Citizens File Petitions at Village Hall to Put Sports Complex on the Ballot
Residents hope to slow down mayor’s ‘fast track’ proposal to issue bonds to build a $21 million sports facility in downtown Lemont by letting voters decide the issue.
A group of a dozen or so Lemont residents filed petitions at Village Hall Wednesday morning in an effort to put the village’s proposed $21 million sports complex to a vote March 18, 2014.
Janet Hughes, who spearheaded a petition drive along with Hank Olenick, Jim Ladas and more than a dozen others, said the group turned in 185 pages of petitions signed by 1,675 residents. The petitions seek to allow voters to decide whether the village should issue up to $21 million in alternate revenue bonds to finance the sports facility.
Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves Jan. 28 unveiled a proposal to build the indoor/outdoor sports complex in the village’s downtown area. Reaves said he hoped to put the project on a “fast track” and begin construction of the project in March of this year.
But Hughes said she and plenty of other residents were shocked by the village’s proposal, and especially, the “fast track” on which it was placed.
“This project came out of nowhere – and $21 million is a lot of money to borrow without much notice,” Hughes said Wednesday after submitting the petitions to Village Hall.
Hughes said she became aware of the sports complex when her friend, Hank Olenick, called her after the village held a public hearing on the subject Feb. 11.
“That’s when we realized we only had 30 days, so we said, ‘let’s see how many people are already out there, getting signatures.’ I knew we had to somehow pull everyone together,” Hughes said.
Hughes said she, Olenick and about 10 other people – including Rick Lighthart, Pam Mikrut, Arlene Bergman, Ron Boehm, Donna Brown and Jim Ladas – began collecting signatures soon after the public hearing. She said 493 residents had signed the petitions by Feb. 17.
“About two dozen people were out passing the petitions,” Hughes said. “We were outside getting signatures in the cold, knocking on doors, pounding the pavement. It’s great there were so many people who were willing to get involved and be a part of their community. As citizens, it is our responsibility to be a part of the democratic process.”
Hughes said besides the quick manner in which she felt the issue was introduced, she was shocked that the village would propose a $21 million sports complex during such tough economic times.
“I just don’t see how the village can borrow $21 million without voter approval,” Hughes said. “We have classrooms that have too many kids – no art, no music, no band, and after-school activities that are pay to play; Central School is closed – and they want to build a soccer field? Where are the priorities?”
Hughes said the process of gathering signatures with fellow petitioners – from retirees to working moms and business owners – as well as talking to residents throughout the community, has restored her faith in both fellow citizens and democracy itself.
“To see retirees, working mothers, business owners, just about every sector of the community, working with our group, going out in the cold and knocking on doors, it’s inspiring,” Hughes said. “We all put a lot of time and effort into this petitioning, and it says a lot about the people in our town. We are committed to making Lemont the best it can be and we are not going to watch something happen that we feel is wrong.
“We came together for this cause, ‘Let Us Vote.’ We are democracy in action. We are living out what our founding fathers wanted. We stood up for what we thought was right.”
What happens with the petitions now?
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Village Administrator Ben Wehmeier spelled out the petition process going forward, along with the applicable state statutes, in parentheses:
The objection period is the following 5 days after the close of the filing period (4 March). Any voter can object to referendum petitions (10 ILCS 5/10-8). If objections are filed, the clerk will transmit them to the Chairman of the Local Electoral Board (LEB) and principal proponent (if one is listed) by noon the next day after the filing.
If an Objection is filed, the Clerk will transmit them and the original petitions to the Chairman of the Local Electoral Board and Principal Proponent(s) by noon the second business day following the filing of the Objection. (10 ILCS 5/10-8)
Once received by the Chairman, the Chairman will issue a Call and Subpoenas to be served by the Sheriff to start the hearing process. (10 ILCS 5/10-10)
The LEB will convene then for an initial meeting within 3 to 5 days after the receipt of the chairman. (10 ILCS 5/10-10) This will be extended if the required hearing day falls on a holiday or weekend to the following business day. (10 ILCS 5/1-6)
At the conclusion of the hearing, after all matters are resolved, the LEB will issue a final written decision. (10 ILCS 5/10-10) That decision may be appealed to the Circuit Court within 5 days of its service to the Objector and Principal Proponents. (10 ILCS 5/10-10.1) The Court must then set this matter for hearing within 30 days and make a prompt decision. (10 ILCS 5/10-10.1)
Wehmeier explained that if any resident or residents file objections to the petitions, per state statute, the local electoral board will be charged with issuing a decision on the objections. In this case, the local electoral board will consist of Mayor Brian Reaves, Village Clerk Charlene Smollen and Senior Trustee Debby Blatzer, Wehmeier said.
For more information on the proposed sports complex, be sure to read: