Chris-Mont EMA Director Greg Nimmo encouraged local residents to continue to be vigilant and cautious amid the ongoing pandemic.
Nimmo gave his report to members of the Montgomery County Board during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday evening, Oct. 13, at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro. All members were present, either in person or via phone conference.
As part of his report, Nimmo said the county has seen nearly 100 new confirmed cases of the virus in the last month, along with six deaths. Nimmo added that there are three known cases to be hospitalized from Montgomery County right now.
“As of today, we have seen 9,000 deaths from COVID in Illinois,” Nimmo said. “Typically, the flu sees about 3,500 deaths in a year.”
He added that groups and gatherings are a large part of the problem of the virus spread, and he encouraged social distancing and wearing masks for any who attend those types of events.
“The masks are not 100 percent, but they do slow it down,” he told the board. “And if you’re sick, stay home.”
Nimmo had high praise for Montgomery County Health Department Administrator Hugh Satterlee and his team for all their hard work amid the pandemic.
The duo have already begun planning a mass scale vaccination when a vaccine for COVID becomes available.
He also reported that each of the county’s four school districts have reported positive cases of the virus and that the health department evaluates each case on an individual basis.
He reminded the board of a mobile testing site at the Taylorville Fire House from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 16 and Sunday, Oct. 18.
The board unanimously voted to extend the disaster declaration in the county for another month, as the pandemic continues.
In calling the meeting to order, Chairman Evan Young asked Montgomery County Circuit Clerk Holly Lemons to lead the Pledge of Allegiance.
The board would unanimously approve the mileage and per diem reports, as well as minutes from the last meeting and the consent agenda, including reports from department heads.
In liaison reports, board member Tim Fogle reminded the board that CEFS has launched its annual Li-Heap program to help with heating costs in the cold winter months.
Board member Sandy Johnson reported that the health department has administered 450 flu vaccines.
In Senior Citizens news, board member Ron Deabenderfer said their prior insurance carrier cancelled them for having five claims, and they had until Oct. 19 to find a new carrier. Deabenderfer said no local agencies cover organizations like that, but they found Troxell in Springfield with a local agent, Kathy Ohl of Butler. The insurance is about $150 more per month, but Deabenderfer said it’s a better policy for the group.
He added that the Meals on Wheels program was shut down on Friday due to virus exposure in Litchfield. Meals were cancelled for seniors for several days. Hillsboro officials approved delivering packaged meals at least on Friday of last week to Hillsboro seniors.
In West Central Development Council news, board member Richard Wendel said they were interviewing candidates for an open position at The Job Center in Litchfield.
In addition to extending the disaster declaration in Montgomery County, the board approved committee dates for the coming year, as well as a holiday schedule for employees.
The full board will continue to meet on the second Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. The building and grounds committee will meet on the Wednesday before the full board meeting at 8:30 a.m. The coordinating committee will meet on the last Tuesday of the month at 8:30 a.m. The economic development committee will meet on the first Monday of the month at 5:30 p.m.
The finance committee will meet on the Friday before the full board meeting at 8:30 a.m. The newly combined HWE and EMA committees will meet on the Tuesday before the full board meeting at 4 p.m. The personnel committee will meet on the last Thursday of the month at 5 p.m. and the road and bridge committee will meet on the Thursday before the full board meeting at 8:30 a.m.
In approving employee holidays for 2021, the board approved 12 dates, including New Year’s Day on Jan. 1, Martin Luther King Day on Jan. 18, Presidents’ Day on Feb. 15, Good Friday on April 2, Memorial Day on May 31, Independence Day on July 5 (July 4 falls on a Sunday), Labor Day on Sept. 6, Columbus Day on Oct. 11, Veterans’ Day on Nov. 11, Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 25, the day after Thanksgiving on Nov. 26 and observance of Christmas Day on Dec. 24.
Montgomery County Clerk and Recorder Sandy Leitheiser updated the board about the 2020 census, and the deadline to collect data ends on Oct. 15. Young asked if she had been given any hint of the county’s final tally, and Leitheiser said no early information is provided.
Building and Grounds
In building and grounds news, Chairman Bob Sneed said they had only a few maintenance issues, including brick work at the courthouse, general maintenance at the Historic Courthouse and painting done in the basement of the new courthouse.
His committee continues to work on a request for more space for the coroner’s office.
