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A ‘dry’ meeting for Coloma Township?

Annual meetings for townships set for next week

ROCK FALLS – Mary Bowman, Coloma Township’s cemetery manager, says she wouldn’t miss the township’s annual meeting.

In past years, she said, the meetings have been “dry,” with officials emphasizing Coloma’s positives.

That could change at this year’s annual meeting.

Late last year, the township’s financial problems came to light, with the state threatening to levy thousands of dollars in fines because Coloma hadn’t submitted a financial report in years. It has struggled to keep track of its money – for instance, $19,000 from the sale of a truck apparently went missing for years.

Bowman said she expected few people to attend the annual meeting, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t interested in the township’s problems.

“People are talking about the township,” Bowman said. “If I’m out someplace, they ask me whether we have gotten things straightened out.”

In her view, Coloma hasn’t.

Townships often are an overlooked level of government that are non-existent in most of the country. Perhaps their most high-profile role is the maintenance of less-traveled rural roads. They also hand out assistance to the poor and assess the values of properties for tax purposes. Many run cemeteries, too.

On the second Tuesday of April, according to state law, townships must hold annual meetings. They can start no earlier than 6 p.m.

In defending their existence, townships often call themselves the government closest to the people. At annual meetings, that appears true.

Under state law, township residents have a vote in decisions, including transferring money to the road fund from other funds and making orders to buy and sell property.

“This is where residents can express concerns about things they think need to be accomplished,” said Jerry Crabtree, associate director for Township Officials of Illinois, the lobbying group for townships.

In Sterling Township, Trustee Bill McGinn, also a Whiteside County Board member, won’t attend the annual meeting because he plans to attend a county committee meeting at the same time.

Sterling Township, he said, is doing well.

“We keep the budget in the black,” McGinn said. “We have a balanced budget, and we’re moving forward. We work with the schools in Sterling.”

Dixon Township Supervisor Ed Fritts will attend his first annual meeting as supervisor.

Historically, he said, few people have attended.

Whiteside and Lee counties have 22 townships each.

Where they are

Tuesday's annual meetings for some of the area's bigger townships:

• Coloma – 7 p.m. at the town hall, 1200 Prophetstown Road in Rock Falls

• Dixon – 6 p.m. at the town hall, 315 Highland Ave. in Dixon

• Palmyra – 7 p.m. at the town hall, 214 Palmyra Road in rural Dixon

• Sterling – 7 p.m. at the Center for Youth building, 312 E. Fourth St. in Sterling

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