County settles with insurance trust

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

After two years of haggling, Fayette County is on the verge of breaking its ties to a group that formerly provided health insurance for this and other nearby counties.

The Fayette County Board voted on Tuesday to give board Chairman Steve Knebel the authority to sign an agreement for a settlement with the Illinois Counties Insurance Trust.

The county’s approval of that settlement will not become final until after the Coles County Board, one of three counties that initiated litigation against ICIT, takes action on the settlement proposal.

Through the agreement, Fayette County would pay ICIT $80,000, which is $25,575 less than what the trust was seeking, according to Fayette County State’s Attorney Stephen Friedel, who presented the agreement to the board on Tuesday.

The county will also be paying the Northbrook law firm of O’Halloran, Kosoff, Geitner and Cook about $12,000.

The county has spent about two years challenging ICIT’s assertion that Fayette and other counties that had dropped out of the trust should help the trust pay off past claims.

Wayne County initially was with Fayette and Coles counties in the litigation, but it pulled out some time ago, Friedel said.

He also noted that in order to gain settlements with the former participants of the trust, ICIT has spent about $125,000 for legal fees.

Fayette County and other participating counties paid a bond when ICIT was formed, and at dispute was whether the counties would get that bond money back.

“By our accounting,” Friedel said, “we have about $14,000 (in bond money). By their accounting, we don’t.”

Also at Tuesday’s meeting:

• The board awarded a sign upgrade contract to Allied Municipal Supply of Taylorville.

The county will pay the Taylorville firm $101,642.25 for 2,846 new warning and regulatory road signs and 1,237 galvanized steel posts.

• The board approved a new one-year agreement for Fayette County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Steve Koehler.

Koehler reported that EMA had purchased the vehicle formerly used by the Brownstown Fire Protection District as a rescue truck, and that volunteers are working on renovations to the truck.

• Dean Bernhardt, chairman of the board’s EMA committee, said the Koehler is receiving a pay increase of $600. That brings his salary to $14,570.

• Rhonda Andrews, administrator of the Fayette County Health Department, said the department’s new Web site, www.fayettehealthdept.org, is now available online.

• The board accepted the low bid of $167,588 from Depew & Owen Builders Inc. of Centralia for the replacement of a bridge five miles south of Brownstown in Otego Township.

• The board approved a preliminary engineering agreement with STS Consultants of Salem for a bridge replacement in Loudon Township.

• The board approved a letter of support for the CEFS Economic Opportunity Corp. application for grant funds available through the federal homebuyer assistance program.

• The board approved a request to change the disbursement of personal property replacement tax monies received by the county.

In the past, 75 percent of those funds have gone to the county’s general fund, 10 percent went to it Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund and 15 percent went to its highway fund.

The change calls for half of the money to go into the general fund, and the IMRF and highway funds will each receive 25 percent.

County Clerk and Recorder Terri Braun said the county usually receives about $210,000 in personal property replacement tax funds. The change, she said, was recommended by the county’s auditor.