County Board Extends Disaster Proclamation

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In a unanimous vote, members of the Montgomery County Board voted to extend the disaster declaration in the county until their next regular monthly board meeting on June 9.

The board met for their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday evening, May 12. Some members met at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro, while others called into a conference call to participate. Board member Richard Wendel was absent.

Board Chairman Evan Young reported they had opened the Historic Courthouse for land record searches by appointment only. Montgomery County Clerk and Recorder Sandy Leitheiser said they had completed two days of appointments, and it had gone well. The county also received several positive comments about the process.

“It’s going fairly well,” Young said. “We’ll wait and see what the governor says before we open full boar.”

He added that while the treasurer’s and supervisor of assessors’ office are not open to the public, they are working from home to handle county business.

“It might be slow, but we are getting things accomplished,” Young said.

He introduced a motion to extend the county’s disaster declaration until the next full board meeting in June, which was then approved unanimously.

Chris-Mont EMA Director Gregg Nimmo said extending the proclamation allows the county to seek reimbursement for funding spent directly related to the pandemic. It also gives the county access to PPE (personal protective equipment).

Board member Glenn Bishop asked if the county was guaranteed reimbursement from the federal government and how much money they had spent so far. Nimmo said the reimbursement was not guaranteed, but that if the county did not extend it, they would definitely not receive any reimbursement for what they spend from here on out. Young said the county has been carefully tracking expenditures throughout the pandemic, and estimates they have spent between $20,000 and $25,000, with some more equipment and materials to come in.

“We are doing our best to be frugal and looking for the best prices,” Young said.

One of the things they have done is to add plexiglass barriers up in the offices for when the courthouses re-open to the public.

Board member Sandy Johnson said she would approve the extension, but had many constituents who were ready to get back to work.

“We need to have a plan,” Johnson said. “We can do it little by little, but we need to open stuff up as soon as we can.”

Young said he understood her concerns, but that the county didn’t close local businesses, the state did.

Johnson said that Madison County held a vote to reopen businesses in their county, and board member Glenn Bishop said he supported that as well. Board member Jeremy Jones added that he didn’t feel like the county should put up any barriers to businesses opening back up, and board member Mark Hughes said he was all for businesses opening up if they chose to. Board member Chuck Graden dissented from that, saying he felt the county should follow the governor’s orders.

Board Vice Chairman Megan Beeler said they had gotten off track, and that the extension of the disaster proclamation had nothing to do with reopening privately owned businesses in the county, but only to do with the county government doing business.

In addition, Nimmo provided a pandemic update to the board. He said the county has 35 positive cases to date, as well as 685 negative tests and one death. He also said that the county is part of Region 3 in the phased-program to reopen Illinois. Currently, the county is in phase two, with a potential to move to phase three on May 29. That includes opening manufacturers, offices, retail shops and salons, with continued face coverings and social distancing. It does not include restaurants and bars at this time.

Nimmo gave special thanks to three members of the National Guard who are helping out in the county with the disaster efforts, and had high praise for Montgomery Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, who had one employee and one resident test positive for the virus, but have kept up efforts to keep residents and staff safe.

Nimmo said his office continues to make weekly contact with local schools, churches, fire and police departments and other officials for updates on the pandemic. 

Montgomery County Health Department Administrator Hugh Satterlee said he felt fortunate that the county’s number of positive cases has held steady the last few days, but reminded the board there is more to be done.

“The cases in Illinois had been around 1,200 each day, and today we had over 4,000 new positive cases,” Satterlee told the board. “Part of that is due to more testing, but this is not going away. I know there are individuals and entities that want to open back up, but I am fully against that.”

He said that the county is on track at this time to move into phase three to reopen Illinois, but cautioned that if things are all open immediately, the local hospitals do not have the capacity to handle a large number of positive cases.

Liaison Reports

In 708 Board news, board member Earlene Robinson said they had 12 applicants request $833,000 in funding for the coming year. She said they will begin to hold interviews next month for awarding the money.

Board member Tim Fogle said the CEFS organization has been bombarded with new requests amid the ongoing pandemic, and is looking for volunteers, especially for the Meals on Wheels program.

