URBANA — County board members approved the establishment of a Champaign County Local Foods Policy Council to encourage the establishment of small businesses including those producing fresh fruits and vegetables, and to urge large institutional entities to commit to the use of 10 percent locally produced foods.
The council was approved 16-9 with all "no" votes coming from Republicans Jon Schroeder, Ron Bensyl, Aaron Esry, Stan James, John Jay, Jeff Kibler, Max Mitchell, Steve Moser and Steve O'Connor.
The advisory council has a sunset provision that says it would end in March 2014 when the county board would review and assess continuing the need for the group.
Several Republican board members argued the council would be another layer of local government and is unneeded.
"I have yet to see anything a government entity starts that doesn't turn into a boondoggle," said Rantoul Republican Stan James.
But Democrats said it would be good for local economic development, would encourage healthy food options and that the cost to taxpayers — to establish and maintain a website — would be minimal.
"Anything that expands local food production is beneficial," said Champaign Democrat Alan Kurtz.
The board approved the appointment of Jermaine Raymer, a Champaign Republican, to the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District board and Raymond Cunningham to the Lincoln Legacy Committee, and approved the purchase of an $81,000 prison transport bus from Midwest Transit Equipment Inc., for the sheriff's department.
Two board members were absent from Thursday's meeting: Democrats Brendan McGinty and C. Pius Weibel.