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Archive for the ‘Roads and Bridges’ Category

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.

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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.

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VBH__Logo The Village Board will meet on Monday July 24th at 6:30 PM. The agenda can be viewed here and the e-Packet can be found here. Of special note is a petition for de-annexation of 2400 Spring Creek Road, owned by Barrington Hills Farms, which was cited in recent building enforcement reports for demolition of a residence without a permit and possible violation of the Heritage Tree Ordinance.

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VBH__LogoThe Village Board will meet on Monday June 26th at 6:30 PM. The agenda can be viewed here. The e-Packet was not posted as of Saturday evening, but we presume when it is posted, it will be found here.

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VBH__LogoThe ePacket agenda containing links to documents to be discussed during Tuesday evening’s Village Board meeting has been posted.  To access the ePacket link, click here.

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audio_tape_revox_pr99-203Audio recordings from the January 23rd meeting of the Board of Trustees are available on the Village website.  To access the full menu of recordings, click here .

During the Finance report, Village Treasurer Peggy Hirsch reported that for 2016 the village collected more than budgeted, and also spent less than budgeted. The preliminary unaudited savings is roughly $175,000. In 2016, budgeted expenditures were about $7.877 million, with $7.7 million having actually been spent. 2017’s budget is $7.579 million, with the tax levy set at $5.314 million, reduced from the 2016 levy of $6.191 million. President McLaughlin remarked on these positive accomplishments by the Board, and noted if school districts, townships and library districts would follow suit in better fiscal management as the village has, all areas of our property tax bills would go down. That section of the recording can be heard here .

The Treasurer also reported on the Police Pension Board (PPB) and remarked that the Pension Board has finally put out a Request For Proposal (RFP) for investment services, after years of their investments managed by the current firm lagging significantly behind the established benchmarks. Six RFPs have been received and the PPB will be reviewing the firms.

Trustee Colleen Konicek Hannigan reported that the $25,000 fine for violation of the Home Occupation Ordinance at a residence of Saville Row has been paid to the Village, which is the largest fine that has been collected by Barrington Hills for such a violation.

Kenneth Garrett from B & F Code Services, who works for our Building Department, presented a summary of the status of the Village’s current building codes and standards for construction. Mr. Garrett explained how many of Barrington Hills’ codes are very outdated, with some dating back to 1979, and are woefully inaccurate and outdated, and not in compliance with contemporary state and local standards. His firm has proposed a full review of current code and adoption of a new updated building code which B&F will present at a future date. The board voted unanimously to approve B&F’s proposal.

An update on the status of the village’s opposition to Longmeadow Parkway (LMP) was presented during the Roads & Bridges report. On January 18th, President McLaughlin, Village Administrator Bob Kosin, Engineer Dan Strahan and Village Attorney Mary Dickson all met with members of the Kane County Department of Transportation (KDOT), including engineers and planners, and a representative of the Kane County State’s Attorneys’ office. During that meeting, the Village reiterated that Autumn Trail, as a private road, is not and has never been a village road, and that Barrington Hills takes exception to Kane County’s Declaration of Municipal Extension of Village Owned Road. Kane’s declaration would attempt to take over ownership of Autumn Trail from what they assert is village ownership so that KDOT may proceed with tree cutting and construction on Autumn Trail for the LMP project. McLaughlin explained that KDOT has again been informed that Barrington Hills does not accept Kane’s characterization of the way Autumn Trail’s original plat of survey was designated by the developer. It was repeated to KDOT that the Village has never maintained Autumn Trail in any way and plat designation was never accepted by the village.

According to Engineer Strahan, KDOT is still planning on letting for bids in March, but cannot proceed without the IDOT required certified right of way on Autumn Trail. Bob Kosin was directed to write a letter to the IDOT official in charge of certification to make it clear that KDOT’s declaration is not recognized by Barrington Hills.

