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Two Wheaton government agencies could be cut due to county reform bill

WHEATON – When Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a government reform law granting DuPage County the authority to dissolve certain appointed county programs Aug. 2, two Wheaton agencies were put on the short list of potential cuts.

The Wheaton Sanitary District and Wheaton Mosquito Abatement District are among the more than 20 programs that may be considered for closure. These include several other sanitary, mosquito abatement and fire protection districts in the county, as well as county agencies such as the Board of Health, Airport Authority, Housing Authority and the Election Commission.

County Board Chairman Dan Cronin called the bill “an opportunity to carefully examine these units of local government and come up with a plan for consolidation” at the signing press conference.

All shortlisted agencies were identified as potentially outdated, overlapping or defunct. Up to 13 of those agencies could be cut in an attempt to streamline the nearly $300 million in county money used to fund appointed agencies, according to a DuPage County Board news release. The potentially dissolved agencies would first be subject to a six month public review process and audit and could be saved by a backdoor referendum, the release stated.

County Board Member Grant Eckhoff of Wheaton said that the board isn’t close to naming anything to be cut yet.

“I think everything is out there to take a look at,” he said. “I’ve been pushing for the consolidation of fire districts in the county for a long time now, but I don’t think anyone has any initial meetings.”

Eckhoff said the eventual goal was to have combined districts for agencies such as sanitation and mosquito abatement and that the bill was a step in that direction.

“Consolidation is the wave of the future, and the whole idea is we’re going to get ahead of the curve before things start falling apart like in Detroit,” he said. “DuPage County is on sound financial footing and the only way to keep it that way is to cut costs while keeping services”

Wheaton Sanitary District Executive Director Steve Maney said his district had been trying to be more efficient during the recent push for efficiency.

“What’s happening at my level is the county has asked us to take a look at trying to consolidate and find ways to make all the labs in DuPage County more cost-effective,” he said.

Like many agencies around the county, the Wheaton Sanitary District is not directly controlled by the county, but has a county appointed board. By appointing board members who want to get rid of the agency, the county can effectively dissolve it.

Maney said he wasn’t sure whether the Sanitary District was being seriously considered for elimination. He said its staff was trying to comply with a number of DuPage County Board policies, including revising ethics policies and eliminating staff bonuses.

“We’re finding ways to go across government agencies and trying to be more cost effective for all the citizens out there,” he said. “It’s a good idea, but hard. First you have to communicate and see what options are out there that will be cost effective.”

The Wheaton Mosquito Abatement District, which is run by Clarke Environmental Mosquito Management, could not be reached in time for publication.

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