The Monroe County Board approved increases in fees to help fund increased courthouse security during its regular meeting on Tuesday.
The changes resulted from a study conducted last year by consulting firm Bellwether. The study’s purpose was to analyze the costs of providing county services and determine how to pass on those associated costs to users of the services rather than to all citizens through their annual property taxes.
Court security fees will increase from $25 to $50 for civil cases. Fees will also increase from $25 to $50 for defendants who enter guilty pleas or are found guilty in felony, misdemeanor, conservation ordinance violations and traffic violation cases.
Fees won’t be added to traffic or conservation ordinance cases in which the fines are paid without court appearances.
These new fees were approved unanimously by the board and became effective Feb. 20.
The security fee increase will help offset the costs of added courthouse security measures incorporated over the last year, including access control measures and monitoring cameras inside and outside the building.
Monroe County Circuit Clerk Lisa Fallon reported to the board that a preliminary review of her office’s records indicate as much as $778,000 in fees and fines is owed, some dating back to the 1990s.
In many cases, the appropriate fees simply were never charged, Fallon reported. In other cases, those who owed the fees simply refused to pay.
The county agreed to contract with the firm Credit Collection Partners of Taylorville to review and recover the unpaid fees and fines.
CCP, Fallon said, has a well-developed system to locate people who have moved, and is in the process of sending letters which they will follow up with phone calls if no reply is received.
In the first two days of letter mailings, some $2,000 was recovered.
Rather than charging the county for this service, CCP receives 30 percent of the recovered funds. Additionally, CCP has trained circuit clerk employees on tracking and collecting overdue fees and fines.
Fallon also received board approval to change employee Brenda Hempen from part-time to full-time.
Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing presented the commissioners with his annual report for the fiscal year ending Nov. 30. Compared with four years ago, the general fund has increased nearly $150,000 due to the housing of federal prisoners at the jail. He showed a general increase in the fund from $186,686 to $335,930 in the same four-year span.
He also reported the department expects to receive some cash as part of the cut local agencies receive from property, cash and drug seizures. This money will specifically be used to further the county’s fight against drugs.
Rohlfing reminded the commissioners that the number of deputies has remained the same for several years. The department has doubled its calls from 2012 to 2017 — 6,431 to 13,247 — and traffic stops increased from 1,223 in 2012 to 2,014 last year.
Rohlfing noted the county’s long history of safe living conditions, combined with relative wealth, makes it a growing target for criminals from elsewhere and urged people to be more careful about personal safety and property security.
Oak Hill administrator Kim Keckritz noted in her report the facility suffered no reportable employee injuries in 2017; and the facility paid off construction for the new Evergreen Pointe Transitional Care Center without the need for bond financing.
With spring imminent, the commissioners discussed maintenance of the courtyard bandstand with Brian Hooten focusing on the condition of the restrooms under the structure.
Humid conditions have led to mold in the restrooms, and lack of regular use makes the value of restoring them questionable. The commissioners decided to close them for now, since most activities that take place in the courtyard use portable restrooms.
The commissioners approved a resolution concerning non-budgeted expenditures, directing that any such expenditures in excess of $10,000 must be brought before the board for approval before they can be executed.
Finally, Rick Scott of Waterloo replaced Lynn Bersche on the Monroe County Emergency Planning Committee for a term of three years, and Barbara Pace of Waterloo was reappointed to the Western Egyptian Board of Directors.
The Monroe County Board will meet in regular session next at 8 a.m. March 5 in the courthouse. Sessions are open to the public and an agenda is posted before the meeting at www.monroecountyil.org.