Wednesday, September 27, 2023

County board postpones ATV usage discussion, approves 911 board

By Mike Kolb

The meeting of the board of county commissioners began Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. and rolled straight into the approval of last meetings minutes. The county board agreed that unfinished business was becoming an issue as some items were remaining there for months, so they made a point to close out some old items.

Appointments to the 911 board were made. The terms are supposed to be on a rotating schedule with different three year terms ending each year. In order to achieve this members were appointed to the one year, two year and three year terms. Upon expiration of current terms all terms will become three years. State statute requires at least one member of the board be from the public at large, one be a county commissioner and at least three be members of emergency services.

The appointees to one year terms are Floyd Koehler and Allen James. The appointees to two year terms are Ken Swisher and Norman Lee. The appointments to three year terms are Fred Meyer, Caroline Pieroni and sheriff Charles Harner. County commissioner chairman Phil Stewart made comment prior to appointment that he felt two members of the same family should not be on the board together. In order to achieve this two of the board members were replaced.

The 911 bylaws were removed from the commissioners’ board agenda. A draft was presented by states attorney Tambra Cain and presented the board. The 911 board will have the final approval of their own bylaws.

The 911 ordinance was amended by the commissioners’ board, bringing it into compliance with the state statute. Part of the amendment was correcting the rolling terms of the 911 board appointees.

Discussion of the ATV ordinance was again lengthy as it’s realized there are a lot of people that own an ATV and even visit the likes of Quadboss to customize their vehicles. Those that own ATVs commonly like to take their vehicles on country roads and trails. Highway engineer Steve Kelley reported that after review there would need to be 700 signs ordered to mark the county roads, and in order to change the speed limit on a road the county would have to pay for a road survey to be performed on the roads. Cain advised that for the ordinance to be feasible the board should identify specific roads in the bill.

Chairman Stewart was clearly frustrated by the cost that this ordinance would incur on the county. At one point he said, “If I’m with Brent and Fred riding out by my land it’s legal for me cause I’m farmer and it’s farm use, but it’s illegal for them.” If the ordinance was passed he postulated passing the bill with out having the budget for the signs in place “Whose going to complain about it. Say it’s in process.” Cain quickly responded, “The family of the first person who gets killed.” Ultimately, the ATV ordinance was removed from the agenda pending additional study.

Commissioner Ernie Henshaw investigated the issue with Washington Lane and reported back to the board that there was a definite problem. It was decided that there would be another sign placed at the Y-intersection to identify which road was actually Washington Lane. The commissioners requested that the 911 board send a copy of the 911 marking ordinance to the residents on the private drive. The commissioners will send a letter to the residents on the private driving asking them to place an address sign at the end of the private drive to further alleviate any confusion.

Big Boys Video License was approved pending the approval paperwork from the state. The board took this approach so that Big Boys could begin operation prior to the next meeting.

Nancy Holt from the Southern Seven Health Department gave a lengthy annual report. Holt explained that the reduction in the amount of services they’ve offered over the past five years coincides with the population decline in Southern Illinois. Holt further stated that Johnson County has seen a significant reduction in cases of STD/HIV over the past year, indicating that education programs are working.

The report also contained the number of filed complaints regarding the Smoke Free Illinois Statute. Johnson County recorded none. In addition to the providing healthcare and education to citizens the health department captures and tests mosquitoes for communicable diseases. In the last year 1,246 mosquitoes from Johnson County were tested.

The Fence Watcher board remains unchanged as the incumbents were reappointed.

The Victim’s Rights advocate has always been the Civil Rights advocate as well. The Civil Rights Advocate appointment was updated to reflect that.

Highway maintenance cost the county $15,598.83, while the county bills totaled $36,557.42.

During reports from the department heads and officials sheriff Harner questioned the board regarding a grant for radios. “I was standing in Vienna yesterday and my radio didn’t work. What if that was one of my guys who was hurt.” Henshaw stated that the grant probably was not coming. Sheriff Harner was instructed to make a list of what he needed and bring it to the board and they would see what they could work out.

Test wells were drilled along the Johnson County and Union County lines. The results far exceeded expectations. Thus, Johnson County is being seriously looked at for fracking once again. A query letter is being sent to the Illinois State Attorney General regarding the county commissioners authority regarding fracking. It is unlikely that a county board can ban fracking from a county, but regardless desire either way it is necessary to understand what the legal concerns are for the county officials. This is vital to understand how the county can protect their roads and waterways.

The states attorney’s office held a law enforcement breakfast with agencies from south of Mount Vernon. The purpose of the breakfast was to encourage inter-agency cooperation among the different departments. Since the closure of the crime lab in Carbondale the turn around for items sent to the lab has more than doubled. The new preferred method for identifying finger prints on guns is no longer dusting. The firearm is fumed in a super glue substance to recover latent fingerprints. While this method is an improvement over dusting it will take careful cleaning in order for it to be serviceable again.

Work has started in repairing the former commissioners board room in the county clerk’s office. Students from Vienna High School have made extensive repairs and remodeling despite only working an hour a day. A joist had to be replaced and the board was thankful no one had fallen through the floor when they discovered how badly the wood was in disrepair.

This led to a discussion regarding putting a building commission together. This will be on the agenda for next meeting. Commissioner Fred Meyer asked a number of questions that Henshaw was able to answer. It is the board’s opinion that many of the rumors and negativity circulating the project for a new county building came from a lack of education and the quick turnaround on last year’s 1% tax proposal. They feel that 90% of the county understands and agrees that a new building is needed. It is hoped that by forming a building committee progress can be made in a timely and responsible manner.