Cala Smoldt/Correspondent


Mercer County Board members learned former board members and current owner of General Grind, Mark Bieri, is personally funding an economic development position to support the county. He introduced Kasandra Henshaw to the board.


County Administrator Ron Fullerlove said the position has nothing to do with the county, "I have no idea what he is willing to pay her, she does not have a position on any county board, nor does she have any appointment whatsoever from the county, it is strictly a private position funded by Mark Bieri."


County board member Steve Moreland presented a motion to the board - to ‘cooperate’ with the initiative.


"We would do that with anybody whether we had a motion or not, it’s not our position it’s not our appointment, we will certainly help her in any way we can we feel will help Mercer County," said Fullerlove. "What he says he wants her to do is to create an atmosphere to promote economic development in Mercer Country. What his exact plans are for her I do not know.


"I think it’s laudable, it’s great, we’re just not involved in it," he said.


The board also heard inmate numbers are the Mercer County Jail are almost back up to pre-COVID population. Sheriff Dusty Terrill said, "The first three months of the year we averaged 30 foreign inmates. We are now back up to 28."


The jail currently houses, 18 US marshal service, five Cook County, five Warren County.


"I appreciate the Correctional Officers who always step up without complaint, even with all the COVID restrictions that I have implemented, to safely and securely house these inmates.


He said the ability to house inmates helps bring in additional revenue to the county - currently about $1,620 per day.


Fullerlove said fiber optic internet is currently being routed from the entry in the basement of the courthouse - to each office.


"The Viola telephone was very gracious to bring fiber optics to the building awhile back… The public building commission agreed to dip into their money, not county money - to expand wiring from entry point in basement to all of the offices in the building. These heavy, concrete, plaster walls are not conducive to putting cable through - they’re mounting surface mounted brackets to pull that cable through."


In other news:


Department heads have turned in preliminary budget items for next year. The board will be presented with the 2021 budget at the October meeting.


County union workers are two years outside of their contract. Progress is being made, said Fullerlove, "We’re getting a lot closer to union negotiations, boiling down to a couple key issues."


Fullerlove said they’re working on obtaining the CURES grant, "The state says we can get reimbursed up to $299,000. We’re currently fighting with Illinois department that governs that to get us the right forms... working with health department on that," he said. According to Fullerlove the funds would be good for up to 75% reimbursement of county employee salaries who had to work from home due to COVID-19, and other adversely affected financial hardships caused by the pandemic.