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TAYLORVILLE — The Christian County Board met in regular session Tuesday, May 17, 2022. It was, once again, held in Courtroom A of the Christian County Courthouse due to the large number of attendees.
Several residents of the county approached the board with comments during the public comments section of the agenda.
Mr. Clayton Bloom, a local farmer and environmental consultant spoke first. “Through the years I’ve worked with Vince (Harris), whether it’s a grain bin, whether it’s the solar project, or whatever. I wanted the board to know that he’s always been willing to listen to me, to consider my thoughts. We didn’t always think the same way, but we always left with a handshake. That’s all I could ask for an employee of the county. I’d like to thank him for his service to our country and I’d like to thank all of the employees for the outstanding job they do for the county.”
Megan Steely, a volunteer at Christian County Animal Control also spoke in support of Vince Harris (Animal Control, Zoning and Solid Waste). “I have worked with Vince for the last three years. He was able to develop a committee that spans all decades with different opinions but came together to help the animals at CC Animal Control. Vince is an extraordinary leader and he has made that happen.”
Joe Riley, member of Labors International Union of North America, addressed the board about the Heartland Greenway project. “Sometimes when these projects come about, we focus on all the supposed negative effects of it and we lost site of some of the positive effects; mainly both men and women in construction. These projects equal big hours and big checks for these men and women. They’re able to have insurance because of it, and a pension and annuity funds.This project will provide local jobs with local people. We should not just focus on the negative.”
Alec Messina, who works with Navigator CO2 Ventures to develop the Heartland Greenway Project, spoke next. “I know there’s a need for more dialogue and there’s a number of you that have questions, as well as your residents. In the future, you can expect to see more from me and the Heartland Greenway team. I want to make sure you have the information you need to make an informed decision about this project. The Heartland Greenway Team is committed to addressing all the questions and concerns. I can commit to you that we will be actively engaged to address your concerns. We’re sending a letter to all county residents later this week addressing many of these questions we’ve gotten, regarding pipeline safety, land restoration and a short-term timeline. And we’ll be hosting smaller meetings. Having been to the last County Board meeting, and several County committee meetings since then, I know there are a few different ordinances that have been proposed and may even be discussed tonight. I want to first note that in the event the board decides to refer such an ordinance containing such a proposal on sequestration on to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), as the rules require, the Greenway team looks forward to the opportunity to present testimony at that public hearing and to address your questions, as well as some of that misinformation. I know you’ve had other folks present at a previous County Board meeting and I’d like to offer up our technical staff, as well, to sit in and provide some of that information and answer some of your questions. I’d like to address the potential economic benefit to Christian County. First, Heartland Greenway is offering to pay the county $1.25 million dollars per year for each year the project is operational, so that’s nearly $38 million dollars over 30 years. Second, Heartland Greenway has begun to negotiate with landowners in the storage space for access rights and will eventually engage with landowners along the pipeline route. Third, the ethanol industry sees carbon capture as a key technology in one of the largest and most effective actions producers can take to meet the industry’s net zero target.”
In a written statement after the meeting, Jim Prescott of the Heartland Greenway project wrote to the Breeze-Courier “We appreciate that County Board members want to have all of the information they need before taking any action in the future. As we’ve shared with them, Heartland Greenway is not ready to start construction and we haven’t even filed for state or federal permits, which will take 18 to 24 months to obtain. We recognize the County Board, landowners, and Christian County residents have important questions about Heartland Greenway, and we are committed to answering all of them, and to ensure that the county has the information it needs to make an informed decision about this project. We also are committed to working with the County Board to develop a fact-based zoning framework that is fair, feasible, and leads to a prosperous future for Christian County that encourages economic development.”
Mark Roth, Christian County resident, stepped forward to address the board. “Where I stand, and many of my neighbors, this is going to be a hazard and burden to farmland values, county values and to farmland drainage systems that are in tact in this county. The policy of Illinois Department of Agriculture is nothing more than a policy. It does not bind any pipeline to adhere to that policy. I know neighbors who have been involved with the other recent pipeline that has been mentioned and it has been 3-4 years that they have sat with wet spots in their fields waiting for some kind of remedy. So, I hate to say it, but many of these words fall on empty ears. I’m asking the board to reconsider this project before making a decision.”
