Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

May 21, 2013

Split board OKs fund to maintain TREC

Bill Grimes Daily News
Effingham Daily News

---- — Effingham County Board agreed in a split vote Monday to create a maintenance fund for the multiuse trail west of Effingham.

In a 5-3 vote, the board agreed to set aside $2,500 per year for trail maintenance. Chairman Jim Niemann said county officials had promised Trail Recreation Effingham County (TREC) board members that a maintenance fund would be established.

“We did agree to set this aside for them, but I would like to put a cap on it,” Niemann said.

Niemann said the $2,500 put in this year would increase the fund balance to $7,500.

The $2,500 would come out of the county’s Hotel-Motel Tax fund. Board member David Campbell questioned whether trail maintenance was an appropriate use for the fund.

“You take it out of hotel-motel, but is TREC really putting heads in beds?” Campbell asked.

Campbell added other projects might also need maintenance.

“If you do it for TREC, why not do it for the old courthouse?” he asked. “Why aren’t we setting anything aside for the Poor Farm Cemetery?”

The old county courthouse has been converted into a museum. Niemann pointed out that the county still shoulders utility costs for the old building.

Several county officials agreed the trail will need periodic maintenance.

“You never know what Mother Nature will do on the river bottom,” said County Engineer Greg Koester.

County Treasurer Steve Dasenbrock said the TREC project was “the best use of hotel-motel funds we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

Dasenbrock is in his fourth term as treasurer.

But Dasenbrock noted the board could set a cap anytime it wanted.

“The board would still have control over the money,” he said. “It’s up to you to say how much is enough.”

Niemann voted to establish the fund, along with board members Karen Luchtefeld, Doug McCain, Joe Thoele and Jeff Simpson. Campbell was joined by Mike DePoister and Lloyd Foster in standing against the proposal. Board member Rob Arnold was absent.

In other action Monday, the board voted 8-0 to create a new fund to collect spay and neuter fees. The board had earlier this year voted to allow the county’s animal control department to charge $75 to spay or neuter dogs and puppies, and $50 to do the same for cats. The county expects to receive about $4,500 for the “Pet Population Control Fund.”

Also Monday, the board approved a resolution that allows Effingham County Public Transportation to seek grants to increase operating hours, as well as purchase two 24-passenger buses for the new system. As a result of the board’s action, ECPT can now seek $71,000 to fund the increased hours and $200,000 for the new buses.

Also Monday, the board reappointed Dr. James Gratz as county veterinarian and set up a new safety committee that includes Luchtefeld, Koester, board administrator Joyce Worman, Highway Department foreman Bob Westendorf, Chief Probation Officer Cheryl Meyers and Health Department adminstrator Kim Esker. Niemann said the county’s human resources consultant suggested forming the committee in an effort to implement procedures that would reduce the county’s workers’ compensation costs.

The board also honored Dennis Bushur on his retirement as the county’s maintenance supervisor, as well as probation clerk Jill Buhnerkempe for her 25 years of service to the county. Buhnerkempe had worked in the circuit clerk’s office for 20 years before moving over to the probation office.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.