School District 155 to pay $260K in Crystal Lake South bleachers fines

CRYSTAL LAKE – Community High School District 155 will pay the city of Crystal Lake $260,000 in fines as a result of the dispute over the Crystal Lake South High School bleachers, the two parties recently agreed.

A settlement agreement made Friday is the conclusion of “a very ugly chapter in the history of intergovernmental relations in the city of Crystal Lake,” Mayor Aaron Shepley said.

The city filed a counterclaim against the School District 155 Board seeking fines to recoup losses in legal fees incurred throughout the almost three-year bleachers controversy.

The agreed-upon amount is less than what the city could have levied, Shepley said, saying six violations were tallied with each violation carrying a maximum fee of $1,000 a day. Using that, the total amount ranged from $600,000 to $5.5 million.

“We said all along we aren’t interested in punishing another taxing body,” Shepley said, adding the city’s goal was only to cover the total cost of its legal fees.

By seeking fines from the district, he also said the cost will be more evenly spread across all the residents within territorially larger District 155, rather than just Crystal Lake.

“We appreciate the city’s willingness to work with the district to avoid significant fees,” according to an emailed statement from District 155 Director of Communications Shannon Mortimer. “The district is pleased with the city’s cooperation, and we will continue to work with the city moving forward. Court proceedings are still open, and we hope to resolve them shortly.”

In addition to paying the city fines, District 155 in early February agreed to cover $273,000 in legal bills for the neighbors who filed the lawsuit.

The case dates back to August 2013, when property owners sued the school district over the expanded bleachers, arguing that the district bypassed the city’s zoning process.

Between then and now, the case has been in and out of the court system, including the Illinois Supreme Court, which sided with the city and neighbors by deciding the school district must comply with the city’s zoning process.

Noting the school district’s timely response after the city filed for fines, Shepley said the settlement brings the controversy to a close and will be good for the community.

“Assuming everybody continues to move forward in good faith ... I think we’ll have an opportunity to rebuild that relationship with the school board,” he said.

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