County hears updates on various matters

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The Monroe County Board of Commissioners updated its rules and process for public comments at Monday’s regular meeting and also heard updates from various department heads.

Public comments are the opening item on each session’s agenda. New rules call for persons wishing to address the commissioners to sign in, stating their name, address and topic they wish to discuss. Public comment is limited to no more than five minutes.  Groups bringing the same matter for comment should designate one person as a spokesperson to speak for the group.

Four persons signed up to speak Monday. 

Shauna Eckstadt asked that rules for conduct of county board sessions be published.

Pat Kelly, a regular meeting attendee, again brought  up the issue of political signs or signs with political implications on private property, specifically talking about signs derogatory toward Gov. JB Pritzker. He said county regulations prohibit displaying such signage more than 30 days prior to an election and for seven days after. 

Robert Verheggen next asked about public health issues addressed at board meetings related to the pandemic and what the commissioners are doing to keep the citizens safe.

Ed McLean, Chairman of the Monroe County Republicans, said Monroe County is an outstanding place to live with great schools and businesses that serve us well. He noted that criminals avoid coming here because they know they will be prosecuted vigorously if caught. He closed by saying we need to take care to get through current problems and called for everyone to support county officials and administrators.

“Everyone in this room, everyone that lives in this county ought to be thankful to live in Monroe County,” he said.

Ed’s son, Monroe County Clerk Jonathan McLean, updated commissioners on preparations for mail-in voting and asked for and received approval to use up to $5,000 to mail application packages to all Monroe County registered voters.

Also at the meeting, Monroe County Engineer Aaron Metzger received permission to apply for a Federal Economic Development Administration grant for the Bluff Road Flood Relief Project previously reported in the Republic-Times.

The project would raise the level of Bluff Road out of the flood plain between Hanover Road and HH Road to protect it from flooding from the Mississippi River and Fountain Creek.

The application noted how Bluff Road has been closed several times in recent years, making it necessary for Valmeyer residents, Rock City employees and others to find what were often longer routes to travel in the area. 

The application is for $2.3 million.  Metzger said it was improbable this work could begin before 2022.  

Metzger also received approval to enter into a contract with Oates Associates of Collinsville for structural engineering services to replace the bridge on Faust Road at its Horse Creek crossing. 

The engineering work, in Road District 4, will be performed on a fixed price basis with county bridge funds of $13,580. 

Bruce DeLashmit, head of Bellwether Advantage of Normal, addressed his efforts to help Monroe County best develop a budget while maintaining services in the coming fiscal year that begins Dec. 1.  He does this for numerous other government entities.  

He and commissioners agreed on a plan to start with DeLashmit sending a digital view of the upcoming budget to department heads to begin budget discussions. 

DeLashmit noted that state revenues are getting harder to predict in terms of timing and amounts and impacts  brought about by COVID-19. He also noted impacts of minimum wage raises and labor negotiations as factors that need to be taken into budget planning.  

Oak Hill Senior Living and Rehabilitation Center Director Brian Koontz updated the board on work at the country-run facility in the face of ongoing COVID-19 challenges. 

He said the census is running at 97.6 percent of what the budget was based on in December and January before the pandemic emerged. He said the census of people in the Evergreen Pointe rehabilitation center has increased to 93.1 percent of capacity in June, up from 91.4 percent in May. 

He attributed that growth to area hospitals restarting elective surgery procedures for such issues as knee and hip replacements, after which people must prepare before they can return to their homes.

Koontz said some population reduction is attributable to prudent preparations made to be able to quarantine any resident that may test positive for COVID-19 by placing six adjacent rooms in one hall off limits as a quarantine area. They remain unused to date. 

Monroe County Ambulance Director Karla Heise told commissioners that the service’s second-newest ambulance, purchased in 2017, had developed problems both with exhaust leakage entering the vehicle and a loss of air conditioning system operation.  

After discussing possible costs, the commissioners directed her to seek rapid repairs due to the medical necessity of efficient operation of these vehicles.

Laura Henry, mapping and platting director, brought preliminary plans for the proposed Co-op Acres development off Route 3 south of Waterloo. She said the 32.2-acre development would include zoning for both business and agricultural uses and the land would not have direct access to Route 3. 

She said the planning commission had approved the plan and received authorization from the commissioners as well.  

The Rose Hill subdivision in Waterloo and the problem with a plot of land that was put up for tax sale was discussed again. The property was developed as a run-off water retention area by the developer, but was not suitable itself for building on. 

When nobody bid on it at the tax sale, it became county property. Recently, a citizen complained that the parcel was not being maintained and was becoming overgrown with tall weeds. The commissioners directed Monroe County State’s Attorney Chris Hitzemann to look into the matter to determine who is responsible for maintaining the property – the city or county.

The public has gotten used to being able to enter the courthouse only from its north entrance, where they are subject to security checks and health questions. 

The county board has ruled that starting immediately, employees who previously could enter any door with their badges,  will have to enter at that same north side door, where their temperatures will be checked as they arrive.  They will also be required to wear masks while working anywhere in contact with the public.  

The next county board meeting will be 8:15 a.m., Monday, Aug. 3.

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