Oakwood Hills suspends public business over threats

OAKWOOD HILLS – The Oakwood Hills Village Board is suspending public business until further notice because of threats made to board members, according to a message posted on the village's website, and later confirmed on Saturday by Village President Melanie Funk.

"We're temporarily shutting things down until things cool down a little," Funk said.

Funk said the Oakwood Hills police department has been made aware of the threats, and the decision to suspend public business was made Friday with the Village Board.

Police Chief Peter Goldman would not comment on the type of threats made, but said the police department is running as normal.

The message on the website states: "Due to personal threats to board members and threats to prevent the conducting of business at the scheduled village board meeting for August 7, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. the meeting has been canceled.

"Village Clerk hours are suspended until further notice. No public business will be conducted."

Board meetings are normally scheduled for the first Thursday of the month.

Funk said the threats stem from the controversial proposed $450 million power plant in Oakwood Hills. Hundreds of people showed up to protest at two zoning board meetings held at the Crystal Lake Holiday Inn. Zoning board members postponed a vote on the project until October.

The two meetings have been heated, with attendees shouting down project developers and board members before voicing their objections during the public comment portion at a July 24 meeting. Public comments were removed from the agenda for the July 31 meeting.

"Since the last [zoning] board meeting really escalated, we've had some threats to us, so we've decided that the Thursday meeting is going to be canceled," Funk said. "I have a clerk that's afraid to come to work because of the way [protesters] have been acting."

As to when the village would return to doing public business, Funk said, "Right now, we're just waiting to see if things calm down."

Chris Reining, who started a Facebook page against the proposed power plant, said he started the page to show why the power plant is not good for the community and that he is trying to lead a peaceful campaign.

"I don't agree with people making threats toward village officials," Reining said. "I never started this thing to create an angry mob."

Funk told the Northwest Herald she has offered the open Village Board position to Reining.

"I have an open seat on my board, and I offered it to him in an email," Funk said. "I offered this position to him on Wednesday. I said 'If you guys want a voice, I have an open spot that I can appoint.' I told him how long it was for, would love to work with him."

Reining would not comment on the offer.

Funk said she was still doing her due diligence on the proposed project and is remaining neutral on the issue.

She said she did visit a similar power plant in Elgin, which has houses across the street, and a school and a protected fen nearby.

Funk said she knocked on doors and spoke to residents who had no complaints about noises or smells, and took a tour of the plant.

"I don't want to go into this blind," Funk said. "This is very serious."

Funk said she has been hearing comments from both sides of the power plant issue.

"We're trying to gather information so we can make the right decision for Oakwood Hills," Funk said. "Everyone's concerns should be addressed. How can we answer [the questions] until we look at this stuff?"

Funk did add that among the items on the agenda for Thursday's board meeting was a presentation from an Eagle Scout who is planning to carry out a project for the village. The project includes removing a split-rail fence, filling in some holes, removing the old horse-shoe pit, and re-seeding the area.

Board members already have informally given the Eagle Scout project the go-ahead, Funk said.