Members of the Montgomery County Board had a busy morning with lots of action coming out of their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday morning, Jan. 14, at the Historic Courthouse in Hillsboro. All board members were present except Connie Beck, who was absent due to a death in the family.
In a 17-3 vote, board members approved two GIS flyovers from Pictometry for a total of $187,782, and the cost will be spread out over the next six years. They also approved $39,740 to Beacon-Schneider Web Design Team to host the data information on a website. That vote also passed 17-3.
Those voting in favor of the two motions were Gene Miles, Mike Plunkett, Earlene Robinson, David Ronen, Glenn Savage, Bob Sneed, Mike Webb, Mary Bathurst, Megan Beeler, Nikki Bishop, Bonnie Branum, Ron Deabenderfer, Joe Gasparich, Heather Hampton+Knodle, Roy Hertel and Jay Martin. Voting against the two motions were Jim Moore, Richard Wendel and Sharon Kuchar.
Finance Committee Chairman Gasparich said the board had received several letters of support for this project from area realtors, bankers and other businesses. He also said the county could opt out of the second flyover after the fourth year.
"I'm very much in favor of this," said Deabenderfer. "However, I encourage those businesses who want to use it to find a way to chip in for the cost."
Moore said he was against the proposal because it was not something that the county was required to provide.
"We have assessors to do the assessment work," he said. "The people benefitting from these services will not pay for it. If there's a subscription fee where users have to pay, then I might reconsider my position."
Beeler said the county's assessors have been shown this new program and are all on board and excited to utilize it.
"Our own people will use this," she said. "It will affect the way we do business in this county on several levels."
Kuchar voiced her opposition to the project. She said that the money would still have to come from somewhere and that they were trying not to dip into the coal reserves. She suggested waiting two years to see what sort of a "nest egg" the county has then.
Gasparich said the data the county is currently using is outdated, and that it costs money to update the information and make it work with the current computer systems.
"We're going to spend the money one way or another," he said. "I would rather see us spend it on new data with more benefits than on trying to use the old data."
County Board Chairman Hertel said someone had suggested to him that the county sell sponsorships on the webpage hosting the data and information as a revenue stream. Montgomery County Clerk Sandy Leitheiser said both Cass and Winnebago counties are currently looking into that option as well.
Board members Martin and Ronen said they spoke to their constituents and many would be willing to pay a subscriber rate to utilize the services.
Bill Purcell, who works in the county's information services department, cautioned that the county would have to pay someone to monitor subscription fees.
"I just don't think that will gain you a lot of money," he told the board.
Plunkett added that the cost of the website could go up if they added sponsorships or subscription fees.
"It could drive the cost up," he said. "That's asking for more services, and they're not going to provide it for free."
Just after roll call, Hertel told board members that the Buildings and Grounds Committee has been discussing adding a sound system to the meeting room. However, at this time, they are just asking board members to stand whenever they speak to help with some of the sound issues.
In Montgomery County economic development news, Chairman David Ronen said the organization is working with the city of Hillsboro on having the Eagle Zinc site cleaned up. They have already sent a letter to State Senator Andy Manar and are working on one to federal Senator Dick Durbin.
Ronen said the MCEDC annual meeting would be Thursday evening, March 13, at the Church Street Pub in Hillsboro.
Dennis Shiley and Lisa Casterline of Central Illinois Public Transit made a presentation to the board on an update of their services.
Shiley, who was named the program director in October, said it had been a tough couple of months for their program, and that they were looking forward to spring.
He said he met with residents in Montgomery County in October about the possibility of establishing a regular route, called the B-line, which would make several stops in Litchfield every day.
With their current equipment, they decided they were unable to provide that service. However, they were contacted by Moultrie County, who had a bus in the repair shop they no longer needed and were willing to deed to CIPT. It needs a new engine, but pending approval from the Illinois Department of Transportation, they are accepting the 22-passenger bus with the hopes of establishing the B-line route in Litchfield.
The circular route would take about 45 minutes to complete, making a variety of stops, including St. Francis Hospital, Walmart and Aldi's. It would also offer deviated service, and could take a passenger to their home with groceries or other goods.
