2018 road project grows

Board approves seeking more money for project, new contract for sheriff’s employees

By GARY HENRY ghenry@prairiepress.net
Posted 5/3/21

What started as a straightforward plan in 2018 has grown into a much bigger project.

“We found out in the last three weeks that a project for 2022 has to move to fiscal year ’23 for …

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2018 road project grows

Board approves seeking more money for project, new contract for sheriff’s employees


What started as a straightforward plan in 2018 has grown into a much bigger project.

“We found out in the last three weeks that a project for 2022 has to move to fiscal year ’23 for construction,” said Aaron Lawson, Edgar County Highway Engineer. “A lot of the cost is in safety items.”

Lawson discussed the project during a special Edgar County Board meeting Monday, April 26. He said the highway department sought outside funding in 2018 to apply in 2022 to do a shoulder improvement project and asphalt overlay for pavement preservation on the Lower Terre Haute Road. A safety audit following the request determined more work was needed than anticipated for the shoulders and the one-quarter inch overlay was deemed insufficient.

“Adding more asphalt to nine miles of road is driving the cost up,” said Lawson, noting the cost for asphalt is much higher now than it was in 2018 when the project was first submitted. “The feds are asking us to do more than we anticipated.”

Lawson asked county board members to approve hiring Cummins Engineering to prepare documentation seeking an additional $550,00 to $570,000 in federal highway safety funds to cover the increased expense. A rush on the project was needed because of a looming application deadline.

“I’m asking the board to spend, not to exceed, $17,000 to seek more than a half-million,” Lawson said, “This project has grown until it is north of $4 million.”

County board members approved using Cummins for the application work. The board also approved the purchase of a new semi-tractor and trailer for the highway department.

“We get more tons per gallon with a semi than with tandems,” said Lawson. “When we haul with tandems for the townships, it wears them out.”

According to Lawson, it is difficult to find new equipment ready for purchase because manufacturers are so far behind in building. Highway department staff has been looking for several months and finally located a tractor on the East Coast and a trailer in the Gulf region.

County board chairman Jeff Voigt told other board members he authorized placing a refundable deposit on both the tractor and trailer to hold them until a vote was possible.

The $131,000 for the tractor and $50,000 for the trailer will be financed through Prospect Bank.

Lawson thanked the board, noting the department is still waiting for delivery of a tandem purchased nine months ago because the manufacturer cannot get parts to finish the build.

“You just can’t find a unit on the ground,” Lawson said.

The special meeting also dealt with a resolution asking Springfield to protect local control and approving the new contract with the jailers and dispatchers.

Board members unanimously passed a resolution asking Gov. JB Pritzker and the legislature to protect local control of zoning and land use. The action was a pre-emptive strike against proposed legislation stripping counties of the right to either deny or approve wind and solar farm construction.

“The legislature is working on bills that limit what counties can do to protect both landowners that want to develop and those opposed to winds and solar farms,” said county board chairman Jeff Voigt. “It takes control from local citizens.”

The new contract with jailers and dispatchers also got unanimous approval, with Voigt noting board members who worked on the negotiations are pleased with the results.

Some key components of the new three-year contract with the union representing the jailers and dispatchers are:

-Provides a raise of 2 ¼% in the first year and 2% annually for the next two years in the contract;

-Jailers and dispatchers will now pay an employee share of health insurance that is the same as the counties non-union employees;

-Retains the right of employees to make seniority bids every six months for shifts, but staffing still must adhere to Department of Corrections regulations and gives the sheriff authority to change the employee schedule to assure compliance; and

-Does away with the restriction of hiring only Edgar County residents. The county can now hire qualified people from the surrounding counties including Indiana.

Board member Karl Farnham Jr. noted the ability to hire from other locations is expected to help fill positions.

“It wasn’t a problem at one time, but now we have trouble finding qualified people,” said Farnham.

During the study session that followed the special meeting, it was noted the asphalting of the north drive and area east of the jail is completed. Voigt said it was a needed project even though the future of the jail is being studied. According to Voigt, any action on the jail is still a few years in the future and the asphalt lot is an important safety feature reducing liability associated with the former graveled space.

Voigt announced receipt of a $250,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is expected soon. The money is for addressing the needs of the four porticoes at the courthouse entrances. Such work involves moving the heating and cooling equipment on the porticoes to another location for easier maintenance and reroofing the porticoes.

There was brief discussion of the county’s share of the COVID American Rescue Plan. Voigt said half the money is coming in May and the balance is due in February 2022. He asked board members to start generating idea for its use, although there remains some uncertainty.

“We don’t have a clear understanding of what we can do,” said Voigt.

He announced Congresswoman Mary Miller (R-15th District) has agreed to seeking funding to help the county address the courthouse roof, replace the courthouse elevator or purchase three new squad cars for the sheriff’s department.

“That doesn’t mean any of them is going to happen,” Voigt said regarding Miller’s effort.