Tag Archives: Karen McConnaughay

Down the drain?

Sugar Grove ends Mallard Point drainage negotiations
by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—The solution to the drainage problems in the Mallard Point and Rolling Oaks subdivisions in Sugar Grove just became more complex.

Two months after the Village Board approved four resolutions for improvements and an extension of the drainage system in the two subdivisions, Village President Sean Michels announced on Jan. 4 that the village was walking away from a deal with the Rob Roy Drainage District No. 2 and three land owners (one of which is the family of Sugar Grove Police Chief Brad Sauer) to allow for the installation of a pipe—18 inches in diameter and 8,800 feet long—that would convey water from the subdivisions to the Drainage District ditch located near Jericho Road and Route 30.

The landowners were involved in the deal because the pipe would have to travel through their property to reach the Drainage District’s concrete ditch. The Sauer family owns the largest of the three properties.

The cost of the project was estimated at $1.7 million, with Kane County slated to kick in $171,000 toward that cost. The Drainage District, during the last 17 months, has spent in excess of $100,000 in engineering and legal fees related to the project, according to Drainage District President Mike Fagel.

“The position of the village is that we’ve reached the end of our negotiations. We negotiated with the Sauers and the Rob Roy Drainage District and could not come to terms,” Michels said. “Therefore, the village is moving on to look for other alternatives to rectify the situation and help out the residents with their drainage issue.”

Michels, who has been village president since 1999, cited control of drain tile (after installation), price of easement and wetlands as reasons why the village chose to end negotiations.

“The big (reasons) are (with) the Sauers. With Rob Roy, it was the permitting process and some of the fees that they were requesting,” he said. “We had been negotiating since May with Rob Roy and since August with the Sauers, and in late December when we received final proposals (from them), that was when the village made the decision to move in another direction.”

According to Fagel, the Drainage District on Dec. 26 agreed to waive the $18,000 connection fee. The district maintained that the village should pay for engineering costs, with a $10,000 cap.

“The permit process protects all of us, but we do not want to stand in the way of this project,” Fagel said.

Mallard Point resident Jim Stone spoke during public comment at the Village Board meeting on Jan. 17, stating his frustration over the fact that the village didn’t send out a hard-copy letter to notify residents of its intention to cease negotiations with the Sauer family and the Drainage District. Instead, the village sent out e-mails to Mallard Point residents who had signed up to receive electronic notices from the village.

Village Administrator Brent Eichelberger said during the meeting that the e-mail-only notification was “maybe an oversight.”

“The fact that they pulled out of the agreement … that’s just pathetic,” Stone later said. “My basement is in horrible shape (because of flooding), and so are a lot of other basements in this subdivision.”

Mallard Point drainage concerns
documented 20 years ago

A letter from attorney Bruce A. Brown, representing Rob Roy Drainage District, to attorney Leonard Stoecker, dated July 21, 1992, states, “The drainage district is obviously concerned that the proposed development could unduly burden the downstream landowners and the drainage district system. In view with past contracts with this developer, we are also concerned that this project may be an ‘on again, off again’ proposition.

Brown urged the Village Board to reconsider their position on the project in light of the “drainage problems in (the) plan.”

A document from former village engineer/administrator Joe Wywrot to the Plan Commission, dated Feb. 10, 1995, states, “Based on wetland requirements, a number of lots in Mallard Point “are not buildable. The plat should indicate that the wetland in the area is to be mitigated if that is (the) intention.”

According to Fagel, developers in 1993 installed Mallard Point Unit 1 detention pond without the inclusion of a bypass pipe to reconnect a damaged drain tile at the location. A document dated April 7, 1998, from then-Village Engineer Brian L. Schiber states, “As a reminder, we are still awaiting the completion of the drain tile replacement around the wetlands.”

So, why wasn’t the bypass tile ever installed? According to Sugar Grove Township Supervisor Dan Nagel, an effort to install the pipe resulted in workers digging into running sand, which halted the project for good.

