoller and Anna May Miller to vote based on an Appellate Court case in which he was the attorney.
In the case of Bob Anderson vs. McHenry Township, Walkup pointed out, the Appellate Court for the Second District, which controls McHenry County, ruled that a person who had a pecuniary interest in the existence of a particular township could not vote on whether or not a referendum that could eliminate that township should appear on the ballot.
Walkup implied that both had a “pecuniary interest” in township government–
- Gottemoller because he is the attorney for Grafton Township
- Miller because she works for her husband Algonquin Township Road Commissioner Bob Miller
Walkup, who is running against Gottemoller in the at-large election asked Gottemoller if he would refrain from voting.
“Not a chance, Mike,” was the sharp reply.
“I don’t know how’s that’s a point of order.”
Without Gottemoller’s and Miller’s votes, the tally would have failed 11-9.
At the initiative of Chuck Wheeler, Mary McCann was allowed to vote by phone, even though she was on the way to catch a plane, not a reason stated in the rules. She voted, “No.”
Here’s who voted how:
- Michele Aavang (voting by phone from DC lobbying the Farm Bureau) – No
- Yvonne Barnes – Yes
- Sue Draffkorn – No
- Andrew Gasser – Yes
- Joe Gottemoller – No
- John Hammerand – No
- Jim Heisler – Yes
- Tina Hill – Absent
- John Jung – No
- Don Kopsell – No
- Donna Kurtz – Yes
- Bob Martens – Yes
- Mary McCann – No
- Anna May Miller – No
- Robert Nowak – No
- Nick Provenzano – Yes
- Michael Rein – Yes
- Carolyn Schofield – No
- Mike Skala – No
- Larry Smith – No
- Mike Walkup – Yes
- Chuck Wheeler – Yes
[Those up for election are in boldface type. Four voted in favor; six against.]
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The comment period was vibrant.
Proponents were called first by Gottemoller.
A bearded man (whose name I didn’t catch, from Woodstock, I think) led off.
“There’s too much money being spent in this county.
“This needs to be done.
“I don’t understand why there’s any question of putting this on the ballot.”
Joe Tirio, who is a candidate for McHenry County Recorder of Deeds stepped up next.
“Who better to make the decision than the people who will have to live with it?” he asked.
One of Tirio’s opponents, Tina Hill, did not attend the meeting.
Mike McCleary, who heads the Republican Party in the most rural District 6 area, spoke in favor next.
He talked about the poll taken by proponents in which
- 58% agreed consolidation would save money
- 80% agreed the question should be on the ballot
- 54% favored township consolidation
“You were not elected by these township officials, were you?
“Let the citizens have a voice.
Please allow the people to have their voices heard.”
I wanted to advance my idea of a Crystal Lake Township comprised of Lakewood and Crystal Lake and was incorrectly grouped with those who wanted to speak in favor of consolidation, so I didn’t get notes on Mike Shorten’s, Cynthia Allen Schenk’s and Bob Anderson’s comments.
I remember that Schenk pointed out the small number of people living in Riley and Marengo Township–11,000 in all.
I was commenting on the resolution that would have an outsider evaluate township consolidation. I thought the definition of the work product was too narrow and suggested adding
“or the creation of a new townships of incorporated areas which could subsequently be eliminated by referendum, if so authorized by the General Assembly.”
There is another process outlined in state law that seems to allow a County Board to do that.
I believe that township government provides little value to those living in incorporated areas and that, once created, Crystal Lake and Lakewood voters could be convinced to abolish a Lakewood Township.
The General Assembly has allowed voters in two townships (Evanston and Belleville) to abolish that level of government by referendum.
Take a look at the municipalities which touch each other on the map below.
I also talked a bit about McHenry County Blog’s poll showing 80% of residents favored putting consolidation of townships on the ballot and suggested an opponent of those voting against such ballot access could be vulnerable.
Next came the parade of opponents to putting the question on the ballot.
