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County Board Buys Wright Automotive

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Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2019 12:00 am

After discussing the project for nearly an hour in closed session, members of the Montgomery County Board voted to purchase the property at Wright Automotive in Hillsboro for $630,000 from the Wright family.

The board agreed to the purchase at their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday evening, Jan. 8, at the Historic Courthouse in Hillsboro. Board member Ron Deabenderfer was absent from the meeting.

They spent 47 minutes in closed session discussing the purchase, and board members voted unanimously to approve the purchase, including $12,000 in earnest money to the Wrights to hold the property. Board member Donna Yeske abstained from the vote. The purchase is contingent on inspection and a title search.

"I think this is an outstanding value," said board member Jeremy Jones.

Although they did not talk about the project in open session, Road and Bridge Committee Chairman Gene Miles said after the meeting that the property will be used for a new highway department. The current facility is located in a residential neighborhood on Seymour Avenue in Hillsboro.

Previously, Miles and his committee looked at putting up a new building on the county farm near the Animal Control facility, but a $3.5 million price tag made that project out of reach.

Miles said the county will have to do some work before they can move the highway department to the new property. Plans include to use the collision center as a repair shop and office for the highway department and the former dealership building as truck storage once some of the walls are removed.

He added that the county will be using coal royalty money from savings to fund the project. As for the current highway department building, Miles said that the plans include using county employees to take down the old building and sell the property for homes to be built, and get the property back on the tax rolls.

"It's a residential area, and we get some complaints about the big trucks there," Miles said. "We feel like this is a good move, and that everyone will benefit."

In other Road and Bridge Committee news, the board unanimously approved 15 bidders for rock letting for the county, and 69 bidders for rock letting for the townships. The board accepted the low bidder for each bid, and included rock, chip mix and rock salt.

State's Attorney Bryant Hitchings reported that he heard from the Dakota Access Pipeline about their counteroffer for funding to fix the roads just that day, and that he would meet with the committee to discuss the matter further.

Other Business

In opening the first evening meeting for the county board, Chairman Evan Young asked member Bill Bergen to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Board members unanimously approved the mileage and per diem requests from board members as well as minutes from the last regular meeting and re-organizational meeting.

Liaison Reports

Board member Earlene Robinson said she attended a lengthy 708 Board meeting, and provided the board with funding updates from UCAN, the Montgomery County Health Department, Continuing Recovery Center and Fayco. She added that three school districts, including Hillsboro, Litchfield and Panhandle, attended the meeting. Applications for the new year of funding will go online Feb. 1, and are due to be returned March 31. No late applications will be accepted. The board will meet again on the second Monday in April.

Robinson added that the board presented a plaque of appreciation to Bruce Sanford, who recently left the board, but served as its first chairman. She also said that members of TASC, The Autism Support Connection, used part of their funding to create decals for homes and vehicles alerting law enforcement and first responders when there is an autistic child there.

"This is such a great use of their funding," Robinson told the board, and encouraged community members to contact TASC to obtain a free decal if needed.

Board member Connie Beck said the University of Illinois Extension set its quarterly meetings for the year on the third Thursday of March, June, October and December.

Other upcoming meetings include the Montgomery County Planning Commission on Jan. 30, at 5:30 p.m. in the conference room of the Historic Courthouse in Hillsboro, UCCI on Jan. 28 will meet with a seminar and meeting and the West Central Development Council will meet in February.

Coordinating

In his Coordinating Committee report, Young said Computer Support Manager Curt Watkins was working hard keeping the county's computer needs up-to-date. Young added that board member Dillon Clark had been appointed to serve as a liaison to the Montgomery County Health Department.

Board members would unanimously approve several changes to the rules of order, including changing the need for a roll call vote on expenditures from $50,000 to $100,000, unless a board member asks for a roll call vote.

They also changed a rule allowing for the chairman and any committee chairman to sign a voucher for up to $10,000, which is a change from $6,000 previously.

Another change was adding a rule that if the chairman requests a board member to attend a board related function, he or she may charge a per diem, and that board members may only charge one per diem per day no matter how many meetings they attend that day. Miles said he disagreed with that rule, as UCCI pays its members $400 to attend meetings, and if they fall on the same day as another county board meeting, that he can't collect from UCCI. Young said the county is following state statute on the matter.

The board heard from a representative from the Small Business Administration for Disaster Recovery, which will provide low interest loans to homeowners, renters and businesses affected by the tornado on Dec. 1. She said they can provide home loans and non-profit loans at a 2 percent rate and business loans at a 3.74 percent rate. Businesses are eligible for up to $2 million in loans.

