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Local

County to mayor: No compromise

Princeton leader’s referendum ‘deal’ gets cold shoulder

PRINCETON — The Bureau County Board refuses to compromise with Princeton Mayor Joel Quiram when it comes to referendums for the November election.

During the county board’s meeting on Thursday, board member Keith Cain announced that Quiram had proposed a deal with the county board.

The deal would have required the county to reduce its proposed one-half percent sales tax increase to one-fourth percent this November to generate funds for a new law enforcement center.

In return, Quiram would propose the Princeton City Council ask for a one-fourth percent sales tax increase instead of a one-half percent increase for the purpose of generating funds for street improvements throughout the city.

Cain said Quiram said he would support the county board’s referendum if its asking amount was reduced. Quiram publicly opposed the county’s referendum in last month’s primary election through online Facebook posts.

Cain’s message of Quiram’s offer was met with many county board members shaking their heads and saying “no” out loud.

Board member Connie Stetson was the first to raise her hand to comment on Quiram’s offer.

“Sounds like Mayor Quiram of Princeton wants to play, ‘Let’s Make A Deal,’” she said.

“Mayor Quiram of Princeton had an agenda from the start. He wants to raise the sales tax in Princeton, and he knew if our referendum went through, his would be harder to sell to the public. What Mayor Quiram of Princeton needs to know is that Bureau County is made of many towns, not just Princeton. We are here as board members to do what is right for the county as a whole.”

Stetson said county board members had meetings and many talks with Quiram and “the correct facts” were given to him before last month’s election.

“Mayor Quiram of Princeton twisted the facts as he wanted the people to read them on his Facebook page,” she said.

Stetson’s comments were met with a full round of applause from board members.

Board member Mike Kohr made a statement regarding regretful things said during the time leading up to the primary election. He said the thing that bothered him most was the allegations and insinuation about the competence and integrity of the county board.

“Bureau County is fiscally stable with high ratings and the actuary/auditor recommended reserves in our general fund. When our current board chairman Dale Anderson was appointed as finance chairman back in the early 2000s, our reserves were less than five percent of the recommended operating reserves. Through his leadership as finance chair and board chairman and under Marshann Entwhistle, current chairperson of the finance committee, we are now at the recommended reserve amount,” he said.

“As a Democratic member of the minority party in Bureau County, I can attest to this steady, focused, disciplined fiscal stewardship with great degree of admiration and respect. To paraphrase Mike Ditka, in Bureau County we throw nickels around like manhole covers. I hope the public understands that and sees through the cloud that was tossed in front of them during this last referendum.”

Cain told board members he’d report back to Quiram and let him know the board’s consensus about his offer.

Board member Deb Feeney made the comment that Quiram should come to a meeting so the whole board could tell him their consensus on the matter.

“Invite him. We’d love to talk to him as a group,” she said.

Moving forward, the county board has full intentions to propose a one-half percent sales tax increase in the November election with hopes it will pass and generate a funding source for a future law enforcement center. Like the previous proposal, which failed by only six votes last month, the tax hike would come with a 20-year sunset clause.

During Thursday’s meeting, the board authorized transferring $725,000 out of its Interest on County Investments Fund to the Jail Capital Projects Fund with plans to use it to purchase the Bureau County Republican building at 800 Ace Road in Princeton.

Building and Grounds Chairperson Kristi Warren confirmed that money would be paid for the sale of the building very soon.

County Board Chairman Dale Anderson also asked County Administrator Sharon Schallhorn and Bureau County State’s Attorney Geno Caffarini to begin drawing up a request for tenders for architectural services so the county could be “shovel ready,” once the referendum passes.

The plan is to spend $12 million in renovations to transform the BCR building into a law enforcement center that will house the Bureau County Jail, Bureau County 911 and Bureau County Coroner’s Office.

In the meantime, the Bureau County Jail continues to struggle with overcrowding of inmates and will have to pay a penalty for it. The county was recently cited following an inspection conducted by Illinois Corrections, according to Warren.

She said Bureau County Jail had too many inmates per the 50-square-foot-per-inmate rule. Deputies were forced to remove two beds and convert four cells into holding cells.

To help relieve the overcrowding issue, LaSalle County Board and LaSalle County Sheriff Tom Templeton have offered to house inmates at LaSalle County Jail at a cost of $30 per inmate per day for the interim.

Board members accepted this deal during Thursday’s meeting.

“If this turns into a long-term situation, this price will be adjusted to a full-time cost. Our committee was very appreciative of the offer,” Warren said.

Following the meeting, Warren said the number of inmates that will need to be housed over in LaSalle County will vary, but could end up being anywhere from one to 10 inmates at a time.

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