County Board Approves Animal Control Contract

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 After some heated discussion, members of the Montgomery County board unanimously approved a one-year municipal contract for animal control services, during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday evening, Aug. 13, at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro. 

HWE Committee Chairman Chuck Graden said the committee has been working on the contract, which outlines expenses municipalities pay for animal control services, for some time, and that it had been approved by Montgomery County State's Attorney Bryant Hitchings.

The contract runs from Dec. 1 through Nov. 30, and municipalities will pay the county for animal control services based upon usage during the past year. In addition, the county will charge $65 per after hours call, for calls that are outside of regular business hours Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Graden said they wanted to approve the contract at this meeting so it could be presented at the next mayors' meeting on Aug. 21.

Board Vice Chairman Megan Beeler questioned some of the language that said the county provided 24-hour service, but then charged for after-hours calls. She would eventually offer an amendment to the contract, changing the language to read that the county agrees to make animal control services available 24 hours a day.

Board member Ron Deabenderfer asked if the municipalities had seen the contract, and Graden said no. County Board Chairman Evan Young said they had been given a heads up about some of the changes though. Board member Glenn Bishop said the contract states any animal, though it refers mostly to dogs and cats. Young said the county's animal control ordinance defines the services are for dogs and cats.

Deabenderfer asked what if a city said no to the contract. Young said the county is only responsible for picking up dogs and cats in rural areas, and provides this service to cities in the county. If they are opposed to the new contract, they can turn it down and supply their own animal control services.

Graden said one of the purposes of the new contract is to help reduce the number of after-hours calls. Board member Bill Bergen asked if the $65 fee was enough to cover the expenses of after hours calls, and Graden said the committee felt it was.

After much discussion, the board unanimously passed the contract, which will now be presented to county mayors on Aug. 21. During the public comment portion of the meeting, Bill Schroeder made the comment that "nothing gets people more excited than animal control."

Other Business

Young called this month's meeting to order, and only board member Dillon Clark was absent. Last month, Clark submitted his letter of resignation to the board, and it was officially accepted on Aug. 13. Montgomery County Democrats now have 60 days to fill his spot.

Montgomery County Farm Bureau Director Katie Wilson led the Pledge of Allegiance to start the meeting. Earlier in the afternoon, the farm bureau hosted an ice cream social for members of the board as well as legislative officials. 

Board members unanimously approved the monthly mileage and per diem reports, including reimbursement to board member Gene Miles for attending a UCCI meeting in Galena. His request was $40 over the statute, so it had to be approved separately. They also approved minutes from the previous meeting.

During the consent agenda, Treasurer Nikki Lohman said the county has nearly $26 million in property taxes thus far, including more than $680,000 done online with the new system. The county has had two distributions of the tax dollars to local taxing bodies.

Liaison Reports

In 708 Board news, Earlene Robinson told the board they were awarding $599,658 this year of the $784,087.15 requested. Their budget for the year was $600,000. They awarded $194,000 to FAYCO, $231,820 to the Montgomery County Health Department, $6,250 to TASC, $20,000 to SAAD (Standing Against Addiction and Drugs), $43,000 to the Panhandle School District, $43,000 to the Litchfield School District, $15,588 to Litchfield Family Practice Center and $30,000 to Cross Over Ministries. Robinson said the board is getting ready to set things up for next year's funding.

In CEFS news, Robinson said she attended the annual board meeting on Aug. 1. They honored two local businesses with Community Service Excellence awards. The first recipient was the Belvidere Motel in Litchfield, which helps to provide low-cost housing. Also honored was St. Agnes Catholic Church in Hillsboro for offering regular food drives for the CEFS Food Pantry. Paige Davidson of Litchfield received a CEFS scholarship.

In health department news, Sandy Johnson said she attended the July meeting, where they focused on the importance of vaccinations, like influenza. She added that to date, no mosquitoes in Montgomery County had tested positive for West Nile virus. Johnson also said the health department's 5K in May to raise awareness for suicide was a big success, raising $5,000. She said they also installed billboards around the county and have placemats and coasters in local restaurants. Robinson said the 708 Board funded the billboards, and county board members said how nice the billboards were.

In senior citizens news, Deabenderfer said they had one bid for a new roof on the senior center in Taylor Springs, and were awaiting one more.

In UCCI news, Miles said he attended a meeting in Galena, where they provided an overview of the new minimum wage law and other changes, as well as grant funding and upcoming legislative efforts. He also mentioned a UCCI-sponsored trip to Washington, D.C. Sept. 17-19 for any board members interested in attending.

Coordinating

Young reported the county's phone system is up and running with CTI, and they expect the internet services to be up by the end of the month.

