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updated: 9/7/2011 4:14 PM

MHS officials explain why next meeting is in Macomb

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  • The Mundelein High Mustangs will play home games on artificial turf once officials choose a surface to install.

      The Mundelein High Mustangs will play home games on artificial turf once officials choose a surface to install.
    GEORGE LECLAIRE/Daily Herald File Photo

 
 

Mundelein High School board members are hitting the road for their next meeting, convening 250 miles away in downstate Macomb on Saturday rather than the boardroom at the Hawley Street campus.

The board is making the roughly four-hour trip to examine an artificial turf field at Western Illinois University. Members will gather in Mundelein at 6:30 a.m. and travel to Macomb in a school activity bus, board President Karen Havlik said.

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Board members and administrators plan to replace the grass playing surface at Mundelein High's stadium with artificial turf, and the field at Western Illinois is the only one in the state produced by one of the manufacturers that have bid for the Mundelein High job.

Three other trips to see different types of artificial turf fields are planned, but all of those are at Chicago-area schools, Mundelein High School District 120 Superintendent Jody Ware said.

The Illinois Open Meetings Act, which sets rules for how government agencies should meet, says public meetings "must be held at times and places convenient and open to the public." Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Dan Jasica, who oversees the civil division that handles Open Meetings Act issues, sees no legal problem with the out-of-town gathering.

"You can't bring the Macomb artificial turf to Mundelein," he said.

Lake County Board members have made similar road trips to examine facilities outside the region, Jasica said.

Three of the District 120 board's seven members -- Rob Paliani, Joanne Anderson and Vicky Kennedy -- are set to make the trip Saturday.

Because they represent a majority of a quorum of the board, the meeting must be open to the public. If only one or two board members went to Macomb, a public meeting would not be necessary under the law.

School officials sent a notice of the meeting and the agenda for the session to the media Wednesday. The document specifies the time and location of the meeting and the nature of the discussion.

"It's very well defined, what they're doing," Ware said. "This is not in violation of the Open Meetings Act."

Any residents interested in attending the meeting can ride the bus to Macomb, Havlik said.

Mundelein High officials already have samples of the turf used at WIU and samples from other manufacturers, Havlik said. Officials are traveling to see actual fields "to make sure we're absolutely making the right choice."

"No one really wanted to go to Macomb, but that's the place where (the turf) is," she said.

Officials have developed an evaluation process for the field surfaces being considered, and those procedures require personal visits, Ware said.

"You have to apply the same tool and the same process to every company," she said.

The turf project will be funded with money raised through a debt extension voters approved in April. Including the anticipated replacement of the running track at the field, the project has an estimated $2.6 million price tag.

The board's future turf-related field trips will be to Wheeling High School, Warren Township High School in Gurnee and Hinsdale South High School, Ware said.

Public notices will be made for those trips, too, she said.

Other suburban governmental agencies have changed meeting plans because of the distances involved.

In 2009, the Lake Zurich village board relocated a retreat planned for a Lake Geneva, Wis., resort after community members complained to the Lake County state's attorney's office.

At the time, prosecutors said the location -- 45 miles from village hall -- did not meet the legal requirement for convenience, even with an offered bus service.

The difference between the Mundelein High and Lake Zurich situations, Jasica said, is the Lake Zurich trustees could've held their meeting locally -- and they eventually did.

Saturday's meeting in Macomb "is as convenient as it can be," Jasica said.

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