Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant

Today Homer Township has taken action and unanimously approved filing a lawsuit against the negligent behavior of Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, Will County Board Executive. Most residents of Homer Township oppose expanding 143rd to 5-lanes. Government funding to add lanes may sound attractive at first glance, but not once you look at the big picture and future ramifications. There is never any traffic on 143rd between Bell and 355 therefore residents feel there is no need to make 5 lanes.

Emergency Meeting at Homer Township office on Feb 13, 2024 with John Garcia of ABC News

The township is opposed to expanding 143rd to 5 lanes because of:

  • Increased truck traffic
  • Damage to roads due to Trucks
  • Safety concerns of schools and others crossing the road or trying to enter onto the road
  • Increased Noise
  • Lowering of property values
  • Loss of our trees and landscape
  • Increased crime
  • Sound barriers destroying the view of the landscape
  • We love our farmers and their sheep, cows, horses that we see
  • Health of the animals on farms along the road

Many Homer Township residents are in favor of adding a 3rd turn lane, and the township would review a project analysis.

On February 15, 2024, a bi-partisan majority of the Will County Board adopted Resolution Number 24-27. This resolution halted the 143rd Street expansion to 5 lanes. Executive Tarrant had approved and signed this along with her clerk. After signing the resolution Tarrant now claims she made an error and wishes to revoke her signature, and veto the resolution. A cease and desist spearheaded by Homer Township Supervisor Stephen Balich, was sent on February 22nd to Tarrant via email. The Homer Township called an emergency meeting for all board members on February 23.

There is no provision in the law to allow her to claim it was a mistake and now veto it. If the people of Will County cannot rely on the County Executive’s signature on this matter, how can they trust anything signed by her?

The County Executive asserts that she can sign documents, have the Clerk attest to her signature, and change her mind at any time. I question how the County Executive did not know what she was signing when this was the biggest issue for the County in years. I also question whether the County Clerk failed to inform her that she signed the cessation of the 143rd Street Expansion. How many of the County Executive’s staff saw the signed document before delivering it to the County Board Staff and said nothing? I wonder if the County Executive signed the document and was later pressured to veto it after it was posted by County Board members.

Long time Homer Resident and farmer Christy Nahser, has generously offered to host the Will County executives to visit her farm, and see firsthand what they are voting on. She says if the expansion to 5 lanes were to happen, she would likely move and sell her farm.

Letter from resident Ellyn Moritz

I was just made aware of an emergency board meeting that will be held tomorrow Feb 23 to vote on whether Homer Glen Township will be filing a lawsuit against the Will County Executive. I would love to attend the meeting as this 143rd St expansion directly impacts my property and I am in support of halting the 143rd expansion project; however, I have already taken multiple days off work in order to speak at recent Will County committee and board meetings so I am unable to attend tomorrow.

I am reaching out to ask you to support myself and the hundreds of other Homer Glen residents who oppose this project. in order to save our community. Your vote gives Homer Glen the opportunity to stop the executive from vetoing the resolution and will therefore keep our community in harmony with nature. 

We moved to Homer Glen in 2016 because we wanted to get away from the congestion of Cook County and we enjoyed the rural atmosphere of Homer Glen with its proximity to interstates and shopping. We purchased what we thought was our forever home without knowledge of the 143rd expansion project which had been in the works for at least 7 years prior to us moving in. Since our property sits at the southwest corner of 143rd and Parker, if this expansion happens it will take a 30 x 30 ft portion of our beautiful backyard and will put up a 10 ft cement sound barrier in what is now the middle of our yard. We would not have purchased our home had we known this was even a possibility. And since the Will County Executive vetoed the resolution to cease the expansion, my husband and I have been having very serious conversations about the possibility of moving because we do not want to raise our children along a 5 lane road. 

During the 3 public hearings that were held on this expansion project (2014, 2018, and 2019), Homer Glen residents raised concerns and submitted written comments about questions and issues they had with this project. Although Will County listened to concerns about a raised median and noise concerns by changing the plans to a transversable median and adding a sound wall, most complaints and oppositions went on deaf ears. Most comments expressed issues or opposition to all or part of the project and asked questions. The comments were only replied to with a generalized response letter each time without really addressing residents concerns. There is a 539 page document of the summary of the hearings that can be accessed via the Freedom of Information Act by requesting it from the Will County Department of Transportation if you’d like to learn more. The bigger problem to me, however, is why no one stopped to think whether it was truly a good idea to cram a 5 lane road into such a small, rural community that is lined with homes and farms. This is an invasive project that just does not make sense in this space.

