After tabling discussion last month, members of the Montgomery County Board unanimously approved spending $57,875 on new financial and payroll software as part of their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday morning, Feb. 10, at the Historic Courthouse in Hillsboro.
Board members Mike Webb and Bob Sneed were absent from the meeting.
Finance Committee Chairman Megan Beeler said she tabled the motion last month because she felt there were some details that still needed to be ironed out. This month's motion featured an approval to purchase both the financial and payroll software from Zobrio, but the committee decided to hold off on the human resource and time keeping modules. Zobrio has agreed to lock in the same price for up to six months if the county decides to add the human resource or time keeping modules.
Board member Heather Hampton+Knodle asked if that price lock was included in the contract, and Beeler said it's not because it's not part of the proposal. Dave Penrod of Zobrio was present at the meeting and guaranteed to board members he would offer them that same price.
Board member Ron Deabenderfer asked about the advantages of the new software program. Beeler said the county is currently paying for a software system, and this one will improve the county's accounting ability and improve efficiency.
"It offers better payroll and inventory tracking," said Treasurer Ron Jenkins. "It brings us out of the Stone Age."
Board Chairman Roy Hertel said the county employees tried two new software companies and they preferred the Zobrio software, and Jenkins added that it's very user friendly.
Board member Mike Plunkett said the software does have an annual maintenance agreement, but will cost $9,000 a year less than maintenance on the current software.
"Basically, it will pay us back in six years," Plunkett said.
He added that the board budgeted $80,000 for the project and will come in well under that.
Under the consent agenda, Supervisor of Assessors Ray Durston reported he hired a new GIS technician, Cassidy Younker of Stonington. Durston said she is catching onto the new job very well and will attend training next week.
County Clerk Sandy Leitheiser said her office has been collecting fees under the Rental Housing Support Program. The state charges $9 for every recorded document and the county has collected $430,326 since the law's inception in August 2005.
"The intent was to serve low income housing," Leitheiser said. "I have been trying to advocate to get those dollars returned to Montgomery County."
She said that the CEFS program and CEO Paul White applied to receive some of that funding, and has brought $117,168 back to Montgomery County since 2012.
"We'd like to see it all come back here, but this is a good start," Leitheiser said.
Farm Bureau Breakfast
Just prior to the board meeting, the Montgomery County Farm Bureau hosted a breakfast for County Board members.
"We appreciate the invitation and the fellowship," said Hertel. "We have a great working relationship with the Farm Bureau. The County Board has taken a very active roll in trying to help the farming community, especially in maintaining the roads."
Hertel introduced Illinois Senator Tom Cullerton from DuPage County, who is the adopted legislator of the Montgomery County Farm Bureau.
"This is my third or fourth time down here," Cullerton said. "I don't get lots of conversation about southern Illinois, and the issues here are not the same as in the northern part. It's nice to come down and see what we can do to help. We are still one state, and we all need to keep working together."
Cullerton added that he felt the upcoming legislative session would be a lot of fun, and that he liked change and new, fresh ideas.
Beeler jokingly asked him if he had his MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, and Cullerton said he and his family were vaccinated. He added that legislators are working to address the issue of unvaccinated children in public schools before the start of the next school year.
Plunkett asked Cullerton to visit with local school district superintendents on one of his visits. Cullerton was strongly opposed to Senator Andy Manar's Senate Bill 16 last year, which was for education funding reform. Montgomery County schools stood to gain more than $3 million in state funding under the proposed legislation.
"In our county, school districts would have lost $140 million in state funding," Cullerton said. "DuPage was one of the hardest hit counties, and we also have the highest property taxes in the state. Senate Bill 16 would have been devastating to our schools."
Cullerton went on to praise Manar for his efforts in the education reform and is hopeful that the new governor will support more funding for public education during his term.
"Andy's done an incredible job, even in the face of adversity," Cullerton said. "You've really got a great state senator."