Kane County take
facilitator role in talks

In spring 2009 Kane County began serving as facilitator among all three negotiating sides in the deal to fix the drainage issue once and for all. Board representative Drew Frasz (Dist. 26-Elburn), the point man during these talks, said the board has a relationship with both the village and Drainage District, and wants to see the flooding issue through to the end.

“(The negotiations) have been a continual forward movement in a positive direction. It’s been slower than I would’ve liked to see it, but that’s just the necessity of getting all the facts down and engineering right,” he said. “Our goal was to communicate with all parties, find out what’s important to them and what they can bend on.”

Frasz said the 800-pound gorilla in the room during negotiations was the fact that, even if the three sides found a solution to the drainage issue, there wasn’t a funding mechanism to make it happen. Kane County then acquired a stimulus fund (otherwise known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act) of approximately $16,800,000 in fall 2009.

“Chairman (Karen) McConnaughay proposed that we make this funding available to any governmental agency in Kane County, to be used on drainage- and water-related projects,” Frasz said. “The Mallard Point issue was the impetus for that idea and, of course, the prime project that we wanted to fund with that money.”

Fagel said Kane County has been a true partner to the Drainage District in these negotiations.

“The County Board Chair, County Board member Drew Frasz and the Water Resources department have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us in the investigation, solution, financing and potential resolution (of the drainage issue),” he said.

As part of the deal, the Drainage District was slated to receive a $330,000 loan out of recovery bonds from the county.

“Those bonds have to be paid back, but it’s long term, low interest,” Frasz said.

If the drainage project is completed, Mallard Point residents will pay 50 percent of the project’s cost over 20 years.

The Sauer family was set to receive $275,000 from the village for the easement. Frasz said that during the negotiations, the village did not express a concern with the dollar amount.

According to Frasz, Sauer himself owns a small parcel of wetland on the north end of his family’s property and is willing to donate that land to the village as part of the easement deal.

Sauer said that he did not want to directly comment on the negotiations.

Letters from the Sauer family and Rob Roy Drainage District, including a cover letter from Kane County, were delivered to Village Hall on Tuesday. All three letters urged the village to reconsider its stance and re-enter negotiations with the other two sides.

“It’s entirely up to the village to decide if they want to move forward (with negotiations). As far as (Kane) County’s position, I’ve made it clear all along that the county is not ready or willing to give up on this project or the residents, whether they are in the municipality or in the unincorporated areas,” Frasz said. “We want to get the project done and we want to get it done this year. It’s really the village’s call … we ask them to look at the current situation, which is greatly improved, and reconsider jumping back into this thing with both feet.”

Kane County takes on lead poisoning with $1 million grant

GENEVA—Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay and U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren announced last week that Kane County has been awarded a $1.04 million grant to address lead-based paint hazards in area homes and to develop a county-wide Healthy Homes Program.

The county is one of only 39 jurisdictions nationwide to receive the federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Local matching funds for the program, totaling $260,000, will be provided by Kane County and the cities of Aurora and Elgin.

Illinois leads the nation in the number of lead poisoned children. Next to Cook County, Kane County has the highest rate of childhood lead poisoning in the state.

Kane County’s program will provide targeted lead poisoning prevention education for parents, landlords and homeowners, and lead training for local contractors looking for work.

Kane County was selected by HUD, in part, because of its successful track-record under the Illinois Department of Public Health’s “Get the Lead Out” Program, which ran from January 2007 to September 2010. Because of this experience, the county expects the program to be up and running quickly, providing training to local contractors, education to area residents, and rehab work aimed at improving the lives and health of Kane County children.

Candidates switch seats in election bids

Redistricting creates 6 degrees of separation between area officials
by Sandy Kaczmarski
KANE COUNTY—After serving nearly 20 years in the Illinois State Senate, Chris Lauzen announced he’s running for Kane County Board Chairman. The current board chairman, Karen McConnaughay, announced she’s running for the newly created Illinois Senate District 33.

