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Local

Kane County grants reluctant approval to drug, alcohol facility

Officials take legal advice to avoid ongoing, costly litigation

GENEVA – Despite a multitude of pleas against approval, the Kane County Board voted Aug. 14 to approve a consent decree and a $5.6 million settlement agreement that ends a federal lawsuit to put a $1,000-a-day luxury drug and alcohol treatment facility in a former boys school near Campton Hills.

The Kane County Board vote came after three hours of public comment and board debate, pitting neighbors of the proposed facility against the legal reality of losing a costly lawsuit.

Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon said the risk of continuing litigation could cost the county “well into the seven and eight figures” in estimated financial damage to the county.

The county’s insurance carrier agreed to pay $4.6 million to Maxxam Partners LLC and $970,000 to Glenwood Academy, McMahon said.

The meeting room at the government center in Geneva was so packed with neighbors in opposition that the meeting was broadcast in another room for an overflow crowd.

Maxxam Partners LLC wants to situate a drug and alcohol treatment center at the former Glenwood School for Boys at 41W400 Silver Glen Road, Campton Township. The school has been vacant since it closed in 2012.

Maxxam and Glenwood Academy filed a $68 million federal lawsuit against Kane County, the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Kane County Board last year after its petition was denied for a second time amid a public outcry against it.

The lawsuit alleged that the denial was illegal discrimination against people suffering from addiction under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Federal Fair Housing Act.

Before the final tally, Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen urged a successful vote on transparency. McMahon had to reveal that the settlement agreement would have the county’s insurance company, Travelers Insurance, pay Glenwood $970,000 and Maxxam $4.6 million.

“The cost of the settlement has been discussed with this board really since March of this year,” McMahon said. “It would include ongoing litigation costs and unknown judgment. If there is any judgment against the county, it would include not only all of the defense costs of litigation, but all of the plaintiff’s costs, legal fees, expenses and damages for Glenwood and Maxxam.”

The settlement is something Travelers accepted, McMahon said.

Rejecting the settlement could allow Travelers to deny coverage and leave taxpayers responsible for the payment, McMahon said.

“This settlement eliminates future risk and protects the County of Kane from ongoing litigation, trial expenses and judgment,” McMahon said.

After several speakers urged the board not to accept the consent decree, special-use zoning and financial settlement, Lauzen added his voice, but to no avail.

“In Kane County, we do not discriminate against people with disabilities and addictions. We care for them,” Lauzen said. “We treat them medically and compassionately at 33 facilities. To these highly paid lawyers, all those don’t matter. On the 34th, you’re guilty, pay up.”

Lauzen took McMahon and other attorneys representing the county to task, saying they “channeled us into the consent decree as the only option and to pay $5.6 to $5.7 million.”

McMahon also came under criticism for not taking depositions from Maxxam’s principals, but he said the board asked that he and outside counsel try to reach an early settlement.

“This board asked me to hold off on further discovery and not take depositions,” McMahon said. “We were asked to try to reach an early settlement that protects the county of Kane from an unknown risk.”

Before the vote, Maxxam attorney Christopher Liguori urged the board to vote in favor of the consent decree and financial settlement.

“We are seeking in excess of $50 million,” Liguori said. “You can avoid that risk if you vote in favor. … This is your last chance to put this behind you. … There are no more threats. A lawsuit has actually been filed.”

Liguori touted the value of a federal consent decree as a tool of enforcement.

“There is an easy mechanism to go before the court to enforce any of these,” Liguori said. “It should eliminate any concerns. It is designed to provide powerful oversight and put power back in the hands of the experts.”

Liguori said the facility could not open until the Illinois State Licensing Board approves it. The licensing board determines whether operators have the capacity to operate it and whether it is near enough to a hospital, he said.

“They are the ones to make that determination,” Liguori said. “They do, not us lay folks.”

Other neighbors objected on various grounds, including the distance from the nearest hospital, the rural roads, Glenwood’s land application sewage treatment system and its impact on local property values.

A neighbor to the property, Campton Hills resident Abe Andrzejewski said siting a treatment center 20 minutes from the closest hospital is counter-intuitive.

Andrzejewski said the consent decree changes the original petition of 120 beds to possibly 240 beds. Coupled with an overwhelmed and underfunded fire department, he charged that it would create a “unconscionably unsafe conditions.”

“There is not another single Level 4 [treatment] facility in Illinois that is not connected to municipal water treatment,” Andrzejewski said. “These are nondiscriminatory public health facts. … This proposal is worse than previous proposals. We don’t want to go to Chicago and file federal lawsuits.”

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