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Article updated: 1/24/2013 11:57 AM

Winfield candidates differ on how to fix roads

By Robert Sanchez

A candidate in Winfield's village president race says increasing fees and resurrecting the town's long-dead vehicle sticker program could generate money for much-needed road repairs.

But his opponent insists that additional fees and taxes aren't the answer.

Winfield trustees haven't proposed new ways to fund roads since voters in November rejected a binding measure that would have doubled the property tax rate homeowners pay to Winfield. That tax hike would have generated $850,000 to $900,000 a year, which the village planned to use to fix roads and bolster its underfunded police pension fund.

Trustee Erik Spande, who is running for village president against Rob Hanlon, said there are various road funding options the village board should review.

Spande said those alternatives were ignored because a majority of the board became fixated on a plan to disband the police department and outsource police services. And when that idea proved to be too unpopular, the property tax question was rushed onto a ballot, he added.

"The last two years have been wasted by board members that snap on their blinders and are basically oblivious to other alternatives." Spande said. "We need to start over again."

Hanlon acknowledges that Winfield's road issues must be addressed. The town's gasoline tax revenues, which traditionally have been used to pay for road repairs, have declined in recent years while the cost of road maintenance has increased.

Still, Hanlon doesn't agree with Spande that vehicle stickers and higher fees on other unspecified items are needed to raise money to maintain the village's nearly 35 miles of roads.

Stopping short of vowing never to vote for a fee or tax increase, Hanlon said he's opposed to those methods of generating revenue.

"I am not in favor of vehicle stickers," he said. "I am not in favor of raising property taxes.

"I believe that the answers exist within the resources we have," Hanlon added.

But Spande said Winfield needs about $300,000 a year in new revenue just to fix the roads that are in poor to failing condition. The money would allow the village to borrow the $3.5 million needed to resurface those streets.

If trustees were to reinstate the vehicle sticker program, the $35-per-car cost could generate up to $350,000 annually. That estimate drops to $170,000 a year if only half the vehicles in town get stickers.

"I think it (vehicle stickers) should be on the table," said Spande, adding there should be "a full and open discourse with the residents" about the road funding options.

While Hanlon agrees a public discussion needed, he's predicting that any plan to bring back vehicle stickers would be unpopular among residents.

"They have to understand there are no other options," he said, "and I don't think we've had that conversation with them."

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