2018 marked a year of change in McHenry County.
Stories in the Northwest Herald touched on government squabbles, new development and a changing political landscape. Many of those narratives still are developing.
Here are some of the top stories to keep an eye on in 2019.
Infighting, legal spending and political polarization defined 2018 inside McHenry County’s most populous township.
The story of 2019 could include more lawsuits from the office of Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser and political allies.
In 2018, McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally decided to not prosecute Gasser’s predecessor, Bob Miller, after a nearly seven-month corruption probe. Now, Gasser is at the center of another investigation tied to a road salt purchase that did not go through the competitive bidding process required by the Illinois Highway Code.
A McHenry County Sheriff’s Office investigation still is open and active.
Township consolidation bill
In November, the Illinois Senate passed a proposed bill that would give McHenry County residents the power to abolish townships with a majority vote at the polls.
State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, said the bill clearing the General Assembly hurdle represents a “big win for taxpayers.”
House Bill 4637 applies only to the 17 townships in McHenry County and would create a referendum process for voters to dissolve those townships at the polls. The bill is likely to go to the desk of Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker.
McHenry County Board
The November election changed the makeup of the McHenry County Board.
Four Democrats won election to the historically Republican board. The blue winners will join Democratic Chairman Jack Franks, who now will sit near Clerk and Recorder Joe Tirio.
The new dynamics of the County Board’s composition will be worth watching in the new year.
April consolidated elections
On April 2, residents will head to the polls for a consolidated election that will change the shape of boards in many school districts and municipalities.
In Algonquin Township, Trustee Melissa Victor is running for a six-year term on the Cary Park District board, a move that could force her to resign from her township seat.
In the village of Fox River Grove, four people are running for three four-year trustee seats, but Village President Robert Nunamaker pointed to another race across town that is worth watching.
“Cary is a fight,” Nunamaker said of the village, where trustees have been in a bitter infighting battle for years.
In the village of Cary, six people are running for three trustee seats: incumbents Jim Cosler, Kim Covelli and Ellen McAlpine, along with Sean Wheeler, Dale Collier and Tim Ritter.
Illinois Integrity Fund lawsuits
Facing jail time on a contempt charge in McHenry County court recently, Richard Lewandowski, president of Breaker Press – a Chicago-based union mail-order house that printed attack mailers against Tirio before the March primary – named Michael Noonan, Franks’ former campaign director, and Sean Tenner, a former aide of Barack Obama and owner of KNI Communications, as the people behind the Illinois Integrity Fund, a dark money group that distributed mailers calling Tirio a “crook.”
Although he had no direct conversations with the Democratic chairman, Lewandowski said he “had reason to believe” Franks was involved after hearing that through third parties.
The question going forward is a big one in McHenry County political circles: Will Tirio and his attorney be able to prove Franks had any involvement in the development and distribution of the mailers?
Only time will tell as Tirio moves through the court system.
New Woodstock TIF district?
The city of Woodstock is in the process of establishing a new tax increment financing district.
Woodstock has had a 23-year,
100-acre TIF district in place since 1997.
The district will expire in 2020, and officials want to set up “downtown TIF No. 2” that will encompass about
60 percent of the existing TIF and include an additional 500 acres of property.