Jail issue to get more review; county officials' salaries frozen

URBANA — A request for proposals for a controversial needs-assessment study of Champaign County corrections was taken off the county board's agenda Thursday night and sent back to the committee of the whole.

The board's voice vote was near unanimous, with only Urbana Democrat Ralph Langenheim expressing audible disapproval.

For the fourth time in the last month, the board listened to several members of the public concerned about whether the county was too focused on building or remodeling jail facilities instead of alternate corrections strategies.

Urbana Democrat Carol Ammons suggested sending the RFP back to the full board for further study. As written, the RFP sought proposals "from qualified criminal justice consulting firms who possess knowledge, skills and experience in pre-architectural jail planning to conduct a comprehensive jail needs study," according to an introduction in the 16-page document. "The purpose of this study is to develop a plan that will establish current and future adult capacity requirements and costs associated with either the remodeling of our current downtown facility or the construction of an addition to our satellite jail, identify ways of reducing the demand for bed space while maintaining public safety, and provide an initial estimate of the cost of construction."

Ammons said she "had probably 14 concerns" with the request as written. Other Democrats did as well, she said, "and it would have taken all of our county board meeting tonight to vet, so the best thing to do is to send it back to the committee of the whole to massage it, work on it."

Ammons said she didn't know if the RFP could be reworked and voted on at the March board meeting.

"I don't think we're in a time crunch or in a position where we can't take the time to really get exactly what the county wants and to listen to public participation, which is really critical in this issue," she said.

Also Thursday, the board voted, without debate, to freeze the salaries of four countywide officeholders for the next four years. The circuit clerk's salary will remain at $90,070 through fiscal year 2015. Further, pay for the coroner, auditor and recorder is frozen at $86,328. The salary of the county board chair will be frozen at $29,274 for the next two years.

By a voice vote, the board approved a sidewalk-maintenance agreement with the village of Mahomet, allowing for the construction of a 1.43-mile-long multipurpose pathway along Lake of the Woods Road, a county highway.

The county is providing no funding for the $1.18 million project, which according to County Engineer Jeff Blue is being paid for with local and federal money. The 10-foot-wide path is to run from U.S. 150 to the south entrance of Lake of the Woods county park.

Thursday's session was the first for District 3 Republicans Max Mitchell and Jeff Kibler, who were sworn in at the beginning of the meeting to replace Brad Jones and Alan Nudo, both of whom resigned from the county board last month. Kibler is running for a full term on the board; Mitchell will serve until December.

Three board members — Republicans Diane Michaels and Steve Moser and Democrat Jan Anderson — were absent from the meeting.

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