Violence Prevention Center solution a topic of county board


The demise of the local Violence Prevention Center office was a major issue addressed during Tuesday’s meeting of the Monroe County Board.

Liz Mudd, who has served with the center for more than a decade, put ideas for a future direction on the table and answered questions posed by commissioners.

Commissioners first heard of grant withdrawals that have essentially defunded the Monroe County VPC office during their June 20 meeting. Citing the critical nature of services provided and the consequences of their loss, they launched an effort to form a coalition to fund continued services. This effort was explored with the cities of Waterloo, Columbia and Valmeyer.  Columbia and Waterloo sent representatives to Tuesday’s meeting to seek facts and ask questions.

The Violence Prevention Center of Southwest Illinois served St. Clair, Monroe and Randolph counties, but loss of grants recently took $42,000 away from the local office, reducing services to one day per week at best.

City representatives on hand Tuesday expressed concern that a group comprised of the cities and the county should limit its services solely to Monroe County. Mudd assured them that could be done.  She also said the grant rules had placed limits on what she could provide. These limits could be lifted under a local funding model.

Among added skills she could provide are closer support to the circuit clerk’s office for orders of protection, aid to the state’s attorney’s office and restoring training and education sessions for citizens, including in schools.
Illustrating the urgency of the dilemma, Mudd said she was laid off Thursday, and two parties seeking help came to her closed office Friday.

“People seeking help in potentially violent situations often don’t call first.  They just come to the door,” Mudd said. “And if they are turned away, they may not return.”

Monroe County Board Chairman Terry Liefer pressed the city officials present for rapid resolution of the joint funding mechanism, and they said they thought they could resolve issues by the board’s next session on July 18.

Also on Tuesday, Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing and Brian Hooten addressed several issues impacting courthouse security.  An early step in raising the security level was limiting public access outside of regular operating hours and making employees enter through a single door after regular hours.

A metal detector has already been added outside the court rooms and an armed deputy is in the building during normal operating hours. Previously, deputies had only been present when court was in session.
Next steps include adding several security cameras to monitor activities throughout the building and restricting public access to one entrance. That latter decision has been a matter of extensive discussion, but Rohlfing said most courthouses limit access to a single door.

When this change is made, public access will be only through the north side. While this may be an added inconvenience, for some, security must be the overriding concern, it has been decided.

Simultaneous with upgrading courthouse security, Rohlfing and Hooten also discussed modernizing and expanding the surveillance camera system at the county jail. They noted that some existing equipment there is rapidly becoming outdated and would be extremely difficult to replace or even repair if it fails.

The county will seek bids for both security camera systems, and depending on results, may be able to fund both from existing resources this year.

Monroe County Treasurer Kevin Koenigstein provided information to the commissioners on tax levy rates for the forthcoming tax payment season.  He also confirmed that the county hoped to send out property tax bills by the end of August, with first payments due in early October.

In other matters, Tony Grasso, a real estate developer from South St. Louis County, proposed several ideas for economic development in Monroe County. Liefer thanked him for his ideas and invited him to bring them before the newly emerging county economic development corporation as it moves into action in coming months.

The commissioners also updated the county’s Section 504 non-discrimination policy grievance procedure, noting a new Section 504 coordinator has been named to resolve complaints or issues.  She is Annmarie Marcuson, who is also a current employee in the treasurer’s office and serves as the county’s human resources person.

Finally, reappointments of the following persons were approved: John Conrad to the Monroe County Flood Prevention District; and Delbert Wittenauer, Barbara Wagner and Jay Vogt to the Monroe County Board of Health.

The Monroe County Board will meet next in regular session on Monday, July 18, at 8 a.m.

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