Local Government

McHenry County Board will hear township consolidation task force's final report

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board on Tuesday will hear the limited final report of a task force convened to examine referendums to consolidate the county’s townships.

While the McHenry County Township Consolidation Task Force was tasked in June with developing a proposed consolidation map and advancing a resolution to the full board, its members only could agree on proposing two consolidations out of the eight sought by the group pushing the issue.

Questions of true cost-effectiveness and benefits, hampered by significant pushback from township officials, dogged the task force throughout its three meetings.

At its third and final meeting Tuesday, the five-member task force agreed to recommend voter referendums to merge Richmond and Burton townships in the county’s northeast corner, and Chemung and Dunham townships in the northwest corner.

Besides the two proposed consolidations, task force chairwoman and County Board member Carolyn Schofield, R-Crystal Lake, will submit a proposed consolidation map for the board’s consideration that, if approved, would spare no township from consolidation and for the most part pairs off the more heavily populated and urbanized ones with each other.

However, the map is informational because the task force could not reach consensus on it, or the other two proposed consolidation maps it created.

Any proposed consolidations the County Board agrees to will be put on the March primary ballot.

The voters in each proposed new township would have to approve their consolidation by referendum – townships would consolidate where the referendums pass, and would stay separate where they fail.

Successful consolidations would take effect after the next township election, which would be 2017.

Townships under Illinois law have three statutory functions – assess properties, maintain roads and provide assistance for constituents in need – but many also have added services such as senior transportation, food banks and local programs.

While supporters of townships call them vital and the most direct and responsive government taxpayers have, opponents call them unnecessary anachronisms rife with nepotism and patronage, and argue their functions easily could be absorbed by county and municipal governments.

The task force was created after a request by a group called McHenry County Citizens for Township Consolidation. The group, with the blessing of a number of high-ranking county Republican officials, asked the County Board to put consolidation referendums to voters.

Board Chairman Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, subsequently convened the five-member task force – three County Board members and one township official each from both sides of the consolidation debate – to explore the issue and recommend action if justified.

The task force’s loudest voices for consolidation were County Board member Donna Kurtz, R-Crystal Lake, and Mike Shorten, a Nunda Township trustee and member of the consolidation group. Coral Township Supervisor Roger Naylor repeatedly argued that supporters could not prove their claims that consolidation would result in savings and increased efficiencies.

And at the end, County Board member Michele Aavang, R-Woodstock, agreed – she said she came in with an open mind and wanted to believe, but supporters had not made their case.

The County Board likely will take up the issue for a formal vote in October. The discussion and possible action originally was planned for the Sept. 15 board meeting, but was pushed back because of a meeting agenda that will be dominated by the controversial zoning vote for the expansion of the Fraternite of Notre Dame religious order in Coral Township.

The city of Harvard lies within Chemung and Dunham townships, while Richmond and Burton townships contain the villages of Richmond, Spring Grove and the McHenry County portion of Fox Lake.

If you go

The McHenry County Board meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the county Administration Building, 667 Ware Road, Woodstock.

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