HEBRON – Representatives from a homeless veterans shelter say they might have to cut staff after grant funding stalled after Village President John Jacobson’s effort to force them into funding a water well for a neighboring bar.
The latest controversy in Hebron village government involves a proposed water main that Transitional Living Services, which runs the New Horizons shelter, agreed to install on its property in exchange for Jacobson’s signature on a $25,000 Illinois Department of Human Services grant application.
With representatives from TLS present, the Village Board unanimously approved a timeline for the water main project during an Oct. 20 meeting, both TLS Director Betty Hartwig and Hebron board members said.
Jacobson has yet to sign the group’s grant application after TLS refused to agree to a list of separate conditions the Hebron village attorney described in a letter to TLS’s attorney two days after the board’s vote. Village trustees were not aware of the extra conditions until Hartwig started calling individual board members about the additions.
One condition states that Transitional Living would have to pay the owners of Hoops Bar and Grill $5,000 to help them construct a new water well, if the McHenry County Department of Health orders the bar to build one within the next two years, according to the letter obtained by the Northwest Herald.
Hoops, a bar village trustees said Jacobson frequents, is located near the New Horizons shelter. Jacobson is holding up grant funding because of Hoops, an issue separate from the board’s agreement with TLS, Hartwig said.
“It’s really wrong. He’s using this [grant] funding for these veterans that need it the most as a bargaining chip, and he’s putting his thumb up at all of the trustees, who are directing him to sign this,” Hartwig said. “It’s unconscionable to me that he has that much power and that the trustees would allow that to happen.”
The state already has told the veterans group it won’t be receiving funding without a signature from Jacobson that certifies the grant application. The lack of funding means the shelter might have to cut services and staff to conserve costs, Hartwig said.
Calls to Jacobson for comment were not returned.
Village attorney Michael Smoron told the Northwest Herald that Transitional Living agreed to the Hoops provision before the Oct. 20 meeting, according to conversations Smoron had with Jacobson.
Jacobson was surprised that TLS’ attorney left the Hoops provision out in its letter the veterans group sent the day after the board’s vote that detailed the terms of the water main agreement, Smoron said.
Hartwig maintains the Hoops issue never was agreed to or voted upon by the board during the Oct. 20 meeting. Smoron said he has not talked directly with Transitional Living since the board’s vote.
“The mayor’s understanding is that if the main was not going to be installed in a timely manner that TLS would help defray the cost of a new water main for Hoops, up to the amount of $5,000, in light of the concerns from the McHenry County health department,” Smoron said.
The health department in June denied Hoops a permit for a water well. Village officials and Hoops owners have since been negotiating and examining the possibility of connecting to a public water supply, a health department spokesperson said.
The latest controversy in Hebron underscores the uproar over Jacobson’s leadership since he took office in April 2013.
Despite pending felony charges for crack cocaine possession, Jacobson easily defeated longtime Village President Frank Beatty in the April election. He later pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge, as part of a plea deal that allowed him to remain in office.
In October 2013, Jacobson was charged with drunken driving in Walworth, Wisconsin, during his probationary period from the previous drug charge. He pleaded no contest to an amended reckless driving charge in July to resolve the case.
Many core village directors also left nearly a year into Jacobson’s tenure, as village trustees increasingly questioned his management style.
Trustee Susan Ritzert, an outspoken critic of Jacobson, said Jacobson’s latest move to go behind the board’s vote and add conditions to the TLS project is another example of Jacobson wanting total control.
As for the Hoops provision, she doesn’t understand why Jacobson made it a condition.
“Other than the fact that he’s a regular out there, I don’t know,” Ritzert said. “There is not a lot of sense to a lot of things he does.”