Winnebago voters will decide on office merger

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ROCKFORD - Winnebago County voters will decide the fate of two county departments when they head to the polls for the March 20 primary.

Following county board approval, voters will decide whether to consolidate the county's clerk and recorder of deeds offices.

The referendum question comes months after a detailed report outlined the feasibility of consolidation of the offices.

Any consolidation wouldn't occur until 2020, and Board Chairman Frank Haney said he wanted to eliminate the recorder's position and place all recorder operations under clerk's office control.

Longtime clerk Margie Mullins retired in January, with the board appointing Tiana McCall as interim clerk. McCall won't seek office. McCall will serve until the term expires with the November 2018 general election.

Instead, Republicans Lori Gummow, Magdelena Luke and Nancy Edwardsen will compete for the party nomination. Democrat Paul Gorski runs unopposed for the Democrat nomination.

Current Recorder of Deeds Nancy McPherson told the Beloit Daily News in December following the board's vote that the move was "a political move, and a political move only." She questioned the cost-benefit analysis of combining the offices, while Haney said the consolidation would save over $100,000 annually.

The recorder's office handles land records, military records and all liens, while the clerk's office handles elections, marriage licenses, tax extension/redemption and county board record keeping.

Haney and other supporters said more than 70 percent of counties in Illinois consolidated the two offices.

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