Blackberry Township Supervisor Dave Richmond announced he’s running for Lauzen’s District 25 senate seat. Kevin Bacon, the object of the six degrees of separation concept, isn’t running, but Geneva’s mayor Kevin Burns is – against Lauzen for Board Chairman.

And Jim Oberweis, who’s won a primary but never an office, is throwing his proverbial hat in the ring for a bid at Lauzen’s seat.

What voters are left with is a sort of six degrees of separation—the assumption that anyone in the world can be linked to any other person (or Kevin Bacon) in six steps. In this case, it’s to elected officials and familiar names vying for another elected office in Kane County.

Senator Lauzen said he wants to be the next Board Chairman to be able to serve 550,000 people in Kane County compared to the 210,000 in the Senate District. Running for a local office may seem like a step down after serving at the state level—national political parties do not provide financial support at the local level. However, in addition to a larger constituency, there’s also a larger salary. Illinois state senators receive about $58,000 a year, while McConnaughay’s annual salary is nearly $102,000.

Attorney Dave Richmond said he plans to knock on every door in the district the next few months to get his message across to voters. Richmond said his experience as an elected official and his business background, including having worked for Congressman Dennis Hastert, makes him the best person to bring township values down to Springfield. Like the Senate seat he’s running for, the township supervisor is a part-time position, paying $20,000 a year.

Burns said his experience as Geneva mayor the last 11 years gives him an insight into partnering with the communities in the county. He points to having a balanced budget every year, stabilizing the equalized assessed valuation of properties and lowering the city’s tax rate. Burns is a professional development officer, and while he receives $22,000 a year as mayor, he does not qualify for a pension or health insurance.

Oberweis said he will work for ideas that he believes make sense to turn the economy around, and that it will take some significant changes in Springfield to get unemployment numbers down and attract and retain new business to Illinois. Oberweis owns Oberweis Dairy and has run for governor, U.S. senator and U.S. representative, but has yet to be elected.

Lawsuit against Chairman dismissed

by Lynn Meredith
KANE COUNTY—A Kane County judge dismissed a lawsuit against Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay brought by Elburn resident James MacRunnels. The lawsuit claimed that McConnaughay violated county ordinances when she gave out 14 raises to employees.

MacRunnels ran against McConnaughay in the 2008 Republican primary.

“From the beginning we knew this (lawsuit) was a frivolous, unwarranted exercise on Mr. MacRunnels’ part to engage in political gamesmanship,” McConnaughay said. “As you know, he was a former opponent.”

The suit was filed in December 2010 by MacRunnels and claimed that McConnaughay violated Section 2-48 of the Kane County Code. He claims that she gave raises without county board approval as set forth in the code.

“We have the utmost respect for Judge Mueller, but we were of the opinion that she was violating the ordinance in handing out the raises,” said William T. King Jr., attorney for MacRunnels. “Well, she was. It’s there in black and white.”

He said that his client is attempting to stop her from handing out raises without approval.

“But, apparently, she doesn’t want to stop,” he said.

MacRunnels has 30 days in which to appeal the decision.

“We’re exploring our options, but we really don’t know yet,” King said.

KC Chairman says future looks bright, despite sour economy

Photo: Forest Preserve President John Hoscheit and County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay speak at a luncheon sponsored by the Geneva and St. Charles Chambers of Commerce at Pheasant Run Resort on Tuesday. Courtesy Photo

by Sandy Kaczmarski
Kane County—Kane County is in a position to take advantage of future growth opportunities as a result of the fiscal prudence taken by the County Board during the last 10 years, according to the board chairman.

County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay told a group of about 60 business people that the hard work, “sometimes contentious work,” of the County Board is what has put Kane’s finances on solid ground.

“While many government chief executives have been facing financial catastrophes, I can tell you that Kane County is in a solid financial position as we look to the future,” McConnaughay said.

A county update luncheon was co-sponsored by the Geneva and St. Charles Chambers of Commerce at Pheasant Run Resort on Tuesday. Forest Preserve President John Hoscheit also spoke and talked about the recently approved referendum for $30 million for land purchases.

