DANVILLE — The contest for three seats in Vermilion County Board District 7 will be important in determining whether the Democrats maintain their one-member advantage on the 27-member board.
The five-way race for three seats in the Nov. 6 election pits two Democratic incumbents, John Dreher and Mike Dodge, and one Democratic newcomer, Larry Mills, against the Republican incumbent, Craig Golden, and Republican newcomer, Neal Boyd.
Here is a map of the district.
Dreher, the most-veteran incumbent, is seeking his fifth term on the county board, while Dodge has six years on the board and Golden two years. Mills is a private attorney in Danville and former Vermilion County state's attorney, and Boyd is a full-time student at Danville Area Community College where he serves on the board of trustees.
Boyd is an Army veteran and served in Iraq. The 26-year-old said he's "old enough to have had very significant life experience, but still young enough to have fresh ideas."
Financially, Boyd said, the county must be more self-sufficient. Relying on the state, he said, damaged the county's health department and is now threatening to bankrupt the county's nursing home.
Golden, a retired Vermilion County sheriff's deputy, was first elected to the county board two years ago. He's a lifetime resident of the county and said he's fiscally responsible with tax dollars and believes the county board should get behind Vermilion Advantage to recruit new businesses to bring new jobs and new revenue.
Dodge is also a lifetime resident of the county, who has worked for 40 years in local factories and lived in District 7 for 50 years. He said he knows the concerns of the people in his district and the county, and financially, the county board must continue looking for ways to control taxes.
In addition to 12 years on the county board, Dreher served 10 years as a Danville alderman. Financially, he said, the county needs to continue the restraint and diligence of the past six years, maintaining county operations without tax increases. Dreher said he wants the state to pay on a timely basis what it owes to the county-owned Vermilion Manor Nursing Home, but he doesn't believe that will happen.
So, if voters don't authorize the county to sell the nursing home, Dreher said, the county should pursue a professional management company to keep it as strong and functional as possible.
Golden said the community needs the nursing home to stay open and selling could be an option. But if voters don't allow that, Golden said, deciding its future would require "a long discussion by (the nursing home) committee and the full county board."
Boyd said he supports selling Vermilion Manor to a reputable entity with a long-term plan to keep it viable, but if voters don't want to sell, the nursing home may have to reduce, by attrition, the percentage of residents whose care is state-funded. He said that could transform the nursing home's payer mix of Medicaid, Medicare, health insurance and private dollars into a combination that's more sustainable.
And Dodge said if voters want to sell, he wants the nursing home to continue serving the elderly; otherwise the county should restructure it to make it profitable.
Boyd said he's against the proposal to merge Danville city and county animal regulation and create a combined animal shelter operated by a third-party charitable organization. He said it's not in the best interest of the county, which has a viable animal regulation department that's not in need of an overhaul. He said the city's contractual relationship with Danville Humane Society has hindered the city's oversight of its animal control program.
"So why would the county want to become involved in a similar arrangement with a third party?" Boyd said.
Dreher also has reservations about third-party operation. He said a city/county partnership makes sense, but he's not yet convinced a third party is the best option.
Golden said he's awaiting more information, but it could be a cost-saving measure for the city and county, and Dodge said the county needs to consider the best avenue for humane animal control.