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Former D-155 members offer mediation in city, school district dispute

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013 4:56 p.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013 10:58 p.m. CST

CRYSTAL LAKE – A group of former Community High School District 155 board members and a local lawyer have offered to serve as mediators in the dispute between the city and school district over bleacher expansion at Crystal Lake South High School.

Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley said the city and school district received a letter from local attorney Jim Bishop and other former board members over the weekend offering to facilitate discussions and come to an agreement outside of court.

In the letter, Bishop wrote that he and fellow former board members Patricia Philpot, Robert Boncosky and Bill Lyons met on several occasions and selected Boncosky to be the leader of a mediation effort to end the court battle and pledged to remain neutral.

Bishop noted the four have been longtime Crystal Lake residents who have attended District 155 schools, had children go through those schools and have owned businesses in the city.

“It is our sincere desire that the pending litigation should and must be resolved without the further expenditure of tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer monies,” he wrote. “We are ready, willing and able to meet at any time to get the ball rolling in this matter.”

The city and school district are entwined in a lawsuit initially filed against the school district by a group of three Crystal Lake residents, including McHenry County State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi and his wife. Residents unhappy with the $1 million bleacher project say the district failed to follow the city zoning process and made the structure too large and too close to their property lines.

The school district later brought the city into the lawsuit to determine whether the regional superintendent or city had zoning control of district projects. Shepley said the mediation offer is appealing, but said he would only be involved in the process if it included the residents affected by the bleacher project.

“We’re certainly going to listen and would happily participate to resolve this matter outside the courtroom,” Shepley said. “But it doesn’t matter what the school district and city agree to, it only matters what the school district, city and neighbors agree to.”

Ted Wagner, board president for District 155, said he is open to any and all methods of resolution that would end the double hit to taxpayers the lawsuit has created. School board members had scheduled a meeting with affected neighbors the same day the lawsuit was filed, which canceled the community forum.

“We are interested in any way we can sit down and have discussions with the city,” Wagner said. “We’re interested in getting this settled through any avenue possible.”

Relations between the two sides have been slightly strained during the process. The city filed a stop-work order against the school district that eventually was suspended to appease a judge’s wishes, and both Wagner and Shepley penned letters to the editor in the Northwest Herald that called for the other to resolve the situation outside of court.

Shepley voiced further displeasure during the City Council meeting Tuesday, saying the decision to put portable toilets beneath the new bleachers and in the neighbors’ sightline was adding insult to injury.

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