Cook County may require suburbs that opt out of its
red-light cameras to take over all the costly maintenance of those
Suburban officials signaled they would fight the
proposal, saying such maintenance would require tax increases that they
The county board recently voted to let municipalities
choose not to get the county's red-light cameras as proposed for 20
suburban intersections, after Arlington Heights and Schaumburg opposed
But some board commissioners threatened to shift all
maintenance costs onto any suburb that opposed the cameras.
Now, an opinion by the Cook County State's Attorney's
office concludes that if a municipality chooses not to participate, the
municipality would become responsible for all maintenance at that
intersection, according to county board president spokeswoman Chris
Such maintenance would include any necessary
construction, repaving, traffic lights, snow plowing, signage, cleanup,
and any other costs, possibly for a mile or more from the intersection.
Schaumburg Village Manager Ken Fritz did not know the
cost of such maintenance, but said for the six intersections the county
wanted to include in Schaumburg, it could run into the hundreds of
thousands of dollars, particularly if paving was included.
Board President Todd Stroger's administration is
assessing the opinion to see if there's any "wiggle room" for a
compromise between the county and the suburbs, Geovanis said.
"It doesn't necessarily present the best path forward
for anyone," Geovanis said. "We're trying to see what our options are
Geovanis said it's not simply a city versus suburbs
story, nor one pitting board President Todd Stroger against the board.
While the county and municipalities often split
responsibilities for maintenance and police, Geovanis said that is a
separate law enforcement function. Red-light camera enforcement, she
maintained, is different because it involves the highway department's
broader mission of safety.
If the county board tried to force maintenance on
municipalities, Fritz said, "We would have to look at our legal
Schaumburg had tried its own red light cameras at one
intersection, and raised $1 million from tickets there in three months.
But as elsewhere in the suburbs, most of the tickets
were for right turns on red, and did not appreciably decrease the number
The village generates $50 million annually for the
county in sales and property taxes, so for the county to suddenly
require local road maintenance, Fritz said, is "disingenuous."
"It takes two unrelated topics and tries to meld them
together, which is inappropriate," he said.
In Arlington Heights, Mayor Arlene Mulder said
municipalities often work with the county and other governmental bodies
to share road maintenance duties to improve efficiency.
Having municipalities take over portions of county roads
made no sense, because the county would still have to duplicate
services by maintaining the rest of the road.
"If this moves forward, she said, "it's a lose-lose for
taxpayers, because it's going to be more costly."
Patrick Driscoll, chief adviser to the county from the
State's Attorney's Office, declined to comment, citing attorney-client
But Chicago Democratic Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno
confirmed that Driscoll had issued an opinion that if municipalities
"opted out" on a red-light intersection, they were, in effect, claiming
jurisdiction, and "they're going to claim financial responsibility for
it as well."
"They're responsible for the control and maintenance of
the intersection," Moreno added, "and it's very expensive and they don't
have the money."
Moreno is aware that most of the opposition on the
county board is coming from suburban commissioners, "because they've
been taking flak from the local mayors," he said. "I understand that."
Moreno strongly supports the cameras as a "public
safety" issue, and dismissed those who complained about tickets issued
from the red-light cameras. "There's a simple solution," he said. "Don't
go through any red lights."