County news briefs

Winnebago County Deputy State’s Attorney Gary Kovanda said his office is still researching the question of whether a 1 percent on-the-dollar reduction in the county’s sales tax on gasoline is permissible under the law. The gasoline sales tax is part of the jail tax, which was passed by voters in 2002, and applies to all retail sales except some food, drugs and medical equipment.

Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen announced the proposed temporary gas tax rebate at the April 6 State of the County address. Whether one segment of retail sales can be exempted from the retail sales tax, which is not already described in state statute, remains unanswered.

State statute 55 ILCS 5/5-1006.5 reads: “[t]his additional tax may not be imposed on the sales of food for human consumption that is to be consumed off the premises where it is sold (other than alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, and food which has been prepared for immediate consumption) and prescription and non-prescription medicines, drugs, medical appliances and insulin, urine testing materials, syringes, and needles used by diabetics.”

Winnebago County Sheriff Richard Meyers said the county plans to spend $299,993 on a new “mobile command unit” to replace an existing 15-year-old vehicle that serves a similar purpose.

Meyers said funding for the vehicle was from “normal capital outlays,” and not from the county-wide jail tax, which is being used to primarily build the new 1,212-bed jail.

Meyers added the mobile command unit will be used as an emergency field office, and will be equipped with communications and computer equipment. He anticipates using the unit at major crime scenes, SWAT team deployments, bomb threats, nuclear accidents and natural disasters.

Winnebago County grand jurors made a “brief” inspection of the Winnebago County Jail April 6, as required by law. The visit was routine, and not prompted by a complaint.

Grand jurors observed the “[p]ods were crowded. …[but] conditions were much more orderly and clean than expected.” Under the “Concerns” section of their report, the grand jury asked: “Is the new jail going to provide all of the answers?”

From the April 27- May 3, 2005, issue

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