ASHTON – Lee County Sheriff John Simonton and several Lee County Board members were present at the Ashton Village Board meeting on Monday, March 13 to present information on the proposed Public Safety Referendum which will be on the April 4 ballot.
Simonton pointed out that over the past couple of years the Lee County Jail has gone from an annual inspection from the state to a semi-annual inspection because the issues identified have not been resolved. Ultimately, if the issues are not addressed to the state's satisfaction, the jail will be closed.
Closing the Lee County Jail would cost the county more than most people realize. If inmates are transferred to another facility, Lee County is still responsible for each inmates transportation to and from court appearances and medical expenses, on top of the $75 per day housing fee. The extra transportation to and from another county also takes Lee County officers out of the area and unable to respond to local needs.
Current operating costs of the department are approximately $783,301 per year, that includes salaries, food, medical care, maintenance and more. If inmates are housed in another county, over the period of one year, the additional cost to the county would be approximately $778,012, of which Lee County taxpayers will be paying.
If the referendum passes on April 4, the impact to local residents will be minimal. For example, if you purchase a lunch from the local restaurant for $6, the additional tax you will pay would be 3 cents. If you purchase a $50 DVD player, your extra cost will be 25 cents and if you make a purchase of $500 for a washing machine or television, your extra cost would be $2.50. If you shop in Rockford or DeKalb, you are paying that extra tax and supporting their Public Safety Taxes, but bear in mind that anyone who shops in Lee County, for example someone that pulls off of I88 for dinner or something, will also be paying that tax and helping to support the efforts. The ½ percent tax increase will provide approximately $1.1 million per year. The ½ percent will not be reflected on groceries, vehicle purchases, farm implement purchases, prescription and non-prescription medications or anything related to diabetes treatment.
Residents of the county are invited to tour the Lee County jail and see the problem areas for themselves if they are not sure this referendum is not needed.
The new proposed facility will also house the coroners office and a morgue.
The company that the county is working with on design of the new facility has designed many of the similar facilities in the area. They have noted that the new facility should see a life expectancy of 50 years and be in compliance with the new state statutes that include ADA requirements.
In other business the board approved a request from Zoning Commissioner Casper Manheim for a 2 percent salary increase. The board also accepted bids from TJS Excavating for sewer replacement on South Paddock and a bid from Detar Rafaltari for a new roof on the street department building.
The board approved requests from the Park Committee and from Police Chief Jared Yater to submit grant requests to the Blum Family Foundation. The park committee will also pursue a grant from the state, which requires a matching fund, to install playground equipment at near the splashpad. The police department is seeking to purchase information electronic signs to place throughout the community.
The Cemetery Board will meet at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 23 at the Ashton Village Office.