County Board Approves New Court Fee Plan

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Members of the Montgomery County Board learned of changes to the way civil court fees, criminal court fees and traffic court fees will be collected and distributed, per state ordinance, as part of their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday evening, May 14, at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro.

Montgomery County Circuit Clerk Holly Lemons addressed the board about the changes, noting that the largest portion of the fees collected will now be distributed to the state, instead of the county. 

Lemons said the county is required to approve a resolution addressing how the funds parameters are set, and that she did her best to allocate the funding similar to the way it's distributed now. She said it would be hard to see the total impact this would have on the county until next year, when the fines and fees are assessed. The new legislation takes effect on July 1, and will sunset in January 2021. Lemons said counties will be required to submit reports so the state can determine if the new way of distributing court fees is working.

She added that one major change will be in traffic violations, where all citations are now the same, from seatbelt and cell phone tickets to speeding tickets. Lemons said the minimum fee is now $168, which will mostly go to the state. She said that last year, the county collected $227,000 in traffic fees, which is a large sum of revenue to lose.

Board member Ron Deabenderfer asked what happens if the board didn't approve the resolution, and Lemons said it wouldn't allow her to collect any fees.

"In effect you have to," she said.

Board member Glenn Bishop asked about the fines and fees collected and distributed to municipalities, and if it would hurt them, and Lemons said it would depend on the offense and how the fine is eventually paid.

Board member Bob Sneed said his calculations show the state receiving up to 80 percent of the fines and fees in some instances.

"The state is definitely the big winner in all of this," Lemons said.

She said the background of the legislation was creating uniform fees across all Illinois counties. For example, a speeding ticket in Montgomery County should be the same as a speeding ticket in DuPage County, which hadn't always been the case in the past.

"The exact outcome is much different than that," Lemons said. "And exactly how it will effect the counties is still unforeseen."

Board Chairman Evan Young asked when it would start, and Lemons said on July 1. Board member Jeremy Jones said he felt it could hurt other counties a lot worse than Montgomery.

"It will hurt us a lot too," said Finance Committee Vice Chairman Jim Moore. "$200,000 is a lot of money."

The resolution passed 16-2 with board members Bob Sneed and Glenn Savage voting against it.

Other Business

The regular May meeting was called to order by Chairman Young with board members Dillon Clark and Richard Wendel, as well as Board Vice Chairman Megan Beeler absent. 

Katie Wilson of the Montgomery County Farm Bureau led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Board members unanimously approved the mileage and per diem reports, as well as the minutes from the previous meeting and the consent agenda.

In liaison reports, board member Earlene Robinson said the 708 Board met on May 13 to review applications for this year's funding cycle. They will interview the applications at the next meeting.

Robinson also reported on CEFS, who is having a fundraiser to help make ends meet in August. She said some of the representatives from Montgomery County are looking into a specific local fundraiser to help the efforts here. Robinson added that the Head Start program is collecting Rubbermaid take-along containers, and she would be happy to collect any donations for the program.

Deabenderfer reported that the Planning Commission would meet in June to discuss changes to the wind ordinance. In addition, he reported that the Senior Citizens group was having trouble reaching a quorum. They currently have quarterly meetings, but have not yet been able to meet in 2019.

Coordinating

In his report, Chairman Young said he met with the information systems department and that things are moving along slowly.

He and board member Donna Yeske met with Mark Cornell of Deer Run Mine, and said the mine still faces several big hurdles before it can produce coal like before. The minutes of the Coordinating Committee report stated that the county did receive a royalty check for $15,000 for the first three small train loads of coal.

Young also introduced Katie Wilson, who is the director of the Montgomery County Farm Bureau. Each February, the farm bureau hosted a legislative breakfast for state legislators and members of the Montgomery County Board. Wilson said it was traditionally held before a morning county board meeting, and was very well attended. With the change in county board meetings to the evening, she wasn't sure what would work best. Board member Kirby Furness suggested checking with state legislators to see what fit their schedules the best. Young echoed those sentiments, and said board members would try to work around that schedule. Robinson asked if the county board could have a morning meeting for one month to accommodate a breakfast, and Young said that would be complicated.

Road and Bridge

Board members passed several resolutions for road projects in the coming weeks. They unanimously approved a pipe culvert project on North 17th Ave. in Irving Township. The project is a 50/50 split between the county and the township, and the county's portion is $3,000. The board approved another pipe culvert project on Irving Road for $4,000, all county funded. Another $12,000 was allocated for a pipe culvert project on Oconee Avenue, which is all county funded. A final pipe culvert project was approved on North 15th Avenue in Butler Township, which is a 50/50 split between the township and the county. The county's portion is $4,750.

They also approved the Montgomery County Highway Department Assessment Management program for $12,000.

In equipment news, Road and Bridge Committee Chairman Gene Miles said they were looking at purchasing a roller for some of the work they have been doing. Currently, it costs between $5,000 and $6,000 a month to rent the roller. County Engineer Cody Greenwood found a 2015 roller for $109,000. The committee was hoping to spend closer to $60,000 to $80,000. Young suggested they rent one again this year to see if they like it, and then try to negotiate a price for the one they like.

