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McHenry County Conservation District to vote on resolution opposing consolidation bill

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Conservation District doesn't want a proposed consolidation bill to apply to it – or at least its Board of Trustees is considering a resolution voicing that sentiment.

The board's president, David Brandt of Wonder Lake, asked district staff to arrange a special meeting to consider a resolution opposing the bill after spending Tuesday and Wednesday in Springfield as part of Illinois Association of Park Districts' Parks Day, in which park and conservation district representatives make the rounds at the statehouse.

The district had been following the bill, but a visit with state Sen. Pam Althoff – who signed on as the chief sponsor of the bill in the Senate despite objections from the bill's original sponsor in the House – gave him a "sense of urgency," Brandt said.

House Bill 229, which passed the Illinois House on a 61-40 vote last Friday, would give McHenry and Lake county boards the ability to eliminate certain units of government. The DuPage County Board had been given this power in 2013.

That sense of urgency is why the meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. Saturday, not a typical time for the conservation district's Board of Trustees to meet.

Brandt said he doesn't oppose consolidation but is concerned that the proposed bill would confuse the issue. The Illinois Conservation District Act already lays out how conservation districts can be dissolved or how to make their boards directly elected instead of being appointed by the county board.

"It’s not so much are we going to [dissolve the district], but it’s the confusion over the [Conservation] District Act," Brandt said.

His role as a board trustee is to protect the district, he said, adding that while perhaps this County Board wouldn't get rid of the district, a future board might.

Brandt said he would support the amendment suggested by Althoff, R-McHenry, that would exempt certain entities that were created by voters, such as the McHenry County Conservation District and the Mental Health Board.

Under the proposed bill, the county boards could could vote to eliminate a taxing body if it appoints a majority of its trustees, if its boundaries are completely within the county, if it is not a fire district with full-time employees and if it was not created under the Water Commission Act of 1985.

In McHenry County, some of the entities that fit that description include the Greenwood and Hebron drainage districts, the Crystal Lake Rural Fire District, the McHenry County Conservation District, the mental health board and the Senior Services Grant Commission

The board would have to cite a reason for elimination, based on unnecessary or duplicative services, and voters could petition the county clerk to force the proposed elimination to a referendum.

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