Published in Daily Herald, June 6, 2019
On May 3, the Illinois Senate Subcommittee on Capital held a public hearing in Grayslake to learn more about infrastructure needs in Lake County.
Lake County leaders testified about local needs in the areas of transportation, stormwater infrastructure, affordable housing and mental health services.
Leading the Lake County panel was Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart, who outlined the state of affordable housing programs and the efforts being done at the local level. Almost 100,000 Lake County homeowners are "cost-burdened," paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing, with a disproportionate impact on minorities and elderly owners.
Hart also highlighted a critical need to help people living with serious mental illness. Across the country and in Lake County, jails have become a holding area for many individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.
Currently, the only options available for law enforcement officers responding to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis include transportation to jail for low-level offenses or to a hospital emergency department. Funding from a state capital bill can help Lake County with an expansion for a Crisis Stabilization Unit.
In her testimony, Hart urged Illinois senators to act, saying, "This is an ethical and financial problem that must be addressed. We need additional funding to expand behavioral health capacity. Expanding services for short term crisis care will achieve long term savings in health costs, the judicial system, and, most importantly, provide people with the care they deserve to live happy, productive lives."
Lake County Division of Transportation Director Shane Schneider focused his testimony on the need for transportation infrastructure. In Lake County, the greatest transportation need is congestion relief.
Lake County worked with elected officials, municipalities, and the public to develop a list of regionally beneficial transportation improvements known as the State Highway Consensus Plan.
Lake County has worked closely with the Illinois Department of Transportation and state elected officials to advance these projects, but $1.2 billion in project work remains and the funding model is not sustainable.
"Without reliable funding, these projects will never advance, and congestion problems will continue to increase," Schneider said. "This is a quality-of-life issue for our residents."
There is also a need for increased stormwater capacity and infrastructure. Mike Warner, director of the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission, testified about climate change and the direct and indirect impact it has on Illinois.
The Illinois State Water Survey recently released information, indicating that Lake County is receiving between 20 to 45 percent higher rainfall amounts. Because of this and development plans just north of the Illinois border, significant impacts to storm sewer and detention design, floodplains, building protection, and wetland requirements are expected.
Lake County SMC identified 10 infrastructure projects, with a total cost of more than $13 million needed in 2019 to properly manage stormwater and to protect the people and property in Lake County.
In closing, Hart expressed her appreciation to the state delegation.
"Thank you for traveling to Lake County for this important discussion. We greatly appreciate the opportunity to share our needs and show our support for a capital bill for the people of Illinois."