In its first regular monthly meeting since the November election, members of the Montgomery County Board discussed at length the possibility of providing a new home for the 911 dispatch services, on Tuesday morning, Dec. 11, at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro.
Currently, the 911 dispatch system is housed at the jail, under the authority of the sheriff's department. When funds were short for 911 in 2010, the sheriff's department took over management of the division, and all dispatchers are cross-trained and help with duties at the jail as well, including bonding, unlocking doors and providing female dispatchers as matrons to female prisoners. At this time, all the corrections officers are male, so the female dispatchers serve as matrons for the female prisoners.
Greg Nimmo, who serves as the 911 coordinator for Montgomery County, said he would like to see the 911 headquarters moved to the new courthouse where the EMA (emergency management) office is currently located.
Board member Mark Hughes asked why Nimmo was interested in the move, and Nimmo said their space in the sheriff's department was small. He is also in the process of applying for up to $400,000 in grant funding through the Illinois State Police to upgrade the 911 equipment. Eventually, the county's 911 board will be required to update its outdated equipment, and Nimmo said the grant would be a great start to providing funding for that.
Nimmo said timing is crucial, because the grant deadline is Jan. 31, 2019, and asked the board to decide that morning if it would be possible to move the 911 office.
"In 2010, 911 lost the ability to fund itself on its own," Nimmo told the board. "So we consolidated with the sheriff. They stepped up and helped out."
Hughes asked if the grant funding would make 911 self-sustaining, and Nimmo said with using the funds from the Nokomis and Litchfield dispatch fees, it would.
Hughes then posed a question to new Sheriff Rick Robbins about how much additional revenue would be needed by the sheriff's department to cover the duties now done by dispatchers. Robbins said he couldn't answer those specifics at this time.
"It's a whole lot of work to do real quick," Robbins said. "I don't know how it will play out, but I support it 100 percent if the county can pay for it."
He added that it could be very successful, but they would have to revisit the sheriff's budget by taking out the Litchfield and Nokomis dispatching fees.
"We know we are putting the cart ahead of the horse," said Nimmo. "But we have a very narrow window of time, and location is key to this grant."
Board member Jeremy Jones asked if the grant could also provide funding to help the sheriff's department upgrade its dispatch equipment, and Nimmo said he planned to write the grant for as much as he could. Jones also asked if it was a competitive grant, where they were competing against other organizations for grant funds, and Nimmo said it was.
Board member Kirby Furness asked if Nimmo knew how much it would cost to move, and Nimmo said in the end, they will have to have this new equipment, and getting a grant would be a big step in helping to pay for it.
Darin Beckman, who serves as the chief of police in Fillmore and a member of the 911 Board, said it would be cumbersome to upgrade the system in its current location and still be operational. If 911 had a new location, he felt the transition would be easier.
Jones asked if the county had considered charging 911 a rental fee to use county space, and Building and Grounds Committee Chairman Bob Sneed said they discussed a similar fee to what the ambulance district pays.
Jones also asked how much it would cost to bring the sheriff's department equipment up-to-date, and Nimmo said $300,000 to $500,000. Sheriff Robbins said that figure is only for software and wouldn't include any hardware needed for the update.
Jones asked Sheriff Robbins if additional personnel would be needed by the sheriff's department, and he said he didn't have the answer to that question at this time. Nimmo said that the dispatchers would provide all the same services they do now with the exception of bonding and serving as matrons for the female prisoners.
"We have the opportunity to get a big chunk of change," Nimmo said.
Nimmo said 911 should be notified by June 30, whether or not they received the grant funding.
County Clerk and Recorder Sandy Leitheiser suggested the board consider additional IT help for an upgrade of this magnitude as the county's two employees are already very busy. Nimmo said they have been involved since day one of the discussions, and that most of the upgrade work would be done by outside vendors.
Board member Chuck Graden called for the question, and Sneed made a motion to allow space in the new courthouse for 911, pending they receive the grant. In addition, the conference room would still be able to be used by other county entities.
Board Vice Chairman Megan Beeler also reminded the board that the 911 Board has the authority to move the dispatch services wherever they want, including another community. Sneed said at this time, the 911 Board was only asking for space, and Board Chairman Evan Young felt like the grant was a good idea to help offset the costs of the 911 upgrades.
