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Preckwinkle: Eliminate All Unincorporated Areas By Decade’s End

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle talks about her 2012 budget plan on the CBS 2 Morning News. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle says she is determined to eliminate all unincorporated areas of the county within the decade.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, unincorporated areas of Cook County are not part of any city or town, and rely on the Cook County sheriff’s department for police services. They also rely on the county for several other services.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports

“It’s been happening over time anyway,” Preckwinkle said. “What we’re trying to figure out is how we can accelerate and how we can do it in a way that is most beneficial to the residents involved, and the entire people of Cook County.”

King Harris, who chaired a task force that studied the issue, says eliminating unincorporated areas is simply something that needs to be done.

“If we could do it all over again, we never would have had any unincorporated land,” he said.

Harris says the county simply can’t afford to continue footing the bill to provide services for the 98,000 residents who live in the county’s unincorporated areas.

He says it’s hardly efficient government.

“We have certain areas where there’s one person or two people living in an area. But if there’s a need for service, like police service or something like that, we have to dispatch a car to service them,” he said.

Furthermore, under the current setup, those who live in incorporated cities, towns and villages are subsidizing those who do not.

“Why is it that somebody living in the unincorporated area has a tax bill that might be anywhere from $300 to $1,000 less than the person across the street?” Harris said.

Preckwinkle says eliminating the unincorporated areas won’t happen easily or quickly, as the county has to convince nearby municipalities to absorb the unincorporated areas.

“I would hope that we can do that before the decade is out,” she said. “But some of these issues are very complicated.”

Hundreds of unincorporated areas are scattered throughout the county. Large unincorporated parcels surround Lemont, and also cover an area between Niles and Glenview along the Milwaukee Avenue corridor.

And while most unincorporated areas are located fairly deep in suburban Cook County, one is completely surrounded by the city of Chicago.

Unincorporated Norwood Park Township is an oddly-shaped parcel of land bounded roughly by Seminole Street on the north, Berwyn Avenue on the south, Canfield Avenue on the east and a jagged boundary that largely does not align with any streets on the west. The township retains Chicago street names for east-west streets, but uses Park Ridge street names for its north-south streets.

Most infamously, unincorporated Norwood Park Township was the home of John Wayne Gacy, who lived – and murdered dozens of boys and young men – in a house at 8213 W. Summerdale Ave.

Preckwinkle has previously called for charging unincorporated areas for police service.