County Board Hires Electric Aggregation Consultant on Split Vote; Ratifies Four-Year Contract w/Sheriff's Deputies Unanimously

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Published on September 18 2012 12:10 am
Last Updated on July 14 2013 4:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

The Effingham County Board Monday voted 5-4 to hire Southern Illinois Municipal Electric Cooperative as the consultant to manage the County's effort to gain voter approval for banding together to buy electricity.

The issue has been contentious the past couple of months after a firm yet to be licensed but with Illinois ties voiced interest in the aggregation consulting work.  The first motion Monday was to hire the firm fairly new to the discussion, Affordable Gas and Electric, but that motion failed 5-4.  The second motion, to hire SIMEC, passed by the same one-vote margin with those voting for Affordable voting against SIMEC and vice-versa.

Board member Rob Arnold had suggested just after the vote to select Affordable failed to instead utilize Good Energy, the firm that is handling the City of Effingham's aggregation effort to show a united front with the City, but no comments for or against the suggestion were heard.

Those on board for SIMEC were Chairman Carolyn Willenburg, Vice-Chairman Bob Shields and members Jeff Simpson, Karen Luchtefeld and Larry Vahling.  Those voting for Affordable were members Dave Campbell, Arnold, Jim Niemann and Wayne Russell.

The work to promote the energy aggregation effort will begin soon with an eye toward having the question on the November election ballot.  The campaign to be overseen will involve the unincorporated parts of Effingham County, although SIMEC is also serving as consultant for other areas of the state.  The goal is to band utility customers together in an effort to drive down electric costs.

The Board Monday also voted 9-0 to approve a four-year contract with the local sheriff's deputies' lodge represented by the Fraternal Order of Police.  The contract is retroactive to September 1, 2010 and includes wage hikes of 3%, 1-1/2%, 2% and 2-1/2%.  The agreement also stabilizes insurance costs for both the County and the employees, raising the County's monthly contribution to $400, but also splitting the cost above that amount.  17 employees are covered by the contract, including road deputies, investigators and school resource officers.

The FOP local is expected to officially approve the agreement at a later date.

The Board got an update from Kristi Warfel of Central Illinois Public Transit on any movement on their public transportation initiative.  Warfel said there hasn't been much movement, mainly because government interests aren't moving ahead with the process.  When the County originally selected CIPT, the state Department of Transportation balked in favor of Rides Mass Transit.  The Board stood their collective ground and little movement has been seen from the State. 

Warfel said she hopes to have CIPT's application ready for submittal in the next couple of months.

The Board Monday also accepted an audit proposal from West and Company of Effingham; agreed to wait and see on a new intergovernmental agreement with the Effingham City Council and the Effingham County 911 Board until they meet to consider whether terms of the agreement need amended; approved a supplemental list of election judge that County Clerk Kerry Hirtzel said was "very, very, very hard" to complete, laying the blame at the feet of those precinct committeepeople who haven't been out encouraging their party faithful to serve as judges; approved a plat of Bullard Subdivision, a small development in Union Township; and approved October 20-28 at Red Ribbon Week for 2012.  The week was established in 1985 in memory of slain Drug Enforcement Agency investigator Enrique "Kiki" Camerena and is designed to promote a drug-free lifestyle.  This year's theme as has been the case since Red Ribbon Week's inception is sponsored locally by the Effingham County Drug Alert Council.  This year's theme is "The Best Me is Drug-Free". 

(THOSE GATHERED AT MONDAY'S BOARD MEETING FROM THE EFFINGHAM COUNTY DRUG ALERT COUNCIL INCLUDE ADVISOR KATIE KROEGER, ADVISOR MIKE VARADY AND STUDENTS LUCIAN KINNEY, KARISSA KINNEY AND KAITLYN KNIERIM OF ALTAMONT.  SEATED IS COUNTY BOARD CHAIRMAN CAROLYN WILLENBURG.  NOT PICTURED BUT PRESENT WAS ADVISOR JUNE CHEATUM OF THE DRUG ALERT COUNCIL)

Arnold reported that the dedication of the Poor Farm Cemetery is set for this Sunday, the 23rd, from 2-3pm.  Work on the cemetery, designed to commemorate the scores of people who died on the Poor Farm and the majority of those for whom there is no record of their passing has been going on for the past few years overseen on the Board by the late Mark Percival and then by Arnold following Percival's death and Arnold's succeeding him to the Board.