Could Naperville take over township roads?

  • The city of Naperville wants to take over maintenance -- including snowplowing responsibilities -- for 16 miles of roads currently maintained by Naperville Township.

    The city of Naperville wants to take over maintenance -- including snowplowing responsibilities -- for 16 miles of roads currently maintained by Naperville Township. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Posted2/4/2016 5:43 AM

The city of Naperville wants to take over maintenance of 16 miles of roads in Naperville Township, saying the move would save taxpayers an average of $800,000 a year.

City employees came up with the idea for a "shared services agreement" after reading a report released last month by a state task force on local government consolidation and unfunded mandates.

 

The proposal already has gained the attention of Gov. Bruce Rauner, who plans to be at city hall at 10 a.m. Friday to discuss it.

But Naperville Township Highway Commissioner Stan Wojtasiak says the proposal goes beyond "shared services" into a takeover of his department and "a total dissolution of the road district."

"I find it very difficult to believe that they could take over all our services to dissolve the township road district and do it for less money," Wojtasiak said.

Combining township road services into a municipality doesn't exactly mirror any of the 27 ideas in the state task force's report. But six of the suggestions relate to townships, which gave the city a good place to start looking for cost savings, City Manager Doug Krieger said.

If the proposal moves forward, Naperville public works could begin on April 1 providing road maintenance, snow plowing, streetlight maintenance, street sweeping, curb and sidewalk replacement, garbage collection, sewer and stormwater management, leaf and brush collection, emerald ash borer treatment, forestry and mowing for the 16 centerline miles of streets under the township's control.

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"It is a fairly finite list of services that the city already duplicates on a much grander scale," Krieger said. "It was fairly simple for us to figure out how to do it and secondly how much it would cost."

The city estimates the work would cost about $1 million a year. In its 2015 fiscal year, Naperville Township's road district spent $1.86 million to provide the services, according to a city memo.

Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico said consolidating township road services is the "most obvious place where a large impact of savings could be implemented."

"It's the fair and equitable thing to do," Chirico said. "It's providing the services at the most efficient rate to taxpayers."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Unincorporated township streets -- such as a portion of 87th Street and Plainfield/Naperville Road, streets in the Aero Estates and Green Acres subdivisions, and other streets including Lawnmeadow Lane, Berry Court, Thronapple Drive and Wild Cherry Road -- would be among those affected.

Many of those streets are in the northwest section of Naperville, but Wojtasiak said the city's cost estimate fails to factor in costs to plow snow in seven subdivisions scattered elsewhere.

The projection also assumes the township would give the city its fleet of plowing and maintenance vehicles.

"We can't just give the city $1 million worth of trucks," Wojtasiak said. "The taxpayers own them."

There are 866 homes along the 16 miles of road, along with 2,500 parkway trees, 64 streetlights and 113,503 feet of sidewalk, according to a city memo. Residents in the affected homes would see a decrease in the frequency of leaf collection, brush collection and street sweeping services and the end of free mulch delivery, but the rest of the road-related services are proposed to continue at about the same level.

Naperville Township Supervisor Rachel Ossyra said it's the duty of elected officials to investigate ways to work more efficiently.

"I am very supportive of exploring this opportunity to see if there is a win-win situation for providing services to the residents in a way that would reduce cost," she said.

But because of the way townships are organized, the decision does not rest with her. The township and the highway department are two separate entities, each with a tax levy creating a separate line on the property tax bill.

"I don't have any direct authority to make that happen," Ossyra said about road services consolidation. "Only the highway commissioner has the authority for the road district to enter into an intergovernmental agreement."

The highway commissioner post is an elected position held by Wojtasiak, who was appointed in late 2002 to complete an expiring term.

Krieger called Wojtasiak a "great partner" who provides a "tremendous amount of service to township residents."

But if the township began paying the city to maintain its roads, the necessity of Wojtasiak's job could be called into question, Ossyra said.

It likely would be needed only as a part-time, clerical role.

The job now is full-time and pays about $81,300 a year, Ossyra said. The salary is part of $469,037 spent in fiscal year 2015 on salaries for seven employees in the township highway department, according to a city memo.

The city projects two of those employees -- both equipment operators -- would be needed to take on the extra work.

That means the work of the two other equipment operators, one foreman/mechanic, one administrative assistant and the highway commissioner would not be necessary, according to city projections.

"We don't envision taking them on as employees because it would be in excess of what our minimum needs would be," Krieger said.

Wojtasiak said he plans to retire in 2017.

But if the city took over road maintenance, he would be unsure of the future of four of his employees.

Such details could be fashioned into an intergovernmental agreement if the idea moves forward.

Krieger said the two governing bodies could be the first in the state to act on the principles of the report by the consolidation task force.

Naperville is not yet looking to provide road services for the other townships in its boundaries, such as Lisle and Wheatland. But if the plan works well with Naperville Township roads, Krieger and Chirico said the city could look to duplicate it.

"It's our hope that for us and other communities that lessons learned through this process would be useful in other consolidation efforts," Krieger said.

The city will present the plan to township trustees during a meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the township administration building, 139 Water St., Naperville.

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