County talks road plans, marijuanna

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The Monroe County Board discussed the future of roads and cannabis on Monday morning.

Monroe County Engineer Aaron Metzger presented his department’s five-year plan for road work in the county.  Improvements for 2020 and 2021 were presented in most detail, with plans for the three following years including a lot of “to be determined” notations.

Two projects that will have the most visibility in 2020 are resurfacing Country Club Lane from Rogers Street to Human Support Services in Waterloo for an estimated $300,000 in local and motor fuel tax funding and adding a designated right turn lane from Hanover Road onto southbound Route 3. 

The latter project will enhance safety for motorists making that turn as well as traffic on Route 3 and is being financed with $396,000 in federal grant money and an added local/MFT sum of $300,000.

Those two improvements are part of nine projects slated for 2020, including four to be managed by road districts.  

The five-year program includes replacing or rebuilding seven bridges, a higher than normal number, including the C Road bridge over a tributary to Bond Creek in 2020.  That work will require closing the bridge, Metzger said, and will not start until the wheat harvest is concluded.  

The Carl Street bridge over Wilson Creek in Columbia, the Faust Road bridge over Horse Creek, and MM Road bridge, also at Horse Creek, are next up in 2021.

Also on Monday, Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing sought and received permission to move existing money in his department’s budget to support pay for a new maintenance manager and to reward his two administrative support persons for the added paperwork they are assuming, including federal documentation and managing payrolls and their overall excellent work.  

 Rohlfing also told commissioners his department is preparing to hire the first female deputy they have added in some 20 years.  He noted she is currently finishing physical testing and is slated to start at the police academy in March.  

Rohlfing next replied to questions concerning the impact of legalization of recreational marijuana in Illinois on Jan. 1.

“It’s here,” he replied, characterizing the matter as a losing battle.

He cited statistics from Colorado, where recreational pot has been legal for five years. He noted there has been significant increases in motor vehicle accidents, emergency room visits by people suffering from drug use and a large increase in black market sales to avoid taxes.

He added that this is not the marijuana of the 1960s and products are considerably stronger. He said his department is working hard to accommodate the changes while striving to keep citizens safe.

The next county board meeting is 8:15 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, since the courthouse is closed Jan. 20 in observation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

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