The Montgomery County Board awarded just over $160,000 in COVID business relief grants to county establishments at their regular monthly meeting, held Tuesday evening, July 21, both in person at the Historic Courthouse in Hillsboro and via phone conference. All board members were present.
The meeting was originally set for the week before, but due to possible exposure to the COVID-19 virus to some board members, it was moved to the following week. Board Chairman Evan Young joined the meeting late by phone, so Vice Chairman Megan Beeler led the meeting.
Grants were awarded to the following businesses: $5,000 to Briar Rose, $3,997 to Chapps, $2,463 to Chiefs, $5,000 to Cobetto’s, $3,765 to Drapes Lounge, $5,000 to Elk Tower Apartments, $2,784 to EVI Salon, $5,000 to Farmers Oil, $3,909 to Grandma’s Kitchen, $1,860 to Lisa Lipe hair stylist, $5,000 to Hillsboro Garden Family Restaurant, $5,000 to Hilltop Elite Academy of Tumbling, $5,000 to Huntergreen Inn and Pub, $5,000 to Hurst-Rosche Engineering, $5,000 to Key Largo Tan and Hair, $5,000 to Krager Construction, $5,000 to Line Pilot Bungee, Inc., $5,000 to the Litchfield Country Club, $4,025 to Litchfield Taxicab, $5,000 to Maverick Steaks and Spirits, $5,000 to the Ariston Cafe, $5,000 to Midwest Target Company, $5,000 to National Maintenance and Cleaning, $5,000 to New 2 You, $5,000 to Opperman Hardscape, $5,000 to Petal Pushers, $5,000 to Raise the Bar, $3,831 to Re-Sale Station, $5,000 S Oltmanns Inc., $5,000 to Sky View Drive-In, $5,000 to Suzzie’s Beauty Shop, $471 to Tan Lines and Hair Designs, $5,000 to Tosi’s Route 66 Cafe, $3,701 to Tee Shirts, Ink, $5,000 to Witt Bar, LLC and $5,000 to Hubbart Wood.
The board would deny three applications from Corporate Consulting Services, Inc., Financial Services of America and Travel Services, all based in Litchfield, for a lack of information, which was required with the application.
In total, the board awarded $160,806 in grants from a pool of $250,000, approved at the July board meeting. Board member Connie Beck asked if those who were denied grants would have a chance to reapply or if another round of funding would be awarded.
Beeler said that at this time that is not planned, but that the board did have some money left over and could decide to do another round of funding at some point. She gave special thanks to Tricia Maulding of the Montgomery County Clerk and Recorder’s office for her hard work in collecting all the information and putting it together for board members.
The vouchers were signed following the board meeting, and checks should be mailed out to local businesses this week.
In calling the meeting to order, Beeler asked board member Gene Miles to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. She also asked for a moment of silent for former board member Dale White, who passed away earlier this month. The board also unanimously approved minutes from the previous meeting, as well as the mileage and per diem requests from board members.
Very few of the liaison groups met during the month of July due to the ongoing pandemic.
Board member Ron Deabenderfer reported that the Senior Citizens group met for the first time since January, and went over the budget. He also reported that the county’s Planning Commission met with speakers from Lincoln Land Community College and Power Up, Illinois on the wind ordinance changes.
In West Central Development Council news, board member Richard Wendel said they talked about some training for potential workers.
Beeler reported that the information systems department is currently working on the electrical 911 upgrades in the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, and that it was going very well.
Montgomery County Clerk and Recorder Sandy Leitheiser said work continues on the census, and that the federal government had a new schedule for releasing data due to the pandemic. States are now set to receive census information by July 31, 2021. She added that the county is in okay shape, but encouraged residents to continue working to complete the census. One board member asked if there was a progress report, and Leitheiser said that no census count numbers are available at all until the final total is released next year.
In an update to the pandemic, Chris-Mont EMA Director Greg Nimmo, who was also responding to storm damage in the northern part of the county Tuesday night, said the cases of COVID-19 have increased in the county, based on some small gatherings where social distancing guidelines were not maintained.
“I encourage you to wear a mask when you can’t social distance to help prevent the spread,” Nimmo said, adding that residents should also wash their hands frequently and use hand sanitizer.
He reported that the county has filed for reimbursement for COVID-related expenses totalling around $36,000 from March through June. Nimmo said that Montgomery County was awarded up to $316,000. Beeler asked how that number was set, and Nimmo said it was based on a state formula, with population as one of the factors. He expects a quick turn around on receiving the funds, as long as proper documentation is presented.