Karen Brockelsby also spoke about the carbon project. “It’s obvious the Heartland Greenway project is being proposed because there’s a lot of money to be made. I don’t take issue with that. I’m a capitalist, too. I think we all want to make money, but we would be really naive if we thought it was their top priority to look out for the best interest of Christian County. That has to be our priority. State and Federal regulations aren’t all in place that map out what this project should look like. So, I think your board deserves to reserve yourself the time to do the homework and make a good plan going forward. I think a moratorium allows you to take the time to workout how we should move forward.”
Sally Brusveen, from the group called Friends of Christian County Animals, talked about the recent cat rescue situation in the county. “Kudos for Taylorville Law Enforcement and Taylorville Animal Control for the great job they did this week on getting 65 cats rescued. They heard a complaint, they went and investigated. They saw that the cats were not safe and they removed them immediately. The partnership with them is great and something, I think, for all of us to be proud of. However, there’s still a concern about the animals that are in rural Pana. That is a county issue. The first ticket was written in February of 2021 for animals running at large. They’re still running at large a year and four months later. One has died and been eaten. One has been stolen. One has an injury; a broken leg that didn’t get fixed and now will be disabled for the rest of its life. And now there’s puppies. I’ve been told that they’re not going to do anything about it; that they feel sorry for the owner. And now I’ve been told we’re working on it. We’ve been told they’re working on it since January. These dogs are not safe. There were three cats; now there’s one. It’s just not right and I’m still very concerned and I wanted you to know.”
Jan Schmedeke, humane investigator for the State of Illinois and volunteer at animal control said “We met with Animal Control in March and the States Attorney was there also, because we have concerns about the amendment to the ordinance for animal control. I was hoping we might get some kind of an answer. We haven’t heard anything yet. Also, I am interested in how something gets on the agenda. There has been some concerns that if it doesn’t want to be addressed it doesn’t get on (the agenda).”
Local farmer Steve Brockelsby talked to the board opposing the Heartland Greenway project. “Ninety percent of the landowners that we’ve talked to, in what they call the proposed site, are against it. Approx. 95% of the landowners that pipeline comes through in the Christian County line into the dumpsite. That’s where we stand on what they feel about the project. They were talking about the Rockies Pipeline coming through. We were one of the landowners that the Rockies went through and were promised a lot of things and about half of them were fulfilled. The half was they went through. The damage done and there’s still damage on the property regarding drainage. I haven’t figure out the donations that have been starting to come through for small organizations and offering to buy lawyers. I don’t think Christian County really needs it. I think we’re a county of our own. We don’t need that help. We don’t need somebody else to buy us. Their main concern is money. Our main concern is the safety for our future generations. I hope you take that into consideration and do what is right.”
Board Chairman Matt Wells stated that he received a resignation letter from Mark Dozier from the Zoning Board of Appeals. He appointed Gary Merker to fill his position. The board unanimously approved the motion with a voice vote.
Communications were read and placed on file in the clerk’s office. They include: The May 2022 Prevailing Wage report, the April Public Defender’s report, the Treasurer’s report for period ending April 30, 2022, the local Solid Waste fee spending report for April and ROE expenditure report for April.
Committee updates were read by each Committee Chairman.
Highway/Building/ Grounds/Environmental/Zoning/Welfare Committee
County Board member and chairman of the Highway, Building, Grounds, Environmental, Zoning and Welfare Committee, Dale Livingston, provided the report for their committee that met on May 10, 2022. He stated that States Attorney Poggenpohl advised their committee that they may be hiring an attorney who specializes in things like the Carbon Capture project and who has experience with the ICC. It was going to be discussed in the Finance Committee.
A motion was approved by the Highway, Building, Grounds, Environmental, Zoning and Welfare Committee to accept low bids on MFT and non-MFT bids for materials to be used during 2022. The motion was then approved by the full board unanimously with a roll call vote.
A motion was also approved by the committee, and ultimately by the board to approve MFT and non-MFT material bids for the township and presented to the individual township, highway commissioners.
