County Finalizes Wright Property Purchase

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In a relatively short meeting, members of the Montgomery County Board learned that the county had signed a final purchase agreement with the Wright family to turn the former Wright Automotive property into a new highway department for the county at the regular monthly meeting on Tuesday evening, March 12, at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro.

Road and Bridge Committee Chairman Gene Miles said the county paid $12,000 in earnest money to the Wright family and had the property inspected by Joe Page. Miles added that there were some problems they would need to attend to, but nothing they weren't already expecting. Board member Jeremy Jones asked if the inspector found asbestos, and Miles said he found no asbestos and no mold, which were both good news for the county.

"We are good to go with this project," Miles said.

In other road and bridge news, the board unanimously approved $11,000 for a box culvert extension on Mt. Olive Trail, which is 100 percent county funded through the county aid to bridge fund.

They also unanimously approved the low bidder for bridge letting on N. 6th Ave. over Coffeen Lake. The winning bidder was Depew and Owen Builders, who bid $676,788. The next lowest bid was received from Keller Construction for $728,178. 

During the public comment portion of the meeting, local resident Bill Schroeder asked where the company was from. County Engineer Cody Greenwood said the company is based in Centralia. Schroeder also asked if it was a union company, and said he would do some research on the company.

Board members also unanimously approved three motions for pipe letting, which was bid on a per foot basis. Contech Solutions won the group one bid for galvanized pipes for $1,666.46. 

Metal Culverts won the second two bids, including one for aluminum pipes and culverts for $1,752.85 and one for poly coated pipes for $1,920.95.

In a few final notes, Miles said the committee continues to look into seasonal weight limit postings in the county and that they are advertising for a new maintainer for the highway department due to a retirement. State's Attorney Bryant Hitchings said he continues discussion with representatives of the Dakota Access Pipeline and should know more later in the week.

Other Business

Following roll call, Board Chairman Evan Young asked board member Glenn Savage to lead the "Pledge of Allegiance." Board members Bill Bergen and Donna Yeske were absent from the meeting.

Board members unanimously approved the monthly mileage and per diem requests, minutes from the previous meeting and the consent agenda.

During liaison reports, board member Earlene Robinson said the 708 Board had moved their application deadline back to April 4, as the applications were posted four days late. She also introduced the new president of the 708 Board, Danny Hough. He said that in the future they are hoping to be able to track better who is applying for funding and also that they joined the state association of mental health boards and hope to gain more insight for the future. Hough told the board that approval for funding would be announced in June.

Coordinating

During his report, Young told the board they met with the information services department on the county's technology needs.

"They've got a lot to do and they're working on it," Young said.

Finance

Finance Committee Chairman Megan Beeler presented the audit for the circuit clerk's office done by Kerber, Eck and Braeckel in Litchfield. The board unanimously approved the report, which Beeler said got an excellent review with no issues found.

In capital improvement fund news, Beeler said they had one CD come due that they are holding in savings with 2.25 percent interest, and have five others come due at the end of this month. She reported that Treasurer Nikki Lohman is working on re-investing them.

Beeler said her committee discussed the new minimum wage law, which will be $15 per hour by 2025. She said they are very aware of what this means for the county budget, and that the personnel committee is discussing it too. 

"We will take action as it is needed and necessary," Beeler said.

In other news, Beeler said the county had no bids on the property in Farmersville and only one party showed any interest. 

In correcting a few typos in the budget for fiscal year 2019, the board voted to amend the budget.

"It was strictly human error," Beeler said. "It happens. We are all human."

She said that for two funds, the township motor fuel fund and the township bridge fund, money was appropriated correctly, but needed to be amended on the expenditure side. Beeler said that each of the officeholders was provided with a worksheet and a copy of the budget to make sure there were no other typos.

The board amended the budget to reflect the total of $1.5 million in the township motor fuel fund and a total of $816,000 in the township bridge fund.

Board member Glenn Bishop asked what that meant for the county's budget deficit for the year, and Beeler said she hadn't looked. She said the total deficit for the county would go up, but that the highway department would be using savings to cover it, as they typically do when completing large projects. 

Bishop also asked when the board would get copies of the new budget, and Treasurer Lohman said as soon as the changes were made, copies would be available. Beeler said they would attach a copy of the original worksheets with the minutes of this meeting and the committee would be putting policy and procedure into place so that it didn't happen again in the future.

