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home : news : local   April 30, 2016

7/2/2013 11:34:00 PM
La Salle County agrees to buy computers despite union pressure

Kevin Caufield
NewsTribune Reporter

OTTAWA — A La Salle County Board committee will ignore employee union contract negotiation pressure and recommend a $50,000 purchase for a computer system overhaul within the state’s attorney’s office.
Finance committee members agreed Monday to seek bids on the purchase of 32 computers and move the entire state’s attorney’s office computer system off the county’s antiquated servers and onto the JANO system network currently used by the circuit clerk’s office.
The move is expected to increase efficiency within the court system and between the two departments.
“I seriously don’t believe I could make it until December with the computer system I have,” said La Salle County State’s Attorney Brian Towne.
However, some committee members are reluctant to spend any contingency money because the board is in ongoing and contentious negotiations with its largest employee union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 978.
“I just hesitate because of the negotiations going on,” said committee member Sandi Billard (R-Oglebsy), who also sits on the Salary and Labor committee that is responsible for conducting union negotiations.
“I think it’s a necessity,” countered committee member Joe Savitch, who is chairman of the Salary and Labor committee.
“Are you ready to have it thrown in your face?” Billard countered.
“Yes,” Savitch responded. “We’re dealing with issues involving people’s right to a speedy trial. That’s a major concern.”
Any raise in pay or benefits for the county’s 500-plus-employee union will force financial officials to use the majority, if not more than all, of the county’s $300,000 contingency fund. This comes at a time when the county is faced with dropping revenue while trying to avoid raising property taxes.
But the technical needs of the state’s attorney’s office outweighed any blowback some board members might expect at the bargaining table.
For example, prosecutors in Towne’s office use their personal laptop computers to view squad car dash cam videos because the county’s computer system is too old to support the technology needed to view such videos.
“When I got in to work on Monday it took my computer 25 minutes before I could open my email,” said La Salle County Board Attorney Todd Martin. “And there’s nothing IT can do about it because the system is so old.”

Kevin Caufield can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or

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