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Grafton juggles road funds

HUNTLEY – The Grafton Township Board took a piecemeal approach to keeping the township functioning, after members accepted a loan from the Grafton road commissioner that should cover payroll and other expenses through mid-March.

The board met in a special meeting Wednesday to decide on how they would keep the township running, after Supervisor Linda Moore warned trustees that the township had only $8,500 in its coffers after the board’s authorization last month of a $300,000 loan to the road district.

The hefty payment was the final installment of a longstanding loan that was intended to help the township cover the defunct town hall project. The $8,500 remaining in Grafton’s budget would have fallen far short of covering the township’s estimated $100,000 in monthly expenses.

On Wednesday, Moore and the Grafton trustees struggled to reach a solution to solve the budget crisis, before reaffirming to pay the road district its $300,000 loan in exchange for a separate $110,000 loan from the road commissioner.

Moore estimated that the short-term fix would cover township expenses through mid-March. At that point, the township will have to keep borrowing from the road district or ask a bank for a loan.

“We still may continue to do this ‘in one pocket, out the other’ [approach], or we may work with a bank,” Moore said. “There are lots of possibilities.”

The $110,000 loan was the legal maximum the road commissioner could have given to the township. The board decided that they would pay back the loan, plus four percent in interest, by July 1, when $500,000 in property taxes is expected to enter township coffers.

The board endorsed the patchworked solution by a 3-1 vote, with Trustee Gerry McMahon being the lone dissenter.

Before the vote, the Grafton board split on a Moore motion that would have required the road district to return the $300,000 loan, amid accusations from Moore’s election challengers that the move was illegal.

Moore and trustee Betty Zirk met with Road Commissioner Jack Freund late Tuesday night and convinced him to return the $300,000, so that the township could cover payroll for the month

But Independent candidate Jim Kearns, whom Moore could potentially face in the April 9 election, rose from his seat to argue that the agreement between the three was illegal, since it wasn’t negotiated in an open meeting.

He also argued that the road district could not legally return the loan. Kearns said residents voted in their annual township meeting last year to require the township to repay the town hall loan to the road district by March 31.

“You need to follow the electors’ wishes and their votes, but you didn’t do that,” Kearns said.

Moore’s motion ultimately failed because of the board’s split decision.

After the meeting, Moore argued that the township could still have devised a way to repay the road district before March 31, if the road district ultimately returned the $300,000 loan.

“If you are running for office, please get the information before you throw out accusations,” Moore said. “We need to move forward, work together and conduct ourselves in a civil way.”

Moore’s primary opponents – Pam Fender and Marty Waitzman – also criticized the embattled supervisor for creating the township’s financial woes. Grafton’s cash flow problems came to a head less than a week from the township primary on Tuesday.

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