These loans are only available to those affected by the disaster, but the representative said the application process is easy and participants do not have to wait to hear from their insurance companies. Currently, a mobile site is set up at the Taylorville Fire Station through Jan. 17, although loan applications are available online through Feb. 19. For more information, call 1-800-877-8339.

The board would also hear from Montgomery County Housing Authority Director Kelly Moroney, who provided an update from her office. She said they are currently in the process of closing with HUD for demolition of the Long Avenue housing in Hillsboro, which will be replaced by single family homes and some apartments.

Moroney added that she's also received approval from HUD for the next two phases in Montgomery County, which are to replace Kirk Terrace in Litchfield, and then the remainder of the county's housing in Raymond, Coffeen and Taylor Springs.

Miles said that he thinks the upgrade to the housing in Nokomis is wonderful. Moroney said phase one included replacing senior housing in Hillsboro, Nokomis and Witt, and that all units are energy efficient and accessible.

Board member Connie Beck asked if Moroney would have to start the process over once the last of the housing was replaced, and Moroney said that if the new housing was kept up with, she hoped it didn't have to be replaced for many years.

"We are dedicated to upkeep on all our buildings," Moroney said.

In a final note, she added that the Montgomery County Housing Authority would be taking over the Brown Shoe Lofts in Litchfield at the end of January. She has already secured the funding to rehab the building, which was turned into apartments in 2007-2008. Moroney said that about half the apartments were inhabited currently, and the other half could not be lived in at this time.

She said she feels that it's still a viable project and that the county can't lose additional affordable housing.

HWE

During the HWE Committee report, Montgomery County Clerk and Recorder Sandy Leitheiser said her office is preparing for the April 2 consolidated election, which will be the only election in 2019. Local clerks are in the process of certifying ballots for a variety of races, including city council, mayoral, school board, park district, library boards and more.

In EPA news, HWE Chairman Chuck Graden said EPA Coordinator Bill Gonet had been on vacation, but noted no problems and that he felt Gonet was doing a good job.

In recycling news, Graden said the new Recycling Coordinator Mike Hand was doing a good job. Young added that the new baler is not quite online yet, but they are getting close to being able to utilize it. Former HWE Chairman Connie Beck asked if the county had scheduled an electronics recycling drive for the spring, and Young said not yet. She encouraged them to get one scheduled.

In animal control news, Warden Amanda Daniels said they had eight dogs and nine cats looking for homes, as a few animals had come in during the past few days. They reported that the adopt-a-pet-for-free through the holiday campaign had worked great. Graden said the committee is still working with the state's attorney on municipal contracts, which would charge a fee to each community in the county for the services provided.

"We believe it's the most fair way to do it," Graden said. "We are spending a lot of time sending Amanda out, and many of the calls aren't necessary at night.

Building and Grounds

Building and Grounds Committee Chairman Bob Sneed said the committee continues to discuss the Smart Watt project, and asked the board to approve the scope of the project at $618,618, which includes HVAC work at the county jail among other things. Also included in the plan are controls integration and lighting upgrades. The project is estimated to save the county $27,000 a year in utility costs. Sneed said the committee is still discussing how to finance it, and if the county will pay for part of it up front.

Board member Kirby Furness asked if the board took a loan, how long-term would it be? Sneed said ten years, and they would be able to use the utility savings to pay it down. Furness asked if that $618,000 figure included interest, and Sneed said that number is just the scope of the project. Final totals are not in yet, and noted the county will likely not be spending that much.

Sneed introduced Orry Cummings of Smart Watt, who said the company just needs final approval from the board on the scope of the work to be done so they can finish their report.

Board member Mark Hughes asked Cummings how much Smart Watt gets in the deal, and Cummings said typically 15 to 25 percent. Sneed said if they were to do the HVAC work at the jail themselves, they would have to hire engineers.

Board member Bill Bergen asked if the committee had been reviewing the Smart Watt proposal, and Sneed said they have talked about it for months. He said the board approval of the scope still does not etch the project in stone. It's just the next step forward.

Beck said her concern was that the county board knows there is a problem with not enough room at the jail to house all the female inmates, and that these upgrades do not address that problem. She felt that fixing the HVAC now would still be problematic if they build onto the jail in a few years. Sneed said they wouldn't scrap the new system if they built onto the jail.

Cummings said that Smart Watt guarantees all savings with the county, and if the county doesn't reach that mark, Smart Watt will make up the difference. He added that the average spent by counties with Smart Watt is about $1 million.

Sneed said the board was only being asked to vote on the scope of the project at this time, and the final project and financing would again come before the full board. Board member Megan Beeler asked if the board would be asked to approve vendors for the job, and Cummings said that Smart Watt takes care of all that.

The board approved the $618,618 scope of the project with Smart Watt 19-1, with Hughes voting no.

