As the budget fervor continues in Springfield, a "transportation legislative initiative" has begun to encourage a new statewide transportation bill.
In a weather-postponed meeting on Tuesday, the Randolph County commissioners signed off on a resolution urging Gov. Bruce Rauner and the leaders of the General Assembly to adopt and implement a bill that will adjust the distribution of fees and motor fuel tax funds to better pay for maintenance and improvement of public roads.
"Highway funds have been diverted for years to other causes," said Randolph County engineer Mike Riebeling. "The vote in November was to prevent that."
As part of the Nov. 8 election, voters approved an amendment to the state"s constitution that transportation-related fees and taxes be solely used for transportation projects and not other uses.
But the state has not approved a capital construction program for transportation since 1999 and basic costs for county highway maintenance were 2.4 times greater in 2014 than they were in 2000.
"They"re pushing for a whole new plan to satisfy IDOT and local agencies," Riebeling said.
The resolution states that local governments are responsible for more than 88 percent of public road mileage in the state, which carries 40 percent of the state"s motor traffic and contributes 40 percent of the highway user fees collected by the state - including Secretary of State costs and motor fuel tax paid at the pump.
But in 2014, only 21.5 percent of those highway user fees were reinvested in local roads.
"The continual reinvestment of highway user fees in the basic maintenance that is necessary for every part of the highway network is absolutely essential for those benefits of safety, quality of life and economic vitality," the resolution states.
The resolution also makes note the growing number of commercial vehicles, as well as their increasing size and weights.
"It is critical for every local government to improve their local roads in order to continue to be an effective part of the seamless highway network that allows Illinois to supply its produce, products and services to the world market competitively," the resolution states.
"Up until 1983, local agencies had 38 percent of road miles and 38 percent of funding," Riebeling said. "Now, they have 38 percent of road miles and 21 percent of funding."
The commissioners signed the resolution on the same day Rauner announced completion of the final 7.25 miles of the State Route 29 expansion that widens the highway between Rochester and Taylorville to four lanes.
Construction on the $102.3 million, 23-mile project began in 2003 and was completed in three phases. The project also provides land for a future bike trail adjacent to the new highway.
"We're building a highway to prosperity," Rauner said in a statement. "This project shows what is possible when all parties, state, local and federal, work together."
In other news, the commissioners approved an addendum to the repairs contract at the Randolph County Jail, adding the cost of a water pressure regulator from PSI of Sparta for a price of $2,338.73.
Previously, Sheriff Shannon Wolff reported the water pressure in the toilets and showers would fluctuate wildly.
"They checked the pressure and it broke their meter," said Board Chairman Ronnie White.
The price includes valves, gauges and labor.
"We"re hoping this will help save money in the long run," Wolff said.
Wolff also noted he is looking into a "catch pen" at the jail that would be a fenced, outdoor area on the north end of the jail to keep inmates if there"s an emergency inside the facility.
"It won"t be a yard or anything like that," he said.
The commissioners also discussed extra trim around the skylights at the jail that will prolong the longevity of the lights.
Wolff stated that repairs to the jail gates are about eight to 10 weeks out. Fabrication of the parts has been completed, but scheduling to have them installed has been an issue.
Circuit Clerk Sherry Johnson asked about the temperature controls from the recently-installed heating system in the Randolph County Courthouse, stating that it was 78 degrees in her office with no control over it.
The commissioners stated Honeywell was still working on regulating the system in the courthouse.
• The commissioners tabled appointments to the Sheriff"s Merit Board, which are all reappointments. White noted the information was not in the commissioners" meeting packets, which meant it could not be approved at the meeting. The matter is expected to be taken up at the board"s next meeting on Jan. 27.
• The Randolph County Care Center reported 64 residents.
• Stephanie Martin, health educator/public information officer with the Randolph County Health Department, gave an update on BASSET (Beverage, Alcohol, Sellers and Servers Education Training) certification.
The certification, which is good for three years, is required for any business that sells or serves alcohol for on-site consumption. It does not apply to gas stations or grocery stores.
Bartenders and servers in Randolph and Monroe counties have a deadline of July 1 to complete the classroom-style training. Training sessions will be held in Chester, Sparta and Red Bud, with dates to be announced.
"As long as they have that card, they can work at any establishment in Illinois," White said.
• General assistance for the period was $902.
• In a separate item, Riebeling informed the commissioners he intends to advertise for bids on two new Woods-brand mowers. The highway department has four, but needs to replace two.
Riebeling said the estimated cost is below the engineer"s estimate, but he prefers to put them out for bid anyway.
• Randolph County Care Center Administrator Ken Slavens reported the facility"s recent roof patches have helped, but the center is still experiencing roofing problems that have been exasperated by the recent ice storm.