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McLean County Board Tables HOI Reopening Plan Resolution

Breanna Grow
McLean County Board members voted 12-8 to table a resolution to implement the Restore Heart of Illinois plan.

After nearly two hours of discussion, McLean County Board members voted 12-8 Thursday night to table a resolution to implement the Restore Heart of Illinois plan

No date was set to take up the plan again.

Earlier in the day, Peoria County Administrator Scott Sorrell confirmed at a press briefing that Peoria, which developed the plan as an alternative to the state’s Restore Illinois plan, would not be bringing it to its own county board for consideration. 

In fact, none of the other 10 counties included in the regional reopening plan has chosen to implement it. 

McLean County Board Member Carlo Robustelli made the motion to table the vote. “The plan author has abandoned their plan,” he said. “A regional plan without the region all buying in and adopting it makes it impossible to do the regional metrics that have been laid out in it.”

County Board Chair John McIntyre said he asked board member Chuck Erickson to pull the proposal from the meeting agenda, saying without the support of the other counties, “the reason for holding this meeting has become a moot point.”

Erickson said McIntyre’s request didn’t change his view of the matter. 

“Due to the devastation of the local economy and to get revenue flowing again, it has always been my position that we have a plan, and that we have a start date,” he said. 

County Administrator Camille Rodriguez told the board’s finance committee earlier this month that the county would likely see between a $2.6 million and $7 million loss from impacts of COVID-19 on revenue. 

Erickson said implementing the HOI plan would have allowed the county to move into a more advanced phase of reopening than Restore Illinois. Board member Jim Soeldner agreed under the governor’s plan, businesses may have to wait a long time before the next phase is enacted.

Board Member William Caisley said Gov. JB Pritzker acted in his own political interests in issuing and extending his statewide stay-at-home order.

“If he had been more collaborative with local governments ... if he had convened the General Assembly to take up this problem, then probably we wouldn’t be here this evening,” he said.

But Board member Elizabeth Johnston said she thinks the governor’s work with local governments is the very reason other counties have not given the HOI plan their support.

“As much as I think that Peoria put (the Heart of Illinois Plan) together to bring it forward and to bring it into place, it actually kickstarted a collaborative discussion with the governor, and he’s made the adjustments,” she said, referring to changes to the Restore Illinois plan that will allow more businesses to reopen under phase 3, starting Friday.

After the change, there’s no longer enough difference between the two plans to warrant implementing the HOI plan, McIntyre said. 

One remaining difference is in the metrics that would allow the county to move into the next phase of reopening.

McLean County Health Department Administrator Jessica McKnight reiterated points from a memo she sent to the county board, saying that with time and a $2.8 million grant the department will receive from the Illinois Department of Public Health, “we could put in place the measures to implement this plan, just not at this moment.”

McKnight said that would require expanded testing and contact tracing. Even so, the county would be reporting on metrics that were developed for a region, not a single county, McKnight said. “You have to look at the potential of leaving us in a phase for longer, or pushing us back,” she said.

Board member Laurie Wollrab said with more metrics and data required to reopen regionally, the HOI plan necessitated a more involved partnership with the McLean County Health Department. “They’re telling us they’re not quite ready to do what is involved in the plan,” she said. “I cannot see how I can vote for a plan that can’t be materialized in any real sense.” 

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Breanna Grow is a correspondent for GLT. She joined the station in September 2018.
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