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Probation officer salary reevaluated; Transit program found to be one of the best in U.S.

Enquirer~Democrat Reporter

The Macoupin County Board, at its July 12 meeting, decided to revisit an issue regarding the Probation Officer salary that had been discussed and voted on in May. It also recognized several individuals throughout the community.

Kent Tarro with the Public Health Department spoke to the board about a grant he wanted permission to apply for, as well as a matter of recognition for the Macoupin County Transit program.

Probation Officer Salary Adjustment

The State of Illinois began taking over pretrial services. The minimum salary for pretrial officers is $45,003 and $66,418 for supervisors. Due to the disparity between what the State was willing to pay and what most Counties were paying, the State offered to subsidize the cost for those counties. The first year, the out of pocket cost for the county would have been less than $15,000 and in the following years closer to only $7,000. The out of pocket expenses would be from an increase in IMRF contributions and FICA increases.

On May 10 the Macoupin County board voted not to take the State’s offer and keep the probation officer salaries at $34,000. Of the six people on the probation office staff in Macoupin County, two are set to retire in the next year. The other four began looking for other jobs both as pretrial officers at the State level and looking into probation office work in other counties. According to a letter sent to the board by the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council (FOP Council), Macoupin County was the only county to not approve the increase. The FOP Council argued that the County would have to compete with both the state and every other county in Illinois for probation workers.

The FOP Council letter, signed by Kelly Byrd, read in its final paragraphs, “…We are unable to let this issue be swept under the rug so easily. We would like for you to reconsider your vote with the understanding that this is not a ‘want’ by the Macoupin County probation Office, but rather a ‘need.’”

The letter also read that the Labor Council did not blame the staff for wanting a better salary but, “we do fault a county for not taking care of their employees when they can do so with so little financial loss- Not only do we feel the financial loss of this vote, but we also feel the emotional impact of a county board that considers our time to be unvaluable and most certainly underappreciated.”

While arguments were being made for and against approving the measure, State’s Attorney Jordan Garrison joined the conversation telling the board they were not considering how not approving the measure would affect the outcome when it was again time to negotiate union contracts.

When the issue was first broached in May the measure was defeated by a 10-7 vote against. The motion to approve salary adjustments was made by Kristi Dunnagan, with the caveat that if the State ever withdrew or lowered the amount allocated the Board had the right to reevaluate the salary.

Due to the board’s reconsideration, the measure passed with 14 votes in favor. Board members Matthew Acord and David Thomas voted against the measure. Roberta “Sissy” Vojas voted as present.

Macoupin County Transit Program

Kent Tarro was a guest at the board meeting speaking about a resolution to allow the Public Health department to apply for another round of Rebuild Illinois grants. The Public Health Department is using the grant to request vehicles as many of the vehicles in their fleet are over on mileage by over 100,000 miles. Later in the meeting, the board approved the Rebuild Illinois request for 18 vehicles. Tarro said he thought the Health Department would be lucky to be granted four, but that each replacement vehicle helps.

Tarro also mentioned to the board that he had recently been contacted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) which is currently working on a project studying rural and small urban transit systems. According to TTI, which has looked at rural transportation systems nationwide they identified two systems, one rural and one suburban-urban transit systems that were the most efficient operating programs in the country. Macoupin County was named as one of those two programs.

American Rescue Plan

The tentative American Rescue Plan funding requests were approved by the board and the amounts will be finalized at the August meeting. The funds, at the moment, amount to $8,584,354 total, the full amount requested by the board. Of the over $8 million, $2.6 million of it is to split between the 26 townships of Macoupin County.

Building and Grounds Projects

The building and grounds committee was granted the power to act to hire an engineering consultant to do a complete study of the Courthouse, including a digital scan of the building. The study was estimated to cost between $10-15,000 and to take six to eight weeks to complete.

The Architect contract for the Old Jail grant received from Great Rivers and Routes tourism board was approved pending Garrison’s final review and approval.

Matters of Recognition

The board recognized three individuals at the July meeting. Girl Scout Abigail Way of Carlinville was recognized for achieving the Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouts. Way created a sensory garden and colorful mural at the Carlinville Primary School as her project.

Macoupin County Deputy Larry Rayburn and Telecommunicator Stephanie Rayburn were recognized at the meeting as well, though the couple as present. They received high praise from the Mt. Olive Fire Department after an emergency medical call came over the radio. The pair, off-duty at a family gathering in Mt. Olive, left to respond to the call arriving on scene before the ambulance and began treating the patient. Harry Starr spoke on behalf of Sheriff Shawn Kahl who was unable to attend the meeting, recognizing Rayburn for his quick actions in this situation but also a previous situation in which he saved the life of a small child who was choking.

The Macoupin County Clerk staff was also recognized, though not as part of the agenda, for their efforts and hard work during the June 28 primary election. County Clerk Pete Duncan was unable to work election day as he tested positive for COVID-19. Duncan thanked both his staff, as well as board members Todd Armour and Starr, who came in to help with the election.

Dunnagan thanked Starr for his research, hard work, and diligence in working on the Courthouse projects as well as the Old Jail project and Great Rivers and Routes grant.

Other Business

The tentative budget for Fiscal Year 2022-2023 was approved. The final budget will be approved at the August meeting. The fiscal year for the county begins on September 1.

A resolution was passed raising the County Motor Fuel Tax Fund Budget from $1,665,300 to $2,115,300.

The County Board received a letter from the city of Staunton regarding property that is to be annexed into the city. The property is located on the Staunton-Hillsboro road.