Rock Island County Committee of the Whole met March 14.
Rock Island County Committee of the Whole met March 14.
Here is the minutes provided by the Committee:
1) Call to order and roll call
Committee members present: Richard Brunk, Larry Burns, Kim Callaway-Thompson (via phone), Dewayne Cremeens, Jeff Deppe, Ed Langdon, Kenneth Maranda, Mia Mayberry, Pat Moreno, Rich Morthland, Scott Noyd, Cecilia O'Brien, Ron Oelke, Robert Reagan, Ginny Shelton, Edna Sowards, Mike Steffen, Kai Swanson, Scott Terry, Brian Vyncke, Bob Westpfahl (arrived at 5:39 p.m.)
Committee members absent: Don Johnston, Drue Mielke, Luis Moreno, Rod Simmer
2) Public Comments
There were no public comments.
3) Approval of minutes from the February 14, 2018 meeting
Motion to approve: Ginny Shelton
2nd: Cecilia O’Brien
The committee discussed Item 9 after Item 3.
4) Condition of Funds report
Item 4 was discussed after Item 9.
Ms. Palmer provided her standard reports to the committee. She began with Schedule A, or the trial balances as of February 28, 2018. Ms. Palmer noted that one quarter of the county’s fiscal year has gone by, with the first three months being December-February. As far as budgetary standings according to the budget that was approved for this year, she does not see anything that is actually over budget that is alarming or in any way strange that the committee has not already discussed. Ms. Palmer offered to take questions on this particular report if anything looks strange or out of ordinary or that the committee would like explained. There were no questions.
Ms. Palmer asked the committee to move into Schedule C, the fund balances as of February 28, 2018. She noted that she is kind of going to roll reports C and E together. Due to Ms. Ewert not being available this evening, there are some things that Ms. Palmer would like to share that Ms. Ewert was talking about yesterday in the Finance and Personnel meeting, as well as some other things she and Ms. Ewert discussed today. Ms. Palmer noted that she will start at the bottom of the schedule and work her way up to the General Fund.
Ms. Palmer explained that the first fund she would like to talk about is Fund #146, the Child Support Fund. The revenue so far this year is still not meeting expense obligations, which consist primarily of salaries. IMRF and FICA already are not paid by this fund; they are paid by the IMRF and FICA funds respectively. Also, this year approximately 6% of all salaries has been moved to the Liability Insurance Fund per the Risk Management Program that was approved. You would think this fund may at least be able to sustain itself at this point, but that’s not happening still. It is supported currently by Fund #153, the Court Document Storage Fund, as opposed to the General Fund.
Ms. Palmer noted that she has had some brief conversations, though nothing recently besides an email she sent today, with Ms. Weikert because the employee health benefits’ cost is over budget to post payroll this coming Friday. That is already over budget. Ms. Palmer has to borrow from salaries, which is already barely able to sustain itself. Later on in the fiscal year, she is using some of the salaries to supplement funds into the Employee Health Benefits Fund so she doesn’t have to transfer money or make an additional loan from Fund #153. Ms. Weikert is not quite sure what she wants to do. Only two employees’ partial salaries are being paid out of this fund as well as the employee health benefit costs. That’s all right now. She’ll have more to come on that with some decision making that Ms. Weikert has to do. They’ll have some future discussions, but she wanted to bring that to the committee’s attention.
Mr. Terry noted that he knows they talked about this several months ago, but asked Ms. Palmer to walk him through. He noted that $67,500 was the salaries and asked where the revenue is supposed to come from for this fund. Ms. Palmer explained that the revenue comes from child support fees. When a parental person would have to pay child support, there are fees that are entailed in those costs. Those fees produce the funds to move them forward to the other parental party. Mr. Terry noted that Ms. Palmer may not be sure of the answer, but asked if she thinks the situation is with the amount of fees and if that is set by the state. Ms. Palmer said the fee amounts are set by law and are capped out. They are not sufficient to provide services. Mr. Terry said that’s part one of his question.
Mr. Terry asked if there is an issue of the fees not getting paid and if there is any type of enforcement that county or state is utilizing to collect those fees. That’s the other part of his question. Ms. Palmer said that’s a question for Ms. Weikert. She does know the county has revenue through January in the bank. They are not that far behind. She doesn’t if it’s a case where the people paying child support are in arrears. She does know that it’s not the transfer of those fees collected being moved to the county. Mr. Terry said that makes sense and gives more weight that the real issue is the amount of fees. Ms. Palmer said that is correct. She believes that is the frustration Ms. Weikert has expressed in her company in the past. There is nothing this body or the county on its own can do to change that, she believes.
Mr. Terry said his last question is if Ms. Palmer knows if there has been any communication with those in a position to possibly draft state legislation. Ms. Palmer said she does not know; that would be a question for Ms. Weikert.
Ms. O’Brien noted that, unfortunately, this is another question that is probably for Ms. Weikert. She recalls that years ago when she was doing payroll, she believes the state changed the way child support is collected. The county is kind of stuck running it. They probably, in Springfield, decided how much the county should get for that, which is probably not the best way of doing it. Ms. Palmer said she believes it is a service, such as animal control or the jail or anything else, that the county has to do. Ms. O’Brien noted that unfortunately because they are waiting for people to pay child support, which is an ugly, sensitive, emotional issue that doesn’t get done, sometimes the only way to get that money is to get somebody’s tax refund. It’s a symptom of society that they have this problem. Ms. O’Brien suspects the only way they can complain as County Board members is to write their State Representatives and tell them go to Springfield and fix this. Ms. Palmer asked Ms. O’Brien to talk to Ms. Weikert about that first. Ms. O’Brien said she suspects this is something that might be above Ms. Weikert. Ms. Palmer said she doesn’t want to in any way speak for Ms. Weikert; she is just trying to give the financial situation. Ms. O’Brien noted that this was a big change a few years back, as she recalls, on how things were done.