Before sitting down, Hertel asked Cullerton about the income tax that counties and municipalities receive. The county used to receive 10 percent of the income tax, but when the income tax was increased in 2011 the formula changed, giving counties only 7 percent. When the income tax increase was allowed to sunset in January, the full 10 percent to counties was never restored, but instead changed to 8 percent.
"I'd like to see it restored to 10 percent, and we can't wait until 2025," Hertel said.
Cullerton said with no new revenue streams on the horizon, he suspected it would not be restored anytime soon.
Board member Earlene Robinson reported that CEFS is once again accepting scholarship applications, and that two were awarded from this area last year.
Robinson added that Montgomery County is one of four Illinois counties on the poverty warning list.
"As a County Board, we have a lot of work to do," Robinson said. "We have a responsibility to our citizens to promote businesses."
Plunkett said the Illinois Association of County Officials would meet on Thursday, Feb. 19, and new board member Bill Bergen would attend. The two were also talking about carpooling to the zone meeting in March.
In Montgomery County Economic Development news, Hampton+Knodle reported that Executive Director Lindsay Wagahoff had resigned to take a job in Springfield.
"It's a great opportunity for Lindsay, but it also creates some opportunity for us," she said. "We have so many positive things in play right now."
Hampton+Knodle added the MCEDC added three accounts for the new CEO program, and was also making plans for its tenth anniversary annual meeting to be held sometime in April.
In water company news, Deabenderfer reported that inclement weather delayed the laying of pipe around the county, but they have been assured phase five is still on schedule and should be done this summer. He said the company is also adding radial read meters, which are more efficient.
Board member Gene Miles said he attended the UCCI meeting in Springfield and heard a 90-minute presentation from Governor Bruce Rauner about new ideas.
In Senior Citizen news, board member Nikki Bishop said the group decided to pull back their meetings and only meet five times a year. The group will also address parking lot issues at the senior center in Taylor Springs when the weather is warmer.
During the Coordinating Committee report, Hertel introduced Dennis Shiley, transportation director of Central Illinois Public Transit, and Nathan Nichols, who is a mobility manager in Montgomery, Shelby and Fayette counties.
Shiley said they held a quarterly meeting in January, and reported that overall the system is doing well. He noted a 7 percent decrease in ridership in Montgomery County.
"The key in the transportation world is to put as many people on the bus to make the best use of our funds," Shiley said.
He reported that funding would not get any better from the Illinois Department of Transportation, and that CIPT was looking for more service contracts to increase ridership. Shelby County offers several service contracts, and exceeded its goal for ridership last year by 60 percent.
Shiley discussed the proposed B-line route in Litchfield, which would make regular daily runs in the city.
"The thought of it is not gone," Shiley said.
He said it was estimated the B-line route would cost $60,000 to $65,000 a year to operate, and the group wasn't sure they could get enough ridership to help offset the costs.
Instead, they have reached out to outlying, smaller communities, providing rides to Hillsboro or Litchfield on regular days during each month.
"We have been talking to churches and community groups trying to encourage them to use the system," Shiley said.
Nichols said he personally visited every town in the county to post information about the routes and the services.
"We are definitely reaching out," Nichols said. "I think we will see a lot of growth in this county."
Beeler encouraged him to reach out to the housing authority for additional opportunities. Hampton+Knodle, who attended the quarterly meeting in January, suggested the health department and circuit clerk's office as other places to provide CIPT information.
Hampton+Knodle also said she was shocked to learn about discrepancies in funding to counties. Montgomery County is allotted only $353 per mile, while neighbor Macoupin County is allotted more than $500 per mile.
"We need to talk to our legislators about what these discrepancies mean in terms of real dollars," Hampton+Knodle said.
Shiley agreed, adding that CIPT is not allowed to lobby with legislators, and encouraged the board to intervene.
"I think we do need to get more equitable funding," Hertel said.
Beeler asked about what kind of contracts CIPT provided in Shelby County, and Shiley said after school programs, churches and senior citizens, among others.
Plunkett asked how long ago the routes to outlying communities started, and Shiley said about three weeks ago, noting he hopes this effort really catches on and increases ridership.
Leitheiser said she could provide information about the program in her office.
In other Finance Committee news, board members unanimously approved the Circuit Clerk's audit report, as well as the annual CEFS ordinance and intergovernmental agreement to provide public transportation.
Beeler said the chairman is continuing to collect county contracts for all departments, which should give the county more buying power and increase efficiency.
The board also unanimously approved a resolution to deed two parcels in Harvel Township to the Raymond-Harvel Fire Protection District. The department helped to tear down a building and clean up the property.
Hertel talked again about the loss in income tax revenue from the state, and said he plans to write a letter asking the legislature to reinstate it to the level of 2012.
Jenkins cautioned Hertel to tread lightly and budget according to lesser funds.
Board member Mary Bathurst noted the state did not truly allow the increase in income tax to sunset, but instead rewrote the law.
Building and Grounds
In the absence of Building and Grounds Committee Chairman Bob Sneed, Vice Chairman Nikki Bishop presented the monthly report.
She said the committee toured the new courthouse at their last meeting.
"We were so privileged to take a tour of the courthouse," Bishop said. "We saw a lot of good things, but some bad things too."
Among the priorities are a handicapped accessible chair in the big courtroom, drafts in some of the windows and wallpaper that is falling down.
"We've addressed some things with Lloyd Meyer, but it won't happen overnight," Bishop said. "We made a list of priorities."
In maintenance reports, she said Meyer, who is the county's maintenance technician, rebuilt a bearing assembly in one of the boilers.
Board members voted unanimously to renew a one-year contract with Johnson Controls for a maintenance agreement for $4,486. They also unanimously elected not to renew a maintenance agreement with Schindler Elevator, and would instead seek bids for a one-year contract. Beeler encouraged the committee not to just let the contract lapse into an automatic renewal.
Bishop thanked Durston for his work on the Waggoner Depot and deeding that property over to the village of Waggoner.
She said Western Waterproofing is waiting on warmer weather to address some of the tuck pointing issues at the Historic Courthouse. The committee will also look at how much funding is available for tuckpointing projects in 2015.
In a report on the communications tower, Bishop said Betsy Wilson of the state's attorney's office had reviewed the survey from Carl Nail and was awaiting a contract from the attorney for the Cervi family. Bishop added that the highway department did an excellent job of cleaning up the property and that progress on this project will continue.
Before starting her report, Economic Development Committee Chairman Hampton+Knodle introduced Steve and Rita Bryant of Litchfield, who work as grant writers for the MCEDC. The Bryants took over the job in December, and are currently working on three grants, a police car for Coffeen, which is nearly finished, a grant with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to stock fish in Hillsboro and a police car for Taylor Springs.
"At the MCEDC we look not only at business retention and expansion, but also about assessing community needs and how we can help," Hampton+Knodle said.
She said she did not have an update on the Dakota Pipeline project, but the committee sent a letter to the Illinois Commerce Commission, opposing the use of eminent domain.
Hampton+Knodle added that the Clean Line Energy group held a public meeting in Raymond this month and plan to announce the final route for public review the first week in March. The next public meeting will be March 3, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Raymond.
In addition, the Montgomery County Farm Bureau hosted a large crowd for a meeting with regional attorneys who specialize in easement projects.
Hampton+Knodle said there is also an organized group in opposition to the Clean Line Energy project, and they met this month in Nokomis and are starting to put signs up around the county.
She thanked County Engineer Kevin Smith and Beeler for attending the township officials meeting and talking to them about the proposed projects.
The committee also discussed priorities for the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, and Hampton+Knodle praised Wagahoff for her work on this project and helping to learn what community priorities really are. She said they had lots of good input and would begin a planning process soon.
The board unanimously agreed to write another letter to the Illinois EPA to request air monitoring for coal dust issues in Hillsboro and Schram City. Hampton+Knodle said she felt it was important to establish a benchmark of air quality.
She added that the coal mine has begun to pour concrete footings for a wind fence, but the project would be weather permitting.
Board member Joe Gasparich asked why they were seeking board approval to write the letter.
"This project needs the support of the board," Hertel said. "We asked the EPA and they did nothing. We need to write one more letter. It's only fair, as we continue to get complaints."
Miles asked whether or not the city of Hillsboro was on board with this, and they discussed a potential nuisance ordinance at their meeting on Feb. 10, and Schram City was expected to follow suit.
Hampton+Knodle said clean-up continues at the Eagle Zinc site, and the buildings are the next to come down. She said the project has faced some union issues, but that does not affect the board.
In Planning Commission news, they elected officers at their most recent meeting, including Tobin Ott as president, Rueben Boehler as vice president and Sandy Leitheiser as secretary. They will meet again in April.
The Planning Commission discussed the structural improvement ordinance and trying to streamline it and make it more effective. Instead of jumping directly to a filing fee, the group encouraged the county to reinforce the ordinance already on the books to collect a $500 fee for non-compliance. They feel that the fee might be a bit steep, so they will look into that further.
The group also discussed storm water and large sections of imperious areas and how that would affect runoff. They will continue to talk about that at their next meeting.
She said payments are currently being made to the Revolving Loan Fund.
Hampton+Knodle added plans continue for the CEO program for county high school students. They have several applications for a half-time facilitator position, which are due Feb. 25, at the Regional Office of Education. She added there is interest from students who have asked about how to apply for the program.
"We are looking for good problem solvers and students who are good with their hands," she said. "There's a lot of opportunity here."
She added that the CEO board attended board training in Effingham and would also sponsor a bus trip for sophomore students selected for the program to see the student trade show in Effingham on April 29.
She thanked board member Jay Martin for his work on a population recruitment project, and said the committee continues to discuss workforce development.
The next Enterprise Zone mayors' meeting will be held on Feb. 25, at 5:30 p.m.
In a final note, Gasparich encouraged the committee to write another letter to the Illinois Commerce Commission in opposition to Clean Line Energy being able to use eminent domain. The committee has already sent one letter, but he encouraged sending another when the company files to be a public utility.
EMA Committee Chairman Glenn Savage said tornado season is near, and encouraged area residents to review their emergency plans and be prepared.
He said ambulance billing continues routinely, and that the next hazardous mitigation meeting will be held on March 4. There will also be a county-wide tornado exercise on Tuesday, March 3.
The committee has received all but one of the ambulance district service contracts, and that new board member Bill Bergen had been working to secure the last one from the Litchfield Ambulance District.
They are also working on a memorandum of understanding in order to qualify for federal disaster aid funds in case of an emergency.
Beeler asked if EMA Coordinator Diana Holmes attended the Dakota Access Pipeline meeting, and Savage said he didn't know.
Before concluding his report, Savage noted the importance of the MMR vaccine, especially as it affects unborn children.
"That part seems to be left out of the national debate," he said.
Health, Welfare and Elections Committee Chairman Connie Beck said she has been working with Bill Gonet of the EPA on cleaning up a derelict property in Ohlman.
Leitheiser said things are proceeding accordingly for the April consolidated election.
In animal control news, Beck said they received one bid for a 2015 Dodge Caravan. With a $300 trade-in value for a 1999 Astro van and $1,900 for a Crown Vic, the purchase price from Wright Automotive was $17,430. Several board members felt they might be able to sell the van for more than $300 if they bid it out separately.
Board members unanimously approved the purchase of the new van and the trade-in of the Crown Vic with funding from the Vanek estate, with an agreement to sell the Astro van as well. Plunkett asked if the money from the sale of the Astro van would go back to the Vanek estate funds, and Beck said it would.
Deabenderfer reported he got a call from a constituent, upset that the county has discontinued hosting electronics recycling drives. Hertel said the problem is that it costs $20 to $40 to recycle each television set, and that it's illegal to dump them.
Plunkett suggested offering the recycling drives anyway, and allowing residents to pay to dispose of the television sets.
"We will work on trying to get that service," Beck said.
County Coordinator Chris Daniels reported that the county received a $2,000 grant from the Illinois EPA for education and advertising for a recycling drive, but the funds had to be used for that. The committee will continue to look into the possibilities.
Since Personnel Committee Chairman Bathurst was absent from the last committee meeting, Vice Chairman Jay Martin gave the report.
He said the committee held a joint meeting with the Finance Committee and Consociates to make sure they are getting the best return on their health insurance. The county has worked with Consociates for the past 13 years.
The board unanimously approved a request to seek qualified bidders for a fully funded health insurance plan.
"It's an effort to make sure we get the best deal and maybe help keep business local," Martin said.
Bathurst said they are not suggesting a fully funded health insurance plan at this time, but looking into the cost differences.
Board members also unanimously approved a motion to terminate the contract with VALIC, which offers employees a deferred compensation plan.
In a final note, Martin said the committee held mediation with the jailers union and felt they had reached a tentative agreement.
Road and Bridge
Road and Bridge Committee Chairman Miles said they held a special meeting on Jan. 28 to open rock letting bids. After review by Smith, board members unanimously accepted the lowest bid for all.
After some discussion, the board also unanimously approved the purchase of a 2014 John Deere 310 SK backhoe from ERB Equipment Company of Illinois in Mitchell. The bid was for $94,000 less the $45,000 trade-in on the old backhoe for a total of $49,000.
Plunkett questioned why the committee chose that bid over a lower bid on a newer 2015 JCB 3CX14 super backhoe from Sievers Equipment in Hillsboro.
Smith said that bid did not meet the specifications, including not enough horsepower and was not a true four-wheel drive vehicle.
"I've never driven a backhoe, but are you confident the JCB won't do the job you need it to do?" Plunkett questioned.
Smith said he deferred to the employees who would use it.
"The low bidder does business in this county, so you have to have a real good reason to pass it up," Plunkett said.
Miles said the other backhoe would probably do the job, but the employees prefer the John Deere. He added they might get more of a trade-in value later on the John Deere when it's time for a new backhoe.
Board member Evan Young said he supported the John Deere purchase because it's American made, and JCB is made in England.
Smith added that the JCB did not meet the specifications of the bid.
"The whole reason you come up with specifications is to have a better bidding process," Smith said.
Board member Chuck Graden said he felt like the continuous four-wheel drive aspect would be beneficial as well.
Hertel checked with Wilson to make sure the county could take a higher bid if the lowest bid did not meet the proper criteria, and she said yes.
The board also unanimously approved the purchase of a NPK hydraulic hammer for $15,600 from Martin Equipment in Springfield. Smith said the difference between good and bad hydraulic hammers was the materials they were made with, and that's hard to specify in a bid. He asked for permission to buy it without bidding it out in order to get the brand they wanted.
In addition to being a top quality product, the hammers need to be rebuilt every 200 to 300 hours, and NPK charges $300, while other companies charge upwards of $1,800 to $1,900. With only three qualified sellers in Illinois, Smith went with Martin Equipment for one of the last remaining 2014 models. The price went up nearly $2,000 on 2015 models.
The board unanimously approved two bridge projects, a bridge pile repair on Wonder Trail for $15,250 and a bridge pile repair on Seven Sisters Ave. for $15,000. Both projects were a 50/50 split in funding between the township and the county.
Miles said they continued to work to gain easements on the Walshville Trail process. Both landowners have now agreed, and the project may start soon.
The highway department is also working to fix a damaged guardrail on the Fillmore blacktop that curves into Nokomis.
Miles and Smith were also planning to attend the next Irving Village Board meeting to discuss the project on Pine Street and see how much the village is willing to pay to improve the road.
Unit 18 Extension Director Amanda Cole told board members she gave them all a copy of the winter magazine with updates as to their latest programming.
She said the Extension continues a three-year planning project and surveys would be sent out soon. Cole encouraged local residents to fill out the survey or respond online.
"We need your feedback on what you want to see so we can continue to serve you better," Cole said.
The meeting adjourned at 11 a.m., and the next regular monthly meeting of the Montgomery County Board will be held Tuesday morning, March 12, at the Historic Courthouse in Hillsboro, beginning at 8:30 a.m.