Earlier this week, the East Dundee village board signed off on a redevelopment agreement and industrial subdivision plan that lets Insurance Auto Auctions open a new location in the village.
IAA auctions off wrecked vehicles to the highest bidders and while East Dundee trustees say the plan will bring jobs and revenue to the village, people in neighboring Barrington Hills fear the company will pollute their groundwater from fluids that leak from the vehicles.
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Relations between the two communities have been strained as a result of the emotionally charged project.
Last year, Barrington Hills residents mounted a strong campaign against the project that included mailers and a Facebook page. As well, Barrington Hills former President Robert Abboud recently admitted he brought his concerns about IAA's Wheeling site to the ComEd chief executive officer and her husband, who is now on the Barrington Hills board. In the end, ComEd blocked IAA from using a ComEd-owned easement to access the future IAA site, nearly a year after IAA made the request.
East Dundee officials say they ran the plan by several engineers and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and are confident IAA won't pollute the water. But to many Barrington Hills residents, that's not good enough.
Meanwhile, the portion of the meeting that involved the IAA proposal took about 15 minutes.
There were 13 minutes of commenting from four Barrington Hills residents opposed to the plan, followed by the unanimous voting, which took only two minutes. None of the trustees, except Michael Ruffulo, explained why they were voting the way they did before the vote. Rob Gorman was the only trustee not in attendance. And a police officer stood in the back of the room to maintain order.
After the votes, the dozen or so Barrington Hills residents, including Village President Martin McLaughlin, left the meeting and congregated outside to discuss the votes and possible next steps.
While I was out there interviewing some of the residents, a police officer stood with and escorted three IAA representatives past the Barrington Hills crowd.
To Barrington Hills resident Dr. Divyang Joshi, that move was unnecessary.
"We are being assaulted by (possible) contamination of our water and our properties, but we need to have a police (officer) standing over here while those people walk out so that we don't do anything," Joshi said. "How uncivil we are. But this was the worst insult, having a police (officer) stand to protect them as if we are hooligans. We come as neighbors, as good neighbors, and then we're being given a symbolic gesture. It speaks louder than their silence."
I brought Joshi's concerns to East Dundee Police Chief Terry Mee. Mee said he merely wanted to make sure everyone got out OK with no problems. He added there was nothing personal about his decision to use a police escort for the IAA officials.
"I use my police officers as I see fit," Mee said. "It's an order maintenance issue."
The reason the police officer attended the board meeting in the first place was because East Dundee expected a much larger crowd from Barrington Hills than what they got, Mee said. Only about a dozen Barrington Hills residents, including two children, attended.
"I didn't need the police officer here any longer since everybody was leaving so yes, I dismissed him," Mee said. "It's that simple."
Lenore Adkins covers Algonquin, Huntley, Carpentersville, the Dundees, Cary, Fox River Grove, Hampshire, Grafton Township and Sleepy Hollow. To reach her, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (847) 608-2725.