During their regular monthly meeting, members of the Montgomery County Board learned Chris-Mont Emergency Managment Agency (EMA) Director Greg Nimmo has resigned, effective March 12.
The board met on Tuesday evening, March 9, at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hillsboro with member Donna Yeske absent.
County Board Chairman Evan Young said the Christian County Board’s personnel committee met earlier this week and would like to discontinue the partnership of EMA between Christian and Montgomery counties. The two counties merged services on Dec. 1, 2019, with a two-year contract that would run through Nov. 30, of this year. Talks of the merger began when the county was looking to consolidate 911 services with Christian County. The board eventually decided to maintain their own 911 services, but had already approved a contract to merge EMA with Christian County.
Board member Gene Miles asked whose idea it was to merge the EMA position with the two counties to begin with, and Young said he and the Christian County Board chairman had input, along with Nimmo.
Board member Patty Whitworth asked if the county split the salary with Christian County, and Young said the salary is pre-funded by the state of Illinois.
The EMA director is a part-time position in the county. Previously, Diana Holmes worked as part-time EMA director and worked in ambulance billing for the county. Nimmo worked as part-time EMA director and 911 coordinator. Young said it could be tough to find a person for a part-time position. Board member Mark Hughes asked if Sheriff Rick Robbins could help fill in while they look for someone. Robbins said he has the necessary training, as well as Montgomery County Clerk and Recorder Sandy Leitheiser, noting there would be several helping to fill the vacancy until someone is hired.
Whitworth asked if they were only looking to fill a part-time position, and Young said they were still discussing what to do.
“We will cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Following roll call, Young asked Nora Beeler of Raymond, daughter of Finance Committee Chairman Megan Beeler, to lead the group in the Pledge of Allegiance to open the meeting. Board members also unanimously approved the monthly mileage and per diem requests, as well as minutes from the previous meeting.
Montgomery County Health Department Administrator Hugh Satterlee gave a report on the COVID-19 vaccination clinics, with special thanks to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement for helping to provide security at the drive-through clinic. He also thanked the Highway Department for use of the former Wright Automotive property for some of the drive-through clinics.
This week, the county picked up an additional 200 doses from a county that couldn’t use them, providing 700 first-time doses and 600 second-time doses to county residents.
Board member Bev McCoy asked where they were on vaccinations, and Satterlee said the state allowed them to give vaccines to those 18 and older with co-morbidities, though they were still focusing on the population over 65. Currently, there are over 5,000 county residents on the vaccine waiting list.
Several board members had high praise for Satterlee and the health department for running such efficient vaccination clinics.
In a final note, Montgomery County State’s Attorney Andrew Affrunti reported he was able to hire an assistant for his office, Brian Bach, who comes with ten to 11 years of experience in the Christian and Shelby county state’s attorneys’ offices.
“He came highly recommended by judges in our circuit,” said Affrunti, noting that he was able to hit the ground running when he started.
Board member Earlene Robinson said the 708 Board met and applications for funding will now be available on May 1, and due to be returned by June 30. The first funding will be paid out in December, which will help to align with the budget cycle of the county board.
In 911 news, board member Bill Bergen said they are looking into cost estimates to run fiber to the tower on Cress Hill. They are also working with the supervisor of assessors office for a grant to help fund mapping.
Board member Richard Wendel said the West Central Development Council met and got a good report on their state audit. He said there is still funding for job training and a youth program, and anyone interested should contact The Job Center in Litchfield.
Young reported that Animal Control is now hooked up with CTI. In other information systems news, the board is hoping to schedule Chromebook training with Curt Watkins in the near future.
Watkins also sent out 88 phishing emails to employee accounts, and 11 of them were clicked on. He will be contacting those employees for additional training.
Watkins also helped to work on some power issues at the courthouse.
Young gave special thanks to the Montgomery County Farm Bureau for providing goodie bags for board members in honor of National Ag Day.
Board members unanimously extended the disaster declaration in Montgomery County until the next board meeting on April 13, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In a final note, Young said he met with a few other county board chairmen on setting up a regional development group to replace the West Central Development Council. The group will meet again on March 12 in Litchfield.
In the absence of Economic Development Committee Chairman Donna Yeske, this month’s report was given by Vice Chairman Ron Deabenderfer.
He reported some confusion between the name of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation and the county board’s economic development committee. Board members unanimously approved a name change to the county board committee. It will now be known as the development committee.
Deabenderfer said that tourism grant applications are now available. Many were not handed out last year due to event cancellations in the ongoing pandemic. This year’s tourism grant applications are due March 22. The committee will review them on April 5, and bring them to the full board on April 13. Funding for the grants is provided by the county’s hotel/motel tax.
In a final note, Deabenderfer reminded board members of a change in date to the Bicentennial celebration, which will now be held on April 10, and he encouraged all board members to attend.
Buildings and Grounds
Buildings and Grounds Committee Chairman Bob Sneed said they had several maintenance issues in the past month, including a generator at the new courthouse. They approved a bid for $2,091.31 from Luby to fix a leak in the radiator.
The committee also approved a LED light replacement to lights outside the county jail. The cost is $2,391 after the incentive from Ameren. Deabenderfer asked why the light replacements were not part of the contract with Smart Watt, and Sneed said he wasn’t sure. Sheriff Rick Robbins said the lights were very old and some ran 24 hours a day. Sneed said the switch to LED lights will help save the county money.
Sneed said they continue to work on a sale of surplus items for a county sale as the weather warms up.
