Heated Meeting for County Board Over Budget
The White County Board was supposed to have approved the 2019 budget Tuesday night, but that did not happen, as the board decided to further investigate ways of saving the county money.
A full courtroom of county employees and county officers, with the exception of Sheriff Doug Maier and Circuit Clerk Kelly Fulkerson, who are on vacation, addressed the board for over an hour, clearly upset with the proposed budget that would have caused a number of lay-offs, including possibly two deputies, staff in the circuit clerk’s office and staff in the treasurer’s office.
White County State’s Attorney Denton Aud, was the unofficial spokesman for the employees and county officers. Aud had presented two proposed budgets to the board, which had apparently been rejected in favor of the proposed budget submitted by the budget committee. Aud explained and asked why his proposals were tossed out, when in reality they were better than the county’s submission.
The hour long discussion, which was heated at times, and at times totally ignored Robert’s Rules of Order. At times, it was a full blown assault on the county board and the county clerk’s office, who under the county’s budget would actually see an increase.
City Council woman Sheila Headlee, who is an employee of the Sheriff’s Department unloaded on County Board member Kenny Usery. Headlee and others in the audience accused Usery of having a political agenda against the sheriff and his employees, that after he wrote an editorial critical of how the jail was ran.
The back and forth went on for over an hour, with the board finally deciding to recess the September meeting, which had been recessed two months ago to deal with the budget, which the law says must be passed by December 1st. It was agreed to sit down with Aud and go over his numbers and hopefully work something out. A special meeting to resume the September recessed meeting will be held November 27th at 7 p.m.
Following the passionate appeals from the audience, the board recessed the September meeting and opened the November meeting, which had a full agenda of business to take care of.
That included a no vote to a request from Howling for Help rescue for air conditioning at the dog pound. It was pointed out that Howling for help had not confirmed they would be willing to pay for electrical services.
The White County Ambulance service and the failure of the Safety Tax referendum was discussed at length, with Adam Allen, ambulance service director explaining the service would continue to operate on a volunteer basis, hoping something could be worked out in the future to not only protect the service, but allow the service to upgrade back to Advanced life Support from its current standing of Basic Life Support. The county board also agreed to cancel the $150,000 loan from First Bank, that was going to be used by the ambulance to help restore ALS services.
The board approved an agreement with Ranger Power/Big Solar. The company plans a 1200 acre solar farm between Enfield and Norris City. Construction is expected to start in late 2019 or early 2020, with work expected to be complete by 2021 or 2023. The farm would provide over $15 million in tax revenue, but that would not be seen until 2023. There will likely be about 200 construction jobs with several to be employed full time after the farm goes on-line.
In other matters, the board approved participation in the Illinois State Board of Elections Cyber navigator program. The approval means the county is in line for a $12,000 grant to help cover the cost of cyber security for elections.
The board approved continued participation in the State’s Attorney Appellate Prosecutor service and approved the resolution for appropriating funds for the payment of the County engineer, with that money coming from the state.
Donald Duvall was appointed commissioner of the Hawthorne Drainage District Two for a term that will expire the first Tuesday of September 2021.
The county board normally meets the second Tuesday of each month, but again a special meeting will be held Tuesday, Nov. 27 to wrap up the 2019 budget.