Longtime Monroe County Commissioner Delbert Wittenauer sat for his final regular county board Session before retiring, wrapping up 12 years of service to Monroe County at the conclusion of fiscal year 2018.
A new budget year starts Dec. 1.
Wittenauer was praised by the other commissioners for his contributions, and former commissioner Terry Liefer also commended Wittenauer. Liefer noted that Wittenauer’s first day on the board was Dec. 1, 2006, and began at 6 a.m., as the county prepared to transfer residents from the former Monroe County Nursing Home to Oak Hill in the wake of a major ice storm.
Liefer listed other accomplishments during Wittenauer’s tenure, including ending a two-county health department and forming Monroe County’s own health department, and establishment of a three-county levee protection district and helping turn around a financially struggling county ambulance district.
Wittenauer was not the only person wrapping up a long career. The meeting was also the last for retiring Monroe County Clerk and Recorder Dennis Knobloch.
Harry Reichert was also recognized for the close-out of his 25 years as a board member of Eagle Cliff-Miles Cemetery. Reichert’s years of hard work were key to the transformation of the cemetery from virtual ruins to its historic beauty today.
Reichert was accompanied by family members as he was presented with a certificate of appreciation. Mark Kaempfe of Waterloo, who has been a volunteer for the past year, was confirmed as Reichert’s replacement as a cemetery trustee.
In other action, the board accepted a bid of $652,723 per year from Counties of Illinois Risk Management Agency. Monroe County has been with CIRMA, a 28-county group that self insures for general liability, workman’s compensation, earthquake and cyber threat issues, since 2009.
The CIRMA bid was for a three-year period. A second bid of $581,985 was entered by Illinois Counties Risk Management Trust.
Following the meeting, Kevin Hutchinson, part of the team from C.J. Thomas Insurance that presented ICMRT’s proposal to the board, expressed disappointment and displeasure in the board’s decision to accept CIRMA’s bid despite being $71,000 higher than ICMRT’s proposal.
He pointed out that costs of CIRMA’s service were more than $900,000 annually until this year’s bid. He also said he thought ICMRT’s bid was used to leverage CIRMA’s effort.
The Republic-Times asked county officials about the decision process and met with Monroe County Board Chairman Bob Elmore, Human Resources Director Annmarie Marcuson and Monroe County Treasurer Kevin Koenigstein. They acknowledged that CIRMA was made aware that there was a competing offer, but said none of the details were shared.
They said the history of CIRMA’s involvement was part of the decision. CIRMA accepted Monroe County in 2009, when the county’s claims history for workman’s compensation and other covered items, was relatively bad, making it difficult to become part accepted by any group.
In following years, many claims that were being paid came to their conclusions.
Koenigstein noted that the CIRMA group is made up solely of counties, and it votes whether or not to accept new members that may apply, reviewing their performance in the process. He said the group is made up of counties that are in many ways like Monroe County. Thus, group composition played a role in the decision.
While all acknowledged that the going-in bid from CIRMA is higher than ICMRT’s, they said that with the county’s emphasis on safety, and resulting lower claims, they expected CIRMA’s annual rates to go down.
“In three years, if they are not, it will be decision time again,” Elmore said.
In the end, the decision was based on several factors, not just cost, they concluded.
In other business, Monroe County Engineer Aaron Metzger requested several resolutions.
Metzger first sought and received approval to vacate a section of Old Bluff Road near Columbia that is no longer used but was still under county jurisdiction. He also received authorization to sell another segment of Old Bluff Road in the same area, to RE Investment of O’Fallon.
The selling price is $1,500, which represents the plot’s 1924 purchase price of $200 multiplied by the rate of inflation since then.
Finally, Metzger was authorized to initiate the process to purchase a new tandem dump truck through a MODOT purchase program. The Western Star 4700 Tandem Axles Dump Truck is being acquired for $164,911 minus a trade-in amount of $14,000 for the county’s 2009 International 7400 truck.
The board was updated on progress inspecting and testing the fire protection sprinkler system at the Oak Hill. An area firm, Boyer Fire Protection, has been pressure testing and inspecting the system, for several weeks now.
The system, which was adapted to what is termed a dry system several years ago to reduce corrosion and algae growth, has been found to have several problems, which Boyer said apparently can be traced back to the original design and construction. Boyer said he expects his people to complete the testing requirement no later than the end of December.
In other Oak Hill news, director Kim Keckritz said the facility is continuing to do well moving toward the end of the fiscal year with revenues above budget and costs below budget.
Rachael Giffhorn also told commissioners that Oak Hill’s occupancy rate is at 94.83 percent. She said the average for nursing home facilities in Illinois is at 74.73 percent. She attributes this to a combination of quality care and long-term planning to understand and work with trends in assisted living care.
Harrisonville Telephone Company representatives received approval to replace 24 aging telephones in the county’s system with more capable versions. The older phones have been connected with several service issues. The replacement phones will be refurbished models, at a total cost of $2,804.65. They are less expensive than new versions of the same phones, but offer the same one year warranty.
Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing informed commissioners that replacement of radios for his department, court house security and emergency management, is being paid for by asset forfeiture of properties from drug dealers. The amount, $89,000, was originally slated to come from the county general fund, and will ensure that emergency radios function properly across the bi-state region.
The county board will next meet next in regular session at 8 a.m., Monday, Dec. 3.