It was a night of recognition as members of the Montgomery County Board honored two individuals for their being a special part of the county.
Montgomery County Board Chairman Evan Young presented Montgomery County Circuit Clerk Hollly Lemons with a certificate in honor of being named this year’s Illinois Association of County Offiicials Official of the Year. Lemons was officially recognized by that organization with her family in Springfield last month.
In addition, the board unanimously approved a resolution honoring the life and courage of nine-year-old Grace Herschelman, who died on May 19. Young presented a copy of the resolution to Grace’s parents, Kyle and Mary of Hillsboro, and her sister, Charley.
The resolution honored Grace and her family’s work to bring awareness to INAD (infantile neuroaxonal dystrophy) and helping to raise over $200,000 for research in finding a treatment option or a cure.
“Grace Louise Herschelman and her family are a light in our community bringing people together from every walk of life by creating life changing events honoring Grace’s memory for years to come,” the resolution reads. “Thank you Herschelman and Galer families for the following words of wisdom as we celebrate the life of Grace Louise Herschelman.”
Grace changes everything. Choose joy. Choose happiness. Choose Grace. See ya in the next world, Miss Gracie, don’t be late.
Board members Richard Wendel, Patty Whitworth and Bev McCoy were absent from the meeting. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, board members approved the monthly mileage and per diem requests and the minutes from the June meeting.
County Treasurer Nikki Lohman reported the county has collected 50 percent of all total property tax bills this year, and 67 percent of the first installment, which is due on Friday, July 16.
In liaison reports, Earlene Robinson said the 708 Board received ten applications for funding this year, totalling $678,613. Robinson said that is fairly typical of the annual requests.
In CEFS news, Tim Fogle reported they are looking for a client sector director for Montgomery County as Larry Blevins resigned.
During the health department update, Sandy Johnson asked if the county was planning to canvas door-to-door to administer the COVID vaccine. Health Department Administrator Hugh Satterlee said that was not being planned at this time.
In Illinois Association of County Officials news, Montgomery County Clerk and Recorder Sandy Leitheiser encouraged board members to keep up-to-date with the latest newsletter as a good resource for legislative happenings.
In addition to the recognition for Lemons and Herschelman, Young reported that the information systems department is finishing up with the software updates to 911.
Leitheiser reported they have moved up the date for release of the 2020 census data. Originally set to be released at the end of September, she told the board she expects to hear on Aug. 16.
In budget news, Young said office holders are expected to turn in worksheets by Friday. He said they are looking into the possibility of eliminating one committee from the county board as to not overwork members when they go to a 14-person board in 2022. Young added they do not expect any cost savings to eliminating one committee at this time.
Building and Grounds
In buildings and grounds news, Chairman Bob Sneed said they worked on a few routine maintenance problems.
The board unanimously approved an agreement with Hillsboro Energy for an easement across the county farmground near the prison. The coal mine will pay $2.50 per foot, and the easement is expected to be longer than 1,400 feet.
In a final note, Sneed said they are working on repairing the sidewalks at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro. The committee has talked with a contractor and is waiting on a price.
Development Committee Chairman Donna Yeske reported they have $95,000 in the Revolving Loan Fund and four outstanding loans. She expects three of them to be paid off by the end of the year, leaving additional funds available to be loaned out.
Board members unanimously approved a 30-day review of the amended county wind ordinance, which includes a waiver for taller towers. The original ordinance capped towers at 500-feet, but two companies have approached the county about taller towers.
“We need to be amenable to change when it comes along or we will be out of luck,” said board member Ron Deabenderfer, who also serves on the county’s Planning Commission.
Board member Jeremy Jones asked how much taller the companies were requesting the towers be, and Young said 100 feet taller, for a total of 600 feet tall.
Yeske added there is still no movement at the state level on the governor’s energy plan, which gives the state the authority over wind and solar ordinances, rather than local government. She said they may look at it again in August.
Young also reported they are at a standstill in creating the Mid-Illinois Regional Council with several other counties, as they are awaiting news about whether they can use federal ARPA (American Recovery Plan Act) funds to get it started. If they can use ARPA funds, they plan to hire a full-time coordinator, grant writer and secretary.
In budget news, Yeske said she included funding for the regional council, as well as the Montgomery County Economic Development Council, as she feels both are important to helping local communities find grants.
In a final note, Yeske said she budgeted $9,000 for the county’s Bicentennial celebration, and they came in $12 under budget.
Finance Committee Chairman Megan Beeler thanked the ETSB Board (911) for going after a $109,987 grant which covers the cost of a flyover update for the county. Board members approved a motion to pay for the flyover, which is expected next spring, and will then be reimbursed by the state.
Beeler added that the county received coal royalty payments the past two months, which was added to the capital improvement fund.
The board tabled a motion from the Litchfield Ambulance District on increasing their levy. Due to a change in statute, the motion will be presented at the Aug. 10 meeting of the county board, which will allow time for Litchfield to hold a public hearing on Sept. 16 about the matter.
Beeler reminded the board of budget hearings on Aug. 12 and Aug. 13.