The committee is also looking to purchase a mower for the Wright Automotive property, and Greenwood looked at several different brands. He's working with Nail in Litchfield on a Kubota for about $15,000. Miles said they are also working on the buildings on the former Wright Automotive property, knocking down walls, among other updates. There is some roof damage to the metal roof, and they are awaiting information from the insurance.

In a few final notes, Miles reported that a two-mile rebuild on Mt. Moriah Trail will begin at the end of May, and seven miles of rebuild will be done on Oconee Road in June and July. He said they would close the road down a mile or two at a time to fix it.

Finance

In the absence of Finance Committee Chairman Megan Beeler, Committee Vice Chairman Jim Moore provided the monthly report.

Moore asked Sheriff Rick Robbins how the hiring was going in his department, and Robbins said very well. They have been able to hire four deputies, and one of them will soon be headed to the academy. He said they have one remaining deputy spot to fill to be back to full staff. They also hired a correctional officer to replace one who took a deputy position, and are currently interviewing for two telecommunicator positions.

"We're getting excited to have a full house," Robbins told the board.

The board unanimously approved both the county audit and the circuit clerk's audit, done by Kerber, Eck and Braeckel in Litchfield. Both were presented at previous meetings.

Moore told the board that annual budget hearings had been set for July 15 and July 17, beginning at 8 a.m. The county would be sending out memos to officeholders to begin preparing their budgets.

Board members unanimously approved a $.45 per hour salary increase for full-time, non-union employees in the general fund, recommended by the Personnel Committee. They also unanimously approved increasing the county's starting salary from $11.25 per hour to $12.25 per hour starting on Dec. 1.

"A lot of us felt that wasn't a livable wage," Moore said. "This is a step in the right direction."

Those employees making less than $12.25 per hour now will begin getting that increase on Dec. 1. They will also then get the $.45 per hour raise, making their salary $12.70 per hour. Deabenderfer asked about the impact on the budget, and Moore said he didn't have all those numbers, but that it wasn't much. Furness said the $.45 an hour raise amounted to about $22,000, and that the starting salary increase would only affect two to three employees.

Moore reported that the committee discussed the shortfall in recycling funding, and that everyone was looking at ways to help fund it.

He said that Treasurer Nikki Lohman and Liz Holcomb from her office attended a training from IMRF, and it was available in May as a webinar for any employees interested.

The board unanimously added CTI, Illinois Century Network and Technology Management Revolving Fund/DOIT to the pre-paid vendor list.

Moore said the Finance Committee had a brief special meeting prior to the regular monthly meeting to open energy bids. They accepted a two-year low bid from Direct Energy for $.04370 per kilowatt hour, pending contract review by the state's attorney.

The board unanimously approved conveying a deed in Witt Township to ABW Auction, LLC. 

Moore asked Lohman to report on what she learned at training about selling mobile home taxes the same way the county sells real estate deeds. She said currently the county collects privatized tax bills on mobile homes, and if left unpaid, they simply end up with a lien on them, which is defunct after ten years. Lohman said she learned that the county can sell the mobile home taxes in the same way they sell real estate taxes, which would help clean up some derelict properties and get them back on the tax rolls. She's working with county trustee Joe Meyer and Associates on this process, and is hoping to start this year or possibly next year.

Moore reported that Information Systems Director Curt Watkins received several applications for the position in his department, and is hoping to find the right person for the job.

Board member Mark Hughes asked about the hold up in completing the work to arm the deputy coroners, per the request of Coroner Randy Leetham, which is allowed by state statute. Moore said he didn't believe the county was holding up the process. They were waiting on serial numbers on the firearms. Young said they could not be insured until that was completed, which has now been done.

HWE

County Clerk and Recorder Sandy Leitheiser said the automatic voter registration will go into effect this summer at DMV locations around the state.

HWE Chairman Chuck Graden reported that Bill Gonet had received his stipend from the state of Illinois.

Graden also reported that the county held an electronics recycling drive on Saturday, May 11. He added that the starter on the recycling pickup is bad, and the committee hasn't decided what to do yet.

In a final note, Graden reported that Amy Patton of Patton and Company attended their committee meeting to ask about the possibility of the county collecting recycling again at area businesses.

"But that costs a lot of money," Graden said. "And we're losing money now."

He said the recycling program loses about $100,000 a year, and Young added that the most recent report is the county is receiving $30 to $35 per ton of cardboard.

"I agree with her. It does help the environment," Graden said. "And it's economic development too."

Graden said many on the committee offered suggestions on how to improve funding for recycling, and that he would like to see a countywide vote with residents to see if they want to continue recycling.

Jones said that Macoupin County just lost its recycling center, which was privately run, and County Coordinator Chris Daniels said that she spoke with FAYCO, which is looking at problems with funding recycling in Fayette County.

