For the first time since dismantling a Kane County program that provided 24-hour monitoring of potentially dangerous people, officials announced a bipartisan effort to restore the service Tuesday.
The plan arose as county board members debated the transfer of $2.4 million found in a reserve fund that requires $500,000. Finance department officials want to move the $2.4 million into an account that funds lawsuit settlements. Such payments hit a new high of $4 million last year. On Tuesday, the county board approved $122,000 in settlements.
Some county board members view the $2.4 million as a potential funding source for the 24-hour GPS/electronic monitoring system. The board eliminated the program heading into 2018 to address a budget deficit.
With the discovery of the $2.4 million, and another $2.1 million in unspent funds from 2017, talk of reviving the GPS program has surfaced.
Republican board member Phil Lewis announced the push Tuesday by saying the GPS program "makes all kinds of sense" for avoiding the daily costs of keeping people in the county jail. He asked for at least $500,000 to be set aside for the GPS program as the board determines what to do with the unspent funds. Democrats Monica Silva and Theresa Barreiro joined him in calling for the renewed discussion.
"Not using this program, getting rid of it, is a step backward, not a step forward," Silva said. "Bringing this program back is very pertinent to public safety. The least we can do is have the conversation."
Finance committee Chairman John Hoscheit promised to make it a topic at an upcoming committee of the whole meeting. But board Chairman Chris Lauzen signaled an uphill battle for anyone who wants to restore GPS monitoring.
"It is not up to the board as a whole, or any individual member of the board, to reinstitute the program," Lauzen said. "I happen to think it's a very good program. But it's not our authority to make that kind of determination."
Lauzen said he will ask Chief Judge Susan Clancy Boles about the program during a public meeting Thursday. Lauzen said he believes Boles made the decision to cut the program, not the county board, because it is the plan Boles brought forward when the board asked for potential budget cuts. He's also stated he's against any major tapping of the county's reserves.
Lauzen did not allow any response to his statement on the program during the board meeting. After the meeting, Barreiro said Lauzen's comments told only half the story.
"He is notorious for telling the facts but not all the facts," Barreiro said. "Yes, only the chief judge can reinstate the program. But she can only do it if she has the funding, which is what we vote to provide. She's not sitting on barrels of money over there."