Massac County’s need for a cannabis ordinance has been a frequent topic of discussion between State’s Attorney Josh Stratemeyer and the commission.

That discussion jumped a hurdle last week as the commission unanimously approved the Massac County Cannabis Retailers’ Occupation Tax.

The Feb. 9 vote came two weeks after Stratemeyer last discussed the need for an ordinance with the commissioners.

“We’ve discussed it going back quite some time and have never made a final decision. It’s getting to the point where we really need to one way or another,” Stratemeyer told them on Jan. 26. “Currently, we don’t have anything in the county that says you can or can’t have cannabis dispensaries, grow operations, those types of legalized operations. We also don’t have anything regarding the taxation of cannabis.”

Stratemeyer informed the commission that it has four options ranging from doing nothing to taxing to probating operations in the unincorporated areas of the county.

“I would say this,” he told them on Jan. 26, “there’s an illegal drug problem in Massac County, I think everybody knows that. That’s something we battle, it’s something we fight, it’s something we see the effects of every single day. I think the answer to our drug problem Massac County is not more drugs. There are still effects on the county even with it in city limits — law enforcement costs, jail costs, you name it — there’s additional costs that will be incurred as a result of this, certainly. … But it’s not up to me; you tell me what to do and I’ll prepare the ordinance.”

The ordinance the commission had Stratemeyer prepare and that they approved on Feb. 9 establishes the maximum taxes allowed — 3.75% in unincorporated areas of the county and 3% in its municipalities — be applied to cannabis purchases.

“All this ordinance does is apply an additional sales tax to any cannabis sales within the county,” Stratemeyer clarified to the commission at its Feb. 9 meeting. “It does not do anything with regards to zoning of cannabis businesses. It simply imposes the additional sales tax. To look at (the zoning of cannabis businesses) at any time in the future would be a separate ordinance would need to be done.”

The certified copy of the ordinance will be sent to the Illinois Department of Revue for the tax to be collected by the state and dispersed the the county beginning July 1.

Road improvement projects approvedCommissioners approved two projects presented by county highway engineer Joe Matesevac. Both will use Rebuild Illinois bond funds, which are allocated into county and township funds.

For the first, the commission approved a resolution to appropriate funding for a road improvement project on Pell Road which would place a 2 1/2-inch asphalt overlay, going 4.037 miles from Unionville Road to encompass the Powers Church Road intersection. Funding the $820,000 project would be broken into three sources — approximately $280,000 from the county side of the Rebuild Illinois bonds, approximately $130,000 in Motor Fuel Tax money and approximately $410,000 from local Federal Aid Matching Tax Funds.

For the second, commissioners approved a contract with BFW Engineering to design a bridge replacement on Mt. Sterling Road. Matesevac explained the 100-year-old bridge in Unionville Bottoms at the end of Long Lake “is in terrible shape” and because it is on the Historic Register, environmental and cultural forms will have to be submitted to the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Historic Preservation Society to request tearing it down and replacing it. BFW engineers would design the whole bridge, do the needed testing of the area and submit the needed paperwork. The engineering agreement is $25,000. Matesevac said the ballpark for construction of a new 24- to 27-foot wide bridge is $250,000.

Matesevac also informed the commissioners there will be bond money available after these projects and asked them to submit ideas. He noted the work couldn’t begin until 2023-24.

Additional COVID reimbursement receivedKristy Stephenson, assistant state’s attorney, informed the commission the most recent submission for COVID-19 reimbursement funding from the state’s Local Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency Support Program, or Local CURES Program, has been approved.

This third request was for $153,000 in payroll expenses for public safety officers from March 1 through Dec. 31, 2020.

The county still has $268.89 left in its total allotment of $311,378. Stephenson is submitting catch-all expanses for the remaining amount.

Stephenson informed the commission that program deadlines have been continued another year, through Jan. 31, 2022.

“We’ll have to watch the third stimulus bill now to see if they allocate additional moneys. If they give additional funding to go along with the extension of time, we can start submitting for payroll reimbursements again. As of right now, we’ve been approved for everything (we’ve been allotted),” she said.

The Local CURES Program is federally funded from the Coronavirus Relief Fund using dollars allocated to Illinois through the CARES Act to reimburse units of local government for costs with respect to COVID-19 from March 1 through Dec. 31, 2020. Illinois’ Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is overseeing the program for the state. They took the funding allotted to Illinois and split it, setting aside $311,378 for Massac County, which received $136,000 in October for PPE supplies, telework expenses and the cost of inmates at the Massac County Jail; $19,000 in January covering transfers from the jail to Department of Corrections institutions, some expenses to Franklin County Juvenile Detention because transfers couldn’t be done and the disinfectant sprayer and solution for the Massac County Courthouse and the jail; and $153,000 in February for payroll expenses for public safety officers from March 1 through Dec. 31, 2020.

Stephenson told the commission she would submit a spreadsheet to Massac County Treasurer Jody Haverkamp detailing allocations on specific equipment reimbursed through the funds to go back in the budgets of those office holders, along with the total amount non-dedicated that can go toward the general fund.

In other business• Haverkamp reported the general fund balance is $17,957.27.

• Massac County Emergency Management Agency director Brian Horn informed the commission a warning siren failed in Joppa during the monthly test on Feb. 2 due to a dead battery, which was last replaced in 2011. Horn informed the commissioners that Pine Bluff Materials, headquartered in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, replaced the battery on Feb. 6.

• Animal Control Officer Quinton Hillebrand informed the commissioners of the purchase of a chip reader that will be kept in the Animal Control truck to quickly check if animals picked up are registered.

The county commission is continuing its every-other-week meeting dates until further notice. The next meeting will be held Tuesday, Feb. 23, at 8:45 a.m.

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