Ms. Palmer reported that Fund #128, the Court Security Fund, is one she has talked about before. This is a service the county is required by law to provide, of course. They have to keep the courts safe. This fund is General Fund supplemented. With that being said, basically the same situation exists as she just talked about with the Child Support Fund. However, this fund is dependent on General Fund support. Last year, a total of $167,000 was moved from the General Fund to the Court Security Fund to provide those services as required. Despite cutting salary costs through the Risk Management Program and moving approximately 6% of the salaries for the deputies (not the bailiffs) to the Liability Insurance Fund, expenditures are still higher than last year. So far, revenue in this fund is down from where it was as of February 2017. The current year’s General Fund budgeted support is $247,260. Ms. Palmer noted that at the beginning of the year she said, “Why on earth would it be that high?” She thinks she even voiced that in this meeting. She sees it going in that direction, unfortunately, after a quarter of the year has gone by. She will keep an eye on it and will report to the committee, but it’s looking like that support may be needed despite 6% of some of those salaries already being under the Liability Insurance Fund.
Mr. Terry said he has to assume someone else is wondering too. He noted that Ms. Palmer said revenue is down and asked if that is via levy or fees. Ms. Palmer said these are fees through the courts. They are court fees you pay when you go in and have something to do in the court system. Part of the court fee that’s assessed goes toward court security.
Ms. Palmer moved to Fund #113, Animal Control. Again the same situation is occurring. Revenue is only $2,300 off of meeting expense needs this year, which is a good thing. Those two columns are almost breaking even. That’s really good on their part, but revenue was about $30,000 higher as of February 2017. Overall revenue is down. The animal adoption and clinical revenues are way down, for instance, in comparing the first quarter of last year versus the first quarter of this year. She’s not sure reason for that and hasn’t spoken to Ms. DeYoung about that. Animal Control had no General Fund support needed in fiscal years 2017, 2016, or 2015 and they were hoping to go on the same course. They have budgeted $142,911 of support for this year. Six percent of their salaries have been deferred to the Liability Insurance Fund per the Risk Management Plan. They are supposed to be cutting costs and things should be lower by 6% of the salaries and she’s just not seeing that happen overall.
Ms. O’Brien asked if it is possible that some of the expenses are because of what they are looking at in that facility. The electric and heating and all of that have gone crazy and they are looking at changing that. She asked if it is possible that is bumping up the costs a bit and not necessarily just the salaries. She asked if it could be operating expenses. Ms. Palmer said she doesn’t know about fluctuations in particularly the utilities portion of that. She did not look at that line item specifically, but of course it could be. It could be the amount of animals and needing extra food or so many other things. It could be that vet costs are up. She’s not sure. All she did was specifically look at the salaries. Ms. O’Brien said her only point is there are probably operating expenses out there that kick them from behind. She knows when she took a tour with her dad for the gift they gave, there was discussion of how a commercial washing machine takes less electricity than a regular one because it’s more efficient for a big facility. They saved a bunch of money on that. In fact, the power company thought someone was stealing power or that the meter was broken when in fact they had become more efficient. There could be things like that they can do down the line that can help this number. There may be other departments that would also be affected by helping with operational stuff. She knows it’s hard for Ms. Palmer to say because those are tiny line item things. Ms. Palmer said that’s too fine of detail for this meeting tonight. She tries to keep to high level and look at the fund overall or major portions like salaries.
Ms. Palmer moved on to Fund #110, the IMRF Fund. Last year, the fund balance decreased almost $1 million because the property taxes levied were too low. This year’s property tax levy was increased by $665,000, which will provide for this fund much closer. Each payroll is between $175,000 and $180,000 of expenses. It’s a bit concerning to make it to the end of June to get to where the increased the property taxes come in. In the processes, they have to keep that in mind constantly. They never want to run dry. Ms. Palmer thinks that so many times these funds run dry in anticipation of having increased property taxes next year. It takes almost seven months to get to where the county is collecting for the first time on property taxes. With seven months of payrolls going by at $180,000, you can do the math. She is concerned about making it to that first property tax distribution at the end of June. There is only a little over $1 million in cash in there as of February 28. Ms. Palmer estimates that fund will need $1.4-1.6 million until then. She would utilize the funds in Working Cash, but the County Board has already allocated the Working Cash Fund to assist the General Fund or Hope Creek Fund, both of which desperately may need it. She is thinking there is a possibility this fund may need that cash as well, that $0.5 million. She might have to do some adjustments in talking to the Treasurer’s Office. They will bring that forward to the County Board in the near future if they do see things going the way Ms. Palmer is predicting. Of course, it’s all a guessing game and she is doing the best she can to make sure she warns the County Board ahead of time. Luckily it isn’t worse than that.
Ms. Palmer reminded the committee that last year she was talking to them all the time about how at budget time, the employer’s percentage rates are sometimes way different than it actually turns out to be come January 1 when they are enacted. This year, there was not much fluctuation at all. The county only has to get there with these current levels and doesn’t have to try to find additional funds because of rate spikes in the actuals versus the estimates that IMRF gives the county. She wanted to bring that to the committee’s attention to keep in back of their minds. There is only $0.5 million in the Working Cash Fund and she doesn’t know where it will be the most useful. There are so many things that may desperately need those funds.