I have spoken at 2 Will County Board meetings, spent endless hours learning as much as possible about this project, encouraging neighbors and Will County residents to get involved, and reaching out to Will County Board Members asking them to vote to halt the expansion. And it worked! But now things are in limbo with the executive’s veto and there isn’t much that individual residents can do at this time. I am asking you as a constituent and resident to please do everything in your power to avoid another bustling 5 lane road in Homer Glen and to listen to the countless residents who oppose this invasive expansion. 

Thank you so much for your time.

Sincerely,

Ellyn Moritz

Email from Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant to resident Greg Solucha

I wanted to let you know I am in receipt of your email.

I understand you are upset with my decision to veto this resolution, and it is one that did not come lightly.
My role as County Executive is to review decisions, consult the experts, and determine what is best for the entire county. My position demands me to look at the project in its entirety, the tax dollars spent, the future dollars lost, safety issues, as well as the regional impact.

While I appreciate the advocacy of your local representatives on this issue, I believe that they should not have continued to allow this project to move forward for years if they truly were opposed to it. Local representatives on the County Board have recognized the need for this project and have voted in support of it as recently as last year. The County Board changing their mind at the 11th hour, after millions of taxpayer dollars have already been expended, impacts decisions which go beyond Homer Glen and Homer Township. This reversal would have had serious implications on future decisions made by the state and federal government about Will County’s future needs.

I have included below my full veto message so you can understand my decision. It may not ease your concern or lessen your anger, but it provides you my rationale.

Sincerely,
Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant
Will County Executive



VETO MESSAGE:
Today I veto Resolution #24-27, which fails to address traffic demands and public safety.

First, the expansion of this segment of 143rd Street has been a subject of discussion for over a decade. For many years, the Will County Board has recognized the need to address increased levels of traffic and the threats to public safety that exist on the current roadway.

The Will County Board has repeatedly provided a clear direction to the Will County Division of Transportation to pursue expansion in this segment of 143rd Street. The full County Board has unanimously approved this project to proceed 10 separate times since 2009. Time and time again, the elected representatives that serve on the County Board, including those that represent the communities along 143rd Street, have voted for this project.

Following the unanimous direction of our elected legislative body, Will County has held a consistent position since 2009: That the existing two-lane road is a danger to the public, impedes the flow of traffic, and prevents the safe passage of residents throughout the county.

Second, based on the County Board’s direction, Will County has already expended over $6.2 Million on this project. The Will County Division of Transportation has expended time and resources on identifying a level of expansion that both creates a safer roadway and aligns with feedback received from the public and local elected officials during the project development. Although several members of the board expressed a belief that the County should “cut our losses” on this project following years of consistent direction, I do not believe that individual board members changing their mind should come with a $6.2 million dollar price tag for the taxpayers.
Third, further, the votes made during the February 15 County Board meeting do not provide clear direction to County staff on how to proceed with this project. While Resolution #24-27 is misleadingly labeled as a directive to “cease” the expansion, the resolution is also calling for the Division of Transportation to proceed with a three-lane expansion.

The County Board later voted unanimously to include language within its legislative agenda that advocates for the use of quick-take proceedings for this project. This follows the statements made by several board members that no property should be acquired for this project. It is not clear to what extent the County Board is in favor of continued acquirement of right-of-way property along this specific corridor, as these two resolutions are contradictory.
Fourth, compared to the years of research, public feedback, and legislative deliberation of the full 143rd Street expansion project, Resolution #24-27 does not provide a solution to the safety and traffic challenges that currently exist.

Decision-making in public service is never easy. In this case, I believe the necessary decision is to ensure the safety of Will County residents.
Therefore, pursuant to 55 ILCS 5/2-5010, I hereby return Resolution #24-27, with the foregoing objections, vetoed in its entirety.

Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant
Will County Executive

Please voice your opinion on the matter to:

Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant
Phone: (815) 740-4601
E-mail: countyexec@willcountyillinois.com
Fax: (815) 740-4600