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White County Board Meeting Goes to the Dogs Tuesday Night; Puckett on Vacation

The White County Board Meeting went to the dogs Tuesday night and County Board Chairman Don Puckett may have been miles away on vacation, yet he remained very much a topic of conversation.  The visitors portion of the meeting was as long as every other agenda item combined.

Prior to the public comment portion, Treasurer Pam Armstrong provided a report to the board.  She says since moving the checking accounts to interest bearing accounts, the county has made $25,000 since mid March.  She says, “Last November, you may remember Board Chairman David Dosher demanded I cash in all the general funds certificates of depost before he was leaving office…approximately $800,000.  Thanks to Caleb Hughes, Kari Starks, Denton Aud and others who encouraged me to check the statutes and see what my rights were, I was able to save us early termination fees in addition to the switch to the interest bearing accounts.  After negotiating with the banks, I secured a 2.25% interest on these funds and hope to have made $100,000 by the end of the year.”  She also praised Sheriff Doug Maier for his efforts in bringing in an additional $35,000 through dispatch agreements and said she was proud of all elected officials who came together and “worked really hard”.  Contrarily, she says the 2019 tax season is coming up and it appears it will be delayed due to “events beyond our control”, so taxes may not go out until the 1st of September.  Armstrong says due to the delay, the first payment won’t be due until October 1st instead of mid September.  She expects the second installment due by mid November will remain however.

In Puckett’s absence, Ron McAnulty ran Tuesday night’s meeting.  He says the Ambulance Service actually made $5,000 in June.  However, the service hasn’t yet begun to contribute to Dispatch Services and probably should be.  With that, he says over 7 months, the White County Jail is $2,000 under budget.  He says the jail is actually making money if you extract dispatch costs.

County Engineer Brian Ray says ET Simonds has begun work on the southern end of Bel Air and says folks should expect delays for about the next 3 weeks as long as the weather holds.

Six and a half minutes into the meeting and the first comments began to roll out from the around 2 dozen individuals who showed up to support County Animal Control Officer Wayne Spicer.  Citizen Chris Bowles heaped praise on Spicer and asked if it was possible that Spicer could get his job back.  Spicer then spoke up to ask first of all what was going to happen to the animals that are picked up including if they would be euthanized after 7 days as has been rumored.  The County Board didn’t have an answer for him.  Board member Ken Usery then replied his displeasure with Spicer for keeping the records on the animals.  Spicer replied he wasn’t handing over records to just anyone, but that he would provide the records to State’s Attorney Denton Aud.  Usery stated that only 2 animals had been picked up since Spicer’s contract termination and that after 9 days, one was sent to a rescue while the other was claimed by it’s owner after 3 days.

Spicer went on…

“Whenever I took over, you’ns didn’t even have a state license.  I worked with Denton and got the adoption policy to get these dogs adopted out because I don’t believe in putting no good dog to sleep.  There’s no reason for it.  Yes I kept dogs for 2 months, but I got ‘em adopted or they went to a rescue.  If you’ll check the state records for last year, there were 0 dogs euthanized.  (applause)  Another issue I have is this 90 degree weather and the dogs are outside.  The state statute…and you all have a copy of that…plainly says the dogs can’t be in the heat more than 85 degrees.  We’ve got the air conditioner…we’ve got the funds…why are the dogs being kept outside?  (Ken Usery:  There ain’t none there!)  But there was…that little beagle I went out there…that little thing was burning up.  There’s no reason not to have that dog inside.  There’s $880 to pay the electric bill.  I got all that donated.  The air conditioner.  I got that donated.  Don’t make me have to go to the Department of Ag for not living up to the state statute.  And another thing, this facebook deal, I believe was a violation of my first amendment rights anyway and I’m checking into that.”

A handful of other residents including Lisa Rivera, Treasurer Pam Armstrong, and Carolyn (Winter) Campbell, among others spoke with fervent emotion for the next 20 plus minutes on behalf of Spicer.

The only other topic discussed in the visitors communications was a member of the media questioning the county board on Open Meetings Act compliance.  The county has a new website and in addition to failing to follow the OMA and mail out agendas to media at least 48 hours prior to the meeting, the agenda at least for last night’s meeting was nowhere to be found online.  In addition, it was brought to attention that the last 5 months of the County Board’s financial reports are not available to the public as they should legally be via the county’s website.  No answer was given during the meeting.  States Attorney Denton Aud, who is also White County’s Freedom of Information Officer was noted to be getting information from other officials after the meeting.

In routine business, Ron McAnulty said he’d spoken with Chris Mitchell of George Mitchell Drilling recently and said Mitchell would appreciate an amendment showing the county’s support for Oil and Gas.  White County is the greatest producer of oil in Illinois.  The measure passed unanimously.

The board awarded a bid in the amount of $194,250 by O’Daniel Trucking for a pavement patching project along 4 and half miles of Maunie Road.  Following that, the board amended a resolution from May 14th that had a mistake in wording regarding Civil Fees, Criminal and Traffic Assessments.  Stephen Niehaus, with approval of the White County Board, is now the owner of two pieces of property in the amount of $815 per plot.  The board went into Executive Session a little after 7:30pm and had no action after.  August 13th, the White County Board will be back in session and County Board Chairman Don Puckett is expected back.