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McHenry Township trustees to vote again on referendum that could eliminate road district

Trustees Bill Cunningham (left) and Bob Anderson chat before a McHenry Township meeting Jan. 11. McHenry Township trustees voted against putting a referendum to voters in the November election that would ask whether they want to abolish the road district and consolidate it into the township. Cunningham and Anderson both voted in favor of the referendum.
Trustees Bill Cunningham (left) and Bob Anderson chat before a McHenry Township meeting Jan. 11. McHenry Township trustees voted against putting a referendum to voters in the November election that would ask whether they want to abolish the road district and consolidate it into the township. Cunningham and Anderson both voted in favor of the referendum.

JOHNSBURG – It appears the McHenry Township Road District will land on the chopping block – again.

Less than one month after trustees voted down a referendum that would allow residents to eliminate the road district with a majority vote at the polls in November, the board will take another vote Feb. 8.

This time around, Trustee Mike Rakestraw – who voted against the referendum last month – plans to vote yes.

“I’m perfectly willing to accept whatever the voters say,” Rakestraw said.

Rakestraw filed a resolution last week with the McHenry Township clerk to have trustees vote on whether the referendum should appear on the November ballot.

“I give the voters more credit than a lot of people do,” Rakestraw said. “That’s my bottom line. People generally try to do the right thing.”

McHenry Township trustees voted down the measure Jan. 11. The 3-2 vote brought to a standstill the consolidation efforts of Trustee Bob Anderson, who began his fight to abolish townships three decades ago.

The Wonder Lake barber said he didn’t sleep a wink the night after the meeting.

“I wasn’t angry, but I certainly was disappointed,” Anderson said. “What went wrong? Everybody expected it to be on the ballot.”

Rakestraw would not offer many details on why he flipped.

“I would rather not say anything,” Rakestraw said.

Township officials who voted down the resolution said Rakestraw’s decision to change his vote appears suspicious.

“I don’t have an understanding of it other than it must be politically motivated,” Supervisor Craig Adams said. “How can you go from voting ‘no’ on Thursday to a week later you changed your mind?”

Adams said a cost study should support a decision as big as eliminating the McHenry Township Road District – an operation that manages 100 miles of road – to prove there would be cost savings for voters.

Anderson’s resolution came on the heels of a new state law that went into effect Jan. 1.

The legislation allows township trustees to ask voters whether they want the road district abolished and its responsibilities given to the township supervisor.

A majority vote would push that plan into motion, eliminating the road district at the end of the current highway commissioner’s term.

State Rep. Sam Yingling, D-Grayslake, the legislator leading the state’s consolidation committee in Springfield, on Monday wrote an official letter supporting Anderson’s efforts to abolish the road district.

Yingling, the state’s 62nd District representative and chairman of the Government Consolidation and Modernization Committee, was the chief sponsor of the new law.

The endgame of the law is to lower crushing property taxes in areas such as McHenry County, where residents are fleeing to find more affordable places to live, Yingling said.

State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, 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 services provided by townships to local municipalities and the county government.

His legislation would allow voters to trigger a referendum with a petition signed by
5 percent of the voters within township boundaries.

McSweeney shifted his focus to Algonquin Township, where unruly in-house lawsuits, budget-busting legal fees and numerous corruption allegations leveled against the former leader of 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.

In 1994, Anderson spearheaded a referendum to eliminate the county’s townships the only way state law allowed – by switching from a county board to a three-member panel of county commissioners.

By a 3-1 margin, voters defeated Anderson’s referendum to abolish townships in the November 1994 election.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: McHenry Township officials soon will take a second vote on whether voters should have the opportunity to eliminate the road district with a majority vote at the polls in the November election.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Feb. 8

WHERE: 3703 N. Richmond Road, Johnsburg

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