County talks COVID funds, Oak Hill

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The Monroe County Board of Commissioners received a report Monday on COVID funds received in the last fiscal year, which ended Nov. 30, 2020.  

Commissioner Dennis Knobloch worked with Treasurer Kevin Koenigstein to analyze funds received and transfer them for use by county departments.  

Knobloch said $4,021.20 was received for and transferred to Oak Hill Senior Living & Rehabilitation Center, and a total of $192,390.41 was moved into the county’s general fund for uses by various departments.

He said early examination of COVID funds for 2021 indicates an estimated $113,000 has been received to date for operations specifically at Oak Hill, with about $225,000 coming in for use by the county. Several more applications for COVID-related costs are still in process.

Oak Hill administrator Brian Koontz summarized fiscal year 2021 for the commissioners and provided optimistic projections for 2022.  

A review of last year shows a positive figure of $820,568 for Oak Hill income for the 12 months ending Nov. 30. COVID-related expenses, such as protective equipment and overtime, were roughly $920,000 he said, with Cares Act for 2020 ending at about $918,000.

The facility is still in the process of applying for “Loss of Expected Revenue” from COVID-related shortfalls.

He noted that Oak Hill is again accepting new residents. If they have had both COVID vaccinations, they will require no quarantine period – nor will they if they have not had a COVID positive test result in then last 90 days.  

He said current residents at Oak Hill have a 98 percent vaccination rate. But as a precaution, both staff and residents are continuing to be tested weekly.

In addition to starting to rebuild Oak Hill’s resident population, for the last two weeks, families have been able to schedule face-to-face contacts in common areas. Families are still not permitted to visit without scheduling or go to residents’ rooms, but in addition to in-person visits, out-of-facility trips by residents are now also being approved. 

Koontz said these steps have seen overwhelming warmth and joy emerging for both residents and families. Touching and hugging have been magic, he said.

Koontz said they are taking many small steps to reopen to the community, but all must stay in line with rules dictated by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Monroe County Engineer Aaron Metzger told commissioners the Valmeyer Bridge on Route 156 near the site of the old high school which has been limited to one lane while support beam corrosion was assessed, should be fully reopened this week.  Asked the age of the bridge, he said the original structure was built in the 1930s and was widened in 1990.

Metzger told commissioners his department is seeking to purchase a new backhoe to replace an aging unit and had planned to replace a pick-up truck for a cost of about $30,000.  

“But we can’t find any trucks available now,” he said.

Monroe County Health Administrator John Wagner stressed that both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines used during clinics at the fairgrounds are virtually equally effective. Which you receive should not be a reason not to be vaccinated.  

“If you want to get vaccinated – get vaccinated,” Wagner said. “And once everyone who wants to be vaccinated has been, we should reopen fully.”

Commissioners discussed the possible idea of scheduling board meetings at night versus mornings, or via livestreaming.  

Knobloch said he was the county clerk when there was an experiment of evening meetings several years ago. He said only one had a large citizen turnout, and that was due to contentious subject. The rest were attended only by commissioners and county employees. 

He said the latter element added costs for overtime and courthouse use.  Livestreaming, which was used out of necessity at the peak of the COVID crisis, would require added expenses. It was noted that county board meetings are open to the public now.

The Monroe County Board will next meet in regular session at 8:15 a.m. Monday, May 3 at the courthouse.

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