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Bureau County seats board member, works with architect

PRINCETON – Bureau County Board on Tuesday seated a new board member, heard reports about mounting costs for having an insufficient jail and approved payment to an architect.
Six things to know from Tuesday’s meeting:

New board member: Christy Crowther, a Ladd Democrat, said she had been approached in previous years by former Democratic Party county chairman Dean Devert about running for the board, but the timing had never worked out. Her neighbor, Micah Robinson, resigned and she agreed to fill in from now through the November election and into December. Crowther took an oath of office at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting. Board member Kristi Warren said currently no one is running for the District 20 seat, and a few write-in votes in November could keep Crowther on the board.

Gearing up for jail project: All board members present Tuesday voted yes to authorizing a $100,000 payment so architect BKV Group can get to work on brochures, drawings and materials in preparation for an upcoming referendum and the proposed transformation of the county’s building on Ace Road (the former Bureau County Republican building) into a jail and law enforcement center.

Board member Keith Cain (R-Princeton) amended a motion to ensure the payment would go out to BKV after state’s attorney Geno Caffarini examined a contract with the firm and handed it over to board chairman Dale Anderson for signature.

In July, the board approved placing a half-cent sales tax referendum on the ballot for November for the purposes of turning the Ace Road building the county owns into the new jail and law enforcement center.

The tax – which would not apply to groceries, vehicles, medicines and medical supplies and devices – medications or automobiles, would be collected for a 20-year limit at the most. The board has the option to terminate the tax earlier if they voted to do so.

If voters did approve the referendum, Bureau County’s sales tax would be raised one-half percent to a total of 7.25 percent. For cities like Spring Valley and Princeton, the sales tax rate would be 7.75 percent because each passed a non-home rule municipal tax increase in past elections. Comparatively, cities like La Salle and Peru have a 7.5 percent sales tax rate.

Costs of not housing prisoners: Board member Kristi Warren (R-Princeton) and sheriff James Reed reported on costs of transporting inmates and suspects to La Salle County Jail. In June, the cost of housing prisoners to La Salle County came in at $4,890, not including the $1,764 cost to pay deputies to transport prisoners. Warren said costs have averaged $5,200 per month and are not stopping.

“I think it’s important to note how much money we’re putting out for this service and we have no choice,” Warren said, referring to the county’s responsibility to house inmates in facilities that are up to code and safe.

Toll on tower projects: The board approved a conditional use permit after a request from property owner William Schoff who will have a 320-foot-tall meteorological tower erected on his land along 1300 East Street for the purpose of recording wind data. The county will require a one-time payment of $5,000 to Walnut Township for potential road damage from heavy trucks when the tower comes in. The board also authorized the state’s attorney to draw on existing letters of credit of the Providence Heights and Big Sky Wind LLC wind farms to cover repairs to roads and more from the construction or removal of wind turbines and towers. The wind farm developers and owners are expected to secure new letters of credit to assure the coverage of road damage.

Money in, money out: The board approved selling a parcel (No. 03-08-476-001) to the Village of Walnut for $647, said Marshann Entwhistle. The board approved a resolution to spend an additional $13,087 on a project for a structure over a branch of Crow Creek. An additional $3,271 in federal funds is coming in for the added portion.

Kudos from Kohr to law enforcement: Board member Mike Kohr (D-Selby Township) said he was just coming home from a family vacation when he tuned in to news of a school shooting in Iowa. Kohr said it made him think of a situation earlier this year in a Bureau County community, where a person made numerous threats. In the Bureau County case, residents reported the threats, law enforcement intervened and defused the situation. In addition, Kohr said, the person who allegedly made the threats has chosen to move outside of Bureau County and the region. Kohr said many county residents expressed relief and gratitude to authorities for being proactive in this case, and law enforcement and notification by the public worked the way it should have.

“They heard something, they saw something, they said something,” Kohr said.