In a unanimous decision, the board agreed to let 911 begin the grant application process, which includes the new space. If they do not receive the grant, the county could revisit it.
Board members Dillon Clark and Richard Wendel were absent from the meeting. New board member Dennis McCammack led the Pledge of Allegiance, and both the minutes from the previous meeting and the mileage and per diem requests were approved unanimously.
Under the consent agenda, Circuit Clerk Holly Lemons reported that Kerber, Eck and Braeckel will be coming to her office this week to begin the annual audit process. Newly elected Treasurer Nikki Lohman reported the annual budget reports had been printed and each board member received a copy.
In CEFS news, board member Earlene Robinson said CEFS is looking for some volunteers to help count homeless people in the county, as they are required to do so annually on the last Wednesday in January. Last year, there were 22 in the CEFS coverage area. Robinson said they are seeking volunteers to help reach out to people and share some of the CEFS services as well.
In 708 Board news, Robinson introduced Kenny Ryker, who was later unanimously nominated to the 708 Board. Ryker said he is a lieutenant with the Litchfield Police Department, where he has served for 17 years, including five years with the Drug Task Force.
Robinson also reminded the community that applications for 708 Board funding will be available Feb. 1, and are due back March 1. She said no late or incomplete applications will be considered.
Board member Ron Deabenderfer invited county board members to the Senior Citizens meeting later on Tuesday for a Christmas feast.
In UCCI news, board member Gene Miles said the group met in November and discussed the results of the mid-term elections.
In the Coordinating Committee Report, Young said the information systems department is currently working to update computers in the circuit clerk's office.
Road and Bridge
In Road and Bridge Committee news, Chairman Gene Miles asked County Engineer Cody Greenwood to provide an update on how the county assisted with the tornado clean-up in Taylorville.
Greenwood said he was contacted by the county engineer in Christian County for help, and Montgomery County sent two men and two dump trucks to work for four days cleaning up debris. Greenwood said that efforts continue in Taylorville, and the community can use all the help it can get.
Board member Glenn Savage asked if the IPWMAN (Illinois Public Works Mutual Aid Network) was able to help, and Nimmo said Taylorville was not signed up for the program and was ineligible for the assistance. Montgomery County has signed up to be part of the program, which provides reimbursement to mutual aid providers in the case of a disaster, for $250 a year. Nine of the county's 20 municipalities are signed up for the program, which costs communities $100 per year. Jones encouraged all county communities to get signed up.
Board members would unanimously pass an amended resolution to spend motor fuel tax dollars in the coming year, which are estimated to be $816,625.
Miles reported the Road and Bridge Committee switched meeting days with the Finance Committee, and will now meet monthly on the first Thursday of the month at 8:30 a.m.
Board members unanimously approved the high bid of $61,125 from Will County as the highest bidder in the sale of the county's 2012 International dump truck.
The board also unanimously approved the low bid bulk fuel bid from Farmers Oil, and the delivered price was $.04 less than the other bidder. Greenwood said the price of the gas will fluctuate, but they bid out the delivery cost, which came in lowest from Farmers Oil.
Miles reported the county gave a counteroffer to the Dakota Access Pipeline of just over $650,000, down from the original offer of $800,000. Graden asked if it would cover the cost of the repairs, and Miles said it would cover the cost of the materials.
In a few final notes, Miles reported that they need to do some fix-up work at the Highway Department building, including two bathrooms on the second floor. He said his committee also talked about the possibility of cleaning up a property in Butler, and they would continue to look into it.
Board members unanimously approved an appropriation to purchase a front-end loader for just over $115,000. The purchase was approved at a previous meeting, but the board needed to vote for the appropriation to pay for it.
In the Finance Committee Report, Chairman Megan Beeler reported there were 69 complaints for property assessments with the supervisor of assessor's office. The final day to file a complaint was Dec. 3.
She also reported some good news for the capital improvement fund, noting a CD had been reinvested in November for 2.8 percent, which is a full percentage point higher than before. Two other CDs come due in the new year, and she is hopeful interest rates will remain the same.