Nimmo added that his office hired former Litchfield Fire Chief Kevin Schott to help during the pandemic, and his salary was being split between Montgomery and Christian counties. It will also be eligible for 100 percent reimbursement.
Currently, the EMA office is working on stockpiling PPE (personal protective equipment) for long term care facilities and schools, in case there is another large increase in cases this fall.
He gave credit to Tremont Ridge and Hillsboro Area Hospital for their handling of an outbreak of several cases this summer.
Deabenderfer said he was very pleased with the Illinois Department of Public Health’s mobile COVID testing site and how efficient they were. Nimmo reminded all residents the testing is available for free through this Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the former Wright Automotive property next door to the Montgomery County Health Department.
Board members would also unanimously extend the declaration of disaster in Montgomery County until the next full board meeting on Aug. 11, or until the governor releases it.
Building and Grounds
Building and Grounds Committee Chairman Bob Sneed reported the elevator was still down in the new courthouse, but a part was scheduled to arrive this week, and they hope to have it fixed by Friday or Monday.
He added they are getting bids on some brick work for the Historic Courthouse and that the roof repair work is done on the Annex building.
Deabenderfer gave the Economic Development Committee report, noting this year’s Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation’s annual meeting would be on Aug. 13, with a time and place to be announced.
He said that of the tourism grants awarded, the only events still planning are the Litchfield Farmers Market and the Litchfield Pickers Market. If the events end up being cancelled, no funding will be awarded.
The committee was supposed to review the CEDS document at their July meeting, but it was not yet available.
Deabenderfer gave thanks to County Engineer Cody Greenwood and his staff at the Highway Department for clearing brush at the Green Diamond Bike Trial in Farmersville.
Economic Development Committee Chairman Donna Yeske said they hoped to have more local residents attend the next planning meeting for the Bicentennial celebration on July 29. They are working to plan a county celebration on June 5, 2021.
EMA Committee Chairman Bill Bergen reported the ambulance billing office is still getting bills for the Litchfield Ambulance service, which pulled out of the county’s billing earlier this year. They are directing them to Litchfield. Bergen added that ambulance billing is down 30 to 40 percent due to the pandemic.
He also said the issue of collecting trash in the ambulance billing office has been taken care of.
In EMA news, Bergen said they have straightened out a misunderstanding about purchasing meals.
Sheriff Rick Robbins reported the installation of new carpeting and furniture is about half done as part of the 911 upgrades in the sheriff’s office.
Bergen said that now that the EMA office is combined with Christian County, they feel like it would be a good idea to combine their committee with HWE (Health, Welfare and Elections). It has to be approved by the county’s rules committee, and Beeler said it was in the works to change with the county’s fiscal year on Dec. 1.
In a final note, Bergen said the 911 Board was making final adjustments on their budget, but he felt confident they would get it all settled.
In addition to approving the business relief grants, Beeler reminded committee chairman and office holders to turn in their budget worksheets as soon as possible. Budget hearings will be held on Aug. 18 and Aug. 20, both beginning at 8 a.m.
Treasurer Nikki Lohman said the county did receive another check from the coal company, which was added to the capital improvement fund.
Board members unanimously accepted a bid from Jamie Hannah for surplus property in Pitman Township for $9,500. That approval is contingent on securing an easement for the bike trail.
Sheriff Robbins presented board members with a letter to purchase a new vehicle. One of the deputies was involved in a car accident, and while he was not hurt, the vehicle was totaled. The vehicle had 150,000 miles on it, and he was able to get $12,000 in trade in and insurance. He requested $39,000 to purchase a new patrol vehicle, which is not in his budget. Beeler said the funding will come from the contingency fund and will not be a new appropriation.
Board member Jim Moore asked if all the equipment inside the vehicle was damaged and would need to be replaced, and Robbins said they would be able to transfer some, as long as it would fit into the new vehicle. He said he tries to buy universal equipment that fits in all vehicles when he can.
Board member Gene Miles asked about the decision to purchase Chevy Tahoes as deputy vehicles because they are expensive to maintain. Robbins said they are happy with the performance of those vehicles.
Beeler said her committee also discussed a vacation buy back option presented, as it could be problematic for department heads to allow all employee vacation time because of the pandemic. At this time, the committee is only collecting information and no action was taken.
Board members unanimously approved a state-required COLA (cost of living adjustment) increase to the state’s attorney and public defender salaries from 2.1 to 2.4 percent. The county will have to pay the increase retro-active to July 1, 2019.
