Judge rejects ballot question on merging Round Lake-area towns
Voters won't decide in November if three Round Lake-area villages should be merged into one after a court ruling Friday.
An attempt by a grass-roots organization to place the merger question on the ballot was rejected by Lake County Judge Thomas Schippers, Lake County Clerk Carla Wyckoff confirmed.
The judge found the filing of the petition to combine the village of Round Lake with Round Lake Park and Round Lake Beach had not complied with the statutory filing requirements and was dismissed, Wyckoff said, and the question will not appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.
According to a news release from Round Lake Mayor Daniel MacGillis, Schippers found the paperwork regarding the question was filed too late.
"From the start, questions surrounded the petition," according to MacGillis.
The decision comes about one month after the One Round Lake group announced it would submit a binding referendum for the Nov. 8 ballot to merge Round Lake, Round Lake Park and Round Lake Beach. Backers cited the possibility of cost savings with one town instead of three.
MacGillis, who was part of the "Save Our Villages" opposition group that contested the proposed ballot measure, said voters would not have been able to make an informed decision because of a lack of details released about the idea so far.
"To date, there have been no studies on the impact combining the Villages would bring," MacGillis said in a statement. "There has been no description of the changes a new combined city would bring to our municipal services."
Former Round Lake Mayor Bill Gentes, speaking for the One Round Lake Group, said he thought the group followed the filing rules.
"As best we could tell, given what we knew and what we could extrapolate about the law, we filed the petition within the proper time frame and we did everything to our interpretation correctly," Gentes said. "We jumped through all the hoops that we could determine we had. Apparently they seemed to think that we needed to file it 120 days out from the election, as opposed to the time frame that we did it in, which was 90."
In August, Gentes and other members of the coalition announced the grass-roots movement to merge the three Round Lake communities into one, creating Lake County's second largest city. The group claims about 500 members.
At the time, Gentes, the coalition's spokesman, said the move was aimed at reducing the property tax burden on residents and making local government more efficient. He said it was a move that would save "millions of dollars" in the long run by "merging bureaucracies."
"Obviously we're disappointed that the villages felt they needed to kick this off the ballot on a technicality," Gentes said Friday night. "Over 500 people from all three villages were very interested in seeing this brought to the voice of the people at the ballot box. So it's very unfortunate."
The group said it was researching details and was to have released a white paper on the subject, but that has not happened.
"Obviously, now the judge has defined exactly how long we have to file the petitions for, and I certainly look to see this on the ballot again," Gentes said.
• Daily Herald staff writer Steve Zalusky contributed to this report.