APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIFTH DISTRICT
(Lawrence County Consolidated Drainage District,
George C. Lackey et al., Objectors-Appellants)
509 N.E.2d 680, 155 Ill. App. 3d 1047, 109 Ill. Dec. 19 1987.IL.727
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lawrence County; the Hon. Philip Benefiel, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE WELCH delivered the opinion of the court. KARNS, P.J.,1 and HARRISON, J., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE WELCH
The commissioners of the Lawrence County Consolidated Drainage District (District) brought this action by filing a petition in which they sought court approval to annex 13,315 acres of land into the District and sought authority to levy an annual maintenance assessment against the lands sought to be annexed. Written objections to the District's petition were filed by George C. Lackey and John D. Lackey, as trustees of the Lackey Farm Trust. After a hearing, the trial court entered an order granting the District's petition for annexation. The Lackeys, along with other objectors who did not file written objections at or prior to the hearing on the District's petition, have appealed from this order, contending (1) that the District's petition to annex was insufficient at law; (2) that the trial court's order annexing the lands was not supported by the evidence; and (3) that the post-trial motions of the objectors not filing written objections were improperly stricken. We reverse in part and affirm in part.
The District, containing approximately 37,000 acres of land, was created through the consolidation of five previously separate drainage districts located in Lawrence County, Illinois, by order of the trial court entered on January 31, 1985. On August 29, 1985, the District filed a petition to annex 13,315 acres of land and to levy an annual maintenance assessment against the lands sought to be annexed. The petition contained descriptions of the lands and names of the owners of the lands sought to be annexed. Paragraph 6 of the petition stated:
"That said lands encompass an area of approximately 13,315 acres in Lawrence and Crawford Counties and are adjacent to the lands within the boundaries of the district and are drained in the natural course of drainage into the drainage system of the district and have been, and will be, benefited or protected by additional or annual maintenance work performed by the Lawrence County Consolidated Drainage District in the County of Lawrence and State of Illinois."
Paragraph 8 of the petition described the annual maintenance work to be performed as follows:
"That the drainage system of the district is presently in need of repair and maintenance and the necessity for performing the repair and maintenance work will recur annually; such work will consist primarily of spot dredging and removal of bars and silt that have built up in the open ditches, removal of brush and debris in and along the open ditches, repair and replacement of damaged and broken drainage structures and tiles and payment of annual administrative and overhead expenses; in addition, the Commissioners plan to install pumping stations which will require funds for annual operations and maintenance."
Prior to hearing on the District's petition on October 17, 1985, the Lackeys, as trustees of the Lackey Farm Trust, filed written objections to the District's petition. At the hearing George C. Lackey appeared on behalf of the Lackey Farm Trust, and certain other landowners appeared pro se in opposition to the petition but filed no written objections. Other landowners appeared pro se in favor of the District's petition. None of the landowners except the Lackeys presented any evidence at the hearing.
At the hearing the District's petition was offered and admitted into evidence by the court as a prima facie case. The Lackeys moved for a finding dismissing the petition on the grounds that insufficient evidence had been presented. The court then permitted the District to reopen its case to present testimony in support of the District's petition.
Dewey Connor, a civil engineer employed by the District, testified that he had prepared a map showing the existing District and any areas that drain into the District that were not previously included within the separate districts that form the consolidated District. He stated that all of the lands sought to be annexed were within the same watershed as the lands already in the District and were of a higher elevation than those lands. He further stated that the lands sought to be annexed would be benefited by the cleaning out and deepening of the lower ditches in the District and that this proposed work would allow the ditches to accept water from the higher elevations ...