Ms. Palmer directed the committee to the Hope Creek Fund, Fund #108. The FY17 fund balance decrease was $1.535 million. This year so far, expenses exceed revenues another $1.5 million. They were told based upon sound methodology to plan for $1.684 million of additional revenue as uncollectable. That is now totaling $2.484 million. Ms. Palmer explained that she has the auditors who just came in this past Monday. They are here this week for the first time for the 2017 audit. Ms. Palmer was given those numbers by Hope Creek to write off. Hope Creek is not going to stop going after the money, but it’s very unlikely they are going to receive any of those monies. Ms. Palmer explained that in FY17, even if they continue to backdate revenue of an additional $728,000 (which is basically whatever funds are left that we billed out and should be collected from all sources, not just state, federal, or private pay), and then pull out the allowance for the uncollectable debt, they are down to $728,000 of revenue in FY17 from November and before that is yet to come in that they think is likely going to come in.
Ms. Mayberry asked if Ms. Palmer has any idea how far back the uncollectable amount she just mentioned goes or if it is always accumulating. Ms. Palmer said they predict it based upon history and requirements by law. For Medicare, anything past 60 days is likely uncollectible. For Medicaid, they predict anything past 180 days is uncollectable. Other payments, they do on a scale. Anything up to 30 days, they expect 100% to come in because they are new bills. Anything past 60 days, it drops off 20%. After 90 days, it drops off another 10%. It gradually goes down. They have taken a portion of those outstanding bills and have done the calculations based on those percentages. That’s the number they came to.
Ms. Palmer explained that even if Hope Creek collects that $728,000, they still would have had $2.5 million of budgeted revenue not coming in. There are a ton of reasons for this and Hope Creek staff can go into it in fine detail. She knows they do that with their board and that they are trying to tackle a lot of these issues. They are doing all kinds of new and exciting things out there. The Director is very excited about the new changes she’s trying to make. She’s trying to get staffing levels down and get some dependable, wonderful nurses on staff to stay there. However, if that’s how they are going to balance the Hope Creek budget, even though the County Board voted and approved a balanced budget, it is not actually turning out that way unfortunately. They would have to cut costs majorly in order to ever come up with an actually balanced budget.
Mr. Cremeens asked who actually owes this money and if it’s the state. Ms. Palmer said it’s from all sources. She wants to make that very clear. She took the overall amount into account and didn’t pick on any one particular category.
Ms. O’Brien said she doesn’t know if this will help people understand, but she was on the board at Trinity UnityPoint for quite a while. Over years, the state of Illinois changed their approval process for poor people. She can’t speak to federal. You used to be able to backdate, then for a while they wouldn’t let you backdate applications and you had to wait for the person to follow through and get their paperwork done. Some people never ever will do the paperwork. The nonprofit hospitals in the private sector call that “charity” and have foundations that try to bridge the gap. She doesn’t know how much Hope Creek does as far as fundraising stuff, though she sees they do things, but they may have to go more closely to that kind of model to make up the difference in charity. With the way the state government runs things, she doesn’t know if they are ever going to get their act together. It seems to go back and forth. Ms. Palmer said it’s very frustrating. If she talks to the people in the Business Office at Hope Creek, she tries not to bother them too long for anything because they are constantly on the phone with the state and the feds, redoing paperwork, and jumping through the next hoop they’ve had put in front of them. It’s a constant battle. Ms. O’Brien said she sees the state thinking they are doing it right by telling the county what they are going to do, even though they switched it around, but then you’ve got Hope Creek expecting a certain amount because they provided a service. Then the next month, the state turns around and says they are no longer going to provide the full amount for the service Hope Creek provided. It’s ridiculous and Hope Creek is not alone in this. It’s crazy.
Ms. Palmer reported that the Billing Office at Hope Creek and Ms. Ewert got together today and drafted a hardship letter to Senator Anderson and Representatives Halpin and McCombie. That letter just went out today. They are asking for, of the state Medicaid owed to the county at $1.1 million, they are specifically asking for the older stuff which amounts to $505,000. They are trying all kinds of different methods to get those funds to come in quicker. Half a million dollars would at least meet another payroll and pay a few vendors. Even if it’s $5,000, Ms. Palmer doesn’t care at this point. Something is better than nothing. They’ll see what happens and she or Ms. Ewert will keep the County Board informed about anything that comes of that particular letter. She wanted to let the committee know that was done today. They did something else and tried a different route. She asked the committee to keep in mind that according to Ms. Ewert’s report, Hope Creek has $2.25 million in loans from all sources. They owe $1.407 million to all kinds of vendors dating back to mid-November.
Ms. Mayberry asked if, at this point, they are still trying to pay vendors on a weekly or biweekly basis like they were. Ms. Palmer explained that they have never paid vendors weekly. They tried to go according to when they may have an influx of money, primarily property tax distributions. There were maybe three months last fall when they were able to do an additional run because it was substantial enough to get vendors paid. Right now, they are not in the position to do that. They are fighting to meet payroll. Ms. Mayberry asked if it’s monthly or when they can right now. Ms. Palmer said it’s basically when they can. She had a meeting with their food service company and they are being
very understanding and helpful, but they are frustrated like so many of the other vendors about not getting their payments. Even if the County Board approves going out for another loan, and there’s still some funding available to get from a loan from a bank, she doesn’t think the home can survive much more on loans to pay vendors and then to pay interest on the loans. If they had money in the bank already, they could have paid the vendors in the first place.