McLaughlin, Kosin and Trustee Konicek also attended the McHenry County Council of Governments (McCOG) meeting on January 18th, and once again voted against McCOG’s proposed transportation agenda, casting a negative vote with regard to LMP and rejecting the “widening” of Route 62/Algonquin Road.

After seven minutes of discussion, Trustee Fritz Gohl piped up, saying “I’m sure this is a stupid question, but I don’t care” (which pretty much summarizes Gohl’s long tenure on the Board of Trustees). Gohl asked, “is it too late to change the designation of Autumn Trail (to a village road)?” After explanation again by the village engineer, it was painfully obvious that Gohl had no understanding (as had just been described at length) that a change in the municipal designation would essentially green-light KDOT to take over right-of-way on Autumn Trail, and could also likely set a precedent for village responsibility of all private roads, thereby making taxpayers liable for future maintenance and repaving. Gohl’s brilliant thoughts can be heard here .

Next the Board turned its attention to a Resolution to Accept a Plat of Easement for Road Purposes for the Barrington Hills Farm (BHF) parcel located at the corner of Church and Chapel Roads. Trustee Michelle Maison summed up the confusion of the board about the return of this issue when she stated, “What is this?” The Village had previously voted to accept a plat of dedication, prepared by BHF, for the southeastern portion of Church Road where two driveway entrances for their proposed HARPS facility will be located. After acceptance of the dedication by the village (Resolution 16-24) in September 2016 and approval of a second driveway cut in, the property owner changed his mind and decided that he didn’t want to dedicate of the right of way to the village after all and wanted to do an easement instead.

President McLaughlin shared his frustration about the 180 degree switch in BHF’s position, asking “How many times can we say yes?” Trustee Konicek agreed and also expressed her displeasure with the attitude of the property owner who has sent multiple accusatory letters insinuating that the Village was somehow trying stall the HARPS facility. Trustee Maison asked for further clarification of the reason for the easement, the purpose of which seem to be trying to limit what the village could possibly do to the roadway in the future. Maison asked if this meant that any village property owner who currently provides the village with a prescriptive easement could demand a plat of easement with attached conditions.

Konicek also expressed deep concern about giving preferential property rights to the owner of an unincorporated non-residential property whose driveway happens to be on a village-maintained road over the rights of actual village residents. The proposed easement attempts to dictate what the roadway speed limit could be on that section of road, what the roadway weight limits could be, and to require special advance notifications if equipment would be needed on the side of the road for emergency repairs. She was also concerned about giving special treatment to a non-taxpaying entity. Maison was troubled about setting a precedent for other property owners coming forward and making similar demands, and suggested that the board not even vote on the easement.

McLaughlin characterized the entire situation as a unnecessary political show which has now become expensive to the village.  McLaughlin suggested constructing a document which would grant the property owner a second driveway cut, but would not include binding terms upon the village. The Village Engineer explained that he had originally recommended the easement due to  the overall construction project being well beyond the scope of just a single family residence. Strahan also explained that BHF does not currently even have a building permit from McHenry County, and the Village’s approval of the second driveway is only one of six issues that BHF still has to resolve before the County could issue them a permit to proceed.

At that point in the meeting, the Board voted 4-3 to table a vote on the easement, with Croll, Gohl and Harrington voting no. Trustee Harrington asked if there would be a risk to the village if the easement were not accepted, and if the property owner could revoke the prescriptive easement that currently exists. Attorney Dickson explained that there would be no risk and, logically, no property owner would want to revoke a prescriptive easement because the owner would then have to assume all responsibility for maintenance of that section of road.

Harrington then stated that the current property owners have a plan for the land which is dramatically better than proposed Duda development, and he gets the sense that the owners do not have a very trusting relationship with the village, and that the village should have a more welcoming attitude towards them and should be more encouraging to have them come back into the village.