The board approved two motions granting COLA (cost of living) salary increases for the state’s attorney and public defender. Both are required increases by state law. The state’s attorney’s salary went from $178,960 to $183,434 and the public defender’s salary went from $161,064 to $165,090.
Jones asked if the board would have to revisit this motion when the census numbers are released. The last census showed over 30,000 in county population, but is expected to be less than that when the 2020 data is released. The threshold of 30,000 provides a higher salary for those positions. Beeler said they are looking into that possibility, and Treasurer Nikki Lohman has reached out for guidance on whether those employees would have to pay back the COLA raises if it changes based on population.
Beeler gave special thanks to MCEDC Director Valerie Belusko for helping to plan the county roundtable events on proposed projects for the ARPA funds. The first meeting will be held on Saturday, July 17, with others the following week. Beeler said they have had 30 to 40 reserve spots at the meetings, which are open to the public. She reiterated that no decisions or appropriations for funding will be decided at these meetings. They are simply for gathering information and ideas.
Beeler also presented a preliminary rubric for when ARPA funds are awarded, but said it still needs work.
The board approved a contract with Bellwether for $20,000, paid in two installments. The company will help the county administer the ARPA funds. Jones asked about who accepts liability of the ARPA funds, and Beeler said that would have to be spelled out explicitly in the rubric.
The board unanimously approved an agreement with Liberty Systems for $323,514 to upgrade the county’s election. Leitheiser said the last update was 16 years ago. A representative from the Illinois-based company has already provided a demonstration to Leitheiser’s office and was present at the board meeting. The county did get one other bid, but it was nearly $100,000 more.
Currently, the county will use coal royalty money to pay for the upgrade, but are looking into the possibility of using ARPA funds to cover it.
Leitheiser said the system does still utilize paper ballots and is not connected to the internet or bluetooth.
With a primary election looming in June, Leitheiser said now is the time to get those things in place to train her staff as well as voters. Beeler said Curt Watkins of the information systems department agreed that now is the time to upgrade.
Board members approved a resolution to begin a sale in error fee on tax sale properties at $60 per parcel. Beeler noted that although it’s new to Montgomery County, it’s common practice in other counties around the state. It will help the county recoup costs from tax sale returns.
The board also approved conveyance of three deeds from the tax sale, including one in Hillsboro Township to the City of Hillsboro, one in Donnellson to William Albro and one in Harvel to Barbara Turner.
In employee health insurance news, Personnel Committee Chairman Bill Bergen reported that the county’s HRA is doing well, but the over health insurance shows a loss of $315,000 due to an increase in medical and surgical procedures. The insurance company expects a 15 to 20 percent increase in health insurance renewals in the coming year.
“We’re still optimistic that it will come in lower than that,” Bergen said.
The board approved the update to the employee personnel manual.
In workman’s comp claims, Bergen reported that Sheriff Rick Robbins said they had finally come to an agreement and the county would be reimbursed for all claims.
He added that Robbins had high praise for the county’s entire emergency response staff for good work done on a busy day that included four fatalities.
The report also included that a new corrections officer had resigned.
Bergen noted that contract negotiations were coming up with the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police).
In a final note, Sandy Johnson asked if the City of Nokomis had agreed to the county’s dispatch services plan, and Young said they had.
Road and Bridge
Road and Bridge Committee Chairman Gene Miles said they are getting ready to pour three concrete pads at the new highway department building for three 1,000-gallon fuel tanks. As they phase out the old tanks, the current tanks have maxed out their data and are out of service until the new ones are up and going.
Miles said he did not have an update on the Nokomis Road project at this time.
The board approved an appraisal for eight parcels of land that will be part of the Whitetown Bridge Replacement from Stenger Professional Services in Shelbyville for $16,200. Board member Mark Hughes asked if there was a local company who could do the work, and County Engineer Cody Greenwood said the company has to follow federal guidelines since it will be part of a federal project. This company came highly recommended.
In other news, Miles said they expect to start bladework on Irving North Road soon, and the project is expected to take two weeks. He added that one of the new mowers is down, but they are getting by.
Safety and Elections
Safety and Elections Committee Chairman Mark Hughes said the ambulance billing department is set to get some training soon.
In EPA news, County Coordinator Chris Daniels said the county has two electronic recycling drives scheduled this fall, one in September in Hillsboro and one in October in Litchfield. The company is already scheduling dates in 2022, and she looked into two dates for next fall. Board members asked her to look into one spring date and one fall date in 2022.
Hughes said the animal control facility has 16 dogs and 16 cats. He added that they are awaiting final approval on the animal control ordinance from the state’s attorney and then will present it to the full board.
The board appointed Dwayne Gerl, Marilyn J. Sisson, Dave Hollo, Mark Brown, Kassidy Payne, Timothy Wright, Woodrow Street, Ray D. Kellenberger and Robert Buda to the City of Litchfield Ambulance Board for a two-year term starting in July.
They also re-appointed Breanna Wasson and Bev Whalen to the Coffeen Fire Protection District for two year terms.
After paying the monthly bills, the board adjourned at 6:45 p.m. They will meet again on Tuesday evening, Aug. 10, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Hillsboro.