Ms. Mayberry noted that there are times when they have gotten an influx from the state where all of a sudden they paid a chunk of money and they never know when to expect that. It can just happen whenever. Ms. Palmer said hopefully this letter will get them $0.5 million in the bank next month. Ms. Mayberry asked for confirmation that this is money owed to Hope Creek and that has been owed to Hope Creek. Ms. Palmer confirmed and said it is not in that $2.4 million they are writing off. It is separate.
Ms. Palmer moved on to the General Fund, which is the last fund she wants to discuss as far as fund balance. So far, the unaudited fund balance decrease in FY17 is $100,000 as opposed to the budgeted $1.650 million they were anticipating. That looks spectacular, wonderful, awesome and good job to everybody in the General Fund for getting through last year. The revenue overall ended up almost $600,000 over budget. That is mostly due to the up-to-date cost allocation study. The transfer in from all the other funds and sources was a huge reason the revenue was up $600,000. This year shows revenue for first quarter being $0.5 million lower than in the first quarter of 2017. The county hadn’t collected the cost allocation money in the first quarter of 2017, so that’s not the reason the General Fund is missing $0.5 million this year. The General Fund also hasn’t collected that yet this year, but she is billing out months ahead of time. That was billed out this month and Ms. Palmer hopes to receive that money by the end of this month or into next month. Luckily, expenses are lower by $375,000, though she was hoping more for them being $0.5 million lower because that’s how much lower revenues are. The cost savings is very much attributed to the Risk Management Program allowing the shift of portions of salaries into the Liability Insurance Fund, which in the first quarter of this year has paid about $450,000 of General Fund expenses. The General Fund didn’t have that last year. This year, the General Fund has offset $0.5 million of its expenses to another fund and revenues are $0.5 million down from where they were a year ago. That’s not a good picture to paint.
Ms. Palmer noted that it was explained that property taxes would go down if the county had passed the referendum a year ago. That didn’t happen. Then it was said that property taxes would not go up because of the referendum not passing. In order to maintain staffing levels, the county had to do something with staff salaries. Those are in the Liability Insurance Fund. The property tax in Fund #127, the Liability Insurance Fund, in 2016 was $2.3 million. This year’s property taxes are $6 million in that one fund.
Ms. Palmer explained that the Treasurer reported, and the financial system shows, that the General Fund cash balance today is about $2,090,000. That means if the loan from the court’s bond account of $2 million didn’t exist, which it won’t exist next year or the year after that or the next, the General Fund would have $90,000 to meet an $800,000 payroll in two days. That isn’t much different than last year and it is going downhill, unfortunately. At this rate, Ms. Palmer predicts the $2 million will be gone this year. That’s very, very concerning to her and she is very emotional about it. She needs the County Board to know.
Ms. Palmer reported that nothing on the cash balances page looks alarming or different that she hasn’t explained the reason for. Lots of funds’ cash balances and fund balances are going down because they are spending their money opposed to spending General Fund money. That’s just the way it is.
Mr. Terry said he wanted to take a moment to thank Ms. Palmer for her transparency and leadership. She has always been very forthright with the County Board. The fact that she is getting emotional about it only demonstrates to him her sincerity. Ms. Palmer is a true public servant and he doesn’t know what the county would do without her. Mr. Terry thanked Ms. Palmer.
Ms. Palmer noted that she provided her State of Illinois payments report in the packet. She noted that on last year’s February report the Probation Officer salary reimbursements were only one more month paid than they are now. They were paid up through June 2016 in February 2017. They are only up to May 2017 in February 2018. The difference in the county’s revenues is not that. It is $90,000, which is nothing to scoff at, but $90,000 would not have gotten the county through a payroll on Friday. Everything else is pretty comparable. She did do a brief review and the quarter cent sales tax for the year 2017 was down quite a bit. However, replacement revenues were way up and they pretty much canceled each other out. She doesn’t know the exact reason for that, but it washing out was a good thing.
5) Staff reports
Mr. Brunk noted that Ms. Ewert is not able to be here this evening, but her report is linked on the agenda and she asked County Board members to reach out to her if they have any questions.
6) Finance & Personnel Committee report
Mr. Vyncke presented the Finance and Personnel Committee report for Mr. L. Moreno.
Mr. Vyncke reported that the Finance and Personnel Committee met on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. The committee recommended approval of the Election Judge payments for the primary election workers. The committee received the Post-Issuance Tax Compliance Report from the Treasurer’s Office and recommended approval of the report. The committee considered delinquent tax resolutions as listed on the agenda. They considered the Board member per diem/mileage report, transfers of appropriations, and appropriation resolutions for funds. The committee considered claims totaling $1,287,026.94 and Treasurer’s Disbursements totaling $1,485,691.36.
7) Governance, Health, and Administration Committee report
Ms. Mayberry reported that the Governance, Health, and Administration Committee heard reports from Mr. Davis, Ms. Kinney, Mr. Gustafson, Ms. Ludwig, and Mr. Medley from the University of Illinois Extension.
The committee continued its discussion of installing solar panels at Animal Control. The county is currently waiting on approval from the Federal Aviation Authority. Ms. DeYoung recommends completing the application for the solar energy credits and submitting it while she waits for aviation approval. The committee recommended sending Ms. DeYoung’s request to County Board for a full Board vote this month. Ms. Mayberry noted that there are people from Century Electric here to answer any questions and give a little update on what the application process will be like.
