WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS

Welcome to the Sixth Annual Town Hall Meeting of the Village of Bull Valley. Former President Ron Parrish began this tradition during his second term as President from 2011 to 2015. As your Village President for the past year, I am committed to keeping this tradition going forward.

Introduction of Trustees and Staff

Maggie Bailey, Planning and Parks LiaisonPete Bruhn, Safety, Police Liaison
Ed Ellinghausen, Roads LiaisonBjorn Mattsson, Annexations Liaison
Kurt Kleinschmidt, Finance LiaisonRoad Superintendent, Mike Koch
Pete Helms, Zoning LiaisonVillage Administrator, Rich Vance
Village Clerk, Phyllis Keinz


Volunteerism

Volunteerism is an integral part of what we are as a Village. All Village elected officials are volunteers. This is a working board. Each Trustee has an area of oversight and responsibility.

In addition, the Village has a long tradition of volunteerism. On an ongoing basis, volunteers man our Planning, Parks and Zoning Committees, keep the lawns mowed, the gardens maintained, and the Stickney House restoration moving forward. Volunteers have also been known to paint a barn, build a fence, seal a driveway, hold a fundraiser, plant a tree and many other tasks that all contribute to the health and character of this Village.

I hesitate to name volunteers because I am always sure I will forget one or two. But this year I will take that chance and acknowledge five volunteers who keep our facilities looking good. Dick Magerl, who is also Planning Committee Chair and Gary Castle are the people you see on the mowers at the Still Farm Dog Park. Dick and Gary alternate days but each one mows weekly during the growing season as it takes a full eight hours to do both inside and outside the dog park. We couldn’t do without them. But, they really could use some help. If you can mow a few hours a week, a month or even on a one-time basis, please let me know and I’ll put you in touch with these two stellar volunteers.

Two other volunteers who play an integral role in our beautification and upkeep are Bob and Carole Kelly. The Kelly team keeps the gardens in front of Stickney House blooming with their lovely lilies as they have been doing for the last 14 years. Ever on the go, Bob sent me this email from his IPAD on April 16th this year: "Everything weeded, edged and mulched. Looks great." It truly does.

Vern Magnuson is our newest volunteer. Vern has created, manned and updated our web site for the past two years, and has designed an internal program for our hearing department notices that has automated the process and saved hours of work.

And finally, after years of tireless volunteer efforts as a member of the Stickney House Foundation, Nicole Horn agreed to serve as Foundation President. With her architectural skills and knowledge of historic restoration, and her energy and commitment to fundraising, she is responsible for the accurate restoration of this historic gem. You will hear from Nikki later when we talk about the restoration of the Stickney House Barn.

By naming these few, I do not mean to minimize the contribution of the many who are there when needed and willing to help. Please know, that we know, how much you contribute to the Village in your own way and that you are truly appreciated.

STATE OF THE VILLAGE:
Police Department and Village Staff Update

I’m sure most of you know that the Village has had a difficult year. Our police force has been reduced to five part-time officers. Let me assure you that we remain protected. We have a contract with the McHenry County Sheriff to provide coverage when our officers are not on duty.

The Village has not overspent its budget nor had to borrow for the last two years. However, in this fiscal year, revenues were down $184,000 by the end of March. In order to use your property taxes responsibly for roads and administrative services, we reduced the hours of part-time officers and eliminated the position of full-time officer.

In order to operate with a balanced budget next year, the Board made further cuts and voted to eliminate the Chief of Police position. The Police Records Clerk resigned and has not been replaced. The Office staff is down to two, and we have a contract with a Temp Agency to provide extra help when needed. The road crew has not been reduced.

This is a return to the leaner structure when Chief Sauers functioned as Police Chief/Administrator with a few part-time officers.

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? A little history.
From 2013 through 2015, additional officers were hired and some received specialized training in DUI Enforcement, Overweight Truck Identification, and other offenses. The focus of enforcement was expanded to include these other violations as a way to provide safety and protect our roads.

Identifying these other offenses did make our Village safer and helped protect our roads. It also increased police department revenue that helped pay the required 20% match for $1.500,000 in federal road grants and to pay the balance of the bond from the prior road construction project in 2009.

At that time, although the Village practices were consistent with the practices of surrounding communities, the Village adopted a more conservative approach to enforcement. Officers were instructed to use discretion if not certain a citation was warranted. This resulted in a reduction of revenues, and necessitated a corresponding reduction in police expenses.

