Naperville, Lisle township voters to decide on road district merger

 
 
Updated 1/9/2017 7:26 PM
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  • A proposal to consolidate the Naperville Township and Lisle Township road districts into a single entity will appear on the April 4 ballot in both townships.

      A proposal to consolidate the Naperville Township and Lisle Township road districts into a single entity will appear on the April 4 ballot in both townships. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Voters in Naperville and Lisle townships will be asked April 4 if they want to combine two separate road districts serving the townships into one unit of government.

The move to get the consolidation question on the ballot began last month when Naperville Township Supervisor Rachel Ossyra and Naperville City Council member Kevin Coyne, a Lisle Township resident, presented petitions to DuPage County Judge Bonnie Wheaton.

The two appeared before Wheaton again Monday morning during a hearing to give objectors a chance to challenge whether the binding question should appear. No objections were made in person or filed before the hearing, said Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, an attorney representing Ossyra and Coyne in their push to pose the question to voters.

"I will certify the question to be placed on the ballot," Wheaton said.

The move followed the results of two nonbinding questions on the Nov. 8 ballot that showed Naperville-area voters favor government cooperation and consolidation, especially when it comes to township road services and if savings will result.

It also followed an agreement formed in August in which the two township road districts are sharing resources and responsibilities until June 30.

Some have criticized the 10½-month deal for its short-term nature. But if voters approve the consolidation April 4, that would effectively make the current deal permanent.

"It will lead to the elimination of a unit of government," Coyne said.

Road service consolidation talks began nearly a year ago when the city of Naperville offered to take over maintenance of roughly 16 miles of unincorporated streets handled by the Naperville Township road district at a proposed savings of $800,000 a year.

The road district disputed the savings projection and rejected the deal, even while seeing its budget slashed to the point it had to lay off workers and form the agreement with the Lisle Township road district.

Now Naperville Township Highway Commissioner Stan Wojtasiak said he supports the effort to formally merge his agency with its Lisle counterpart.

"It should work out very well," Wojtasiak said. "I think we're headed in the right direction."

Lisle Township Highway Commissioner Ed Young did not immediately return a call Monday but has previously said he supported the idea.

Coyne and Ossyra said they do not have an estimate of how much could be saved each year by combining the two road districts. But they are working with Wojtasiak and Young to set budgets and calculate potential savings.

"What is important is that it's sustainable," Ossyra said.

Officials say if voters approve the merger, the road districts would be combined gradually during a four-year process. That would allow time to sell assets and properties, develop new governing policies and elect one highway commissioner for the larger jurisdiction in the 2021 election.

State Sen. Michael Connelly of Lisle's office helped identify the state law by which the merger could be possible.

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