Lake County dissolves inactive government body: the Seavey Drainage District
A century-old relic of Lake County's agricultural past officially has been retired.
The Lake County Board on Tuesday voted to dissolve the Seavey Drainage District, marking the end of a unit of government officials say has outlived its purpose.
Though work to relieve flooding will continue along the five-mile channel flowing through Mundelein and Vernon Hills to the Des Plaines River, the district had no assets or debts and for decades has been inactive as a taxing or meeting body.
The action will not affect activities of the villages - the de facto caretakers that have spent millions to improve the channel over the years. While mainly symbolic, supporters say it is an example of low-hanging fruit to be plucked in an effort to consolidate government services.
"This is exciting that we're closing a unit of government, but I definitely think we have a lot more work to do," said Adam Didech, a Democrat from Buffalo Grove, elected in November as part of a historic shift on the Lake County Board to Democratic control.
What is known as the Seavey Ditch was created more than a century ago by farmers to remove stormwater from their fields, and the district was established as a funding source to maintain and operate it.
Over time, the villages absorbed the responsibilities for dealing with the Seavey Ditch, but the authority to levy taxes by the drainage district remained.
In late 2017, it was identified as one of three agencies the county wanted to consolidate, eliminate or otherwise streamline because it appointed members to the board and had a measure of control.
But it took a new state law, which became effective in August, to allow the county to do so.
There are several other drainage districts in Lake County and most have expired county appointments or no current appointments. While consolidation supporters may be considering dissolving them, it would be a tricky and complicated process, particularly for those with outstanding debt.
Many of the districts are virtually inactive, may or may not levy taxes and are difficult to get information about. One exception is the East Skokie Drainage District, which has authority over 15 miles of open ditch and underground pipes within the eastern portion of the North Branch Chicago River Watershed. It has a robust program and its own website.
"The work they've done is impressive," said Mike Warner, executive director of the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission. Drainage districts perform an important function, he added.
"This is kind of a monster," county board Chairwoman Sandy Hart said Friday during an informal discussion. "We're talking about Seavey Drainage District, but this is a great conversation."
Interim County Administrator Amy McEwan said an unsuccessful effort was made a few years ago to create a countywide drainage district.
"It isn't a mess we necessarily created," she said. "It's one we're trying to clean up."