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Marengo alderman candidates talk city water, I-90 interchange project

Ward 1 and Ward 4 open in April 4 election

MARENGO – Four candidates will face off in Marengo’s City Council race April 4.

Two incumbents are running against two challengers for seats on the Marengo City Council. Ward 4 Alderman Dennis Hammortree is running against former council member James Regelin, and Ward 1 Alderwoman Nicole DeBoer faces Raymond Knake.

Regelin resigned from his seat as Ward 1 alderman in April 2016 after about a year in office because he moved outside of the ward’s zone.

Topics at a recent candidate forum covered the city’s water, future development – particularly related to the proposed Interstate 90 interchange at Route 23 – and a downtown strip.

The proposed $32 million I-90 interchange at Route 23 in Marengo is expected to trigger an economic windfall for McHenry County and the city. The Illinois Tollway Authority plans to replace the overpass on Route 23 and will pay for a portion of the project.

Some candidates said that the proposed interchange would help the city’s tax base, which would help residents. DeBoer said that planning has been done to address concerns that traffic would be routed through the city’s downtown.

“We have done a lot of pre-planning that people aren’t aware of,” she said. “We can keep Marengo a quaint community while increasing the tax base. … I do think it will help relieve the burden on our taxpayers.”

Hammortree said he has been skeptical that the interchange will do much to change the city’s economic state.

“Putting all our eggs in one basket makes no sense,” he said. “I am probably the only one on City Council that has been hesitant through the whole process. I hope one day somebody proves me wrong, but for now, I am not a big fan.”

Knake said he doesn’t think the interchange would bring much short-term value to the city, but he hopes that further down the line Marengo could see long-term benefit. Regelin said he thinks the project would bring jobs to town and is a growth opportunity for the next generation of Marengo residents.

The city’s water treatment plant was another topic of discussion at the forum. Candidates differed on how they would handle what residents see as a problem. Transparency and the plant’s functionality both were addressed.

“No one in the city seems to know what is going on down there except for a select few,” Knake said. “People have questions. Hammortree wanted to do a committee meeting, and no one wanted to sign off, and I think that raises red flags. I think we should have the engineers, the City Council, the wastewater operators together and give the people the answers they deserve.”

DeBoer said the plant isn’t operating at full capacity because it was built based on a growth trend and not enough water is flowing into it. Hammortree has actively campaigned on the City Council for months to get operators and engineers to the meetings to answer questions, and he voiced similar concerns at the forum.

“We were promised we would get a state-of-the-art treatment plant,” he said. “That is so far from the truth it’s not even funny.”

Regelin said, if elected, he would be vigilant and stay on top of the situation, but said he also recognizes that the issue is multifaceted.

“There is a lot we have to fix in Marengo. We know that,” he said. “If we don’t find a way to bring in more money to pay for these things that are breaking down, we are in big trouble.”

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