McConnaughay said the board knew even before the economy turned sour that the enormous demand for services and infrastructure would not be far behind. As a result, the board worked to “keep a tight rein” on spending and to build up reserves.

“We believed these policies were sound when we first pursued them in the last decade,” she said, “But they were most importantly the saving grace for us when we ran into the worst recession we’ve seen in generations.”

While unemployment remains at about 8 percent, McConnaughay said several areas with job potential in the future include finance and healthcare, education, and professional services.

She said one of the biggest challenges facing local governments today is the issue of pensions. McConnaughay said $20 million of the county’s budget is spent on pensions and healthcare costs for its 1,300 employees. She said future government employees will not enjoy the same pension benefits as those currently in government have in place.

Population growth projections, regardless of the economy, remains at 800,000 by the year 2040. That is why the board is looking into public transportation possibilities and creative land use management, which McConnaughay said means housing that encourages walking to work, school, and for shopping.

Despite the successful passage of three previous referenda, Hoscheit said it was risky to ask the voters to approve another in light of the depressed economy.

“We’re in an economic situation where we have great opportunities to acquire land,” he said. “What was going for $90,000 an acre is now between $10,000 and $20,000 an acre.”

He said the day following the election, Forest Preserve offices were flooded with phone calls from banks and other land holders wanting to sell their property.

Hoscheit said the referendum will allow the district to take advantage of various matching grants available and partnering with local park districts in helping them with land purchases.

Elburn businessman sues County Board chairman

by Keith Beebe
KANE COUNTY—An Elburn resident filed an injunction against Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay regarding pay raises given out to county officials.

James MacRunnels, an Elburn businessman and Kane County Board chairman candidate in 2008, filed the injunction on Dec. 14. The lawsuit alleges that McConnaughay, throughout her tenure as County Board chairman, has provided pay raises to 14 county officials and employees without seeking approval from either the Executive Committee or County Board.

The lawsuit identifies IT Executive Director Roger Fahnestock, former Development Department Director Phil Bus, HR Management Executive Director Shelia McCraven, Finance Executive Director Cheryl Patelli, Health Department Executive Director Paul Keuhnert, Deputy Director of Transportation Tom Rickert, Supervisor of Assessments Mark Armstrong, former Economic Development Director Chris Aiston, Facilities, Subdivision and Environmental Resources Director Tim Harbaugh, Family Health Division Director Theresa Heaton, Water Resources Director Paul Schuch, Network Services Director Robert Shive, IT Chief Financial Officer Bill Lake and Community Health Assistant Director Michael Isaacson as the officials who have been given pay raises or had their salary established by McConnaughay without Executive Committee or County Board compliance.

“I would like (Karen McConnaughay) to admit that she violated county statutes by giving out these pay raises,” MacRunnels said. “I asked my County Board member if he was aware of these raises, and he was not aware (of it). At that point in time, I said the only action I have as a citizen is to get involved and file the suit against her.”

MacRunnels said he believes McConnaughay should have to admit to newspapers and all 90,000 households in Kane County that she gave out unauthorized pay raises.

“That’s punishment enough, but she needs to step up and do that,” he said.

The lawsuit cites a Kane County code that establishes the Executive Committee’s jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to the compensation of all members of the County Board, the rules of order of the County Board, fees, salaries, clerk-hiring for and in all departments of the county, and the amount of the salary and per diem compensation of all county officers not otherwise set by law.

“MacRunnels is talking about a county code where the Executive Committee sets the salaries for the executive directors,” McConnaughay said. “Back in the early ’90s, the Executive Committee delegated that responsibility to the employee’s review, and the setting of salaries to the County Board chairman and to the respective committee chair.”

McConnaughay also said she doesn’t think the lawsuit has any merit.

“The state’s attorney will represent the chairman’s interest in this (matter),” she said.

County and circuit clerk budget battle heats up

Board responds to Seyller’s lawsuit with counterclaim
by Martha Quetsch
Kane County—The budget dispute between Kane County Circuit Clerk Deb Seyller and the Kane County Board continues to escalate, with lawsuits now going both ways.

