As the great Larry Jones and I prophesied some three years ago, yesterday, by a rancorous 14 – 10 vote, the Kane County Board finally approved the Maxxam Partners drug rehabilitation center slated to go in the old Glenwood School building adjacent to the village of Campton Hills.
Apparently, the third time really was the charm!
Though it wasn’t nearly as nutty as the union packed video-gaming vote board meeting chaired by former board member Cathy Hurlbut back in 2007, that doesn’t mean the four-hour free-for-all wasn’t one for the ages.
To be clear, having grown weary of the rehab center debate, I did not attend, but I’ve received numerous reports, which I’m more than happy to relay to you. As a high-ranking Kane County official said when the gavel finally came down, “That’s four hours of my life I’ll never get back.”
The festivities commenced with a plethora of public speakers, most of whom voiced their vast displeasure with the Chairman and County Board for allowing “this kind of thing to happen.” And it quickly got personal, too.
You see, one of the more fascinating dynamics in local politics occurs whenever a group of NIMBYs comes to the realization they’re about to lose a multi-year battle. Then they go for the jugular, and that’s exactly what happened yesterday.
To be fair, some of those fine Campton Hillians politely reiterated the old arguments that the rehab center wasn’t a good idea because:
- No nearby public transportation
- No nearby hospital
- It would overwhelm the local fire protection district with calls
- Pharmaceutical “run-off” would contaminate local wells
while others went after certain board members and State’s Attorney Joe McMahon for “capitulating” to the developer.
The highlight of those tirades had to be Campton Hillian, Dick Johansen, accusing board member John Hoscheit of single-handedly making the rehab center a reality. His conspiracy theory was, since Hoscheit’s wife works for an alarm company that did a presentation for Maxxam, he somehow rigged the vote to get her the contract.
All I can say is, I’m really starting to think Churchill was right when he said, “The best argument against Democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”
First, I hardly think one potential contract is gonna make or break your average alarm company. And second, if that actually was the case, I hardly think that contract would be enough to convince 13 other board members to blindly go along with him.
It’s hard enough to rein the current Kane County Board into reasonability, much less get them to agree the sky is blue. While I certainly respect John’s political acumen, not even he could pull off that kind of political sorcery.
And speaking of the current county board, following the lead of the public speakers, their pre-vote debate quickly descended into a similar anarchy, highlighted by Chairman Chris Lauzen and outgoing board member Don Ishmael exchanging barbs. Once that cat was out of the bag, the recriminations against Maxxam and their peers freely flew!
The battle basically broke down along voting lines, with 14 board members correctly claiming the deal on the table was better than fighting a $68 million discrimination lawsuit they’d inevitably lose. The Chairman and the dissenting 10 demanded their Campton Hills constituents’ voices be heard and acknowledged.
But as acrimonious as it was, the meeting was not without its humorous moments!
On more than one occasion, retired 16th Circuit Judge Ed Schreiber, a vocal opponent of the rehab center, shouted “point of order” from the pews which solicited a mixture of board chuckles and glares.
Most of us know only those on the dais can issue that interjection, so I’m sure it was rather odd to hear it coming from the peanut gallery. This also begs the question of how the Judge would’ve reacted to a courtroom observer soliciting a similar interruption.
Then, as the marathon session wound down and they finally got to the consent agenda (approving resolutions en masse), board member Jarett Sanchez declared, “You all know I’m against the Longmeadow Bridge, but in the interest of moving things along, I won’t pull those resolutions off the consent agenda just to vote no.”
KDOT head honcho, Carl Shoedel, summarily bestowed his “Good Sportsmanship” award on Sanchez for mercifully bringing the proceedings to an end.
Of course, the massive irony was, with the exception of the vote itself, the rest of the lengthy meeting was absolutely pointless. Given the legal realities, the board had no choice but to approve the project.
The bottom line? Failing a successful private lawsuit, the rehab center will occupy the former Glenwood School building and the County insurance carrier will pay most of the $4.6 million going to Maxxam and $970,000 to the Glenwood School to settle the $68 million suit. The taxpayers are on the hook for a measley 500 grand.
And speaking of marathon sessions, let’s stop right here! On Friday, we’ll discuss how the bloom is finally off State’s Attorney’s Joe McMahon’s rose as board members attacked him for failing to adequately defend Kane County. Until then!