Candidates for contested county board races were given the opportunity to answer a series of questions about county government. Here are the answers from Al Kurtz, a Democrat candidate in District 7:
Champaign County Board - District 7
1. Name five things you would like to accomplish in the next two years on the Champaign County Board.
There are a number of important issues . The Downtown Jail facility is a serious problem , Do we refurbish , raze or replace it with a new addition to the satellite Jail, It has become obvious from that this facility is unsafe for the inmates as well as the sheriffs deputies , we are in the process of determining the cost and the direction we will take over the next year.We must take action.
Our Airport will be an issue for discussion, Champaign County needs a viable airport. A discussion of who will operate it ,how it should be marketed and who will control its management. Should be a goal over the next two years
Prevent Area Wide Disposal from operated the Clinton landfill that will dump millions of pounds of toxic PCBs in a facility directly above the Mahomet Aquifer , the only clean drinking water in Central Illinois.
A comprehensive County Building and Maintenance code should be considered for action ,to assure the safety of all our residents.
A transportation model should be considered to discern traffic patterns and impacts on our roads and bridges. for future growth ,
High speed rail is another priority, it would build new business and spur economic development, a 40 minute ride to and from Chicago would be a asset for Champaign County.
Infrastructure planning and a discussion on the future of the nursing home. We will not be able to maintain our profitably, with the state making severe cuts to medicaid and falling seriously behind in payments to us to pay our vendors and maintain our facility .
Continue to press for new wind farm developers to build in Champaign county.
2. What criticisms do you have of the current county board?
A discussion of the Committee of the Whole structure needs to be addressed ,perhaps a combining of the committees can be more effective. for instance , Combining the Facilities committee with the Highway committee, Policy and planning , Finance and justice , under one Deputy Chair and vice Chair for each. etc. as an option .
This board has done an excellent job of keeping expenses down and a near balanced budget over the last 3 difficult years.Both sides of the isle have worked together for the betterment of our community
3. Under what circumstances, if any, would you vote for another increase in property taxes to support the operation of the Champaign County Nursing Home?
A tax increase is NOT necessary .Our management team has done an extraordinary job of bringing the operation of the nursing home under control and actually turning a profit last year , Our future problems will be the late payments from the state .as well as cutbacks in medicaid payments , We are working on new options to increase Private pay residents, to keep the nursing home profitable .
4. Under what circumstances could you vote to sell or close the Champaign County Nursing Home?
I would not vote to close or sell the Nursing home at this time , it is profitable and an asset to this community ,Its a necessary option for our senior citizens. we continue to have discussions on its future.
5. Would you vote to increase the $60 per diem paid to county board members?
No , But arrangements should be made to accommodate single mothers and fathers for child care and board members who have a financial issue. We should not limit participation in the democratic process do to financial challenges . I don't serve for the pay I serve my district to give back to my community ,as a public servant.
6. Which county offices, if any, do you believe could be eliminated or consolidated with another county office?
We Tried to consolidate some county offices on a ballot referendum, it was voted down by our constituents. Each office has a unique duty and function to the community.
7. What specific actions could be taken to cut the county budget?
Champaign County is one of the very few in the country that is running and has been running on a very strict but balanced budget. Our administrator worked with her staff and elected officials and had the foresight to see the effects of the recession on our budget years ago . We made significant cuts in the budget without losing services to our residents , They and the board should be applauded for the work to keep us on track.
8. Do you think the downtown Urbana correctional center should be closed and all of its functions moved to an expanded correctional center on Lierman Avenue in Urbana?
We are in discussions of all the alternatives for the Jail,. Should we refurbish, raze or consolidate at the satellite jail . This will take a great deal of time and effort to ascertain. We will issue an RFP to get all the pertinent information on the cost of each option .Our goal is not to expand the jail ,But to replace or refurbish a facility that has long past its time inefficient or effect in maintaining a safe environment for all who work and are incarcerated there. My first impression of my visit to the downtown jail is to consolidate all operations at the satellite facility . It will be a safer environment more effective and less costly than to try and maintain the downtown facility .But I will wait for all the studies to be completed to make an informed decision.
9. What programs and services that the county does not provide, if any, do you think are needed?
A Building and Maintenance code to protect our residents for a safe and secure environment to live in. Update the Land Evaluation Site Assessments, to protect our best prime farm. Expand our internet service and technology for more transparency and better information service.
10. Do you believe the county should take on part of the financial obligation to operate Willard Airport as an economic development tool? Why or why not?
We should discuss the transfer of Willard Airport from the U of I to an Airport Commission. Perhaps a combination of the RPC ( Regional Planning Commission) or the EDC ( Economic Development Corporation) with representatives of each of the local jurisdictions. we could market our community more effectively and bring a low cost air carrier to our airport , to compete with Bloomington. Eventually I have hopes of high speed rail in the future, to carry us to Chicago and back in 40 minutes.
11. What can the county board do to enhance economic development locally?
We must continue to promote our agriculture to the world. Promote the growth of local food production and distribution.
Maintain our roads, highways and bridges for commercial and residential use. Promote municipal planning.
12. With a smaller county board in December, do you think the county board meeting room should be reconfigured at an undetermined cost to improve communications among board members and to enhance television coverage of the board?
I have discussed the options with Ms. Buesy our Administrator. We can reconfigure the board meeting room with a minimum of cost, by moving the desks into a rectangular shape .The board members can face each other rather than talk to there backs.