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While things have been calm at the Barrington Hills Village Hall these days, it seems as though there is trouble brewing over at the Barrington Hills Park District. It has been reported to the Observer that at last Wednesday night’s meeting of the Park District Board, board members voted unanimously to impose a facility rental fee for this year’s Barrington Honor Ride & Run (BHRR) – the annual community event that raises funds for the national organization Project Hero/Ride to Recovery Charity.  Project Hero is a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization which benefits Veterans and First Responders impacted by bodily injuries, as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI).  Project Hero’s events help these heroes rehabilitate and regain physical and mental health through cycling, and they raise funds to provide participants with customized equipment and specially modified bicycles needed due to injuries, as well as medical and psychiatric care.

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Trustee Colleen Konicek, the event organizer for the BHRR, was out of town on business, but Village President McLaughlin, Trustee Brian Cecola and Equestrian Commission member Stephanie Cecola and Veteran and former South Barrington trustee Bob Crowther appeared on Konicek’s behalf before the Barrington Hills Park District (BHParkDist)Board to inquire whether the members would consider waiving the rental fee for the 2018 event which has applied for rental of a portion of the Park District facility on August 12.  BHParkDist had previously explained that because the BHRR is not “in-district” and it charges event participants a fee, they would be charged a rental fee of $550, but they could request a waiver of the fee from the Park Board.

BHParkDist Vice President Steve Allen stated that the group was out of District, thereby necessitating a rental fee, and that the national organization had reported raising over 3 million dollars in recent filings and that they “weren’t hurting for money”.

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Dennis Kelly

BHParkDist President Dennis Kelly mentioned that the participation fee charged by BHRR as one of the many reasons he was against waiving the fee for the group.

Village President McLaughlin reminded both board members that every dollar raised and saved goes to the Vets.  Further, he stated that the total amount raised per year locally by the BHRR was around $40,000. Stephanie Cecola said it was unfathomable that a group of individuals who have given so much to protect us would NOT be given consideration to have the fee waived.  Dennis Kelly stated that every 501(c) (3) would be treated the same and that he was “watching out for the taxpayers”.

McLaughlin (who rarely appears to speak at meetings of other public bodies) requested special consideration on behalf of our veterans.  He mentioned that this event is an example of how our community can put its best foot forward by hosting and supporting our military.  He also mentioned how much positive press and feedback the village receives from hosting this event.  He further asked that if the board was so compelled to charge a fee that perhaps park district board members might consider a personal donation to offset the fee.  Only board member Jessica Underwood was open to consider that idea, but Dennis Kelly quickly shut down her inquiry and called for a vote. The Park District Board, consisting of Dennis Kelly, Steve Allen, Jessica Underwood, John Rosene and Gigi Iacovelli voted unanimously to impose the rental fee for this public facility.

Brian Cecola along with McLaughlin and Crowther have donated hundreds of volunteer hours to this event over the years, and all three were equally disgusted by the intransigent position of the board.

McLaughlin said it was just disappointing to see a group of individuals misrepresent the generous nature of the vast majority of residents in Barrington Hills for some personal undisclosed agenda. He, along with Cecola, Crowther and Konicek were considering personally covering the rental fees so that the event could continue in Barrington Hills without cost to the charity.

The Barrington Honor Ride is a great event for a great cause. Quite frankly, we don’t understand how the Park District could ever consider imposing a fee on these heroes. If you have attended the event, you will never forget the sight of these warriors who have lost limbs and suffered life-altering injuries, saluting the flag as the National Anthem is performed before the event commences.

We question the motivation of these members of the Park District Board to deny a waiver of the fee after being informed that every dollar saved goes to our vets.

This Park District receives roughly $210,000 of our tax dollars each year, and these board members are elected to represent our community. They may try to rationalize the imposition of the $550 fee as a fiscally responsible act, but keep in mind that this is the Park District that only charges private horse trainers $100 annually to use our Riding Center for conduct their personal for-profit lessons at our taxpayer funded Riding Center.  And one of those trainers happens to be Park District Board Member Jessica Underwood.

And, is it only coincidence that one of the Park District’s two paid administrative employees is Kim Keper, who happens to be the wife of BHParkDist VP Steve Allen?

Screen Shot 2018-04-13 at 3.59.16 PM Or consider board member John Rosene, who is notorious for playing fast and loose with facts when it comes to village politics. Rosene has been reprimanded by the Polo association for his inappropriate sending of political emails to the private email addresses of minors, and is no longer allowed to hold a leadership position in the polo club.

And, this same BHParkDist Board recently did away with the $70 rebate program that minimally reimbursed BH residents for a portion of out-of-district rates charged when they participated in other neighboring park districts’ programs — programs which our district doesn’t offer because of their single-minded obsession with equestrian sports.

