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Henry County complains on behalf of restaurants
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NEWSTRACKER: HENRY COUNTY

Henry County complains on behalf of restaurants

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Henry County Courthouse, Cambridge, Illinois

CAMBRIDGE -- The Henry County Board is sending a letter to Gov. J.B. Pritzker complaining about recent stricter COVID mitigation measures.

In the letter, the board says it stands with local restaurants in finding "recent mitigations to be excessive with the limited evidence tied to outbreaks in these establishments."

The letter also states the governor's order is "inconsistent with information regarding capacity levels across different types of businesses."

While the board states it continues to support mitigation measures imposed by the Illinois Department of Public health and through executive order, it asks the governor to re-assess the region and re-open indoor dining to allow businesses to continue operations.

"Small and local businesses including our restaurants are struggling to cover their expenses and many are faced with closing their doors permanently," reads the letter. "This would cause devastation among our rural communities as these businesses support the local economics and more jobs are lost."

The letter states the region will likely have to withstand the new mitigations for a long time, causing more businesses to close for good.

Finally, the letter states that the new orders put the Henry County Health Department and the Office of Emergency Management in a hard position trying to enforce mitigations and support local communities at the same time.

"We are supporting the small, local businesses," said board member Kippy Breeden whose committee created the letter. It was approved in a 20-0 vote.

Board members approved a property tax levy for 2021 that will put the tax rate at $.8432, which is down from $.8605 for the current year. Those rates mean the owner of a home with a market value of $100,000 assessed at $33,333 with no other exemptions would see the county portion of their property taxes fall from $286.83 to $281.06.

"Any time we can reduce our rates and still take care of our needs, we're doing good there," said board chairman Marshall Jones.

The board also gave final approval to a balanced budget for 2021. The only change presented Thursday was the inclusion of raises for assistant state's attorneys. Board member Dwayne Anderson asked if the budget was still balanced with the late inclusion and he was told yes, that money was transferred from a contingency fund to keep things in balance.

The board said their collective good-byes to five board members who are leaving: John Sovanski, with 20 years service; Roger Gradert, with 18 years service; Jerry Thompson, 14 years and Rex Kiser and Lawrence Reddick, four years each.

Retiring Circuit Clerk Jackie Oberg was recognized for her years of service since 1997 and outgoing state's attorney Matt Schutte was recognized for working for the county since 2008.

The board will meet Dec. 7 to elect a chairman and vice chairman. A question of whether they can vote by secret ballot came up, and concurring opinions came from the Henry County state's attorney's office and the attorney for the United Counties Council of Illinois that they could not use secret ballots. The UCCI attorney indicated it would violate the open meetings act to do so.

"We'll have to remember that just in case it comes up again," said Jones.

The board also approved a property and casualty/workers compensation insurance premium. Instead of paying $705,920, with reductions for a COVID-19 renewal credit and listing the asphalt plant as a building instead of equipment, the total came to $648,936.

The total cost of a new parking lot at the sheriff's department came to $210,829, which compares favorably to the $210,535 actual bid. Administration committee chairman Ned Richardson said he wanted to offer a "huge vote of thanks" to the highway department. "I'm pleased with the results," he said.

One case of COVID-19 at Hillcrest Home was reported by health and social service chair Jan May. She said the individual was in isolation. Ten to 12 staff are out which is straining the facility. They are actively advertising but not getting the employees they need. "We need a new salary schedule desperately," said May. "We may have a new contract soon."

— LISA HAMMER/rlhammer15@gmail.com

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