Deabenderfer asked about the possibility of taking residents from Nokomis to classes at Lincoln Land, and Shiley said that would be no problem. Plunkett asked about deviations for pick-ups, and Shiley said there would be several pick-up spots along the route and they would do their best to accommodate patrons. Riders needing additional service and transfer help could still utilize the regular pick-up and drop-off service.
Leitheiser asked if they had a marketing strategy to help promote the new rides, and Casterline said the local newspapers and radio station had been helpful in promoting CIPT news. Both Shiley and Casterline hope the city of Litchfield will help to provide some signage for stops along the route. Leitheiser suggested they promote the rides on the county's website as well.
Graden said that since the city of Litchfield would benefit economically from this route, he hoped they would help financially as well.
"I'm hoping they will be supportive with some signs," Shiley said. "Without a doubt, our service provides economic development by taking people to jobs or to shop."
Hertel said the idea behind the B-line route was to increase ridership for CIPT. Deabenderfer asked how many people would have to ride everyday to make it worthwhile. Shiley replied that it costs $280 to run a bus per day. At $1 a ride, it might be hard to get 280 riders every day, but that their program is also subsidized through grant funding.
Sneed suggested they meet with the city of Litchfield as soon as they can, and Shiley said they were heading that way after the meeting.
In other Coordinating Committee news, Hertel praised county employees for their hard work during the snowstorm on Sunday, Jan. 5. Employees were able to rescue several stranded travelers, putting themselves at risk to do so.
"You should be very, very proud of the job they did," Hertel told the board.
Personnel Committee Chairman Bathurst invited several guests to speak to the board about a workplace wellness program her committee has been working on for the past few months. Speakers were Hillsboro Area Hospital CEO Rex Brown, Fusion Fitness and Aquatics Executive Director Jessica Chappelear and Jolie Burris with the county's insurance provider, Consociates.
Bathurst said they are currently in the developmental phase and have no specific plans, but the county insurance plans provide $1,000 for preventative care that can be defined any way the county chooses.
Brown spoke about the hospital's partnership with Fusion in providing a wellness program for its employees.
"It has been an element to our success, and we've seen improved health," Brown said.
He said the hospital also saw a savings of 14 percent in health insurance costs this past year and an increase in employee satisfaction.
Chappelear said that Fusion enjoys working with the community to meet the needs of its members, like providing a CATCH program for kids after school, a free summer lunch program and the MOVE program to help veterans get active.
Fusion has worked with the hospital for the last five years, and the employee wellness plan continues to evolve, addressing other facets of wellness as well as just fitness.
Currently 95 out of the hospital's 145 employees participate in a points-based program. Earning points helps employees earn a membership to Fusion, discounts on their health insurance and even gift cards and other incentives.
She added there are several levels where Fusion could offer a wellness program to county employees. Burris added that they could run the program through Consociates after they work out a few details. Currently, less than five percent of county employees use the wellness benefits.
Hampton+Knodle asked Brown if the health insurance savings could be solely attributed to the wellness program, and he said that's difficult to assess, but they do feel that the wellness program has a part of that savings. She also asked of the 95 employees who participate, how many were active. Chappelear said around a third of them were close to the incentive for health insurance savings.
Bathurst said they would most likely offer a matching program, where the county would help subsidize a wellness program, offered to all employees whether or not they used the county's insurance.
In other personnel news, Bathurst said the committee had gotten back to working on updating the personnel manual, but had discovered an updated template. They are waiting to update specific policies until they examine the template.
There was one change they wanted to make immediately, and board members approved it unanimously. The policy changed the language about classification of personnel, defining the work week as 40 hours for employees.
She also noted the committee approved a contract with the Fraternal Order of Police and was currently up-to-date on all union contracts.
Building and Grounds
Building and Grounds Committee Chairman Sneed said work continues on the updated HVAC system at the new courthouse and progress was going well.
He said in maintenance updates, the county replaced the diesel tank on the generator, and saved $1,500 by using the county's front end loader to lift equipment instead of renting a small crane.
Sneed said that one of the county's sheriff new vehicles was totalled in a wreck and would need to be replaced. They received a quote of $30,860 from Roger Jennings in Hillsboro for a 2014 Chevy Tahoe PPV. It would also cost about $1,000 to transfer the radios and other equipment to the new vehicle. The county's insurance company paid just over $28,000 and the other driver's insurance paid about $2,500. In the end, Sneed said the replacement would only cost the county around $900.
