McLean County Government | WGLT

McLean County Government

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Gov. Bruce Rauner signed an executive order Wednesday assembling a task force to fight the state’s opioid crisis.

Mike Miletich / WGLT

Construction is finally underway for the highly anticipated McLean County Jail expansion. 

The McLean County Board held a groundbreaking ceremony for the $39 million project Monday morning. 

The three-story addition will have a first floor area for visitors and space on the second floor for inmates with mental health concerns.

Mclean County Government

McLean County will break ground on its $40 million jail expansion May 5.

Inmate capacity will double to 400.

Stangboy7 / Wikimedia Commons

A proposed change to rules for siting wind farms in McLean County didn't get very far.

Board member Catherine Metsker took aim at the County Zoning Department for failing to notify townships and cities of the potential change.

Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

The McLean County Board has approved an additional 216,000 dollars for the County Clerk to cope with increased administrative demands caused by the same day voter registration law.

The move comes in response to three plus hour wait times at precincts on the campus of Illinois State University during primary voting in March.

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The McLean County Board’s Finance Committee recommends spending an extra $215,000 to handle what could be unprecedented voter turnout for the November presidential election. McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael calls the worst-case scenario for taxpayers the best case scenario for Democracy.

Charlie Schlenker / Schlenker

A move to cut the McLean County Coroner's salary by six percent has failed soundly. Outgoing County Board member Ben Owens made the motion, saying new hires in businesses often come in at a lower rate than their predecessors. Owens framed the proposal as a money saving move for taxpayers.

McLean County Considering Fixes For Voting Problems

Apr 26, 2016
Michael Hill / WGLT

A solution to the long wait times and registration issues experienced by voters at Illinois State University's Bone Student Center is still in progress. The McLean County Board Finance Commitee held a special meeting at ISU to address concerns from people in the community.

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The Illinois Courts Commission recently punished two McLean County Circuit Judges for conduct related to an affair they had. Judge Scott Drazewski has been suspended for four months for not removing himself from cases in which the husband of Judge Rebecca Foley was representing clients. Drazewski also lied about his reason for eventually asking to be removed from other cases. Foley was censured for not reporting Drazewski's failure to recuse himself.

Ralph Weisheit

City, town and county officials in McLean County are being visited by small groups of people with many questions. It's part of a study to figure out just what it is these officials do, and how their work can be made more efficient.

The county chapter of the League of Women Voters is embarking on a year-long "Exploring Government Initiative" to study of effectiveness and efficiency of local government. WGLT's Willis Kern talks about the study with longtime league member Sally Rudolph.

 

McLean County Government

McLean County Coroner Kathy Davis said she is thrilled with the support given her by voters in a victory over two other opponents in the Republican Primary.

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The two candidates for the Republican nomination for McLean County Board Distict 10, challenger Josh Barnett and incumbent Ben Owens have differing views on whether the coroner's office should be elected or appointed.

During the GLT Sound Ideas/League of Women Voters Candidates Forum in Normal, Owens said the technical aspects of the job make it difficult for the voting public to decide who should carry out the duties.

Ralph Weisheit

The new McLean County Board leadership team is in place, Chair John McIntyre and Vice Chair Jim Soeldner. A vote followed the resignation of Chair Matt Sorensen from the board. Sorensen said he needed to avoid distracting the board from his legal troubles. Sorensen faces a five count federal fraud indictment over an alleged false billing scheme that victimized State Farm Insurance.

Judge David Butler

One of the things that changed with the New Year is the departure of a longtime fixture on the McLean County bench. Circuit Judge Charles Reynard retired.

Ralph Weisheit / WGLT

McLean County Board Chairman Matt Sorensen faces a federal fraud indictment. The document alleges Sorensen conspired with an outside consulting firm when he was an internal consultant at State Farm Insurance to engage in false billing for work never done. Sorensen allegedly personally benefited by more than $370,000 in the scheme. State Farm says it alerted federal prosecutors to the situation in 2012 and Sorensen has not worked for State Farm since.

Ralph Weisheit / WGLT

Mayor Chris Koos is taking a wait and see approach on the indictment of McLean County Board Chair Matt Sorensen.  He spoke with WGLT's Mike McCurdy.

Sorenson is accused of using his position as an internal consultant at State Farm Insurance to collude with an outside firm to file phony consulting work invoices. The indictment also alleges Sorenson steered State Farm work to fellow defendant Navdeep Arora a former partner at the firm of McKinsey and Company, who was arrested Sunday. 

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The head of the McLean County Board is casting a cautious eye on a new report from the Lieutenant Governor suggesting ways to consolidate units of government. Illinois has more small government bodies than any state. But, County Board Chair Matt Sorenson says he is concerned that the report will take a one size fits all set of recommendations.