Animal Control/Zoning business: Vince Harris provided the committee with the current status at Animal Control that includes 79 cats. A lot of donations have been received, including monetary donations to be used for the cats. Harris also reported he received an estimate for $2200 for repairing a kennel roof with the maintenance staff doing the work.
Ron Brown, maintenance supervisor for the courthouse, advised he received an estimate for a stump removal of $50 or less to remove the stump on the southeast corner of the courthouse lawn. The maintenance department will clean up the debris. A motion was made and approved for this action.
Craig Corzine, Committee Chairman, provided an update from their May 9, 2022 meeting. Corzine indicated that Mr. Jeff Stoner provided an Emergency Management Agency (EMA) update on the recent storm that went through the northern part of the county. He stated the tornado was not tracked by the weather service and was on the ground for approximately 60 seconds. He plans to look into the weather mobile monitoring systems.
Stoner further commented that the Tailgate and Tallboys event will be held at the South Fork Dirt Riders Club on July 28-30th. There is not currently an ordinance requiring EMS to be present at events of this size. There is currently a good faith effort to have EMS present but based on cost they don’t say they want any present. Stoner recommends that the county look into putting an ordinance in place. He indicated he is looking for new equipment for the truck and plans to bring back the ARPA proposal for consideration in June. He noted that Palmer and Mt. Auburn do not have tornado sirens, but are working on grant funding. He is looking into helping communities so they can receive a siren.
Corzine said their committee also discussed the low income housing ordinance and that new construction is coming. There was a motion to opt out of low income housing program. During the discussion part of the motion, board member Bev Graham brought up an issue that had been communicated in the community. The thought was that the board was “picking” on people that were living in low in come housing and Graham wanted to make sure the community understood that was not the case. Christian County Accessor Chad Coady and County Treasurer Betty Asmusen addressed the board. Coady stated “This was specific to a new law that was passed, not any existing low income housing that we currently have. Basically, the new law seems to me like it was catered to Cook County. It’s a 30 year tiered plan and has a lot of administrative duties put in place, or expected to do. I would have to have another staff member in my office. You would have to maintain each person’s financials, make sure they qualify, maintain that the property is up to code for the entire term with pictures, zoning, notarized affidavits, etc. It’s a huge mess that no other county has started yet, because it’s new. The board can opt in or opt out any time. We wanted to see how it goes first in other counties before we committed to it. It seems like a lot of administrative work and field work that we just don’t have the staff to do.”
Asmussen indicated “We do have the low income, or housing authority in Christian County (currently). We have that program, it’s in lieu of taxes. I gave you an example in your packets. We collect a percentage which that percentage hadn’t been negotiated for years. It was at 13.5%. We get a percentage off the rent of those. I gave you a list of all those properties throughout the county. We just recently renegotiated and it’s now at 15% because it hadn’t been done in years. We don’t want people to think we don’t have low income housing in Christian County because we currently do. However, there was another program that was offered and you could opt in or out.”
A motion was made to opt out of the new low income housing program and was approved by a voice vote.
Corzine brought up the subject of the Carbon Capture ordinance. “States Attorney Wes Poggenpohl advised that moratorium can be placed on the project. After much discussion in committee, it was felt that a moratorium is needed based on the number of issues that are included, but not limited to, the size and scope of the Christian County project and safety. A motion was made to bring to the full board to have States Attorney Poggenpohl prepare a six month moratorium for the Carbon Capture Project and present to the board. A motion and second were made and discussion took place.
Board member Ray Koonce said “It is my belief that a moratorium would be good for both parties. We have a lot of concerned citizens about safety. Right now, I think the moratorium would ease a lot of citizens nerves to at least be willing to listen to the other side. Right now, that is not going to happen.
Safety is the number one concern of everyone I’ve talked to. You can offer us a million dollars, but if it’s going to hurt somebody’s family or something a million dollars is not going to cover that. Safety is number one. The moratorium will also benefit the other side, the people for the project. It will allow them to get the facts out there to the people of the county and prove that the project is safe.”
