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McHenry County Board committee to discuss reducing size

Consolidation group debates the right number of members

McHenry County Board chairman Jack Franks talks with member Kay Bates before a meeting May 10 at the McHenry County Administration Building in Woodstock.
McHenry County Board chairman Jack Franks talks with member Kay Bates before a meeting May 10 at the McHenry County Administration Building in Woodstock.

Consolidation is a concept taking over much of the conversation in McHenry County.

The debate now has surfaced on the McHenry County Board – a discussion Chairman Jack Franks is calling long overdue.

“This is a discussion that’s time has come, and quite frankly, this should have been done a decade ago,” Franks said at a meeting Tuesday of the County Board’s Ad Hoc Committee on Governmental Consolidation. “These seats are not ours. They belong to the people. We have an obligation to cut our size. The public is hungry for a leaner government.”

Franks is pushing the reduction of the County Board’s size after the 2020 U.S. Census. After each decennial U.S. Census, county boards get an opportunity to adjust their size. The Marengo Democrat said the board should be 12 members.

The McHenry County Board has stayed at 24 members since 1972. It is the only collar county board to remain the same size since voters first were empowered to directly elect members.

In 2016, 77 percent of voters supported an advisory referendum asking whether the County Board’s size should be reduced.

The ad hoc committee recently heard testimony on abolishing the McHenry County Recorder’s Office and recommended that it be put to the voters in a binding referendum. Voters in the March primary approved the idea.

At Tuesday’s meeting, most County Board members embraced the idea of consolidation, but they struggled with the question at the center of the debate: What’s the proper size of the board?

Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, said having 12 single-member districts could cause problems during elections.

“If you don’t have two people on a district, you’re going to skip an election for certain people, and I think somebody ought to be up in every district every time it’s up,” he said.

Robert Nowak, R-Algonquin, said 24 members works for him.

“Everybody here comes from different walks of life,” Nowak said. “They have different ideas, different ages, different religions, different backgrounds, and all those things make the strong votes.”

If he had to settle on a consolidated number, Nowak said, it would be 16 – four members each to represent four districts.

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