By ERIN SANSON
Investigator ~ Democratic Reporter
Macoupin County Council, at its July 12 meeting, decided to reconsider an issue regarding the probation officer’s salary that had been discussed and voted on in May. He also recognized several people from the community.
Kent Tarro of the Public Health Department spoke to the board about a grant he wanted permission to apply for, as well as a recognition issue for the Macoupin County Transit Program .
Salary adjustment for probation officers
The State of Illinois has started to support preconditioning services. The minimum salary for pretrial officers is $45,003 and $66,418 for supervisors. Because of the disparity between what the state was willing to pay and what most counties were paying, the state offered to subsidize the cost for those counties. In the first year, the disbursement to the county would have been less than $15,000 and in subsequent years closer to just $7,000. Reimbursable costs would come from an increase in IMRF contributions and CIFA increases.
On May 10, Macoupin County Council voted not to accept the state’s offer and keep probation officer salaries at $34,000. Of the six people on staff at the Macoupin County probation office, two are scheduled to retire next year. The other four began looking for other jobs both as state pretrial officers and looking for probation office work in other counties. According to a letter sent to the council by the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council (FOP Council), Macoupin County was the only county not to approve the increase. The FOP Board argued that the county should compete with the state and all other counties in Illinois for probation officers.
The letter from the FOP Board, signed by Kelly Byrd, said in its closing paragraphs: “…We are incapable of allowing this issue to be swept under the rug so easily. We would like you to reconsider your vote knowing that this is not a “want” of the Macoupin County Probation Office, but rather a “need”.
The letter also said the Labor Board had not blamed staff for wanting better pay, but “we blame a county for not taking care of its employees when it can do so with so little financial loss. Not only do we feel the financial loss of this vote, but we also feel the emotional impact of a county council that views our time as invaluable and most certainly undervalued.
As arguments were made for and against approving the measure, State’s Attorney Jordan Garrison joined the conversation, telling the board that he wasn’t considering how to do it. not approving the measure would affect the result when it was again time to negotiate union contracts.
When the issue was first brought up in May, the measure was defeated 10 to 7. The motion to approve the salary adjustments was made by Kristi Dunnagan, with the caveat that if ever the state withdrew or reduced the amount allocated, the Board had the right to reassess the salary.
Due to board reconsideration, the measure passed with 14 votes in favour. Council members Matthew Acord and David Thomas voted against the measure. Roberta “Sissy” Vojas voted in attendance.
Macoupin County Transit Program
Kent Tarro was invited to the board meeting to speak about a resolution allowing the public health department to apply for another round of Rebuild Illinois grants. The Department of Public Health is using the grant to apply for vehicles, as many vehicles in their fleet have exceeded mileage by more than 100,000 miles. Later in the meeting, the board approved Illinois’ rebuild request for 18 vehicles. Tarro said he thinks the Department of Health will be lucky to get four, but every replacement vehicle helps.
Tarro also told the board that he was recently contacted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) which is currently working on a project studying rural and small urban transit systems. According to TTI, which examined rural transportation systems nationwide, they identified two systems, a rural transit system and a suburban-urban transportation system, that were the most effective operating programs in the country. Macoupin County was designated as one of these two programs.
US rescue plan
The US bailout interim funding requests have been approved by the board and the amounts will be finalized at the August meeting. The funds, at this time, total $8,584,354, the total amount requested by the board. Of the more than $8 million, $2.6 million must be distributed among the 26 townships of Macoupin County.
Construction and land projects
The Building and Grounds Committee was given the power to act to hire a consulting engineer to carry out a comprehensive survey of the courthouse, including a digital scan of the building. It was estimated that the study would cost between $10 and $15,000 and take six to eight weeks.
The architect contract for the Old Jail grant received from the Great Rivers and Routes tourist board has been approved pending final review and approval by Garrison.
The board recognized three individuals at the July meeting. Girl Scout Abigail Way of Carlinville was recognized for winning the Gold Award, the Girl Scout’s highest honour. Way created a sensory garden and colorful mural at Carlinville Elementary School as part of his project.
Macouin County Deputy Larry Rayburn and telecom operator Stephanie Rayburn were also recognized at the meeting, although the couple were present. They received high praise from the Mt. Olive Fire Department after an emergency medical call was radioed in. The couple, off duty at a family reunion in Mt. Olive, left to answer the call arriving at the scene ahead of the ambulance and began treating the patient. Harry Starr spoke on behalf of Sheriff Shawn Kahl who was unable to attend the meeting, acknowledging Rayburn for his quick actions in this situation but also an earlier situation in which he saved the life of a small child who got was choking.
The Macoupin County Clerk’s staff was also recognized, but not on the agenda, for their efforts and hard work in the June 28 primary election. County Clerk Pete Duncan was unable to work on Election Day because he tested positive for COVID-19. Duncan thanked his staff, as well as board members Todd Armor and Starr, who came to help with the election.
Dunnagan thanked Starr for his research, hard work and diligence in working on the courthouse projects as well as the Old Jail project and the Great Rivers and Routes grant.
The draft budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year has been approved. The final budget will be approved at the August meeting. The department’s fiscal year begins on September 1.
A resolution was passed to increase the County Fuel Tax Fund budget from $1,665,300 to $2,115,300.
The county council has received a letter from the town of Staunton regarding the property to be annexed to the town. The property is located on the Staunton-Hillsboro road.