Proposed referendum to combine Round Lake-area towns draws opposition

A proposal to use a binding referendum on the November ballot to merge three Lake County communities has spawned a local opposition group and a likely court challenge.

The "Save Our Villages" group has formed in the targeted towns of Round Lake, Round Lake Beach and Round Lake Park, and a Lake County judge ruled this week the villages have standing to appear in the case to raise issues related to the ballot petition. A hearing is scheduled for Sept. 13 to hear objections.

Since a group called One Round Lake announced last week it had filed petitions with the Lake County clerk of the circuit court to put the question on the November ballot, officials in the three villages have responded with concerns about a lack of information regarding the process and potential impact of uniting the communities.

How debt, taxes and a variety of other issues would be handled are unknowns that could create a disastrous situation, charged Round Lake Park Village Attorney Peter Karlovics.

"This is a monumental undertaking to dissolve three governments and replace them with one large government. This did not come from the people," he contended.

Former Round Lake Park Mayor Jean McCue, who is organizing the "Save Our Villages" group, cited a lack of detail as to how services, such as police, would be replaced. The merger proposal, she contended, is a "last-minute attempt to fix what is not broken."

One Round Lake is a grass-roots coalition of more than 500 residents from the three towns, according to last week's announcement. Supporters say the move would "save millions of dollars" in the long run by "merging bureaucracies" and that criticism from elected leaders was expected. The group says it will release a report next week with information to back up its proposal.

"If they're concerned we have no clue or planning, reach out," said coalition spokesman Bill Gentes, the former Round Lake mayor. "They could have done this themselves if it was a pressing issue for them. They prefer the status quo."

The proposal, Gentes added, has been in the works for a while and is being timed for the highest voter turnout.

"I would be shocked if it were not on the ballot, and then we move forward to November and then the voters will decide," Gentes said.

He acknowledged consolidating the towns would be complicated.

"There's a ton of moving pieces here. The most important thing for residents to know is their tax bill is not going to go up," Gentes said.

Karlovics said opponents think the petitions were filed late and the question may not make it to the ballot. In any case, Round Lake Park officials think the town would be an "afterthought" in a merger, he said.

"It's always been a quaint, homespun community, and a lot of people want to keep it that way," he said.

That includes McCue, a longtime business owner and sixth-generation resident.

"I'm mad," she said. "Nobody came to see me (about the proposal). Nobody came to see a lot of people who have lived here a long time."


Coalition wants to merge three Round Lake-area towns into one

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