Earlier this year, the Unincorporated Cook County Task Force described a number of barriers to annexing Cook County’s roughly 62 square miles of unincorporated land. About 100,000 people live in such areas.
Each unincorporated area has unique characteristics. What most have in common, however, is that the condition of the infrastructure does not meet the standards of nearby communities.
In order to help overcome these infrastructure-related obstacles to annexation, Preckwinkle announced a $5 million Unincorporated Cook Infrastructure Improvement Fund as part of her proposed 2013 Budget.
“I recognize that $5 million is a modest amount. This fund will point the County in the right direction towards realizing my goal of eliminating unincorporated areas within the next decade,” President Preckwinkle said. “The money we have set aside in next year’s budget will allow municipalities to apply for money to upgrade roads, sidewalks and water and sewer systems in unincorporated areas.”
The application criteria will be developed in conjunction with the members of the Task Force. The expectation is that funds will be matched. Priority would be given to proposals that facilitate the largest reduction in the unincorporated population and the related cost of providing service.
“The Civic Federation supports the infrastructure improvement fund as another step toward President Preckwinkle and the Task Force’s shared goal of merging all unincorporated areas into surrounding municipalities,” said Civic Federation President Laurence Msall. “Given proper oversight and procedures, the fund should help overcome one of the major barriers to incorporation identified by the Task Force in its report issued last spring: inadequate or below code infrastructure in unincorporated areas such as a lack of sewer systems of street curbs.”
The initial Task Force report was the beginning, not the end of its work. It has formed working groups to focus on infrastructure and law enforcement, which will meet again next month.
Northwestern University also is conducting a pro-bono study on the pros and cons of contract policing in the south suburbs.
The Cook County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to vote on the Preckwinkle’s 2013 Budget on Friday, November 9.