Seyller sued the board Sept. 15, and the county and the Kane County Board responded with a counterclaim on Sept. 28.

Seyller’s lawsuit seeks court-mandated approval of a $550,000 supplemental budget request, a request previously denied by the County Board. Seyller alleged that the County Board’s failure to approve the additional funding will prevent her office from providing mandated services including, but not limited to, the processing of court orders related to child support payments and orders identifying registered sex offenders.

In the lawsuit, Seyller said that without the amended budget approval, all Circuit Clerk services will be affected. The lawsuit also states that “if the County Board does not approve the Circuit Clerk’s budget amendment, the Circuit Clerk will not have adequate funding for proper rooms, offices, suitable furnishings and other items for which she is entitled funding, and the County Board will be violating its state mandate.”

“The lawsuit is intended to ensure that both the County and the Circuit Clerk’s office fulfill their respective duties under the law,” Seyller said in a Sept. 28 press release.

The Sept. 14 County Board resolution denying the additional funding stated that since the board approved the Circuit Clerk’s $4.5 annual budget in November 2009, she hired additional personnel whose wages, salaries and benefits were not included in that budget. It also states that Seyller did not obtain the consent of the County Board or notify any of its committees prior to hiring such additional personnel.

The county’s Sept. 28 counterclaim seeks restitution from Seyller for any budget overage experienced by the Circuit Clerk’s Office, as well as the court costs accrued from the lawsuits. The claim asserts that Seyller should have used the statutory remedy of appealing to the Kane County Court with a request for more staff rather than making the unilateral decision to hire unbudgeted employees.

According to Kane County Board attorney Ken Shepro, while Seyller’s office has not yet spent money exceeding the budgeted amount, it is on pace to exceed appropriated funding based on the County Clerk’s current level of spending.

If the county’s counterclaim succeeds, Seyller could be personally responsible for the restitution, Shepro said.

“The County Chair has now responded to my legitimate attempt to seek judicial clarification by filing a counterclaim against me personally; to attempt to take my family’s personal assets to pay for the services that the County refuses to provide,” Seyller said in her statement. “This is completely inappropriate and without legal justification.”

Seyller compared the action to a corporation attempting to silence protestors by filing lawsuits against them.

“That is called a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation) lawsuit,” Seyller said in her statement. “Such lawsuits have been declared by the state of Illinois Legislature to be illegal and yet, that is exactly what the County is now doing to me.”

Both sides are scheduled to appear in court again on Friday, Oct. 15.

Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay did not respond to phone calls as of press time.

Foster announces more than $16 million for Kane transportation projects

Recovery Act to fund projects in the 14th District
STATE—Rep. Bill Foster (IL-14) announced additional area transportation projects that will receive funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which Foster supported. Foster announced seven other Recovery Act funded transportation projects in May.

“The funding for transportation projects that was included in the Recovery Act will allow vital transportation projects to move forward, and will create jobs for people throughout the 14th District,” said Foster.

Karen McConnaughay, Kane County Board Chairman, said, “This funding is vital to Kane County so we can continue to create jobs and grow the economy. We are seeing the Recovery at work.”

Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) determined which projects would receive Recovery funds. The table at right lists the projects and awarded amounts. Contracts have been awarded, and are now being executed. The projects should be underway shortly.

Project location and awarded amount
• Resurface US 30/IL 56/IL 47:
• Resurface West Bound ramp
on US 30/ IL 56 to IL 47:
• Resurface US 30/ IL 47 from
Prairie St. to Jericho Rd.:
• Resurface US 30/ IL 47 from
Jericho Rd. to Kendall County
line: $240,515
• Resurface US 30 from IL 47 to
Orchard Rd.: $996,676
• Repair bridge on US 30 cross-
ing Blackberry Creek: $69,858
• Resurface IL 25 from IL 72 to
I-90: $1,782,911
• Widen, resurface and add
turning lanes to IL 38:
• Resurface various locations in
Kane County: $1,595,801
14th District total: $16,844,300