Editorial: More details needed in Round Lake-area merger plan

Proposals seeking major change, such as cutting and merging governments, are certainly among the most attractive options these days to help taxpayers.

Since Illinois is the nation's runaway leader with nearly 7,000 units at last count, there's certainly room to reduce the bloat and slim down a bit.

But voters need more than a slick pitch about shedding a few units to determine if a given proposal is best for the health of the community. Specifics are critical. And it's on that point that more is needed to explain the inner workings of the ambitious grass-roots proposal to merge Round Lake, Round Lake Beach and Round Lake Park into one community.

Recently, One Round Lake, a coalition that claims more than 500 members, announced the proposal and an effort to try to place a binding referendum on the November ballot. That's a huge step considering it has presented few details beyond vague promises of a reduced property tax burden by eliminating redundancies and making local government more efficient. Officials in the three towns say they have not talked with organizers about the proposal. They say there have been no studies about economic impact or the changes such a merger would bring to municipal services. They question the lack of time for officials and voters alike to make an informed decision.

Here's what we know: If approved, the merger would create the second largest city in Lake County. Redundant village positions, such as three police chiefs, would be consolidated into single posts. Instead of trustees being elected at large, the merger would create an aldermanic city, where representatives would be elected from geographic districts.

"Plus, we wouldn't have to compete against the other Round Lakes, on issues like economic development," coalition spokesman and former Round Lake Mayor Bill Gentes told the Daily Herald's Lee Filas.

But residents need more: How much will the merger cost? What happens to each village's debt, pension obligations and special service areas? What's the timetable and what has to be done to pull it off? What's the fate of village facilities, equipment and personnel? And that's just for starters.

One Round Lake says it will report its findings soon. We're anxious to see specifics and we urge the group to schedule public meetings to share details and answer questions.

Intriguing moves to consolidate governments are going on throughout the suburbs. We've been particularly impressed with commitment shown to the practice in DuPage County, and recently, we applauded a plan by the villages of East and West Dundee to share a fire chief that will save about $75,000.

We'd like to think the Round Lake-area proposal could add to the trend, but it is much larger than anything that has been done to date and considerably more complex. With such an idea comes great responsibility to provide the details voters need to determine their support. One Round Lake organizers shouldn't wait much longer to meet it.

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