CHAMPAIGN — Democrats Brad Diel and Tracy Luchik are attempting to win election in a west Champaign area now represented by Republicans on the Champaign County Board.
The new County Board District 5 (here's a map) is one of only two districts (out of 11) where there are four candidates for two seats, and one of three where there is any contested race.
Diel and Luchik are running against Republicans Jeff Kibler and Max Mitchell, both of whom were appointed to the board earlier this year, replacing Alan Nudo and Brad Jones. Thus none of the four candidates on the ballot in District 5 is an incumbent.
Kibler said the county board will have to focus on financial issues in the near term because the county has nearly $50 million in debt plus it faces fiscal pressures at the county-owned nursing home and with its two jail facilities.
"I will identify ways to tighten our budgetary belts and will work with Republicans and Democrats to build consensus on needed adjustments," Kibler said.
Mitchell was noncommittal about the need for either a tax increase to fund the nursing home, or whether county board members may have to look at closing or selling the facility.
"At this time the goal of the board is to continue to monitor the nursing home as it works to maintain a viable financial position and strong commitment to those who call the nursing home, home," he said. "If there is a radical change in the future, the board needs to consider its options."
Luchik, on the other hand, said she "would never vote to sell or close the nursing home. It is a vital community service that the people have clearly decided they want and need."
She said does not believe the home would need more money from taxpayers and that it is "on the road to fiscal soundness. Most of its problems relate to the lack of payment from the state for Medicaid patients."
And Diel said the county board "needs to make every effort for the facility to succeed, as this was the original intent of the taxpayers" when they voted to build the new nursing home. He said he does not see the need to raise taxes for the nursing home, nor does he think it would be "economically feasible" to sell it to a private operator. He said its location on a campus of other county-owned buildings "wouldn't appear to be an ideal location for a potential buyer."
Kibler said the county shouldn't close its downtown jail nor should it plan on expanding the east Urbana satellite jail. He said the county "needs to fully understand the need to expand the satellite jail," adding that he does not believe "the need exists nor can the county afford" its expansion.
Luchik said if it is proven that the downtown jail is a danger to inmates or staff, "it will need to be closed."
Mitchell said the county's "main goal must be to ensure the safety of the incarcerated as well as the staff" at the jails.
Mitchell said he was opposed to the county enacting its own building code because there is already a state building code the county can rely on.
Kibler, too, said the county shouldn't have its own building code because "we lack many resources to enforce any new codes."
But Luchik and Diel endorsed the idea.
"The county should have a basic, easily enforced and managed building code," Diel said. "It should be a program that is as cost neutral to the county as possible. I think a building code provides security to neighboring landowners and helps ensure the basic quality of structures in the county."
Luchik said in unincorporated areas "it is the responsibility of the county board to ensure minimal public safety in buildings, especially those which are businesses open to the public or which employ residents of the county."
District 5 is generally the area west of Duncan Road between Old Church Road on the south and Cardinal Road on the north. It includes areas within the city of Champaign and in unincorporated Champaign County.