County talks highway grants, COVID funds

The Monroe County Board proclaimed Oct. 4-10 at National 4-H Week. The 4-H organization, which helps young people develop confident, independent, resilient and compassionate leadership skills, supports 6 million youth nationwide, including about 330 in Monroe County. Pictured, from left, are Rachel Hazen, 4-H Youth Development Educator; Lydia Lutman, 4-H Federation Vice President; Janella Neary, 4-H Federation Treasurer; Megan Vogt, 4-H Federation President; and Kelly Brandt, 4-H Program Coordinator, with county commissioners Vicki Koerber, Bob Elmore and Dennis Knobloch. 

Monroe County Engineer Aaron Metzger received the go-ahead to apply for grants to connect sidewalks in Waterloo and raise Bluff Road from floodwaters during Monday’s meeting of the Monroe County Board.

Another grant application to construct bike lanes along Bluff Road by paving the shoulders is slated for proposal at the next meeting  on Oct. 19. The draft of this resolution states the effort is “in the interest of public safety and convenience to the traveling public.” 

On Sept. 19, a bicyclist from St. Louis was injured after being struck by a pickup truck on Bluff Road south of Columbia.

Per the board’s blessing, Metzger will apply on behalf of the county to the Illinois Department of Transportation for a Federal Transportation Enhancement Program grant for a crosswalk to be installed at Route 3 and HH Road/Country Club Lane as part of the North Waterloo Trail Connector Project. 

A sidewalk was recently installed from Rogers Street west along Country Club Lane to Route 3. The City of Waterloo intends to install sidewalk on the east side of North Market Street from Route 3 to HH Road and on the south side of HH Road east to Route 3. This would connect with the existing multi-use path along Route 3 from North Market Street to South Market Street.

Also on Monday, Metzger received approval to continue to pursue a federal economic development administration grant to raise Bluff Road between Hanover and HH roads.  That section of heavily travelled Bluff Road has been subject to flooding several times in recent years by waters from the Mississippi River and Fountain Creek.  

The estimated cost of raising the road above flood elevation is $3.9 million.

With elections coming April 6, 2021 for county road district commissioners and district clerks, commissioners approved salary increases for these positions. Road district commissioners, who are being paid $208 per day for 2020, will see $4 per day increases in each of the next four years.  District clerks, who are being paid  $2,600 per year in 2020, will receive $50 increases in each of the next four years.

Metzger also received approval from commissioners to accept bids from several area providers for gasoline and bio-diesel fuel as needed in the coming fiscal year.  They are Energy Petroleum Company, Gateway FS, Huels Oil Company and R&M Oil & Supply.

In other news from the meeting, Monroe County Emergency Management Agency Director Ryan Weber updated commissioners on reimbursements sought from federal and state sources for expenses added by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monroe County has requested a total of $144,018.59 from Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act money through the state of Illinois, with $9,961.90 being received to date. Another $60,800.79 has been requested from FEMA.  

Weber noted the very nature of emergencies requires rapid responses, which dictate that certain supplies must be on hand or rapidly available.  While this is true for such emergencies as floods, it has been highlighted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with difficulty obtaining needed personal protective equipment for first providers and health personnel.  

“Much of what we have is stored outside in trailers,” Weber said. “There is a serious risk that materials and equipment stored this way may deteriorate and be useless in an emergency.”

He said there is a definite need to identify permanent indoor, climate-controlled storage space and that he will be bringing ideas to meet this need to the board.

The recent AT&T proposal to locate a cell tower to support cell service in the Columbia area came back to the board after it was reviewed, most recently by the Monroe County Zoning Board of Appeals, where it was rejected by a 2-2 vote with one abstention.

The request had originally been turned down by zoning administrator Chris Voelker, and the commissioners voted to support Voelker’s decision.

The next county board meeting will be 8:15 a.m. Monday, Oct. 19 at the Monroe County Courthouse.

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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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