Elgin council approves adding Spanish translator to city payroll during budget discussions

  • The Elgin City Council supported a plan Wednesday to add $80,000 to the annual budget for a full-time Spanish translator.

      The Elgin City Council supported a plan Wednesday to add $80,000 to the annual budget for a full-time Spanish translator. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 12/3/2021 12:48 PM

The Elgin City Council supported a plan Wednesday to add $80,000 to the annual budget for a full-time Spanish translator.

City manager Rick Kozal said the city already offers a "great degree" of information in Spanish on their website and social media pages.

 

"The problem is that the translations occur from various individuals within the organization who provide those translation capabilities as a secondary component to what their primary duties are," he said during Wednesday's committee of the whole. "Having a full-time staff member to provide this position is something that I deem beneficial to the organization."

The $80,000 covers compensation with benefits and will be part of the budget that comes up for a vote during the Dec. 15 council meeting.

The idea of hiring a full-time translator was most recently brought before the council by member Corey Dixon during initial budget discussions. But it has been an ongoing conversation among council members and the community for years.

"We have a city (that) is a majority minority," Dixon said. "It's incumbent upon us as their elected officials to step up and put a position like this in place so that we're not overlooking a significant segment of our population."

Council member Tish Powell said the position is in keeping with the city's focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.

"When we look at our DEI work, inclusion is key," Powell said. "If we're really going to be serious about including folks in our community, we need to include everyone in our community. And I don't know how we do that if we're not able to communicate with folks in a language that they understand."

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Kozal said the translator would be responsible for all of the written language that is pushed out by the city in Spanish. This person would also be available for public comment translation during open meetings upon request but would not offer simultaneous translation of either city council, board or commission meetings.

"The research that the city has performed indicates that doing a true literal verbatim translation of council meetings is something that is beyond the capabilities of a single individual," Kozal said.

The council voted 8-1 to add the position, with the lone 'no' vote coming from council member Toby Shaw. Steve Thoren initially voiced opposition to the idea. But he changed his mind after hearing the arguments of his colleagues.

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