It will be business as usual for Massac County Courthouse and county employees, with precautions, according to Massac County Commission Chair Jayson Farmer during a special Massac County board meeting held Monday because of Tuesday’s Primary Election.
Farmer said many people have been asking him a lot of questions concerning the county government’s operation in light of the coronavirus situation.
Massac County State’s Attorney Josh Stratemeyer and Massac County Sheriff Chad Kaylor also sat in on the discussion regarding the courthouse.
“We’re all working together,” said Farmer, pointing out he and the board has been in close communication with Kaylor and Stratemeyer. He also noted Commissioner Jeff Brugger also serves as a board member on the Massac Unit One school board and has been able to keep the county informed about what has been happening with the school closure.
Farmer said he had talked with Metropolis Mayor Billy McDaniel, who indicated city hall is still open, while taking precautions. As for now, the courthouse will remain open while the county will take precautions and will follow the Illinois Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control guidelines.
“I think we need to keep the courthouse open for as long as we can,” said Farmer.
Kaylor echoed Farmer’s remarks stating, “We [elected officials] provide a basic service and have jobs to do.”
According to Kaylor all visitations at the detention center have ceased and he and his staff are monitoring the inmates closely. He said there could be issues if the jail were to become overcrowded.
The commissioners recessed their morning meeting and reconvened at 4 p.m. Monday afternoon, where Farmer and Brugger met with Massac County Resident Judge Cord Wittig, along with various stakeholders involved in the court system in Massac County, including Public Defender Mark Hunter and representatives from Massac County Probation office.
Wittig said he wants to be proactive on slowing the spread of COVID-19 and wants to limit the number of people who are in court in Massac County. He pointed out at times there have been as many as 400 people in Massac County for court and as far away as Birmingham, Alabama. “I want to eliminate the risk [of spreading the virus] while ensuring everyone’s Constitutional rights are being followed,” said Whittig.
After much discussion among all of those present, the consensus was to cancel the traffic court scheduled for this week. Traffic court has the highest number of people, followed by juvenile court.
As of Monday afternoon, juvenile court will be canceled, as well as cases involving misdemeanors, felony pre-trials, if the defendant is not in custody and has not filed for a speedy trial, first appearances, bond hearings and traffic ordinanes.
Wittig said he would draft an administrative order and send it to First Judicial Circuit Judge James Williamson for approval.
As for civic cases, Massac County Circuit Clerk Sandra Riepe said it would not be a problem to stagger the case times in order to limit the number of people in the courtroom.
Wittig indicated at first he might extend the administrative order for a couple of weeks, but later it was mentioned if the order were in place for 30 days, it could always be lifted earlier if need be.
During Monday morning’s meeting Stratemeyer also brought two construction contracts to the commissioners to review concerning more work to be done to the courthouse before the court system moves back into the courthouse.
Farmer said he has talked with both contractors, who believe they could get the work completed earlier than the five-week timeframe.
A motion was made and approved accepting the first contract, as it was written, for work to be done on the second floor of the courthouse. The contract with North Avenue Construction, in the amount of $12,000 was approved.
The second contract, with Brian Gentry Construction, in the amount of $24,950, for work on the main floor of the courthouse was also approved.
Stratemeyer pointed out the first payments to the contractor would be made after the first week of work. Additionally he pointed out both contractors would have to sign the page concerning prevailing wage payment to their employees. The contractors will have to sign a partial waiver of lien as well as a final waiver of lien, before payments can be made.
The commissioners also took action on two items for Massac County Highway Engineer Joe Matesevac, who had two contracts for the board to review. Matesevac said he opened bids for oil last week and the first contract is for two grades of oil the department uses. The low bidders were Heartland Asphalt for $1.85 per gallon for the oil used on roads. The other low bid for the oil used in the department’s patching machine was Marathon with a bid of $1.875 per gallon. Those prices are about six to seven cents higher than the previous year, according to Matesevac. The commissioners approved the contract.
This year Matesevac will try to have some of the county’s roads oil and chipped by an outside contractor, on a trial basis. He said other county have done this. The low bid was from Illini Asphalt for $2.08 cents for oil and $26.44 per ton for chips, which are applied. “It is very fair pricing,” he said. The commissioners approved the contract.