Members of the Montgomery County Board heard an update on the COVID vaccine roll-out as part of their two-hour board meeting on Tuesday evening, Jan. 13, at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro.
All board members were present for the regular monthly meeting with Jim Havera participating by phone.
Montgomery County Health Department Administrator Hugh Satterlee reported the county received the first 500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 200 going to Hillsboro Area Hospital, 200 going to HSHS St. Francis Hospital in Litchfield and 100 going to the Montgomery County Health Department. He expects to receive another 400 doses soon, as the state of Illinois makes plans to begin phase 1B of the vaccine distribution. The first phase went to front line health care workers, and phase 1B includes law enforcement and first responders, as well as residents over 65 years of age.
Satterlee said the health department is currently compiling a list of those wishing to receive the vaccine when it becomes available. They currently have a list of over 1,000 names, mostly those over age 65. To be added to the list, call 217-532-2001.
Board member Patty Whitworth asked if priority would be given to those over 65 with health risks, and Satterlee said it would just depend on how many doses they receive.
In addition, phase 1B also includes schools. Satterlee said that he expects it will take between 400 to 500 vaccines to cover staff at all four public school districts, plus the two private schools in the county. He will meet with his board next week to discuss distribution among the schools, as he doesn’t want to pick one district over another in vaccinating school staff.
Satterlee said that all the county’s long-term care facilities have signed up for a federal vaccine program to be distributed through CVS and Walgreens and has already begun in some places within the county.
In a final note, Satterlee said that Litchfield Family Practice Center will continue to offer rapid testing on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 3 p.m., at least through March. He said that testing site had caught many cases of COVID, and could continue through May.
Board member Earlene Robinson asked Satterlee how he was doing.
“It’s going better than expected,” Satterlee said. “None of us have ever done this before, but we have a great staff. My people are resilient.”
He added praise to both county hospitals, physicians, schools and the communities for continuing to work together throughout the pandemic.
During his report, Chris-Mont EMA Director Greg Nimmo said that COVID vaccine planning was the biggest issue they were facing, with changes coming in daily. Nimmo added the county had seen an increase of 907 positive cases and 15 additional deaths just since the last county board meeting in December.
“We need to keep on our toes,” Nimmo said.
He added there was concern with the rising number of cases at Graham Correctional Center in Hillsboro as well.
After the meeting was called to order, the board unanimously approved the monthly mileage and per diem stipends, as well as minutes from the previous meeting and the re-organizational meeting, both in December.
Montgomery County Clerk and Recorder Sandy Leitheiser said her staff had completed another year of digitizing old land records for the year 1980. The project is affectionately known as “back to the future,” and as her staff members have time, they scan old land records and add them to the county website.
Montgomery County Animal Control Warden Amanda Daniels said they rescued a few dogs this week, and the current population at the facility is 14 dogs and one cat.
Sheriff Rick Robbins spoke out about the lame duck session in the state legislature and pending legislation (which has since been approved by both houses) on law enforcement reforms.
“They are trying to circumvent the system,” Robbins said. “Law enforcement isn’t even at the table. It’s a fiasco.”
Robbins thanked the finance committee and Chairman Evan Young for sending a letter in opposition to the legislation, which was sent to every elected official in both houses. Board member Doug Donaldson said he thought the letter printed in the newspaper was very well done.
Finance Committee Chairman Megan Beeler said the economic impact to the county would be great, as the legislation eliminates cash bond and the county would lose 56 percent of the funding that covers court cases.
“It’s our citizens who will pay the ultimate price,” Robbins said.
State’s Attorney Andrew Affrunti reported that attorney Wes Poggenpohl was leaving his office for a job as a DCFS (Department of Child and Family Services). Affrunti said his office would be short as they look for an additional attorney.
Robinson said the 708 Board met and elected officers for the year, including President Danny Hough, Vice President Kenny Ryker, Secretary Maria Clark and Treasurer Earlene Robinson. She said the committee continues to review applications for funding this year.
In CEFS news, board member Tim Fogle said numbers are up of those needing help during the pandemic. He said the Meals on Wheels program continues to need volunteers.
Board member Bill Bergen gave a report from the final 911 budget for the year, which came in $84,000 ahead this year. He added that coming years will see a deficit as they continue to pay Motorola for the 911 upgrades. Bergen had high praise for Robbins and 911 Director Ed Boyd for working together in completing the project.
