Editorial: Sugar Grove officials, come back to the negotiating table

By on January 27, 2012

After years of their basements filling up with water due to stormwater runoff, the residents of the Mallard Point and Rolling Oaks subdivisions could see light at the end of the tunnel.

It looked like a large-scale effort requiring cooperation from a multitude of people and organizations might finally be nearing completion, and the work to resolve their issue could begin.

A solution required an extension of a drainage system through the property of three families’ farm property, and then connect to the Rob Roy Drainage District No. 2 to carry the flow of water out of the area.

To accomplish this, the village would need to obtain easements from each of the families, as well as an agreement with the Drainage District to connect to its system. In turn, the Drainage District would need to conduct its own work to ensure that it could handle the additional flow of water, which would require additional engineering work.

Every step of this multi-faceted agreement would require money, which is where Kane County’s role would come into play. The county had obtained stimulus funds and earmarked a portion of that—approximately $171,000—to help provide funding for the project—with an estimated total price tag of $1.7 million. The county would also use recovery bonds to issue a $330,000 loan to the Drainage District. Beyond that, the affected residents themselves would pay for half of the project’s cost over the next 20 years.

In short, there are many different individuals, families and government entities with a financial stake in this project, and everything was aimed at the goal of preventing stormwater drainage from flowing into the homes of those residents.

These problems are not new, nor should they be a surprise to anyone involved. According to Elburn Herald Assistant Editor Keith Beebe’s story, documentation goes back to 1992—before the subdivisions were built—that concerns existed with the development plan and the potential drainage problems the plan would create.

Fast forward nearly 20 years, and the complicated negotiations to resolve the issues—issues the village should have resolved long ago—seemed to be falling into place.

That is, until earlier this month when Sugar Grove Village President Sean Michels announced that the village was walking away from the negotiating table. When asked about the decision, he explained that the village could not come to terms with one of the farm families—the Sauer family—as well as with the Rob Roy Drainage District.

What is odd about this turn of events is that in both cases, the other parties expressed a significant desire to resolve the situation and had been willing to either waive some of the fees or donate a portion of the necessary easement to help move the project along.

The majority of current Sugar Grove officials were not in place when this situation was created, and Michels had just joined the board by appointment in 1995. By then, the ongoing series of bad decisions was already well under way.

So while today’s Sugar Grove Village Board is not responsible for creating this problem, they are responsible for resolving it. Walking away from a negotiation in which all involved parties want to see a resolution is not, in our view or in anyone involved other than the village, the best way forward.

We call on the village to return to the negotiating table. The Sauer family desires continued discussions, as do Rob Roy Drainage District and Kane County officials. But most of all, so do the residents of the Mallard Point and Rolling Oaks subdivisions—not only do they desire that the negotiations continue, they deserve it.