The committee also discussed a county-owned parcel in Farmerville that was deeded over from Springfield Coal several years ago. The state's attorney's office is preparing language to put a bid out on the property.
With the board meetings moving to the evening, board members will no longer be able to visit the treasurer's office after the meeting to pick up their checks. Beeler said the county is suggesting direct deposit as the fastest way to get mileage and per diem checks. She added that the soonest checks would be available for pick up would be Thursday afternoon, following the Tuesday meeting.
Deabenderfer asked if employers were allowed to require direct deposit, and Beeler said she was unsure of the legality of requiring it.
Treasurer Lohman said that all new county employees use direct deposit. Beeler added that it's very easy to enroll.
She reported that the committee will move its meetings to the first Wednesday of the month at 3 p.m. to better accommodate schedules.
In a final note, Beeler reported that Sheriff Robbins attended the Finance Committee meeting to discuss potential needs and issues, and that he will continue to do so on a regular basis.
New HWE Committee Chairman Chuck Graden reported amendments to the county's Food Service Sanitation Ordinance, as required by state law, and it passed unanimously.
The board also unanimously hired Mike Hand as the new recycling coordinator. He said they interviewed five applicants, who were all very good. Board member Jim Moore asked if he would start at the same salary as before, and Graden said he would make $33,000 which is about $1,000 less than the previous coordinator was making.
In other recycling news, Graden reported the reconditioned baler had arrived at the center, and Young said it was up and running despite a few hiccups. Graden thanked the highway department for transporting and delivering the baler and to Young for the use of his forklift. Deabenderfer asked about the old baler, which was traded to a company in Taylorville.
Graden reported the recycling union has filed a grievance with the county over hours worked. Their contract hours are 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., but were allowed to work 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. when the weather was hot. The employees liked those hours, and continued them, even when it was not hot. Young said he told them they had to return to the other hours, as it's still dark outside at 6:30 a.m.
In animal control news, Graden said that Animal Control Warden Amanda Daniels would be meeting with the state's attorney to discuss the municipality contracts.
Buildings and Grounds
In addition to the 911 move discussion, Sneed reported that his committee continued to work with Smart Watt on energy upgrades for the county. At this point, they are leaning toward having work done at the jail, but nothing has been finalized. He said there will not be any solar work done at this time.
In maintenance issues, they had some heat valves stuck at the new courthouse, which created issues with the heat. Johnson Controls has been on the property, and Sneed said they are working to get everything up and running, including more preventative maintenance.
The committee also worked with Circuit Clerk Holly Lemons and Judge Jim Roberts on providing a lactation room and a conference room at the new courthouse. Both will be set up in the law library.
New Economic Development Committee Chairman Donna Yeske gave kudos to Montgomery County Economic Development Executive Director Valerie Belusko for all her hard work in helping with the Planning Commission and other projects in the county.
In Revolving Loan Fund news, Belusko said a business was sold, but the original owner will continue to pay off the revolving loan fund, and is currently making double payments so she sees no reason that the county will not get paid.
Yeske reported the CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) students were planning a talent show for their class business. In broadband news, she reported that CTI continues to install fiber in Hillsboro.
In Eagle Zinc news, Yeske reported that workers continue to haul in dirt in their clean-up efforts.
In solar news, Yeske said there are two sites in the county vying for solar energy grants, including one in Farmersville at the site of the old Crown 3 mine and one in Donnellson between the railroad tracks and the substation. The hearing for the Farmersville project is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 7, at 4:30 p.m. in the county board room at the Historic Courthouse in Hillsboro. The hearing for the Donnellson site is also scheduled for that same day at 3:30 p.m. Yeske said the plans were very interesting and that both projects were very eco-friendly.
In Enterprise Zone news, Yeske reported that County Coordinator Chris Daniels continued to collect documents from municipalities as part of the application process.
In West Central Development Council news, the committee was recommending that the full board issue a letter to the council for the refund of the 2018 dues for lack of services provided. The dues are based on county population and in Montgomery County total just over $6,000. Yeske said there are still a few county communities using the WCDC resources, but the organization is still having issues.
