Road dispute leads to cancellation of service district on Kelly’s Hill in Cook County
WTIP file photo

Road dispute leads to cancellation of service district on Kelly’s Hill in Cook County

A collection of property owners on Kelly’s Hill road on the east end of Cook County feel they can manage their road without support from local government.

Following a recent decision by the Cook County Board of Commissioners, all of the property owners on Kelly’s Hill no longer have a choice in the matter.

The county board voted 5-0 during a public meeting March 28 to dissolve the Subordinate Governmental Service District (SGSD) for Kelly’s Hill. It will take six months before the SGSD is officially abolished. The move to cancel the service district returns management of the road back to people who live along, or own property near the rural roadway. The decision from the county board took place following a request from Cook County Highway Engineer Robbie Hass to abolish the SGSD for Kelly’s Hill. The reason the highway engineer made the request was due an apparent “unwillingness” of some residents to follow “a very simple” county policy.

“At the heart of this is just an unwillingness to follow our policy,” Hass said during the March 28 meeting of the county board at the courthouse in Grand Marais.

Hass said that “despite a lot of reaching out and a lot of engagement” from the county to property owners along Kelly’s Hill, there remained “a clear neglect” or unwillingness to follow the guidelines of the SGSD. Included among the grievances Hass shared with the commissioners were residents of Kelly’s Hill plowing snow during this winter even though the county contracts a plow driver for the road. These “ghost,” or rogue, plowing operations ran in contradiction to the SGSD agreement, Hass said.

An SGSD is essentially where the county serves as a facilitator between property owners on a non-county road and a private contractor to provide services on the roadway. An SGSD leads to an increase in property taxes for any area of the county where one is created. The establishment of an SGSD can be contentious in some cases, including areas in the east end of the county where landowners are not interested in having the services, while some of their neighbors would be. The Kelly’s Hill SGSD formed in August 2019.

Nina McCune said there were “blind spots” in the agreement between the local highway department and the Kelly’s Hill Road Association. McCune spoke during the public comment period of the meeting March 28. Click here to hear McCune’s comments.

Also speaking was Kim Dunsmoor, another property owner along Kelly’s Hill road. Dunsmoor complained about the snow plowing that took place throughout the Kelly’s Hill road. Dunsmoor said the local highway department “hid behind their policy” when it came to having standards for how the road should be taken care of.

Hass said the policies of the county and the SGSD agreement with Kelly’s Hill property owners were simple. These policies, Hass said, were violated. In simple terms, the SGSD on Kelly’s Hill did not work because of communication woes and violations of the policy, according to the highway engineer.

WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs spoke with Cook County Administrator James Joerke March 29 about this topic. Listen to the audio below to hear this discussion and more county news.