Most of the mayors of Montgomery County either attended or sent a representative to a meeting held in the courthouse Wednesday evening, Sept. 25; the meetings are held quarterly in order to facilitate communications between the county board and the population centers of the county, but they aren't always well attended.
The draw this time was two issues that will affect the budgets of both the county and the towns and villages. The first to be discussed was the recycling dilemma; on Tuesday, Sept. 10, the board voted to close all drop sheds in the county except for Hillsboro (which has been the host site since the inception of the program). This meeting was the first chance for the towns to react although the date for closure is tomorrow, Oct. 1.
Given the circumstances, the discussion was more informational than confrontational. Only once did it become close to heated, and that was over the second issue. Board chairman Evan Young did offer a glimmer of hope for a resolution for recycling in that a private business has expressed interest in the recycling program; a meeting is scheduled. The name of the business person was not disclosed.
It was made clear that finances dictate the program can't stay status quo, but it was also clear that the Hillsboro site is open to any county resident who wishes to bring sorted materials there. The Nokomis contingent (the Fosters) asked if Hillsboro would accept material brought from their drop shed by Nokomis employees; the answer was yes. Any town can have their material delivered en masse; the county's problem is both a lack of manpower and the expense of collecting the cardboard, plastics, etc., from the cities. Since both Macoupin and Christian Counties closed their recycling centers, towns bordering those counties have seen an increase in volume of material left at their drop sheds.
The other magnetic issue was that of animal control. At a previous mayor's meeting, the group was given a new rate schedule which drew a negative response from the mayors (and the towns they represent). As a response the county's Health, Welfare, and Education Committee (in charge of both recycling and animal control), remade the charge list in an attempt to be as fair as possible.
Those prices include picking up and impounding animals in any town or village–$100 if the call is received within normal working hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday). Any call must be authorized by a city official before animal control will respond. If an animal (dog or non-feral cat) is brought to the facility, the charge is $50 per incident.
If the call concerns a bite case, which by state law will require further investigation, the charge will be $250. Humane investigations of neglect or abuse are also $250. A call after hours, on weekends, or on holidays would carry a $200 charge.
According to both Chairman Young and committee Chairman Chuck Graden, the revisions are necessary to protect the welfare of the Animal Control Warden, Amanda Daniels, who has no deputy to respond to calls so she is on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Eliminating 3 a.m. calls about a barking dog would help her situation.
Both Daniels and the mayors shared stories about past experiences in an open exchange. Daniels told of having to exhume a Great Dane's corpse in the winter because of a bite case–the body had to be sent to the U of I for examination on the chance the dog had been rabid. Two mayors complained about long wait times before the warden appeared after a call.
An interpretation of state law spurred the most contentious discussion. Four handouts of pertinent laws were distributed, but the verbiage seems contradictory. Chairman Young contends that towns are required to handle animal control issues on their own, including having a warden and facilities for impoundment. Litchfield Mayor Steve Dougherty said while that was the law at one time, it is no longer. Because municipalities across the state were not consistent with their animal control efforts, the law was changed to make those duties the responsibility of counties. Daniels had called the Dept. of Agriculture for clarification; the response was counties are in charge of rabies control, but whose job it is to corral strays in a municipality is vague.
It was an interesting two hour meeting.