Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is on an aggressive campaign to eliminate unincorporated areas from the county's map within the next decade.
Officials estimate the county spends $50 million annually to provide municipal-like services to these areas that are home to roughly 100,000 people.
Preckwinkle is pledging $5 million this year toward matching grants for infrastructure projects in unincorporated areas that will allow adjacent municipalities to annex them by reducing the costs of building and zoning as well as public safety services provided by the sheriff's office.
"I recognize that $5 million is a modest amount," Preckwinkle said. "This fund will point the county in the right direction towards realizing my goal of eliminating unincorporated areas within the next decade."
The money can be used to upgrade roads, sidewalks, sewer systems and other items to get the areas up to municipal code before annexation.
No unincorporated areas have been specifically identified yet, county officials said. The money will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. County officials are hopeful the program will also generate additional grant funds from the federal government, officials said.
The county has been studying ways to eliminate the roughly 62 square miles of unincorporated parcels that dot the county like freckles. County officials spoke about the program with residents of the Forest Estates neighborhood near Rolling Meadows Wednesday and told the crowd that the consolidation wouldn't be forced on residents.
Forest Estates Homeowners Association President Bill Murray said the information his group received was "surprisingly reassuring."
"We assumed that this would be a forced shotgun marriage, but according to (county officials), both parties would have to be willing," Murray said.
The money for the program will come from the county's general fund. The county board is expected to approve the coming fiscal year budget today.