More complaints lodged about Ameren construction

By GARY HENRY ghenry@prairiepress.net
Posted 6/29/20

Another resident of Southern Edgar County lodged complaints with the Edgar County Board about contractors building the Ameren Illinois Rivers High-Voltage Transmission Line.

Phil Wright of Symmes …

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More complaints lodged about Ameren construction

Posted

Another resident of Southern Edgar County lodged complaints with the Edgar County Board about contractors building the Ameren Illinois Rivers High-Voltage Transmission Line.

Phil Wright of Symmes Township was present for the county board’s special business meeting Monday, June 22, and spoke during the public comment segment of the meeting. His two main complaints are the contractors are not abiding by the road use agreement Ameren has with the county and the impacted townships and the speed at which the overloaded trucks are traveling on the narrow, rural roads.

“They’ve been on every road down there,” said Wright, noting specific roads are marked for contractor use but the concrete truck drivers and other vehicles are not complying with those restrictions. “They don’t have to be on every road, tearing up everything.”

He added the drivers have no respect for private property and have used a neighbor’s yard as a turn around point. In that same line, Wright said the contractors are not putting down the weight distribution pads as required.

Wright acknowledged there is no point in making repairs until the construction is complete, while also stating Ameren needs to hold up its end of the road use agreement and make the roads as good as they were before construction.

“We are deserving to have the roads put back the way they were before,” said Wright. “I had a blacktop road. I don’t want it to stay gravel.”

Board member Karl Farnham Jr. wants someone from the county highway department to be on site every day to make sure the contractor is complying with the road use agreement.

Board member Derrick Lorenzen was especially concerned about trucks using unauthorized roads and having any leverage to get Ameren to fix those roads since they are not part of the road use agreement.

County engineer Aaron Lawson noted four separate crews are working over a wide area in the southern part of the county and dedicating enough people from the department’s small staff to provide daily oversight at the different locations will likely mean stopping summer maintenance projects.

“There is a misperception that we are not watching,” said Lawson. “We are out there.”

Joshua Knight is the county highway department’s liaison with Ameren for getting issues corrected. Lorenzen suggested county citizens get photos and license numbers of vehicles speeding and using roads other than the authorized routes. Such information should be relayed to the highway department at 465-4139 to help document violations.

Board member Andy Patrick lives on one of the authorized truck routes for the construction project, and he speculated every truck, especially the concrete trucks, going by his house is overloaded.

“Maybe we need to start enforcing those weight limits,” said Patrick.

Chief Deputy Derek Weston of the sheriff’s department was present for the meeting. He said road deputies can swing through the area more frequently on patrol to try and keep trucks off unauthorized roads and reduce the speed.

“We need to monitor more,” said Farnham. “The highway department knows the road use agreement better than anyone, and it won’t hurt for the sheriff to have a car go through the area occasionally looking for traffic violations.”

The purpose of the special meeting was to address three action items prior to the July business meeting.

Board members reluctantly accepted, with Farnham dissenting, an over-priced bid for taxiway work at the Edgar County Airport. The project originally had two bids that came in over the engineer’s estimate for cost, and those were rejected by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Following rebidding, only one contractor bid and the price went up even more.

Lorenzen said IDOT refused to bid it a third time and accepted the higher price.

A plan to move the 911-emergency call center to another part of the jail was approved. Troy Eads, president of the Edgar County Emergency Telephone System Board (ETSB), explained the ETSB recently spent more than $300,000 for new mandated equipment. The new equipment needs more space than the area the call center currently occupies in the room near the jail’s public entrance.

The third action was authorizing the issuance of $325,000 in tax anticipation notes to expand the $500,000 line of credit already established to alleviate cash flow problems. Board chairman Jeff Voigt said the action gives Edgar County Treasurer Don Wiseman authority to take action, if needed, without waiting for a regular board meeting or calling a special session.