County OKs Litchfield Ambulance Hearing

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It was a short night for members of the Montgomery County Board, who met just 50 minutes in open session as part of their regular monthly board meeting, held Tuesday evening, Aug. 10, at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro.

Among the items they approved was to provide a public hearing for the city of Litchfield as they seek to increase the tax levy for the ambulance district. The motion passed unanimously.

County board members have been working on this project for several months, and it was tabled at the July meeting due to a change in state statute.

The city of Litchfield would like to raise the tax levy for the ambulance district to the maximum of .45. 

“We are not approving the increase,” said Finance Committee Chairman Megan Beeler. “This only puts the process in motion so the public can come to a hearing.”

Litchfield will host a public hearing on Thursday, Sept. 16, at 5:30 p.m. at Litchfield City Hall, just prior to a Litchfield City Council meeting. If approved in Litchfield, the increase in the levy will then be approved with other tax levies by the county board on Tuesday, Oct. 12.

Consent Agenda

In calling the meeting to order, Chairman Evan Young asked board member Richard Wendel to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Board member Gene Miles was absent from the meeting.

County board members would unanimously approve both the monthly mileage and per diem requests by board members and the minutes from the previous meeting.

Montgomery County Clerk and Recorder Sandy Leitheiser told the board her office had completed another year in their “back to the future” project. 

When employees in her office are not assisting customers or doing other daily work, they scan old records to be placed online. In the past seven months, they scanned 4,482 documents from the year 1979, which means the county has online records from 1979 through the present.

Liaison Reports

Board member Earlene Robinson reported there is currently a vacancy on the 708 Board. She added that members reviewed all ten applications for funding and will meet with them in person during the September meeting.

Montgomery County Sheriff Rick Robbins thanked the 708 Board for awarding his department $10,000 toward the purchase of a padded cell for the jail. He cited rising mental health issues across the county and a need for a safe space to help. Robbins said the jail will pick up the remaining $12,000 for the project. He also thanked Beeler for suggesting they approach the 708 Board for funding.

In Senior Citizens news, board member Ron Deabenderfer said they submitted a proposed budget for this year.

Young reported some issues with the West Central Development Council, noting most county board chairman in the region had been pitching in to help. He added that the state is helping with some paperwork that needed to be filed. Without it, all participating counties would lose their job centers. Young said he felt the problems were being squared away.

Coordinating

In information systems news, it was reported that the Hillsboro, Litchfield and Nokomis police departments are now connected to the county’s 911 Flex system.

Leitheiser reported that she is hopeful to receive county census data by the end of this week. She said the numbers will include county, municipalities and townships.

In a final note, Young said he was still working on restructuring the board’s committees to make them more efficient when the 14-person board takes effect at the end of next year.

Building and Grounds

Building and Grounds Committee Chairman Bob Sneed said Lloyd Meyer has been tapped as the interim maintenance employee with the departure of Mark Brown. Meyer previously worked 30 years in that position for the county, and Sneed said he’s doing a great job.

In maintenance issues, they repaired some air conditioning units. Sneed said the boiler at the new courthouse is past its prime. He’s looking to get a ballpark quote for a new one so they can begin to budget for it.

“Stuff doesn’t last forever,” he said.

They are currently accepting applications for the maintenance superintendent position, which will be accepted until Aug. 18. The building and grounds and personnel committees will have a joint meeting on Aug. 24 to go over the applications and interview candidates on Aug. 30.

Sneed said the county is still waiting for a contract on sidewalk work at the Historic Courthouse.

Development

Development Committee Chairman Donna Yeske thanked Montgomery County Economic Development Committee Executive Director Valerie Belusko for her help with the federal ARPA funding.

Yeske said the committee is reviewing the Revolving Loan Fund to see if any changes need to be made.

The board unanimously passed an amendment to the county’s wind ordinance after a 30-day review. The amendment allowed for companies to apply for a waiver to build a tower taller than the 500-feet originally set in the ordinance.

Yeske said that plans for the Mid-Illinois Regional Planning Council were on hold as the county tries to solve some of the issues with the West Central Development Council.

In a final note, she said she has not heard an update on the governor’s energy plan, which could take local control of wind and solar ordinances away from counties, and that she was keeping an eye on it.

Finance

Finance Committee Chairman Megan Beeler said the supervisor of assessments and capital improvement reports were in board packets.

She reminded board members of budget hearings, which will be held all day on Thursday, Aug. 12, and half a day on Friday, Aug. 13. Beeler said the hearings are open to the public.