The West Central Development Council has not met, but board member Jeremy Jones said that employees are working by swing shift to keep things open. They are also working to help a lot of people, currently unemployed.

Coordinating

In addition to the pandemic update, Young said the information systems department is busy helping employees work from home and with conference calls for meetings.

Leitheiser gave an update on the census, and said they are seeing a lot of nice statistics. By township, Zanesville has the highest participation rate at 81.2 percent, while Harvel Township is the lowest at 57.5 percent.

“I want to thank everyone for their help in thinking outside the box with this grass roots effort,” Leitheiser said. “But there’s still work to be done.”

Amid the ongoing pandemic, the deadline to complete the census has been extended until Aug. 14.

Finance

Representatives from KEB were on hand for the annual audit presentation, and the county received the highest opinion possible with no material weaknesses or non-compliance issues.

They highlighted a couple of areas where the county could do better in budgetary controls, and board members are already working on a procedural manual. Representatives said the county also currently has adequate reserves. Board member Glenn Bishop asked a couple of questions about noted litigation and a conflict of interest, and KEB said they would look into the matter.

Board members will have 30 days to review the audit before approving it at the June meeting.

In the treasurer’s report and capital improvement report, Finance Committee Chairman Megan Beeler said interest payments were posted in March, and they did receive a payment in coal royalties for April.

Beeler said they got a preliminary report from IMRF and the numbers look good. As most of that money is in the stock market, she said they will continue to keep an eye on it.

Board members unanimously approved a change to the property tax bills, allowing taxpayers a larger window to pay without penalty amid the ongoing pandemic.

Installments will still be due in July and September, but to ease the burden on taxpayers, the county will not assess a late fee as long as the entire amount is paid by the September deadline. A penalty will be assessed if taxes are not paid at that time.

Bishop asked if this applied to residential and commercial tax bills, and Beeler said yes. The only ones exempt are those in escrow accounts, as that money has already been collected.

Bishop added that many of the taxing bodies need their disbursements earlier than September, and Beeler said that they are encouraging those who can pay to do so in a timely fashion.

“But it opens up help for those who are struggling,” she said.

Treasurer Nikki Lohman added that they accept partial payments and that the county will send out a press release detailing this information closer to the date.

Beeler also  gave an update on the FMLA (Family Maternity Leave Act) and FFCRA (Families First Coronavirus Response Act). She said her committee is working with the personnel committee for employees that meet one of the five qualifying COVID reasons not to return to work.

In a Foresight Energy update, Beeler said they continue to be in touch with local and legal representatives about the company’s bankruptcy filing. At this time, she recommends the board not make any changes to the royalty payment contract.

Beeler said that amid the pandemic, budget hearings have been moved back. Worksheets will be given to department heads in May or June with budget hearings moved to mid to late-August.

The board unanimously approved a letter to Illinois Senator Michael Hastings supporting efforts to pass an energy bill in the wake of the closing of the Vistra power plant in Coffeen.

Beeler reminded the board they will be bidding out professional services this year, including auditors and property/casualty insurance, but not health insurance.

She added that the Road and Bridge Committee submitted a contract to the Finance Committee for payback of the Wright Automotive property, and it would be reviewed before the next full board meeting. Board member Ron Deabenderfer asked where that funding will go, and Beeler said back to the coal royalty fund, which is where it came from. 

Building and Grounds

Building and Grounds Chairman Bob Sneed said they have officially signed off on the Smart Watt energy project, and were surprised to get a $10,645 rebate check from Ameren. That money has also been put back into the coal royalty fund. Sneed said they have been pretty pleased with the project.

Sneed added that they will be adding a drop box to the north entrance of the Historic Courthouse in Hillsboro, and that it will be installed soon.

In maintenance and cleaning news, they have been coordinating with the circuit clerk’s office to sanitize the new courthouse between court cases. 

They also approved a bid from Luby Equipment for a three-year maintenance contract on the county’s generators.

Sneed said the county signed a contract with Young’s Roofing to fix the Annex building, but that their insurance claim had not gone through. He said it was split between two claims, one for weather and one for rodents, and it shot their deductible.