Following the meeting, Bishop provided his own calculations, marking the county's deficit for fiscal year 2019 as just over $3 million of the total budget.

Beeler said they will look to convey some deeds to the Village of Butler next month.

In IMRF news, Beeler said the county learned that the stock market took a hit in December, taking a substantial portion of the pension funding from $7.5 million to $4 million. She said that the good news is that the county finally got the numbers on the balloon payment to IMRF and that they had budgeted enough to cover their obligation. Beeler added that since they lost so much in December, they might not be considered fully funded and might have to put more in by the end of this year.

Board member Ron Deabenderfer asked if IMRF was a state-run organization, and Beeler said no, that it's a company that provides pension service for municipalities, and does it very well. She said even with this loss from December, the average interest over the past several years is 15 percent, which is quite good.

Beeler added that as the market improves, the county's funding will go back up, but IMRF only provides an annual report and will not provide other updates. Bishop added that the market is already improving in the new year, and IMRF has been able to get back much of what has been lost.

Beeler said that the county received a letter from Kane County about IMRF asking other counties to support a letter asking them not to raise rates in the coming year because of the losses in 2018. Beeler said they are hoping to send a representative to the next IMRF meeting in May to learn more.

Board members unanimously approved a motion to purchase a Motorola software package for 911 for not more than $98,000. The ETSB board will purchase the software and the county will reimburse them for $98,000 which is the sheriff's department's portion. Other municipalities will also be pitching in. It will be budgeted for in fiscal year 2020. Jones said this is long overdue.

Beeler said they are still looking into a maintenance contract for the software, which has been tabled to this point. She also noted that this is only a software purchase and not any new equipment for 911, which is also needed.

The board unanimously approved a new contract from CTI in Hillsboro to provide phone and internet services for five years, not to exceed $1,000 per month. With reimbursement from the State Board of Elections and a cyber security grant, Beeler said the contract was close to budget neutral, and will provide a huge improvement in services to the county. The board also approved a five-year contract with Consolidated Communications for up to $360 per month for redundant phone and internet service in case of an outage.

The board voted unanimously to add vouchers from the 708 Board to the prepaid vendor list each month. Since they are no longer required to pull the vouchers out, the board wanted to find the best way to remain transparent. The vouchers will now be on the prepaid vendor list and will be presented to the full board quarterly.

Board members voted unanimously to support House Bill 0158, which is legislation to increase the local government distributive fund back to 10 percent. Currently, it sits at 6 percent, and the county will send a letter of support for this new legislation.

Beeler told the board that the county will now charge $50 per year for the use of a montgomeryco.com email address by offices that levy taxes with the county. That includes the 911 Department, Highway Department, Veterans Assistance Commission, 708 Board and Health Department.

Beeler continues to work with Treasurer Lohman on financial policies on how the county handles certain financial and budget issues. As part of that, the board unanimously approved a list of 13 financial institutions in which funds and other public monies in custody of the county treasurer may be kept.

In a few final notes, Beeler reported that Coroner Randy Leetham had provided information on the deputy coroners for liability insurance purposes as he wishes to arm them in the future. The committee is still looking at whether or not to replace a full-time employee at the recycling center and the possibility of adding a position for the informational services department in fiscal year 2020. She also said the ETSB board is working through numbers and looking at options as they try to update the county's 911 services.

HWE

HWE Committee Chairman Chuck Graden reported that County Clerk and Recorder Sandy Leitheiser held training for election judges ahead of the April 2 consolidated election.

In EPA news, the board unanimously approved a five-year waste management plan resolution, presented by Bill Gonet.

In recycling news, Graden said they had one employee retire and were trying to decide whether to continue with a full-time position or offer two part-time positions. He added that they might put a trailer at the Nokomis drop-off center to collect cardboard, as it's always full. Graden said the recycling trucks would be used to haul elections equipment on election day and the day after. He also announced that the next electronics recycling drive would be Saturday, May 4, in Hillsboro.

In animal control news, the committee is still working on the municipal contracts, which will be presented at the next Mayors' Meeting on Wednesday, March 13. Animal Control is also trying to purchase one of the vehicles the sheriff's department traded in to Victory Lane in Litchfield. They have been authorized to spend up to $3,000 and Young was going to call and see what he could find out.

EMA

EMA Committee Vice Chairman Chuck Graden gave the monthly report in the absence of Bill Bergen. Graden said they are still having problems with billing for the Litchfield Ambulance Service, and a representative will come to the next committee meeting.

