Vote coming to consolidate Naperville, Lisle township road districts?

  • Voters may be asked in April to decide whether the road districts in Naperville and Lisle townships should be combined into one unit of government.

      Voters may be asked in April to decide whether the road districts in Naperville and Lisle townships should be combined into one unit of government. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 12/15/2016 6:21 PM

A group of Naperville-area officials want to put a binding referendum question on the April 4 ballot to combine the road districts in Naperville and Lisle townships into one unit of government.

Naperville Township Supervisor Rachel Ossyra and Naperville City Council member Kevin Coyne, who lives in Lisle Township, appeared Thursday before DuPage County Judge Bonnie Wheaton to request a hearing about putting the question to voters.

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The move follows the results of two nonbinding questions on the Nov. 8 ballot that showed Naperville-area voters favor government cooperation and consolidation.

Roughly 88 percent of voters in Naperville Township and the city of Naperville said they want the Naperville Township road district to enter into an agreement by which the city would maintain about 16 miles of unincorporated roads. The city has said the deal would save $800,000 a year, but the township road district has disputed that estimate, saying the deal has "nothing to offer."

Ossyra said she interprets the vote broadly as support for any method of consolidating township road work such as snow plowing, brush and leaf pickup, and street sweeping.

Coyne said the Naperville/Lisle road consolidation idea is a compromise that came when officials reviewed the November referendum results. The point of the city's proposal to handle the township's roads, made public in February, was "never to have the city take it over simply for the sake of taking it over," Coyne said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"The point of it was to reduce the size of government and save money," he said.

Officials say the consolidation would achieve savings by codifying an agreement the road districts formed in August. Stan Wojtasiak, Naperville Township highway commissioner, says the idea is "a no-brainer" based on economics of a potentially lower tax levy.

"I think it's an excellent idea," he said. "I'm very supportive of it."

For $275,000 over a 10½-month period, the Lisle Township road district has been conducting brush and leaf collection, tree treatments, mowing, mosquito abatement, storm sewer and road maintenance, and snow plowing for both road districts, covering roughly 70 miles. Two equipment operators formerly employed by the Naperville road district have begun reporting to work at the Lisle Township garage. Wojtasiak said that would continue if the two districts were to merge.

Questions about how such a consolidation would work have Lisle Township Supervisor Rick Tarulis "not getting on board yet." He said he questions whether there would be savings for all taxpayers in both townships, or if some would see a higher rate. He also questions how the consolidated road district would be governed, who would handle its finances and its caucuses to choose future candidates, and who would pay the combined road district's highway commissioner.

"I'm not objecting and not supporting," Tarulis said. "I just don't know enough."

Wojtasiak acknowledged there will be plenty of details to sort through but said none of them are deal-breakers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The move to let voters decide the fate of the road districts took a step forward when Ossyra and Coyne presented 220 signatures on petitions to get the consolidation question on the April ballot. Their attorney, Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, said only 50 signatures are required by law.

Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico, DuPage County Board member and former Naperville Township Trustee Janice Anderson, Aurora Alderman Rick Mervine, state Rep. Grant Wehrli of Naperville and state Sen. Michael Connelly of Lisle helped circulate petitions.

A hearing has been set for 9 a.m. Jan. 9 in courtroom 2007 to hear any potential objections to the placement of the consolidation question on the ballot. The hearing comes before the Jan. 26 deadline for referendums to be certified.

"It's a great step forward," Ossyra said, "to try to bring these two road districts together in what will be a multiyear process."

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