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posted: 3/2/2013 8:00 AM

Palatine Twp. residents propose abolishing road district

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Take a look at Matt Flamm's quarter-mile-long, dead-end street on the north side of Palatine and you'll notice two different types of pavement -- one made by the township, the other by the village.

The line separating the two lies directly in front of his driveway.

Scenarios such as these, and their associated expense, are part of what prompted 30 residents to sign a petition asking the Palatine Township board to look into abolishing its road district.

"My street is an example of where it makes much more sense to turn the responsibility over to the village," Flamm said. "Piece by piece, the unincorporated areas are dwindling as annexations to the municipalities continue to take place, so it's become a duplicative level of government."

The residents are requesting that the board commission an independent study of the potential benefits to taxpayers should the road district be abolished. They want the study published by the end of the year.

The petition will lead to an agenda item being placed on the annual town meeting on Tuesday, April 16.

"I'm concerned about the cost of the study and the timeline, but we'd be negligent not to try to find new ways to make the township better," said Trustee Sharon Langlotz-Johnson, who'll take over as supervisor in May.

Under a 2011 law sponsored by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, a township can pose the question to voters on whether to abolish its road district. If approved, the highway commissioner office would be eliminated and the township board would assume functions. It can enter into a contract with the county, a municipality or private contractor to maintain the roads.

Many independent studies have concluded the cost of having township road districts maintain unincorporated roads is higher than the cost of contracting to local municipalities.

"Duplicative and costly road equipment in every township garage to plow and work on roads frequently crossed by municipal, county and state roads creates tremendous overhead expense," according to a nearly decade-old report by Roosevelt University's Institute for Metropolitan Affairs.

Palatine Village Manager Reid Ottesen pointed out that the village actually pays the township to plow some of Palatine's roads.

It's cheaper to use the township road district, he said, than having workers on staff needed mainly for storms. The township is also cheaper than a private contractor.

Still, Ottesen said he's happy to at least discuss "anything we can do to lower the cost of required services to taxpayers."

Matt Flamm, who eight years ago ran unsuccessfully against longtime Highway Commissioner John Powers, said he was shocked to learn the township had six trucks and six full-time drivers to maintain about 18 miles of road at the time.

Powers, who couldn't be reached for comment, has said the township maintains "40 lane miles," a number that accounts for each side of a street. The road district's proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year is $2.5 million. The budget this year is $3.2 million.

"For that kind of money, the streets should be paved in gold," Flamm said.

Although Democrats including Flamm and Palatine Township Democratic Committeeman Sue Walton are leading the charge, they say the issue is nonpartisan.

Republican Tom Kaider, who this week defeated Powers in the GOP primary and will be unopposed in the general election, said he has no emotional commitment to retaining the office.

"I already have a job; I love my job. ... At alltimes, my commitment is to the taxpayers and the community," Kaider said.

"I will always side with whatever is objectively best for the community."

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