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Myers to County Board: ’This is absolutely ridiculous’

Board tables bond sale for highway building

La Salle County Board member Jerry Myers, R-Streator, was hot.

“This is absolutely ridiculous,” the normally quiet Myers roared from the back row at Monday’s County Board meeting.

“I’ve been upset a few times, but I’m telling you one thing — I’m damned upset now,” he called out loudly.

What irked Myers was an hour of discussion about funding the replacement of the tornado-battered county highway office and shop building was shut down when Timothy Geary, R-Streator, conflicted by the options, made a motion to table the bond sale — with no date to resume it.

The option before the board was to sell $7 million in bonds for the county’s insurance trust fund. About half of that would go toward the new highway department building. The rest would bolster the trust fund, a county self-insurance program.

The bonds would be repaid by property taxes for 10 years. The annual cost for a home valued at $100,000 to $125,000 would be $10 to $15 a year.

First to speak on the proposal was Russell Boe, R-Ottawa, among the board’s most cost-conscious members.

Boe said he favored a new building that would last 50 to 75 years.

He said a delay could prove costly, with interest rates and steel prices possibly on the way up.

“We might as well bite the bullet and get with it and get it done,” Boe said.

But other board members favored dipping into the current trust fund account of $12 million.

The trust was begun in 2004 with the sale of bonds to be repaid with property taxes that were being spent on conventional insurance policies. In 2013, the County Board decided to extend the insurance trust by selling more bonds. The program savings so far have been about $500,000 a year.

The $12 million now in the trust fund is expected to last until late 2024.

If the county takes money from the insurance trust fund for the highway department building, the remaining funds will not go as far and more bonds will have to be sold sooner.

Some County Board members said dipping into the trust fund for a new highway department building was OK with them.

“That’s what it’s for, isn’t it?” said Tina Busch, R-Tonica.

Some board members were opposed to raising property taxes.

Tom Thrush, D-Ottawa, proposed the question be voted on at a referendum in November.

“I don’t believe we should be here making the decision,” he said.

Allen Erbrederis, R-Somonauk, said it was the County Board’s job to decide.

“That’s why we’re elected,” he said. “We’re here to make the hard choices.”

Geary’s motion to table brought the discussion to a halt. Douglas Trager, D-Ottawa, who seconded the motion, repeatedly asked if a date would be set to resume discussion. But Geary did not respond.

Myers fumed over the vote to table.

“This highway department has to be rebuilt and we are fiddling around,” he said.

The vote to table:

Yes: 17 — Tom Walsh, Douglas Trager, Thomas Thrush, Brian Dose, Ernest Weiss, Robert Lee, Timothy Geary, Norman Sedlock, Curtis Faber, Joanne McNally, Catherine Owens, Charles Borchsenius, Jill Bernal, Joseph Oscepinski, Michael Kasap, Tina Busch, Steven Tuftie.

No: 12 — Russell Boe, Lou Anne Carretto, Randy Freeman, Jerry Myers, Walter Roach, Elmer Walter, David Zielke, Allen Erbrederis, Gary Small, Larry Butkus, Joseph Savitch, David Torres.

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