Sneed also commended county workers for their hard work in snow removal from the courts complex, including a new employee hired to clean the parking lots.
He reported that work had not yet been started on the county parking lot across the street from the new courthouse, but hoped to start when the weather was nicer.
Sneed said his committee was advertising for a part-time position to clean at the courts complex for $10 an hour, starting March 1. The position would replace the current cleaning service and save about half the cost.
His committee also looked into the possibility of a sound system for the meeting room, but it's very costly. He said it was one of the things taken out of the renovation plans because of the expense. He encouraged board members to stand when they were speaking and to speak clearly. If that doesn't help, they will look into proceeding with a sound system.
They received one bid for a generator for the animal control facility and were hoping to receive one or two more before purchasing one.
He also reported that the Montgomery County Health Department is looking into building an addition to replace the current facility on School Street in Hillsboro, which is in need of major repairs. The county does not need the building, and encouraged the health department to try and sell it to help offset the cost of the addition.
Road and Bridge
Road and Bridge Committee Chairman Miles said the bond company for the Red Ball Trail project has begun to look into the problems as they are about to lose their bond.
The county received one bid in the fuel letting from M&M Service Company for $3.151 per gallon for unleaded and $3.426 per gallon for diesel. A special meeting will be held for the rock letting bids on Wednesday, Jan. 22, at 9 a.m. at the County Highway Department.
The committee also discussed a 15-year plan with County Engineer Kevin Smith, including straightening out a road going into Nokomis and blacktopping the Nokomis-Fillmore Road, Taylorville Road and Black Diamond Road.
Board members voted unanimously to advertise for bids for a new four-wheel drive crew cab truck for the highway department. None of its vehicles have four-wheel drive, which could be needed during inclement weather. Miles said there is funding in the equipment repair budget for this purchase. The truck will be used by Smith, and his truck will replace one of the department's older trucks. They will see if any of the townships are interested in purchasing one of the older trucks.
Smith said it will probably take longer than two months for the county to get the tandem truck that was approved at last month's board meeting.
Economic Development Committee Chairman Hampton+Knodle said the committee has been reviewing the Revolving Loan fund policies and will present them to that board this month. Currently, the county's two revolving loans are being paid and on track.
In Central Illinois Economic Development Authority news, Hampton+Knodle said she is doubtful the potential housing redevelopment project in Sangamon County will go through.
She noted that the Planning Commission is looking at some recommendations for the Structural Notification permit, and is interested in learning about adding some teeth to the policy to help municipalities enforce it.
In Enterprise Zone news, Hampton+Knodle said the next mayoral roundtable will be Wednesday, Feb. 5, at 5:30 p.m. and refreshments will be served. All mayors are invited to attend, whether or not their municipality is a member of the Enterprise Zone.
A representative from the Clean Line Energy Grain Belt Transmission had contacted Hampton+Knodle before Christmas, and she has passed along the information to Betsy Wilson of the State's Attorney's office to review.
The Montgomery County Farm Bureau is hosting an informational meeting on Monday afternoon, Jan. 20, at 1 p.m. about land easements for this transmission line and other Ameren projects.
Hampton+Knodle also noted that the Montgomery County Farm Bureau will host a breakfast for county board members at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, March 11, prior to the next county board meeting. Following the meeting, there will be a tour of Deer Run Mine in Hillsboro, weather permitting.
Board members voted unanimously to set aside one-third of the coal royalties check each month, starting in January, for a long-term investment fund.
Hampton+Knodle made a presentation to the board about the purpose of saving funds for capital investments, not for paying operating expenses. She said it would help the county prepare for when the coal reserves are depleted and also help to maintain strong physical and social infrastructure for long-term viability and competitive position.
Some of those ideas included upgrading roads and bridges, sidewalks, demolition of buildings, expanding or modernizing water, electric, natural gas or telecommunication lines, workforce development training, community enhancements along with lots of other possibilities.
"We only have one opportunity to try to use this coal royalty money to impact our county positively," she told the board. "Let's try and think beyond where we have been."
Gasparich said he asked the Finance Committee to come up with options, and they agreed to set aside one-third of the royalties each month. If they decide they can't afford that, they can stop at any time.
