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Referendum opponent wants to debate Winfield officials
By Robert Sanchez | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/20/2010 12:01 AM

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A vocal critic of Winfield's possible referendum push to raise money for road repairs is eager to debate Village President Deborah Birutis over the merits of the idea.

But it appears Tim Allen will have to wait to get his wish.

Birutis said she has no plans to attend either of the two town hall meetings Allen organized this week to discuss the road proposal, which would ask residents in November to approve a tax increase to allow Winfield to resurface its 35 miles of local streets every 20 years.

"It's for each and every resident to make their own decision," Birutis said Monday. "It's not for me to debate whether we need our roads fixed or not."

The first meeting is planned for 7 p.m. today at John's Buffet, 27W482 Jewell Road. The second is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Winfield Park District, 0N020 County Farm Road.

Birutis said she believes Allen, who lost his bid to become a village trustee last year, organized the meetings primarily to promote himself as a future candidate.

Allen acknowledges he has political ambition. Still, he said his immediate goal is to face Birutis "so we can have a real debate about how we got here and where we are going with this road referendum issue."

"Everyone thinks that this is going to be a cage match, and it really isn't designed to be that," he said. "What I want is a normal debate where we try to persuade the audience."

As of Monday, about 30 people indicated they plan to attend the meetings to learn more about the proposed ballot question, which would come in two parts.

The first would ask voters' permission to borrow $3.3 million to resurface the most deteriorated streets in town. The second would ask voters to let the village collect extra property tax revenue each year to fund a 20-year maintenance cycle for the entire network of local roads.

If approved, both questions combined would cost the owner of a $300,000 home about $260 extra in property taxes each year.

Village officials say Winfield has few other options outside of a tax hike - a point Allen doesn't dispute.

"I know that there is no way out of this," he said. "Either we pass a referendum eventually or we are going to be driving on gravel, because the roads are not going to fix themselves."

However, he argues the village must be more aggressive when it comes to attracting commercial development, especially along Roosevelt Road.

"I will go from being the biggest detractor of the road referendum to its biggest supporter if the town lays a course for sustainable revenues," Allen said.

While she has no intention of debating Allen this week, Birutis said the village is planning to sponsor more "official" town hall meetings on the road referendum, including one next month.

"The goal of the village is to provide the facts to our residents so they can decide for themselves if they want the roads repaired throughout Winfield," she said. "It's not a debate."