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Task Force Calls for Elimination of Unincorporated Areas in Cook County

The proposal, announced Monday by County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, recommends the annexation of all unincorporated areas into existing municipalities.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is calling for the elimination of all unincorporated areas in the coming years in order to relieve the county's strained financial resources.

Under the proposal, nearby municipalities would annex the county's 62 square miles of unincorporated land, leaving towns and villages to pick up the cost for services like police protection and code enforcement.

Preckwinkle appointed a task force in November 2011 to investigate the provision of services to unincorporated Cook County, as well as the associated costs. The study was completed and results were announced during a press conference Monday morning.

According to Preckwinkle, recent budget reviews have shown that providing "municipal-type" services to the 98,000 residents in unincorporated Cook County is reducing available funds for the county's primary functions—health care and criminal justice.

"I am grateful to the task force for its hard work tackling a complicated and controversial issue," she stated in a press release. "It's clear that in order to reduce our staggering budget deficit and maintain value for taxpayers, we need to move toward the goals outlined in this report, and eliminate the unincorporated areas of Cook County."

According to Preckwinkle, the report determined that the elimination of unincorporated areas "will provide for more local control over local public policy decisions and allow the county to realize significant budget savings over time." 

The task force has broken the process into three parts—immediate (next year), near-term (next two years) and long-term (no timeline).

Task force members hope to begin the implementation effort in the coming months, and plan to further investigate the two largest components of the report—policing services and infrastructure/housing issues.

In the next year, municipalities will be encouraged to annex unincorporated parcels with fewer than 100 residents, with a specific focus on parcels smaller than 60 acres, according to the report.

Near-term goals include shifting the annexation push to larger parcels, and creating fee-for-service models and adjusting revenue streams to cover the costs of providing services to unincorporated areas.

If annexation proves to be infeasible in some areas, the panel could pursue intergovernmental agreements with adjoining municipalities for police patrol, code enforcement and other services.

During the press conference, Preckwinkle said she hopes to achieve the panel's goal by the end of the decade. The long-term savings for Cook County is still unknown, she said.

The impact on the is also unclear. Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves and Village Administrator Ben Wehmeier were not available for comment Monday afternoon.

Bob May 01, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Let's see, 98000 residents, that is 98000 tax paying residents screwed over to help fund the county's #1 priority, health care and criminal justice. That is free health care at cook country hospital and the jail. Both places where non tax paying people go. You have to love this world. You pay taxes and get nothing for it. School budgets are cut, services are cut and now forced annexation. All to help criminals and people without insurance. Give me a break, when is the middle class going to take action against this? I know, never. Just sit back and say "what can we do" ? Then have another beer and watch another game on tv until their is nothing left to take from us.
Susan Maciulis May 01, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Sue M. Anything is possible when you choose to live in Crook County.
James L. Rooney May 01, 2012 at 08:22 PM
This is an effort to spend more and tax more. Instead of the county getting their expenses under control,they keep spending and taxing.Why do the people of Cook County and the state of Illinois keep electing the same politicians that are running the County and State into Bankruptcy? Perhaps it is time to require that all able bodied people living on government aid work three days a week for the City,County or State to get their aid. Or,go to school three days a week to improve their skills so they can gat a job and get off the assistance rolls.
martin finn May 01, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Can't a hopeless drug addict get a little rehab/therapy/skills training and get back on his/her feet and become a productive member of society, rather than a lifelong deadbeat ping ponging between hospital and jail at our expense. Right now they get both, with many "hands" taking a "grab" from the pot that the deadbeat has created. How about a little less love for the guy whose choices have ruined him/her.
Edward Andrysiak May 04, 2012 at 02:48 PM
I like better the idea that "Crook County" be shrunk down to include ONLY the City of Chicago. They should be one and the same. Free the rest of us from anything to do with this mess and ability to grab more taxes and impose more citified rules on us folks who don't need them. My dream is to disconnect from Cook County.

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