By Bob Balgemann
BELVIDERE – The Boone County Board has approved hiring a planning consultant, while it studies available options after voting Feb. 17 to terminate the long standing agreement with the city of Belvidere, to have a joint planning department.
The only change to the 5-0 recommendation from the administrative and legislative committee was suggested by board member Cathy Ward. Her amendment, which was approved in an 11-1 vote, removed the sentence placing a 60-day time limit on how long the consultant would be retained.
“I want to be sure the (planning) office is covered,” she said. “It may take more than 60 days” to make a decision on what to do next.
The motion, as amended, also passed, 11-1, with board member Kenny Freeman dissenting both times.
Committee Chairperson Sherry Giesecke said options already are under study.
In addition, leaders of the county’s four municipalities were scheduled to attend a special committee meeting March 23 to discuss their current and future planning needs.
“We will have all data, such as costs, at the April (committee) meeting,” she said.
Freeman said he voted no because “I was real happy with our (joint) planning department.”
The county board on Feb. 17 voted 8-4, with Freeman one of the dissenters, to give the city of Belvidere 90 days’ notice of its intent to terminate the intergovernmental agreement.
Since then, City council has hired Gina DelRose, associate planner for the joint department, as Belvidere’s new planner. Her first day is today (Thursday, March 24).
Higher jury costs
In other action at the March 16 county board meeting, in a 12-0 vote, approved a resolution calling for a solution to the ever-increasing burden higher jury costs are placing on the county.
An Illinois law, effective June 1, 2015, increased juror compensation to $25 for the first day and $50 for each succeeding day. In addition, the law reduced the number of jurors from 12 to six for a civil trial.
However, a Cook County Circuit Judge on Dec. 21, declared the law to be unconstitutional. That returned the size of a civil jury to 12, while leaving the higher compensation in place.
Given that, the county board’s resolution states Boone County “cannot tolerate any judicial or legislative resolution of this unconstitutional issue that retains the higher level of juror compensation and reinstates the 12-member civil jury.”

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