New consolidation twist surfaces about Naperville township roads

  • The work of plowing snow and managing streets under the jurisdiction of Naperville and Lisle townships is supposed to be consolidated into one new governmental entity by 2021. But the merger, approved by voters in April, could be in for a twist if Naperville Township gives voters a different option under a new state law.

      The work of plowing snow and managing streets under the jurisdiction of Naperville and Lisle townships is supposed to be consolidated into one new governmental entity by 2021. But the merger, approved by voters in April, could be in for a twist if Naperville Township gives voters a different option under a new state law. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 12/29/2017 6:34 PM

Naperville Township officials think a new state law could help avoid the results of a referendum that requires their road district to be consolidated with its counterpart in Lisle Township by 2021.

The law could allow officials to ask voters if they want the township to absorb the road district -- a separate taxing body -- to form one governing unit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The township board on Thursday considered writing a resolution to put such a question on the March 20 primary ballot, but voted instead to table the issue.

The board already has heard from detractors who question the legality of putting a new referendum to voters after those who cast ballots in April approved the merger between the Naperville and Lisle road districts.

"There's not yet a mechanism by law to undo the referendum," said Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, an attorney representing the Lisle Township road district.

So next steps now include a legal review of the state law to determine the path forward, Naperville Township Supervisor Eddie Bedford said.

Talk of using the law designed to "promote consolidation of redundant layers of government" came up this week when the Naperville Township board scheduled a special meeting.

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Bedford said he recently learned of a Jan. 2 deadline for governing bodies to submit resolutions to place referendum questions on the primary ballot.

He said he called the meeting so the board could discuss whether trustees wanted to ask voters about absorbing the road district into the township, which would eliminate the position of highway commissioner. The move would mean the township would take responsibility for about 15 miles of streets and could care for them by contracting with DuPage County, a municipality or a private company.

"To me, it's an honest move," Bedford said. "There's plenty of time for a discussion."

He immediately heard concerns the township was trying to sneak the issue onto the ballot during the holidays when most residents aren't paying attention.

"I don't believe we were trying to hide anything," Bedford said. "It was just the time constraints."

Now that the issue has been tabled, the deadline to get a question on the Nov. 6 ballot is not until Aug. 20.

Richard Novinger, Naperville Township highway commissioner, said he thinks it's a smart move to delay consideration. He said he's neutral on the topic of a new referendum, but would rather see the road district he manages remain separate from its counterpart in Lisle Township.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I think Naperville Township being independent from Lisle better serves the needs of Naperville Township," Novinger said.

Before voters were polled in April about consolidation, township officials promoted the potential tax savings from merging the two road district operations and selling property.

Early projections called for savings of about $800,000 to $1.4 million a year. Officials estimated taxes could go down roughly $24 a year for the owner of a $300,000 house in Lisle Township, but likely would rise about $3 a year for comparable homeowners in Naperville Township.

Roughly 55 percent of voters supported the merger.

But those same voters ousted the Naperville Township leaders who pushed the merger, including Supervisor Rachel Ossyra and Highway Commissioner Stan Wojtasiak, and replaced them with new leaders Bedford and Novinger, who oppose the move. Bedford said he doubts the estimated savings would materialize because they were based on a budget that was higher than usual because of a large paving project.

"Nobody knows what will happen with the taxes because there's no governing body in place to manage the consolidation," he said.

Others, though, stand by the projected savings and say letting voters choose a different consolidation option would be a step backward.

"Many of the gains achieved by the approved consolidation would have been undone by this initiative," said Kevin Coyne, a Lisle Township resident and Naperville City Council member who pushed to get the original merger question on the ballot. "This would have defeated the whole purpose."

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