State law could solve voter contradiction about Naperville township roads

 
 
Updated 6/12/2019 10:33 AM

A task force and a pending state law are set to help officials in Naperville Township move ahead with a plan approved by voters in April to dissolve the township's road district and absorb it into the township.

The township on Tuesday established the task force to advise on the process of turning the once-separate road district into a department within township government after the spring 2021 election. The task force has until the April 2020 town meeting to develop a report about how the dissolution should occur, township Supervisor Eddie Bedford said.

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Meanwhile, officials are watching the progress of a bill awaiting Gov. JB Pritzker's signature that would clarify the legal basis to allow the dissolution to take place.

The bill is necessary because the vote to dissolve the road district came after a vote in April 2017 to follow a different path toward road district consolidation. Voters in both Naperville and Lisle townships decided in that election to merge their respective road districts into one combined agency, effective May 2021.

But officials soon realized consolidation wouldn't result in equal taxes for homeowners in the two districts; those in Lisle Township stood to save, while those in Naperville Township were likely to see increased costs.

So Naperville Township trustees put a new question on the ballot this spring and asked whether voters would prefer the option of dissolving the road district, which would remove the elected position of highway commissioner and allow road services to be governed along with the rest of township government.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Seventy-five percent of voters said yes, so the dissolution measure passed. But it didn't automatically do away with the vote from 2017 to merge road districts with Lisle.

The state law awaiting Pritzker's signature would allow the results of the new referendum to supersede the old. Bedford said the law specifically addresses the issue created by the consecutive -- and contradictory -- ballot initiatives.

House Bill 3676 "provides that if a township has approved a consolidated road district with another township but that consolidation is not yet effective, and if the township subsequently approves a referendum to consolidate the road district with the township, then the dual-township consolidated road district is void and shall not occur."

For Naperville Township residents, this means the new task force can begin to spell out how the road district will be transformed into a township department, addressing topics such as operations, taxation, service delivery, employment, equipment storage and building use.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Township Trustee Paul Santucci said the task force can address what type of employee should fulfill the administrative and supervisory duties of the highway commissioner once Richard Novinger's term expires and that position no longer exists.

Bedford said he wants the group to explore intergovernmental agreements with other townships, the city of Naperville or DuPage County to maintain the roughly 15 miles of streets under the township's jurisdiction.

"I'm really happy we have the task force," Bedford said. "They can come up with suggestions and we can move on from there."

For Lisle Township residents, the Naperville Township vote this spring and the pending state legislation mean their road district almost certainly will not merge with Naperville's, despite the 2017 vote saying the merger must take place.

Ed Young, Lisle Township highway commissioner, said he's disappointed the state legislature approved and passed along to Pritzker the bill giving Naperville Township's second referendum power over the first.

"I think it disenfranchised the Lisle Township residents," Young said. "They voted to merge, as did the Naperville Township residents, and that's just being ignored."

Young said he's looking for ways to cut his tax levy to give residents some of the savings they could have seen if the merger took place.

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