At the same time, we began receiving voluminous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking personal information from tickets, police reports, personnel records and emails. This has required over 400 hours of employee and volunteer time, taking time away from other staff duties. There have been 22 requests since August 2015 from one individual. We have provided over ten thousand pages that we have had to individually scrutinize and redact to assure that no personal information is accidentally disclosed. Trustees, officers and staff have all had to help with some of the larger requests.

In order to effect strict, accurate compliance with the law, we have consulted our municipal attorney several times and incurred higher than budgeted legal fees. The Freedom of Information Act is a very good and useful law, which provides for transparency, but can be abused.

Most of you know that there are currently two pending lawsuits against the Village. The Village is going to vigorously defend both lawsuits on the merits of the claims. The Village is covered in these matters by our participation in the Illinois Municipal League’s Risk Management Association, which is also paying for our defense costs associated with the lawsuits. I apologize in advance that I will not be able to answer any of your questions about the pending lawsuits or allegations made therein. As soon as I am able to, I will share more information with you.

Roads: Update Road Projects: Bull Valley Road West and Crystal Springs Roads.

I want to assure you that our road crew personnel has not been cut and we are not balancing the budget with the road funds you approved by referendum in November of 2014. That money is still in the dedicated fund accruing toward the road repairs and the necessary 20% match for our next federal grant. I have sent you updates on that grant process over the past year, and have been fighting to keep our projects advancing on the list in spite of what I consider a flawed system.

2014 was the year that Bull Valley Road east of Cold Springs and Country Club Road from Queen Ann to Fleming were resurfaced in joint projects with Dorr Township, Nunda Township and the City of Woodstock. The Village paid a 20% match for the $1.500,000 grant and the engineering fees or $353,920.00. We currently have two approved projects that we successfully moved up from the “B list” to the “A list” at the March meeting. These are Bull Valley Road west of Valley Hill and all of Crystal Springs Road.

We originally anticipated being able to move these projects forward this year, but this year’s funding was slow in coming and politics in the governing body for these grants, the McHenry County Council of Mayors, slowed down the process making it impossible for us to meet the timing of the IDOT bid-letting schedule for 2016. The Council Liaison has put our projects into year 2020 of the five-year funding plan. The projects that were approved in 2014 were advance funded, which is essentially borrowing from other Councils in our region. If we can access advance funding again, we will be able to move these projects forward sooner. We will know more after the next Mayor’s Council meeting later this week.

The Council is also planning to convene a methodology review that may impose some different processes and impact our ability to advance our projects. I have asked to be on that committee. I am committed to seeing that our federally funded road projects are advanced as soon as possible. I will keep you updated on this.

In the meantime, we will reevaluate our road plan and continue to look for joint projects with our Townships. Trustee Kleinschmidt gave some more detailed costs for potential road projects.

Annexations: The Future of Our Village.

Because the Village is so spread out, it has responsibility for a lot of road miles. Being able to access federal grants that pay 80% of construction is our only way to even begin to keep up. As we have said before, the Village has too many roads with too few people paying taxes to support them.

Our roads are supported by our Village residents, but used daily by residents and non-residents alike. Last week, letters went out to over 60 properties in pockets of unincorporated land surrounded by the Village but not annexed in. Filling in these big pockets would help make the Village a more compact unit, increase efficiency for maintenance purposes and police protection, and assess a fair share of these costs to those properties.

These are neighbors and friends who value and enjoy the same things about the Village we all do: large lots, open space protection and a small community where we all know each other. Many of these neighbors are Bull Valley Association members who will recall that the BVA was once the organizing force for this Village and shepherded it to incorporation.

If you are in the Village, please talk to your neighbors who are not. We will follow up with them. We are all one like-minded community and we need to become one like-minded Village.

Trustee Bjorn Mattsson explained briefly the procedure for annexation.

Voluntary annexation is simple. The property owner signs a form, Petition for Annexation to the Village of Bull Valley, an annexation agreement is drafted by the Village Attorney, and the request to annex is considered at the next Board of Trustees meeting. There are no fees to annex at this time.

Trustee Pete Bruhn, discussed the McHenry County Burn Ordinance and other safety issues. Burn Ordinance flyers and information have been sent to you recently. If you want other copies or didn’t receive them, please email back and I will resend.

Telecommunications Committee Report

After the last Town Hall meeting, a group of area residents and non-residents alike, convened to address the lack of reliable, affordable internet and cell phone service. This committee has met several times over the past year, surveyed approximately 750 area residents and identified some secondary providers who can service a few residents and non-residents in small limited pockets. We have listed these providers on the Village web site. But no one provider can service the Village as a whole.

Comcast and ATT both have declined to extend further into the Village, citing lack of profitability due to our low density. Satellite providers cannot reliably reach many due to our glacial topography and dense tree cover. Towers are not the answer for the same reason. The only way we will get good reliable, affordable service is with fiber optic cable which at this time is cost prohibitive.

We contacted the McHenry County consortium that is organizing the provision of fiber optic cable from McHenry County College to Woodstock and the group from NIU that is coordinating the work. Although the long-term goal is to provide fiber optics for the entire County, that goal is far off. At this time Woodstock is only attempting to reach their primary municipal buildings and schools with fiber optics. The cost to run fiber optic cable to Bull Valley Village Hall from the nearest connection point on Rt. 14 is estimated at approximately $250,000-$300,000. That’s just running the cable, not providing the service.

The most recent trend is for communities to form their own utility and have the cable installed. They finance the project through grants, private donors and fees to the residents, none of which we think are viable options for us at this time.

Google has a division called Google Fiber that is researching the Chicago area but as expected, Google is also using a market based approach. Google is however, bringing fiber optic cable to some underserved communities, primarily public housing and non-profits, in other cities in the US. Two of the Telecomm Committee members have put together a petition to send to Google Fiber asking the company to consider Bull Valley. That petition is here today. Your Village Board supports this petition. We urge you to sign and support this effort even if you are satisfied with the service you currently have.

Village resident Karin Burke spoke about the petition. The petition can be viewed by clicking the button on the right. Please print the petition, sign it, and send it to Village Hall, PO Box 553, Woodstock, IL 60098 or drop it off at Village Hall, 1904 Cherry Valley Rd., Bull Valley, IL 60098.

Video Gaming

In 2012, when the State authorized Video Gaming, the Village surveyed all of you and, as a result, opted out of Video Gaming as permitted by the state law. Last month the Village was approached by the owners of the Boone Creek Golf Course asking the Board to reconsider the ban on Video Gaming.

This time, you collectively approved Video Gaming on a one-year trial basis. The Boone Creek Golf Club has been notified and is in the process of acquiring their state license which will then allow them to come to the Village for our local license.

Trustee Maggie Bailey gave an update on Planning and Parks.

The Planning Commission is updating some of the maps from the Comprehensive Plan and working on developing a roadside restoration plan. The Still Farm Prairie Restoration will not expand this year due to lack of funding, but we will maintain the area that has been already restored.

Electronic entry cards will be used to access the Dog Park as soon as the readers are installed. It has come to our attention that there are many people using the park without permits. This should increase the number of permits sold.

Trustee Pete Helms gave an update on Zoning.

The updated zoning ordinance, including new chapters on commercial standards, inclusionary housing and accessory apartments is currently under final review by the Board of Trustees and will be set for public hearing in August or September.

The White Barn Project

Many years ago, the Village had a plan to restore and repurpose the White Barn at Stickney House to use as a community center and Village Hall. At that time, work was done to make the barn structurally sound but then the project came to a halt. This administration would like to revive that plan. This Village needs a community center for meetings like this, for use by community groups and as rental space for events etc. Staff needs office space and meeting space that is not constrained by the size and layout of Stickney house and is more conducive to business. Once the Village offices move out of Stickney House, Stickney House restoration can proceed, as it is currently impeded by the presence of the Village government offices. If you have ever been inside the barn, you know it is a beautiful, large open space that is going to waste.

Yes, this is an ambitious project. Cost estimates run upwards of $2,000,000. But we have put the project on a ten-year plan and intend to seek donations and grants to fund it.

The first concept drawings are on the table for your viewing. Pete and Nicole will talk a bit about upcoming Stickney House events and the Stickney House Barn Project.

Coming full circle from where I began earlier, I will be putting out an appeal to the spirit of volunteerism in the Village to organize a painting party for the Stickney House Barn after the exterior repairs are made. We need to get it painted and preserved now, so we can move forward with fundraising and grant applications for the restoration.

Stickney House Foundation Chair Nicole Horn updated us on the upcoming Stickney House Events and spoke about the Stickney House Barn Project. Flyers for upcoming events will be sent to you as they are developed.

Much gratitude is extended to the BVA for their invaluable assistance in organizing this meeting and keeping things running smoothly and to Loyola University Retreat and Ecology Center for hosting us.



View/Print Telecomm Petition