Konicek again expressed her offense to the repeated accusatory correspondence that the BHF property owner has sent to the village which has incorrectly insinuated that the village is intentionally stalling the HARPS facility. She also asked Harrington if he does have knowledge of plans for the 600 acre property beyond the 21 acre HARPS facility then he should share it with the rest of the Board. Harrington was conspicuously mute. President McLaughlin went on to describe several meetings that he and the village staff have had with the property owner regarding possible re-annexation, but no petition to annex has been received since their last conversation in October.

Trustee Brian Croll stated that some elements of the proposed dedication are acceptable to him, and some are not particularly those elements that are left to the discretion and approval of the property owner. He felt that those items should be removed from any new agreement.

Attorney Dickson stated that at a future meeting, the board needs to repeal the September 2016 resolution for the dedication of the plat that the property owner had subsequently revoked.

The lengthy discussion ended with a request for Dickson to construct a new dedication of easement with input from the trustees for terms that would be more amenable to the village, and then return discussion of the easement to the Roads & Bridges Committee.

The Barrington Hills Farm easement discussion begins here. (Note:  The BHF easement document was not linked in the meeting’s posted e-Packet and apparently was not made available to the Board until shortly before the meeting.)

Lastly, in the Administrative portion of the meeting, McLaughlin refuted an Algonquin Township candidate’s website which erroneously advertised an endorsement by him. McLaughlin stated that neither he nor the village is not an endorser of any specific candidate in any township race, whether in Algonquin, Cuba or Dundee Townships. He went on to say that the village absolutely supports the services we have received from those entities, but it is unfair to be listed as an endorser of a specific candidate. He urges residents to do their own homework and research, and then chose the person who would best represent them, from both an economic and a service perspective. Those comments can be heard here .

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Friday FlashbackFollowing are some of the articles published by The Observer in the month of January since 2010. These articles, gathered from various publications and editorials, are noteworthy for residents in that they remind us of where we’ve been as a community.

BACOG cuts costs in hopes of keeping South Barrington – 2012

The Barrington Area Council of Governments has slashed its proposed annual budget by 25 percent in an effort to make continued involvement attractive to it members, particularly South Barrington.

One of the ways of doing that was to take up Barrington Hills Village President Robert Abboud’s offer to house the council’s administrative offices at his village hall, thus eliminating BACOG’s rent and utility costs for a time.

Read the Daily Herald article here, or view reader comments from the original Observer posting here.

Longmeadow Parkway fate may go to voters – 2013

If Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen gets his way, Kane County residents may be asked whether the county should proceed with long-planned improvement of transportation on the county’s north end.

Lauzen told County Board members Wednesday he would be reluctant to support further work on the proposed Longmeadow Parkway project without a demonstration of public support for the large, regional road project. Lauzen spoke at a meeting of the Kane County Board’s Transportation Committee.

Read the original “flip” preceding the later “flop” by Lauzen in the Northwest Herald article here.

Rosene rebuttal – 2015

A week ago we published our take on a 2005 document written by John Rosene that was presented to members of the Riding Club after the election of Bob Abboud that same year in an editorial titled, “We’ve been clubbed by commercial horse boarding” . Yesterday Mr. Rosene has shared his perspectives on that piece with us and has requested we publish them.

Read the original Observer post, Park District Commissioner Rosene’s perspectives and reader comments here.

Algonquin approves funding for Highland Avenue improvements – 2016

The Village Board has approved $1.2 million in funding for its Highland Avenue Roadway Improvement Project, which will bring improvements to about 4,700 feet of Highland Avenue and Spring Creek Road.

Assistant Village Manager Mike Kumbera said the project will reconstruct 3,500 feet of the road in Algonquin between Tanglewood Drive and the village limits and 1,200 feet of the road in Barrington Hills, from the village limits to Haegers Bend Road.

Kumbera said collaborating with Barrington Hills to do the whole stretch of road at once helped the village take advantage of economies of scale.

Read the full Northwest Herald article here.

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