Ms. DeYoung noted that she actually heard from the Airport Authority this afternoon. Mr. Carter’s assistant contacted her at 2:00 and said they do require glare test. She assured Ms. DeYoung that the engineers get on it by the end of this week, send it to the FAA, and Mr. Carter will see if he can find out where it stands at that point. April 3rd is the application deadline. Any investor who is going to invest really wants the county to put in an application as soon as possible so they can get as many Renewable Energy Credits as possible out of it. Ms. DeYoung said she is looking for from the County Board, if the FAA says it’s okay to go ahead with the solar panels, is if the county is okay with going ahead with solar panels. Ms. Mayberry explained that is the vote they will take at County Board. Ms. DeYoung said she wants permission to move forward so the PPA can move forward and she can make arrangements, get the contract ready for the State’s Attorney to look at, and get moving on maybe saving some money. She handed out the 2017 numbers and the 2018 numbers for utility costs for the first four months of the year. After hearing Ms. Palmer’s report, that’s not pleasant because she is already in the hole with her utilities at this point.
Ms. O’Brien noted that she alluded to this earlier that Ms. DeYoung is concerned about energy costs and that it’s probably one of her biggest problems out there. She asked if the County Board is going to have something on the County Board agenda next week to take action on or if that’s too soon. Ms. Mayberry said it will be on the agenda at full County Board on the 27th. Ms. Mayberry reminded the committee that the County Board meeting is not next week; it was moved to March 27th. Ms. O’Brien asked if they are going to wait for that test and then talk about it. Mr. Brunk explained that it is listed on the full County Board agenda. Ms. DeYoung noted that she is concerned about all costs, not just utilities. They all seem to go up and revenue seems to hang there. Ms. Mayberry clarified that Ms. DeYoung is asking for approval to move forward with the application process even if she hasn’t heard back from the federal authorities. Mr. Noyd added that it’s approval with the stipulation that it passed the test. If it doesn’t pass, it’s moot. Ms. DeYoung confirmed that if it doesn’t pass, they can’t do anything.
Ms. DeYoung explained that she will know more on April 3rd about if there is a cost incurred with that test. Obviously, what she is looking for is if the County Board is on board with this. If she puts in the application and pays for it and the county decides not to do it, the PPA isn’t going to stick their neck on the line. They have a couple of people interested in possibly being the PPA. They are working hard on it.
Mr. Terry said it just seems like common sense to him. He knows there are some reservations about solar panels themselves and warranties, but he thinks the presentation the County Board received from Century Electric was very thorough and addressed his concerns. They have just heard from the Department Head and she referred to Ms. Palmer’s report. Mr. Terry said he thinks a penny saved is a penny earned here. He doesn’t see a downside. He’s more than happy to support it with the stipulation that Mr. Noyd outlined. Mr. Terry thanked Ms. DeYoung again for bringing this to the County Board.
Mr. P. Moreno asked how long it will take to get this implemented once they have approval. Ms. Arthur explained that the application holds the county’s place in line for the RECs. That’s why it would be in the investor’s best interest to get in as early as possible. Once the application is submitted, they have 12 months to construct the system. Once they get the application approved and the PPA is ready to go forward with it, they could be putting solar panels up.
Mr. Sheldon explained, to be clear, that for the Illinois renewable energy credits, April 3rd is when the application process first releases out. As that money is used, there is a tier process. It’s a three tier system that drops down every quarter. Starting April 3rd everyone is going to be submitting these applications and it could go quick. The money they receive can fall if they wait a month or two. It’s in the County Board’s best interest to
vote to approve this if that’s what they are going to do in order to lock in and get that application submitted and be assured they are going to be in that top tier. At that point, the PPA can put the numbers together and rely on those higher credits.
Mr. Oelke asked if the county is guaranteed to get the higher credit if they get the application submitted in a timely manner. Mr. Sheldon said he would hate to stick his neck out and say it’s guaranteed, but it certainly is a better possibility. Mr. Oelke asked if it depends on how many applications they get. Mr. Sheldon said that’s correct. It will decrease the longer they wait. He’s comfortable saying that if they submit the application on April 3rd, they’ll lock in at the higher tier. He can’t speak to how long that higher tier will last. Mr. Oelke asked if they designate a certain amount of dollars for each tier. Mr. Sheldon said yes.
Ms. Mayberry asked if it’s usually a pretty competitive process. Mr. Sheldon explained that it’s a new program so he can’t speak to that. Again, the sooner they get the application in, the better likelihood that they will be to lock in that amount. He thinks that’s why Ms. DeYoung is asking for an expedited vote.
Mr. Deppe noted that he is currently working with six solar panel companies with some sites in town. He is being told that if you don’t make the first round, 2019 is the second round. Mr. Sheldon said that’s correct. Mr. Deppe said if they don’t get into this, there’s no opportunity until 2019. They have changed the RECs for MidAmerican twice in the last 30 days and what the actual amount is. They probably won’t know until April what the amount of the REC payment is going to be. Mr. Sheldon noted that the interest in solar has gone very well. He thinks a lot of applications are going to be submitted on April 3rd.
Mr. Oelke asked if they will have enough time to get the application together. Mr. Sheldon said yes. Mr. Oelke said he didn’t know how extensive the application is. Mr. Sheldon said he hasn’t seen it. April 3rd is when the doors open for it. Mr. Oelke asked, based on last year’s, if it is a big document. Mr. Sheldon explained that there wasn’t one last year. This is the first year for the current RECs. There was one that expired 12 months ago. Everyone is anxiously waiting what this is going to be. Mr. P. Moreno asked if giving the okay on the 27th would give them enough time to get everything in on the 3rd. Mr. Sheldon explained that they have the system design and know what they will go to bat with on the application. They are ready to go. Mr. P. Moreno asked if they have enough time to get the work done and get that application in. Mr. Sheldon said absolutely.
