Lincoln College's Dennis Campbell explained to the board the request
for a conditional permit for 5 acres of a 400-acre tract of land
owned by the college. The permit would allow for the development of
an outdoor environmental education center intended for use by all
members of the community, including children and elders. In addition
to educational opportunities for students of the college and the
local school system, the community would also be provided
opportunities to use the facility. Environmental festivals would be
promoted a couple of times a year, and there would also be times to
come out and simply enjoy the natural setting.
The center would
serve as a valuable teaching tool in land use by looking at past,
present and future, with emphasis on how modern-day agriculture has
affected the natural environment and vice versa.
Campbell said plans for a road and pavilion are included in the
variance request. A call for a vote by Hepler was unanimous on the
variance, and it will be voted on Tuesday at the board's voting
In other business, AFSCME representative John Black came before
the board, requesting their support to fight the proposed closure of
Logan Correctional Center by Gov. Quinn.
Black said the prison has 357 employees, with 135 of them living
in Logan County.
A letter asking the governor to reconsider his decision and the
adverse effect it would have on the community has been drafted by
the board, and after a unanimous poll by the board, will be voted on
Black asked the board not to disregard the potential closure of
the prison as just a political ploy, but to take the proposal of
closure seriously. He said petitions will begin circulating and
a public meeting will be held soon. He will advise the board of all
Finance chair Ruben asked that the board be polled on the
question of hiring an attorney, if necessary, to assist the state's attorney's
office in fighting a city proposal to annex the two
prisons into the city.
A discussion brought up at this week's city council meeting included a possible annexation of the prisons and the 3,000
prisoners at the facilities. Such an annexation would increase city
population and thus not require a downward restructuring of the
current 10 city wards to eight.
Ruben said expert lawyers on annexation laws are available but
come with a high price. He asked that the board vote on authorizing
the hiring of a law firm at a cost up to $400,000 to fight any
attempt by the city to annex the prisons. The amount of
$400,000 is the current yearly amount the county receives from the
prison population count in the form of state income tax, use tax and motor
The agreement to seek outside counsel, if necessary, was
unanimous and will be placed on Tuesday's voting agenda.
[to top of second column]
In another matter, finance chair Chuck Ruben brought before the
board the need to make a decision on whether raises for nonunion
members should be included in department heads' line-item budgets
for the upcoming year.
There was considerable discussion on the topic, with differences
in opinion from several board members. Board members Bill Martin and
Pat O'Neill said they believe raises should not be considered this
year for nonunion employees. Board members Carlton, Anderson and
Bateman disagreed, saying that raises of 2 or 3 percent are in order
after approving a freeze on nonunion wages last year.
Anderson asked for a clarification that nonunion staff received
no pay increases last year and had the costs of their insurance
copays go up, and now the board might forgo a raise for the
employees again this year.
The information was confirmed by Ruben, who wanted to clarify
that the board only sets the dollar amount in each line item of
departments' budgets, and it is up to department heads to decide how
that line item is spent. Ruben said that in one case, a nonunion
staff member did receive an increase last year by accepting more
duties, thus reducing the need for a part-time employee in that
Although the debate went back and forth, the discussion was
Martin, who opposes adding the money to the budget, said he would
rather see everyone keep their jobs than see raises given and then
someone has to be laid off.
"I don't see anything improving in the next four or five years,
moneywise, and I think we need to hold the line," Martin said.
Ruben clarified for the board that a 3 percent pay increase under
discussion would amount to $40,000.