Cannabis on county’s mind

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The imminent legalization of recreational marijuana in Illinois on Jan. 1 and how Monroe County will deal with it was a major discussion item at Monday’s county board meeting.   

The issue has already been raised in several local communities. Monroe County State’s Attorney Chris Hitzemann said he attended a meeting of his colleagues last week and they thought the state law on the issue would be finalized by now, but there are still many issues being discussed in Springfield.  

While the law specifies how much recreational marijuana citizens ages 21 and up may possess, and allows those with medical marijuana cards to cultivate a limited amount for their own use, it allows counties or municipalities to decide whether or not it may be sold within their borders.

Tax revenues from the sale of recreational marijuana were discussed, and the  commissioners directed Hitzemann to draft an ordinance for a 3.75 percent sales tax to be added to the sale of any product sold within Monroe County.  

That ordinance is expected to come before the board at the Jan. 6 meeting.

Commissioner Vicki Koerber emphasized that while the county is moving ahead on regulating the inevitable commercial sale and legal possession of marijuana for recreational uses, this does not mean the commissioners are in favor of its use or sale.  

Further rules on marijuana possession and use will be forthcoming as clarity on state law emerges.  

In other news from the meeting, Pam Jacobs came before the board to thank them for their support of the University of Illinois Extension and to tell them briefly about her forthcoming retirement and a party at the Monroe County Fairgrounds from 2-6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 12. Jacobs has served the organization in a variety of leadership roles for 42 years, 10 months.

Monroe County Engineer Aaron Metzger presented a resolution to rename a section of road in Columbia. The issue of renaming an approximately 600-foot section of what has been Old Bluff Road from Sand Bank Road to the dead end at Route 3 as Captain James Piggott Way at the request of the City of Columbia was raised and tabled again. 

The request would make it the 11800 block of the newly named road. It is based on the city’s annexation of the Old Sand Bank School at 11832 Old Bluff Road in 2014. Further discussion of concerns of the single residence and a business of the change caused the issue to be held in abeyance for further consideration.

Metzger also informed commissioners that $776,400 will be appropriated from motor fuel taxes to maintain streets and roads next calendar year. Metzger’s salary for the coming year, which is based on a recommendation by IDOT, was also agreed on at $108,900.

In response to a question from Koerber concerning recent vandalism of road signage in the county, Metzger said that while there are chemicals available for cleaning graffiti from signs, this may degrade required levels of reflectivity for night vision safety.  

Monroe County Ambulance Service Director Carla Heise presented a contract for a cooperative purchasing agreement with the Houston Galveston Area (Texas) Council for the coming year. The cost-free contract enables the ambulance service to buy certain goods and services at a group price, saving money for Monroe County.  

The commissioners approved this arrangement.

Hitzemann presented a proposal to the board to consolidate the human resources departments of the county-owned Oak Hill senior care facility under the leadership of county HR head Missy Whittington. Human resources at Oak Hill is currently managed by Rachael Giffhorn, who is moving up to interim administrator of Oak Hill when Kim Keckritz transitions to part-time.  

Hitzemann also updated a proposal to designate two small road-side parcels for use by Les Amis du Fort de Chartres as tourist stops in Monroe County, to contain signage and exhibits to help tell the story of the region’s history and the venerable Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail.  

The properties, which came under county control after FEMA buyouts following the flood of 1993, became county property and were leased to area farmers.  Both leaseholders have agreed to designation of the property for historic information and education sites.

Koerber announced receipt of a new, second grant via the Morton Arboretum near Aurora. The grant, a check for $9,400, will help sustain a program Koerber has championed since becoming a commissioner to restore, enhance and sustain the collection of trees that surround the Monroe County Courthouse. 

Pictured, from left, Joe Lewis and Alan Dooley hold up a check in the amount of $9,400 from Morton Arboretum to help restore, enhance and sustain the collection of trees that surround the Monroe County Courthouse as commissioners Vicki Koerber and Bob Elmore look on.

Koerber thanked county maintenance employee Joe Lewis and Republic-Times photojournalist Alan Dooley for helping support the program and securing the new grant.

Finally, several resolutions of appointments and reappointments were approved:

Wes Hoeffken of Columbia and George Obernagel of Waterloo were reappointed to the Monroe County Nursing Home Endowment Association. Daniel Davis of Columbia was reappointed to the Monroe County Regional Planning Commission. Hoeffken, Heise and Koerber were reappointed to the Monroe County Local Emergency Planning Committee. James Mitchell of Columbia was appointed to the Emergency Planning Committee to replace John Conrad.

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