Growing the number of Kane County volunteers and increasing the number of "Likes" on the county's Facebook page may soon come at the expense of $64,000 for taxpayers.
County board Chairman Chris Lauzen is pushing the creation of two temporary contract/consultant jobs to recruit a core of local volunteers that will both help get tasks done and act as ambassadors promoting the county.
"A couple people have asked what's the benefit to the taxpayer of these positions," Lauzen said. "The benefit is we need to retain and attract our tax base. We need to provide excitement. Our responsibility is to make this as wonderful a place to live, work and invest."
Lauzen agreed selling the county to potential employers as well as current businesses and residents is the job of every local elected official. However, he said the other duties of elected officials don't leave enough time to network with groups of constituents as much as any of them would like. That's where the new community education and outreach positions he wants to create will come into play, Lauzen said. The success of the positions will be measured in both tangible and intangible benefits, he said.
"I think it's the number of folks on Facebook, 'Likes' or whatever, and how large that network could grow," Lauzen said. "I would anticipate something in the thousands. The measurement will be show me the functioning community in these various constituent areas."
Paying for the two contractual jobs will come from line items deleted in the current year's budget. Lauzen brought forward numbers showing the county spent about $353,000 in lobbyists, a short-term communications position for a former J. Dennis Hastert staffer and webpage designers between 2009 and 2012. All that spending is gone from the current budget, resulting in a savings that can be applied to the two, new community outreach spots, Lauzen said in requesting $64,000 for the hires.
Just about every member of the county board's Executive Committee spoke in favor of the plan Wednesday. The board's finance committee gave the plan a similar green light. That means Lauzen's plan is likely to have enough votes to pass the full county board, though that has traditionally been a place for more intense debate about Lauzen's initiatives so far in his tenure. Anticipating additional scrutiny, Lauzen indicated the people he will hire for the jobs will have no political ties to him.
"I have no horse in the race here," Lauzen said. "There is nobody I have in mind where I said, 'Well, I have this person, let's create a position,'" Lauzen said.
Board members have paid extra attention to Lauzen's hiring practices ever since he created a temporary, but unadvertised, billing manager position in the county's Animal Control agency and gave political ally Robert Sauceda a $52,000 salary along with the job.
The county board is set to vote on the positions next Tuesday. With recent changes to the county's hiring freeze, the board will not likely get final approval over the actual people Lauzen decides to hire.