CRYSTAL LAKE – State Rep. Steve Reick’s bill requiring a cost study before township trustees ask voters about road district consolidation already has met opposition in Springfield.
“I oppose his bill,” said Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills. “It’s unnecessary. I trust people to make the right decision.”
Filed in Springfield last week, House Bill 4190 would amend the Illinois Highway Code and require townships to hire an independent contractor to conduct a cost study to determine whether abolishing a road district would be cost-effective.
The study also would have to show that the township is capable of assuming road district duties. Only then could township trustees submit a referendum to abolish a road district.
The goal is to determine whether consolidation proposals actually would save taxpayers money, Reick said.
“I think [McSweeney is] wrong,” Reick said. “If you’re going to do something that drastic that would end up being irreversible, I think you need to step carefully before you take that jump.”
McSweeney, the spokesperson of the House consolidation committee in Springfield, said Reick’s bill would make things more complicated than needed.
Reick’s trailer bill would alter
HB 0607, a bill taking effect Jan. 1 that will allow township trustees to ask voters on an election ballot whether they want the road district abolished.
With a majority vote in favor of consolidating the road district, the highway department shall be abolished within no more than 90 days after the votes are certified.
“Steve Reick’s bill is creating an unnecessary bureaucratic layer,” McSweeney said. “It’s another step that makes it more difficult. It’s an impediment.”
Reick’s bill follows recent news that McSweeney has put abolishing township government at the top of his legislative priorities.
McSweeney now is working on a bill that would give voters an opportunity to eliminate township government with a majority vote – a move that would shift the work done by townships to local municipalities and county government.
His legislation would allow voters to trigger a referendum with a petition signed by 5 percent of voters within township boundaries.
In recent weeks, the Barrington Hills Republican shifted his focus to Algonquin Township, where unruly in-house lawsuits, legal fees topping $300,000 and numerous corruption allegations at the highway department have left the most populous township in McHenry County in turmoil.
McSweeney donated $6,300 to the political efforts of Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser, according to campaign finance records. Gasser previously supported township consolidation when he served on the McHenry County Board.
“My focus is not to create barriers to consolidation,” McSweeney said. “We need to promote consolidation.”
Reick questioned McSweeney’s motives.
“David, by training, is a financial analyst, and from all I understand, he’s a very successful one, which I admire,” Reick said. “I’m surprised that a guy with that kind of background would not want all the information he could get before he made the decision to invest in a larger government.”
HB 4190 is awaiting assignment to a substantive committee. Reick said he hopes lawmakers will give the legislation fair consideration when they return to Springfield in January.
McSweeney will be one of the legislators considering the bill, he said.
“Of course, any consolidation should focus on saving money,” McSweeney said, “but I think the township board and the people are the best people to make that decision.”