Effort to merge Lisle, Warrenville and Woodridge with Naperville could appear on ballot

A mysterious push to merge three neighboring towns with Naperville has taken a step forward and could appear as a referendum question on the April 4 ballot.

Petitions to put the annexation question before voters in Lisle, Warrenville, Woodridge and Naperville were filed Tuesday in DuPage County's 18th Judicial Court and Will County's 16th Judicial Court.

The referendum in each town would ask a basic yes or no question. In Woodridge, for example, it would ask voters "Shall the Village of Woodridge be annexed into the City of Naperville?"

Although no signatures on petitions were gathered in Naperville, Mayor Steve Chirico said it's his understanding the question also would appear on the ballot in his city.

Officials in all four municipalities said the chances of actually merging the towns are remote and any such effort would be enormously complicated, adversely affect other taxing bodies such as park and library districts, and raise countless other issues.

They also are questioning who's behind the merger idea and why.

"I see nothing positive about this," Warrenville Mayor David Brummel said Thursday. "It's a huge waste of time and resources."

Brummel, Chirico and Lisle Mayor Joe Broda said officials in their cities are studying the petitions and looking for potential flaws that would allow them to file an objection and try to scuttle efforts to put the question on the ballot. Brummel said the towns have until early next week to file such objections, although there's some confusion as to the actual deadline.

"We're looking to see if there is a legitimate challenge," he said.

Jack Knight, assistant to the village administrator in Woodridge, said his town is sending out a note on its social media accounts that says, in part, "These petitions were not initiated by Woodridge, Lisle, Warrenville, or Naperville, nor have any of their respective elected bodies endorsed any such action."

Broda said officials in his town are uncertain whether there are enough legitimate signatures to put the questions on the ballot.

"We're looking at the credibility of the whole thing," he said. "How can petitions be filed by people from outside the county with the circuit court?"

He said there's also confusion about whether the questions would be binding or advisory, and what would happen if the questions remained on the ballot in some of the towns but not others.

"Something is broke," he said.

Chirico agreed and said he wonders if the entire effort is a stunt, potentially a ploy to draw more voters to the polls on April 4. He said all four municipalities involved are "governed well" and have their own characteristics and unique features that make residents proud to live where they do and make consolidation talks even more puzzling.

It appears most of those who passed the petitions were Chicago residents.

A Chicago attorney, Frank Avila, said Thursday that he represents the petitioners but would not discuss the proposal or his role in it.

"Call me in about a week and we can talk some more," he said.

Brummel said he believes many of those who signed the petitions may not have actually read or understood them.

In reviewing the Warrenville petitions, he said, "I saw the names of people I know who would have never signed a petition to annex to Naperville."

Nevertheless, 189 people signed the petitions in Lisle, 81 in Warrenville and 51 in Woodridge, based on the court filing.

"At some point I'm certain we're going to find out what's going on," Brummel said.

For now, though, municipal officials are trying to figure out how best to respond.

"It's just outrageous," Brummel said. "This is a tempest in a teapot. It's just not going to happen."

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