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updated: 3/14/2014 1:07 PM

Lake County Board Dist. 6 candidates talk need for land

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  • Timothy S. Powell

      Timothy S. Powell

  • Jeff Werfel

      Jeff Werfel

 
 

Voter-approved funds to allow the Lake County Forest Preserve District to buy land are dwindling but neither Republican candidate for the Lake County Board District 6 sees an immediate need for a referendum to raise more.

Instead, Grayslake resident Jeff Werfel and Timothy Powell of Hainesville advocate other methods of acquiring or improving land.

County board members double as forest preserve district commissioners. The winner will face Democrat John Wylie in the November general election. Incumbent Pat Carey, a Democrat, is not seeking re-election.

About $155 million of the $180 million in voter-approved funds have been spent, with $8 million left for land acquisition and $17 million for development, according to the district.

Should the district ask voters to replenish the kitty? Responses are from interviews with the Daily Herald.

"I don't think we necessarily need to go to referendum. It would be addressed or studied. Call it a strategic re-evaluation," said Werfel, who has served as a Grayslake trustee since 2003.

Werfel also had served on the board of the preservation group Conserve Lake County for 10 years until 2013. As part of that group, Werfel said, he worked closely with the forest district on several items, including referendums.

He said there aren't many large land parcels available and the challenge is to determine the best use of existing properties. Should the focus be toward restoration or improving access? How should the potential of district property be maximized, he asked.

"That's what we have to look at now," according to Werfel. That could involve buying parcels that connect others, but whether that would require voter approval is to be determined, he said.

"An analysis would need to be done first and then the decision would need to be made of whether a referendum is needed," he said.

Powell, a former Avon Township trustee who serves on the Grayslake Area Public Library District and Grayslake Park District boards, opposes a referendum for land acquisition.

"This is not a very good climate to be pushing for any kind of expenditures. We have to watch what we're doing right now," he said.

Powell said the district should find and contact individuals or corporations that want to donate land for tax purposes.

"I want to get donations of land. There's lot of people out there who would like to bequeath," property, he said. That would save taxpayers money, he added.

Landowners also may be willing to reduce the price for the forest district, he said.

He said the pace of land acquisition has been necessary and if the district can get land at "the right price" it should do so.

In the overall campaign, Powell said transparency in government and holding the line on spending were priorities.

Werfel said his top issue involves economic development, retaining jobs and creating new ones.

District 6 encompasses Grayslake and Hainesville and portions of Round Lake Park and Round Lake Beach.


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