Township supervisor moves to replace Glen Ellyn mosquito abatement board
Less than three weeks before the Glen Ellyn Mosquito Abatement District asks voters to approve a property tax increase, it now appears the district may not even exist long enough to collect the money.
On Wednesday, Milton Township Supervisor Chris Heidorn announced plans to replace all five district board members with new trustees with the expectation the new members will agree to eliminate the district by consolidating it with the township.
Heidorn will recommend the township board appoint his choices for the five district seats.
He's still vetting candidates, but he said former Glen Ellyn Village President Alex Demos has agreed to sit on the new panel and to support the consolidation effort.
The township board likely will approve Heidorn's picks when it next meets on Nov. 6, which coincidentally is election night.
Heidorn said the decision to replace board members -- whose terms already have expired -- came in part after a Daily Herald story that outlined the district's referendum funding request and raised questions about its efficiencies and transparency.
The district lacks an office and has an outdated website that still identifies its attorney as Thomas Eckhardt, who died three years ago.
The property tax increase sought by the district reignited calls from DuPage County Board member Tim Elliott to consolidate mosquito-control efforts.
Heidorn said he started taking a closer look at a merger at the urging of Elliott and others.
A new state law that goes into effect in January also encourages consolidation. The legislation allows for a mosquito abatement district to merge with a municipality, county or another district if a majority of its trustees vote in favor of consolidation. The body assuming its operations and taxing power also would have to agree.
"The new legislation kind of changes everything as well," Heidorn said. "Up until this point, there was no easy way to consolidate districts."
A Glen Ellyn native who lives in an unincorporated area near the village, Heidorn said he isn't making the consolidation proposal a "litmus test" for his board nominees, who, if appointed, would get the final say.
But he said he hopes to convince them that turning over the district's operations to the township would bring more coordination for mosquito-control measures.
He also said district administration expenses such as attorney fees and insurance could be eliminated.
"Milton Township is adept at handling budgets, levies and other administrative tasks without outsourcing," he said in a statement. "We believe consolidation provides a way for Glen Ellyn residents to receive the same or better level of service, delivered in a more efficient and effective manner, without a tax increase."
Both the township and the district hire Clarke Mosquito for sprayings and testing. The district paid Clarke $102,371 for a 2018 base contract, plus $48,250 for additional services.
The township paid Clarke a total of $72,097 for this season.
Heidorn and Elliott said there's no intention of cutting or disrupting services.
"People in Glen Ellyn need to know their services are not going to be diminished," Heidorn said.
If approved, the tax increase sought by the current board would raise about $61,952 in new revenue starting in June 2019.
The owner of a $400,000 house would pay $5 to $7 more in property taxes. That same resident now pays between $13 and $14 a year to the district.
Heidorn said he expects either new board members or Milton Township trustees would be willing to abate the additional tax revenue.
In recent years, the abatement district has dipped into reserves to fund additional treatments meant to ward off mosquitoes and protect against mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile virus, current board Chairman Jim Ryan said last week.
"We serve at the township's pleasure, and if they want to go another route they go another route," Ryan said Wednesday. "I have served the district for quite a long time and I'm proud of the work that we've done."
Ryan, who has served on the board for about 16 years and supports local control of mosquito abatement, said he had a "civil, cordial conversation" with Heidorn about the township replacing board members.
"We have a basic disagreement," Ryan said. "He's made a decision, and we'll move on."