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Country homes issue debated; property rezoning denied

[JULY 17, 2003]  There was a lively and well-attended adjourned meeting of the Logan County Board Tuesday evening. Discussions centered around re-establishing board funding for the Economic Development Council of the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce. Also, many attended the meeting to discuss a resolution petition from the Rev. S.M. Davis to rezone an acre of land from agricultural to country home use. Other matters either discussed or acted on concerned permanent repairs to the courthouse, changes in zoning ordinances and the disposition of a house being purchased by the county.

After the board's economic development committee met Tuesday night (see related story in LDN), a new resolution was put before the board to approve $25,000 for the chamber's Economic Development Council. Half of this would be given immediately, while the rest would be distributed on a quarterly basis.

A previous motion to give this money to the board's committee instead was withdrawn at Thursday's board meeting. The chamber of commerce agreed to hold its meetings in public due to its receiving public funds, which freed the board to give them the money as originally planned.

The new resolution passed 10-2. Paul Gleason and John Stewart voted "nay."

John Stewart was not satisfied that the money should be thus released until the EDC had actually had a public meeting. Chairman Dale Voyles expressed his confidence that the EDC would do as they promised concerning this. David Hepler pointed out that the EDC provided its minutes from 1999 to the present as a show of good faith in opening their meetings to public scrutiny. Paul Gleason voted "nay" because he felt that all the money should be given immediately as originally intended. He said all other funds given out on a similar basis are not given piecemeal.

In related issues, the board voted 7-4 (William Sahs voting "present) to approve placement of a referendum on the March primary ballot next year to fund the EDC directly at an upper limit rate of .04 per $100. A similar referendum was previously defeated. Chairman Voyles believes a better effort needs to be made to educate the voters on the need for this funding. Terry Werth asserted his belief that there is a need for such a body and for the EDC to be better funded to create opportunities for business in Logan County.

After the meeting, Paul Gleason, who voted "nay" on the resolution, said he believed the voters' previous rejection of the referendum should be treated more seriously. He felt that to keep bringing it up may show a lack of respect for the will and intelligence of the voters. Chairman Voyles also appointed himself and David Hepler to attend future EDC meetings as representatives from the board.

About half a dozen residents surrounding the property that the Rev. S.M. Davis petitioned to be rezoned appeared to speak to the board concerning the matter. Most spoke of their concerns that the proposed lot size of three acres was too small for a proper septic system to ensure there would be no chance of pollution of the local water. Twenty-two names of residents in the Middleton area were listed on a petition to the zoning board to deny the requested change in zoning.


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Dwayne Howell, son-in-law of the Rev. Davis, who would be building his home on the property, stated that he was just trying to abide by the current ordinances as written. He assured those present that contractors had assured him the septic system would be adequate to assure water quality in the area.

The board voted 9-3 to deny the request to rezone. Only Chairman Voyles, David Hepler and Terry Werth voted to approve the request. It was pointed out that a house could still be built on a five-acre lot without any need to petition for rezoning.

Charles Rubin moved that a house being purchased by the board for $1 be donated to Habitat for Humanity for use in low- to middle-income housing. William Sahs stated that minimal work needs to be done on the house for it to be habitable. The resolution was passed unanimously.

A resolution was unanimously passed to approve a bid by Anderson Electric of Springfield for $18,500 to effect repairs to the courthouse wiring. This is needed because an electrical feed in the courthouse basement overheated and required emergency repair. The work approved to be done would prevent a reoccurrence of this by bringing the courthouse up to national electric code standards.

Also approved without dissent were amendments to the current zoning ordinances, $4,700 for piling repair in Sheridan Township and a three-year bid totaling $83,000 from PTW & Co. of Springfield to audit the board's budget. This last action was done to comply with new federal standards.

Tony Campbell, vice-president of Cornbelt Energy, was present to announce he is leaving the company and to introduce Dave Hawkinson, who is taking his place. He said plans for the Elkhart coal power plant are moving ahead. They are working to finalize funding. Construction must begin before July 17 next year due to the expiration time on their permit from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. [See LDN story from July 17, 2002, and

Dan Fulscher spoke for the Emergency Telephone System board concerning placing the 911 system under their control. He has consulted with Lincoln Police Chief Rich Montcalm and Logan County Sheriff Steve Nichols, and they are in agreement that this would be beneficial. They are looking into the feasibility for doing this -- studying salaries and union contract issues. He believes it would make the system more efficient and free officers for patrol work. Sheriff Nichols stated it could save money down the road while improving services.

It was reported to the board that Mark Hilliard had been hired as new administrator of the Logan County Health Department, at a salary of $66,500. Hilliard will assume the position effective immediately, due to the resignation of the previous director.

[Keith Wilkerson]    

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