Long-dormant Seavey Drainage District to be dissolved

 
 
Updated 5/30/2018 5:11 PM
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  • The Seavey Ditch runs under Hazeltime Road in Vernon Hills. The channel serves an important purpose, but its dormant governing body is being dissolved.

      The Seavey Ditch runs under Hazeltime Road in Vernon Hills. The channel serves an important purpose, but its dormant governing body is being dissolved. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer, 2017

  • In a postcard dated 1911, a crew works to dig what became known as the Seavey drainage ditch.

    In a postcard dated 1911, a crew works to dig what became known as the Seavey drainage ditch. Courtesy of Lake County Forest Preserve District

  • The village of Vernon Hills received an award for the Seavey restoration improvement project along Hazeltime Road.

      The village of Vernon Hills received an award for the Seavey restoration improvement project along Hazeltime Road. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer, 2017

A vestige of Lake County's rural past will be put to rest when the Seavey Drainage District is dissolved, a symbolic action to streamline local government.

More than a century ago, farmers created what is known as the Seavey Ditch to remove stormwater from their fields in the Mundelein, Libertyville and Vernon Hills areas.

Originating in a wetland area near routes 176 and 60/83, the 5-mile channel flows to Indian Creek and the Des Plaines River. As it remains vital to moving stormwater runoff that otherwise could end up in basements, communities have spent millions to keep it in good working order.

But the actual governing mechanism, which has taxing authority, long has been dormant. The district board doesn't hold meetings or levy taxes and is an anachronism that has served its purpose.

"There are no debts, there are no assets," Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor recently told the Vernon Hills village board.

State law allows Lake County to consolidate appointed units of government, but it was an onerous process.

"We sought narrowly focused legislation to get the job done," Lawlor said.

Senate Bill 2459 passed both chambers. But it was amended in the House and returned to the Senate for a final concurrence vote Wednesday. That was approved and the measure moves to Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature.

In late 2017, Seavey was identified as one of three agencies the county wanted to consolidate, eliminate or otherwise streamline as a local government over which it had control.

That's the case with Seavey as Lawlor appoints the board now composed of Vernon Hills Mayor Roger Byrne, Vernon Hills Trustee Michael Marquardt and Mundelein Trustee Dawn Abernathy.

Although Seavey hasn't levied a tax in many years, the legislation eliminates the possibility a tax could be levied in the future, Lawlor said, and is a model that can be replicated.

The bulk of the Seavey Ditch flows through Vernon Hills. Four years ago, village officials considered dissolving the drainage district but didn't pursue it because of the legal time and expense involved.

For many years, the villages have maintained and undertaken projects to enhance the Seavey Ditch.

Vernon Hills, for example, has spent more than $2 million in grant and village funds for various projects, including removing the dam on the municipal golf course.

Mundelein significantly improved the channel from Seymour Avenue to Courtland Street in 2008 but has been in a holding pattern because of development.

However, village officials are committed to increasing the size of the storm sewer in the flood-prone Division Street area, where a subdivision was built 80 years ago atop the Seavey, said Adam Boeche, public works director.

"The dissolution of the Seavey Drainage District has no bearing on our activity," he said. "It's ceremonial at best."

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