Court fees to rise

Court automation and document storage fees will be going up after a unanimous vote by the Piatt County Board last week.  Circuit Clerk Charles Barre asked board members on Feb. 13 to approve a resolution for the increase because of an aging server.

The hard drive system which maintains court records for the county is nine years old and has exceeded its life expectancy of five years.  Barre told board members that it will cost $35,000 to $40,000 to replace the system.  The fees will be raised from $5 to $15.  Board member Randy Keith questioned whether or not the increase could fund the purchase and Barre assured the board it would.

According to Barre, surrounding counties charge between $10 and $15 for their court automation and document storage.  The exception is Douglas where the fee remains $5. 

“Raising the fee puts the burden on the people using the court system, and not the county,” explained Barre.

Board Member Mike Wileaver voted for the increase but did so reluctantly, noting that increasing fees “usually hits the people who can least afford it.”

Self Insurance
In 2012, the Piatt County Board voted to use a self insurance method to provide health insurance for county employees.  The Board set aside $30,000 in the event that premiums did not cover the claims.  At the February meeting, County Engineer Eric Seibring, a member of the insurance committee, asked the county for an additional $30,000.

According to Seibring, county employees were hit hard this winter with illness and the county came close to not having enough money to pay their bills.  Seibring said it was the recommendation of the Insurance Committee to ask for additional “line of credit”.  To date $19,000 or the initial $30,000 set aside by the county has been used for the self-insurance program.

The initial premium amount set for county employees was based on what the charge would have been through CMS.

Seibring told the county board the committee would probably have to raise rates in the fall.  “Remember that we started this plan with zero in our account,” Seibring told board members.  “And the insurance plan was only started 6 months ago.”

Chairman John Lyons did vote for the additional funding but said he would not do it again.  “I want the plan to work, but something has to give.”  He encouraged the committee to closely look at premiums and benefits later in the year.

County Board Meeting Times  
A change to the county board meeting time was once again discussed.  Board Member Kathleen Piatt presented a proposal which would create a pilot program where the county board would designate one month to hold a meeting at 3 p.m.

Piatt told the board that a meeting later in the day would give members additional time to look over their packets and would allow more time for modifying the agenda.  No staff overtime would be necessary because the meeting would be held during the courthouse regular hours.

Randy Keith – who is an advocate of a later meeting time said that procedural rules would prompt him to vote no if Piatt’s proposal came to a vote.

“It is my understanding that this issue has already been voted down twice,” said Keith.  “If the issue is raised again, it needs to be done by a nay voter.”

Piatt felt that because her proposal was for a pilot plan and was not changing the meeting time across the board it was different than the previous motion.  Despite the difference, no motion was made to approve the alternate meeting time.

Economic Development
In other news, the county board approved $1,200 to support Piatt County Antique Day to be held on March 2.  Board Member Randy Keith, who worked with Callie McFarland, Director of Community Development for Monticello, said that the event was designed to bring visitors into the county and promote the 6.25 percent sales tax for most of the county, which is one of the lowest in the area.

Posters and television ads will market the event.  A brochure was also developed listing the antique stores participating across the county.  The poster and brochure may be downloaded at www.cityofmonticello.net.

The next meeting of the Piatt County Board will take place at 9 a.m. Wednesday, March 13 in room 104 of the Courthouse.

 

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