Board balks at LEAC pilot funding
• News and notes from the May 27 Winnebago County Board meeting
By Stuart R. Wahlin
At the urging of majority leader Frank Gambino (R-14), Winnebago County Board members voted 15-11 to send back to committee a budget amendment related to the salary and health benefits for the Law Enforcement Aviation Coalition’s (LEAC) chief pilot position, which is held by former board member Randy Olson (R), who stepped down in November to accept the $102,500 job for which he’d served five years in a voluntary capacity.
Last October, the board agreed, at LEAC’s request, that half of its $90,000 support for the program, which comes from federal grant dollars, could be used toward the chief pilot position. LEAC explained the demand for the service created a need for a full-time pilot, rather than depending on a volunteer.
Because Olson’s paychecks and benefits now come from the county, he could no longer retain his board seat. Lynne Strathman (R-1) was appointed as his successor.
In 2006, the board was asked for a “one-time” gift of $100,000 to support LEAC, which has returned each subsequent year asking for more gifts.
“It was sold to us as a one-time thing,” Gambino noted. “It was also sold to us that this was a voluntary position.”
Referring to cuts made across all departments, Gambino moved to send the matter back to committee, adding, “The operation is not, at this point in time, a necessity within our county budget, as much as we need more funds to support what we have to—and are mandated by our statutes—to provide for the citizens of Winnebago County.”
Finance Committee Chairman Tom Owens (R-1), however, noted the $25,000 in question had already been set aside in the budget, and that the amendment would simply shift the dollars from one fund to another. The transfer would shift $25,000 from “regular salaries” to “other professional services.” Owens also noted the county would see a return on its investment through proceeds from property confiscated by the LEAC operation.
Gambino was unrelenting, however.
“We can play the shell game all we want,” he said. “The bottom line is…we’ve created a position I don’t think we intended to. At this time, we can’t grow our government. We have to continue to shrink our government and provide the necessities, not luxuries.”
Gambino’s motion to send the amendment back to committee prevailed. Doug Aurand (D-3), Isidro Barrios (D-11), George Anne Duckett (D-12), Carolyn Gardner (D-9), Bob Hastings (D-13), Kay Mullins (R-8), Owens, Mel Paris (D-8), Dianne Parvin (R-4), Strathman and David Tassoni (D-7) voted “no.”
• Amending the county’s policy regarding the collection of fines for code enforcement, whereby, at the discretion of county leaders, compromises may be reached to settle such cases for a sum less than the amount of the unpaid fine or lien.
• Freezing the pay for the sheriff, clerk and treasurer at their current salaries of $114,395, $81,868 and $81,868, respectively, throughNov. 30, 2014. Despite talk during the May 13 meeting to reduce the base pay for board members to be elected in November, and to dock pay from those with poor committee attendance, the only compensation omitted from the resolution was the $1,000 bonus historically paid to committee chairmen. Board members make a base salary of $5,000 per year, plus $2,500 in per diem pay if they miss nomore than three meetings. Each absence in excess of three will result in $100 deducted from per diem allowances.
• Settling claims against the county by Sonia Medrano in the amount of $28,500 in order to avert an action pending before the state’s Human Rights Commission.
• Authorizing a $307,224.65 change order resulting from a net costdecrease related to the East Riverside Development Project.
• Authorizing an intergovernmental agreement with the state Toll Highway Authority for the installation of a $572,000 noise-abatement wall between I-90 and the Emerald Ridge subdivision in Roscoe.
• Authorizing the transfer of property on Alpine Road, betweenHarrison Avenue and the Union Pacific tracks, to the City of Rockford for the sum of $1.
• Authorizing the sale of property at the southeast corner of West State Street and Springfield Avenue to Jackie Brengle for $4,500 plus closing costs.
• Authorizing $91,162 for Hanson Professional Services, Inc. to designand engineer rehabilitation of the Cunningham Road bridge over the south branch of Keith Creek.
• Authorizing an intergovernmental agreement with the Village of Machesney Park for construction and maintenance of sidewalks along Ralston Road. Per the agreement, the county is permitting thatsidewalks be constructed by the village within the county road’s right-of-way.
• Authorizing an agreement with the City of Rockford to lease office space for its energy division in the county’s recently-acquired building at 555 N. Court St. The total rent, through May 31, 2015, is $494,263.50. Additionally, the city will pay $8,400 annually forjanitorial services.
• Awarding a proposal for an inmate commissary to Swanson Services Corporation, of Madison, Wis. On a related note, the board also awarded a proposal for inmate telecommunication service to Public Communications Services, Inc., of Los Angeles, Calif. According to the proposal, the new system would generate revenue of at least$500,000 per year.
• Authorizing an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Rockford to jointly apply for up to $313,355 in Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant funds. Per the agreement, the city would receive 60 percent of the grant, and the county would receive the remainder.
• Authorizing an intergovernmental grant agreement with the IllinoisEmergency Management Agency (IEMA), whereby the county will receive up to $12,000 in grant funds for nuclear accident preparedness.
• Authorizing the emergency outsourcing of laundry services for River Bluff Nursing Home, which suffered a fire in its laundry room in April. Superior Health Linens, of Madison, Wis., will provide laundryservices.
• Awarding bids for undergarments, under-pads and pull-ups to McKesson Medical-Surgical, of Golden Valley, Minn., Medline, of St. Charles, and Seneca Medical Inc., of Tiffin, Ohio.
Tana Vettore encouraged the community to donate money and time to Rockford Sharefest’s June 18-26 school makeover efforts. For more information, visit www.RockfordSharefest.com.
Dave Fiduccia (R-4) and Bob Kinnison (R-10) were absent.
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