The board unanimously approved changes to the CTAA ordinance. In 2019, the state changed the fee structure for the circuit clerk’s office. Circuit Clerk Holly Lemons said that on Jan. 1, the state  will change the case types, so new updates are needed to keep in line with the schedule.

Beeler reported the county hosted four ARPA roundtable events with a total of 75 participants to discuss how the county’s share of federal ARPA money could be spent. She said they got excellent feedback and were beginning the next step in working with Bellwether to see which projects qualify for the funding.

“The communication we received alone was all worth it,” Beeler said. “Even projects that don’t qualify for ARPA funding can be included in our CEDS document.”

Beeler said they are working to put all the project ideas into a single spreadsheet. She also presented the board with a draft copy of the rubric to be used for awarding ARPA dollars for a 30-day review.

The county continues to work with Bellwether on recovering funds spent on COVID last year. Beeler said they are working on calculating lost revenue, which is a difficult number to pin down.

As of now, the ARPA money has not been put into investments as interest rates are so low. However, the county continues to keep an eye on that possibility. If the funding is invested, the county could use the interest generated however it wanted.

Beeler said they are still waiting on FEMA grant dollars. The county’s request has been kicked back a couple of times.

The board conveyed several deeds during the meeting, including two in North Litchfield Township and two in South Litchfield Township to the city of Litchfield. They also conveyed a deed in Waggoner to Connie Albright, one in Fillmore Consolidated Township to the Village of Fillmore, one in Hillsboro Township to Jammie L. Boyd and one in Hillsboro Township to Brett Leetham.

Treasurer Nikki Lohman reported an additional 15 parcels were just sold in the surplus auction.

Personnel

Personnel Committee Chairman Bill Bergen reported early estimates show an increase of 22.6 percent in employee health insurance costs to the county. The company is pursuing a rate relief request and Bergen is hopeful the final numbers come in lower than that.

Bergen said the dental and vision, which are solely paid for by employees, come in at a 0 percent increase with a 21 percent increase for MetLife, also paid for by employees.

Bergen said the committee has started negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents deputies in the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office.

Road and Bridge

In the absence of Road and Bridge Committee Chairman Gene Miles, David Loucks gave the monthly report.

The board unanimously approved a bid of $6,338.03 from Farmers Oil for a new fuel tank for diesel fuel for the county. They are also working on a concrete pad so the tank can be installed.

The Highway Department spent $15,000 in emergency funds on a used 2000-model chip spreader. The county had a major failure on the Irving Road project and a part to fix it is no longer available. A new chip spreader runs around $200,000, and County Engineer Cody Greenwood found a used one for $15,000 from  Ginsing and Son Asphalt in Wisconsin.

The John Deere mower purchased by the county is not able to do some of the mowing work as well as the Bush Hog purchased at the same time. The county is looking to purchase a Bush Hog to replace the John Deere mower, however, mowers are hard to come by right now. They will continue to use the John Deere mower for the rest of the season on lighter duty work.

Loucks said the Red Ball Trail bridge project is still on the schedule for the 2022 construction season.

Safety and Elections

Safety and Elections Committee Chairman Mark Hughes reported the ambulance billing training is done.

In elections news, Leitheiser said they are working on destroying the old election equipment per state statute. She expects the new equipment to be delivered in mid to late September, and then her office will reach out to voters for demonstrations. Leitheiser reminded the board the 2022 primary will be held in June instead of March due to the delay in the release of the census numbers.

The board unanimously approved a five-year extension of the agreement with the Illinois EPA (Environmental Projection Agency). Yeske asked if there was a salary increase with that agreement, and County Coordinator Chris Daniels said the salary stayed the same.

Hughes reported the county got the key for the gate to mow at Nichols Cemetery and is looking into a request for mowing at McDavid Cemetery.

In animal control news, Hughes said they have 15 dogs and 20 cats. The committee is also discussing mowing issues at the animal control facility.

Hughes presented the county’s animal control ordinance to board members for a 30-day review.

Appointments

Board members unanimously approved a four-year appointment of William Montgomery of Litchfield to the Montgomery County Planning Commission. They also unanimously approved the appointment of Amy Patton to a five-year term on the Montgomery County Housing Authority.

After voting to pay the monthly bills, board members voted to go into closed session at 6:21 p.m. They stayed in closed session about 35 minutes to discuss closed session minutes from the previous year and a half. 

The board meeting adjourned at 7:40 p.m. They will meet again on Tuesday evening, Sept. 14, at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

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