Tazewell County vehicle policy will have to wait

Ken Harris

The struggle over implementing a county-wide policy to protect Tazewell County vehicles will not be over by November, as predicted by several county officials in late September.

The idea behind the vehicle-use policy would be to prevent county vehicles from performing activities unrelated to the activities for which they are designated, protecting the county from liability or upkeep costs for any non-approved activities.

County Administrator David Jones announced at the county’s Human Resources Committee meeting Nov. 9 the vehicle-use policy will be on the county board’s agenda in December, saying he had made great strides toward finishing the proposal earlier in the day in a meeting with Tazewell County State’s Attorney Stewart Umholtz.

In late September, officials said they expected the vehicle-use policy to be recommended by the H.R. Committee for approval by the full board in November. However, Umholtz and others have reportedly questioned the legality of the original document, and how far the board can go in telling other elected officials what to do in regards to the resources of their departments, according to H.R. Committee Chairman Lincoln Hobson.

“We are grinding toward the completion of the vehicle policy,” Hobson said Nov. 9. “As you know, we have been struggling for the past couple months to compromise on this.”

Jones said he met with Umholtz, who serves as the county government’s top legal advisor, for nearly two hours Nov. 9 before the committee meeting to work on changes, mentioning a “very specific concern” he seemed reluctant to reveal until the document is completed and ready for a vote. According to Jones, when the proposed policy is presented to the board, it will have the differences from the previous document outlined so the changes that have been made will be evident.

“While we have not perhaps won the 50-yard dash ... we have a better policy (as of) 45 minutes ago than we had a month ago,” Jones said.

Committee member Russ Crawford voiced his appreciation for Jones’ effort at “hammering through this,” adding “both sides are passionate about this.” The language of the board members and Jones showed a situation where the two sides were seemingly entrenched in their position over whether the board, as the voice of the county’s residents, has the authority to dictate a use policy for all the vehicles the government insures and of which it authorizes the purchase.

The Finance Committee recommended the county board renew its contract with the Central Illinois Economic Development Council for 2011. The contract would be identical to the 2010 contract and call for the county to pay $70,825 to the council, which advocates on behalf of the region’s economic interests. Peoria County is also a part of the EDC. The contract would also set aside $11,075 for an EDC regional project the board would have to approve separately if a project came up.

The committee also recommended the board approve the use of the $11,075 set aside for a 2010 project on a “how-to” manual for smaller communities to use to help them with their own economic development efforts.