Friday, May 16


County to consider
open meetings requirement
and new development committee

[MAY 16, 2003]  Issues that will come up at Tuesday's Logan County Board voting session include requiring organizations that ask for county funds to hold open meetings and appointing a new six-member county board economic development committee.

The first proposal would require agencies and groups that request county funding to verify that they hold open meetings and that their monies are specifically allocated. The policy, if approved, will take effect as 2003-04 budget hearings begin. Typically, hearings start in August for the budget that goes into effect Dec. 1.

The proposal came to Thursday night's county board meeting from the insurance and legislative committee, where it was moved by board chairman Dale Voyles and seconded by John Stewart. Besides requiring open meetings, the proposal is an attempt to hold county-funded groups more accountable for how they spend their money.

In a straw vote board members indicated that they would approve the measure on Tuesday.

The issue of open meetings has previously come up in regard to the Economic Development Council, a committee of the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce. Meetings of the EDC, which receives funding from both Logan County and the city of Lincoln, are closed to the public.

State's Attorney Tim Huyett has advised county representatives Voyles and Dick Logan not to attend Economic Development Council meetings until they become public. The county board voted in April to withhold $25,000 budgeted for the EDC from the county farm fund until the meetings are open.

Voyles, in his statement at the end of the board meeting, announced plans to appoint a six-member county board economic development committee. He explained that the county needs to be active in economic development, but the current situation "isn't working for us now."


All six prospective committee members hold board positions deemed essential for economic development. They include Voyles (board chair and chair of the potential committee), Chuck Ruben (finance), Terry Werth (road and bridge), Dave Hepler (planning and zoning), Bill Sahs (chamber liaison) and Bob Farmer (airport and farm). In explaining Farmer's inclusion, Voyles said the airport is a huge though underutilized asset that represents an economic opportunity.

The committee, if approved on Tuesday, will meet the second Monday of the month at the courthouse. Voyles said he has informed chamber Executive Director Bobbi Abbott and Director of Economic Development Jeff Mayfield that they are welcome to come and share plans and ideas. The public may also attend.

In his closing Voyles also emphasized three points made earlier in the meeting. First, an expected grant of over $38,000 looks promising for funding three capital improvement projects -- repair of the courthouse dome, security cameras for the jail and improvements at Logan County Airport. Roof repairer Bob High has indicated that he will charge $20,550 to fix the dome, which has been leaking. Security cameras for the cell area of the Safety Complex have already been purchased. The 911 board will bear half the $29,278 expense. Lastly, cost of the airport improvements is $7,200.

The grant is expected from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and represents a percentage of the money from the sale of ground adjacent to Madigan State Park.


[to top of second column in this article]

Voyle's second point was to support a proposal offering early retirement to sheriff's department personnel. To qualify, an employee must be age 50 or older with 20 years of service. A stipend of $12,500 is proposed for those who submit a letter of resignation effective Nov. 30, 2003. Employees will have a window of two weeks to apply for early retirement, if the motion is approved.

Voyles estimated that four employees would qualify, representing a potential savings of $155,000 over three years. "I think that's a positive, forward-looking step," he said. "It's going to help balance the budget in the coming years." Voyles assured board members that any employee who retires will be replaced.

In a nonbinding vote, board members supported offering early retirement in the sheriff's department.

Third, Voyles spoke in favor of a proposal to consolidate all county building and grounds budgets under the building and grounds committee. This would include entities such as the highway department that now have separate building and grounds budgets. The proposal is on the May 16 finance committee agenda and could be presented at Tuesday's full-board voting session.

"It's a great move to help control overall finances" and standardize accounting, said Voyles, who made the motion at the building and grounds committee.

Thursday night's meeting opened with about 50 guests, most present for awards to winners of a countywide recycling contest for third-graders. The children gathered signatures from people promising to participate in recycling.

Ken Schwab of the sponsoring Logan County Joint Solid Waste Agency presented plaques to the 17 winners, who also received free pizzas from Pizza Hut. "They were just little ambassadors in their communities," he praised the children. "You couldn't buy an ad that could have as great an effect." Schwab said his agency received more calls for curbside containers during the promotion period, and "in the small towns the containers were just running over."

Cameron Harnacke of New Holland-Middletown Grade School collected the most signatures -- 291 of them. Angela Getchel, president of Lincoln Junior Woman's Club when it co-sponsored the competition, presented Harnacke with two books on nature for his school.


Schwab gave special recognition to Tommy Zinser, a fifth-grader from Emden, who has conducted a curbside recycling program in his town since being involved in the contest two years ago. Zinser uses a garden tractor and wagon to haul the recyclables. He has received statewide recognition through an article that was written by his teacher, Joslyn Mathon, and included in a Department of Commerce and Community Affairs publication.

In other business:

--Building and grounds chair Dick Logan said motion sensors will soon be in use at the courthouse at night.

--The board tentatively approved $7,616 from the county bridge fund to repair piling on 50th Street over Hunter Slough in Mount Pulaski Township.

[Lynn Spellman]

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