The Massac County Commission approved a motion to display the 2022 budget at its meeting Tuesday, Jan. 11.
The budget will be on display for 15 days at the Massac County Clerk’s office. It will be voted on at the commission’s next meeting.
Commissioner Jayson Farmer said the budget has a revenue estimate of $5,737,000 with expenses of $5,120,422, showing the county “in the black” by roughly $600,000 for 2022. Farmer noted that the “additional taxes we’re receiving seem to be working out.”
Commissioner Jeff Brugger was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Massac County Animal Control officer Quinton Hillebrand formally discussed with the commission calls he has received from Brookport residents and mayor about catching dogs in the town. Hillebrand said he receives an average of three calls a week to pick up a dog with complaints of barking, chasing other animals or wandering.
Massac County State’s Attorney Josh Stratemeyer was present for the discussion. Both noted that under the county’s ordinance, which is based on state statute, the Animal Control officer is responsible for at-large dogs in the unincorporated areas of the county, unless a dog bite is involved.
Stratemeyer read the statute, which says: “The county board of each county may regulate and prohibit the running of at-large dogs in unincorporated areas of the county, which have been subdivided for residents’ purposes.”
Stratemeyer noted the city of Metropolis has a dog ordinance, which is enforced by its own animal control officer. The city allows the county to use its pound for dogs the county picks up. Brookport does not have an animal control officer, “and I guess that is where the problem is lying, and they’re calling Quinton to essentially enforce their municipal ordnance,” he said. “One issue you have is if you did pick up a dog in Brookport, where do you take it? Second of all, you’re enforcing a Brookport city ordinance, rather than a Massac County animal control ordinance.”
Those ordinances, he said, normally have a number of other animal issues involved.
“Could we come up with an agreement?” Stratemeyer continued. “You could do that, but it needs to be a written intergovernmental agreement as to what the duties, responsibilities and compensation would be. You’d need to have a discussion with Quinton to see if he’s willing to do that. Then you have the pound issue. It’s not that simple, there needs to be discussions and negotiations.”
Farmer noted Brookport Mayor Rance Phillips has discussed the issue with all three commissioners. Farmer said he told Phillips he would need to talk to Hillebrand about his interest and with Stratemeyer “to see if it’s even possible.”
Hillebrand said he spoke with Stacey Ballard, who is with the Department of Agriculture and over animal control. She agreed the animal control officer is over the unincorporated areas of the county and noted that according to state statue, any law enforcement agency has the rights to perform this state code. Hillebrand added “there is a lot of liability involved” with the animal control officer position.
“The only time I go to Brookport is if it’s a dog bite — I have to go. If it’s a case of animal cruelty or abuse, I don’t necessarily have to go, but I do. As a courtesy, I’ll go to Brookport Elementary School to pick up or run off one because of the kids,” Hillebrand said. “But as far as going and picking up dogs because they’re barking at cats, that’s not my responsibility. That’s their responsibility according to state law.”
Commission Chairman Jerel Childers said the county doesn’t want to do it and things will be left as is. Hillebrand asked a letter stating that “the county is not responsible for their dogs, other than dog bites” be sent to the city of Brookport.
Massac County Sheriff Chad Kaylor informed the commission the detention center’s big heat/air unit went “belly up” last week due to a cracked heat exchanger. The department currently has new units on order, and while the smaller unit is ready, the larger will take at least eight weeks to complete. Kaylor said it would cost up to $5,000 to replace current unit, if the parts could be found, but since the new unit is expected in a couple of months and that renting a unit would be $1,300, he is using alternative heating options that cost $650 and are keeping the temperature in the jail around 70 degrees. Kaylor plans to use the alternative process until the new units are available.
Kaylor said the jail population Tuesday morning stood at 36 inmates after three were taken that morning to DOC. He said the jail has been averaging 35 to 40.
County Highway Department engineer Joe Matesevac informed the commissioners if the county gets a heavy snowfall or ice soon, his department may have to resort to other measures to treat roads. The road crew used about 25 to 30 tons of salt for last week’s snow and has about that much left. Matesevac has 150 tons of salt on order, but he’s not sure when it will be available.
Following emails from the highway department concerning COVID-19, Stratemeyer discussed with the commissioners the handling of testing and contacts throughout the county’s departments.
“It’s extremely difficult to put a blanket policy or procedures together, even the CDC guidelines and state change almost daily concerning time frames, vaccination status, close contact,” he said. “In my opinion, at this point, allow the department heads to deal with it; encourage employees to contact department heads if there is any close contact; any positive tests, we deal with as they come up. This has evolved as we’ve gone on. … The policies and procedures that were in place at the beginning of the pandemic are not necessarily the ones that are followed now, not recommended now. It’s a fluid situation that we deal with the best we can.”
Matesevac said his department has a “way we’re handling people when they’re testing positive for COVID-19 and they tell me.”
Stratemeyer and Matesevac noted employees’ communicating with the department head concerning symptoms and close contact is key.
“I think overall, we’ve done a good job of handling this. It’s a fluid situation. We’re trying to keep our employees safe, while at the same time not shutting departments down,” Stratemeyer said.
County treasurer Jody Haverkamp reported the county’s general fund balance as $396,745.37, prior to payroll and expenses.
She also presented the commissioners the final tax disbursement settlement to the county’s districts for the year 2020.
The commission’s next regular meeting is at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25.