The committee also approved a request from Lemons for a kiosk outside the new courthouse, where court fines can be paid by credit card. Lemons said the purchase was approved by the judge from automation funds, but they hope to be reimbursed from the Cares Act, which provides federal funding for COVID-related expenses. The kiosk has already been purchased, and Lemons hopes to have it in place by the end of the year.
In her report, Chairman Donna Yeske said the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation was looking to help local businesses with a new grant from the DCEO, targeting businesses impacted by the lack of tourism, like restaurants, movie theaters and bars. Those interested should search Big Illinois, and Yeske said it was a simple application.
She added that Cares grant funding is still available to communities affected by customers not being able to pay their water bills.
Yeske said that Wisper Internet is still looking for 150 residents to sign up for rural internet access. Sign-ups are available at the MCEDC website.
She added that the committee is reviewing how the Revolving Loan Fund is written, and anyone with ideas should contact MCEDC Executive Director Valerie Belusko.
In CEDS news, Yeske said that four counties, except Christian County, have signed onto the document, designed to pool resources to bring businesses to this region. She said they are exploring the possibility of sharing financial resources to fund an office for the group.
Yeske had high praise for the county’s Planning Commission, who compiled a new wind ordinance now ready for the full board to review for 30 days.
She also thanked Engineer Cody Greenwood and the highway department for their efforts in cleaning up the Green Diamond Bike Trail in Farmersville.
In Bicentennial news, Yeske noted that she and Patty Whitworth had been working on planning two events (one on Feb. 12 and one on June 5) to celebrate the 200th birthday of the county. Her committee approved the purchase of 15,000 wooden nickels for $1,500 to be given away at the Bicentennial.
“I guess that goes to show that a wooden nickel really is worth something,” joked board member Chuck Graden.
In addition to Nimmo’s report, EMA Chairman Bill Bergen said their committee met with a constituent about an issue with ambulance billing. The call comes for lifting assistance only and no transfer, but she received an invoice. Bergen said the committee is looking into specific 911 protocols, and he hopes they are able to help her.
Bergen added the county is sending a bill for $1,648 to the city of Litchfield for work done by the county’s ambulance billing department from January to September. Earlier this year, the Litchfield Ambulance District pulled its billing services from the county, but the county still did some work for things sent to the county. As of September, they quit accepting things on behalf of Litchfield.
In addition to his COVID report, Nimmo said the federal government has now added public safety salaries into it’s reimbursable items for the Cares Act (COVID-related expenses), so the county will be able to submit for all $318,968 they have been allotted. They are working with Bellwether on submitting the paperwork to be reimbursed.
Nimmo added that they are also working on FEMA public assistance, which has a 75 percent reimbursable rate on tangible things, like PPE (personal protective equipment) and plexiglass.
Before concluding, Nimmo reminded the board that the county is under a fire watch due to the dry conditions.
In 911 news, Bergen said that the final two 911 upgrade stations have been installed. One will be operational by the end of the week, but the other has a bad phone part from Motorola, so they are currently waiting on a new part to be delivered. His committee is also working on problems with 911 mapping.
In elections news, Leitheiser said that her office has already seen a resounding success for this year’s Nov. 3 general election. She noted that 25 percent of the county’s 16,443 registered voters have either voted early or requested a vote by mail ballot. She added as of Tuesday’s meeting, they had 1,254 early voters in person and 2,796 vote by mail ballots requested. Of those vote by mail ballots, 1,577 have been returned to the clerk’s office, including 442 placed in the secure drop box outside the Historic Courthouse. Leitheiser thanked the post office for their efforts on making sure ballots arrived in a timely fashion.
County Coordinator Chris Daniels has scheduled some training with the Springfield EPA office on how to perform open dump inspections.
HWE Chairman Chuck Graden reminded the board about the county’s electronics recycling drive this Saturday, Oct. 17, from 9 a.m. to noon at the former Wright Automotive property in Hillsboro. They were not able to host one in the spring due to the pandemic, and they expect a large turnout.
In animal control news, Beeler said that over the last few years, the county has received $2,738 in compensation for rabies tags events that was actually supposed to be paid in Montgomery County, TN. They are working to reimburse them.
The board unanimously approved health insurance renewal with Health Alliance through CIBC. Chairman Kirby Furness said initially, they thought the premium increase would be 9 percent, but agents Tony Johnston and Amanda Mast negotiated it to just a 3 percent increase.
