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Article updated: 6/1/2011 5:08 PM

Which township road chief makes $45,866 to maintain four miles?

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By Jake Griffin | Suburban Tax Watchdog

Joe Jedlovec is responsible for maintaining just about the same amount of roadway in DuPage County's Winfield Township as Jerome Hulke takes care of for Plato Township in Kane County.

But the two elected highway commissioner posts don't pay the same.

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Comparing pay

1. Joe Jedlovec: Winfield Township paid $ 102,347 for 41 miles of road
2. James Plumb: Bloomingdale Township paid $ 97,320 for 52 miles
3. Donald Kopsell: Nunda Township paid $ 90,225 for 99 miles
4. Gary Muehlfelt: Milton Township paid $ 89,530 for 83 miles
5. Andy Anderson: Downers Grove Township paid $ 89,000 for 74 miles
Most miles
1. Donald Kopsell: Nunda Township paid $ 90,225 for 99 miles
2. Leon Van Every: McHenry Township paid $ 79,451 for 98 miles
3. Ron Johnson: St. Charles Township paid $ 88,071 for 86 miles
4. Gary Muehlfelt: Milton Township paid $ 89,530 for 83 miles
5. Mark Ring: Antioch Township paid $ 86,946 for 83 miles

Jedlovec's $102,347 salary this year is almost twice what Hulke will earn, though both men maintain about 40 miles of road. The longtime Winfield Township highway commissioner is the highest paid road chief of 50 suburban townships surveyed in six counties. He believes his 22 years on the job and the extra work he puts into the position played a part in the salary bestowed on him by township trustees.

"I do a lot of my own engineering, so I guess that's the board saying 'atta boy,'" Jedlovec said. "I have no say in it."

Among the 50 townships, there's no link between highway commissioners' salaries and the amount of road they plow and pave.

Take Elk Grove Township Highway Commissioner Charles Serchuk, who will make $45,866 this year. That translates to $11,325 per mile since he's only responsible for a smidgen more than four miles of road in the Cook County township.

Reached at home Friday, Serchuk said he couldn't talk and suggested calling back later. Subsequent attempts to reach him at his office and home were unsuccessful.

Some highway commissioners insist salaries for the post are based on responsibilities, not miles of road.

Jedlovec has the top salary, but Winfield Township ranks 16th in mileage, according to data from the Illinois Department of Transportation's Bureau of Local Roads.

Conversely, McHenry Township has the second most miles of the 50 townships in the survey, but Highway Commissioner Leon Van Every's $79,451 salary puts him in the 20th spot in pay rankings. But that's still above average among the 50 townships surveyed in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties. The position has the highest average salary of any elected township office at $67,285.

Robert Provenzano is a staunch defender of township highway commissioners. Or at least he's willing to defend his $85,203 job as Maine Township's road chief.

"Sure, you can compare the jobs by miles, but you need to look at the number of residents that live on those miles," he said, noting that some 30,000 residents live along the 20 miles Maine Township maintains. "This is an urban area. Most of those other highway commissioners don't have curbs, sidewalks and sewers to maintain. They don't have the responsibilities I have. It's apples and oranges. I'm like a municipality, not a township."

Provenzano said he gets upset when he hears people complain about the cost of townships.

"We're only 1.5 percent of the tax bill," he said. "And you don't see Cook County taking care of the sidewalks when it snows."

Not every township has a highway commissioner. Both DuPage Township in Will County and Barrington Township in Cook County operate without one.

"There's a law that if you fall under a certain number of miles you can farm out the work," said Barrington Township Supervisor Gene Dawson. "We have an intergovernmental agreement with Palatine Township, which is exceptional and they treat our unincorporated area as if it were their own."

It's worth noting that state records show that both DuPage and Barrington townships are still responsible for maintaining more miles of road than Elk Grove Township.

Elk Grove Township Supervisor Nanci Vanderweel offered some insight into the future of the township's road district, noting legislation awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn's signature that could allow voters to disband township road districts.

"We could certainly have the work done by the county or municipalities and that's one of the things obviously that is going to come up for consideration," she said. "We're coming up to that point where there won't be a highway department."

DuPage Township saved just $6,000 in salary costs when the highway commissioner's post was dropped. Dawson said his township has been without one so long, he doesn't have any idea what the cost savings were. But there's been no outcry to bring the job back.

"There's no need for it," Dawson said.

Got a tip?

Got a tip for the suburban tax watchdog? Contact Jake Griffin at jgriffin@dailyherald.com or (847) 427-4602. And follow him online at facebook.com/jakegriffin.dailyherald and twitter.com/#!/DHJakeGriffin.

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