And, this is the same Park District Board that is considering the feasibility of installing an outdoor polo arena at the Riding Center (see Minutes January 2018).  More polo!  Well, if that isn’t “watching out for the taxpayers”, we don’t know what is.

Now, with this shameful vote, this Park District has failed our vets and they have failed the taxpayers of this village. Be assured, the Observer will remind the community of this selfish action in 2019 when the next election for Park District Board is held.

BACC-HiRes-cropSeveral officials representing schools, libraries, park districts and other local governments in the Barrington area will address the issues facing their constituents during an upcoming public forum.

Hosted by the Barrington Area Chamber of Commerce, the second annual “Public Town Hall Forum” lets Barrington area residents hear from their local officials directly and under one roof, said Suzanne Corr, president and CEO of the Barrington Area Chamber of Commerce.

“This public town hall forum offers residents and business leaders in the Barrington area a chance to hear firsthand vital information about how their tax dollars are being used in our communities,” Corr said in a news release.

Attendees also can submit questions to the speakers during the event, which starts at 8 a.m. April 25 at Makray Memorial Golf Club, 1010 S. Northwest Highway, Barrington.

To register for the event, interested residents can call 847-381-2525 or visit the chamber’s web site at www.barringtonchamber.com.

The speakers for this year’s forum include Jesse Henning, the new executive director of the Barrington Area Library; Brian Harris, superintendent of Barrington School District 220; Jim Kreher, fire chief of the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District; Dennis Kelly, treasurer of the Barrington Hills Park District; Teresa Jennings, executive director of the Barrington Park District; Jay Morgan, executive director of the South Barrington Park District; and Kenneth Ender, president of Harper College, the chamber said.

To read the full article in the Chicago Tribune, click here.

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Starting the week of April 9, 2018, weather permitting, intermittent temporary daily lane closures along IL 62 between Regan Boulevard and north Autumn Trail will occur to allow crews adequate room to safely unload supplies and equipment needed to begin storm sewer installation along IL 62. These closures will take place during non-peak travel times.

You can read the entire KDOT press release here.

Fire crews had to rescue a school bus driver who crashed into a ditch near the intersection of Bateman and Algonquin roads in Barrington Hills late Tuesday afternoon.

Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District firefighters arrived on the scene at around 4:37 p.m. and found that the bus, which was only occupied by the driver, was tipping to one side. The driver was unable to exit the bus without potentially causing the vehicle to tip or roll over.

Fire crews stabilized the bus and helped evacuate the driver, according to a news release issued late Tuesday.

To read the full story in the Daily Herald, click here.

Illinois Tollway Regional Mobility Survey

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 8.37.26 AMThe Illinois Tollway is offering I-PASS customers in the Kane County region an opportunity to provide input on a Kane County project to improve regional mobility through the development of the Longmeadow Parkway Bridge Corridor improvement. The Longmeadow Parkway project is designed to alleviate traffic congestion in northern Kane County and relieve pressure on the existing bridges crossing the Fox River. While the Illinois Tollway is not directly involved in the development of the improvement, we are hoping that our I-PASS customers can provide valuable feedback regarding their travel habits and preferences.

The Longmeadow Parkway Bridge Corridor improvement is 5.6 miles in length and includes a new four-lane Fox River Bridge crossing and four-lane roadway with a median that passes through portions of the Villages of Algonquin, Carpentersville and Barrington Hills, as well as unincorporated areas of Kane County.

For completing the survey, Kane County’s consultant is offering entry into a drawing to win a $500 check card.

Take the survey here.

Tonight’s Board of Trustees meeting will be the first official meeting for the village’s new engineering firm, Trotter & Associates.  We look forward to seeing their approach to municipal engineering and we hope that taxpayers will benefit from lowered costs and fresh ideas.

GHAWhile researching future content for the Observer, we stumbled across some interesting correspondence regarding Barrington Hills Farm (BHFW LLC) and our village’s former engineering firm, Gewalt Hamilton.  What we found is shocking, but it certainly makes the Village’s decision last year to change engineering companies very wise indeed.

According to documents found on McHenry County’s website, in December 2015, BHFW’s Chairman J. R. Davis was applying to McHenry County to convert part of an existing wetland on the property into a recreational pond.  As a result, some mitigation of the wetlands was necessary.  The specifics of the mitigation and request for credits from the Wetland Restoration Fund are not important.

What is important is the engineering firm that BHFW had hired to create their Wetland Mitigation Plan was Gewalt Hamilton.  And not just Gewalt Hamilton, but Dan Strahan himself , who was Barrington Hills’ Village Engineer at the time, was personally involved in the project.