Harry Alten of Chemung Township was first.
“Township government is a very personal and responsible form of government,” he said.
Richmond Township Supervisor Pat Doyle charged the group proposing consolidation had not come up with “any proven savings.”
He outlined increases in costs, including enlarging the township highway garage.
Supervisor Samuel Jones pointed out that “Burton Township [taxpayers] would receive an increase in their taxes.”
A surplus that has been accumulated by Burton Township would be spent on Richmond Township General Assistant recipients, it was predicted.
Burton Township Assessor Jessica Huber was next.
Paid $27,000 a year, she predicted that the cost of assessing, now $13.96 when her salary is included, would increase.
“The only thing you’ve accomplished would be creating a larger township,” she said.
She pointed out that there are no benefits now and that she works out of her home.
“You’re going after the smallest part of the tax bill. [That doesn’t make sense.]”
Alden Township Preston Rea, who is running for County Board in District 6, spoke next.
He talked of “all kinds of unintended consequences” of the township consolidation proposal.
He said he was not attending because “he had skin in the game, except I enjoy it.”
Rea said it was not going to have a significant financial impact on him.
State law, he said, allow electors at the annual meeting to direct township officials to do “thirty-eight things, whether they like it or not.”
Algonquin Township Road Commissioner Bob Miller then stepped to the podium.
“We kept waiting for that terrible report [outlining horrible waste] and it never came.
“We are giving you facts today.”
Referring to the outside study, he said it “should have been done years ago.
“Information shows it will increase the taxes in Grafton Township over 100%.
“When we combine, the people of Grafton will seek the same services that those in Algonquin receive.”
Then he presented results from one consolidation of two fire protection districts in DuPage County.
In 2011, one house number, worth $444,810 paid the Fairview Fire Protection District $105.85 and $110.50 in 2012.
After consolidation, in 2013, the bill for Special Service Area # 6 in Downers Grove, the bill was $388.16.
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Former Seneca Township Supervisor and County Board member Ersel Schuster testified next.
Let the local residents bring it to the officials by referendum.
Nunda Township Supervisor Lee Jennings argued that the results of the study discussed earlier was needed before any decision of whether to take township consolidation to the ballot or not.
Ask yourself why the people in favor of consolidation are so afraid of financial analysis.
Harry Walter, a 35-year resident, who has worked in Belvidere, wondered whether snow plowing would be as good if townships were consolidated.
Everyone talks about money.
Nobody talks about safety.
If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
Durham Township Supervisor John Pihl walked to the podium and told folks that the only reason he was there was because “it was too wet to combine.”
He suggested that instead of academics at Northern Illinois University that the Board should “try the University of Illinois Extension.”
He pointed out that both Dunham and Chemung Townships have about a million dollars worth of debt.
That resulted from referendums passed in the last two years.
Bob Dodson, who served on the Dunham Township Board as a trustee for “17 or 21 years” said the following:
Not once did i say, “If we combine with Chemung, our troubles would be over.”
Our government is way closer to the public than you folks.
He then suggested that the Board should listen the “Harper Valley PTA” song. [You can find the lyrics here. It is about hypocrisy.]
Dobson went on to call out State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi:
Lou – Hey, I can’t see the football games for free. The bleachers are in the way.
“It’s a whole different story when it’s in your backyard.”
Dunham Township resident Pat Kennedy asked, “How many people have been pounding on your desks.
“Maybe one, maybe two townships at most.
“There isn’t any level of government out of there that is more fiscally conservative.”
Another Dunham Township resident, Mimi Book said, “Dunham is doing great.
“Please don’t force us to consolidate.
“We have that choice ourselves.”
She pointed out that Dunham with 3,000 people would be dominated politically by Chemung with 9,000.
“So, when the snow flies, who’s going to get the last snow plow?”
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I may have missed some testimony, but I think what you read above reflects the public comment part of the meeting.
The contents of the Board debate will be in a separate story.