Sneed said the plexiglass shields that were installed in the county offices are very nice. And in a few final notes, he said they were still working on sidewalk repair around the courts complex, and had not heard from Imagine Hillsboro about the possibility of a mural on the Annex building.

Economic Development

Economic Development Chairman Donna Yeske said the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation has been working on helping local businesses impacted by the pandemic.

Yeske added a new video about the drive-in has been shared to the county website.

Board members unanimously approved a second round of tourism grants, and will only be awarded if those events occur. They awarded $730 to the Old Settlers Car Show and $1,000 to the Old Tyme Tractor Show, Hillsboro Summer Concert Series, Litchfield Farmers Market and Litchfield Pickers Market.

Yeske said that work continues on the CEDS document, and they are looking for project ideas.

She added that they continue to work on the wind siting ordinance amendments, as well as an estimate on work to be done on the Green Diamond Bike Trail in Farmersville.

Board member Dennis McCammack asked about the possibility of using the Revolving Loan Fund to help local businesses that are struggling amid the pandemic, and his thoughts were echoed by Hughes. They will look into this possibility further.

“I want small businesses to know that we want to help them if we can,” Hughes said.

EMA

In addition to the reports from Nimmo and Satterlee, EMA Chairman Bill Bergen said that the 911 board received $108,000 in reimbursement for the new Motorola equipment and was awaiting the arrival of new furniture.

In ambulance news, Bergen said they are still awaiting some final numbers to update the reports. He added they received some good news that the ambulance districts got stimulus money. Raymond-Harvel got just over $1,000, Nokomis got $9,000 and Hillsboro got $32,000. He said that Farmersville-Waggoner went directly to them so he didn’t know how much it was.

HWE

In HWE news, Leitheiser said they were continuing to watch election legislation on increased mail-in voting. They are also working on completing the voter history from the March primary. Robinson had high praise for Leitheiser and her staff for putting together the March primary amid the pandemic and how well it went.

In EPA news, Coordinator Chris Daniels said she is still awaiting training, but they hope to work on it toward the end of the month. She added that she heard two pieces of furniture were in ditches and she was working on getting it cleaned up.

In Animal Control news, HWE Chairman Chuck Graden said there’s not much to report as the facility is closed to the public, and they haven’t had a mayor’s meeting to discuss the ordinance any further. He added that they were working on a neglect case in a rural area, and seized 24 cows, mules and chickens in South Audubon Township.

Personnel

In personnel news, Personnel Chairman Kirby Furness reported a usage of $36,836 in the county’s HRA (employee health insurance).

He said they are still working on the employee personnel manual, and continuing to work with supervisors on employee transition back to work.

Road and Bridge

Road and Bridge Chairman Gene Miles said they are still waiting to meet with Walshville representatives on that project, and have been working on the property purchase for the Wright Automotive property.

He said that maintainers are now working two to three days a week from separate trucks, and secretaries for the Highway Department are splitting time to do billing and payroll.

In some good news, he reported the county got more than $5.8 million from the Rebuild Illinois project. IDOT sold bonds, and will disperse this money twice a year for three years. They plan to use it on road and guardrail projects. The county road district will receive $1,156,934, while the townships will receive $3,244,583 and the municipalities will receive $1,472,212.

In a final note, Miles said the county will be eligible for highway safety money, with the potential to be funded at 90 percent for guardrail improvement.

Announcements

Young had special thanks to Sheriff Rick Robbins for sanitizing the county board meeting room prior to the meeting, and also thanked the Montgomery County Mask Makers organization for their ongoing efforts to make masks for county residents.

Appointments

The board unanimously appointed Ray Durston to another four-year term as Supervisor of Assessments. They also appointed Lyle (Dick) James, Mike Rappe and Kent Aumman to the Board of Review.

Other appointments included John Richard Lyons, Richard Uhrig and Christopher Zimmerman to Harvel Drainage District #1 and Dennis Held, John Richard Lyons and Larry Meisner to Harvel Drainage District #2.

With no public comment, the board meeting adjourned at 7:34, just over two hours after it began. The board will meet again on Tuesday evening, June 9, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

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