Robbins said the last console is up and running. They are working on a few mapping issues and are beginning training on the new software, which should take two to three months.
In an information systems update, Young said the county is still awaiting Chromebooks for county board members, which are on back order.
Robbins said the annual jail report was now on file, which includes a lawsuit about overcrowding, noting the county currently has seven prisoners that should be with the Illinois Department of Corrections. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the IDOC is at least partly responsible for the overcrowding, Robbins told the board.
In a final motion, board members unanimously renewed the disaster proclamation in the county due to the pandemic.
Building and Grounds
The board unanimously approved a new contract with National Maintenance Cleaning for $21.50 per hour. Building and Grounds Committee Chairman Bob Sneed said they had not updated the contract in at least two years, and it includes cleaning work at the new courthouse. Currently, they are working about four hours a day, although during non-pandemic times, they could work up to six hours a day. The estimated cost of the contract is $33,450, but Sneed said it will likely not be that much. The contract also includes all paper and cleaning products the service uses.
In a maintenance update, Sneed said they had all three county generators serviced and repaired. Sneed said they have a few problems to address that came up about the generators.
He also reported that PBS WSIU is looking to come to the county to film a commercial about the upcoming Bicentennial in February. His committee is working to spruce up the grounds ahead of that and said the film crew would have to sign waivers before the project started.
In a final note, Sneed said the jail’s water bill was cut in half last year due to the energy saving upgrades from Smart Watt. The county saved over $5,000 on the water bill and $4,000 on electricity and gas. They are awaiting a savings audit from Smart Watt, but Sneed said they had been pleased so far.
In her report, Economic Development Committee Chairman Donna Yeske said they heard from Valerie Belusko, director of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation about her role, as well as an update to the Revolving Loan Fund.
Yeske said they are replacing the culvert at the bike trail in Farmersville. County Engineer Cody Greenwood said he coordinated with Dave Stieren, and it had been delivered. Greenwood said they also plan to cut brush on the bike trail, but they weren’t sure how much. Board member Ron Deabenderfer said in the past, they cut enough brush so the trail could be oiled and chipped. Young asked if the county needed to supervise the culvert installation process, and Greenwood said that Stieren would be able to handle the project.
Yeske reported the next meeting of the Bicentennial Committee would be on Feb. 3, at 5 p.m. at Bank of Hillsboro. They are planning for a kick-off celebration on Saturday, Feb. 13, at noon on the steps of the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro. Board members would unanimously approve a proclamation in celebration of the county’s bicentennial, which will be read that day.
In addition, board member Patty Whitworth said US Representative Rodney Davis would read a one-minute speech on the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, in celebration of the historic milestone.
Whitworth also encouraged county board members to attend the celebration. Photos will be taken of elected officials, as well as descendants of some of the county’s earliest families. Board member Andy Ritchie asked about the historical families, and Whitworth said David Beal and Patsy Bourdoumis were coordinating that effort. A list of some of the county’s earliest settlers is posted on the county website (www.montgomeryco.com).
Board member David Loucks asked if the Wisper Internet company had reached enough sign-ups in the county, and Yeske said they had. They are currently in the process of bringing service to the rural areas of the county.
In 911 news, Beeler said her committee is discussing the next flyover, as well as ESRI mapping. She said neither will be done this year, but they have started planning for an update.
Beeler said that while the county did not receive any coal royalty funding in November, they did receive $103,000 in December.
Board members unanimously approved an intergovernmental multi-township agreement with Butler Grove, Irving and Rountree townships, for assessor services that will be provided by the county. Beeler said that it’s getting harder and harder for townships to find qualified people for that position, but this agreement will max out the county assessor’s office.
In Vistra power plant news, Beeler said that the company agreed to a $21.5 million assessment for the next year.
Beeler said that her committee also discusses parcels of unknown ownership in the county. Leitheiser brought the committee a list of 120 parcels in hopes they could get back on the tax rolls. Beeler said many of the parcels are small, located between two properties. Some are along an old rail line. Beeler said the committee is discussing if or how to proceed.
Board members unanimously approved the IRS mileage for 2021 at $.56 per mile. Deabenderfer abstained from the vote. Beeler said that stipend has actually gone down a bit over the past few years.
