What is your Number 1 campaign issue?
In my opinion, the most important issue in the county right now is the economic vitality of McHenry County in these difficult economic times. The County must balance declining revenues while maintaining a strong commitment to infrastructure, economic development, and the protection of its environmental resources. It is imperative that we direct efforts to the retention of existing business while looking for opportunities to attract new business. We need to put people back to work and compete with the State of Wisconsin and other surrounding counties to make McHenry County the most desirable place to live, work, and raise a family.
What is your Number 2 campaign issue?
McHenry County has an ongoing need to improve the safety and capacity of its roads. I have been working very hard on this issue since 1991, and it continues to be a priority for me today. As a member and leader of the County Board, I have successfully secured tens of millions in State and Federal dollars for road improvements. Recent key projects include the widening of Algonquin Road from Route 31 to Route 47 the widening of Rakow Road, and the widening of Route 47 through Huntley. Upcoming transportation improvements that will help ease traffic congestion and improve safety on our roads include the construction of the Algonquin Bypass and the upcoming addition of a full interchange at Route 47 and I-90. I am also working with our Congressmen and U.S. Senators to secure approximately $85 million in Federal funds for much-needed intersection and capacity improvements along Randall Road. Obtaining funding for these critical projects and others is the result of a solid working relationship that exists with key decision-makers in Springfield and Washington, D.C. If re-elected, I intend to continue fostering those relationships so that McHenry County remains a priority when funding for road projects becomes available.
What is your Number 3 campaign issue?
The protection and preservation of McHenry County’s groundwater supply is an extremely important issue. Based on studies that were initiated by the county board, we know that some areas of the county will have critical groundwater supply issues by 2030. Through my efforts we have secured over $500,000 in Federal funds to scientifically understand our precious resource of groundwater. Test wells are now in place that monitor the supply of water in all areas of the county, and a geological mapping of the sub-surfaces of the county is now complete. This baseline data helps the board make intelligent decisions so that a sustainable supply of good water is available for future generations. Under my leadership, a groundwater task force was also created to identify ways to conserve and protect groundwater in McHenry County. We are now also focusing in on stormwater issues, which are another important component of groundwater preservation and water quality in McHenry County.
McHenry County has managed the recession without a budgetary crisis like those in other counties. How do you ensure the county continues on that path and that reserves aren’t depleted? Are there specific budget areas that need more attention?
In a cooperative effort, cuts have been made where warranted, and today McHenry County has 50 fewer employees than in 2009. I am also actively working with legislators on government agency consolidation efforts. More than $1 million was saved when the County transitioned to self-funded insurance, and unless a position is needed for health/safety, we’re not filling vacant positions. We delay purchases and modify programs when possible, and when renegotiating contracts, we are fair to union/non-union employees while keeping an eye on the County’s limited dollars. We also rely on technology to reduce the need for new staff. As a result, McHenry County balances its budget every year and maintains a fund balance for emergencies. This financial footing is rare, and McHenry County serves as a model of good governance that other counties strive to emulate. McHenry County has earned the prestigious Aaa bond rating, which the highest rating available. It is a priority for the board to continue on this path of fiscal responsibility.
Does the McHenry County Board have a good transportation improvement plan? Please be specific and suggest whether you think anything is missing or should be scrapped.
The McHenry County Division of Transportation has a five-year Highway Improvement Plan which is updated annually. We are also in the process of developing a long range transportation plan that extends to 2040. The five-year plan includes a balance between new road development projects, capacity projects, bridge replacements, resurfacing projects, safety improvements and the McRide Public Transportation Project. The plan includes projections as to costs and is based on anticipated revenues. It is a plan/template and is considered a “living” document, which means it is constantly evolving as cost and revenue estimates become solid numbers. The plan also changes as emergencies or unforeseen transportation issues occur, but the document is always tied to available funding. Roads/bridges have different life expectancies based on age/materials used, and the weight of the vehicles that use them. With approximately 550 miles of roads in the county, maintenance is an ongoing effort. Regarding what is missing, there is a lot missing, because we have over $1 billion of projects that we could do if we had the funding. But since the plan is based on available revenues, many worthwhile projects are not included in the plan. I don’t believe there is anything in the plan that should be “scrapped.” Because our plan is based on very limited funding, it is very important that we continue to work with the State and Federal Governments to ensure that McHenry County gets its fair share of funds for transportation projects. I have established the relationships that have allowed for a proportionate share of these non-local dollars to aid with our transportation needs and continue to foster them on an ongoing basis.
Does the county need to address its ethics policies? Why or why not? If so, how?
The County, through its management services committee, made revisions to the county’s ethics ordinance last spring and it is now part of the ethics code by which we must all abide. The revised ordinance includes very detailed disclosure requirements, which have, unfortunately, caused some appointed members of county committees to resign because they felt the new requirements were too invasive. I am adhering to the new guidelines and support the revisions.
Assess McHenry County’s efforts thus far in terms of groundwater preservation and protection. What needs to be done now and in the future?
As stated in one of my key issues, I believe McHenry County has done an outstanding job with its groundwater preservation and protection efforts. In fact, the county is a leader in Illinois and in the country with regard to the proactive steps that have been taken to ensure an adequate quantity and quality for generations to come.
Assess how the county health department approached the whooping cough outbreak. What should have been done differently?
I believe the County Health Department is doing an outstanding job addressing the whooping cough outbreak and at this time I don’t believe they should be doing anything differently. Through an investigation into every verified case, it has been determined that the initial outbreak was very heavy in the Cary and Woodstock areas, with a definite concentration among high school athletes and cheerleaders who compete against other kids from other schools. Of course this did not account for all of the cases, and others have been tied to airplane travel or contact with infected people in confined environments. The Health Department has been very aggressive with their approach to managing the outbreak and preventing widespread infection. Information has been distributed about the discovery that today’s adolescents and teens, who were vaccinated for whooping cough at a young age, need to be reevaluated and perhaps revaccinated. Information has also been included in newsletters, on the web site, through press releases and through direct phone contact. Vaccination clinics have also been held, including access to the vaccinations for children from low-income families. The department is in constant contact with hospitals, Immediate Care facilities, physicians and schools to track illness trends. At the school level, when parents call in students as “ill,” they are required to provide a list of symptoms so that illnesses trends can proactively be tracked. One thing we don’t have control over is the recommendation that affected children should stay home from school for a full five days. Not all parents adhere to this recommendation.