Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

November 20, 2012

County OKs 911 agreement

Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — The second time was the charm for Effingham County Board members Monday.

One month after a tie vote killed a proposed intergovernmental agreement between the county, Effingham city and the county's Emergency Telephone System (911) board, the county board voted to approve the agreement. Under the terms, 911 will pay the county $65,000 next year, followed by $85,000 and $86,700, respectively, the next two years.

The 911 board has paid the county and city $65,000 per year for use of its facilities as emergency dispatch centers since 911 went online in 1997. While 911 was originally asked to increase the annual payment to $85,000 next year, 911 board members have asked to pay the same amount as in the past - and use the difference to fund an "efficiency study" that will include a look at consolidation.

Norbert Soltwedel, a 911 board member who chairs the study committee, told the county board Monday that the study would be used to answer a number of questions, including whether the city and county dispatch centers could be consolidated.

Other study topics, Soltwedel said, include the search for additional funding, optimal technology, long-term strategy and non-emergency services being provided by 911 operators.

"We want the study to answer a lot of questions that have come from the public," Soltwedel said. "There's just a lot of opinions that we need third party input on."

Soltwedel said the committee hopes to complete the request for proposal by next March and open bids by June. He said his committee was using an RFP prepared by Effingham city officials earlier this year as a guide.

Board member Rob Arnold, who voted against the previous intergovernmental agreement, said the proposed study seems to be more inclusive than the city proposal.

"The scope of what you want to say is larger than the previous study," Arnold said.

All nine board members voted for the agreement. Board member David Campbell, who also voted against the agreement last month, said he had wanted more time to consider another option.

But Campbell said after the meeting that it's time for the study to be conducted.

"I think we all agree it needs to be done so we can either move forward or put it to bed," he said.

Also Monday, the board voted 6-2 to extend the county"s ambulance contract with Altamont Ambulance Inc. for two additional years. Ambulance company owner Terry White told the board he wanted the extension to receive more favorable interest rates for the purchase of cardiac monitoring equipment.

White said he was going to buy the equipment whether the board extended the contract or not. But he also said he would have to pay a higher interest rate.

White signed his original deal with the county after the County Board voted in 2004 to funnel all emergency ambulance calls to his company, which also owns Effingham City-County Ambulance. He said his bankers told him an extension would show greater financial stability for the company.

Campbell and board member Wayne Russell voted against the extension, while Arnold abstained. Those voting for the extension were board chairwoman Carolyn Willenburg, vice chairman Bob Shields, Jeff Simpson, Karen Luchtefeld, Larry Vahling and Jim Niemann.

Campbell said incoming State's Attorney Bryan Kibler should have had the opportunity to peruse the contract.

"I just wanted to give the new state's attorney more time to read it," he said.

But White said delaying action until December would cost him about $4,000.

"We're going to get it either way, but I'm just looking at ways to stretch our dollars."

In other action Monday, the board approved its budget for the fiscal year beginning Dec. 1. Tax & Finance Committee chairman Simpson said the final budget features projected revenues of $8,972,725 more than offsetting $8,972,702 in expenses.

The board also passed its annual tax levy, in which the county will collect $3,850,350 from property owners within its boundaries.

Also Monday, the board:

¥ Awarded the property-casualty insurance bid to Counties of Illinois Risk Management Agency for $205,858.

¥ Agreed to renew employee health insurance with Health Alliance at a 5 percent hike from last year.

¥ Awarded a bid for an air conditioner in the information technology room at the county office building to Merz Heating & Air for $5,400.

¥ Appointed Jackie Witges to a two-year term on the county Board of Health.

¥ Honored junior high state cross country champion Anna Sophia Keller of Sacred Heart School with a resolution.

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