8) Public Works & Facilities Committee report
Mr. Burns reported that the Public Works Committee met on Monday March 12, 2018. The committee recommended approval of the annual request to close County Highway 59, which is Loud Thunder Road, for Du-State-Du. Loud Thunder Road would be closed from Highway 92 on the east to Highway 92 in Illinois City on the west on Sunday, August 19 from 7:00 a.m-10:00 a.m. The Race Director will hire two deputies to control traffic and will send letters to alert residents of the closure.
9) Update and discussion on courthouse and county facilities
Item 9 was discussed after Item 3.
Mr. Deppe said he would like to thank Valley Construction, Gilbane, Russell Construction, and Estes Construction for showing up here tonight. They are here voluntarily and are not being paid. He wants to make sure everyone knows they came here to talk about the county building and the courthouse voluntarily.
Mr. Deppe explained that in January, Chairman Maranda asked if he would help a group of County Board members look at the courthouse and the county building. The group was Mr. Johnston, Mr. Mielke, Mr. Langdon, Chairman Maranda, Vice Chairman Brunk and Mr. Davis. Mr. Deppe reiterated that no group member or contractor is being paid. They’re all volunteers helping out. The group had four meetings to discuss the courthouse and county building. As a group, they decided that from County Board discussion and past ad hoc committees that the consensus was the County Board felt they should move as many employees into one building as they can. In these discussions, the group felt that moving the Health Department would not be a viable option due to the cost for what they do and for construction.
In January, the group met with contractors and told them what they were looking at. These are some of the common questions they asked the contractors: Can we remodel the courthouse? Should we demo it or build a new building where the old courthouse sits? They asked if the county office building could be remodeled, demolished, and if they could build a new county building on some piece of land. There are ways to do this through sales tax, tax credits, buyback programs, or something else.
At these meetings, Mr. Johnston had talked to Allen Carmen, and Mr. Deppe also talked to him last night, about this county building. It has a value of $2 million. That was raw value based on the real estate market and square footage of the building and land. The raw value was based on square footage classed as office space. Mr. Deppe talked to Mr. Carmen yesterday about an assessment for the courthouse. Mr. Carmen felt that since the courthouse was built for judges and to be a courthouse, it was not built to be office space, it would be hard to do an assessment for like buildings. It would have to stay public to public; it could never go public to private so he did not do that assessment.
Mr. Deppe said he will now get to the contractors. The first contractor he would like to welcome is Estes Construction. Mr. Deppe introduced Mr. Jeffrey Hill and Mr. Blake Burns.
Mr. B. Burns stated that Estes Construction is pleased to have the opportunity to help this fine group out and take a look at the buildings. They had a strictly fiscal perspective when they were looking at this. Generally there are a lot more considerations and he doesn’t envy the decisions the County Board has to make.
Mr. B. Burns explained that they basically looked at three options, which were highlighted before. They looked at renovating and consolidating operations into this building. There were some efficiencies gained by renovating the building, which then did yield some additional space. One benefit of consolidating into this building would be room to grow. Estes feels that is the case.
The second option was to renovate the courthouse, which doesn’t have enough space for consolidation and would need an addition of 11,000-12,000 square feet. They also took into consideration the additional parking and abatement. For either option, the sale of this or the razing of that were all variables. Their report arms the County Board with the math to run their own analysis. If they did not consider razing the building or the sale of another building and neutralized that, Estes thinks working with this [county office] building would be about $2 million less than the [courthouse]. Mr. B. Burns noted that that’s not how the report reads because it includes an estimate for the sale of [the county building] and for razing [the courthouse]. The sale amount was less than Mr. Deppe just noted.
The third option could be anything; it’s the wildest card and still may be the easiest to predict if they determine the program and what goes in it. The cost could vary widely, but based on the mixed use of offices plus some board space and court space, the finishes could drive the cost north of $200,000 to $270,000. Mr. B. Burns noted that all of these options did anticipate the total project cost.
Mr. B. Burns explained that there is also phasing and interruption. In either case, the county would have operations that would need to relocate temporarily, so there’s the cost of leasing space or who knows what. They tried to anticipate that. The variables are still constant if you think about viewing the document as a way to look at relative cost figures and not for precision. Precision is not what it was intended to be. It was meant to show the relationships between the options. Mr. B. Burns noted that the second page of the document explains how to read this report, how to use it, and what it was intended for.
Mr. Westpfahl is present.
Ms. O’Brien asked what one of the lots on the map is. Mr. B. Burns explained that this is a map he stole from a prior effort five years ago. Ms. O’Brien asked if the county-owned area to the south is a lot or building or what. Ms. Mayberry said it’s a parking lot. Mr. B. Burns explained that the notations on the map were from an old document. He just pulled from that to show the buildings he is talking about.
Ms. Mayberry apologized and noted that she was dealing with a technical issue with Ms. Callaway-Thompson and Mr. Davis when Mr. B. Burns started talking and missed what he was saying. On the report, Option 1 is circled. She asked if that is his recommendation or the best option he is proposing. Mr. B. Burns said yes, but the reason they circled it is they approached it from the cost standpoint only.
Ms. O’Brien asked if any of these options include not tearing the courthouse down. It kind of looks like they all include razing the courthouse. Mr. B. Burns said it was not intended for that to be the conclusion of their results. If he were to do it over, he would take out razing the courthouse and selling this building. When he spoke to it, he said there is a $2 million difference. It is definitely possible to keep both, depending on how they are used.
