Repair, referendum connected in Kenilworth
Last fall, Kenilworth Public Works Director Kevin Zeoli displayed a corroded cast iron water main pipe from the village system. As part of a 10 year capital works plan to improve similar aging infrastructure and better control area flooding, the village h
Updated: November 5, 2012 6:41AM
KENILWORTH — Babying a crotchety water main requires rather specific knowledge; knowing that a stretch of pipe will stiffen after it’s been repaired multiple times, for instance.
Stiff pipes can fall prey to a water hammer – the surge of water that results from unexpected variations in water pressure.
“Our people do an incredible job of keeping the pressure level,” Kenilworth Village Manager Patrick Brennan said last week, as he talked about the village’s aging water system. “That’s what you have to do when you have pipes that can be 120 years old.”
Right now, Kenilworth nurses aging sewer lines and streets. Properly upgrading them could cost $25 million over the next 10 years, Village President Fred Steingraber said last month.
That’s why village trustees decided Aug. 20 to put a home rule referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot, he said; they believe gaining the financial flexibility of home rule will allow Kenilworth to raise those funds efficiently.
“We’re one of only two non-home rule communities on the North Shore, Glencoe being the other one” he said. “We need a proactive approach (to infrastructure repair) and home rule is a way we can manage this, and the community can feel confident about going forward.”
Home rule supporters will spend October telling neighbors why they should vote for it. Two informational meetings have been set for 7 p.m. Oct. 24 and 4 p.m. Oct. 28, both at the Kenilworth Club, 410 Kenilworth Ave.
Many residents aren’t clear about what home rule entails or how it could affect their pocketbooks, village resident Bob Smietana said last week. The former village trustee, is now part of a pro-home rule group that will be sending pro-referendum literature out to residents. It also has an informational website at www.kenilworthhomerule.com.
“Our committee’s task between now and election day is to provide enough information, to make it detailed and clear, but also boil it down to simple language,” he said.
Put simply, home rule status, which an estimated 209 Illinois communities have, frees municipalities from the property tax caps that encumber school and park districts, and communities of fewer than 25,000 people who don’t choose home rule.
It allows towns to raise their property tax rates without winning approval by public referendums, but supporters point out that it also allows towns to find other ways of raising money – municipal sales taxes, for instance, or the ability to levy business license fees and capture better bond and interest rates.
The referendum decision did not come out of thin air. In 2006 a committee appointed by then Village Board President T. Tolbert Chisum recommended home rule. Will Hagenah, a former committee member, said last week that the group’s focus was simple: “Given that the community needs to spend money on infrastructure, the question is what’s the most efficient way to pay for it?”
Two years later, Steingraber was on another committee, this one looking at how to balance Kenilworth’s deficit budget. It too, suggested voters consider home rule.
Repairing Kenilworth’s infrastructure is expensive enough that property taxes will probably have to rise, he acknowledged. And home rule opponents usually cite fear that it could allow an undisciplined board to raises property taxes with no voter control. A home rule Kenilworth will have other fund-raising options to keep the increases smaller than they might otherwise be, he said.