- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

July 27—ROCK FALLS — The city’s efforts to annex 2.2 miles of the Hennepin Canal have been slowed by the very problem that was cited as a compelling reason for drawing up the agreement.

More than a decade of staffing cuts at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources have made it increasingly difficult for the agency to keep up with the large areas that each office has to maintain. The agency’s funding and staffing have been cut by more than half since 2002, making local government annexations mutually beneficial.

The city would like to be involved in maintaining the area because of the canal’s importance to recreation and tourism.

“Annexation would allow us to work together to achieve our goal, which is for the state and city to get a much better product out there,” said Dave Hahne, superintendent of Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park.

Momentum for annexation picked up last year, and the Hennepin Canal-Trails Committee was formed. One of the new committee’s primary tasks was to expedite a lease agreement with IDNR that details how maintenance work is divided.

Now almost a year and a half after the first meeting of the city’s new committee, there still is no lease. The problem is a familiar one for IDNR.

“We’re still working on it, but we have only one individual in Springfield taking care of all of the agency’s leases throughout the state,” Hahne said. “There used to be three people drawing these up.”

Hahne said he had no idea how long it might be before the city received a copy of the document, which promises to be complex.

“This is a very in-depth and detailed process, and there are 21 or 22 parcels involved with this particular area,” Hahne said. “As I understand it, the governor even has to sign off on this document.”

The document must be generated by the state, Mayor Bill Wescott said, and the city needs something very detailed to present for a required public hearing.

“There needs to be a lot of education and selling, in part because many people think that part of the canal is already ours — it runs through us, but it isn’t ours,” Wescott said. “We’ll have to spell it out in detail, and we’re nowhere near that.”

The area to be annexed extends from the Arduini boat ramp to the state Route 40 bridge outside the city.

Members of the canal and trails committee say the pace of the annexation process isn’t really holding up anything else they are working on. The committee also doesn’t find the delay surprising.

“We all knew this was going to take time, and that IDNR is understaffed,” Chairman Jim Schuneman said. “We’re not planning a lot in that area now, and we have volunteers to get the cleanup going.”

The city is also waiting for an IDNR surveyor to do work at Linville Crossing before decisions can be made regarding ramps and trail access. Only one engineer is available to do the work, hindering that process as well.

Another factor is the uncertainty surrounding the budget impasse in Springfield, making municipalities think twice about new expenditures.

“We have no idea what’s happening with the state’s funding for cities,” Wescott said, “so we’re wondering if we have the money for maintenance.”

The agreement would give the city general maintenance duties like mowing, the trimming of small trees, and picking up trash. IDNR would retain the infrastructure upkeep, such as regulating water levels, taking care of large trees, and maintaining the levee system.

___

(c)2015 the Daily Gazette (Sterling, Ill.)

Visit the Daily Gazette (Sterling, Ill.) at www.saukvalley.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

_____

Topics: g000065560,g000362661,g000066164

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide