County denies request to dissolve Hovland subordinate service district

The Cook County courthouse commissioners’ room was full of Hovland property owners on June 25, 2013 at a public hearing before the county board to discuss dissolving the Irish Creek Winter Maintenance Subordinate Governmental Service District (SGSD) authorized by the county board last November.
Property owners along Tom Lake, Irish Creek, Brumbaugh, Wilderness Shores and Powers Lake roads west of the Arrowhead Trail had requested that the county establish the district so that costs for snowplowing 10.5 miles of road could be shared among those who would benefit from it.
A couple of property owners, Jon Muhich and Rich Wojcik, had been plowing the road but financial contributions from people in the neighborhood were not covering their expenses.
After the county board authorized the SGSD, objections from its opponents led to a decision to hold this hearing.
Virginia Johnson, who along with her husband, C. Duane Johnson, owns property along the route but only uses it in the summertime, opposed the establishment of the SGSD.  She maintained that the families who use the road in the winter should share the cost of plowing it and not involve the county.
“There should have been a lot more names on the plowing list in the first place,” Mr. Johnson said.  Only those who own property on or who have driveways leading to the SGSD snowplowing route were charged for services starting in late winter when the SGSD went into effect.
The Johnsons’ son Rusty estimated that about 150 property owners use the road to access their property and said to be fair, they should all share the cost of plowing. 
Mrs. Johnson pointed out that half the people who signed a petition asking for the SGSD last fall had previously signed a document saying they would not ask the county to provide services such as snowplowing. 
Numerous property owners were willing to expand the list of property owners who would pay for snowplowing, but not everyone agreed with Johnson’s contention that administering an SGSD was a county service.
Those in the SGSD were charged $80 for services so far this year.  County Highway Engineer David Betts said, “It will be considerably higher in the future” and estimated that next season’s cost would be $190-240.
Clarence Kemp said he would be willing to be assessed double for his property in the Irish Creek SGSD to make up for people who do not want to pay their assessment.  Others with property accessed by roads leading from the Irish Creek SSD snowplow route but not in the SGSD also expressed willingness to be assessed.  Jon Muhich said that when they first asked for the SGSD, they hadn’t wanted to get too many people’s “dander up” by including properties not directly on the route.
Commissioner Garry Gamble indicated he wanted to help the community come together in some way.  He had heard opinions of 38 of the 69 property owners in the SGSD.  Of those, he said 21 were in support of it and 17 were not.  It would be nice to see people who use the route pay for having it plowed, he said -- It’s a big county and they can’t provide service everywhere.  He said it was great to see people “being neighborly” by offering to pay even if they don’t use the road in the wintertime.  “We don’t want to walk away from this with winners and losers,” he said.
The subordinate service district could be enlarged either by resolution of the county board or by a petition leading to a referendum. 
Commissioner Sue Hakes said she would not vote to dismantle the SGSD since most people who have spoken up at the county board meetings in regard to the issue have been in favor of it.  “Government belongs to those who show up,” she said.
By a vote of 3 to 2, the board voted to deny the request to dissolve the Irish Creek Winter Maintenance Subordinate Governmental Service District.  Voting no were Jan Hall and Garry Gamble.  Both indicated they would like to see the district expanded so the costs could be shared among more of those who use the route.