Dissolution of Loda Sanitary District up for vote Tuesday

LODA — The Loda Sanitary District’s attorney, Bob Martensen, said Monday that he has prepared “the basic documents that are needed to wrap everything up” to have the district dissolved.

Approval of those documents could happen during the Loda Sanitary District board of trustees’ next meeting, set for 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, May 23, at the Loda firehouse.

Among the items up for approval are agreements with the village of Loda and unincorporated community of Bayles Lake — the two communities that make up the district — plus an ordinance authorizing the district to file a petition to dissolve the district in Iroquois County Circuit Court.

Martensen, however, is not necessarily expecting any of those documents to be approved at the meeting. He said Monday that he thinks officials with the village and the nearby unincorporated homeowners’ association might want more time to review the documents first.

“My gut reaction — and it’s only a gut reaction — is that when the next meeting ... is held to approve the actual budget (of the district), which would be 35, 40 days down the road, that would be the one where the agreements would be entered into, because that would give everybody time to look it over and have their say,” Martensen said.

“Now if they come prepared (to next week’s meeting) — ‘they’ being Loda and Bayles Lake — there isn’t any reason why it couldn’t happen at this meeting. But my gut reaction is (any action) will be postponed until the next meeting.”

In June 2015, the district’s three-member board first made it known publicly that it intended to dissolve the district. That is when it voted unanimously to publicly state that as its goal.

The district was formed in 1972 with the intent of collecting property taxes to help fund sanitary sewer projects for both Loda and Bayles Lake. But years of efforts to bring proposed sanitary sewage treatment plants to fruition have been unsuccessful.

With too little funds to proceed, Loda is no longer even considering a sewage treatment facility — either in conjunction with Bayles Lake or on its own. That has left Bayles Lake independently moving forward with its own treatment plant that would serve only its own residents.

Meanwhile, some Loda residents think it is not fair they have been taxed by the sanitary district when it is serving them no purpose. As a result, the district a couple of years ago stopped levying any property taxes.

The district had $18,111 in funds remaining on hand at the end of the fiscal year that ended April 30, according to an annual financial report that will be reviewed by the board at next week’s meeting. The only income received in the past year was replacement tax revenue from the state totaling $414. Expenses, meanwhile, totaled $26,434 — most of which was for costs incurred by the Bayles Lake Homeowners Association in televising and cleaning its sanitary sewer lines.

Last summer, the district agreed to reimburse Bayles Lake $23,242 for the project using funds allotted specifically for sewer-related capital projects in Bayles Lake. At the time, the district had $41,144 in cash on hand, of which about $32,000 was budgeted for projects in  Bayles Lake. The rest of the funds — about $9,000 — was allotted for potential sewer-related capital projects in the village of Loda.

The district’s board is expected to use up all of the remaining funds prior to dissolution occurring. Under a tentative combined budget and appropriation ordinance up for approval next week, about $7,436 is allotted for Loda and $3,700 for Bayles Lake, with the remaining funds allotted for various other expenses, including compensation for the district’s trustees and attorney.

The proposed agreements with both Loda and Bayles Lake would ensure that those amounts are given to the two communities, respectively. According to the agreements, the two communities would be restricted from using the funds on anything other than sanitary-sewer-related projects.

If everything goes as planned, at the end of the fiscal year on April 30, 2018, there would be zero dollars in funds remaining on hand, according to the district’s budget.

The proposed division of the budgeted funds — with 78 percent of the expenses allotted for Bayles Lake and 22 percent for Loda — is based on the amount of property taxes each community has historically paid to support the district. The amounts are not equal, but they are equitable, sanitary district board members have said.

Still, Loda resident J.R. Ptacek has repeatedly questioned the legality of the district giving any of its money to Bayles Lake, a nonprofit corporation. Ptacek claims the district cannot legally give money to Bayles Lake, but only Loda, because Bayles Lake is not a municipality. Ptacek contends that under the Sanitary District Act of 1917 — the state law that was used to form the Loda Sanitary District — the only legal option the board has is for it to give all of its remaining funds to Loda.

Martensen, however, has said that the Illinois Constitution explicitly allows for intergovernmental agreements with nonprofit entities, so it is legal for the district to divide its funds between both communities.

“It’s a simple effort to try and be fair,” the Loda Sanitary District board’s chairman, Jay Ross of Bayles Lake, said at a meeting in 2015.

At next week’s meeting, the board is expected to accept Ross’ resignation from the board. Ross is required to vacate his seat because he has moved out of the district, Martensen said.

Also expected to be approved is the nomination of a Bayles Lake resident to replace Ross as a trustee. The county board would still need to approve the nominee’s appointment prior to he or she taking office, Martensen noted.

New officers are also expected to be elected by the board.

The tentative budget and appropriation ordinance is also expected to be approved, but a final version will not be up for approval until a required 30-day public inspection period expires, Martensen said.

Location (3):Local, Iroquois County, Loda

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