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McHenry Township residents threaten legal recourse over consolidation cost study

McHenry Township faces possible injunction over consolidation cost study

Leon Van Every of Ringwood speaks during the public comment portion of a McHenry Township board meeting Thursday in Johnsburg.
Leon Van Every of Ringwood speaks during the public comment portion of a McHenry Township board meeting Thursday in Johnsburg.

The McHenry Township board could face legal action should it not take steps to conduct a cost study on the proposed dissolution of its road district.

In February, township officials voted to put a referendum on November’s ballot asking voters whether they think the road district should be eliminated. This came a month after a similar measure was shot down by trustees.

But during April’s annual meeting, where voters are given the chance to directly address trustees about how to manage the township, they voted, 76-0, on a request calling for a cost study.

In a letter dated Wednesday from attorney Genna Hibbs of Woodstock-based Hibbs Law, who is representing a number of township residents, the board was asked to comply with the residents' vote to initiate the study. The letter compelled the board to hold an impromptu executive session during its meeting Thursday.

The letter asked that the board decertify the question for the ballot as being premature ahead of the Aug. 20 ballot submission deadline.

It also asked that the board publicly provide any plans for transitioning or resolving the road district duties in the event of consolidation, begin taking bids and initiating work on a cost study and refrain from placing any questions related to road district consolidation on any election ballot unless the public has had access to the study’s results no less than 90 days before the board votes on any such resolution.

Should these demands not be met, resident Robert Beltran said, there would be grounds to file an injunction to remove the resolution from November’s ballot.

“If the board continues to ignore the clear direction of its electors, we shall pursue all legal recourse to force their compliance,” the letter read. “Ignoring the will and direction of the annual meeting electors is a deprivation of constitutional rights as well as their express powers.”

Leon Van Every, a former township highway commissioner, said during the public comment portion of the meeting that he rather would pay the salary of Highway Commissioner James Condon if it meant having someone to report potholes, downed trees and other road hazards.

“If [Condon] loses his job, who are we going to call?” Van Every said. “I want the ability to call someone and talk to them.”

To further illustrate his point, Van Every said even if the additional cost was enough to buy a can of peanuts, he would pay it. He then slammed a can of peanuts down in front of Trustee Bob Anderson, a longtime consolidation proponent, and said, “Nuts to the board.”

Although Anderson has fought for consolidation for decades, he said he doesn't see any reason to conduct a cost study on consolidation of the road district because it is a common-sense move.

A bill filed by state Rep. Steve Reick, R-Woodstock, in December tried to 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, but the measure never made it out of committee during the most recent legislative session.

McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks, a former state representative, said the bill never got a hearing because it was such a “Looney Tune” idea.

Franks said he is all for local consolidation when it makes sense.

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