Mt. Vernon Register-News

August 27, 2013

County to form special committee

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

---- — MT. VERNON — A special committee will be named by County Chairman Robert White to collect information from M360 and then sell the public on a possible sales tax increase to pay for courthouse renovations.

White asked for input from County Board members Monday night on what their constituents had to say about the two public meetings held recently at the community building in Mt. Vernon. The consensus of the Board is the public is against using Public Safety Tax funds or to raise property taxes for the renovations, although most of the public were not opposed to an increase in sales tax. It was reported about 60 percent of those paying for the tax would live outside the county.

The special committee — which was changed from a Task Force after consultation from State's Attorney Doug Hoffman — is expected to be named at next month's County Board meeting.

The special committee will conduct town hall meetings to get input from the public on how the county should proceed with the courthouse renovations, White said, and then the county will decide on how to proceed. A one-quarter cent up to a one-half cent sales tax increase are possibilities. The county currently has a one-quarter cent sales tax in force.

The dress code recently enacted at the courthouse also drew a lot of discussion.

Former board member Dexter Edmison asked what ordinance or state law has been enacted that forces a dress code on the public . "How is it mandated by a house of the people?" he asked.

White said there is a state statute stating the sheriff is the custodian of the courthouse, but Edmison responded state law provides that the "real authority" rests with the County Board. "I think the County Board should go on record not supporting this," Edmison said.

White said County Board members have had no discussions with the sheriff or anyone else regarding the dress code, although he noted he is not in agreement a dress code should be enforced in offices of elected officials.

"This is for minority groups that doesn't respect anything," Sheriff Roger Mulch said. "The whole intention is bring respect to the courthouse." He also likened the dress code to the metal detectors at the courthouse entrance. "It takes a metal detector to catch someone with a weapon. If someone is dressed inappropriately, we can catch it at the entrance."

It was decided a one-on-one meeting with the sheriff and County Board members would be in order to reconsider or make changes to the dress code. No Board members were opposed to a dress code inside court rooms, and the judges have the authority under law to mandate how people show up for court.

White suggested to the sheriff the code be "a little more lax" until future discussions are held.