Algonquin Township salt dispute continues after judge denies emergency

 
 
Updated 2/13/2019 10:52 PM
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Roads in Algonquin Township still will be plowed and salted -- at least for now -- even though a McHenry County judge refused to order the Algonquin Township board to pay $107,000 for salt it contends was obtained through in improper bid by Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser.

The highway department has less than 300 tons of salt left, but crews still will plow and salt roads, Gasser's attorney said Wednesday.

"We will employ all the tools available to us" to ensure the roads are safe, attorney Robert Hanlon said.

Hanlon unsuccessfully argued on behalf of Gasser for Judge Thomas Meyer to order the township board to pay Compass Materials for roughly 1,160 tons of salt. And the township board again Wednesday night rejected a motion to pay the salt bill, WGN-TV news reported.

Gasser, who did not return phone messages, declared an emergency salt shortage on Friday and threatened to close some roads if the salt ran out.

"Upon the depletion of salt, I may be forced to close the various roads of the road district due to the inability to salt," Gasser wrote in an affidavit Tuesday.

But Meyer ruled there was no legal emergency for the court to order the township board to pay Compass Materials for the salt, which township officials contend was acquired in summer 2018 without a formal bidding process.

"It does not change the fact that (Gasser) declared an emergency," Hanlon said. "He can buy (salt) from whoever he wants now that he's declared the emergency. But we have a bill of $107,000 the board is refusing to pay."

In court documents, township officials characterized the situation as a "manufactured emergency." At their Wednesday night meeting, some of them and some residents called for Gasser's resignation, WGN reported. Hanlon said Gasser has no plans to resign.

Contacted by phone, James P. Kelly, an attorney representing the township, deferred to a court brief that was submitted to Meyer Wednesday morning.

In the brief, Kelly argues that Gasser failed to show the judge an emergency exists, the court had no authority to order the township board to pay the bill from Compass, and Gasser could buy or borrow salt from other government agencies since he declared the emergency but has failed to do so.

Supporting the township's position were affidavits from the Nunda Township Highway Commissioner Michael Lesperance and McHenry Township Highway Commissioner James Condon stating neither had been contacted by Gasser or his department to borrow or purchase salt. Both entities would be willing to lend or sell salt "in the spirit of intergovernmental cooperation," they said.

Kelly also argued in his court brief that the township board was not able to legally pay Compass.

"Gasser failed to lawfully comply with his statutory duty to advertise and bid for road salt," read part of the brief. "A contract by a road district which fails to comply with the statutory advertising and bidding requirements is void."

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