Local flood damage, 911 funding discussed
Potentially bleak updates about two local issues were shared at last week’s regular meeting of the Union County Board of Commissioners.
The meeting was Friday morning, June 9, at the Union County Courthouse in Jonesboro.
Concerns about the financial impact of this spring’s flooding were discussed at the meeting.
Funding for the operation of the county’s 911 emergency communications system also was addressed.
Union County Highway Department engineer Kevin Grammer shared an update with the commissioners on the local impact of this spring’s major flooding.
Grammer previously had reported that this spring’s downpours and flooding had caused around $500,000 in damage in Union County.
As a result of the flooding, Union County Board of Commissioners chairman Bobby Toler Jr. previously had issued a disaster emergency proclamation.
Damage costs incurred by the county included those related to immediate action which was needed to stabilize a levee along the Mississippi River west of Wolf Lake. The costs also included damage to county roads.
The work to stabilize the levee cost in the range of $200,000. The work was needed due to the potentially life-threatening impact of sand boils near the levee.
Grammer previously had reported that the Illinois Emergency Management Agency has committed to paying for the work at the levee
However, at this time, it appears that the county may have to cover $300,000 in damages to local roads.
That outlook comes in the wake of news that a regional federal disaster declaration is not likely in response to the flooding. Grammer told county officials Friday that it appears unlikely that a federal declaration, and the assistance that could have followed, will be forthcoming.
“We’ll be eating this at the local level,” Grammer said about the cost of repairing county roads which were damaged by flooding.
Grammer said that the highway department had been preparing to start $300,000 in oil and chip maintenance work on county roads. That work now is under review.
The highway department once again is facing uncertainty due to an ongoing state budget impasse. He said the situation is leading to a look at alternate plans for highway department operations.
911 System Funding
Union County 911 system coordinator Crystal Gurley shared an update with the commissioners about state legislation which would impact the system’s funding.
Gurley said that legislation was awaiting action by Gov. Bruce Rauner which would raise a surcharge which generates revenue for the operation of 911 systems in Illinois – outside of Chicago.
The surcharge currently is 87 cents per line. The legislation would raise the surcharge to about $1.13/$1.14 per line.
Gurley told county officials that the governor had not acted on the measure, based on concerns he has about the legislation.
A critical June 30 date is approaching in relationship to the measure. The governor could veto the bill, or he could take no action.
If the June 30 deadline comes and goes without the matter being resolved, the 911 system would no longer receive any funding. Operation of the system would fall back on the county.
Gurley said that the county 911 system currently has enough funding to operate for about six to eight months.
County board chairman Toler said he favored sending a letter of support for the 911 system to the governor.
In other business at Friday’s meeting:
Union County Treasurer Darren Bailey reported that he anticipates July 27 and Sept. 27 due dates for property tax payments. The bills will be mailed soon.
The commissioners approved a bid for the purchase of a new ambulance by the Union County Ambulance Service.
Four bids were received for the new vehicle. A base bid of $145,390 was accepted. The bid was submitted by Osage Ambulance in Columbia, Mo.
Ambulance service director Grant Capel said that several options will be added to the new vehicle. He noted that the overall cost would remain below the next lowest bid which had been submitted.
Capel said that the ambulance service plans to retire and sell its oldest unit. The ambulance service will continue to have four units in service. He anticipates delivery of the new ambulance prior to the end of 2017.
The commissioners discussed action which has been taken related to a revenue shortfall and its impact on the county’s Fiscal Year 2016-2017 budget. The county’s fiscal year began on Dec. 1, 2016, and ends on Nov. 30.
The shortfall was related to overestimated revenue projections. The matter has been resolved with the transfer of funds. The county is projected to have a balanced budget for the current fiscal year.
County officials discussed taking steps to keep track of those who might be in the courthouse at any given time. The issue was addressed in relation to a possible emergency situation.
At this time, officials noted, there is no accurate way of determining who is in the building. Further discussion is anticipated.
Plans for an upcoming county surplus property auction were discussed. The sale will be conducted online by Joe Ollis Real Estate & Auction. Plans call for the auction to begin in early July and to end on July 13.