He added that the committee is continuing to look at the county’s IPMG insurance building inspection and appraisal, which is much higher this year. Sneed said one reason is that the Historic Courthouse was previously appraised as a two-story building, when it is in fact a three-story building. He thanked Eric Braasch of Scheller Insurance in Litchfield for helping the county with the inspection report.
Sneed said he hopes to meet soon with engineers from Centrica (formerly Smart Watt) on an audit of the county’s energy savings since the project was completed. The committee will discuss whether or not to continue the energy audit each year.
In a final note, Sneed said they plan to do some concrete work when the weather is better, and Robbins asked them to keep the sheriff’s office in mind.
Board members unanimously approved up to $75,000 to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office for radio upgrades, pending they receive a grant.
In the capital improvement fund, Finance Committee Chairman Megan Beeler said the county received $119,000 in coal royalties in January and $179,000 in February.
The board unanimously approved conveyance of two deeds, one in Witt Township to Bradley J. Lecrone and one in Irving Township to Stephen Keith.
Beeler presented a rough draft of finance control policies for the county, and asked board members to read it over carefully. Treasurer Nikki Lohman attended a conference awhile ago and learned the county should have finance policies in place. Beeler said they can’t find any record of the county ever having any. They compiled finance policies from other counties to create the document presented to the board.
Beeler said the county had some fence damage, and opted to pay $338.92 to fix it, as that was much less than the deductible.
In a final note, Beeler said UCCI has released a salary study for those serving on committees where salary is discussed. She also noted that Treasurer Lohman is working with the city of Litchfield on their wish to increase the tax levy for the Litchfield Ambulance Service.
The board met for about ten minutes in executive session before approving a $1,000 settlement from pending litigation.
Personnel Committee Chairman Bill Bergen said the committee continues to work on changes to the personnel manual.
He noted there was not much to report on employee health insurance, but asked the sheriff to give an update on a worker’s compensation claim. First responders who contracted COVID were deemed eligible for workman’s compensation, and the sheriff said he continues to supply information on the claim.
In a final note, Bergen said the committee decided not to pursue a human resources employee anymore.
Road and Bridge
Road and Bridge Committee Chairman Gene Miles reported the drywall and painting are finished at the new Highway Department. They are waiting on electric work and HVAC to be completed. The old showroom on the former Wright Automotive property has also been torn down.
Miles reported that bids for county and township oil letting and culvert letting will be held on April 6, at 9 a.m. at the new Highway Department facility.
He said that he attended a Nokomis City Council meeting to discuss transferring Union and Elm streets back to the city. Miles added the city was not in favor of this idea and the county still had some work to do.
Miles said work to the Red Ball Trail bridge was scheduled for this fall. Board member Jeremy Jones asked if the highway department was fully staffed, and Miles said they were. They were down a man last year, but decided not to replace that position.
In a final note, Miles said the committee received many complaints about the issues on Illinois Route 185 between Hillsboro and Coffeen, where mine subsidence began on Feb. 22.
“There’s just not much we can do,” Miles said.
Deabenderfer asked if the county could request an update from the mine company, and Young said that Route 185 is a state road so that state will be monitoring it, and that the mine is obligated to fix it.
“The project is bonded, so it will get fixed one way or another,” Young said. “But they can’t fix it til they’re done mining under it.”
Sheriff Robbins said that the mine is currently mining panel six, which is scheduled to take 90 days. It started on Feb. 22, noting subsidence will still occur for awhile after the mining of that panel is done.
Whitworth said that even though the road is not in the county jurisdiction, the farmground is, noting she’s gotten several calls from constituents about the problem.
Montgomery County Clerk and Recorder Sandy Leitheiser told the board the mine has to file a map every year of proposed mining areas, and the map is available on the county’s website at www.montgomeryco.com.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Bill Schroeder noted that state-approved contractors are not currently working Illinois Route 185. He stated the Illinois Department of Transportation received a permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to make repairs to the road without a state-approved contractor. Once the road has completely settled, they will be obligated to get state-approved contractors to finish the job. Schroeder asked the county board to look into who would be paying for the repairs.
Safety and Elections
Safety and Elections Committee Chairman Mark Hughes said the ambulance billing department still has two outstanding contracts with ambulance districts, but expects they will be turned in shortly.
In elections news, Leitheiser reported that early voting began for the April 6 election on Feb. 25. Currently, there are 105 early voters, and five vote by mail ballots have been returned. Nearly 70 vote by mail ballots remain out.
“You can see it’s much lower than the turnout in November,” Leitheiser said. “Which is unfortunate, because local elections are just as important as state and federal ones. Make sure to get out and vote on April 6.”
In EPA news, Coordinator Chris Daniels said she is waiting for a response on tire collection in the county. She also noted upcoming electronics recycling drives this fall on Saturday, Sept. 18, at the Highway Department in Hillsboro and Saturday, Oct. 23, at the former county recycling center in Litchfield.
Daniels also reported the new IL EPA trainer visited the county and went on two site inspections to observe. Board members unanimously approved a five-year delegation agreement with the IL EPA.
In a final note, Hughes said his committee, along with the personnel committee, received a complaint about an animal control employee, and they continue to look into the matter.
“It’s not a big deal in my opinion,” Hughes said, adding that the committee heard from six residents about how well animal control works.
He noted animal control currently has 13 dogs and four cats at the facility.
After approval of all seven committee reports, Young told the board he hopes to start the mayors’ meetings up again in May, after the April elections.
After paying bills, the meeting was adjourned at 6:42 p.m. The Montgomery County Board will meet again on Tuesday evening, April 13, at the Historic Courthouse in Hillsboro at 5:30 p.m.