Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

September 16, 2013

Financial issues trigger health board changes

Effingham County Board

EFFINGHAM — Effingham County officials are optimistic that a reorganization of the county's Board of Health can work.

The County Board voted 5-4 Monday to re-appoint Dr. Henry Poterucha to a one-year term. Poterucha has been on the board for more than 30 years. New members appointed to two-year terms Monday were Jeff Bloemker of Heartland Human Services, Dr. Alison Conant of Heartland Dental Care and Eric Petty of Effingham. Bloemker was a unanimous vote while Conant and Petty were approved by 8-1 and 7-2 votes, respectively.

"I think we are heading in the right direction," said board Chairman Jim Niemann. "The Health Department had financial issues to resolve, so we felt like changes needed to be made on the board."

Health Department Administrator Kim Esker was optimistic the reorganized board would work out.

"I think we have a good dynamic there," Esker said. "We will just have to see how it works."

Esker did take issue with the exclusion of award-winning nursing home administrator Lola White from the board in favor of Petty.

"I'm not sure it's in the best interest of the county and its citizens to have Lola White replaced by someone with little, if any, health care experience whatsoever," she said.

Health Board members had traditionally been chosen by the Health Department and rubber-stamped by the County Board. Niemann has said, however, that his board should have more input into the selection process.

Esker said she didn't have a problem with that concept as long as candidates showed interest on their own and were not recruited by County Board members or others.

"Advertising vacant positions on the county website is a good idea, as long as those candidates are showing interest," she said. "But some candidates have acknowledged invitations from the county board."

With much less controversy, the board appointed Altamont mayor Larry Taylor, Jane Reinheimer, Ed Hoopingarner and Todd Hull to the county's Economic Development Advisory Board. Taylor was given a four-year term, while Reinheimer and Hoopingarner were appointed for two years and Hull one.

Also Monday, Johnathon Paholke was appointed to a two-year term on the Ambulance Oversight Committee.

In other action Monday, the board agreed to set speed limits of 30 miles per hour on Snake Trail near Teutopolis and 40 miles per hour on the soon-to-be-opened portion of West Evergreen Avenue. County Engineer Greg Koester said the winding nature and residential presence on Snake Trail warranted the lower speed limit.

The board also approved a bridge aid petition from West Township to replace a culvert on 50th Avenue about two miles west of the Altamont-Farina blacktop. Koester said the culvert would be replaced by a three-inch drainage pipe. The township and county will split the $3,000 cost of the project.

Also Monday, the board approved a construction engineering agreement for federal participation on Phase 3 of the Trail Recreation Effingham County (TREC) project west of Effingham. TREC is obligated to pay 20 percent of the cost, or $27,200. The agreement needed board approval because the County Board serves as a pass-through agency for government grants earmarked for TREC. A letter of credit protects the county from any financial obligations.

The board also agreed to pay DevNet Software Maintenance and Support $197,800 over five years to maintain real estate software in the assessment, county clerk and county treasurer offices.

After a 75-minute executive session, the board agreed to pay correctional officers Justin Finfrock and Jeremy Kyle $7,712 apiece in back pay from June 23 to Sept. 1, as part of an agreement to re-employ them after they were dismissed.

Niemann said the case involved "departmental discipline within the Sheriff's Department and a negotiated settlement with the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents the county's jail officers.

The board also approved a proclamation to designate Oct. 20-27 as Red Ribbon Week, during which drug and alcohol awareness will be emphasized.

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