Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

February 20, 2013

Effingham County moves closer to public transportation

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — Effingham County officials took big steps toward providing the county with its long-awaited public transportation system at Tuesday's County Board meeting. But board Chairman Jim Niemann said after the meeting it's a little too early to say the process is complete.

"It's been a long, arduous process," Niemann said. "When we get the application approved and the money in hand, I will feel comfortable that the process is complete."

Tuesday, the board unanimously approved an ordinance to provide for public transportation in Effingham County. The board also signed off on a certification of intent, as well as applications for the non-metro operating assistance and small urban and rural program grants from the Illinois Department of Transportation. Kristie Warfel of Central Illinois Public Transit said the grants total $501,712.

Niemann said during the meeting that it was important the board follow IDOT's instruction to the letter.

"There's been some friction in this process, so we're going to make sure we dot every i and cross every t," the chairman said.

With help from the Institute of Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University, a group of people from various transportation and social service agencies began the application process more than two years ago. But IDOT denied the application from CIPT last year, citing a number of issues.

The group began meeting again last fall to iron out those issues. Tuesday was the culmination of that effort.

"All the various entities involved have come together phenomenally well," Niemann said.

Also Tuesday, the board unanimously agreed to appoint County Engineer Greg Koester to a third six-year term. Koester will earn $104,498.68 for the year beginning June 2, 2013, with modest increases each year through 2019.

The county pays half Koester's salary through its motor fuel tax receipts, with the other half coming from the state.

Koester said he was glad to sign on for another six years. He said two specific goals include finishing the West Evergreen Avenue extension to Lake Sara and utilizing GIS technology to track infrastructure, such as signs and culverts on county and township roads.

Koester said his staff of 12 takes great care of county roads.

"We can be proud of our roads because we have an excellent maintenance crew," he said.

In other action Tuesday, the board agreed to create transitional speed limits in outskirt areas that have seen increased developments. Those areas include a portion of the Altamont-Farina blacktop at the south end of Altamont and a portion of Althoff Avenue near Legacy Harley-Davidson and Patterson Technology Center in northeast Effingham.

Koester said speed limits in both zones will be 45 miles per hour. He said there's been some rear-end accidents on the road south of Altamont.

Also Tuesday, the board agreed to budget amendments for Effingham County Memorial Airport and the Sheriff's Department K-9 unit. The airport will receive $60,000 for various projects, while the sheriff's office will receive $14,500 to replace a police dog that was killed in a motor vehicle accident unrelated to his duty.

In other action Tuesday, the board:

* Accepted a proposal from KONE Inc. to add the four elevators at the Effingham County Government Center courts building for $1,090.37 per month.

* Agreed to spend $599 to set up a software program for the Veterans Assistance program, as well as $399 per year for annual updates.

* Appointed David Budde and Larry Thies to two-year terms on the Ambulance Oversight Committee, as well as Todd Hull to a two-year term on the Economic Development Committee.

The board also honored a number of high school and junior high athletic teams for stellar performances at statewide competitions, including:

* St. Anthony High School Bellettes, third in Class 1A state dance competition;

* Dieterich seventh grade boys basketball, second in Class 1A state tournament;

* Teutopolis seventh grade boys basketball, first in Class 3A state tournament, and Teutopolis eighth grade boys, second in their Class 3A state tourney.

* Altamont eighth grade boys basketball, second in Class 2A state tournament.

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