County board hears flood update

The threat of flooding on the Mississippi and Kaskaskia rivers is by no means over, but the Mississippi is dropping steadily and is predicted to continue to do so.

The St. Louis gage read 42.2 feet Monday morning and even with area rain this week is predicted to drop below 40 feet by Thursday.

The Monroe County Board of Commissioners authorized a new proclamation of disaster in the county for June 17-25. It is issued under the authority of the Illinois Emergency Agency Act and dovetails with two previous proclamations. 

This will continue to defray costs of work and materials being used to fight flooding and can be extended in seven-day increments as necessary.

Monroe County Emergency Management Director Ryan Weber updated commissioners Monday morning, telling them the checkpoints regulating access to the flood areas are now unmanned. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department is continuing more intensive patrols of the area to prevent unauthorized people from being around, however.  

Weber also said the National Guard presence in the county ended Monday.  He praised the Guard and its involvement in the flood fight this past week. He told how Guard personnel limited their work to security during the 1993 flood, but this time they helped with sandbagging. They were waist deep in mud at one major sand boil, he told.  

Commissioner Vicki Koerber added praise for levee district commissioners and their people for tireless efforts patrolling levees to monitor them and their intensive engagement in sandbagging work around sand boils.  She also complemented area citizens for their support, including aid running the gamut from sandbagging to donating pies and other snacks for personnel at checkpoints.

Sheriff Neal Rohlfing informed commissioners the department is connecting with the recently restored Metro-East Auto Theft Task Force by assigning a deputy to the regional group that focuses on fighting auto thefts. Deputy Jason Etling will be assigned to the task force. In turn, jailor Wesley Degener will head off to the Police Academy in August to prepare for advancement to deputy status to fill the gap in the department.

The Auto Theft Task Forces, originally stood up in various places around Illinois in 1992, were funded by a $1 fee added to each vehicle insurance policy.  They were attributed with reducing vehicle thefts and solving many that occurred.  

But they were dismantled in May 2015 under then-Governor Bruce Rauner.  The fee continued to be collected since then and is part of the effort to fund the reestablished forces.  

Columbia is also participating in this program.  Columbia Police Chief Jerry Paul said his community has been the target of increasing vehicle thefts in the past year. CPD Officer Steve Patton has been assigned to the task force.  

Monroe County Ambulance Director Carla Heise sought and received authorization to engage in a Special Needs Tracking & Awareness Response System Agreement with SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. The system will provide online data on specific medical situations and treatment plans that might apply to young people in the county. 

Swift access to this information could prove to be extremely valuable in a case where emergency responders are called to assist a young person with a specific serious medical condition, Heise said.

Oak Hill Director Kim Keckritz and Compliance Director Rachael Giffhorn discussed potential issues arising from mandated increases to minimum wages.  They said Oak Hill’s current budget projections accommodate raises projected for the coming year, but future trends in 2021 to 2025 may have trickle down impacts on budget matters.   

Increased wages will have to be covered by increased revenue sources and the population of higher paying private pay residents is projected to slowly decrease. It cannot be known for certain what funds Medicare and Medicaid will provide as those populations grow, and if they will meet  needs for increased salaries.

Monroe County Treasurer Kevin Koenigstein updated commissioners on the county’s financial situation at the six-month mark in the current fiscal year that started Dec. 1, 2018. He said revenues were running about as expected although he noted there may be some unplanned expenses involving the flood.

Concerning property tax bills, Koenigstein and Monroe County Clerk Jonathan McLean said they are working to bring figures for the bills to completion, to get bills prepared and printed, and hope to get them in the mail by September.  That would make the payments due this October and November.

Monroe County Engineer Aaron Metzger received approval of an engineering agreement with Rhutasel and Associates of Freeburg to provide structural engineering services in connection with constructing a bridge on C Road and its crossing of a tributary to Bond Creek.  

Two reappointment resolutions were also approved: John Conrad of Columbia to the Monroe County Flood Prevention District, and Jay Vogt of Waterloo to the Monroe County Board of Health.

During the June 3 meeting, commissioners were updated on property that was bought out and taken over by FEMA after the 1993 flood, and then conveyed to the county. That property was in turn leased to farmers, who both pay to use it and in turn maintain it properly. The land is rented at an average of $75 an acre for five-year leases, with the next lease period starting Aug. 1,. 

Highway Department employee Chris Howell, who oversees the leases of some 83 parcels, said if the county didn’t rent this land at a reasonable price, it would have to send people and equipment to the area to maintain the land itself.

A resolution appointing board chairman Robert Elmore to the Monroe Randolph Transit District Board was approved unanimously.

The Monroe County Board will meet next in regular session at 8:15 a.m. Monday,  July 1.

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Alan Dooley

Alan is a photojournalist -- he both shoots pictures and writes for the R-T. A 31-year Navy vet, he has lived worldwide, but with his wife Sherry, calls a rambling house south of Waterloo home. Alan counts astronomy as a hobby and is fascinated by just about everything scientific.
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