Village wide lake district for Salem Lakes blasted before it gets started

Exploration of a nascent proposal for a village wide lake district ran into criticism at its first discussion before the Salem Lakes Village Board Monday evening.

Trustee Bill Hopkins initiated the discussion, saying it was in reaction to information he had heard that Trustee Dennis Faber was championing the district — which could levy a tax in support of lake-related projects — and had support on the Village Board for the proposal. Hopkins cited minutes of the July 28, 2018 meeting of the Silver Lake Protection Association posted on the group’s website that said:

Dennis Faber, a Salem Lakes board member was unable to attend this meeting. He called Michelle to¬†report on where we stand about becoming a Lake District. He said most of the Salem Lakes Board¬†members and the remainder of the lakes in western Kenosha County that are not already Lake Districts are also on board. Dennis feels that by late Spring 2019 we will be a lake district.”

Hopkins, who lives in Silver Lake, said he was unaware of such initiative before the minutes were brought to his attention.

“That throws flags up for me,” Hopkins said of the minutes.

Faber explained he has been researching the feasibility of a village-wide lake district, but he had not gathered enough information yet to bring it to the Village Board. He feels it has potential to help the various lake associations in the village — which can only raise money through fundraisers and donations — with projects, such as aquatic weed control. Lakes that already have lake districts would not be included.

“The idea is that is you make the pot big enough, it would be affordable,” Faber said.

Faber, who lives on Camp Lake, said the idea was still far from ready for presentation to the board for consideration.

“It’s a work in progress,” Faber said. “It’s just something to pursue. My intentions were to get my ducks in a row and then have some meetings to discuss it. When you bring it up, you want to have some answers.”

Faber said he does not think it is feasible to think a lake district could be enacted by spring 2019. Village administrator Patrick Casey said creating a district would include a fair amount of work to set boundaries etc.

“It hasn’t even gotten off home plate,” said village President Diann Tesar.

Some audience members, mostly from Silver Lake, voiced strong opposition to the creation of a new taxing body, even if the tax rate was kept to as little as 10 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value.

There was some debate about how such a district could be formed. Casey said he thought state statutes would require public hearings in advance of a vote, but Hopkins read a portion of state statutes that seemed to say that it could be formed just through a resolution by the Village Board.

Trustee Dan Campion said he would not only want public hearings on such a district he would also want a referendum, drawing applause from the district opponents in the audience. Trustee Ted Kmiec also said he felt a referendum might be appropriate if the idea ever advances.

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