County board approves raises for officials

County board approves raises for officials

URBANA — Champaign County Board members voted 9-8 Tuesday to grant annual 2 percent raises for the next four years to the county clerk, county treasurer and sheriff, beginning next December when new terms begin for each of the offices.

The raises will cost the county approximately $23,000 over the next four years.

Under the plan, the county clerk and county treasurer will see an increase from the current $86,639 a year to $93,781 a year by 2017. The sheriff’s salary would increase from the current $108,338 to $117,269 annually.

It’s not certain who will get the pay raises, although all three offices are held by Republicans who currently are unopposed in the next election — County Clerk Gordy Hulten, Treasurer Dan Welch and Sheriff Dan Walsh.

Over the last four years, the three officers received 2 percent raises for two years and no raise in the other two years.

“I think the county has a considerable incentive to see that we have good people in these jobs,” said Urbana Democrat Chris Alix.

But Rantoul area Republican Stan James opposed the increases.

“I think we need to hold the line a little bit,” he said. “We’re here to serve the public. We’re not here to take the public.”

Voting for the raises were Republicans Aaron Esry, John Jay, Jeff Kibler, Jim McGuire, Diane Michaels and Max Mitchell, and Democrats Rachel Schwartz, Ralph Langenheim and Alix. Voting against the raises were Democrats Michael Richards, Giraldo Rosales, Astrid Berkson, Josh Hartke, Alan Kurtz and Pattsi Petrie, and Republicans Jon Schroeder and James.

A separate motion to cut the salary of the county board chairman from the current $29,274 to $20,000 was defeated, 11-6. The board then voted to maintain the board chairman’s salary at the current level for two more years.

The current board chairman, Kurtz, was defeated in last month’s Democratic Party primary election, so it’s not known who will hold the job beginning in December.

Also Tuesday, in advance of a proposed request to seek bids from firms to undertake a master plan for all county sheriff’s office facilities, the board spent more than 90 minutes discussing the future of jail operations.

The county board’s facilities committee is scheduled to vote tonight on whether to issue a request for qualifications for firms to undertake a facilities master plan for county buildings, the jail, services and “to plan for the building, renovation, expected maintenance costs of criminal justice and all other functions.”

The board has been debating changes to its much-maligned downtown jail for years, concerns that have heightened in recent years as the jail has taken in more inmates with medical and mental health issues.

As proposed bids from interested firms would be due May 2, and the winning firm would be selected this summer.

Although Rosales voiced concerns that the county was moving too quickly on a study, James, who chairs the facilities committee, said it was time to act.

“Let’s move. Let’s look at it. To keep circumventing what we do, we’ll never get anywhere,” James said.

In a related item, board members approved applying for a 24-month, $591,794 federal grant to operate a prisoner re-entry program for adult offenders, particularly those with substance abuse and mental health disorders. The county believes about 70 people would take part in the re-entry program, which would include services for clients in jail and continuing upon release.

Board members also approved extending the nursing home management contract with Management Performance Associates Inc. of St. Louis, for three more years. MPA has overseen operations at the home since 2008. A team of county officials will attempt to negotiate a new contract with the company. MPA has been paid about $277,000 a year to manage the facility.

The board gave provisional approval to a plan that would close the county’s animal services facility, 210 S. Art Bartell Road, U, on Saturdays. Final approval could come at the full county board meeting later this month.

Stephanie Joos, the county’s director of animal control, said the office doesn’t get enough business to justify the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday hours.

The new hours would be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays.

Also Tuesday, Robert Michael Doyle of Champaign asked the board to designate June as “Respect and Celebrate Same-Sex Marriage Month” in the county.

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