LAKE IN THE HILLS – After hearing from McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks, Lake in the Hills trustees decided they want more time to determine whether they want to start the process to consolidate the Lake in the Hills Sanitary District.
While a village staff report shows an estimated $400,000 in savings could come from consolidating the sanitary district, there still are many unknowns on the district’s operations, Finance Director Shane Johnson said.
About 40,000 residents in Crystal Lake, Huntley and Lake in the Hills are served by the sanitary district, which is a separate governing body from the village of Lake in the Hills, according to sanitary district documents.
“At this time, village staff has conducted as thorough of an analysis as resources can permit,” Johnson said. “We are of the opinion that this preliminary analysis at least supports the county’s further investigation into the consolidation of the Lake in the Hills Sanitary District for a further determination.”
Franks, who wrote the law that grants the McHenry and Lake county boards the power to eliminate a taxing body for which it appoints a majority of the trustees, spoke to trustees Thursday at the Lake in the Hills Village Board meeting.
Before consolidation of the sanitary district is considered by the McHenry County Board, Franks said he needs to know whether the Lake in the Hills Village Board would be interested in taking over the sanitary district.
“I don’t want this to be adversarial whatsoever,” Franks said. “This has to be collaborative. And if it doesn’t make sense, we shouldn’t do it.”
Under the law Franks wrote, county boards must cite a legitimate reason that concludes the body proposed for elimination provides either unnecessary or duplicative services. If Lake in the Hills trustees direct the County Board to look into the consolidation, the County Board could then pass an ordinance proposing the district’s dissolution, Franks said.
After that, the County Board would audit the sanitary district, and then review the audit findings before moving on to the next step of adopting a second ordinance to dissolve the sanitary district, Franks said. If residents in the sanitary district object, they could petition the county clerk to force the proposed elimination to a voter referendum, Franks said.
In April, former Lake in the Hills Village President Paul Mulcahy called on trustees to adopt a resolution to encourage the McHenry County Board to consider consolidating the sanitary district with the village. However, trustees postponed the decision.
“I’m going to encourage you to go forward with this and ask us to do it, because you’ve got nothing to lose,” Franks said Thursday. “Because what we’re going to be doing is an in-depth audit and analysis to determine whether it makes sense.”
Trustee Ray Bogdanowski said the County Board will have to be part of the process at some point, so why not have them included at the beginning.
“It’s certainly worth taking this to the next level,” Bogdanowski said. “And I think that’s where we’re at now.”
Franks said all players – including the residents the sanitary district serves in Huntley and Crystal Lake and the sanitary district – would be involved in discussions.
Sanitary District Manager Rick Forner said he feels as if the district and village have been pit against each other.
“This whole process has come along, and there have been assumptions made about how the sanitary district operates to provide you as the board information about where the savings are,” Forner said.
While Forner said the district would be willing to sit down and talk with Lake in the Hills staff and move forward with consolidation if it makes sense, “In our hearts, we believe that we’re doing the most efficient job with the sanitary district,” Forner said.
Trustees Steve Harlfinger and David McPhee suggested village staff sit down with the sanitary district members before the consolidation is brought up for discussion again at the village’s strategic planning session. All trustees agreed to this proposal.
The date for the village’s strategic planning session has not yet been set, but likely would be in July or August, Village Administrator Jennifer Clough said.