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Unanswered questions in coroner's budget after Kane County Board meeting

Published: Friday, July 11, 2014 11:20 p.m. CST

GENEVA – The future of the coroner’s building – and its closed morgue – remained uncertain Friday as Kane County Board members considered Coroner Rob Russell’s budget request for 2015.

Board Chairman Chris Lauzen, along with members of the Judicial and Public Safety Committee, were reluctant to discuss long- and short-term plans during a discussion in which Russell was absent.

Russell was called away from the meeting before he could present. Ken Shepro, an attorney acting as his financial consultant, spoke to the committee instead.

Preliminary numbers call for a budget of $949,547, which includes 5 percent nonunion staff raises and increases for pathologist fees. It is a 9.4 percent increase over the 2013 budget, which was used as a comparison.

Shepro noted the budget summary doesn’t take into account the arrangement with the DuPage County Coroner’s Office. Forensic operations have been outsourced to DuPage County since mold was found in the Kane County morgue last month.

Russell has said he intends to seek direction from the committee about his options: investing in new equipment for the existing facility or beginning plans for a new building, which could lead to a prolonged relationship with DuPage.

The cost of using DuPage County’s facilities for one year is estimated at $83,050, but savings on morgue supplies could reduce the expense by $50,000, Shepro said.

Meanwhile, capital cost estimates are $75,000 for a new freezer and cooler; $42,000 for a used X-ray machine; $15,000 for a key card security system and unknown costs for an HVAC system, mold remediation, and the demolition and construction related to the new equipment.

In a written report to the committee, Russell said Don Biggs, the county’s operations staff executive, and representatives from Mechanical Inc. recently visited his office.

“However, the conversation dealt only with the cleanup [remediation] and removal, not a complete plan to reuse this facility,” Russell said. “Significant financial and policy concerns remain.”

Board member Doug Scheflow, R-Elgin, said he would support giving the coroner a small budget increase. Lauzen, however, noted Russell last year agreed to a budget of $843,000 for three years.

The coroner’s budget was the last of 13 proposals presented to the committee.

The state’s attorney’s office is proposing a nearly $9.2 million budget, up from about $9 million in 2014. It seeks to add two employees – an assistant state’s attorney for the civil division, and a bilingual investigator for the Child Advocacy Center.

The sheriff’s office also budgeted for an additional employee, a deputy. Sheriff Pat Perez said his force was reduced from 95 to 90 deputies when the economy started to sour, and his current staff consists of 85 deputies.

The total increase in the public safety budget is $362,877, or 3.27 percent. Revenues are projected to increase by $535,292.

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