Sheriff Rick Robbins presented a resolution to the board to oppose the passage of any legislation by the Illinois General Assembly that restricts second amendment rights. Robbins said he had been approached about a resolution based on the referendum from the November ballot. County residents voted more than 79 percent in favor of such a resolution. Board member Jim Moore said he felt the language was a bit strong in demanding the legislature cease further action, and said he didn't see the point of the resolution. Robbins said the language was intentionally strong as county residents voted strongly in favor of such a measure, although he did note the county does not have a say in the final outcome with such legislation.

In a census update, County Clerk and Recorder Sandy Leitheiser said there will be a meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 21, at both 3 p.m and 6 p.m. with a regional census bureau representative to explain the census process. Leitheiser said this is a very important meeting, and they already have confirmed participation from seven of the county's townships and ten of its municipalities. She encouraged board members to participate as well.

Building and Grounds

Building and Grounds Committee Chairman Bob Sneed said Smart Watt continues its work at the jail complex, where they have installed four or five units and are nearly finished. Sneed said the project has gone smoothly, and they are pleased.

He added that his committee approved fixing some exterior lights at the new courthouse and jail, utilizing a rebate from Ameren.

Sneed said that animals had chewed through part of the rubber roof at the Annex building, which they fixed. Board member Kirby Furness encouraged him to see if it would be covered by insurance. County Coordinator Chris Daniels said they had a $10,000 deductible, and Sneed said it was not that much to fix the roof. Furness suggested getting the work applied to the deductible, and Sneed said they would look into it.

The committee continues to work on the surplus sale, and Daniels said they had most everything picked up. Circuit Clerk Holly Lemons said they still needed to pick up items at her office, and Sheriff Robbins said he had some vehicles and slot machines to add to the sale as well.

Sneed said they had a little trouble with the panic buttons at the Historic Courthouse, and were working to correct it.

Following less than half an hour in closed session, the board approved a second easement with Ameren for a gas line project in Taylor Springs, pending approval of the state's attorney.

Finance

Also following closed session, the board approved a settlement of litigation, and agreed to the capped amount.

In the Supervisor of Assessors report, Beeler said they had seen a rather large spike in online usage of the county's Beacon (GIS) system, noting more than 150,000 views. She said the usual is around 40,000. Supervisor of Assessors Ray Durston was monitoring where all the views were coming from. The county will also see up to a 10 percent increase in fees from Beacon this year, but it's the first time there has been an increase since they signed on with Beacon.

In capital improvement fund news, Beeler said they received another small monthly payment of $30,000 in coal royalties, and that the county is very grateful for it. She said they had a CD coming due in September, and the county plans to reinvest it as part of the capital improvement fund.

Beeler said they finished budget hearings in July, coming in right about $100,000 in the red. She said they still have some work to do to reach a balanced budget, but felt the county was in a good place. Beeler added that one reason is they budgeted for an 8 percent increase in health insurance costs, but the renewal came in at just 2 percent higher. She said the county was planning to put some additional funding into the HRA for employees to help take some of the pressure off the employees.

Beeler said the committee had four requests for the addition of part-time employees, including a part-time summer employee for building and grounds and part-time help in the EMA office. She said they are looking at the requests at this time.

In recycling news, Beeler said they are still talking about potential funding options, including the creation of a special services district and options for a service fee. She continues to encourage board members to share ideas on how to fund recycling, and was pleased that Deabenderfer had sent her a handwritten letter of ideas in the mail. The committee is also looking into the possibility of a non-binding referendum to give citizens a chance to voice their opinion about the recycling program too.

Beeler said she didn't have a new report on the 911 contact, as the board did not vote to approve the county's offer at their last meeting. The offer was asking them to pay 41 percent plus a 9 percent fee for operating expenses. Beeler said the board has asked for more information, which she provided. They meet again on Thursday evening, Aug. 15.

The board unanimously approved an increase in part-time minimum salary fro $10 an hour to $11 an hour starting on Dec. 1.

They also unanimously approved a fee for the use of the county's email accounts outside the county's general fund expenditures. They will now charge $75 per account per year. Beeler said they may also have to approve an intergovernmental agreement as part of the fee.

Board members unanimously approved a fee schedule for information systems services for offices that levy their own real estate taxes (like the Highway Department, the Veterans Assistance Commission and the 708 Board). Due to security issues, those offices have to use the county's information systems, and Beeler said they would also likely have to approve an intergovernmental agreement for this as well.

The county received word that the state's attorney's salary had been increased, which also increases the public defender's salary, and board members unanimously approved the increase, as well as the contract for the public defender.

In IMRF news, Beeler said the county needed to make a payment of $22,945.18 to IMRF, on two county employees currently retired, and it was unanimously approved. She said they will need to make another payment later this year. The board also unanimously approved Trish Roemelin as the county's IMRF agent, since Liz Holcomb left the treasurer's office.

The board also unanimously approved providing remote access to Treasurer Nikki Lohman, when she will be out of the office later this fall. 

Beeler said she attended a cannabis meeting with board member Bill Bergen and Lemons. She said she felt it was very interesting.