Strahan is cc’ed on the Gewalt Hamilton letter to McHenry County on behalf of BHFW and Strahan’s signature even appears with Davis’ signature on the Wetland Restoration Fund application as the Design Engineer.

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To be clear, this was a project undertaken by a private property owner in unincorporated McHenry County immediately adjacent to the Village, and Strahan and Gewalt Hamilton were hired by that individual.  All at the same time when Strahan and Gewalt Hamilton were also employed by the Village of Barrington Hills.

We find it shocking that Gewalt Hamilton and Dan Strahan did not decline employment by BHFW & Mr. Davis in 2015, seeing as the firm had been serving Barrington Hills for decades.  Gewalt Hamilton & Strahan were well aware of the history of the Davis property, and in all likelihood would be called up by the Village to consult on the property in the future. It would be bad enough for any engineer employed by Gewalt Hamilton to have taken this job, let alone Dan Strahan.

Not surprisingly, Strahan indeed did end up personally involved in discussions on behalf of the Village regarding new driveways and dedicated easements and right-of ways for the proposed HARPS facility on BHFW property in 2016 & 2017.  It certainly gives us pause to wonder about the quality of the service the village and taxpayers received on that assignment.

Did Strahan and Gewalt ever divulge to the Village of Barrington Hills that they had been previously employed by Davis?

How could Strahan and Gewalt maintain any impartiality when they had been paid by both the Village and Davis?

Are there other projects that Gewalt has worked on for Davis and BHFW?

Did Strahan and Gewalt ever divulge this conflict of interest while they were applying for retention as the Village’s engineering firm?

Right now, we have more questions than answers.  We’ll leave it to our readers to draw their own conclusions.  We think the documents speak for themselves.

Click on the following links to  view the complete PDFs of the documents BHFarm_Gewalt_Wetland_1 and BHFarm_Gewalt_Wetland_2.

As the Observer looks back at another year gone by, we thought we’d take the opportunity to point out some people and issues that made an impact in Barrington Hills news, whether it was good, bad or just plain phony.

ThumbsUpPresident Martin McLaughlin and Trustee Colleen Konicek Hannigan were re-elected for their second terms in April 2017. We applaud their excellent service to our village and appreciate the personal sacrifices that they have made to keep Barrington Hills the special place that it is . conicek-300x200@2x

ThumbsUpMcLaughlin continued his astounding record of financial stewardship. Having analyzed every aspect of village spending for the last five years, Marty has surgically excised waste and improved efficiencies in the village budget. Since 2013, the tax levy has been reduced by 20%, 20% more road miles have been paved per year, and cash reserves have increased by 40%.McLaughlin-300x200@2x

ThumbsUpSince McLaughlin took office, every administrative employee at Village Hall has changed. In prior years, Barrington Hills hired a new Village Attorney and Treasurer, and, due to the retirement of Chief Michael Murphy, Rich Semelsberger became Police Chief. In 2017 alone, a new Building Permit Coordinator, new Engineering Firm, Clerk and a new acting Director of Administration were hired.

ThumbsDownTwo candidates from the “Your Barrington Hills” slate narrowly won election to the Board of Trustees. Paula Jacobsen and Robert Zubak ran on a platform of unfounded and disproven complaints about village governance, and promised to do more to: 1) protect open spaces and property rights, 2)produce better results for our tax dollars, 3) restore public safety and security which they alleged had been sacrificed, and 4) improve transparency and information distribution. More than eight months have passed since the duo were sworn into office, and nary a mention has been made of any of these so-called initiatives. And, not surprisingly, neither trustee has presented their new ideas for those better results for our tax dollars.  This confirms our belief that their sole reason for running for office was to attempt to change the current commercial horse boarding protections.

Paula Jacobsen Robert ZubakJacobsen and Zubak also made campaign promises to vigorously challenge the Plum Farm land development in Hoffman Estates, falsely accusing McLaughlin and Konicek of doing nothing to oppose the project. Yet Jacobsen and Zubak have not even aired the Plum Farm issue during a board meeting.

ThumbsUp For the first time in many years, the Riding Club of Barrington Hills did not officially involve itself in the village election. Despite pressure from some of the Club’s most strident and vocal members, club president Jane Clement declined to make an political endorsement to the RCBH membership. We commend her for that. Politics and non-profit social clubs shouldn’t mix.

ThumbsUpThe 2017 hiring of Nikki Panos as part-time Building Department permit coordinator was a breath of fresh air. Panos brought competence and professionalism to the office whose previous occupant was frequently brusque and unkempt. We congratulate Panos’ promotion to Village Clerk and are confident that residents will be well served by her.

