Twenty-eight Massac County residents will soon receive a summons in the mail after Massac County commissioners Jerel Childers and Jayson Farmer drew out the names for a new grand jury.

Commission chair Jeff Brugger was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

Massac County State’s Attorney Josh Stratemeyer said because of COVID, there has not been a grand jury in place.

“We’re probably in a position where we need one and we can do it pretty safely,” Stratemeyer said.

The names were selected from a list generated randomly by the Massac County Circuit Clerk. Those names were drawn by lot by the commissioners with the first 16 making up the regular panel and the next 12 making up the supplement panel. Those selected were identified only by a number assigned to their name.

Those selected to serve must be: at least 18 years old; a resident of Massac County; free from all legal exception; of fair character, approved integrity and sound judgment; well informed; able to understand the English language; and a citizen of the United States. Stratemeyer noted he had removed the names of those he knew had passed away, adding he would note if a name or the person’s family remember had a pending matter with his office.

According to the “Handbook for Illinois Jurors: Grand Jury”: “In cases presented to the grand jury, the grand jury has a dual function. It determines that a person should be charged or prosecuted for a criminal act when it finds there is probable cause to believe the person has committed an offense. At the same time, it protects the innocent from unfounded accusation of crime and from the trouble, expense and anxiety of a trial when there is, in fact, insufficient evidence to believe the accused is guilty of any criminal offense.”

The grand jury will be seated for up to 18 months.

County treasurer Jody Haverkamp informed the commissioners that tax bills for the year 2020 were mailed out on Monday.

Haverkamp noted payments can be made in several ways: online, dropbox, mail or in person. Both branches of City National Bank will accept payments as long as the payment stub is included.

The first tax bill payment is due Aug. 16 and the last on Oct. 4. Mobile home taxes are due Sept. 13. The tax sale has been set for 2 p.m. Dec. 15.

Following a closed session with Kevin Thompson, the commission voted to file a lawsuit against Honeywell to force clean-up of possible contamination.

The motion, made by Farmer, was to “authorize the Thompson Barney Law Firm and Kruger Law Office to file a civil action lawsuit against Honeywell and any responsible other party to seek abatement and any other remedy or relief appropriate under the law.”

The commissioners met for over an hour with Thompson, who is with the Thompson Barney Law Firm in Charleston, West Virginia, and Metropolis corporate counsel Rick Abell. Thompson is working with local attorney Richard Kruger on the Honeywell litigation. Environmental law and water pollution are two of the areas Thompson Barney specializes.

The Metropolis City Council made a similar motion at its meeting Monday night. Abell later explained the government bodies “are listed as plaintiffs in the same lawsuit. We will each have our own separate, but very similar, claims in the lawsuit and seek separate recoveries.”

The abatement, or clean-up, “would ultimately be determined by the court,” Abell said. “However, the lawsuit will focus on three primary objectives: make the plant safe before it resumes operations; remove and remediate contamination within the community and at the plant site; and impose locally enforceable standards for continuing operations or, alternatively, to compel state and federal regulators to enforce reasonable health, safety and environmental protection standards going forward. That could result in multiple forms of relief such as requiring Honeywell to renovate buildings and equipment to protect stored materials from exposure and ultimately release into the environment or installing the latest in effective emission control structures, ventilation controls and operational procedures properly designed for the quantity and types of materials to be processed at the plant. The lawsuit could also result in an award of damages.”

In other business

• Following a closed session with county highway engineer Joe Matesevac, the commissioners approved an emergency budget line item amendment to increase capital for the purchase of needed equipment. The amendment puts funds the department has into the equipment budget to be used to purchase a used oil and chip machine. Matesevac informed the commissioners at earlier meetings that the current machine is broken and can’t be fixed. In the interim, the department tried a chip-spreading tailgate alternative, which did not work with the hills and curves of Massac County roads. Matesevac said he is in talks to get a 2006-era oil and chip machine and needs the extra funds to assist with the purchase.

• The commission approved hiring Kristy Stephenson as its independent contractor for her professional legal, financial and development consulting services in the utilization of funds allocated to the county through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The work also includes advising the county of the use of funds under the ARA, preparation of the necessary paperwork and monthly status reports. The $1,500 a month contract is effective July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022, or by execution by both parties. Stephenson previously assisted the county with its COVID relief reimbursement efforts.

• The commission approved a Massac County Trustee Resolution for Parcel No. 08-01-202-001/1601, located on Scott Street in Metropolis.

• And, Haverkamp reported the county’s general fund balance is $44,683.53.

The county commission’s next regular meeting will be at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, July 27.

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