District 6 Candidates Divided on Forest Management

Article excerpt

Byline: Jake Griffin Daily Herald Staff Writer

One of the Republican candidates vying for the DuPage County Forest Preserve District 6 seat would like to consolidate the forest preserve police department with the sheriff's office.

"You could probably save $10 million over 10 years," said Jeff Handel of West Chicago. "The first year you probably only save a minimal amount, but all the support personnel and duplication of equipment at both ends as well as (getting rid of) some officers would save money eventually."

Handel's figures are estimates he determined himself based on salary and operating costs.

Tom Janaes, chief of administration at the sheriff's office, said the issue has been examined numerous times in the past 15 years.

"The times it's been brought up in the past we've done a cost study and it does not make practical business sense," he said. "At best it would be a break-even deal, and that's on a good day."

Other candidates also believe maintaining a separate police force is necessary.

"If you tack on the forest preserve responsibility (deputies) have to leave their car, and then they're not available to handle their other duties," said candidate Phil Saas of Winfield.

Saas would focus efforts to improve forest preserve management on building a trail system that is accessible to everyone instead of those in what he calls specialized sports.

"This is important because there's a lot of forest preserve property the elderly can't use because they'd have to have boots," he said. "The forest preserve should be for more passive uses."

Warrenville candidate George Kocan agrees the forest preserve best serves passive use, but doesn't like the idea of building lots of trails.

"A lot of trails will compromise the kind of feeling and atmosphere of the open space," Kocan said.

He would prefer to keep forest preserve land as close to natural as possible. …