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McHenry Township trustee on road district consolidation fight: 'It isn't over'

Voters shot down road district referendum, but trustee won’t quit

On the Monday before the midterm election, Bob Anderson and fellow members of the grass-roots group Citizens for Consolidation met to talk about the future.

The question of the night was whether they should keep money in the bank to continue their fight to cut down the number of government units in Illinois.

The answer was simple to Anderson.

“Let’s keep the bank accounts open,” he said.

On the ballot the next day, voters in McHenry Township found the kind of referendum question Anderson has been pushing to put in front of voters at the polls for more than three decades: “Shall the Road District of the Township McHenry be abolished with all the rights, powers, duties, assets, property, liabilities, obligations and responsibilities being assumed by the Township of McHenry?”

Voters rejected the referendum in an overwhelming fashion. More than
68 percent of them voted “no,” but Anderson has no intentions of letting up.

“It’s not over,” Anderson said. “We’re not going to quit that easily.”

Anderson has been on the losing side of this battle before.

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.

“I was a little disappointed, but the numbers weren’t there,” Anderson said of Tuesday’s results.

He takes pride in getting the referendum in front of voters.

The referendum asked voters whether the road district should be consolidated, with McHenry Township taking on the district’s responsibilities if the referendum had been successful.

“We already had a victory,” Anderson said. “We got it on the ballot.”

The debate leading up to Tuesday’s vote featured two arguments about consolidation. Proponents such as Anderson fought to let the voters decide, while opponents contended that there should be an independent cost study conducted to prove whether consolidation would save taxpayers money.

Anderson received a call at the end of October saying someone had tossed beer bottles in front of his Wonder Lake barber shop, along with political signs and postcards that either were shredded to pieces or scrawled with derogatory remarks. Citizens for Facts First members, another grass-roots group that argued for a cost-savings study before consolidation, said bags stuffed with pro-consolidation materials were littered around their signs.

In the lead-up to vote, Anderson described a world where road district services could be managed by private companies and implied such a shift would be cheaper than the government bodies he calls redundant.

So what’s next for Anderson and Citizens for Consolidation? A possible follow-up campaign to consolidate McHenry County townships.

He first has to wait for the fate of House Bill 4637, which is sponsored by state Rep. David McSweeney.

The House-approved bill to give voters the power to consolidate McHenry County townships could go before the state Senate for a vote this month.

“I’m waiting to see what happens with that,” Anderson said.

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