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Bureau County is forming a committee to discuss reopening the county

Majority of Bureau County Board favors the idea

PRINCETON — Bureau County is forming a committee this week to start discussions about reopening small businesses throughout the county.

Bureau County Chairwoman Marshann Entwhistle (R-Princeton) plans to speak with every mayor in the county to see how they feel about reopening businesses in an attempt to get people back to work.

This news came out during Tuesday’s Bureau County Board meeting which took place over a Zoom teleconference due to the shelter-in-place order.

Bureau County Board Member Connie Stetson (R-Neponset) pushed for the formation of a committee to begin meeting as soon as the next day. She volunteered herself for the committee and also urged that Bureau County Sheriff Jim Reed and Bureau County State’s Attorney Geno Caffarini be a part of the discussions.

Stetson expressed her frustrations over big box stores like Walmart being able to sell things like clothing, health and beauty products and knickknacks, while small businesses who sell the same items be forced to stay closed under Pritzker’s shelter-in-place order.

“Why can Walmart sell you a Hallmark card, but the Hallmark store cannot be open? It doesn’t make sense,” she said.

Stetson said if safety guidelines like social distancing, wearing masks and limiting the number of people in the store at once can be followed in Walmart, they can also be followed in small businesses. She added that hair dressers can also follow safety guidelines.

Stetson said she feels Bureau County is being held hostage because of the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Cook County.

“Cook County has 53,000 cases, Lake County has 5,000 cases and DuPage County has 5,000 cases. Bureau County — (15) cases,” she said. “Something needs to be done. We’re not up in that 50,000 like Cook County. We need to get something done.”

Stetson also pointed out that Illinois’ stay-at-home order is one of the most restrictive in the nation and ranks 48th in the country as being the most restrictive. Surrounding states like Missouri rank 4th, Iowa is 10th and Indiana is 16th.

Stetson asked to hear fellow board members’ stance on wanting to reopen the county. Those who responded over the phone and are in favor of it include Dan Rabe (R-Princeton), Robin Rediger (R-Buda), Jim Thompson (R-Sheffield), Keith Cain (R-Princeton), Chris Maynard (D-Walnut), Joe Bickett (D-Hollowayville), Marsha Lilley (R-Princeton), Kerwin Paris (R-LaMoille), Derek Whited (R-Princeton) and Paul Humpage (D-Spring Valley).

Those against it who responded were Bob McCook (D-Cherry), Tom Dobrich (D-DePue) and Mary Jane Marini (D-Spring Valley).

Those against reopening the county at this time stated safety concerns, which Stetson fired back that they could stay home.

“If you think you’re not going to be safe, then stay home just like you’re doing now. But other people want to get out,” she said.

Rabe said he’s had more phone calls on this matter from residents than he ever did when people were protesting wind farms.

“The people are concerned, and I get it. If you’re at home and you’re getting paid, it isn’t as big of a deal. But there are people that aren’t getting paid and they don’t like to hear their job is not essential, because we all work either way,” he said.

Cain said Main Streets are already having trouble surviving and are really going to struggle if they don’t open up soon. He added that the county is also going to take a hit from this.

“We have a jail to pay for, and our sales tax is going to take a total dip on this thing,” he said.

“Politics aside, I don’t care what side you’re on, we’re going to pay for this in the long run.”

Marini, although against reopening the county just yet, said gathering a committee to discuss the matter was a good thing to do.

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