The legalities of Kane County residents losing their homes through the foreclosure process has quintupled the work for the civil division of the sheriff's office in recent years, said Sheriff Pat Perez in a county update speech Thursday. And, County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen said that's a big reason why the county board must do all it can to hold the line on a flat budget.
Perez and Lauzen made a joint appearance before the St. Charles and Geneva chambers of commerce. The pair have become allies during Lauzen's short tenure, stemming from mutual ties in Aurora. Lauzen attended Marmion Academy with Perez's brother. And Perez was the first football coach for Lauzen's son, Elliot. Now the pair are working together to address the foreclosure onslaught in the county.
In 2005, the sheriff's office handled 847 foreclosure sales. By 2012, that number skyrocketed to 5,000. Soon, Perez will add a new staff member to keep pace with the number of sales. He expects his office will handle about 120 sales a week by the end of the year.
"It's sad," Perez said. "We hate to see it."
The sales are the easy part of the foreclosure process. Perez's office also handles all the evictions, a task that was once a rare occurrence for a sheriff's deputy.
"Now we do them five days a week, at least four a day, and we're two weeks behind," Perez said. "We can't keep up."
Perez said evictions are the toughest part of his job.
"I've worked murder cases, domestic battery ... but to have to stand there watching someone taken out of their home and have their property put on the curb, it's a heartbreaker," Perez said. "Every deputy says a little prayer on their way to an eviction, 'Please, let these people already be gone when I get there.' "
Lauzen said in his speech that the very least the county board can do during times when thousands of people are losing their homes is not make it any tougher to pay the bills. That begins with keeping the county's budget flat as long as it takes, Lauzen said.
"The first thing we need to do is demonstrate our respect that these are hard time," Lauzen said. "We have to take some of the pressure off. To me, that's nonnegotiable."
Lauzen also said he believes the sheriff's call for the construction of a new shooting range is also nonnegotiable. Both Perez and Lauzen have backed the range as necessary to meet training mandates for deputies and avoid litigation related to shooting incidents. The county board has not yet agreed to build the range. The board's finance committee, however, recently recommended paying $67,000 for architectural drawings to determine the next step. In the meantime, Perez is in the process of negotiating a contract for his deputies to use the St. Charles Police Department's shooting range.