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updated: 6/17/2014 7:30 PM

Kane chairman: It'll be 'stress time' for animal control

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Calling it a "stress test" for Kane County staff members, Chairman Chris Lauzen attempted Tuesday to lower expectations for the performance of the county's animal control agency after the resignation of its leader.

Interim Director Robert Sauceda resigned last month after being escorted off county property and placed on administrative leave. The resignation came as the Kane County state's attorney's office began an investigation into "personnel matters" involving Sauceda and at least one other animal control employee who remains on paid leave.

Kane County Public Health Department Executive Director Barb Jeffers stepped in to fill the void and find a full-time replacement. Lauzen told Public Health Committee members they should expect a rough couple of months for the agency.

"We are going through a stress time," Lauzen said. "It's a stress test, including getting emails and text messages from some folks who want to kick something as they leave."

Jeffers did show financial numbers indicating Animal Control is about $65,000 in the black despite several weeks of falling behind on bill collections.

"To see those numbers where they are right now, I think this committee can expect it's hard to hold onto those in the near future," Lauzen said. "For the next four to six months, you're going to have to pace yourself and your expectations."

Animal control is designed to be a self-sustaining operation, but that hasn't always panned out. Before Sauceda came on board, the department missed a payment on money it borrowed from the county budget several years ago to construct the animal control building.

Jeffers said she's revamped procedures in the office to ensure money keeps flowing in so there can be a smooth transition for the next animal control director. Actually finding that new director, however, is proving to be a difficult task.

Jeffers said she decided to expand the pool of applicants after reviewing the initial batch. She's sent out a call to universities with animal science programs and trade groups in the animal care world.

Jeffers said she wants a director with experience in operations, management, government and familiarity with the local animal population.

"My preference is to have the person who is the right candidate in there versus quickly putting the wrong candidate in there," Jeffers said in an interview. "I'm going to be patient. In the meantime, I'm trying to reduce the crisis and have some protocols in place."

Jeffers asked for permission Tuesday to hire up to three seasonal employees and convert a full-time kennel assistant position into three part-time jobs to address the recent loss of manpower in the department. The full county board will review the request next month.

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