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No court decision on drainage districts : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
No court decision on drainage districts
Farm Bureau to host info sessions prior to fall court date

by Tony Scott


A Kendall County judge postponed a decision related to the proposed re-establishment of four county drainage districts at a hearing in Yorkville Monday morning.

Judge Robert Pilmer postponed the decision until Nov. 7 at 1 p.m. at the County Courthouse in Yorkville. Informational meetings will be scheduled this fall prior to that hearing, Farm Bureau officials said.

The four drainage districts - Morgan Creek, Rob Roy, Raymond and Big Slough - were formed in the late 1800s and early 1900s to help fund the maintenance of drainage ditches in the county. However, they have all been dormant for several decades.

Recently, a group of farmers has initiated a process to re-establish the districts and, eventually, property tax levies that would help pay for improvements to stormwater drainage in the county.

A Champaign-based law firm, Dodd and Maatuka, has been hired to represent the districts in the courts.

Attorney Kyle Emkes of Dodd and Maatuka attended the hearing Monday morning, along with representatives of the municipalities of Yorkville, Plano and Oswego, and several landowners, packing the courtroom.

A judge's order is needed to take action on the drainage districts, and the districts are supervised by the courts, which, Jim Ayers, the legal counsel for the Illinois Association of Drainage Districts, has acknowledged is "unlike other types of governmental bodies."

"Once a drainage district is formed, it can only be dissolved by court process," Ayers said in a recent interview. "If it goes dormant due to lack of activity, it still exists and then to reactivate it, we have simply filed petitions and get it in front of the judge for approval."

Speaking with a small group of landowners after the hearing, Emkes said there is "a real complex formula is used to determine who bears the brunt of the expense of this."

Emkes said there is either a flat tax - where, for example, a drainage district of 14,000 acres is taxed for $14,000 - or a "benefits assessment" where the district assesses what the benefit of the drainage is to each landowner. This is different than the traditional tax levy, where a tax is calculated based on the assessed value of a property.

"If the land lies within the drainage district, it's the position of the commissioners that everybody should have to kick in their fair share," Emkes said. "Because, to a certain degree, everybody receives the benefit from good drainage."

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