Board member Mike Specha said “I fully agree that we need to exercise due diligence as a county board in reviewing this. When you look at the wording in our moratorium document and the information that was supplied to us in a letter, there’s an 18-24 month lead time in just permits. I concur with what Ray just said. I think it’s in the best interest of both sides.”
Matt Wells asked Mr. Poggenpohl questions about the moratorium. “Firstly, can the county board pass the moratorium without it going to ZBA?” Poggenpohl replied “Whenever I was at the committee meeting, they discussed doing something similar to what was done with the wind mill system, so I would suggest doing exactly what you did the last time. I wasn’t here when that happened.” Wells replied “So what happened with that, we had an idea, it went to the ZBA, they conducted a hearing. I don’t know what the thought and the motion are. I have some real issues with the carbon project as it’s been proposed. My biggest problem is the well goes right through our aquifer. That’s our water. We’ve been drinking it for 200 years and hopefully, we’ll be drinking it for another thousand years. And I have a problem with the possibility of someone who owns real estate in that foot print and they don’t want carbon and it gets pumped under somebody else’s ground and it leaks under it. I can tell you I took the time to reach out to a realtor in Taylorville and in Pana. Both of them told me their opinion was, when it comes to this real estate, unless you’ve sold mineral rites, you own your real estate to the center of the earth.
So I do not believe that anyone has the right to pump something in the ground on their place to run it underneath yours. That does not make sense to me. I assure you that if I owned 80 acres and spilled a thousand gallons of diesel fuel on it and it ran off on the neighbor’s property the state would be down here tomorrow. I have a problem with the moratorium because to me, we’re just kicking the can down the road. My personal opinion is we need a huge setback on the aquifer and assurance it can’t get on the neighbor’s ground.”
Board member Vickie McMahon indicated they Finance Committee discussed obtaining an attorney to look at this from a perspective to give them six months to get more prepared.
Board member Dale Livingston said “If I remember right, we already had a windmill ordinance in place. The moratorium basically stopped that. We don’t have carbon capture in place. I’m not against the moratorium. I just want to make sure that our bases are covered. Do we do it and it’s legal or does ZBA do it, then send it back to us and make it legal, Wes?”
Poggenpohl replied “Specific questions that are detailed that require a lot of research, I’d love to have those ahead of time. Personally, my opinion is that the board can enact the moratorium today. If you want us to look into that further I can do that. I was expecting to have attorney’s here today to give presentations, but it seems like it’s going to be a longer process than six months.”
Board member Ken Franklin commented “These decisions are not only going to affect our lifetime, but the lifetimes of our kids, and probably their kids, so I think six months is a reasonable time to look at things and make sure we’re making a good decision.
The board indicated that June 7, 2022 at 6:30 p.m. would be the date to have attorneys at the meeting to talk about the project and determine which one would best be suited to represent the board.
Craig Corzine said “As we discussed in the committee, as long as we have full legal authority to do so and not get us in any kind of bad way, I believe we should do, in the best interest of the people that put is in these seats, and those people are asking for a moratorium so they can sleep a little better at night, for both sides, so I think that’s what we do.”
A vote was taken by a show of hands (12-3) to call into question. Livingston and Wells voted no. The moratorium passed.
Corzine discussed a motion to rescind ordinance O2022CB010. “Since establishing the salaries for elected officials at the the last meeting, a new law was put into place that stated the Sheriff position must be paid 80% of what the States Attorney position is paid. Therefore, the old ordinance must be rescinded, and a new one put in place.”
Board member Specha brought up a concern about the wording of the newly rescinded ordinance and proposed an amendment to the wording. “Motion made and approved on the amended ordinance. Newly amended ordinance is 02022CB007. “I have a problem with the wording in the thing because we didn’t really set a salary. All we said was it should be not less than 80%. Well 85% is not less than 80%. 90% is not less than 80%. I’d like to amend the ordinance to say the salary shall be 80%. It also needs to say further in the document that the annual salary should be set at 80%.” The amendment and the ordinance were both approved unanimously by the board.
