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updated: 2/12/2014 7:05 PM

Longmeadow, independence at issue in Kane Dist. 5

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  • Bill Lenert and incumbent Melisa Taylor are candidates in the Kane County Board District 5 race.

      Bill Lenert and incumbent Melisa Taylor are candidates in the Kane County Board District 5 race.

 
 

When it comes to constructing another bridge over the Fox River near the McHenry County border, residents in Kane County's District 5 may not see much benefit other than the appreciation of residents on the north end for the use of their tax dollars.

That's partly why the Republican candidates for District 5 don't fully agree on the future of the Longmeadow Parkway, which might move toward the construction phase this year as a tollway.

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But Kane County Board District 5 challenger Bill Lenert said he'd like to see a public referendum and a buy-in from higher levels of government before the project moves forward. Lenert, in a recent interview with the Daily Herald Editorial Board, said he understands the elected leaders on the north end of the county support the parkway, at Huntley Road in Dundee Township.

"I would be very much in favor of supporting the leaders and the people of those territories to make their lives a little easier," said Lenert, who lives in Sugar Grove. "But I think at this point I don't want any more county money having to be spent. We'd have to look at other sources to fund whatever shortfallings there are."

The county has already pumped about $20 million into the planning stages of the parkway in the past 20 years. A toll is poised to be the primary funding source of the $117 million in remaining costs. But if the toll didn't fully cover all the costs, incumbent Melisa Taylor said she would support additional county funding.

"I don't know any project that doesn't cost anybody," said Taylor, who also lives in Sugar Grove. "Kane County has already spent a significant amount of money on this bridge. If that project were to stop, I would hate for the money that's already been spent to be wasted."

Taylor said she believes a referendum is unnecessary. Several years of public hearings on the bridge itself and the toll allowed for ample public comment, she said. At this point, even though the bridge might not have much utility on the south end of the county, it is time to support fellow county residents, Taylor added.

"There are projects that happen throughout the county, such as the Orchard Road widening on the south end, that wouldn't have happened without the support of board members on the north end of the county."

She pointed to the need for ongoing support from the north end of the county for the interchange at I-88 and Route 47 in the southern part of the county.

Political support as a whole has also become a hot issue in the District 5 contest. County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen has publicly remained neutral on the race so far. Several local leaders have confirmed Lauzen has contacted them to either back Lenert or remain neutral.

Lenert and Lauzen went to school together. They've served on several boards together. And Lauzen has been a client of Lenert's insurance business for more than 20 years, Lenert said.

Lauzen recently contacted Sugar Grove Village President Sean Michels and former Big Rock Township Supervisor Bob Moga to try to convince them to support Lenert over Taylor.

"He was feeling me out to see who I will support and asked if I would at least stay neutral publicly," Michels said. "You can read into that what you want."

Michels said he is publicly neutral because he must work with whomever is elected to the District 5 seat.

Moga isn't being as judicious. He said he rejected Lauzen's push because he knows Taylor better.

"She's a good gal," Moga said. "I don't know why he's pushing this Lenert guy. I don't know him from a load of hay. I told him in no way, shape or form will I support him over Melisa."

Lenert, when asked about his ability to have an independent voice, said he will maintain his own perspective.

"With a good friendship, what you realize is that you're never going to agree with anyone all the time," Lenert said. "Chris and I don't agree on all issues. We've been on many boards together. We've disagreed. We are both fiscal conservatives. With respect to that, we agree on most issues. But in other areas I have felt one way, and he felt another. We agreed to disagree. He can try to convince me, but I'm not going to do it."

The primary election is March 18. There is no Democratic challenger.

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