Graden reported that 911 Coordinator Greg Nimmo has been under the weather lately. He also reported that Bergen attended the ETSB meeting in February, where they discussed staffing and budget issues in moving the 911 headquarters from the jail. Nimmo has submitted a four-year budget plan, and will be discussing it with the sheriff. Graden said they still haven't decided where to put the 911 offices, but they have several options.

Building and Grounds

Building and Grounds Committee Chairman Bob Sneed said they continue to talk with Smart Watt, and that he expects to bring finalized plans to the board in April. He said they are looking at $600,000 worth of work, which will include lighting upgrades, control system optimization, HVAC at the jail and water consolidation at the jail, among other projects. Jones asked if all the equipment would be included in the bid and Sneed said that it would.

Sneed said his committee granted permission to Ameren to go on the property at the county farm for a survey, and would likely grant an easement to Ameren for a pipeline project.

In maintenance and cleaning news, the committee is coordinating with officeholders to get the carpet cleaned in the new courthouse. They also had plumbers look at the boiler in the Historic Courthouse and rewire it. The county also had an issue with the elevator in the Historic Courthouse that went down on a Friday, and couldn't be reset until the following Monday. They suspect a power surge on Thursday caused the problem.

Sneed reported that the conference room/lactation room at the new courthouse is nearing completion. And in a final note, he added that they are still working on a sound system in the county board meeting room. They have already purchased one new microphone for the chairman's desk.

Economic Development

Economic Development Committee Vice Chairman Ron Deabenderfer said his committee discussed a request from Circuit Clerk Holly Lemons to have a table at the Illinois County Clerk Association annual meeting in September, and they are very interested in promoting Montgomery County. Deabenderfer said they just have to find a source for the $300 fee, since they can't use tourism dollars for it.

"I think it would do us a great deal of good," Deabenderfer said.

He reminded the board that the Planning Commission would meet on March 27, at 5:30 p.m. in the Historic Courthouse with a speaker from Coventry Homes to learn more about filling the housing gap.

After a 30-day review, the board unanimously approved an amendment to the solar ordinance, changing some wording. Deabenderfer said they want to protect county citizens with the ordinance, but also don't want to chase away anyone interested in investing in the county.

As of June 1, the county will be part of the Great Rivers and Routes Tourism, instead of IllinoiSouth Tourism.

After the report, board member Jeremy Jones asked Deabenderfer about Atlas 46, a new company taking root in Hillsboro. Deabenderfer said representatives would attend a committee meeting, and Jones asked that they be invited to a full board meeting to talk about their business.

Personnel

Personnel Committee Chairman Kirby Furness said the committee didn't have a health insurance usage report as they moved up the date of their monthly meeting. He also reported that Sheriff Rick Robbins, as well as County Clerk and Recorder Sandy Leithesier had shared concerns about recruiting top employees to the county based on the health insurance benefits. Robbins told the committee that other surrounding areas offer better packages, and Furness asked him to provide the county with numbers so they can compare. Furness said he felt that although the insurance might not look good from the outside, employees did not have a lot of out of pocket expenses, and would like to see what others are offering.

He also reported briefly on the update from IMRF and said they would continue looking into it.

Robbins shared some of his hiring problems with the committee, as they are still trying to fill two deputy patrol spots and one telecommunicator position. Robbins said that three of his deputies are also currently testing with other agencies, which could create a shortage. He said that law enforcement agencies all over the country are seeing a shortage at this time.

Furness said the committee has discussed adding a person to the information systems department to get them some help and that the highway department is also looking for a new employee.

The committee continues to work with Kurt Shell on the employee manual, which will be presented to the board when finished.

Furness said his committee also discussed the increase to minimum wage over a five-year period. He said he felt the county will be good for a couple of years, but will likely have to look at labor contracts as it evolves.

Announcements

Young reminded the board of a Mayors Meeting on Wednesday, March 13, at 5:30 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro. He said it would likely have a lengthy agenda, but would be very important.

Young appointed Bob Sneed to serve as a liaison to the Veterans Assistance Commission. And the board voted unanimously to appoint Gary Hulbert to a three-year term on the Nokomis Area Fire Protection District.

Before adjourning, the board met in closed session to discuss whether or not to keep closed session meeting minutes closed from the previous year.

The next regular meeting of the Montgomery County Board will be held on Tuesday evening, April 9, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro.

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