"A lot of people all around us are talking about the difficulty of this," Graden said, adding that the county loses $2,000 for every semi truck of cardboard they haul.

Hughes asked if increasing the amount of recycling brought into the county would help to increase revenue, and Young said it would only hurt the county more.

Building and Grounds

Building and Grounds Committee Chairman Bob Sneed said that Smart Watt is finalizing contracts with its sub-contractors and then a kick-off construction meeting will be held and the work will soon begin.

He added that Young has been negotiating with Ameren on easements on both the county farm and the Wright Automotive property, but had not yet reached an agreement.

In maintenance and cleaning news, Sneed said they had a few glitches with the chiller blowing fuses, but no major problems. He added that carpets had been cleaned on the upstairs floors of the new courthouse and the downstairs ones would be done next month.

Sneed reported the conference and lactation rooms were complete, but still need some furniture and rearranging. He said the signage had already been installed.

Sneed added that the committee continues to look at sound system issues in the meeting room and will talk to a few more local vendors.

The committee sent out a memo to all departments for surplus property to be sold. So far, they have heard from the probation and circuit clerk's offices. Once complete, the property will be taken to the former Wright Automotive property for a sale or auction.

In a final note, Sneed said they were addressing the problems of a swarm of bees in the soffit on the north end of the Historic Courthouse, which happens every year. Former board member Tim Hopper is looking into the best way to fix the problem.

Economic Development

Economic Development Chairman Donna Yeske reported her committee had a fun meeting, including a visit from Melba Petroline of Coventry Homes, who is interested in helping with some of the county's housing issues.

Yeske reported the next Mayor's Meeting will be held on June 19. She provided the board with a rough draft of a flyer made by Valerie Belusko of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation to help connect to Atlas 46.

"We want to make Montgomery County an American-made county," Yeske said.

She reported that the committee is looking into the new County Bend Campground, which was formerly the Girl Scout camp, to see if the county's hotel tax ordinance will apply.

In Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation news, Yeske reported that the CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) program held its annual trade show in Nokomis May 7. She added that the county's broadband initiative is still going well, as CTI is meeting with the city of Litchfield on a potential expansion there.

In tourism news, Yeske said Montgomery County has been added to the latest Routes and Rivers publicity. She added that all approved tourism grant checks had been mailed out.

Yeske reported that they were working on moving the barricades back on the Green Diamond Bike Trail in Farmersville.

She also reported that dirt continues to move on the clean-up of the Eagle Zinc project when it's not raining.

In a final note, she said they hope to meet with the West Central Development Council soon, and Savage reported the organization currently has two job opportunities available.

EMA

EMA Committee Chairman Bill Bergen reported that they would only be able to collect 10 to 20 percent on ambulance bills that were initially sent out incorrectly.

He also reported that at the last 911 board meeting, they decided to keep the 911 dispatch office at the sheriff's department, but are still working out the details. Bergen said they would have to work out the logistics for the new consoles, which marked lots of changes in a small area.

911 Coordinator Greg Nimmo and Sheriff Robbins were finalizing a one-year contract, and the next 911 board meeting is tonight, Thursday evening, May 16. Bergen said the county did receive 82 percent of the state grant they applied for, meaning they got $180,000 for new 911 software.

Bergen reported the 911 map book was scheduled to be done in November.

He added that the weather sirens in the community of Fillmore had failed, and they purchased a used system from another community.

Bergen said he was proud to announce that Nimmo had been selected to serve on the state of Illinois executive committee for the IESMA.

In a final note, board member Chuck Graden said he was excited about the 15 new Starcom radios the county got at surplus, which are valued at $5,000 each.

Personnel

Personnel Committee Chairman Kirby Furness said their health insurance representative Tony Johnson would be coming to the next committee meeting to discuss boosting employee health care plans. Furness said they hope to make a decision at the next meeting. He added the county has used $10,568 in HRA funds to date this year, which marks about 3 percent.

In IMRF news, Furness said it would only go up 1 percent this year and 10 percent in 2020, which is not as bad as they originally projected.

Furness said they were working on a grievance filed with the recycling center union, and would change their regular committee meeting from May 30 to May 28, beginning at 5 p.m., as part of that process.

Furness said they continue to work on the employee personnel manual, but are waiting for Kyle Shell of IPMG.

In a final note, Leitheiser told the board they would no longer have to approve a prevailing wage ordinance to be published in local newspapers, which is usually done in June. She said the county will still be responsible to comply with prevailing wage, but state statute no longer requires they publish the ordinance.

Announcements

The board unanimously appointed Kenneth C. Durbin to a three-year term on the Montgomery County Housing Authority. 

During the public comment portion, local resident Bill Schroeder said he spoke with Young and Deabenderfer, as well as Health Department Administrator Hugh Satterlee about a project to identify abandoned wells in the county. He hopes they will consider this project and reach out to local media to get information.

"Everyone needs to be aware," Schroeder told the board. "It could help to prevent a tragedy."

The board adjourned at 6:50 p.m., and the full board will meet again for its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday evening, June 11, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro.

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