Village and township officials could soon sit down to discuss how they may be able to collaborate on administrative and related issues.
A meeting, which could take place sometime early this summer, may be the first time village and township elected officials will address the issue of collaboration in a public setting.
The session, set for June 16, will have to be postponed because of scheduling conflicts on the part of township officials, Village President Catherine Adduci said. No other date has been set.
It also would be the first time that officials would be speaking on a specific set of issues that, if considered, could lower the cost of government. The end result of discussions could be that Village Administrator Eric Palm and Township Supervisor Carla Sloan would take the results of these discussions and work toward a plan that they could begin implementing, Adduci said.
Excluded from discussion will be programs and services administered by the township or done in conjunction with Oak Park Township, said Adduci, who sent a letter to Sloan requesting the meeting.
Sloan, in an email, said she was pleased that social and other non-duplicative services would be off the table. "We are pleased that the village has taken us up on the idea of a joint meeting. This reflects great progress in communication and cooperation between our units of government," she said.
This session would be a follow up to Adduci's state of the village address, in which she urged a continuation of discussions between Palm and Sloan.
"With HB4425, Rep. Chris Welch's legislation on hold, and your most recent efforts to inform and educate our residents on township services, I believe this will be an opportune time for us to sit down and figure out how we can work together," Adduci said.
If talks take place, they would center on three topics:
- Merging functions including legal, audit, and human resources, among others.
- Moving township offices from the civic center authority building on Madison Street to village hall, allowing for better accessibility and information for residents, Adduci said.
- Broadening the scope of township senior, youth and mental health committees to look at their issues village-wide rather than just at concerns related to township's programs and services. Ideas generated by the committee may be passed on to the Council of Governments to put them into effect. The COG consists of officials from River Forest units of government and other entities who discuss village-related concerns. The sessions are closed to the public.
River Forest Trustee Susan Conti said the meeting would set out what the village had been purporting all along. "The village's contention has been that not only by collaboration with the township could we save money by adding efficiencies, but also that we can enhance services to the residents as well. Rather than operating in two separate silos, we can coordinate into a system that will be more beneficial to all the residents in town," Conti said.
Sloan said that "the absence of elimination discussions at this time offers hopes that we can enjoy a genuine collaboration with the village wherever possible. The township looks forward to conversations with the village regarding how our two organizations can continue to work together to serve our community."
What might have complicated efforts toward discussions recently was the introduction of HB 4425, which if it was approved in the General Assembly, would have allowed voters to decide by referendum whether all township services should be transferred to, and performed by, the village. The bill was introduced in January; Adduci was a strong supporter of the measure.
But shared efforts were frosty even before then – and afterward as well. In 2012, Palm, at the behest of then-Village President John Rigas, brought a proposal on consolidating services to the township board. Those talks fizzled before they even started. Adduci supported Rigas' move.
Just this past January, a discussion about the bill between Welch and village and township officials was unproductive.
This year, Palm and Sloan talked for about 90 minutes this winter; discussions also were unproductive. In late February, rather than take the township up on its offer to meet, the village board endorsed further talks between Palm and Sloan, feeling they might prove more productive. No talks were ever re-scheduled.
An attempt to bring the merger idea into a public arena was shot down in May when Trustee Tom Cargie broached it during a special township meeting. Sloan, at the time, told Cargie that she did not think that meeting was the appropriate place to discuss it.