Beeler said based on past history, the county could receive up to $2 million in coal royalties in 2014. One-third of that would be $600,000 to start this fund, leaving the county more than $1.6 million to help with operating expenses and a rainy day fund.
Graden asked if they could put the long-term investment fund in an interest bearing account, and Gasparich said yes, but that interest rates are very low right now.
Board members also voted unanimously to send a letter to State Representative Wayne Rosenthal and State Senator Andy Manar in opposition to House Bill 924, which amends the prevailing wage act. Gasparich said the biggest change calls for government entities to hire a "responsible bidder" for all projects, which requires the bidder to have an apprenticeship program.
"This law will limit our ability to hire who we need to hire to do business," Gasparich said.
Hertel said the county already has a PLA for projects over $100,000, including many of the facets of the new bill. However, it would be much harder if smaller projects had the same requirements.
Beeler added that the language of the law included bidding from minority and woman-owned companies, which would be hard to get bids in this area that qualified. Ronen echoed her sentiments saying the county would be forced to look to the Metro-East area for bidders instead of using those in the county.
"We want to do what we can to help right here," Ronen said.
Sneed said that most of the maintenance projects are small jobs, and they are able to use local workers. This law would hinder their ability to get projects done in a timely fashion.
The bill has already passed in the House of Representatives 60 to 50, but has not yet been called to the Senate floor.
Gasparich said his committee voted to keep mileage reimbursement at $.55 per mile, instead of the new IRS rate of $.56 per mile.
He also talked about working with Emergency Management Coordinator Diana Holmes to help work with the transit group of travelers who come through Montgomery County every day on Interstate 55, and how to meet their needs in times of emergencies.
EMA Committee Chairman Glenn Savage said the county is collecting for ambulance calls at the appropriate rate.
Board members unanimously approved the CMS resolution, which allows the county to participate in the Illinois Federal Surplus Program.
Savage also introduced a new program to the board, the Illinois Public Works Mutual Aid Network, which costs $250 a year. The organization helps communities like Washington, which was leveled by a tornado, to clean-up. Gasparich said IPWMAN workers cleaned up 60 to 70 percent of Washington. If the municipality receives state or federal disaster aid, then the IPWMAN workers are reimbursed. If not, they do not get paid.
Savage said the committee is still looking into the network and reading the fine print, but he feels "it's the best $250 the county could ever spend."
Miles reminded the board that if they entered the agreement, they would be required to send workers to other communities in times of need and may not get reimbursed for it. Hertel said they do not have to send resources if there are none available.
Engineer Smith said he sees the network as a positive thing and they can get some reimbursement sometimes. The EMA Committee will continue to look at the network.
There are several upcoming EMA meetings including a Local Emergency Planning Committee meeting on Monday, Jan. 27, at 6 p.m. at the health department and an AED/CPR class for county employees and board members on Feb. 12.
Board members Webb and Gasparich are working with local officials on the MABAS program to show them how it works and what it can do for them.
Holmes reported she is currently working with Latter Rain Ministries and the building they purchased, which was formerly Litchfield HealthCare Center, as a large disaster relief site. She said Latter Rain Ministries has been very cooperative. Their facilities were also opened as an emergency shelter during the snowstorm with 38 people staying there.
In the absence of HWE Committee Chairman Beck, Graden provided the monthly report.
Leitheiser said things are going smoothly in preparation for the upcoming election.
Graden said they had several problems at the recycling center due to the cold weather, and had some repairs.
He added that Bill Gonet gave his quarterly report to the committee, and they are seriously considering a new truck for him.
In animal control news, Graden said the committee is discussing the possibility of volunteers running the county's animal control facility. Several committee members are taking a trip to Mason County to see how their shelter is run, and will revisit the idea in a few months.
Deabenderfer asked if the full board would discuss the decisions and Hertel said yes.
"We're just sharing the thought with you now," Graden said. "We are still studying it, and the county would still oversee it. We will have a hand in it regardless."
In other business, Hertel said the Code Red notification system did work to notify residents during the snowstorm. He said it may not have been perfect, but it worked.
Before adjourning, Bill Schroeder made a few comments to the board. He also suggested calling in the "big guns" for the Red Ball Trail problems and that the county should look into other investments with the coal money that might yield a higher return. Hertel said they have to be careful with public money, especially when it's risky.