Beeler reported that by state statute all IMRF contributors are now listed on the county’s website.
She added that the county’s new auditing firm has been on site the past two weeks working with county employees and they are pleased with the service so far.
Beeler thanked Eric Braasch of Scheller Insurance for notifying the county of a lower rate with ICRMT for the county’s unemployment insurance.
She said her committee also saw a demonstration on the DevNet software, where residents can look up parcels, tax bills, property records and more. There is a link to the program on the county’s website.
Beeler said that Litchfield decided to table discussion of an increase to its ambulance district levy in hopes of asking voters. Beeler said they expect to hear more in May or June.
At this time, Beeler said they continue to work on finance control policies. The committee is also not taking any action on this time for additional COVID relief grants.
Bergen reported in employee health insurance news that their insurance carrier lost $72,000 this year with several catastrophic claims from the county. He said six claims took up 41 percent of what was spent this year. The county’s HRA usage is at 17 percent, and Bergen said they budgeted for 25 percent. It’s up a little from last year’s 14 percent usage, but still within the budget.
Bergen said the county had a bill for $7,740.39 for COVID tests given to employees. The insurance company said there will be no charge for employee vaccines through the health department. There’s a $40 charge per vaccine for employees vaccinated at a doctor’s office. The committee also decided they would not make vaccines mandatory for all county employees.
Bergen said the committee discussed a human relations department, but will not pursue that at this time.
In an update to unused employee vacation time, which was tabled last month, Bergen said three non-union employees would be allowed a one-time offer to extend using their 2020 vacation days through March. Board members voted unanimously for the motion.
The federal government did not renew the FFCRA leave for COVID-related employee leave. It expired Dec. 31, and employees will now have to use their own benefits if needed due to COVID. Affrunti said the county has no duty to inform employees that the leave has lapsed, but added there was no harm in department heads reaching out to employees to let them know.
In a final note, Bergen said they continue to work with Affrunti on an employee personnel manual.
Road and Bridge
Board members unanimously approved the county engineer’s salary for $108,000. The state pays half that salary. Yeske abstained from the vote.
Board members also unanimously approved the annual motor fuel tax resolution for $1,137,000. Typically, the highway department spends about half of that in a year and reserves the other for larger projects down the road.
Board members unanimously approved the purchase of two rotary cutters. One is a John Deere M15 from Sloan Implement for $19,781.28, less $5,000 for a trade in, and the other is a Bush Hog 3815 from Sievers Equipment for $19,875, less $5,000 for a trade in.
Greenwood said that Lyerla Electric has begun work on the new Highway Department building, and once it’s completed, they will start with drywall.
In a final note, the board unanimously approved a voucher for $132,996.80 for work on the Nokomis Blacktop.
Safety and Elections
Chairman Mark Hughes gave the first report for the newly formed safety and elections committee, which is a combination of EMA and HWE (health, welfare and elections).
Hughes said that ambulance billing is going well. Whitworth asked about the invoice to the city of Litchfield, which had been sent back to the county for an itemized list. The county provided an itemized list, and Hughes said he would find out the status of the bill.
In elections news, Leitheiser said they are making plans for the April 6 consolidated election, which will be the only election held this year. She said there will be a couple of public questions on the ballot, including one in Nokomis Township about increasing the tax rate for maintenance at Nokomis Cemetery, as well as an advisory question from the Bond County School District about property taxes.
Leitheiser said that early voting begins Feb. 25. Beeler asked about vote by mail, and Leitheiser said that option is always available, but her office will not be sending out postcards this election to all registered voters. However, anyone can contact her office for a mail-in ballot, and she expects the drop box outside the Historic Courthouse will once again be available.
In EPA news, Coordinator Chris Daniels said they are waiting on word from the delegation on a five-year agreement with Illinois EPA. She said she is also working with townships and municipalities on a spring tire collection.
In Animal Control news, Warden Amanda Daniels said she continues to work with the state’s attorney on updating the contract fee for services provided by Animal Control.
With no appointments or schedule changes, board members unanimously voted to pay the bills.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Sheriff Rick Robbins had high praise for new state’s attorney Andrew Affrunti and the work he is doing in Montgomery County.
The board voted to adjourn at 7:23 p.m. They will meet again on Tuesday evening, Feb. 9, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro.