County Board Tables 911 Discussion

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In a unanimous decision, members of the Montgomery County Board decided to table a resolution to dissolve the county's Emergency Telephone Services Board (911) for one month.

Board member Richard Wendel was absent from the regular monthly meeting, held Tuesday evening, Jan. 14, at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro.

Finance Committee Chairman Megan Beeler said her committee spent about three hours of its four hour committee meeting discussing the future of 911 in Montgomery County. 

The county's Emergency Management Committee Chairman, Bill Bergen, presented the committee with six possible scenarios to keep 911 services in Montgomery County.

"It was all good things," Beeler said. "It shows how important this conversation is. We are doing our due diligence and answering a lot of questions."

The ETSB (911) Board, which is a separate entity entirely, will hold its next meeting on Thursday evening, Jan. 16, to discuss the future of 911 as well. In October, the board voted to consolidate the county's 911 services with that of Christian and Shelby counties. 

However, the county board learned in December that all three counties must approve an intergovernmental agreement in order for the consolidation to take place.

Beeler said they are waiting to hear what the 911 Board decides at its meeting on Thursday about the possibility of keeping services in Montgomery County.

Board member Ron Deabenderfer asked about the county's liability to buy out a Motorola contract for new equipment that was signed last summer. Beeler explained that contract was signed by the ETSB Board and not the county board. She said they have a five-year plan to pay for the upgraded equipment, adding they contacted local police, fire and ambulance services to help them pay for the upgrade, which is required by the state. Beeler said the county's portion of that $900,000 expenditure is $98,000, which was approved by the county board members.

"If they (ETSB) leave, they will have to buy out that contract," Beeler said.

If the board decides to keep 911 services in Montgomery County, they may propose a counter offer to see about additional funding from the county board. Last fall, they asked for an additional $368,000 to help pay for the upgrades, but the county board felt they could not afford that much, and offered $160,000 to help pay for the upgrades.

"We'll see what they come up with at their meeting and bring it back to you," Beeler said. 

In addition, Bergen offered to provide financial information from each of the potential scenarios he presented to the Finance Committee to all county board members.

Other Business

After calling the meeting to order, board member Glenn Savage led the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Board members unanimously approved the monthly per diem stipends, as well as minutes from the previous monthly and special meetings. They also approved the consent agenda, including monthly reports from department heads.

Liaison Reports

In 708 Board news, board member Earlene Robinson said the group presented plaques to outgoing members Pam Lentz and Brian Gaskin. They also elected new officers, including President Danny Hough, Vice President Chrissie DeWerff, Secretary Maria Clark and Treasurer Earlene Robinson. She reported the group got new Chromebooks, which means applicants for funding may submit their reports online now. Applications will be online Feb. 1, and are due to be returned by March 31.

She also reported the county EMA requested funding for a school safety hotline that is now up and running at all Montgomery County schools. Students, parents and community members may call 1-800-418-6423, ext. 359, to report a possible safety issue at any school.

Board member Tim Fogle reported he attended the most recent CEFS meeting, where the group has finished its internal audit. He added they are looking for a client coordinator at the Montgomery County center.

Deabenderfer said he attended the last Planning Commission meeting and the group continues to work on the wind ordinance and making sure it meets an updated Illinois code. He added that his Senior Citizens meeting was snowed out.

Coordinating

In his report, Chairman Evan Young said the information systems department is still looking for an additional employee.

County Clerk and Recorder Sandy Leitheiser gave an update on the upcoming census. She is pleased that Valerie Belusko of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation will be assisting her. The pair will host a meeting with a census representative on Thursday, Jan. 16 at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to continue plans.

Leitheiser added that the Macoupin County Health Department received a $60,000 grant to help with the census and it covers Macoupin and Montgomery counties. Half of the funding will be used in Montgomery County because the latest census report shows that Montgomery County was severely undercounted by more than 6,000 residents in the Hillsboro, Coffeen, Donnellson and Fillmore areas.

"It's going to take all of us working together to make this successful," Leitheiser said. "And it's critical to get an accurate count for funding in our county."

She said that census postcards will be mailed out March 12-20 around the county. The county is also working on a slogan to help promote the census, "The census makes cents for Montgomery County."

In a final note, Young said they will have an informational meeting with other taxing bodies affected by the closing of the Vistra power plant on Jan. 22.

Finance

In addition to the discussion about the 911 board, Beeler said that her committee discussed about 150 complaints received by the supervisor of assessors office, which were published in December.

Beeler presented the monthly capital improvement fund report to the board, noting she is working with Treasurer Nikki Lohman on creating finance and budget control policies for the county. She added that most counties have a separate capital improvement fund, and while Montgomery County tracks its capital improvement funding, it does not have a separate fund.

Beeler said her committee is also working on employee time keeping per new state requirements. She said most offices are already keeping track of time, but they might need to add some additional information.

The committee presented the list of pre-paid vendors for the county for an update. Office holders should let the Finance Committee know by Feb. 5.

In IMRF news, Beeler said they are awaiting some legislative revisions before moving forward.

Young attended the meeting with local ambulance districts to discuss how they will absorb the additional costs since the Litchfield Ambulance District pulled their billing out of the county. He said the county will continue to run the way it is, but they are looking at a different structure and some updated software, as well as other ways to collect money.

Savage asked about how they would bill the city of Litchfield hourly for collections, and Young said the county will still have to do some collecting for Litchfield from last fall until it is complete, and they will bill the city for the time spent on the collections side. The county does not expect that to be a huge amount of time.

Board member Jeremy Jones asked if the new software the county is looking at is the same as the company Litchfield is now using. Young said he's unsure, as they asked the city to contact the county's information systems department for more information.

"They didn't wait for us to have that conversation," Beeler said. "We never said no."

Beeler said the county's auditors have been on site three times recently working on this year's audit. She had high praise for the circuit clerk's office who once again received another perfect audit.

"It's amazing considering the amount of cash that goes through that office," Beeler said. "That's really something to be proud of."

Board members unanimously approved two travel vouchers for State's Attorney Bryant Hitchings for a state's attorney convention in Chicago that were over the state's daily limit. One voucher was for $93.81 for transportation on Amtrak and the other was for $302.90 for a two-night stay in a hotel.

Before the conclusion of the finance report, Beeler introduced Eric Braasch of Scheller Insurance to talk about the county's coverage. He said that worker's compensation coverage continues to trend downward, while the overall package of liability insurance was also down 3.5 percent this year. He said that includes an increase of coverage for $3 million in property value and $1 million in equipment. Board member Gene Miles asked about the increase in property value, and Braasch said it was the former Wright Automotive property. Miles said maybe they could consider not covering that property at full replacement value.

"I can't afford that on my own home, so I can't see how the county can afford that," Miles said. 

Braasch said they could look into it. Board member Dennis McCammack said the county might be wise to consider full replacement value coverage, as it would help reduce costs in case of damage.

Board member Kirby Furness asked about an increase in cyber security coverage for the additional Motorola contract signed by the ETSB board. EMA Director Greg Nimmo contacted Scheller Insurance about the additional coverage, which increased the premium $542 a year.

"How can we have insurance on something we don't have?" Furness said. "Can't we wait until we get it?"

Sheriff Rick Robbins said that some of the equipment is on site, but none of it is in use yet. Braasch said he will check on it. Beeler added they are also looking into a chain of authority to add additional insurance coverage to prevent this from happening in the future.

Road And Bridge

Board members unanimously accepted the low bids for rock letting for the 2020 year for both county townships and the county.

County Engineer Cody Greenwood said the committee continues to work with the Village of Walshville on creating a bi-pass road around the village east and south. 

It would eliminate all the curves through town. He estimates it would cost about $1 million, and they would be able to use federal construction funding and 20 percent state match assist funds. The county would have to cover some engineering costs and right of way agreements.

Greenwood said it's in the very early planning stages, but the Illinois Department of Transportation has slated it for 2024. He is hoping to get it scheduled for as early as 2022. 

The county will begin to see some preliminary engineering agreements to get the project started, and Road and Bridge Committee Chairman Gene Miles said the county plans to take over maintenance of the road once the project is completed.

Board members unanimously approved a resolution to appropriate funds for the county engineer's salary for 2020. Miles said the county has to meet 95 percent of the state's recommended salary in order to qualify for their reimbursement program, which funds half of the county engineer's salary. This year, the salary went to $105,500 from $103,500. After the motion passed, board member Mark Hughes asked board member Donna Yeske to abstain from the vote since Greenwood is her son-in-law. She agreed.

In a final note, Greenwood said the City of Hillsboro is looking into replacing the Seward Street bridge, and they can petition the county to pay for half of that project. He said it would likely be a few years out.

HWE

In elections news, HWE Chairman Chuck Graden reminded the board of the upcoming primary election on March 17.

The board met for just over 15 minutes in closed session to discuss a replacement for Bill Gonet as EPA administrator. Gonet will retire at the end of February. The board unanimously approved the appointment of the county board administrator, which is currently Chris Daniels, to fill the position. They also hired a full-time secretary to assist her with both EPA and county board related matters.

The board also unanimously approved a motion to return recycling buildings and drop sheds to their respective municipalities if they want them. If not, the county will sell them. Community member Jamey Huber of Coffeen asked if the board was just wiping its hands clean of recycling. Graden said they were selling what they don't use and looking into the potential of renting the bailer to a private business in Hillsboro. Huber asked if that was put up for bid, and State's Attorney Bryant Hitchings said if the county sells any items they have to be put out for bid, but not if they lease items. Young said they contacted all the trash haulers in the county to see if anyone was interested in recycling and only DC Waste in Hillsboro made contact about renting the baler.

Huber said taxpayer dollars were used to purchase this equipment and he wondered why it wasn't public information that the county was interested in leasing or selling the equipment. Hitchings said this has been discussed at numerous public meetings, and Young added that all the minutes from those meetings are posted online and covered in local media outlets.

Jones said if Huber was willing to pay more to lease the equipment, he could make a pitch to the county board. Beeler said they are not currently under lease with anyone for the equipment, and that if he was interested, he should attend the next HWE meeting on the first Tuesday in February.

"I just thought I could create a couple of jobs and do the county a service," Huber told the board.

In animal control news, Graden said Animal Control Warden Amanda Daniels reported on the municipal contracts they have received back and said they need to set up another mayors' meeting to talk about the ongoing problem with some municipalities. Young reported that both the washing machine and dryer, which are ten years old, have stopped working at animal control and new ones have been purchased.

Buildings And Grounds

Buildings and Grounds Committee Chairman Bob Sneed said the final paperwork has been signed off for the Smart Watt project, and the county can expect to receive a guaranteed 15 percent savings on energy costs.

He reported they were looking into some spot cleaning of carpets in the Historic Courthouse and some other minor issues.

In a 19-1 vote, the board approved Young's Roofing to fix the roof on the Annex building for $20,360. Furness voted against the project.

Sneed said that raccoons had eaten several holes in the roof, which caused water to come underneath and break the seal. Board members Mark Hughes and Connie Beck asked if the committee had taken care of the raccoon problem before fixing the roof, and Sneed said they had not yet. Young said the roof work would not begin until better weather. Beeler asked how the board could award the project without a bid, and Leitheiser said that no bids are required for projects under $30,000. Sneed added that Young's Roofing has already been up there numerous times fixing other problems with that roof.

Young asked Braasch if their insurance would cover the damage, and he said he would look into it.

Board member David Loucks asked about what offices are housed in those buildings, and it's the Veterans Assistance Commission and the Regional Office of Education. The county is required to provide space for both offices.

Board members unanimously approved a resolution to seek bids for the county farm property, and Sneed said they had already received three bids after the ad was in the newspaper. Board members also approved a resolution to pay for soil samples on the property. Beeler asked where the funding would come from, and Sneed said buildings and grounds. Graden added that it likely wouldn't cost much.

Sneed said he continues to work with the City of Hillsboro on concrete work around the courts complex.

In a final note, he gave a report on the county surplus sale. Instead of hiring an auctioneer, they are looking to have a silent auction on all the small items and sealed bids on some of the larger items. Board member Jim Moore asked when the auction would be, and Young said they are still moving things around. Sneed said they would let the board know.

Economic Development

Economic Development Committee Chairman Donna Yeske said her committee did not meet in January due to the special board meeting on Jan. 6. She reported that the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation held a strategic planning meeting on Dec. 19 with a large crowd in attendance and lots of great ideas. Another meeting is planned Jan. 29.

She also presented new tourism books that feature Montgomery County in 25 places. Yeske thanked Belusko, the MCEDC and Sarah Waggoner of the Litchfield Tourism office for getting the information out there.

Leitheiser showed the board the 3,660-page document her office recorded, which makes up the Enterprise Zone application. Montgomery County was one of 14 counties to get approval for an Enterprise Zone, starting Jan. 1. This is a 15-year renewal.

EMA/Ambulance

EMA Committee Chairman Bill Bergen said Danny Hough was going to look into the possibility of storing the red EMA truck in Raymond while it's not in use in the county, as EMA Director Greg Nimmo will split time between Montgomery and Christian counties.

In a final note, Bergen said that Nimmo is still working on completing the consolidation of EMA services in Montgomery and Christian counties. Among the details to work out are how workman's compensation will be covered between the two counties, as well as the combined emergency operations plan for the two counties. Nimmo has set a hard date of Aug. 31 for this information to be completed.

Personnel

Personnel Committee Chairman Kirby Furness reported the county had HRA usage of $3,874 in the month of December.

He added they are still working on the employee personnel manual, as well as the drug policy for employees. Daniels said the county received a sample from other counties to look over.

The county received a grievance from Local #148, and Furness said it was pretty minor. The committee responded back, but the employee still wants to meet.

Furness said the committee discussed the possibility of Colonial Insurance as a carrier for employees. He said it's similar to AFLAC, and most of the county's employees are happier with AFLAC. They will continue to look into it.

In a final note, he reminded the board that the next Personnel Committee meeting will be held on Jan. 23, at 5 p.m.

Appointments

Board members unanimously re-appointed Bill Bergen and Darrin Beckman to three years terms on the Montgomery County ETSB (911) board.

Public Comments

Board member Jim Moore said regular attendee Bill Schroeder called him to let him know he was under the weather and couldn't attend the meeting. Larry Schraut said he would ask Schroeder's question and wondered about an update on Foresight Energy, which is the company that owns Deer Run Mine in Hillsboro. Young said there was not much to report. Officials with Foresight are looking to adjust their contract in order to get the mine up and going again. Beeler said they have transferred in some people for a 30-day review.

Schraut said he hopes the county will not allow the company to change its current commitments to the county. Young said they have not changed anything so far, and discussions continue.

After approving payment of the monthly bills, board members voted to adjourn the meeting, which lasted just over two hours. The next regular meeting of the Montgomery County Board will be on Tuesday, Feb. 11, beginning at 5 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro.

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