Northfield Fires Back at Senator in Dispute
At Tuesday's board meeting, the village reports spending $40,000 on the Willow Road expansion plan--not $30 million.
Village officials have counterattacked a state senator's assertion over the amount spent on the controversial Willow Road expansion project and it's not a dispute over a few thousand dollars.
Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg (D-9th District) recently claimed that Northfield has cost the state more than $30 million on a proposed widening of a nearly 1-mile stretch of Willow Road. But Village President Fred Gougler fired back at Tuesday's board meeting that the amount was actually $40,000.
"When my village is attacked, when I'm attacked, I feel I have to respond," Gougler said.
Schoenberg has accused Northfield leaders of doing everything they can to keep the 1.2-mile portion of Willow Road between Waukegan Road and Interstate Highway 94 to two lanes. He filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on Sept. 8 that sought 15 years' worth of village spending records on the project.
Village Manager Stacy Sigman fulfilled the request on Monday.
"Though we would've preferred not to incur the expense or staff time required to answer a FOIA, it is clear that the breakdown of funds spent by the village for the improvement of Willow Road shows that we have been consistent in planning and advocating for the original three-lane plan that once had the strong support of Senator Schoenberg," Gougler said.
"We have never been in support of a two-lane road in Northfield," he added. "There is no slush fund... and expenditures have been overwhelmingly toward the design and construction of a three-lane plan."
The majority of the money had been reimbursed to the village after the design and engineering plans to expand the road to three lanes in 2005 were approved by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and then suddenly scrapped without explanation, Sigman told board members and more than 30 citizens at Tuesday's meeting.
Bob Hayward, chairman of the Traffic and Transportation Committee, addressed the board with an update on the Willow Road plan. He accused Schoenberg, IDOT and neighboring municipalities of exaggeration the village's commitment to the project.
"There's an old saying," he said. "If you have the facts, argue the facts; if you have the law, argue the law; if you have neither the facts or the law, cry and holler like a baby."
"Clearly, Schoenberg has neither the facts or the law, and he's crying like a baby." Hayward added.
The board closed the Willow Road discussion by approving an extra $50,000 for the project.
The money will be used primarily to provide professional support to the Northfield members of the project's community advisory panel. The village has hired the Rosemont-based engineering firm of Kenig, Lindgren, O'Hara, Aboona to evaluate IDOT's reports on Willow Road.
"Work would be provided by experts [and] consultants on an as-needed basis, and will likely include things such as independent traffic engineering reviews and modeling, general civil engineering services and legal services," Sigman said in an e-mail on Wednesday.