Possible ballot question on recorder put off until June

URBANA — Champaign County Board members put off until June at the earliest whether to ask voters if they favor eliminating the elected position of county recorder of deeds.

But board Republicans were unanimous in their opposition to the idea.

Eliminating the recorder's office and folding it into the county clerk's office, as was done in neighboring McLean County in 2012, would save an estimated $40,000 to $50,000 a year, County Administrator Deb Busey estimated.

Some Democrats said they favored putting the issue on the November general election ballot.

"There's no particular political reason to either preserve (the recorder's office) or do away with it," Urbana Democrat Ralph Langenheim said at the party caucus before Thursday's committee of the whole meeting. "Therefore putting it on the ballot doesn't necessarily imply that we favor it being done.

"We can put it on the ballot neutrally and say, 'Here's the situation; here's an opportunity; our long-standing arrangement is being disrupted. Do we want to continue that, or do we want to go onto something else?'"

Urbana Democrat James Quisenberry said he believed the county clerk's office could handle the additional duties.

"The clerk's office already maintains very significant, important records regarding identity, marriage, birth, so forth. I trust the clerk's office to maintain those. I don't see that they would have any less interest in maintaining property records," Quisenberry said.

The current recorder, Republican Barb Frasca, is not running for re-election in 2016, but she already has spoken out against eliminating the office.

Board members said they hoped Frasca would attend the next committee of the whole meeting to answer questions about the office.

But board Republicans said they were reluctant to make a change.

"I think we ought to keep it," Stan James said. "The old saying in my book is if it isn't broke, you don't go out and try to fix it."

John Jay of Mahomet said he had been contacted by four land surveyors who didn't want to see the office eliminated.

"I'm very hesitant to tear down something that may be a gem in the cloud of dust out there in the country," Jay said.

Diane Michaels of Rantoul said, "I really don't see a huge savings at this point. Somebody would have to come with some serious numbers."

Jim McGuire of Champaign said he didn't want to see the duties of the recorder's office become "second fiddle to the responsibilities of the clerk's office."

Board members also approved by voice vote a resolution proclaiming June "Marriage Fairness Act Awareness Month" in Champaign County. The resolution notes that couples who have received civil unions in the past can have their unions converted to marriages, free of charge, for one year.

Board members absent Thursday included Republican Jon Schroeder and Democrat Lloyd Carter.

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