Henry County Board wants county to open

Henry County Board wants county to open


CAMBRIDGE — Governor JB Pritzker's "Restore Illinois" plan groups Henry County into a larger region with a gradual, phased-in opening in the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Henry County Board on Thursday approved a letter to be sent to state officials asking for further review of the Restore Illinois plan. The letter states that, according to the county board, public health and emergency management officials, Henry County can and would qualify for reopening, apart from the 27-county region to which it was currently assigned.

The letter also states that non-essential businesses in the county can be trusted to open and operate safety, and the county needs legal cover to reopen as quickly as possible.

In a related matter, the board voted 18-0 to extend the county's disaster declaration to the end of the month. County Emergency Management Director Mat Schnepple said he did not foresee asking the board to call a special meeting to extend the deadline beyond May 31. He said there were 69 cases of COVID-19 in the county and zero fatalities, although he said the disease was "very real" here.

"We do have very sick individuals in Henry County," he said. "My office knows of multiple cases where the person is extremely ill."

Salary resolutions for two elected officials were set. By law, the salaries for elected officials must be set at least 180 days before the start of their terms. With long-term Circuit Clerk Jackie Oberg retiring, the board voted 17-1 to reduce the circuit clerk's salary from $74,398 to $68,500 with no increase at first followed by a 1% increase for two years. Board member Dwayne Anderson voted no.

Before the vote, board member Ray Elliott expressed concern about the four-year package.

"I hate to be a pessimist, but who's going to tell me what things are going to look like financially by the end of this year?" he asked.

"No one can actually look into the future and say," board chairman Marshall Jones answered. "We don't know."

The board voted 18-1 to keep the part-time coroner's salary at $27,219, with 2% increases in 2022, 2023 and 2024. Board member Lawrence Reddick voted no. Finance chairman Kelli Parsons said coroner Melissa Watkins had requested a general increase and pointed out an adjoining county with a similar number of population and deaths paid its part-time coroner $9,000 more. Parsons said there was some discussion in committee of increasing the salary.

The board formally accepted the resignation of Erik Brown, whose letter of resignation was announced in March.

Board members also unanimously approved spending $7,500 for Klinger and Associates to have a drone as well as a person evaluate the exterior of the old courthouse building. Board member Jill Darin reported wasps are getting into the building, and it was hoped the drone could detect how that was happening. The evaluation would be done to determine priorities for future work on the building, which could be extensive.

"It could cost close to $1 million to get the building in shape the way it should be," committee chairman Ned Richardson said. "I feel like it's an orderly and proper way to move forward."


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