"Sheriff Robbins has been telling us for months that the state pushed this through without thinking about it, and it's very true on multiple points, not just law enforcement," Beeler said. 

Bergen added he learned there were craft cannabis growers, similar to craft beer brewers, and that the state was going to pull out all the stops to make it happen.

In a final note, Beeler said that payroll vouchers for non-elected department heads will be signed by the chairman, while vouchers for the chairman will be signed by the Finance Committee, to avoid people signing their own vouchers.

Road and Bridge

In Road and Bridge Committee news, the board unanimously passed appropriations for four culvert projects. Among them was a pipe culvert project on Morrisonville Avenue, split with Pitman Township for a total of $13,000; a box culvert on Grandpoint Avenue, split with Irving Township for $12,000; a pipe culvert project on Waggoner Avenue, split with Harvel Township for $14,000; and a box culvert on Ohlman Road, funded entirely by the county for $15,000.

Road and Bridge Committee Chairman Gene Miles said they will open bids for the surplus paint booths at their September committee meeting. He added they are still looking into two new overhead doors at the collision center. The committee has approved up to $35,000, but are still looking at the possibility of glass doors versus solid ones.

In a final note, Miles said that one county maintainer, Lee Joyce, is retiring later this year, and they will be looking to replace him.

HWE

In addition to the animal control contracts, the HWE Committee discussed upcoming elections in 2020. Leitheiser said that 11 of the 21 county board seats will be up for election, including Connie Beck and Jeremy Jones in District 1, Gene Miles and Chuck Graden in District 2, Kirby Furness in District 3, Jim Moore in District 4, Richard Wendel and Glenn Savage in District 5, Dennis McCammack in District 6 and Glenn Bishop and Dillon Clark in District 7. Petition circulation begins on Sept. 3, and packets are available in Leitheiser's office. There will be no fall election in 2019. A primary election will be held on March 17, 2020, the next general election will be Nov. 3, 2020.

In EPA news, Graden said the county received a larger EPA grant from the state, up $3,000, and Bill Gonet would like to see an increase in his salary. Graden said they were looking to work that out.

In recycling news, Graden said they have one employee out on a workman's comp claim, and have been picking up additional materials as counties around them continue to shutter recycling services.

Economic Development

Economic Development Committee Chairman Donna Yeske said things are going well at the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation. She added that the CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) program is about to kick off a new school year, and the next annual meeting will be held at Jack Tosetti's home.

In broadband news, Yeske said CTI continues to expand in Hillsboro and they hope to hear soon about future expansions.

In tourism news, there is a new tourism video about Lake Hillsboro on the website, and others are expected soon.

Yeske said they will not be able to award a second round of tourism grants this year, but plan to do it again next year.

In Eagle Zinc news, Yeske said they have completed hauling dirt at the site and are now spreading it.

Yeske said there is no update on the Enterprise Zone application, but they hope to hear more in September.

Board members unanimously approved funding for a CEDS document (Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy) that needs to be updated. Previously, the county paid the West Central Development Council to process the document. The University of Illinois Extension has agreed to complete the application, and if enough counties participate, it will cost Montgomery County around $1,500, which is not much different than they paid the West Central Development Council.

Yeske said the county's Planning Commission will meet in October to discuss the wind ordinance.

In a final note, she said that MCEDC Program Coordinator Valerie Belusko attended a meeting of the Community Risk Committee, and is looking to compile data for the county on statistics, like births, deaths, suicides, arrests and other information.

EMA

EMA Committee Chairman Bill Bergen said ambulance collections are going well, although they noted collections for Hillsboro were down about $7,000. He said the county is just a collections agent, and there isn't anything they can do about it.

Bergen also reported a mix-up with the ambulance contracts, but they will correct it for next year.

911 Coordinator Greg Nimmo requested a line item be added to the budget for donations to the EMA.

Bergen also reported they are pushing up the timeline on repairs of some of the radios. Board member Jeremy Jones said they aren't changing anything that had been budgeted for, just speeding up the timeline as some radios are falling apart.

He said the county responded to a haz mat call on Five-Mile Bridge, but it turned out to be water turned over that created the smell. They also responded to a runaway call in Nokomis for a teenager, but it was resolved without incident.

Bergen said the county's drone had been sent to California for repairs, but it should be back soon.

Personnel

Personnel Committee Chairman Kirby Furness said they had originally been quoted that health insurance renewal would come in at a 6.4 percent increase, but were pleasantly surprised to find it had been increased only 2 percent. Furness said the county should see some savings.

They also heard a presentation from GBS, which is a self-funded insurance program during their committee meeting.

Furness said they also received some feedback on updating the personnel manual and will be looking it over as a committee. He said they will also have to add provisions as the state's cannabis laws come into play.

After approving all the committee reports and paying the bills, the board unanimously voted to adjourn at 7:25 p.m. They will meet again as a full board on Tuesday evening, Sept. 10, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro.

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