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Hill delivers late, but hopeful, state of McHenry County address

Published: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 3:44 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 11:08 a.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – McHenry County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill spent the first half of her second State of the County Address looking back, and the second half looking forward.

Hill started her 15-minute address Tuesday morning by thanking board members for taking up her challenge last year to "develop new ideas and solutions" that challenge the status quo, and asked them to continue in what she said will be another good year for responsible county government.

"While we had great success this past year, we still have a ways to go in enacting meaningful change. We have our work cut out for us to meet the goals we set this next year with determination," Hill said.

County Board rules require the chairman to give an annual address, traditionally held in February, but Hill took a month-long leave of absence for medical reasons.

A significant step in a process that started years before Hill's chairmanship began is expected to be taken Wednesday afternoon. After more than a year of joint meetings, the Planning and Development Committee and the Zoning Board of Appeals are expected to vote to move the Unified Development Ordinance forward to public review.

The ordinance updates all county development-related ordinances, such as for zoning, signs and subdivisions, and combines them into one document. An ongoing update and improvement of the Stormwater Management Ordinance is also expected to be approved this year.

Both those documents, as well as all county ordinances, will be available online this year, and plans are moving forward this year to allow civil court cases, building and health department permits to be filed electronically, Hill said.

Hill touched on the completion of long-needed transportation improvements, such as the widening of Rakow Road, doubling capacity of the Charles Miller Road bridge, and last fall's opening of the full interchange at Route 47 and Interstate 90.

The "real excitement", Hill said, surrounds the engineering phase for the Randall Road widening project, which seeks to widen the road to six lanes through McHenry County and improve the intersection of Randall and Algonquin roads.

But the word "excitement" can have more than one meaning. The proposal to build a continuous-flow intersection at Randall and Algonquin roads has gained numerous opponents, from trustees in Lake in the Hills and Algonquin to a number of candidates running for County Board this year.

"Transportation remains a priority for McHenry County in 2014. Moving motorists in, out and around the county on the county's transportation network is a key responsibility of McHenry County government," Hill said.

The County Board this year will hammer out a five-year capital plan this year to address its facilities and technology needs. The board in 2008 attempted to address its space needs with a campus master plan, which was shelved with the Great Recession.

But whatever comes out of a capital plan will have to fit in with the county budget - county staff is starting the budget process for the 2015 fiscal year. Hill said she does not expect the County Board's budget priorities to change, such as a balanced budget and a six-month cash reserve.

Hill did not say whether she expects the County Board to again freeze its levy and voluntarily spurn the inflationary increase it is entitled to under the tax cap as it has done the past two years.

"As policy makers, we will struggle with the goals to maintain McHenry County's financial strength and triple-A bond rating and the desire to minimize property taxes," Hill said.

A significant change could come this year to the chairman's seat itself. A referendum going to voters in the March primary asks them whether to make the chairmanship popularly elected to four-year terms, rather than elected by the 24-member board after each November election.

If approved by voters, the chairman would be elected starting in 2016.

NOTE TO READERS: This story was changed to reflect that the County Board rules no longer set the month in which the annual address is given.

OUTBOX

On the Web

You can read the full text of McHenry County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill's State of the County Address at www.co.mchenry.il.us.

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