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Bill would give some Kane towns more powers

Hampshire Trustee George Brust.

Hampshire Trustee George Brust.

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Updated: March 19, 2014 6:17AM

Some non-home rule towns in Kane, Kendall and DeKalb counties would get extra powers — ranging from being able to set their own speed limits to regulating local businesses — under a pilot program proposal now before the state legislature.

The legislation would amend the Illinois Municipal Code to create a five-year pilot program for non-home rule municipalities with populations in excess of 5,000 in the three counties.

The program would allow those towns to exercise the same powers as home rule municipalities except for expanded powers to tax or impose fees.

The bill was first proposed by Metro West Council of Government, according to Hampshire Village Trustee George Brust. He has represented Hampshire at Metro West for the past eight years.

“The Metro West legislative committee started talking about this modification of the Home Rule Act back in 2011,” Brust said. “We discussed the benefits of home rule as opposed to the smaller municipalities having to abide by only what was allowed to us by state statute. You would think a municipality that has been incorporated and functioning for 100 years, in many cases, would have had enough ‘practice’ to function on their own with the knowledge of how to handle their own situations.

“As one example, the non-home rule municipalities don’t even have the authority to change their own speed limits on side streets.”

Brust said that over the years, there have been a number of requests to change the speed limits on Hampshire side streets.

“We were required to conduct traffic counts and accident reports as well as report any and all injuries that were traffic related,” Brust said. “We did the homework, submitted the information and were told that we did not meet the criteria to change the speed limit.”

In committees

State Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Sycamore) recently submitted the bill for consideration in Springfield. State Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) has agreed to sponsor the bill in the Illinois Senate. The bill has been assigned as HB 5329 in the House and SB 3111 in the Senate.

“HB 5329 has been assigned to the rules committee, and SB 3111 has been sent to the assignment committee,” Brust said. “As soon as they clear those committees, they will be presented for floor discussion and voting. There is always a chance that some representative or senator may wish to change or add verbiage to the bill.”

Saving money

Brust discussed how the proposed pilot program would affect Hampshire.

“At the present time, the village is limited with infrastructure improvement, such as street resurfacing and replacement of aging water and sewer lines,” Brust said.

“Because we are limited to any kind of loan financing to only 20 years, we can only do small sections at a time. This is very counterproductive because when we are able to address the next connecting section, some of the newer structure is damaged as well as some of the engineering and bidding becomes redundant. We can save money by doing more of the project at one time because we would be allowed to finance the project over a 40-year period.”

The proposed program would allow non-home rule communities more insight into the makeup of their business base and allow them to track activities of businesses such as massage parlors, taxi companies and pawn shops.

Brust said this proposed change would expedite a number of functions in the village.

“It would give us the actual name and address of a business owner, what the emergency contact phone numbers are, their insurance carrier and a tool to expedite correction of flagrant code violations in a timely manner.”

“We had a business that came into Hampshire that identified its business as one thing while actually operating a business that would never have been allowed in the location,” Brust added. “It took several court appearances by our attorney to get a court order and several more to enforce the order. All of this cost the village a considerable amount of money. The business owner moved away after a judgment for the village was given. The party has not been located, and we are out the money that we spent. If we were able to handle this locally, it is unlikely this situation would have happened.”

“It has been proven time and time again that remote government won’t solve local problems. We are capable of doing so on our own.”

Local control

When asked how the proposed program would affect the average Kane County resident, Brust said: “The citizens probably won’t even notice any change. They can expect a safer community, a local government that is doing more with less due to reducing costs for projects.

“It would create a better place for business because the residents should feel more confident that new businesses will have to answer locally for any bad practices. If the village deems it necessary, it could adopt ordinances that would make rental properties that are not owner-occupied accountable for the types of use of these units.”

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