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Talk on county chairman hike leads to county administrator discussion

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

In the five months that he has served as the chairman of the Fayette County Board, Steve Knebel learned why his predecessor recommended a pay hike for the seat as he left office.

And as the board talked about such a pay raise last Thursday, the discussion on county operations went a little further.

When Dean Black left the chairmans seat last November, he suggested raising the board leaders monthly salary from $200 to $500. He said such an increase is justified because of the number of meetings and trips required of the chairman as he represents the county.

It may be time to increase it, Knebel said. However, instead of the $300 increase suggested by Black, Knebel recommended a $100 increase in the stipend, and the finance committee supported his recommendation.

I dont want to get it to where youre doing it for the money, he said, adding that he has talked to board chairmen in some neighboring counties and that he plans to talk to more in the future.

But board members Greg Fulk and Jeff Beckman supported such a large increase.

Fulk said he doesnt believe that a stipend of $500 is out of line.

Beckman added, Its very time-consuming $500 is fair.

Board member Lee Schaal agreed that it is a lot of work, and noted that the board chairman is on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

But Knebel and Beckman then talked about the possibility of the county hiring a county administrator. Beckman said they could expect to pay that person, who would oversee all county operations, $70,000 or more annually.

Discussions on adding such a position, Knebel said, will likely occur this year.

Knebel was recommending that the pay increase for the chairman go into effect at the beginning of December, after the board elects a new chairman.

Because of that, and the fact that board members want to further consider the amount of a raise and the possibility of hiring a county administrator, the board agreed at the recommendation of Darrell Schaal to table the pay increase.

Lets let Steve get a few more months under his belt and come back and give us his feeling, Schaal said.

Also at the meeting:

Fayette County Emergency Management Agency Steve Koehler said he would be canvassing the county to assess damage caused by recent flooding.

Koehler also reported that he would be attending a meeting on national flood insurance in Effingham on April 30, and that he would report to the board on that meeting.

The county is currently not covered by national flood insurance.

The board approved the re-appointment of William Robison to the Brownstown Fire Protection District Board of Trustees, and the appointment of Craig Opfer to the St. Peter Fire Protection District Board of Trustees. Opfer succeeds Dennis Meseke.

Each will serve a three-year term that begins on the first Monday in May.

The board accepted the low bid of $152,208 from Depew and Owen Builders Inc. of Centralia for the replacement of a bridge southwest of Vandalia in Bear Grove Township.

The board approved an agreement with Union Pacific Railroad and the Illinois Department of Transportation for the upgrade of railroad crossing warning devices in Loogootee. Federal funds are being used for the improvements.

The board approved the appropriation of $175,000 in county Motor Fuel Tax Funds for the Rural Local Agency Traffic Sign Upgrade Program.

County Highways Engineer Michael Maxey said the county will be reimbursed for that expenditure, and explained that all signs excluding street signs and parking signs are included in the program.