A recommendation by the committee was made to the full board to separate the Animal Control from the Zoning and Solid Waste Departments and allow Chairman Wells to start the hiring process to move Solid Waste and Zoning to the Courthouse for Sheriff’s approval. The first motion, to separate the Animal Control from Zoning and Solid Waste, was made and discussion ensued.
Board member Livingston asked the question “What’s it going to cost us? I mean, the budgets have to be broke out and everything else. Animal Control and Zoning are combined budget. I mean, we need to have that figure in front of us before we do it, I’d think. There needs to be a planned.” Chairman Wells looked to Treasurer Asmussen for clarification. Asmussen stated “So if you look at the budget, Animal Control has their revenue and expenses and then Zoning has their different revenue and expenses. We don’t co-mingle the two. On the system, what I’m telling you is, budgetary wise, we set those up as Animal and Control’s revenue and expenses, and Vince knows this. When he brings zoning fees or expenses, he has to use different line items for those, as well.”
Livingston commented, “But the budget we passed, Mr. Chairman. It says Animal Control and Zoning, so there has to be a split of two budgets. It might be in the bookkeeping but it’s not in the budget we passed.”
Board member Specha commented “Mr. Chairman, I understand some of the reasoning behind it, but I guess I find it a little frustrating. As a board, we just made this move in February to combine all three. And, if I’m not mistaken, I think that the third job Vince took over at Solid Waste – the same day he took over at Solid Waste the educator quit. Within a few days after that the administrative assistant quit. So, there’s been some deficiencies I’ve heard frustration about, but if I was running a three person office by myself, in a job I was just learning, I would find it difficult. Especially to not even have someone to answer the phones. And it seems like we’re making judgements about making an additional move with that being the circumstances that Vince had to deal with. I feel like we’re jumping the gun on interest in doing this.”
Clint Epley, board member, called to question. Craig Corzine made the second motion to call to question. An 11-4 vote was taken with a show of to call to question. Then a roll call vote was taken to separate the Animal Control from Zoning and Solid Waste. The motion passed 11-4 with board members Livingston, Smedley, Specha, and Wells providing the dissenting votes. After more discussion about what the effective date was, the board decided to make that effective at the end of the pay period, on May 28, 2022. A roll call vote was taken and approved with a 14-1 vote ( Livingston casting the lone no vote).
The second motion to move Zoning and Solid Waste office to the Courthouse into a vacant spot, per the Sheriff’s approval was made, along with discussion. Chairman Wells said “I have to rule that the motion is out of order because it violates the County Board rules which state that the Buildings and Ground Committee is in charge of assigning space. If you look at Buildings and Grounds, section C, it’s the reason I can’t let that motion come to the floor.”
Board member, Bryan Sharp, stated “Mr. Chairman, it’s the executive committee’s prerogative to, it appears like, under executive committee shall make all long term recommendations for capital improvements, expenditures and future planning for all departments. While it is their departments to allocate space, I think we can make a recommendation where we want the space to be utilized and they can allocate within that space.”
Wells said “The rules clearly state that committee deals with that. It doesn’t say the board, it says that committee.”
Sharpe followed up with “It says allocate the space. This is long term planning for Christian County and the people of Christian County and where the people of Christian County do business. So future planning for all departments, I think we have, we can give direction to that, as well.”
Wells said “I don’t agree.”
Board member Koonce asked States Attorney Poggenpohl “My thought is, the executive committee makes a policy. The policy we made for the motion was to make the move. In the rules it says ‘allocate space’ so it’s up to the building committee to find the space, per the new policy. I’d like the opinion of the States Attorney.”
Poggenpohl said “If that’s the argument then I feel like the legislative would be referring it to the building and grounds for approval.”
In other news from the Executive/Personnel/Liquor/Legislative committee, they approved the following motions:
– Resolution R2022TR005 and R2022TR006 for the sale of delinquent property
– Meterological Tower Text Amendment TX22-2 to be sent back to the ZBA
– the committee requests Vince Harris provide a job description next month to the committee regarding the educator position at Solid Waste.
– the committee discussed the possibility of an educator and inspector. Vince Harris will also continue as an inspector, but Chairman Wells feels there needs to be the need for two inspectors in case of absence or illness.
