County Board Holds Flag Ceremony, Revisits Zoning Case
By Alex Haglund
The Washington County Board held their regular meeting for December beginning earlier in the day than other meetings, at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, December 12. A half hour before the meeting was called to order, members of the board, other county officials and county staff gathered in front of the courthouse’s flagpoles for a ceremony to raise the Illinois Bicentennial Flag.
As the flag was hauled up the pole, County Board Chair David Meyer stated that he expected there to be plenty more activities over the course of the coming year that will be sponsored by the state for its bicentennial.
The county board also held a Christmas luncheon for the county’s various employees and departments earlier in the day on Tuesday, with the early board meeting allowing board members to have a more clear schedule to visit with these departments if they wished.
At the meeting, the board revisited a zoning case, a zoning map amendment requested by Bryan Kuder, bringing 3.9 acres from agricultural to residential.
The case came before the board before and failed to pass and now, after several changes, has passed both the zoning board of review and the zoning committee to come up before the full board.
Due to a dispute filed in the case previously, it had required a super-majority from the board to pass. That was not the case this time, but several members of the board mentioned reservations they had regarding the case and a precedent it could set.
As far as zoning, “it still infringes on the property,” board member Larry Unverfehrt said. “We are still taking away some hunting rights from Mr. Selle.”
Unverfehrt was referring to a neighbor of the Kuder property, Bob Selle, who was present at the meeting. Selle’s property is used for shotgun deer hunting and says he is required to be at least 300 yards from residential zones to firearm hunt.
Unverfehrt suggested that the board neews to be taking a look at their actions as far as taking away rights to property that people have bought for certain purpose – land sold as recreational and hunting properties that are later not able to be used as such.
Gary Suedmeyer stated that he agreed with Unverfehrt.
Paul Todd asked if, since shotgun season, roughly a week of the year, was what the Selles were concerned with, then there might be a possibility for the neighbors to come to an agreement for Kuder to give Selle permission to hunt close to his land. Kuder said that Selle would only need to ask.
While Unverfehrt also mentioned his objection to a case like this being decided with over-consideration to the tax revenue that it might bring, Douglas Bening stated that he felt that the county needed more people coming in, building homes and living here.
“I don’t think any of us are denying that we need more people coming in,” Bening said.
Meyer said that the time may be right for the zoning committee to review their rules regarding cases like this.
The board took a vote and Unverfehrt, Suedmeyer and Kathy Muenter voted “no.” Nancy Eigenrauch abstained from the vote, Jeff Evans and David Ibendahl were absent and all others present voted “yes.”
The board heard another zoning case as well, this one a special use permit request from David Eldridge to be able to use an recreational vehicle as a residence.
The RV in question is one that received a special use permit to be used as a residence for workers near to the Prairie State Generating Plant during its construction. It has since changed hands since then, and the permit needs to be renewed in order to be sure that the RV remains in serviceable condition.
Regulations added to these permits include a proper sewer hookup and a street address.
“We haven’t approved campsites since Prairie State,” said Zoning Committee chair Vic Shubert, “but this isn’t a new campsite, it’s just an esxtension. We’re not in the business of adding campsites in the county.”
The board approved extending the special use permit by three years, with Unverfehrt and Alan Hohlt voting against it.
County Treasurer’s Report
Washington County Treasurer Darlene Ostendorf spoke with the board, giving a report of her year so far. Nearly all of the county’s taxes have been collected, with 92-percent of the funds now distributed to the taxing districts.
“Overall, the new tax program went over very well,” Ostendorf said, adding that the county’s taxpayers, “have done well with two payments, for the most part.”
Ostendorf said that the newspaper will be publishing the delinquent tax list for the year on January 10, 2018, with plans for the tax sale to then be held on February 5, 2018.
Supervisor Of Assessments
“We’re very busy at our office because of the Sidwell Maps,” County Supervisor of Assessments Sharon Harre Mewes told the board.
Mewes said that her department was also busy because a new piece of software was being used to detect new land use changes and discrepancies between differently dated maps.
Bening asked if the land use changes noted by Sidwell’s software were verified by Mewes’ office.
“Good question,” Mewes answered. “Yes. That’s why we’re so busy right now.”
Mewes told the board that her office was planning and gearing up have their assessments for the year finished at the same time as last year’s – roughly late March or early April.
State’s Attorney Report
“It’s a pretty standard month of November,” State’s Attorney Dan Bronke told the board. “A little light maybe, but at least we have some money coming in.”
Bronke brought a resolution before the board to aparticipate in a program with the state appellate prosecutor’s office, which tries cases that the local state’s attorney’s office cannot due to a conflict of interest or other circumstance.
“We used them for about ten cases this last year,” Bronke stated.
Bronke reported taking in $750.87 for his general fund in November, $181.25 came into his drug prevention fund, $259 went to the automation fund and $141.26 in forfeited funds came to the office.
County Highway Resolutions
County Engineer and Highway Department Superintendent Mitch Burdick brought a pair of resolutions to the board.
The first resolution was for 2018 Motor Fuel Tax Funds, to be used for roadway maintenance and reimbursables.
The second resolution was an appropriation for funds from federal surface transportation program, which can pay up to 50-percent of the county engineer (Burdick’s) salary.
In other updates, Brudick said that the department’s winter preparations are complete, “should the weather turn on us.”
County township road commissioners have been prepared by Burdick for interruptions in funding on the state level, Burdick said.
A highway department foreman has retired, Burdick told the board. While his position will be filled, the vacancy it creates in overall staff will remain as part of a longterm highway department payroll reduction.
The county board approved the Washington County Board Meetings and times for the year 2018. There are no holiday conflicts in the schedule as it was passed.
The Sheriff’s Department reported that they are housing 12 federal and 10 county inmates as of the time of the meeting.