Board member Mark Hughes asked if there was any discussion about raises for other elected officials. Beeler said by law that has to be done at least 100 days before an election, so there is no discussion about that at this time. Hughes asked when the last time the coroner got a raise was, and Beeler said it was prior to the time he was elected. Deabenderfer added those salaries are set for four-year terms. Hughes said he felt that everyone should get a raise.
Leitheiser presented the board with a prototype of a small postcard being mailed out to registered voters by Aug. 1. She said the state is mandated to send the cards to all residents who voted in the last three elections. Her office is sending the cards to all registered voters in Montgomery County. It will be reimbursed by the Illinois State Board of Elections as part of a state mandate on mail-in voting.
The mail-in voter cards offer voters a chance to ask for an application for a mail-in vote, as an effort to keep voters safe during the pandemic. Leitheiser said that early voting begins on Sept. 24.
Beeler said she had several constituents reach out to her about other cards they had received in the mail from political parties, and Leitheiser said the county’s official cards will have the county seal on them.
Board member Dennis McCammack asked how the county would verify these mail-in votes. Leitheiser said the mailing list comes from the voter role, which she personally checks. Her office does its best to make sure there are no deceased parties on it. A mail-in ballot requires signature verification by three election judges from both parties.
Board members unanimously approved a list of election judges for the general election in November. Board member Jeremy Jones asked Leitheiser if they had enough judges, and she reported they do, but they can always use some alternates.
Board members also approved two changes in polling places. They approved a change from the Farmersville Village Hall to the Knights of Columbus Hall in Farmersville, as well as the Litchfield Armory to the First Presbyterian Church in Litchfield. Jones asked about the switch from the Armory, and Leitheiser said it was at their request. Due to the pandemic response, the Armory does not feel they will be adequately equipped. Also, the Armory does not wish to be involved in political matters.
The board looked at several bids for old recycling equipment. They were bid out once before, but did not meet the minimum requirements. They approved a bid from Phillip Seacella for $3,039 for the F650 box truck and a bid from Joe Chappelear for $3,550 for the Caterpillar forklift. They planned to contact former bidder Julio Crispen to see if he was still interested in the trailer for $550.
Board member Kirby Furness asked if these items brought higher bids than the last time, and Graden said slightly.
Furness asked about the bid for the box truck, which did not meet the minimum requirement. He felt the board should reject that bid, and then rebid those items with no minimum bids required.
Board members rescinded the approval of the bid for the box truck. The one for the fork lift did meet the minimum bid requirements.
In Animal Control news, Graden said they reviewed a few bite cases from the year.
In EPA news, he said County Coordinator Chris Daniels had not yet been able to participate in training due to the pandemic.
Personnel Committee Chairman Kirby Furness said they have used $26,464 of their HRA for employee health insurance. Their broker does not anticipate a big premium increase for the coming year.
Board member Glenn Bishop asked when they will be able to open bidding up to other health insurance providers. Furness said their broker (Tony Johnston) is able to bid out all insurance companies across the board. Bishop expressed his concerns with the county using Health Alliance instead of Blue Cross Blue Shield or United and asked about trying to find someone else. Furness said that Johnston bids with Blue Cross Blue Shield, but it’s a 15 percent increase over what they pay now.
Beeler said the health insurance renewals typically come in October, as they don’t get bid out more than 30 days out. She said the health insurance broker is a professional service, which gets bid out every three years. They are in year three.
“That seems like a long time to give a contract to a broker,” Bishop said.
Road and Bridge
Road and Bridge Committee Chairman Gene Miles also had surplus property bids to approve. They had no minimum bids. The board approved a bid from Larry Pezold for $912 for both overhead doors and Darrin Spinner$105 for a neon diesel sign. Both were from the former Wright Automotive property.
The board also approved culvert work on North 3rd Ave. in Walshville Township for $18,000. The county will split the project 50/50 with the township.
They approved HMA overlay on Downs Bridge for $18,000, which is fully funded by the county.
Miles said he and Greenwood reviewed a map of options to re-route the main road in Walshville, but have not come to a consensus with village officials.
Miles reported the property deed transfer from the county to the highway department for the Wright Automotive property had been officially recorded.
He added that the county has posted a job for a maintainer position.
In a final note, Miles said the county received a letter from Bremer Sanctuary about spraying chemicals in the right of way at the sanctuary. They will meet with that group in August.
The board unanimously approved several two-year terms on the county’s Revolving Loan Fund Board, including Jennifer Compton, Tim Hoehn, Ron Deabenderfer, Mike Fleming, Misty Borrowman, Nick Kuhns and Bob Wagahoff.
The meeting adjourned in just over two hours. The full board will meet again on Tuesday evening, Aug. 11, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro.