Accusations fly at Wheatland Town Meeting
By Hank Beckman For The Sun April 11, 2012 9:32AM
Wheatland Township supervisor Todd Morse addresses residents about putting township owned land up for sale during the township's annual meeting on Tuesday, April 10, 2012. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 1, 2012 10:25AM
Wheatland Township officials were taken to task Tuesday by about 130 residents at the township’s annual Town Meeting at Kennedy Middle School in Plainfield.
After Township Clerk Chuck Kern read a summary of the Town Fund showing an ending balance of $280,393, resident Tricia Tillotson wasted no time going after the township trustees for what she called overtaxing township residents.
“Does this current elected board represent and work for the taxpayers who elected them into office,” she asked.
Tillotson, a committed opponent of the proposed $1.5 million township facility near 103rd Street and Route 59 that was vetoed last August at a special township meeting, pressed the board on what it planned to do with the $1.7 million it collected since 2003 for a new building.
She said the township was still taxing this fiscal year as if a building were going to be constructed, when she said the electors had clearly directed the trustees to sell the land at 103rd and Route 59 and renovate the existing township building.
Next in the crosshairs was Township Assessor Kelli Lord, who was questioned about her personal real estate assessment not being increased since 2006 when other neighborhoods saw an increase or smaller decrease.
“Something’s not right here,” Werner Zouglauer said.
Lord responded that it was unfair to compare two neighborhoods to one another for purposes of assessment.
“It’s not necessarily a true picture,” she said, noting that she had to appeal to the State Board after the previous assessor had raised her valuation by 28 percent.
Later Lord said she took “great offense” at the suggestion that she did anything unethical for personal benefit. As for the charge that she was only part-time, she stressed, “the job description is part-time,” and said that she put in long hours anyway.
“How is the work getting done?” she said.
Supervisor Todd Morse was asked for an update on the progress of selling the land at 103rd and Route 59 and he responded that the board had agreed on a price for the land, $496,000. He later corrected himself and said the price was $396,000.
“I was told it was listed,” he said.
Indian Prairie School District 204 Board member Dawn DeSart took exception to the demeanor of both Morse and Lord, saying that Lord “wouldn’t even get her body up here (to the microphone)” and that when Morse was asked about the land, “all we got was ‘the land is for sale’ … that is very disrespectful.”
Lord took the floor and pointed out that no matter how much she lowered the assessments it wouldn’t make any difference because taxing districts, especially school districts, would only increase their taxing rate.
Electors made several suggestions as to what to do to with the property formerly scheduled for the new building. Two people said that using the land for parks could solve the lack of ball fields in the south end of the township.
But Rick Peabody, who served on the lands use committee that studied the problem last year, warned everyone that the electors had directed the board to sell the land and put whatever proceeds there were toward renovating the existing building.
“We’ll have to come back to the taxpayers,” he said.
Trustee Karl Karantonis referred to a divided board, where he and Joe Hudetz often found themselves on the losing end of 3 to 2 votes, being outnumbered by Morse and trustees Doug Haddad and Frank King.
Hudetz said, “we’re budgeting 25 percent more than we need to run the township … why are we doing this?”
As for the fate of the building, Morse said that would ultimately be a decision for the board to make. He said that in all the discussion last year over how to go about providing a new space for the township staff to operate, the opposition never addressed costs.
“No one ever did an analysis on how much,” he said.