Mr. Deppe introduced the second guests of the night from Russell Construction.
Ms. Russell thanked the committee for having Russell Construction tonight. She noted that all the members should have a folder in front of them. On the left side is a little about Russell Construction – who they are, what they’ve done in the community, their projects in Rock Island County, and a little about their real estate, which is something she wants to talk about tonight because it sounds like money is one of the concerns with moving this project forward. The right side of the folder has the cost estimates. Ms. Russell noted that Estes covered it well and she can address any questions specific to Russell’s estimates, which are very similar to Estes’s.
Ms. Russell noted that something Russell Construction offers that is different is unique financing for municipal bodies to get projects like this started. They are able to access some partners who provide funding and require no money from the county upfront to make the project happen. If that is of interest to the county, that’s something Russell Construction can provide as a partner in the development side.
Ms. Russell explained that they specifically looked at the courthouse. They thought there would be about 72,000 square feet needed in general, so they calculated an addition of 28,000 square feet onto the courthouse. That’s Option #1. For the administration building, they think there is enough square footage here with 75,000 square feet. That is Option #2. Option #3 is a new building. Like the representatives from Estes said, that can range based on the program and can be tailored to what the county is expecting. They wouldn’t be constrained by existing programs, floorplans, or historical requirements of the two buildings. All of these options don’t include demolition of either of these buildings.
Mr. Vyncke noted that Ms. Russell touched on financing proposals. He asked what types of financing they offer. He was on the previous committee five years ago and they beat this horse for a long time. He asked if Ms. Russell is referring to public/private partnership type stuff. Ms. Russell said that’s exactly what it would be. There is a little bit of history on the left side of the folder on their experience with government leasebacks and corporate office leasebacks. That’s an area they spend a lot of time on and have a lot of connections to help move projects like this forward. That could easily be part of making that happen for the county.
Ms. O’Brien said she has another question on the financing of these public/private partnerships. It sounds like Ms. Russell has a lot of experience with it. Ms. O’Brien asked if Ms. Russell foresees any issues if the courthouse or county building were renovated and parts were rented out to maybe attorneys or other businesses that would like to be close to this complex. Ms. Russell said she doesn’t see an issue. Even in the existing [county office] building that they are standing in, there could be a leaseback where Russell would purchase and leaseback to the county and they would take responsibility for all the financing of that. Ms. O’Brien asked if generally how it works is Russell Construction purchases the building and leases it to the government. Ms. Russell said correct. They can build a brand new building or renovate this one and lease it back. There are a lot of different options.
Mr. Oelke noted that the documents state that repairing/waterproofing of the existing foundation is not included in the estimate. He asked if that is because it’s not needed on the courthouse. Ms. Russell explained that they have identified the issue, but it’s kind of like asbestos removal. Until they actually go in there and do a thorough analysis.They were tasked with doing a high level estimate. That’s an area she would recommend further analysis of if the County Board wanted to continue with that.
Mr. Brunk called for additional questions. There were none. Ms. Russell thanked the committee and wished them good luck.
Mr. Deppe introduced the next presenters tonight: Jim Hass, Phil Thiele, and Tom Lind from Valley Construction and Gilbane.
Mr. Thiele from Gilbane introduced himself. With him is Gilbane’s partner for the annex project, Valley Construction. Their brochure was put together based on the information they were asked to estimate. It includes a narrative of all five components that they put together. That is followed by a two-sided estimate for the five categories. Pretty much, like the other folks tonight, they put together numbers for the demolition of the existing courthouse, renovation of the existing courthouse, a new office complex, and an addition to that should the county want to expand it to be a building big enough to handle the renters currently in this [county office] building. The last estimate is to renovate the existing county building. Their numbers are in line with where everybody is headed. They too have partners who can work with the county for design and build and getting the project started should the county go this direction. They have partners for the financing as well.
Ms. O’Brien said she has a question on the courthouse. She has never been in the basement over there. She used to work in the [county office] building, so she knows it top to bottom. The courthouse, she keeps hearing that the basement has workspace and it’s unacceptable because of a problem with moisture or something. Mr. Thiele explained that the courthouse has five separate foundation leaks, two ceilings that are encased in black mold, and a floor that is constantly wet. The water seeps up from below. Unlike this building, once a year for a few hours there is moisture in certain parts of the county building that dissipates on its own. It has to be cleaned up over there. Ms. O’Brien asked, if they were to renovate the courthouse, if Mr. Thiele knows what they would do to make it stop. Mr. Thiele said they’d have to go around and dig outside the building in order to fix those foundation leaks and potentially put a drain pump system around the building with multiple sump pumps. Ms. O’Brien asked if that would stop the leaking and the moisture. Mr. Thiele said yes. Ms. Mayberry asked if that amount is included in the estimates. Mr. Thiele said yes, it is.
Mr. Thiele explained that all of these designs are speculation at this point, certainly. They assumed a fairly high-end building should the county build a new building. It’s pretty much the gateway to the community. It’s in a prominent location. Based on the work they did at the annex, if it were to go on the site where courthouse is now, they put 60 foot deep caissons in the ground. They did 50 or 60 of those. They made those assumptions in the estimates here as well.
Ms. Mayberry asked, if there were to be a new building, if it would be connected to the current annex that is being built or if it would be a separate building. Mr. Thiele said it would be up to others to make that decision. Ms. Mayberry asked if it would be possible to connect them if that was the county’s wish. Mr. Thiele said certainly.
Mr. Swanson noted that in the back of the proposal are some schematics. Mr. Thiele said they were given those by the county to base some of the square footage on. Mr. Swanson said he wondering what a structure is. The last two diagrams are not of the courthouse. Mr. Thiele said it’s the Probation Building should that have come up. They included that.
