Mt. Vernon Register-News

October 24, 2013

Committee provides town hall update

By RICK HAYES rick.hayes@register-news.com
The Register-News

---- — MT. VERNON — Members of the Courthouse Renovation Committee updated the Public Safety Committee on two of the six town hall meetings scheduled.

Chairman Randy Edwards said the meetings at Dodds and Waltonville grade schools drew a good response, but added, “It’s hard to inform the public about what we need when someone is there grandstanding.” Edwards did not identify the offending party.

Committee member Jim Malone said the committee is taking the suggestions to heart.

“We’re researching their ideas and checking them out,” he said, noting one suggestion of moving into to one of the two Mt. Vernon High School buildings could not happen before 2017 or later. One board member said he had heard high school officials wanted $1.5 million for the two buildings, but wondered what additional renovation costs would be associated with such a move.

“How much time do we have with our current boiler?” asked Chairman Robert White, which drew a response from M360 representative Jim Engeman.

“I think you are on borrowed time. It will fail when you need it most,” he said. Engeman was prepared to do another full blown presentation on the courthouse status and what is needed for rehabilitation, however, White said it was not necessary since the board member who requested the presentation — Jeremy Hall — was not in attendance.

Board members tossed around renovation versus new construction — noting Union County recently built a new courthouse for $11 million, and doubled its space, but board members said demolition costs would be exorbitant and it would create confusion in conducting day-to-day business in a temporary facility.

“This building is not insulated, and that’s a concern,” said Jim Laird. When asked by White if that is true, Engeman replied, “You’ve got a lot of mass.”

White said one idea presented is to share a municipal building with the city, although he said he doesn’t think the city is interested in such a proposal.

“My opinion is to fix what we’ve got,” White said.

He also indicated that at some time the courthouse needs will have to be addressed.

“We inherited a can, and it’s not appropriate for us to kick that can down the road,” he said.

Edwards said in the town hall meetings, the majority of taxpayers favor a one-quarter cent sales tax, and they are not in favor of an increase in property taxes.

“They’re leaning toward the one-quarter cent sales tax rather than the other two options, and they’re not 100 percent in favor of that,” he said. “And they are concerned about other buildings that have been built in the last 10 years.”

Malone said they are also concerned about future buildings — an obvious reference to the new high school — and what it has already done to property taxes. He added this board is keeping its promise to voters.

“We’re doing what we said we would do with the sales tax,” Malone said.

During a Highway Committee meeting that followed, County Engineer Brandon Simmons reported IDOT has approved a 45 mph speed limit on Illinois 15 near Woodlawn Road. Simmons said the county requested IDOT do a speed study, following a high number of accidents — including fatalities — near the intersection. Signs will be posted for about a one-half mile stretch on both sides of Woodlawn Road, Simmons said.

The committee also accepted the low fuel bid submitted by Synenergy of $3.1697 for bio-diesel and $2.6886 for gasohol.

Simmons outlined his four-year plan for bridges and paving. He said the county is still on track to receive federal funding in June 2014 for the Panzier Road bridge which collapsed earlier this year.