County board approves gun range and hears arguments for expanding HR staffing
Rhonda Silence

County board approves gun range and hears arguments for expanding HR staffing

The Cook County Board of Commissioners meeting on Jan. 23 began with a particularly active public comments period. Four residents appeared in person to offer their thoughts regarding the Flintlock Range Association’s proposed gun range. On the board’s agenda for the meeting were a request for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) and lease agreement that would allow the Flintlock Range Association to establish Cook County’s first gun range.

Opinions expressed by the public varied, but ultimately the commissioners unanimously approved both the CUP and lease agreement. In an interview with WTIP, Cook County Administrator James Joerke said, “One thing that I’ve heard from the folks who are sponsoring, who are members of the Range Association, is a real strong desire to be good neighbors to the folks who own the surrounding properties. I get the concerns that that landowners have. I do think there’s going to be a lot of communication between the association and the adjacent property owners, that will result in minimizing the impacts that people experienced as a result of that activity.”

A timeline for construction and opening of the range has yet to be announced.

Also on the agenda was staffing needs for the Cook County Human Resources department. Joerke and HR Director Allison Plummer explained to the board that they have identified a need for more staffing in the department. The county has seen several years of higher employee turnover than normal, which has led the county to identify both staff retention and training as elements in the strategic plan that is currently being finalized. Joerke said that training and support as vital to staff retention, but that the department doesn’t currently have the capacity to ensure that those employee services can be provided. He said that implementing plans for training and keeping staff takes time that the department does not have.

Joerke said, “Currently, we have one and a half people working in our HR department, a full time director, and a half-time, Human Resources generalist. And we’re finding that with the levels of turnover that we’re experiencing, and all the ongoing work related to the administration of benefits, scheduling interviews, conducting interviews, onboarding people, off boarding people, there’s really no time left over for doing some of those longer term planning type activities.”

Joerke also said that the department has struggled with employee burnout, and sees increased staffing as a way to avoid that. Additionally, while the high turnover rate was across all county departments, Joerke said that he saw strengthening the HR department as part of the solution to the issue over-all. He said, “We want to make sure that we’re the right size, in terms of our HR staff, so that we can provide that internal service that we need, again, to bolster retention and make sure that we’re adequately serving our employees.”

Expansion of the HR department was not part of the budget that the board of commissioners approved for 2024, so conversation about when to add staff and how to pay for it will be ongoing, but Joerke said that he sees it as an immediate need that he hopes could be addressed this year.

The next regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners will take place on Feb. 13, but there will be a special public hearing on Jan. 30 at 10 a.m. at the Cook County Courthouse. The subject of the meeting is the bonding proposal that would support the Capital Improvement Plan. Details for the meeting are on the county website. Those unable to attend can stream the video through the county YouTube page. Public comments are encouraged, and Joerke suggested that those who are looking to offer statements but cannot attend, send their written comments to him at

WTIP’s Kirsten Wisniewski spoke with County Administrator James Joerke following the meeting of the Board of Commissioners on Jan. 23. Audio from that interview is below.