Should every volunteer have to take a drug test-
BY MIKE DANAHEY Courier News Oct 22, 2010
The City of Elgin might change its requirement of having parks and recreation volunteers take drug tests.
"We don't want to dissuade volunteers," said Elgin Assistant City Manager Richard Kozal.
Until recent Courier-News inquiries, Kozal said, "We haven't heard substantial push-back. We may have to refine the policy."
Since January, anyone who volunteers or serves an unpaid internship with a program run directly by the city's parks and recreation department is subject to submitting a urine sample for drugs.
Kozal said more than 100 people have gone through the background checks and drug testing since the policy change was made.
All have cleared the checks and passed the tests.
"Volunteers work on city premises, with city equipment, with city employees, and represent the city in an official capacity, '' Kozal said.
"Volunteers also often work with children ... the human resources department determined it was good business practice to extend the city's drug-free workplace policy to its volunteer work force."
Some people the Courier News interviewed disagreed with the policy.
While no one is questioning the value of a background check, some volunteers are wary of the need for the drug testing, some to the point of not yet taking the test.
"You don't expect a 68-year-old woman to be doing drugs," said Pat Schrul, who passed her drug test.
As a member of Art for All, Schrul volunteers to staff the desk at Hawthorne Hill Nature Center on the city's west side for a four-hour shift one morning a month. So does Sandy Kaptain, the wife of councilman and mayoral candidate Dave Kaptain.
Sandy Kaptain said she has yet to go for her drug test.
Kaptain also speculates that the drug testing program might cause the city to lose volunteers, particularly older ones who feel insulted by the process.
Each drug test costs the city $35, Kozal said.