County improvements discussed

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Improvement was the main topic at the Monroe County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday morning. 

The first improvement discussed was an upgrade to the plumbing at the Monroe County Jail.

The board voted to approve the low bid to replace all cell toilets and wash basins at the jail as well as install new control valves on showers and replace the main water shut-off valve for the building.

The bid was awarded to Bergmann Roscow Plumbing of Belleville. The total cost for the project is $272,250. 

Monroe County Maintenance Director Joe Lewis said the project should be completed within two to three months.

The board also approved the lone submitted bid to update lighting at the courthouse. 

Lewis explained that when the new LED lighting was replaced several years ago, the infrastructure for the lighting was not updated and is now beginning to fail and is no longer supported because it is obsolete.  

Lewis continued by saying the $59,150 bid from Butler Supply is for materials only and the maintenance department would provide labor for the project. 

He added that lights would be replaced as they begin to fail rather than all at once. 

Lewis further explained Butler Supply guarantees the materials for 10 years, and that he wanted to purchase materials at one time to ensure updates are uniform and avoid another situation in which repairs are not possible due to outdated hardware.  

Monroe County Engineer Aaron Metzger also spoke to commissioners about future improvement of a pedestrian crossing at Route 3 and Country Club Lane/HH Road in Waterloo. 

He presented the board with a federal participation agreement to construct the signalized pedestrian crosswalk, a project the county is sharing with Waterloo.

Metzger noted the project is still being planned with letting expected in April. If everything goes according to schedule, the crosswalk could be completed by the end of this summer.

Federal transportation improvement funds will pay for $209,925 of the project, with Monroe County and the City of Waterloo each paying $95,000 each, splitting the $170,000 construction and $20,000 engineering costs.

Metzger also updated commissioners on the aggregate maintenance programs for the county highway department and road districts.

While material costs are up in every category, including limestone and rock chips, Metzger said he is more interested in seeing what the price for asphalt will be during the March letting, given that oil prices are trending higher than in the past few years.

Monroe County Treasurer Kevin Koenigstein and Monroe County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Edie Koch spoke with commissioners about possible inclusion of Monroe County in the Southwestern Illinois Economic Development Authority.

SWIDA currently includes St. Clair, Madison, Bond and Clinton counties. Koch said the organization has asked if Monroe County would like to participate in the group, adding that involvement would help fund large projects in the future.

Koenigstein said Monroe County was not already a SWIDA member because the county was not in a position to benefit from inclusion when the original counties formed the group in the 1980s.

He added that involvement in the tax-exempt financing SWIDA offers would not take business away from local banks. Rather, lenders would benefit from being the holders of the low-risk bonds.

The first step in becoming part of SWIDA is recommendation by the county board. It will take an act of Illinois legislation to establish official involvement with SWIDA.

Monroe County Clerk Jonathan McLean advised the General Assembly session concludes at the end of March. The session is shorter this year to allow candidates to campaign due to the primary election being in June this year rather than March as in years past. 

Both McLean and Monroe County Board Chairman Dennis Knobloch doubted the issue would be approved before April, although the board is expected to sign a resolution at its next meeting to begin the process.    

At the end of the meeting, Oak Hill Administrator Shari Kruep joined former administrator Kim Keckritz for a report about the state of the county-owned senior care and rehabilitation center.

During the recent COVID surge in December and January, Keckritz reported 66 employees and 25 residents tested positive for COVID-19 and five residents died during that time.

Keckritz told commissioners that staffing continues to be an issue for Oak Hill.

Keckritz also reported a vaccine clinic is being planned for Oak Hill to comply with the Feb. 4 executive order issued by Gov. JB Pritzker mandating all long-term care facility employees who are eligible for a COVID vaccine booster receive the third dose by March 15. Keckritz said currently about 40 of 210 employees have a booster dose.

Commissioner Vicki Koerber asked Kruep how she liked her new role so far.

“Wonderful,” Kruep responded. “Oak Hill is a great place,” she continued, adding that while everyone was “beaten up” by COVID-19, she is working on finding a way to “emerge” and move forward to find a new normal.

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