Jones said he felt that the EDA grants were only a small part of what the organization does and recalling this money would be detrimental to the group's overall efforts. Board member Glenn Savage said that it was his understanding the dues were only to be used for EDA grants, so he felt it was appropriate to ask for the dues back. In a voice vote, there were a few dissenting votes, but the committee will meet with the state's attorney to seek his counsel on writing a letter requesting the dues be paid back.
The committee voted to keep its regular meetings the same on the first Monday of each month at 5:30 p.m., with a change to the January meeting on Thursday, Jan. 3 because of the holiday.
In EMA news, Chairman Bill Bergen asked Nimmo to report on the Dec. 1 tornadoes that caused damage in Montgomery County. Nimmo said they reported five tornadoes touched down on the ground in Montgomery County and there were multiple funnel clouds. The storm system was on the ground in the county for 38 minutes.
Following the initial warning, the county called the fire departments in Litchfield, Raymond, Famersville-Waggoner and Mt. Olive to help assess damages. Nimmo reported there were no injuries or fatalities, and only one accident on the interstate when a vehicle was rear-ended. He said that 24 county homes were damaged, including two that were destroyed.
Nimmo added that county entities continue to assist with the storm clean-up in Taylorville.
The next EMA Committee meeting will be Jan. 2.
In a final update, Bergen told the board he attended the Illinois Association of County Officials meeting in Springfield on Nov. 30. He said they reported there would likely be 6,000 bills come to Springfield in the coming year, where the number is typically around 3,000. The group is also expecting a $2 billion to $3 billion state budget shortfall, and that the state will look to take funds from city and county governments. The group also talked about some of Governor-elect Pritzker's ideas, which include legalizing marijuana and a change in the tax system. Bergen said the group also reported on the success of the local government debt recovery program, and Circuit Clerk Holly Lemons said it's used very effectively in her office.
Personnel Committee Chairman Kirby Furness reported that all employees were signed up for the health insurance program.
He also reported that the ambulance billing department's request for a four-day work week had been pulled from the table.
The board would adjourn into closed session for 15 or 20 minutes to discuss contract negotiations. They unanimously approved a three-year contract with the Fraternal Order of Police including a 2.2 percent raise, which is $.63 per hour increase in the first year, $.65 per hour in the second year and $.66 in the third year.
And pending ratification with the Circuit Clerk's Union 148, the board unanimously approved a four-year contract with a three percent raise, including $.45 an hour for the first year, $.45 an hour for the second year, $.40 an hour for the third year and $.40 an hour for the fourth year.
Graden thanked all the board members for their hard work in the union negotiations.
In a final note, Beeler reminded the board that now all board members would be receiving the $60 per diem, previously approved by the board. The board could not change the salary of sitting board members, but made the change from $75 to $60, and after the November election, all board members should be the same. Deabenderfer questioned that, and asked that the state's attorney look over it.
Young announced there would be a meeting of the Rules Committee on Dec. 27, at 4 p.m.
In addition to appointing Ryker to the 708 Board, they made several other appointments at the December meeting. All were unanimous.
The board appointed Melvin Wempen to the Zanesville #3 Drainage District, Gregory Weitekamp to the Pitman-Zanesville #2 Drainage District, John Richard Lyons (one-year term), Richard Thomas Uhrig (two-year term) and Christopher Zimmerman (three-year term) to the Harvel #1 Drainage District, Dennis Held (one-year term), John Richard Lyons (two-year term) and Lawrence Meisner (three-year term) to the Harvel #2 Drainage District and Valerie Belusko and Sarah Waggoner to the IllinoiSouth Tourism Administrative Board.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Bill Schroeder asked if the board had an update on the opening of Deer Run Mine. Young said he had not been in contact with the mine officials, and Schroeder asked for an update at the next meeting.
County Coordinator Chris Daniels has been in touch with mine officials, who are providing a letter of support for the county's Enterprise Zone application. Board member Mark Hughes said the mine is actively contacting past employees and looking to hire workers for the mine.
In another item, Belusko asked the board members to use the microphone and project their voices so audience members could hear the discussion.
The board adjourned at 10:40 a.m. after meeting just over two hours. They will meet again on Tuesday, Jan. 8, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro.