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After being on public display for 15 days, Massac County's commissioners approved a motion to approve the fiscal year 2020 county budget at Tuesday morning's weekly meeting.

Prior to the vote Commission Chairman Jayson Farmer stated the revenue this year is anticipated to be $5,197,400 and the estimated expenses for the year is $4,631,927.

Farmer says 2019 was a better year financially for the county, noting how the county has tried to stay on top of its unpaid bills. There were unpaid invoices from previous years, which were paid off, which helped the county's finances.

According to Farmer, the revenue from sales, income and local use taxes were flat from 2018. However, the biggest boost to the county's revenue came from increased patrols on Interstate 24. Farmer said the county had anticipated revenue from fines and fees in the state's attorney's office to be $360,000, when the actual revenue was $686,000, an increase of over $326,000.

Likewise the county had projected the circuit clerk's office to receive around $450,000, when the actual revenue received was over $800,000. In total, the county received an extra $750,000 boost to its bottom line, which gave the county some additional carryover for this year's budget. "I think we've made a lot of good strides for Massac County in 2019," said Farmer, adding, "It's nice to have the extra revenue. The commissioners realize it puts an extra work load on the sheriff's department, state's attorney's office and circuit clerk's office and we appreciate those office working together to get the citations from the interstate patrols processed."

Following the vote on the budget, the board approved employee union contracts with both the treasurer's and state's attorney's offices. According to Massac County State's Attorney Josh Stratemeyer, the only items negotiated were wages and employee health insurance. Both contracts are for a four-year period and include raises of 3 percent this year, 2 percent in 2021, 2 percent in 2022 and 3 percent in 2023. He also noted the employee portion of the health insurance premium went up slightly. Stratemeyer said both these union contracts mirror the Fraternal Order of Police contracts.

Residents Bud and Nancy Phillips, who live on 6963 Unionville Rd. They explained how there is an issue with the ditch in front of their property, claiming it is not deep enough. When there is heavy rainfall, there is runoff from the lagoon next door to them and it flows onto their property. Bud Phillips said they own race horses and bought the house they are living in, so they could keep their horses on their property. But because of flooding to their property they are unable to keep them there.

Bud Phillips said there is an empty lot next door to them they are interested in purchasing so a circle driveway can be built, as there is not enough space in their driveway to turn around.

The commissioners told the couple the empty lot is one of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) lots the county had purchased after the 2011 flooding. Farmer said some of the lots have restrictions on whether they can or cannot be sold and nearly all of the properties have stipulations, which strictly prohibit any structures from being built on the properties. The board advised the couple to contact Stratemeyer to find out more information about the empty lot.

Massac County Highway Engineer Joe Matesevac was at the meeting to hear Phillips' concerns about the ditch. He told Phillips Unionville Road is so flat from one end to the other and drainage is always a problem. He told Phillips he would schedule a time with him to come to his residence and evaluate the situation.

When Matesevac addressed the board the only item he had requiring action was an engineering study for a bridge on Unionville Road near the Massac-Pope County line. He said the bridge is scheduled to be replaced in 2024, but he hopes the date could be pushed up, to either 2021 or 2022, after talking to officials at Illinois Department of Transportation. When the project starts, he expects the bridge replacement could take six to seven weeks. The commissioners approved the bridge engineering study with Chastain and Associates.

Matesevac also said a representative from Ameren reached out to him to inform him of an upgrade to the main transmission line from St. Louis to the southern Illinois region. The upgrade includes an increase in voltage and would change out wooden structures to steel. The project isn't supposed to reach Massac County until 2023.

In other business, the commissioners:

• Received notification from Massac County Treasurer Jody Haverkamp the county's general fund is $38,581.

• And, approved a tax deed for 408 W. 11 St. for the Massac County Trustee.

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