Logan County Board hears concerns for closing Clinton Power Plant; salaries for assessor, coroner and circuit clerk offices to be reset and other discussions

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[May 16, 2016]  LINCOLN - On Thursday, May 12, 2016, the Logan County Board held their monthly Workshop to hear committee updates and place motions on the agenda for Tuesday's Regular Board meeting.

During the meeting, guest Michael Messner said the Clinton Power Station really needs the board's support. If the station closes in June of next year, it would affect many in Logan and DeWitt Counties. He said between 50 and 70 people from Logan County work at the Clinton Power Station.

Messner said around 500 jobs would be lost if it closed and many would possibly need to move out of the county or even the state to find a job in their field. DeWitt County schools depend largely on taxes from the power station.

In addition, Clinton Lake would be drained. The lake provides summertime recreational activities and supports numerous ancillary businesses for people from both Logan and DeWitt Counties.

Messner said the state does not see "big picture" and how it would affect power going forward.

O'Neill said he has talked to several Lincoln residents who would be affected by the closing. Many would lose good paying jobs. He said a major shutdown would be hard on the county. The Workforce Investment Committee said it would be hard to absorb another major shutdown like the one at Mitsubishi.

Chairman Hepler asked the board to authorize a letter to the Illinois State Senate about the Clinton Power Station, which may be closing next year. He asked Messner, who represents the power station's union, to update the board on what is happening.

Committee Reports

A few minutes into the Workshop, Finance Chairman Chuck Ruben motioned the board go into executive session to discuss salaries.

After the executive session, Ruben shared several motions he would bring forward at Tuesday's meeting.

Ruben would make a motion to raise the Logan County Circuit Clerk's salary $1,750 per year for the next four years.

Ruben would also motion to raise the Logan County Coroner's salary $1,500 per year. Board member Gene Rohlfs said he plans to amend the motion to a three percent increase per year.

Board Chairman David Hepler wants the percentage increase for the coroner to be the same as the percentage increase for the circuit clerk. He said future boards may be likely to use a lower salary for the successors to these incumbents.

Ruben would motion to approve the Logan County assessor's salary at $45,260, which is a three percent raise.

Rohlfs said he would make a motion to postpone this decision until August.

Board member Pat O'Neill said he feels many are underpaid for their positions as compared to counties of similar size and would like the salaries to be more comparable. He wants to discuss salaries further at budget renewal time.

Ruben said he would motion Tuesday on a resolution to amend financial guidelines. He said they have changed a few guidelines and the time for the budget to be on display from 30 days to 15 days.

Ruben said the Finance Committee decided not to go out for bids for an auditor since they have an offer from auditor Clifton, Allen, and Larsen who has done the county audit the past few years.

On Tuesday, Ruben plans to make a motion to accept the auditor's proposal for the next three years and then look at going out for proposals after that time. Clifton, Allen, and Larsen had the low bid when they accepted proposals three years ago. The company added three percent a year to what they charge for the audit and would also add three percent for the next few years.

Ruben would motion the board use Clifton, Allen, and Larsen for the years 15-16, 16-17, and 17-18 at the price they gave the county.

Insurance update

Board member Scott Schaffenacker, who chairs the Insurance and Legislative Committee, said he would make a motion Tuesday to amend the personnel policy so it follows minimum COBRA laws for insurance for former employees who qualify.

Rohlfs asked about the COBRA rules.

Schaffenacker said the minimum time for COBRA coverage for employees is eighteen months without extenuating circumstances. Board member Kevin Bateman said the person covered has to explain extenuating circumstances to the insurance company in order to get an extension. Only the insurance company can extend it. The board is just following COBRA law by allowing people to stay on the insurance eighteen months. Bateman said before eighteen months is up, a person needing an extension should start a dialogue with the insurance company.

Fire protection district appointments

Schaffenacker said he would also motion for the appointments of Dean Sasse to the Beason Fire Protection District, and Misty Canada to the Middletown Fire Protection District. Canada would replace the 91 year old Jim Graff who has served on Middletown's Fire Protection District since it began.

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Updates from the Emergency Management Agency

Cheryl Hedrick of the Logan County Emergency Management Agency said board members would be getting an email about the Grant Accountability and Transparency Act (GOTTA). As of July 1, 2017 all grants would be combined. Hedrick said the act would mean if one agency does something wrong, other agencies would also get into trouble and they could lose grants.

On June 8, there would be an introductory meeting to further explain GOTTA. Hedrick said committees who have grants may want to attend to hear about changes. She said there are many questions about the upcoming changes.

Hedrick said forms for grants are changing. There are many applications out there and the state wants every grant application to have the same forms. The state wants to get conformity between the EMA and the federal government.

Board member Rick Aylesworth, who chairs the EMA Committee, asked what groups would be affected.

Hedrick said changes would apply to state and local governments, institutes of higher education, not-for-profit organizations, and any sub-recipients would be affected by GOTTA.

LCEMA Hazardous Materials Director Kendall Caruthers said that in mid-June there would be a "Strategic National Stockpile" statewide event involving the EMA, the Health Department, the hospital, and paramedics. The Strategic National Stockpile helps insure counties have life saving medical supplies.

Caruthers said in October, Lincoln would be "ground zero" for a full scale disaster exercise involving multiple counties. Law enforcement and fire department personnel from various counties would be involved with the exercise.

Community Action Updates

O'Neill said Community Action may eliminate a Head Start site. One site may move to all day rather than half days, which may make it easier on parents who do not have to find childcare part of the day. He said Head Start would still be able to have the same number of students and teachers would not be laid off if the site closed.

O'Neill said there is also a need for more Foster Grandparents in the area. Those interested should contact Community Action.

Workforce Investment Update

O'Neill said an American community survey showed Logan County's population and median household incomes are both up slightly, while the number of individuals below poverty level has gone down slightly.

Several new businesses have opened recently.

O'Neill said there is a new program for free summer training and employment for 18-24 year olds. Free courses offered for job placement, training as a medical office assistant, daycare assistant, transportation assistant. People interested should contact 217-726-7999 by May 19.

O'Neill said the mail contact address is:
First Institute
3311 South Veteran's Parkway
Springfield, IL 62704

Chairman's report

Hepler said ApexNetwork Physical Therapy would be having an open house. Ruben said the office would open on 125 N. Sangamon Street. He said the new office is part of a chain and is able to get physical therapy started sooner than other places.

Guests at the meeting were Cheryl Hedrick and Kendall Caruthers of the LCEMA, Mike Messner from Clinton Power Station, County Engineer Bret Aukamp, States Attorney Jonathan Wright, and Bill Armbruster of the Farm Bureau.

All 12 board members were present.

The Logan County Board would hold their Regular Board meeting Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at the Logan County Courthouse.

[Angela Reiners]

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