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Wadsworth mayor challenges Zion incumbent in County Board District 4

Glenn Ryback candidate for Lake County Board Distirct 4. | Special Sun-Times Media

Glenn Ryback candidate for Lake County Board Distirct 4. | Special to Sun-Times Media

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Lake County Board District 4 now encompasses Wadsworth, Winthrop Harbor, parts of Beach Park and a large part of Zion except for a u-shaped slice out of the city.

Updated: January 2, 2013 1:38AM

The redrawing of the boundaries for Lake County Board District 4 was one of the reasons Wadsworth Mayor Glenn Ryback, a Democrat, decided to challenge incumbent Republican Brent Paxton of Zion.

The remapping placed all of Wadsworth within the district and cut out part of the west side of Zion, with a horseshoe shape for the new district.

“I’d like to serve them at the county level,” said Ryback, 60, who has been mayor since 2007 and served on the Wadsworth Village Board since 1993. “We run the village on a tight budget,” he said, and the County Board raised real estate taxes last year.

Paxton, 49, longtime chair of the County Board‘s Financial and Administrative Committee, disagrees and said he has trouble trying to figure out what Ryback is talking about. Ryback claims he heard Martin Paulson, the county’s chief assessment officer, say taxes were going up at a committee-of-the-whole meeting. “That’s absolutely not true,” said Paxton, who talked to Paulson and he assured him he never said anything like that.

“The tax rates do fluctuate every year, but a lot of the tax rate is out of our control,” he said, citing a regular argument by the county that they only account for about 7 percent of a resident’s tax bill.

“Over the past four years our budget has been down — a $17 million decrease. This year it’s about the same,” said Paxton. “We really try to use taxpayers’ money as wisely as possible. When the recession came in we cut our budget. When times were good we didn’t go hog wild.”

Ryback is in favor of building Route 53 in Lake County, as is Paxton.

Ryback is also for not having anymore open space purchased in District 4 by the forest preserve because he says it is cutting down the property tax base. He cited two recent purchases by forest preserve commissioners that were planned subdivisions, both of which would have eventually been inside Wadsworth.

“I would not pass another referendum,” he said, referring to the forest preserve fund created after voters approved a bond issue for expanding forest preserve holdings. “We don’t need anymore forest preserves in Newport Township,” said Ryback, adding that the Newport Township Fire Protection District has been hurt by property leaving the tax rolls.

Paxton agrees the district does have plenty of open space. “Definitely open space is needed, but also at a point where there’s too much.” Paxton said Zion is an example of having a great park system. “It really improves the quality of life.”

On the proposed demolition of the Winchester House, the county’s long-term nursing home, Paxton was the lone vote against it. He was OK with the privatization of the facility, but “I’m not convinced the county should be in that business.” He pointed out that the residents were basically from a five-mile radius around Libertyville, but the whole county pays for it.

Ryback has a more complicated take. He said the decision by the county to tear down and rebuild the nursing home was wrong and so was outsourcing management of the building. Ryback wasn’t in favor of building a new facility, but if the county did, then the county should run it and not an outside firm.

Both men differ on building a new courthouse in downtown Waukegan. Paxton said it’s needed because they have more judges than courtrooms and courtroom have very specific regulations, such as the height of the ceiling.

“We’re really running out of space,” he said. Building the courthouse somewhere other than at Washington and County streets “would be a logistical nightmare,” because of what it would take to transport prisoners.

Ryback likes the new traffic court in Park City and thinks the county could build more like that somewhere else in the county. “Especially with prices of property down at this time. The cost of building materials is lower and tradesmen are looking for work,” he said.

Paxton has shown a determined streak at times on the board. He was the lone vote against Winchester House and he also voted against asking the Army to remove a deed restriction requiring a golf course be maintained at the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve, saying plans to build a golf course are no longer financially viable.

“For me, the vote is really simple,” he said. “We agreed to do something and I think we should do it.”

Ryback said the County Board “needs a common-sense approach to slow the spending. “The poor residents are taxed enough.”

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