Board members would also approve Met Life renewals for dental, at a 7 percent increase and vision and life remained the same. Those policies are not provided to county employees, but are an option for them to purchase.
Furness said the county’s HRA usage is about 10.2 percent, with the fiscal year ending Nov. 30. They budgeted 25 percent, and he expects it will come in around 15 percent. He added that last year, the county doubled its contributions to the HRA to try and ease the burden on employeees.
He added that CIBC had provided a health insurance satisfaction survey to county employees, and although there were a few with concerns, most were happy with the county’s coverage.
Following ten minutes in closed session, the board approved a contract renewal with Local 773, which is the dispatchers and jailers union. Following the unanimous approval of the collective bargaining agreement, the board also approved an amendment to add a memorandum of understanding.
Chairman Megan Beeler presented the monthly capital improvement report, including a $270,062 payment in coal royalties. She added that the county is also starting to receive tonnage reports from the coal company.
The board would unanimously approve a bid from ICRMT for property/casualty insurance. Eric Braasch will remain the county’s broker. They received two bids.
They also unanimously approved Scheffel Boyle for a three-year contract to do the county’s audit. Beeler said they received five bids, and that while Scheffel Boyle was the low bidder, she felt they also provided the best service to the county.
Beeler reported the county had submitted for reimbursement for COVID-related expenses and were told they needed to submit more documentation. Treasurer Nikki Lohman has been putting it together, and Beeler is unsure when they will see the reimbursement.
She added that the county is compiling a “wish list” of COVID-related items, and there will be funding for some items in the fiscal year 2021 budget.
At this time, the county is not offering any additional business relief grants, but encouraging local businesses to apply for the Illinois Big grants.
She said the committee approved funding for a scanner at the new courthouse, in case the old machine fails.
The board approved a $9,500 expenditure to Charles G. Argianas for an appraisal of the Vistra power plant in Coffeen. He will be appraising all four of the shuttered power plants in Illinois. Beeler said they are optimistic about the passing of legislation about the Vistra power plant, but added they cannot wait until it’s approved. They need an appraisal so the property tax bills will not be delayed next year.
Board member Glenn Bishop asked if the county would seek any financial help from the other taxing bodies affected by the Vistra power plant, like the Hillsboro School District. Beeler said they could ask, but that time was of the essence. She added that Supervisor of Assessor Ray Durston recommended participating in this appraisal.
The committee approved a one-year remote access program with DevNet. It will allow county employees access to information so they can work from home in the event of another pandemic-related shutdown. It will also allow local residents to use it remotely, cutting down on foot traffic in the courts complex.
Beeler presented a budget amendment for 30-day review for fiscal year 2020, due to additional COVID-related expenses and revenues. The amendment also included the changes in coal royalty payments, as the county received very little last year.
The board unanimously approved a 30-day review of a fiscal year 2021 budget, with a $500,000 deficit. Beeler said that next month, they will fill that gap with funding from coal royalties so they have a balanced budget, noting that she wanted board members to see an actual picture of the budget.
Board members also unanimously approved an estimated aggregate levy of $5.6 million, which is down 3 percent. After a 30-day review, the board will vote on it next month.
Beeler said the committee is also looking at the way Imprest funds are being used, and educating office holders on proper use.
Road and Bridge
Chairman Gene Miles reported the county received a grant to straighten the jog in the road at Coffeen Road and Seven Sisters intersection, which will likely take place next year. The board approved an engineering agreement with Hurst Rosche not to exceed $47,000.
Miles said his committee also approved $9,455.30 for pile repairs on the county line in Zanesville Township. Montgomery County is responsible for 41 percent of the project, while Macoupin County is responsible for the other 58 percent.
In a final note, Miles said the committee authorized Greenwood to finish work at the new highway department building on the old Wright Automotive property. That work includes $4,250 to Martin Metalworks for a handrail, $18,690 to Gardner/L&M Glass for interior doors and glass and $26,938 to Neuhaus Heating and Air Conditioning for mini-split heating and air conditioning. Other work includes plumbing and drywall.
With no announcements or public comments, the board adjourned at 7:05 p.m. after paying the monthly bills. The full board will meet again on Tuesday evening, Nov. 10, at 5:30 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro.