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McHenry Township officials weigh in on road district consolidation

Mystery of decades-old debate comes down to cost savings for taxpayers

When McHenry Township residents look at the ballot for the November election, they’ll find a question that has been at the center of back-and-forth debate brewing for 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?”

The Northwest Herald Editorial Board interviewed two of the loudest voices in the lead-up to the election: McHenry Township Highway Commissioner James Condon and McHenry Township Trustee Bob Anderson.

A proponent of road districts, taxes kept local and a cost study to show whether abolishing local governments would save residents money, Condon summed up the crusade for consolidation as a political game.

An opponent against township government for the past three decades, 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.

Each spoke with the editorial board for more than 30 minutes. Videos of the full conversation can be found on the Northwest Herald’s Facebook page. Here’s a glimpse at some of what Condon and Anderson had to say to voters before they hit the polls in November.

Jim Condon

To Condon, the argument comes down to one request.

“Somebody needs to come forward and tell us what the benefits are,” he said.

In April, residents were given the chance to directly address trustees and voted, 76-0, on a request calling for a cost study to explore how consolidation could affect taxpayers. A study never was completed.

If voters decide to abolish the road district, no changes would take place until the end of Condon’s term in 2021. To Condon, there’s no need to rush a move that is irreversible without taking the time to conduct a cost study.

“If it’s the right thing to do, let’s do it, but if it’s not the right thing to do [and] if there’s not a good reason to do it – the system’s not broken – why are we changing it?” Condon said. “The further away your tax dollars get away from your house, the harder it is to bring them back and keep them locally.”

Condon said the campaign to collapse the road district is part of a larger movement to abolish townships. The politics of the situation are difficult to ignore, he said.

“When you step back and look, and you see that Andrew Gasser, the current Algonquin Township road commissioner, the way they came out with the information about Bob Miller at the last minute, and the fact that everybody has looked at his stuff and he hasn’t been prosecuted for anything, as far as I know, you kind of wonder [about] politics, especially when [state Rep. David] McSweeney was one of the biggest funders for Andrew Gasser.”

Bob Anderson

Ask Anderson how much money consolidation will save, and he doesn’t have an answer.

“The details will come after we win,” Anderson told the Northwest Herald.

As far as how the township would handle the workload of the abolished road district, Anderson pointed to the private sector to take care of snowplowing and road paving.

Anderson said there’s no sense in waiting any longer to get rid of the road district: “Let’s do it now. Let’s win this, and now we’ve got that much time to put it in place.”

His opponents want to take away the voice of the voters, he said.

“It’s all about ‘Voters be damned,’ is what it is,” Anderson said. “The whole system does not want to voters to have a say.”

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