In a final building and grounds note, Sneed said the committee is still looking into an additional sound system for the meeting room in the Historic Courthouse.

Economic Development

Economic Development Committee Chairman Donna Yeske reported that the Planning Commission set quarterly meetings in the conference room at the Historic Courthouse in Hillsboro for the year, with the first one on Jan. 30.

In Montgomery County Economic Development news, she said the Revolving Loan Fund is doing well. Yeske encouraged board members to attend the CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) program's class business, MoCo's Got Talent on Saturday, March 2, at Hillsboro High School.

In broadband news, MCEDC Executive Director Valerie Belusko is meeting with a professor from the University of Illinois to review and study ways to market high speed internet effectively.

In tourism news, Yeske said Belusko shared a final draft of the tourism financial grant application that will be voted on next month. Also, the committee discussed membership renewal with IllinoiSouth Tourism, which is $2,500 a year. Belusko had been looking into a new group, Rivers and Routes, which has no membership fee. They just added Macoupin County, which makes Montgomery County contiguous to their coverage. The group focuses a lot on Route 66. Board members unanimously approved membership into Rivers and Routes instead of IllinoiSouth. Board member Dillon Clark said he felt like it was a great idea, and the county should do anything it could to attach to Route 66.

Yeske said they continue to haul dirt at the Eagle Zinc clean-up site.

The board unanimously approved three solar projects, two at Crown Three Mine near Farmersville and the Shoal Creek Community Solar project near Donnellson. All three are two megawatt projects, and are contingent on grants as well. Hearings for all three projects took place on Jan. 7.

Yeske reported that the county's Enterprise Zone application was turned in, and thanked County Coordinator Chris Daniels for all her hard work on the project. There were 12 applications for six slots.

In a final note, she said they are still working with the West Central Development Council to set up meetings to see about resolving some issues.

EMA

In emergency management news, EMA Committee Chairman Bill Bergen said the committee is looking into some new software for ambulance billing. Currently, the billing office has problems receiving information on patient's insurance, and Bergen learned of some software that could save them some time. They will discuss it on Jan. 21.

He noted that the EMA Committee meetings have been switched to 4 p.m. each month.

Bergen said the county EMA helped search for a missing child in Wilsonville in December, and participated in a lost person behavior class in January. He reminded local residents of three upcoming weather spotter classes on Jan. 22 at Blackburn in Carlinville, Feb. 12, at Lincoln Land Community College and March 3, at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey.

In LEPC news, Bergen said they are looking to provide focus on the behavioral/drug coalition sub-committee, and said they are hoping to do a countywide training day and a hazmat training in 2019.

In 911 news, they are looking into new radios, and two companies have already provided bids. Bergen said they would make a decision at a Jan. 17 meeting.

Personnel

Personnel Committee Chairman Kirby Furness said they got the report on the final usage from the county's HRA for employee health insurance at $60,995, which is 14 percent usage. They had budgeted for 15 percent. He said based on numbers from Blue Cross Blue Shield, he feels like the HRA was a savings of around $200,000 to the county last year.

Furness said they only have one union contract left to sign and that it should be ready to go. He added that the recycling grievance had been dropped, and the county would allow the workers to switch to an earlier schedule during the summer months.

In a final note, Furness said everyone in the county has now completed the cyber security training.

Finance

In Finance Committee news, Chairman Megan Beeler said they would be closely monitoring the coal report throughout the year.

She said she did not have an update on the property to bid out in Farmersville, and the county is still working with the state's attorney.

The board unanimously approved a travel voucher for the state's attorney for $302.90 from a recent trip to Chicago. State statute sets how much an employee is allowed to voucher, and any over that amount must be approved by the full board.

Board members unanimously added Farmers Oil and ICRMT to the county's pre-paid vendor list. Beeler said the county was incurring some late fees the way the bills fell, so these were added. She encouraged all committee chairmen to discuss the pre-paid vendor list with department heads if there were others that needed to be added or deleted.

The board unanimously approved increasing the mileage reimbursement rate to $.58, which is in line with the federal government. Previously, it was $.545.

Beeler said the committee is also looking into a survey for employees and officeholders to see if positive changes can be made to help the county and the budget.

In a final note, Beeler said they would continue conversation on an update on a budget error. She said the budget would go back to officeholders for one final review, and then the board would make any changes needed at once.

Announcements

Before adjourning, Young presented a plaque he had made for retiring Sheriff Jim Vazzi for his many years of service to the county. Vazzi was unable to attend the meeting, but Young said they would present it at a later date.

With no public comment, the board paid all monthly bills and adjourned around 8:15 p.m. They will meet again on Tuesday evening, Feb. 12, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro.

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