Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

July 9, 2013

Effingham County Proposed changes bewilder county officials

Bill Grimes Daily News
Effingham Daily News

---- — The Effingham County Sheriff has been in charge of all county property since anyone can remember. But some county officials are concerned the sheriff has no legal authority to have that responsibility.

At Monday's Legislative Committee of the Whole meeting, county board Chairman Jim Niemann proposed Sheriff John Monnet retain control over all of the Effingham County Government Center courts building, as well as secured areas of the adjacent county office building. Those areas include the jail, fourth-floor investigations division and the basement.

The board's Buildings & Grounds Committee would be in charge of the remaining county property.

"All I want to do is determine who is responsible for what," Niemann said. "There is no statute that gives the sheriff responsibility for all county buildings."

But Monnet said after the meeting that Niemann's proposal "makes no sense."

"How can they separate one part of the building from another part?" the sheriff said. "Everything runs off everything else in the county building.

"It's been this way forever," he added. "Why does this board feel the need to change that? What's it going to change other than to make it more confusing for everybody?"

Board member Rob Arnold encouraged officials to consider this issue carefully.

"I just want to make sure all our bases are covered before we agree to this," Arnold said.

Niemann said the issue would be broached again at Wednesday's Buildings & Grounds Committee meeting. He agreed the issue needs to be carefully considered before a final decision is made.

"This is stuff that needs to be thought out before we do it," the chairman said.

Also Monday, the committee tabled a recommendation to hire a Cincinnati-based firm to codify county ordinances. Niemann said American Legal Publishing Corp. has offered to do the codification project for $5,900.

"They would take our ordinances and put them in book form," Niemann said. "They would also compare the ordinances to each other, as well as to state and federal law to make sure there are no conflicts."

Board member David Campbell suggested the committee table the idea until the company could be checked out.

"This would give us a chance to do some research," Campbell said.

The committee also recommended the apppointment of Blair Jenson to the county Health Board for a two-year term. But on the heels of a visit from Health Department administrator Kim Esker after the meeting, that appointment may be up for review.

Esker, who had been told an incorrect time for the meeting, told Niemann after the meeting adjourned that the board had never had any input on Health Board appointees, other than to offer final approval.

"My issue is that it's never been done that way," Esker said. "I have someone who's been on the board 23 years who thinks he's getting pushed aside."

Esker said that member, banker Andy Grunloh, whose term is expiring, offers an important financial perspective to the board that would not be easily replaced if he is not reappointed.

"I'm not saying anything about anybody who applied," Esker said. "I have not seen the applications, so I do not know. We just feel blindside by this."

Niemann said state law allows the county board to approve all appointments.

"We are trying to encourage more people to get involved," the chairman said.

Esker said she would speak at next Monday's meeting of the full board.

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