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McLean County Board OKs license plate cameras near LeRoy

 LeRoy Police Chief Jason Williamson
Eric Stock
LeRoy Police Chief Jason Williamson said the county already uses two license plate cameras, helping police solve multiple crimes.

The McLean County Board on Thursday unanimously approved an agreement to install license plate cameras on Lexington-LeRoy Road after LeRoy police assured board members the cameras would not be used for general traffic enforcement.

At its monthly meeting, the board also approved plans for a green energy contract that several board members opposed, citing higher costs, and announced a temporary meeting location for August.

City of LeRoy cameras

The board delayed a vote last month to approve a permit for the city of LeRoy to install the license plate cameras just north of LeRoy on Lexington-LeRoy Road after board member Catherine Metsker requested more time for board members to have their questions answered about the plan.

The new agreement, which passed unanimously and was previously approved by LeRoy’s city council, adds language stating the city “does not intend to use ALPRs (Automatic License Plate Readers) for the enforcement of traffic violations or the issuance of citations.”

“They would be using them for more serious crimes like stolen vehicles or a revoked license or BOLOs (Be On the Lookout) for a certain individual,” said county administrator Cassy Taylor.

The city of LeRoy needs a permit from the McLean County Highway Department to install the cameras because they would be outside city limits.

In June, LeRoy Police Chief Jason Williamson said the city already uses two license plate cameras that have helped solve several stolen vehicle and car burglary cases, and plans to install additional cameras on opposite ends of Interstate 74 and U.S. Route 150 for travelers coming in and out of LeRoy.

The American Civil Liberties Union has raised privacy concerns about the cameras. LeRoy plans to purchase the cameras from Atlanta-based Flock Safety, a company that has sold cameras to more than 170 law enforcement agencies in Illinois, including Bloomington and Normal.

Green energy

In other business, the county board voted 16-3 to authorize chairman John McIntyre to sign a contract for electricity for all McLean County-run facilities.

Based on Thursday’s rate quotes that could change before Friday’s agreement is signed, the county would pay $184,300 more next year to stay with Dynegy as a renewable energy source, based on the county's current usage. Moving to traditional energy would cost the county $142,500 more than the county’s current annual power bill.

Board member Chuck Erickson, a Republican, voted no, arguing the county should switch back to a traditional energy package to save money.

“That still is a $41,000 difference and that’s something that the taxpayer will pick up and, in my view, that’s unnecessary,” Erickson said. Fellow Republicans Metsker and Lyndsay Bloomfield also voted against the agreement.

But Democrat Val Laymon, who chairs the board's property committee, said staying with green energy, as the county adopted last year, sets a good example.

“We’re the leader in green energy production in the state of Illinois, so it definitely seems like a great way to really promote and to support one of our key functions in the business and energy creation space,” said Laymon, adding the higher costs for green energy will likely be offset by lower gas costs.

On Friday, the county contracted with Dynergy at a price of $0.08189 per kilowatt hour.

Taylor said electricity costs are going up because of volatility in the energy markets.

Temporary move

Taylor announced the county board’s August meeting will be moved to the McLean County Museum of History in downtown Bloomington, while the county board room undergoes renovations. Construction crews will build a new permanent dais in the room, which the Bloomington City Council also uses for its meetings.

Taylor said county board committee meetings in August will remain at the Government Center, in Room 404.

In other business, the board:

  • Approved decommissioning and escrow agreements with operators of the White Oak Wind Farm near Carlock that went online in 2011. White Oak Energy was required to reach an agreement to cover costs associated with removing the wind turbines when the 100-turbine wind farm goes offline. White Oak will put $2.5 million into the escrow fund ($25,000 per turbine), according to the agreement. The county reached a $6 million agreement in March with owners of the company that built the county’s first wind farm, Twin Groves I and II, near Ellsworth.
  • Approved spending up to $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to replace the software system that assists emergency dispatchers at Metcom. Illinois Wireless Information Network (IWIN) informed the county it will no longer offer support to the county’s 20-year-old system, starting in 2024. The computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system logs and prioritizes calls and maps responders, among other functions. The $1.5 million cost would be shared between the county, the Town of Normal and the county’s Emergency Telephone System Board. Taylor wrote in a memo to the board updating the current system could be more costly and would be “inferior to compared to new systems that are available.”
  • Honored former radio broadcaster Scott Laughlin, who retired in 2019 after he was diagnosed with cancer. Laughlin, 65, was a host for WJBC for 19 years.
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Updated: July 17, 2023 at 8:31 AM CDT
The county on Friday contracted with electricity provider Dynergy at a price of $0.08189 per kilowatt hour.
Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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