River Forest village officials may soon sit down with their township counterparts to gauge the impact that a potential merger of the two entities may have on the village.
Village trustees Monday unanimously directed Village Administrator Eric Palm to have in-depth discussions with Township Supervisor Carla Sloan and others to learn among other things, about township services, delivery of programs and costs associated with programs. Officials also want to discuss any legal implications related to a possible consolidation. Plus, they want to find out how much can be saved and if that money might be used to provide additional services.
In addition, the village wants to speak with the township about what might happen during a transition period, what that would look like and what it would entail.
Currently River Forest Township is an autonomous government entity with elected officials and taxing power. Its service areas include youth, seniors, mental health and general assistance (welfare).
The impetus for the discussion comes as a bill allowing for merger by referendum could soon start winding its way through both houses of the Illinois General Assembly. It is uncertain when hearings would begin, said State Rep. Chris Welch (D.-7th), the legislation's principal sponsor, who added that the bill would likely be assigned to the Cities and Villages committee.
"We have a lot to learn," said President Catherine Adduci, who supports the measure. "We have a lot of time to have this conversation."
The township is willing to discuss these issues and continue amicably working with officials, Sloan said.
However, Sloan expressed concern with how this current round of discussions began and said the village should have gone about this topic in a different way. She said conversations should have been on an amicable and informal level before the bill — which is specific to River Forest — was introduced in Springfield. Sloan wondered about the circumstances or atmosphere under which the township was being asked to come to the table to provide information so that someone could make the case for township elimination.
"Don't be working with Rep. Welch on legislation for eliminating the township. Those aren't very good working conditions," said Sloan who opposed the measure.
There is no indication of when discussions would commence.
If the bill gets out of Springfield and is signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, River Forest trustees would have to approve an ordinance placing the question on the ballot. That measure could appear on a ballot as early as the November general election or it might be delayed beyond that date.
If approved by voters, consolidating both entities would mean that the village, after a transition period of 180 days, would administer all programs and services currently handled by the township and assume oversight of all township assets, including the River Forest Community Center on Madison Street. The role of the township elected officials also would end.