By ERIN SANON
The Macoupin County Board meeting was held the evening of Sept. 13. Several items were discussed, including the September American Rescue Plan Fund requests, and potential litigation the county could be facing.
FOIA Requests and Potential Litigation
County Clerk Pete Duncan gave notice to the board of an influx of Freedom of Information Act Requests his office has received in the last few weeks. The requests are all in regards to election information from 2017 forward. Duncan says the requests have been very significant and time consuming and therefore take a lot of time for the County Clerk’s Office to handle. Duncan said that his office has now received 15 notices of prospective litigation and demand for record retention.
Duncan stated and then reiterated that these requests have been coming in to County Clerk’s Office’s throughout Illinois and the Country. The possible litigation would be a class-action lawsuit. As the lawsuit is pending the County Clerk’s Office would not be able to destroy any election related information from 2019 onward.
Due to the large number of County Clerks that have received such letters, the Illinois State Archives and Local Records Commissioner, who gives the county permission to dispose of records, stated the Archives would not be approving any requests for disposal of election records. This becomes a problem for Duncan and the rest of the County Clerk’s Office because of the large amount of records that they will have to file and store without being able to remove any other records. Duncan said the area where he stores the files will fill up very quickly and should a lawsuit happen and be a drawn out process there will not be a secure location to store the necessary records.
No mention was made by Duncan of who the groups are individuals leading the effort are. However, The Washington Post published an article on Sept. 11 detailing the issue. The article found that it seemed supporters of former president Donald Trump have been sending in the requests nationwide as part of a coordinated effort to “cause chaos as their fall crunchtime approaches, making it more difficult to run smooth elections…”
Board members tried to offer up various locations that could be used for storage should the need arise. State’s Attorney Jordan Garrison said the issue with other locations is that they would not be as carefully regulated and secured as the record storage in the Courthouse would be, leaving room to potentially question the integrity of the records.
Duncan informed the board only so it would be aware of the issue. There was no action to be taken at the time.
American Rescue Plan Fund Requests
The board reviewed the American Rescue Plan fund requests for September. The majority of the county requests came from Animal Control. There were several requests from different townships as well. Townships were awarded $100,000 for any requests. Bird Township submitted two requests which would exceed the $100,000 mark. The board approved the requests with the reminder that anything over the $100,000 granted would be the responsibility of the Township. It was also announced that all of the American Rescue Plan Funds have been budgeted and no additional funds were available to any entity or department.
Kent Tarro was a guest at the meeting, updating the board about the public transportation program. He told the board that there were three group trips that were booked for the fall and that those trips all had people signed up to ride. Tarro also announced that the Transit program might have to cut one of the days it provides rides to Springfield due to the cost. Currently the bus goes to Springfield five days a week and Tarro says could have up to five buses making the trip each day. Due to cost issues they may reduce the trips to only Monday through Thursday.
Tarrant also spoke to the board about granting Board Chairman Larry Schmidt power to act to sign an agreement to get funding from the state. Later in the meeting Schmidt was granted the power to act to sign the downstate operating assistance agreement. This agreement allows the State to make funds available for assistance with the public transportation program.
Courthouse Digital Scan
Board Member Harry Starr brought to the board a bid for a digital scan of the courthouse for $16,500. The board previously approved a digital scan of the Courthouse, focusing on the interior of the building only. The new bid would cover a scan of the interior and exterior. Starr felt that the scan was still a good idea as it would help with any improvements made to the building in the future and would give the County a set of blueprints to the building, which so far have not been able to be located. The board approved the interior and exterior scan.
A letter from Springfield Coal Country was discussed. The letter was in regards to a proposed bond release of Crown III Mine near Girard. Garrison said that the bond release would not be where the fly ash is stored. The area is a 1.6 acre plot that has been farmland for the last decade. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Office of Mines and Minerals, the company has met all of the qualifications for the restoration of the area.
A letter from Block Grain Belt Express was sent to the board asking them to pass a resolution denouncing Eminent Domain being used by a non-public utility. Board member Todd Armour suggested the board write a letter to that effect. Duncan said that the board could also send the letter they issued in April denouncing Grain Belt Express’ use of eminent domain to the Illinois Commerce Commission, where they previously sent the letter to the State Legislature. The board agreed to resend the letter.
Matters of Recognition
The week of September 18-24 was declared to be National Farm Safety and Health Week in Macoupin County.
A moment of silence was held for former board member James Hallbaugher who recently passed away.
The board approved three culvert repairs in the Barr, Dorchester and North Palmyra townships.
The board approved the Health Insurance renewal rates for 2023.