County clerk’s resignation accepted

2017 river levee work, road maintenance, praise for personnel also highlighted

The Union County Board of Commissioners formally accepted the resignation of an officeholder last Friday morning.

The commissioners met in regular session Friday at the Union County Courthouse in Jonesboro.

The meeting was attended by all five commissioners and about 15 others, including candidates who are running for county office in 2018.

County Clerk’s Resignation

At the meeting, the commissioners formally accepted, with reluctance, the resignation of Union County Clerk Terry Bartruff.

Bartruff announced his plans to resign, for the purpose of retirement, prior to the March 20 primary election in Union County. His resignation is effective March 31.

The incumbent county clerk, a Democrat, was a candidate for reelection in 2018. Bartruff was unopposed in the primary election. He received 1,207 votes.

The county clerk shared at Friday morning’s meeting that his decision to resign was strictly related to concerns related to his wife’s health.

Commissioner Max Miller made a motion to accept Bartruff’s resignation as county clerk.

Miller said he was making the motion with “great reluctance.” Miller voiced appreciation to Bartruff for all of the work he has done.

Miller’s sentiments were shared by the other members of the county board.

County board chairman Bobby Toler Jr. explained that the process was underway to appoint Bartruff’s successor.

The county board will vote to appoint a new county clerk. The new officeholder must be a Democrat.

The commissioners also accepted Bartruff’s’ resignation as an authorized agent for the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund and as a Hope Trust board member.

“It’s been a pleasure representing the county,” Bartruff said.

The county clerk said that he had to make a “very hard decision” when it came to resigning from office.

Bartruff said “the last five years as county clerk have been very rewarding. I thank everybody for their support.”

The commissioners plan to have a special meeting on April 2 to consider action to name a new county clerk. The meeting is set for 8:30 a.m. at the county courthouse.

In other business at last Friday morning’s meeting:

2017 Levee Repair

An update about the payment of bills incurred during a massive effort to save a Mississippi River levee in 2017 was shared by Union County engineer Kevin Grammer.

On May 4, 2017, Union County faced what was seen and described as a potentially catastrophic event.

A letter which was sent by county officials to state legislators in November 2017 declared that Mississippi River levee west of Wolf Lake nearly failed.

The letter recalled that  a group of sand boils were being monitored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Preston Drainage District officials.

“It was observed that the boils were growing in size and number over a short period of time. Immediate action was needed to protect Union and Alexander Counties.”

In response to the potentially disastrous situation, the Corps of Engineers recommended the construction of a berm over the entire area of sand boils.

Construction of the berm required that 5,000 tons of riprap rock be hauled to the site in a matter of hours, not days or weeks. This course of action was seen as “well beyond the resources of Union County.”

Grammer contacted Union County ESDA coordinator Dana Pearson who, in turn, contacted the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, IEMA, coordinator to ask for state assistance and resources.

“The requested resources were made available and the crisis was averted,” the letter stated. “All of us remain eternally grateful for the assistance and even now shudder to think of the utter devastation that would have occurred if all involved would not have treated this situation as the life threatening emergency that it was,” the letter declared.

The letter stated that if “this section of levee would have failed, the bottoms area would have been flooded throughout all of Union County and the north part of Alexander County.”

The letter recounted that because the berm “was a permanent solution to this recurring problem that IEMA had committed to paying the bill for the repair.”

Bills in the amount of $101,800.53 were reported to have been incurred. As of November 2017, $79,113.03 of those bills had been paid by the state. However, three bills, totalling $22,687.50, had not been paid.

The county engineer reported to the commissioners last Friday that the final three bills had been paid by the state. Grammer again praised the work which had been done by all of those involved in the work last spring and noted that he wanted to ensure that all of the bills which had been incurred were paid.

In a related matter, the county engineer noted that some $150,000 in flood-fighting costs had to be absorbed because Union County was not designated as a federal disaster area in 2017.

Road Maintenance

The county engineer also shared an update about efforts to maintain and repair local roads which have been damaged by winter weather and torrential rainfall.

Grammer reported that local roads were open and passable after work had been done in the aftermath of nearly 10 inches of rain which fell on the area during February and early March. 

Potholes in roads are an ongoing concern. Dry weather is needed to try to repair potholes.

Grant Funds Received

Union County Sheriff Scott Harvel reported that the sheriff’s office had received $20,000 in state grant funding which will be allocated for the purchase of updated fingerprinting equipment utilized in the enforcement of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. Old equipment will be replaced.

Sheriff Praises Personnel

Harvel also took the opportunity to praise work  done by personnel in the sheriff’s office.

Work done by Union County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Josh Schildknecht during 2017 resulted in two sentences to prison for drug distribution and the seizure of methamphetamine, guns and more than $23,000 in drug money.  

The sheriff had shared in a press release which appeared in last week’s paper that in January 2017, Schildknecht responded to a call on Old Cape Road in rural Jonesboro regarding an ATV operating on the roadway.  

After locating and pursuing the ATV, Schildknecht obtained information regarding possible drug activity. The deputy obtained  a search warrant for a motor home that was parked just off the roadway.  

A subsequent search resulted in the seizure of methamphetamine, cannabis, five firearms and cash.  

Two offenders were sentenced to prison. The proceeds of the forfeitures will be used to fund ongoing anti-drug programs in Union County. 

Harvel recognized Schildknecht’s “extraordinary efforts,” which “led to the apprehension of a dangerous individual and the seizure of drugs and guns that would have directly affected the safety of the community.” 

Schildknecht was in attendance at last Friday morning’s county  board meeting. He was applauded by those in attendance at the meeting.

The sheriff also praised the work which had been done in the recent apprehension of two persons from out of state who were suspects in a homicide investigation.

The effort to bring the suspects into custody involved law enforcement personnel, as well as the sheriff’s office K-9 unit dog and sheriff’s office drone.

Extension Budget

The commissioners approved a $40,000 budget agreement with University of Illinois Extension. The agreement is for Extension’s 2019 fiscal year, which begins July 1. 

U of I Extension has an office in Anna and provides a wide range of services in Union County.

Ambulance Bid

The commissioners approved a bid for the sale of a surplus Union County Ambulance Service vehicle.

A bid of $18,500 was submitted by the Pope County Ambulance Service for the 2006 vehicle.

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158

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