December 12, 2012 5:32PM
Updated: January 14, 2013 7:16AM
Why isn’t Brunner Forest Preserve open to public?
In October 2008, the Kane County Forest Preserve District purchased the 741-acre Brunner property (north of Carpentersville) for $40 million, the largest and most important land purchase ever made by the District.
To leverage their funds, the district obtained two grants for the 146 acres considered the highest quality natural areas along the river: $1.46 million from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and $750,000 from the Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development Program. After the initial celebration of this significant purchase, questions began to arise almost immediately.
Intergovernmental agreements with Kane County and Dundee Park District for the right of way to construct the future Longmeadow Parkway reduced the size of the Brunner Forest Preserve by some 50 acres in 2009. Additional acreage was leased to the Dundee Park District for 50 years.
The possibility of mining for gravel on the Brunner property was discussed as early as November 2008 in a forest commission Executive Committee meeting. Public reaction to the idea of gravel mining was widespread and overwhelmingly negative. Despite initial denials, the story did not go away.
The Elgin Area League of Women Voters initiated a study, which documented the facts and concluded in 2012 that gravel mining in the preserve would be a bad decision from both an environmental and an economic standpoint. In addition, issues of public trust and transparency with far-reaching implications had been raised.
While the KCFP dropped the idea of gravel mining in the face of strong opposition, questions linger. The Brunner Forest Preserve is still not open to the public more than four years after its acquisition, despite the terms of the 2008 OSLAD grant requiring that the site be open to the public within 12 months of purchase. A spokesman for the forest district claimed that the public could enter Brunner from adjacent properties, but the main entry remains chained shut.
Why has the opening of this $40 million preserve not been given a higher priority? The Kane County taxpayers who voted in support of the referendums to preserve more land deserve a better answer than “because” and “soon.” Perhaps the newly seated board members will ask more questions and demand an accounting.
Evelyn Carol Grom
Your tax dollars — do you know how they are spent?
When is the last time you looked at your property tax bill?
Like many people, you probably pay it through an escrow and don’t look at it often because it would probably disgust you how much property tax you are paying. I ask you to go get your most recent tax bill; you probably received it in October. The first thing that you will probably notice is the large amount in total property taxes you are paying. Next, you may notice the lengthy list of taxing bodies that get a piece of the action. Mine, for example has more than 20 line items of tax bodies and or pension funds that are collecting money from me by way of my property taxes.
Next, look at that list of taxing bodies close and look if any dollar amounts stand out. Where does the largest portion of your property taxes go? I am pretty sure that between 60 and 70 percent of your tax bill goes to your school district. You should now ask yourself a few questions.
Do you believe your money is being spent wisely? Is your school district being transparent in how it spends your money?
Do you know what is being taught in the classroom? Many residents don’t pay much to their school district, unless they have a student in the school district, but that should not be the case. Even if you don’t have a student in the school district, you have a right and should know what is being taught, what curriculum is being covered in the class, and what books are they teaching from.
I would encourage you to ask the school district questions. Find your school board members’ contact info and ask them some tough questions. If they are not easily found or don’t answer your questions, vote them out of office. Attend a school board meeting and ask questions. Get involved in the education process, whether you have children in the district or not. It is your right to know what they are doing with your money.
Candidate for U46 school board