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Cook County: Board OKs smaller borrowing plan than President Todd Stroger sought
$251 million deal is $73 million less than what Stroger wanted

Friday, April 03, 2009
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

The Cook County Board on Thursday approved borrowing more than $251 million for construction, building improvements and computer equipment, after slashing Board President Todd Stroger's original borrowing proposal.

Commissioners eliminated or delayed dozens of projects that would have required borrowing another $73 million. Earlier this year, they also rejected Stroger's proposal to borrow another $364 million to cover yearly operating costs.

By the time the paring was complete, Commissioner Forrest Claypool (D-Chicago), a Stroger critic, said money was being borrowed only for projects that "are necessary and important for the functioning of our county."

Stroger, who has long maintained that all the proposed projects were vital, said he could live with the board's action.

"It's just like when you have a house," he said. "You have to make a determination when it's time to replace your roof or windows. You have the same situation here. You can defer some things."

The borrowing will pay for projects mandated by court order, needed to meet safety requirements and deemed essential for county operations.

One project involves spending $8.5 million to replace an antiquated computer system that tracks thousands of jail detainees. Attorneys representing the detainees Monday asked a federal judge to make the county spend that money, after the system went down for 18 hours earlier this year.

Money for the new jail computer system was added to the borrowing plan approved Thursday because of the immediate need and legal action.

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