With about a month before residents cast their votes deciding whether to consolidate one of the largest townships in McHenry County, several questions remain about how the county government could absorb the responsibilities of a dissolved township, according to an administrative report compiled in January.
Under a township consolidation bill signed into law last year, a referendum to dissolve one of McHenry County’s 17 townships could be added to an election ballot by a majority vote from a township board of trustees or the collection of a mandatory number of signatures from township voters.
McHenry Township voters gathered enough signatures to put the question up for a vote in the March primary. Dissolution would occur on the date specified in the referendum question, which will be at least 90 days after the date of the election upon which the referendum is voted.
During a Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday, several McHenry County Board members raised concerns about the lack of a concrete plan to absorb township responsibilities when McHenry Township could be on the verge of being eliminated.
Board member Chris Christensen said it’s frustrating that the county is going to ask residents about dissolving a township and then decide what level of service will be provided in the aftermath.
“That, to me, is absolute garbage,” Christensen said. “I live in unincorporated Cary. It’s kind of nice to know what kind of service I’m going to get because I’ve had the same service for 15 years.”
Board member Carolyn Schofield called the report informative and uninformative at the same time.
According to the report, townships have four main functions: administration of general assistance, maintenance and operation of township cemeteries, township-level assessments, and the powers and responsibilities of the township’s road district.
However, the county only would be required to fulfill the obligations of the road districts upon dissolution, according to the report.
Currently, the county maintains 217 centerline miles of roads while the 17 townships collectively maintain about 838 centerline miles, of which 95 centerline miles are in McHenry Township, according to the report.
The McHenry County Division of Transportation facility is at its maximum capacity for staffing, which raises the question of whether satellite facilities or an expansion of the existing building should be considered.
During Thursday’s meeting, McHenry County Deputy Administrator Scott Hartman said the township road districts have a different profile than the county roads, but the township’s equipment – which would be absorbed by the county – would be in good shape.
He said the question that remains is about the level of service to the roads that would be acquired.
Another concern is that residents would lose statutory checks and balances related to the assessment of their properties, the report noted.
There also is a concern about whether there are any authorities or responsibilities township assessors hold that the county’s chief assessor would take over, since township assessors are elected and chief assessors are not.
Satellite assessment offices were considered to maintain local and accessible customer service, according to the report. The addition of employees to absorb the additional workload also was considered.
As for absorbing a township’s finances, the segregation of funds necessary to administer a township would need to be more robust, according to the report.
However, the county’s current financial software can accommodate the additional financial recording and tracking.
The county also will absorb all personnel of the township, but the county need not retain said personnel, the report said.
Township collective bargaining agreements would be assumed, and should the county decide not to retain all unionized township personnel, the collective bargaining agreement would need to be consulted, according to the report.
Additionally, a township’s highway maintenance workers and mechanics could be assumed under the county’s current collective bargaining agreement since the agreement covers these individuals.
County Board member James Kearns asked whether the county has compiled a full list of all contracts with McHenry Township and the length of those contracts.
Administrators said a full assessment of all contracts would need to occur to determine what the county must maintain.
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