River Forest trustees: Emotions too high for broad township merger talks

Township officials want two boards to meet

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Deb Kadin

Contributing Reporter

Representatives of River Forest village government and the township will continue to discuss issues related to possible collaboration before both boards meet for a fuller conversation at a later date.

While unanimously agreeing Monday that they should meet with their township counterparts, village trustees determined that they want see what comes out of another session between Village Administrator Eric Palm and Township Supervisor Carla Sloan.

The call to stay the course came after an email and press release were received by trustees at 5:13 p.m. Monday night – a little more than 90 minutes before the regular village meeting.  The email and release from the township called for full boards to meet. 

Trustees and Village President Catherine Adduci expressed concerns that the press release made misrepresentations about the reason for HB 4425, legislation that would allow voters to decide by referendum whether the village and township should merge. 

Toward that end, a letter will be sent to Sloan sometime this week that will explain the bill and what the village sees as the benefits of collaborating and aligning services. The letter also will focus on the township owned Community Center and where it fits in to the conversation.

Palm will report back to trustees on the progress of his conversation with Sloan and at that time trustees will determine what action to take.

It might be more productive for both boards to meet when emotions are lower, Adduci said. 

"We welcome the opportunity to sit down and work together in the best interest of the taxpayers," Adduci said. "There has to be context. There has to be a clear vision and direction of the conversation."

Reached Tuesday morning, Sloan said it sounded like the township and the village were "a little bit apart" as to the next step. But she couldn't provide a formal response until she heard directly from the village. "Until I speak with representatives from the village, I cannot officially comment on what the next step will be. The important thing is that we're talking," said Sloan.

Trustee Colleen Horrigan said Monday that it was clear, too, that misinformation would have to be ironed out before both sides meet. 

Palm and Sloan met for about 90 minutes last week about the proposed legislation and other related issues. He tried to stress that there are two separate issues involved: one relates to services and the other related to governance.

"We want to maintain services, enhance them, find efficiencies and improve them wherever we can. There's a better synergy on the human relations aspects that will enhance services for residents of River Forest," Palm said.

In addition, Palm stressed that there is the governance structure. It's incumbent upon the village to find ways of providing services at a lower cost. Merging administrative functions would be the best way of attaining that, he said. 

What entity will ultimately provide those services could rest with the voters of River Forest if current legislation gets through both houses of the General Assembly and is signed by Gov. Pat Quinn. A referendum will be placed on the ballot – perhaps as early as November – calling for consolidation. If that were successful, services would be transferred to and performed by the village. The bill also calls for a tax to be levied that would be designated to pay for social services. The village would assume oversight of all township assets, including the Community Center. The role of the township elected officials also would end.

In a call for the meeting, Sloan in the press release said her board wanted to express the township's opposition to any village attempt to eliminate the township. 

The bill is clear, said Adduci, who supports Welch's bill.  "It's about giving voters a voice in how government should be run. The question is that we ask the voters. It's not up to us."

Trustee Tom Cargie was emphatic. "We're not doing anything here. The legislation's in Springfield, not here," Cargie said. 

Trustee Tom Dwyer was a little disconcerted on why the township was in such an emotional state about this. 

Sloan, in her statement, said the township wanted to educate village officials about services and explore ways in which both units of government can improve collaboration. She said in the statement that elimination of the township would not result in improved efficiency, largely because there is currently no duplication of services between the two units of government.

CONTACT: Deb@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

7 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

RSteele from RF  

Posted: March 4th, 2014 9:07 PM

Story was told plenty but nobody listened. This needs to happen - makes sense. It will save $205,000 a year for tax payers AND give RF their bldg back. RF parks can then upgrade property with money already in the bank. Residents will get a their gym gym - and not charged back at $100 an hr. RF Parks will expand services - programming, including services-programs for people who live out of town. They will be welcome. No residential surprise party please. Very Bad. If so, i will not support.

anon  

Posted: March 3rd, 2014 4:20 PM

RF Achievement, all those out of town people pay to use the building too. I am very glad that the rfcc provides quality programs and child care to people not just from river forest. River Forest is not an island.

Inside the building from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2014 11:59 PM

Stop the merger

Blll D  

Posted: March 2nd, 2014 4:00 PM

Chill a bit, RF A. I'm not a reporter anymore, and am neither interested in nor obligated to write news articles to your liking. That said, you're right, it goes back much longer than six years. But around that time, the park district actually made a move that really upset the township/community center boards. And you're right, the whole story needs telling, for everyone's understanding in this process.

RF Acheivement  

Posted: March 2nd, 2014 3:33 PM

Bill D emotions did not start 6 years ago, they started when the township entered into a "secret" deal with the RF Civic Authority years ago when the State provided a grant to buy the building you mention - it is the property of RF residents -- not for all the out of town people that get access now. This is a group that ONLY cares about its well being and existence. If you care to comment, please report the ENTIRE story -- at least that is what newspapers used to do.

Bill D  

Posted: February 28th, 2014 2:17 PM

The "high emotions" go back maybe six years to a proposal by the park district that there be a merger between it and the RF Community Center. That was seen as a hostile takeover attempt by the Community Center board, which was made up largely of members of the Township board at the time. Control of the future use and development of the large community center building is at stake here, besides the other noted issues. And Kevin? The newspaper is not "buying into" anything, just reporting the news.

Kevin from Forest Park  

Posted: February 28th, 2014 10:57 AM

Emotions "too high" to talk? Sounds like paper is buying into trustee comments without question. We all want more efficient govternment--if this is a good idea, a meeting of both board will help show that. If not, it won't.

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