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Nikki Panos, Village Clerk

ThumbsUpThe wave of change at Village Hall continued with the engagement of a new engineering firm – Trotter & Associates – replacing Gewalt Hamilton. Gewalt Hamilton had served the Village for decades, but without review or evaluation. We look forward to the fresh perspective that Trotter will provide and hope that residents will receive better service at a lower cost.

ThumbsDownIn the spring of 2017, the owners of Barrington Hills Farm (whose 600+acres is now located almost entirely OUTSIDE the borders of Barrington Hills) flouted village laws when they demolished a home, engaged in major earth-moving, cut down numerous trees without adhering to the Tree Preservation Ordinance, and failed to obtain proper permits prior to engaging in the project. When the activity on this property (formerly owned by the recently deceased Barbara MacArthur) was finally discovered by the Village, two stop work order signs were posted by the village inspector, and both signs mysteriously disappeared. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done, and all the village could do was collect the permit fees and penalties months after the fact.

ThumbsDownApparently feeling slighted by having to follow the Village Code as all other residents and property owners have to do, the Barrington Hills Farm L.L.C. ownership demanded disconnection of the property in question into unincorporated McHenry County, a request that was granted by the Board of Trustees.

jokerSpeaking of Barrington Hills Farm, whatever happened to the HARPS facility they had planned near the intersection of Church and Chapel Roads, immediately adjacent to Barrington Hills homes on Alderberry Lane? It’s been over two years since representatives of the L.L.C. presented plans to both the village and McHenry County, and after all the hullabaloo they created over necessary curb cuts for the proposed driveway entrances and the nonsense over granting easements and rights-of-way, the corner remains undeveloped. There is no new information about the facility on the HARPS website either. Strange, isn’t it?

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Trustee Brian Cecola continued his excellent management of the Village’s Roads and Bridges.  He is completely engaged in his position, interfacing well with residents, village engineering firm and his fellow board members.  Miles of road paving per year are up, and Cecola is looking to increase that benchmark in the coming years.  Congratulations for a job well done!

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Trustee Brian Cecola

ThumbsUp 2017 brought the long-overdue retirement of Village Administrator Bob Kosin. His 35 years of service to Barrington Hills is much appreciated, but Kosin had long since ceased serving the residents efficiently, and was increasingly difficult to work with. His convoluted explanations and arcane knowledge of village history may have been interesting in the past, but residents and commission members no longer found his digressions amusing or beneficial.

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We are hopeful about the appointment of Anna Paul (previously Village Clerk) as acting Administrator. While the search for a permanent administrator may continue, the Observer has been pleased to watch Paul’s progression through the ranks of village administration. She offers a familiarity with VBH operations that no outside candidate with years of lead experience can match. Her organization and communication skills are outstanding, and despite her relative youth, she is steady, impartial and poised in any situation. We wish Anna Paul well in her new assignment.

jokerThe Observer usually doesn’t comment on state or federal races, but we feel compelled to comment on the unlikely candidacy of resident Kelly Mazeski in the Democratic Congressional primary in IL-06. Mazeski, whose recent civic resume consists of only of membership on the village’s Plan Commission, previously ran unsuccessfully for Village Board in 2013, and unsuccessfully for State Senate in 2016. Her campaign’s PR machine has been busy at work, trying to repackage her from the “financial expert” she called herself in 2016, now calling herself “mom/scientist/cancer survivor”. What’s next – butcher/baker/candlestick maker?

jokerSpeaking of Kelly Mazeski, it seems as though she’s been grasping for endorsements, trotting out support from “environmentalists” Karen Rosene and Karen Selman, as well as a big thumbs up from former trustee Mikey Harrington. Now that’s a lot to be proud of, isn’t it?

jokerAlthough he opted not to run for re-election as trustee, the specter of Fritz Gohl continues to loom over the village. Gohl, now receiving financial compensation as a Barrington Township trustee, still can claim his title of village buffoon. His frequent public comments during Board of Trustees meetings are no more logical or coherent now than they were during his tenure on the board.

ThumbsDownChuck Stewart, Village Arborist, is the last of the Kosin-era hold-overs. In appearances in front of village commissions and the BOT, Stewart communicates poorly and comes across as disorganized. The Observer is also concerned about the questionable judgment he demonstrated in enforcing the Tree Preservation Ordinance both in the Hasan case and in the aforementioned Barrington Hills Farm matter. Those faults, combined with an undisclosed potential conflict of interest (Stewart rents office space in a building owned by one of the members of the board of Barrington Hills Farm), makes him a poor choice to continue in the role of Village Arborist. The Village needs a tree expert who can communicate clearly with residents and builders, as well as with Village administration.