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Lake in the Hills Sanitary District officials agreed to cease their attempt to annex land across the Kane County line in an effort to halt discussion of potentially consolidating the taxing body into village government, County Board Chairman Jack D. Franks and State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally announced Thursday.
Sanitary district officials dropped their claim that the annexation makes the district a multi-county entity, and therefore takes away the County Board’s authority under state law to appoint its trustees. This means the County Board’s appointments in June of new trustees Eric Hansen and Kyle Kane stand, as does their July vote to undo the annexation. Former sanitary district president Shelby Key has stepped down, and is no longer in office. The sanitary district’s effort to buy 13 acres of Kane County farmland for $950,000 was halted last week in a ruling by McHenry County Judge Thomas Meyer.
“This entire frivolous legal sideshow, instigated by a handful of insiders who resorted to dirty tricks to protect their special interests by squashing even the discussion of consolidation, is Exhibit A for why I, as a state lawmaker, got this consolidation law passed. Having said that, I am happy that the sanitary district officials who brought this challenge forward have decided, in the best interests of the taxpayers, to end it,” Franks, D-Marengo, said. Franks thanked Kenneally and his office for their invaluable help. The trial had been set for Sept. 19. “We were forced to take action after the sanitary district’s former majority took extraordinary steps with the goal of stopping a discussion on reducing taxpayer costs and increasing efficiencies from moving forward. I pledged when I ran for this office to help protect McHenry County’s taxpayers from wasteful government spending, and I am happy to announce this victory on their behalf,” Kenneally said. A law Franks wrote as a state representative gives the County Board the power to eliminate certain unnecessary or duplicative units of government, provided their boundaries lie entirely within McHenry County, and the County Board appoints a majority of its trustees. However, legal discovery in this case revealed that the sanitary district began a mad dash in recent months to buy any land it could in Kane County, once talk of consolidation began in earnest, for the sole purpose of eliminating the County Board’s consolidation authority. Sanitary district officials pondered offering Kane County homeowners between $25,000 and $30,000 apiece to annex into the district, and seriously considered spending up to $1.9 million for land they had no need for and no intention of using. In one outrageous instance, the sanitary district told one prospective seller that it only needed one acre – officials proposed buying five acres to avoid local subdivision ordinances and selling back four. What’s more, the sanitary district assured the seller that any plans for the land were at least a decade away.
“Consolidating the Lake in the Hills Sanitary District is far from a done deal, and it’s an issue that the county and the village have to agree is in taxpayers’ best interests. Fortunately, that discussion can now begin, honestly and earnestly, without distraction,” Franks said. In its misguided quest to become a multi-county entity, sanitary district counsel reached out to influence local state lawmakers, who under state law appoint the trustees of sanitary districts with boundaries that cross county lines. Franks thanked those Republican lawmakers – Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles, and Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods – for siding with taxpayers and not entertaining the sanitary district’s request.