Mr. Deppe thanked all three contractors for coming tonight.
Mr. Deppe explained that when Mr. Ross was here, he had asked a contractor to look at the courthouse. To renovate the courthouse to move people over, the county would still have had to remodel the first floor of this [county office] building to do it correctly. That’s why they are looking at an addition instead of remodeling one floor of this building, which would not make sense. If they’re going to remodel that building to put everyone over there, they want to put an addition on there to get everybody in one spot. That’s where that addition came from.
Mr. Brunk wanted to reiterate something Mr. Deppe pointed out a little bit earlier. The county really does owe these three firms a debt of gratitude. They put their time, effort, and resources in to help the county make the best choice moving forward for their community. Thank you all.
10) Approval of County Board agenda
Motion to approve: Kai Swanson
2nd: Brian Vyncke
11) Update on Martinez v. Hope Creek
Mr. Brunk asked if Item 11 should be discussed in closed session. Mr. McGehee and Mr. Maranda said yes.
12) The Committee of the Whole may vote to enter into Closed Session for the following:
• 5 ILCS 120/2(c) (1) – The appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance, or dismissal of specific employees of the public body or legal counsel for the public body, including hearing testimony on a complaint lodged against an employee of the public body or against legal counsel for the public body to determine its validity.
• 5 ILCS 120/2(c) (2) – Collective negotiating matters between the public body and its employees or their representatives, or deliberations concerning salary schedules for one or more classes of employees.
• 5 ILCS 120/2(c) (11) – Litigation, when an action against, affecting or on behalf of the particular public body has been filed and is pending before a court or administrative tribunal, or when the public body finds that an action is probably or imminent, in which case the basis for the finding shall be recorded and entered into the minutes of the closed meeting.
Motion to enter into closed session per 5 ILCS 120/2(c)(11) - Litigation: Cecilia
2nd: Ed Langdon
Yes – Richard Brunk, Larry Burns, Kim Callaway-Thompson (via phone), Dewayne Cremeens, Jeff Deppe, Ed Langdon, Kenneth Maranda, Mia Mayberry, Pat Moreno, Rich Morthland, Scott Noyd, Cecilia O'Brien, Ron Oelke, Robert Reagan, Ginny Shelton, Edna Sowards, Mike Steffen, Kai Swanson, Scott Terry, Brian Vyncke, Bob Westpfahl
No – None
The Committee of the Whole entered into closed session at 6:45 p.m.
Motion to enter into open session: Brian Vyncke
2nd: Mike Steffen
The Committee of the Whole entered into open session at 6:52 p.m.
13) Board member opportunity for brief comments (no decisions will be made)
Mr. Swanson offered two brief words. One is something he would like to ask his colleagues on the County Board to keep an eye on: that is newly-introduced Senate Bill 3093. How it impacts the county is it will allow homestead exemptions to be granted to persons who do not have ownership interest in the place in which they live. Prior to this time the homestead exemption, which is a valuable resource especially for elderly people in the county to make use of to make their budgets work better, you couldn’t apply for it unless you have skin in the game and legal interest in the place where you live. A local nursing home has encouraged Senator Anderson to file this legislation, which would remove that requirement. Mr. Swanson encouraged the County Board members to keep an eye on it, not go after any individual group. If the exemption would be afforded, the home would not have to extend any ownership rights to the residents. Mr. Swanson thinks they should at least give them the full value of the exemption or refund them and not keep it for the home itself.
Mr. Swanson said his second item is he had an outstanding English teacher at Rock Island High School, and maybe other people here had her, Ms. Raw. Ms. Raw always told them to look at a story in its entirety, not by its component parts. He wants to remind his fellow members of the story they heard tonight. It started with a very compelling set of narratives of what it would cost to untangle a mess of facilities that the county got into over the course of 30 or 40 (some might say even more than that) years. They all look very appealing. He asked the committee to remember the chapter they heard in the story from Ms. Palmer. The county is facing serious fiscal issues related to IMRF, Animal Control, Court Security, child support, and the most vulnerable elderly citizens. If Hope Creek closes, it’s the only nursing facility in the county that has a majority of Medicaid spaces available. Nobody else can take as many as they can.
Mr. Swanson reminded the committee that while revenues are down, costs are down too. There is a very enticing narrative out there that losing the sales tax referendum had no consequences for the county. Everything the county has done is because they have done creative accounting and he lauds that. The county has held a lot of positions open. The employment level is markedly lower than two years ago. They are keeping positions open. Spit and bailing twine are keeping this budget going. As the County Board thinks about the paths forward with the county’s facilities, remembering that an outside agency is willing to provide funding for asbestos removal and demolition should that course be chosen.Other than that, the county has no funds. There are no funds to do anything that any of these three contractors here so graciously shared their time to tell them about. Mr. Swanson encouraged his colleagues to keep in mind that each data point they had tonight is part of a bigger picture and it is not a very pretty picture. Thank goodness they have people like Ms. Palmer, Mr. Davis, and Ms. Ewert taking good care of the county fiscally. The magic is coming to an end and this county will soon be broke. Mr. Swanson thanked the committee for its time.
Mr. Brunk invited the County Board members out to Wicks Lake behind Jumer’s on Sunday the 25th. He and his son are doing a Polar Plunge for Special Olympics. Mr. Brunk encouraged everyone to come out and, if they can, to make a contribution to help support the cause.
Meeting adjourned at 6:56 by Chair Richard Brunk