By Bob Balgemann

These are unprecedented times created by the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, and continuing almost two years later. In the hope that impacts of the life-threatening COVID-19 will decrease before long, Boone County Administrator Kevin Catlin is focusing on what lies ahead, with “forging change” the theme of his annual report.

That report was on the agenda for the Dec. 16 county board meeting and, initially, there wasn’t any discussion among members.

“There is no point to go through it,” the administrator said. “It’s attached” to the meeting packet of information provided for board members.

Still, board Chairman Karl Johnson called for questions. There were none. Then he called for comments. Initially, there were none. But then board member Rodney Riley brought up an unrelated topic, the ongoing search for a new circuit court clerk.

“I think this is all something we need to have impact in,” he said. “We’ve got a lot to look at; it’s a huge position. It is a very specialized job and we want to make sure that whoever we put in that position is ready to supervise people, be a level head, and hit the ground running.”

Linda J. Anderson is retiring after beginning her employment in the Office of the Circuit Clerk on Oct. 24, 1983. She was appointed clerk of the Circuit Court by the county board on Nov. 19, 2014, and elected to a first term on Nov. 6, 2016. The board, also on Dec. 16, approved a resolution honoring her for almost 40 years of service to the people of Boone County.

There was no follow-up to Riley’s comments as board member Steve Schabacker welcomed Tom Walberg to a District 2 seat on the board. After a brief pause, Schabacker added, “If that’s all right.”

“Maybe we should take a vote on that,” someone interjected, jokingly, apparently in response to the discussion that accompanied his appointment by a split vote earlier in the meeting.

“You certainly can do that,” Johnson told Schabacker.

Board member Dave Wiltse had another issue but said he didn’t know when to approach it. The topic had to do with electric cars, something he said “we keep hearing about.”

“The disposal of batteries is not green,” he continued. “And they run on electricity. How is that created? Coal-fired plants, primarily. And here in Illinois we have more nuclear plants than anywhere else, and we keep shutting them down. As we approach these issues we need to approach them very carefully, and not just get onto a slide that’s going downhill, into the pool.”

In the report

Coincidentally, the subject of electric cars was touched on in Catlin’s annual report that looked at impending change. It was one of six “drivers of change” that he specified and read:

“The Belvidere Stellantis plant is poised (to) set the stage for a resilient comeback due to the recent legislation signed by Gov. Pritzker. Electric vehicles are the way forward and will innovate the vehicle manufacturing process in the county. Incentivizing green economic development is vital (to) preserving and creating jobs here.”

Here are some of the other “drivers” listed by the administrator:

• Renewables. “Solar and wind are growing steadily in the United States. Solar is outpacing wind because installation costs have dropped 55 percent since 2010. Utilities, independent power producers and even consumers are now feeding clean electricity to the grid. Our neighboring counties are embracing this technology to feed their economy and improve the environment. Google has offset 100 percent of their footprint.”

The county board at its Dec. 16 meeting, in a series of 5-5 votes with one “present,” rejected three requests for one-year extensions of special use permits for solar projects at various locations around the county.

• New industry. “Diversification of industry is crucial to garner higher incomes for units of local government. However, it is still important to focus on current specializations, such as the current Stellantis investment. Marketing Boone County as forward thinking will be (a) necessary step to attract new businesses, which would likely shield against an economic decline if any particular industry experiences a downturn.”

• Customer relationships. “Our constituents want to engage with government officials in a more robust way than ever before. Collaboration is an important tactic to leverage when important decisions are being considered affecting the entire community. We must define a clear process for improving citizens’ experiences, while achieving success measured against our purpose, expenditures, and board goals.”

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