URBANA — Champaign County Board members voted Tuesday night to join in a possible legal challenge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's decision to allow the disposal of PCBs at a landfill in Clinton.
The landfill sits atop the Mahomet Aquifer, which is the primary water source for much of central Illinois, including Champaign-Urbana.
Several other area municipalities, including Champaign, Urbana, Savoy and Normal, have committed to an intergovernmental agreement to contest the EPA's finding that the landfill does not pose a health threat to drinking water in the region. The city of Bloomington also may join the group in January.
The agreement approved by the board caps the county's contribution at $14,000, based on its population outside of Champaign, Urbana and Savoy.
An amendment to the agreement, suggested by Champaign Republican Alan Nudo, "allows us to progressively take a look at whether we stay in this thing after the initial $14,000," he said.
The board also agreed to hire John Carlson of Champaign as the county's new emergency management director, beginning Jan. 9. Carlson, who will be paid $60,700 annually, replaces Bill Keller, who retired Nov. 28.
Carlson was selected from among four candidates, said County Administrator Deb Busey. Board member Michael Richards said Carlson "is a slightly unorthodox choice" because he did not come directly from an emergency services background. For the last 16 years he has been a vice president of manufacturing for Gill Athletics. But Carlson does have a military background, including work history in emergency planning for the Illinois National Guard.
The board also agreed to defer to its May meeting any action on placing an electricity aggregation question on the ballot.
The cities of Urbana and Champaign will put the same question — whether to bundle local electric customers as a unit for cheaper electric rates — on the March 20 primary election ballot.
But with Tuesday's deferral, the earliest residents in unincorporated Champaign County could consider the issue would be at the November general election.
"I know a fair amount about this but I'm not an expert on it, or as much as I should, and the rest of the county board probably knows less," board Chairman C. Pius Weibel said. "We've just had so little time to work on this. Plus, Ameren has to cooperate with all the entities that vote to do this. They could prove to be slow, and they may cooperate minimally so that may slow down the process anyway.
"With all those unknowns, I figured we should just hold off and consider it this summer and maybe put it on the fall ballot."
Urbana Democrat Tom Betz said a general election vote would be better.
"We'll have this wonderful six-month period to see how this is working out, is Ameren cooperating?" Betz said. "But personally I think when you have issues of major importance like this, you don't put them on the primary ballot whwere you have very few people voting, you put them on the general electon ballot where you have tens of thousands of people voting."
Also Tuesday, Weibel told the board the county had been awarded $500 from the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois for its restoration of the courthouse clock and bell tower in 2010.
Board members absent from Tuesday's meeting included Republicans Steve Moser, Stephanie Holderfield, Gary Maxwell and Diane Michaels.