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Settler’s Hill, spending central issues in County Board races

Published: Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012 10:32 a.m. CDT

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Next year, much will be the same in Kane County.

The county government will still face an array of decisions. Among others, decision-makers will grapple with issues such as:

• How to budget amid a time of tight money and decreasing property values.

• How to provide services and reward top county government employees without overspending.

• And how – and when – to transform the Settler’s Hill landfill into a recreational destination.

While many issues will remain the same, those making the decisions could be new, as voters in November will choose who will represent them on the County Board.

While some County Board incumbents skated through the March primary without a challenge, several races for local County Board seats will be contested in November.

In County Board District 14, incumbent Republican Mark Davoust will square off against Democratic challenger Nadia Blanc Daley for the seat representing most of the western half of St. Charles Township.

Davoust – who helps run his family’s manufacturing company – Brasel Products in Batavia, is seeking his third term on the County Board.

He said his top issue remains public safety. While the county grapples with budget issues, Davoust said he wants the board to find ways to put more Kane County Sheriff’s Office deputies on patrol and fund improvements to the court system, such as the design and installation of computer software for an electronic case management system.

The project, which is pushed by the county’s judges, state’s attorney’s office and public defender’s office, among others, has been estimated to cost about $12 million. The potential price tag has caused some on the board to recoil and urge the county to consider different options.

Davoust acknowledged the difficulty in financing such projects, but said they are key to setting the county on sound footing “not just for this year, but for the next 20 years and beyond.”

“Public safety is the front line of what we do and how we interact with the public,” Davoust said. “And it’s not free.”

Blanc Daley, of South Elgin, said she believed the county also should strengthen its public safety services. She said she would support finding money in the budget to pay the county’s assistant state’s attorneys and public defenders more to bring the county’s pay scale for those positions in line with other surrounding counties.

“I believe it’s shameful that our attorneys are only making a little bit of money,” Blanc Daley said.

Blanc Daley, a full-time mother of three children and a self-described “community activist” who has been involved as a volunteer in St. Charles School District 303, said she is running to bring a focus on job creation to the County Board.

She said she wants the County Board to work closely with other local governments and business organizations to promote Kane County as a destination for businesses and for “green energy manufacturing” operations.

She said the county can find revenue for economic development programs by closely reviewing county contracts and eliminating wasteful spending.

Blanc Daley cited the recently approved $39,000 contract to study the financial impact of the redevelopment of Settler’s Hill as an example of such waste.

Blanc Daley said she is not opposed to the Settler’s Hill plan, which would transform the closed landfill into a recreational destination, but she believes the county instead should focus on other issues, including job creation.

“I think this can be addressed at a later time,” she said.

Other Democrats running against local Republican incumbents also criticized the County Board’s decision to push forward with the Settler’s Hill master plan.

Martha Elaine Hanna – the Democratic candidate seeking election in the District 11, which covers portions of Geneva and Batavia – said she has opposed the plan from the beginning, particularly in its inclusion of the woods in the Fabyan Forest Preserve.

Hanna, who is retired and a resident of Batavia Township, is running against incumbent Republican Mike Donahue of Geneva.

Donahue, executive vice president at Chicago-based Midwest Wind Energy, has championed the Settler’s Hill redevelopment planning project, chairing the task force that has overseen the work to date.

Donahue has described the project, which has been discussed by the County Board for years without action, as key to the future of the region, transforming what he and others on the board have called “an eyesore” into a regional destination to be enjoyed by local residents and visitors to the area.

Hanna said she has been pleased that the County Board has changed the plans to address similar concerns raised by a number of those living near the Fabyan Woods.

But Hanna said she would urge more environmental studies to be performed on the landfill before moving the plan forward.

That view was shared by Jennifer Barconi of South Elgin, a Democrat running against incumbent Republican Mike Kenyon in the 16th District.

“I want to hear from Waste Management that this is pollution-free and safe,” said Barconi, a regional sales manager for Wentworth Technologies.

Kenyon, a dairy farmer of South Elgin, has called the Settler’s Hill project “very, very important” to the county’s future.

He and Donahue also have noted the County Board intends to pursue environmental studies in advance of the project early next year.

And Donahue has urged the Kane County Forest Preserve District and County Board to create a volunteer working group to create a woodland restoration and management plan for the Fabyan Woods.

In addition to the races in the 11th, 14th, and 16th districts, voters also will make the call in other local County Board races.

In District 18, incumbent Republican Drew Frasz of Elburn will face Democratic challenger Kerri Branson.

In District 5, incumbent Republican Melisa Taylor of Sugar Grove will face Democratic challenger Norman Martin.

And in District 2, Democratic nominee Theresa Barreiro of Aurora is opposed by Republican nominee Sal Abbate of North Aurora to replace outgoing member Jim Mitchell of North Aurora, who opted not to seek reelection this year.

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