– they will be looking at the personnel handbook next month.
– Julie Mayer indicated she has an employee who accepted a secretarial position at solid waste and that she will not be filling that position in her office.
Committee Chairwoman Venice McWard provided an update on the finance committee that met on Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
– Claims for May were approved unanimously by a roll call vote.
– The audit was performed for 2021 and the auditor indicated it was a good audit with no material areas of weakness. There were some areas that increased in revenue that the county would likely not see from year to year. ARPA funds should be used wisely, as the money will not likely occur again. Look for those uses that will have long value over time. Auditor Rich Hooper from LMHN addressed the board with his findings. “The general fund ended up with revenues of $2.2 million for the year.”
– Approved the health/vision/dental insurance rates for 2022/23. A motion was made to recommend to the full board to approve option 3 to continue Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance and to increase the deductible from $1,000 to $3,500. Insurance agent Dan McNeely advised the board this was a net savings of $67,000 by changing the structure of the layout. The motion was approved by the full board.
– No action was taken regarding the liability, property and auto insurance renewal bid or the worker’s compensation renewal bid, as those are not coming due until much later in the year.
– Sheriff Deputy Jim Baker asked the committee about making a decision to apply for a future grant for the Sheriff’s office that provides 75% of the salary to hire an entry level deputy for three years. This is a matching grant. The motion was made to the full board and approved.
– A motion was made to allow Chairman Wells to make a decision for an appropriate fee to secure an environmental attorney here to interview for the job as a representative for the County regarding the Carbon Capture project. The motion was approved.
– A motion was made in committee to increase the ZBA meeting pay to $100 per meeting from its current amount of $40 per meeting plus mileage. No action was taken.
– A motion was made in committee to approve $482,640.00 be paid from ARPA funds for the repair and/or replacement of existing windows at the Christian County Courthouse. The full board voted unanimously to approve the motion. Ordinance number is 02022CB015.
– A motion was made to approve ordinance 02022CB016 in the amount not to exceed $5,000 from ARPA funds for the purchase of payroll and employer related expenses to hire a temporary employee to aid the Christian County Administrative Assistant. The full board voted unanimously to approve the motion.
– A motion was made to approve ordinance 02022CB017 in amount not to exceed $1,205.00 for purpose of purchasing materials and services necessary for the enhancement of one wireless adapter and 10 headsets for Christian County 911. The motion was approved by the full board.
– A motion was made to approve ordinance 02022CB018 in the amount not to exceed $5,000 from ARPA funds for the purpose of purchasing materials and services necessary for the enhancement and upgrade for a cash counter machine and printer for the County Treasurer’s office. The motion was approved, with Corzine and Livingston casting the only no votes.
– No action was taken on ordinance 02022CB019 not to exceed $100,000.00 from ARPA funds for Safe Passage with the comment it could be revisited at a later time.
– A motion was made to approve ordinance 02022CB020 not to exceed $50,000 from ARPA funds for the purpose of enhanced behavioral and mental health services needs. This is for the Christian County Problem Solving Court.
– A motion was made to approve ordinance 02022CB021 in the amount not to exceed $30,000 payable to hire help handyman for the purchase of materials and services necessary to continue to repair the floors in the Christian County Courthouse. The motion was approved unanimously by the full board.
Under new business, Chairman announced that the board was invited to attend the upcoming Christian County Problem-Solving Court Commencement on Friday, June 3, 2022 at 1 p.m. at Davis Memorial Christian Church in Taylorville.
Supervisor of Assessment, Chad Coady announced to the board he wants to move one current employee to a chief deputy position. Board member Ken Franklin indicated it should be sent to the personnel committee and a motion was approved for that.
Chairman Wells said the topic of an additional jailer that was brought up in the Finance Committee, but wasn’t on the agenda. A motion was made to send it to the personnel committee and approved.
Wells also indicated he will put the topic of Broadband Shelby Electric on the July agenda.
The mileage and per diem report was approved and the next meeting of the full board is set for June 21, 2022 at 6:30 p.m. in the Christian County Courthouse. The meeting adjourned at 8:38 p.m.