Ahead of a roughly two-hour debate Tuesday centered around revisions to the McHenry County Board’s rules and structure, new Chairman Jack Franks posed a question to board members.
“The overall issue is very simple,” he said. “Are we for reform, or not?”
The county board went on to vote 23-0 in favor of a set of heavily debated changes initially engineered by Franks to streamline the policy-making process. The number of board meetings, for example, were reduced from two to one per month, with a committee of the whole meeting taking place five days before. Standing board committees were consolidated from 12 to eight.
Franks, the board’s first popularly elected leader, campaigned this fall on a platform of restructuring the county government and fighting for taxpayers, whom he said spoke “loud and clear” about wanting lower taxes and more efficiency.
“This is really about reform, not partisanship,” he said. “It’s simply about what’s best for the taxpayers.”
Despite a 10-member ad hoc committee’s unanimous recommendation of the rule changes, board members spent hours airing their concerns during both a full board meeting Tuesday and a committee of the whole meeting the day before.
The board first considered reducing the number of committees to seven, which Franks said would prevent one particular issue from having to go through multiple committees. But several board members argued some topics deserved their own committees.
An amendment recommended by Michael Rein of Woodstock passed 14-9 to keep the human resources committee as a separate entity, rather than folding it into the finance and audit committee.
Board member Chuck Wheeler of McHenry said meshing human resources with finance would have overburdened the members on that committee. But Mary McCann of Woodstock, who favors consolidation, argued a special committee could be created to handle the more time-consuming topics, such as the budget or health insurance issues.
An unpopular proposal to allow temporary substitutions during committee meetings was sent back to the internal services committee for further review.
Committees moving forward include finance and audit; human resources; internal support and services; law and government; liquor and license; planning, environment and development; public health and community services; and transportation.
The county board also approved the seven members who would sit on each committee. A committee on committees will also meet to determine which board members will serve on the new human resources committee.