Despite objections, Lake County Board extends emergency declaration until May 30

An emergency declaration allowing some Lake County officials to make decisions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic without county board approval has been extended until May 30.

The declaration was to expire this Monday. But with the COVID-19 pandemic still a crisis in the county, it now will match the expiration date of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's latest stay-at-home order.

If Pritzker rescinds his order early, the Lake County declaration also would be lifted, officials said.

Meeting remotely Friday morning because of the pandemic, the board voted 18-2 to extend the declaration. Republicans Michael Danforth of Fox River Grove and Judy Martini of Fox Lake cast the "no" votes. Republican Brent Paxton of Zion was absent.

Under state law, emergency declarations let mayors, county board leaders and key governmental administrators coordinate resources and suspend certain normal procedures to ensure the public's health and safety.

In addition to allowing decisions to be made without board approval, the Lake County declaration enables officials to apply for state and federal emergency funds.

Previous county declarations have followed damaging thunderstorms, floods and other natural disasters.

County Board Chairwoman Sandy Hart, a Lake Bluff Democrat, issued an initial seven-day emergency declaration March 13 at the start of the health crisis in Illinois. Three days later, the board voted to extend the declaration 45 days until May 4.

Many suburban leaders have issued similar declarations.

During Tuesday's discussion, Hart said she has used the powers granted to her by the declaration once - to rent space at Waukegan National Airport for refrigerated trailers the coroner's office needs because of the pandemic.

Danforth voted against the original declaration extension and remained steadfast Friday. With the board able to meet remotely, there's no reason to give Hart or administrators power to sign contracts or handle other business without board approval, he said.

Danforth also criticized the declaration for being based on Pritzker's executive order, which he opposes. However, Assistant State's Attorney Karen Fox told the board the county declaration is distinct from the governor's, and the powers it gives Hart are not as great as Pritzker's.

Additionally, without the declaration, the county can't enact emergency response procedures, operate its disaster center or apply for state or federal disaster relief, officials said.

Martini expressed concerns about residents' constitutional rights, governmental overreach and elements of Pritzker's order before voting against the extension.

Lake Zurich Republican Craig Taylor noted that voting against the measure wouldn't allow the county board to "circumvent or usurp" the governor's order.

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