McLean County has struck down a $25,000 annual pay cut for the county auditor, while the county’s finance committee chairman is calling for a study of each elected official's salary in the county.
The County Board on Tuesday also asked that a request for a special use permit for a solar farm be sent back to the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals because it was lacking some key information.
The board voted 10-7 against a proposal that would have lowered the county auditor’s pay to about $75,000 annually following the 2020 election. The plan also would have frozen pay for the circuit clerk at $105,000 and slightly increased county coroner’s pay to $103,000.
David Selzer, R-Normal, chairman of the county’s Finance Committee which had endorsed the new pay structure, said he will call on the committee to study the salaries of all elected offices in the county.
“I don’t want to imply (this is the case), but we are not a cash register for jobs, that people don’t make those kinds of dollars if they don’t have the responsibility for those kinds of dollars,” Selzer said. “Quite honestly, I believe a compensation study is going to show some of our positions should be paid more.”
The county considered cutting the auditor’s pay after three of the four positions in that office were moved to the treasurer’s office on Jan. 1.
Selzer excluded the state’s attorney’s pay from the discussion. That pay is set at the state level.
He said he didn’t know if the pay study would be done internally or through an outside firm.
Selzer said he hopes to have a new salary structure in place before the 2020 elections. State law mandates salaries can’t be changed less than six months before they are up for election.
Auditor Michelle Anderson declined to comment after the meeting.
County Board member Catherine Metsker, R-Carlock, argued county staff or the Zoning Board of Appeals should have flagged Minnesota-based developer Geronimo Energy’s application to build a 4-megawatt solar farm between rural Heyworth and McLean.
“The application was inadequate,” Metsker declared. “This application had serious omissions. The decommissioning plan was totally inadequate.”
She added the county Zoning Board of Appeals acknowledged these shortcomings but still gave its unanimous endorsement when it met on June 5.
Building and Zoning Director Phil Dick told the board while the application needed several stipulations added, including land reclamation and road wear-and-tear, some information such as emergency contacts weren’t necessary with the initial application.
“It is consistent with the other four that have been approved, and it is somewhat consistent with what the wind farms have been approved with,” Dick said.
Board member Don Cavallini, R-Lexington, said the county should get more complete information before signing off on such a project.
“There are too many blanks in a check we are being asked to sign in advance,” Cavallini said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong (with) going back one more time and clarifying all these questions, filling in these blanks and doing them the right way.”
The board voted 11-5 to send the request back to ZBA to get more complete information.
Metzger also expressed concern that this project and the four previous solar farms the county has previously approved are taking away land that could be used to grow corn and soybeans, which she said will artificially drive up rent prices for other farmland.
“This is a pivotal precedent,” Metzger said. “Allowing a solar farm on prime land will escalate the destruction of other farmland in the county.”
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