Charlie Schlenker

Former McLean County Board member Dave Selzer is again on the county board. He left several years ago for employment reasons, but moved back to town and when a vacancy happened in District 5, Selzer asked to fill the vacancy representing north and east Normal. He says he supports the direction the county is going in providing more mental health services.

Selzer says he hopes more public private partnerships can happen to address the mental health needs of the community.

The McLean County Sheriff's Department is getting a new canine unit. Sheriff John Sandage says that's through a $59,000 grant from the Howard Buffet Foundation.

Sheriff's police already have one drug dog on staff. Eight weeks of training starts in January.

Sandage says the grant pays for the dog, equipment, a new vehicle, and eight weeks of training.

Sandage says the Buffet Foundation offers canine unit grants through Illinois and has also supported Macon County mental health programs.

The State of Illinois owes Bloomington, Normal, and McLean County governments more than 5.4 million dollars according to public officials.

The measure approved by the Illinois House and up in the Senate next week would improve some of that cash flow crunch. The largest single chunk of cash owed local governments is Motor Fuel Tax Receipts. County Administrator Bill Wasson says release of that money would ease the process of going out to bid for road projects next spring.

Three candidates have filed to run as Republicans for McLean County Coroner. Current Coroner Kathy Davis was appointed to fill a vacancy. Challenging her in the GOP primary next year will be Ryan Gibson and Gary Morefield. Monday was the first day of the petition filing period. The County Clerk's office also says there will be a contested race for County Board in District 10. Josh Barnett will try to knock off incumbent Ben Owens in the GOP primary for District 10 on the County Board.

Tori Rector / Flickr via Creative Commons

Court fees in McLean County are going up again. County Board members have approved hiking the fee supporting the Children's Advocacy Center from $15 to $16.50. Justice committee chair and retired judge William Caisley argued against the hike, saying court fees are already too high.

Caisley says McLean County is already among the top four Illinois counties when it comes to fee dollars supporting the CAC. He argues for what he calls a fairer approach.

Michael Coghlan / Flickr

The estate of a McLean County worker killed in a Law and Justice center elevator accident earlier this year is seeking a jury trial that could result in damages against various defendants, including the McLean County Public Building Commission. The estate of John Hoeniges filed a complaint in McLean County court against the Commission and two firms hired to inspect and maintain the L & J elevators, Indiana-based Stuard and Delaware-based Kone.

The counts allege wrongful death and negligence. 

Willis Kern / WGLT

McLean County has approved its first tax levy increase in five years. By a 12-6 vote, board members okayed a 2016 fiscal budget of $92 million, funded in part by a property tax hike that pumps in about $400,000 in new revenue. The approval came after member Chuck Erickson proposed shifting that amount from various reserve funds in exchange for dropping the levy hike.

Erickson's proposal fell by a 10-9 vote with chair Matt Sorenson breaking the tie. Sorenson says now is not the time to be raiding reserve funds.

The Director of the McLean County Health Department is trying to reassure County Board members that funding for drug court will not be jeopardized next budget year. Last week the department agreed to fund drug court at the same level as last year. Now the health board has approved spending less direct money than was talked about earlier. Health Department Director Walt Howe says the difference is that they want service provider Chestnut Health Systems to try billing Medicaid for the service first and then asking the county for payment.

Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

The McLean County Health Department is revising its proposed budget for next fiscal year, after some members of the county board health committee questioned the recommended removal of nearly 50% of drug court funding. County Administrator Bill Wasson says most of the drug court funds are being restored.

After a legal career of more than four decades, McLean County Circuit Judge Charles Reynard says he's retiring at the end of the year. Reynard has spent 13 years as a judge, nearly 16 before that as McLean County State's Attorney, and another 14 years in private practice and as an assistant prosecutor.

He says he's not sure exactly what the next chapter will bring in his life.

Reynard says the highlight has been the last five years in family law cases serving huge needs.

Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

The McLean County Health Department wants to shift money away from drug court treatment and to other programs. Next year's proposed budget reduces county funding for drug court by $100,000 at a time when the county just asked for and received mental health funding from increased sales taxes in Bloomington and Normal. Health Department Director Walt Howe says changes in federal programs can replace the money because single men are now eligible for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act expansion of Medicaid.

One McLean County Board member says she hopes the Enbridge oil pipeline through central Illinois can be made more secure. Victoria Harris is urging county staff to study external leak monitors and anything else that has promise.

Enbridge periodically tests the insides of pipelines using robots. But, the company has not installed external leak detectors.

Harris says it is an easy retrofit.

But, industry representatives dispute that.

A minor point of philosophy turned into a change in how the McLean County Board supports the B-N Advantage economic development program. Instead of that specific program sponsored by the Economic Development Council, Board Member Paul Segobiano said it was important to change to support the "concept" of development.

The report contains items like an east side highway project and a downtown Bloomington Hotel. Kyle Ham of the EDC said the language change was unimportant.

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