By ERIN SANSON
The June Macoupin County board meeting was held June 13 at 6 p.m. Several matters were discussed including the ongoing discussion of the HVAC update for the Macoupin County Courthouse. New items were discussed as well. Christy Blank of the Macoupin County Public Health Department was at the meeting and spoke of several issues that have come to light with the public transportation program.
Macoupin County Public Transportation Program
The Macoupin County Health Department runs the Macoupin County Transportation Program (MCTP) on behalf of the Macoupin County Board. Kent Tarro was the Health Department’s administrator and the board appointed administrator for the transportation program. Tarro retired in January and Blank took over the position. When Blank took over the programs she found several areas where the transportation program was losing significant amounts of money. The transportation department has contracts with several organizations in the area to provide transport for their clients, residents or students.
The transportation program has contracts with MCDD, Carlinville Area Hospital, The Glenwood in Staunton, Macoupin County Housing Authority, Illinois Valley and some of the school districts in the County. The three biggest contract losses came from the ROE-Safe School, MCDD, and Illinois Valley. Some of these contracts were entered into in 2014 and automatically renew from year to year.
The contract with MCDD, Blank pointed out, was signed in 2014. That contract states that MCDD will pay the transportation program $50 per day per van per round trip delivery. MCTP currently collects $400 a week from MCDD but has an approximate weekly cost of $1,798.60, leaving a weekly deficit of $1,398.60. Between May 1, 2022 and May 1, 2023, MCDD paid MCTP $8,575. According to Blank, between only miles covered and wages, the total cost to run the transportation program, as specified in the contract between itself and MCDD, was $99,197.84.
MCDD is not the only contract to run such a high deficit. The contract between MCTP and the Safe Schools ran a $93,000 deficit in the same May to May period. In total, MCPT lost $359,570.26 between May 1, 2022 and May 1, 2023 between their contracts and the $25 a month education passes.
In order to cut costs, Blank came to the board to ask they approve the termination of each contract, except for the medical parts of any programs, such as written into the contract between MCPT and Carlinville Area Hospital. MCPT will also terminate a lease with MCDD that they have to park a bus on the MCDD grounds and vehicle insurance and maintenance payments they are making on behalf of MCDD. The fare and bus pass rules will change as well.
Non-medical on demand trips will be a flat $5 if within six miles, plus the IRS standard mileage rate per mile, $.655 per mile. Trips seven miles or more will have a $10 flat rate plus the IRS standard mileage fee. Language in the updated fee schedule also states that for the trips of six miles or less a passenger will be dropped off and the bus will continue on its route. Passengers may request the driver remain at the location for an additional $18 per hour fee. All riders age 60-plus can ride in Macoupin County for a suggested donation fee.
For medical, dental or behavioral health trips, ambulatory passengers will have a $20 flat fee plus an $.80 per mile charge. Passengers who use wheelchairs will have a $30 flat fee and the same $.80 per mile charge. All medical rides must be scheduled and billed through a passenger’s insurance provider. Riders aged 60-plus whose insurance will not cover the ride costs will have a suggested donation rate within Macoupin County.
MCPT will not issue any more monthly or annual passes. Any current passes will be accepted until their expiration date or until August 1, whichever comes first. Riders with prepaid passes that will be valid after the Aug. 1 expiration date will receive a prorated refund for the unused pass amount. Blank encourages riders to watch for information on the MCPHD Facebook page or online at www.mcphd.net.
Of the 18 board members, 16 voted to allow the MCPT to terminate its contracts except for any medical programs that were stipulated in the contracts. Two members, Ryan Kilduff and John Blank voted present on the matter.
The board heard an energy efficiency study for two different HVAC systems for the Courthouse. Keith Engineering put the study together and found that a VRF system would end up being only five percent more efficient than continuing with a chiller-boiler system, which would lead to a cost saving of about $2,000 annually. However, both systems would be equal in installation costs, about $2.4 million and the copper pipes currently in the courthouse were determined to be in good condition, meaning no new pipes would have to be installed for a chiller-boiler system. The representative from Keith Engineering additionally pointed out that a VRF system would be more efficient in the summer for the Courthouse, while the chiller-boiler would be more efficient in the winter. More work would have to be done to the exterior of the courthouse to install the VRF system and some of the copper pipes would not be able to be removed from the courthouse. Keith Engineering also mentioned that the ventilation in the courthouse was currently poor, something they would be working to improve so there would be new penetrations to the exterior of the courthouse no matter what system the board approved, Keith Engineering suggested the County bring an architect onto the project to supervise the exterior project. Board members calculated in total that the project, with the Keith Engineering fee of 7 percent and the nearly $60,000 architect fee, would cost about $2.62 million. No decision on the matter was made by the full board and the matter was referred back to the Buildings and Grounds committee.
A request from Animal Control for the purchase of a building or tenting to temporarily house feral cats as part of a catch-neuter-release program was approved. This would be a 12×20 pre-built building. At most, Julie Boehler says the building would house 10 cats at a time, which would each be separated. The plan would be to catch the feral cats, hold them for one day, take them to the Animal Protective League in Springfield so they may be neutered. The animal would remain with the Animal Protective League for one day and be returned to Animal Control the day after. Animal Control would keep the animal for one additional day before releasing it back into its environment. The board approved the Animal Control plan and building purchase.
An addendum to the engineering contract with HLR for the Brighton-Bunker Hill Road project adding an additional $75,000 to the contract was approved.
A resolution transferring funds from the General Fund to the Tort Liability Fund was approved.
A resolution amending a Special Funds appropriation was approved. A Wind Permit Application Fee Fund was created and the amount in the fund increased from $0 to $250,000.
The board approved a proposal to engage an attorney to write a solar panel ordinance as the County does not have one.
The board approved a motion to bill Staunton Township for assessment work. The township does not have an assessor, meaning the County Assessor did the township assessment this year. The County Assessor worked 28.5 hours and is billing the township at a rate of $100 an hour, which board members pointed out was cheap for an assessor.
The Liquor commission met for its annual meeting and approved 12 license renewals for the year.
Three petitions, two in Hillyard township and one in Nilwood township, all for culvert replacements were approved by the board.
The Macoupin County Board held a special meeting, a continuation of the Wind Farm Permit Public Hearing held in May, the evening following their regular board meeting, June 14 at the Macoupin County Courthouse courtroom A. Coverage of the meeting and board decision will be featured in next week’s edition of the Macoupin County Enquirer~Democrat.