Executive orders keep health department busy

Cala Smoldt/Correspondent

ALEDO — The Mercer County Board met a second month in a row via video chat in an effort to minimize unnecessary contact due to the coronavirus.

As of May 10, Mercer County has 12 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to the Mercer County Health Department. The first positive test was announced April 2

MCHD Administrator Carla Ewing told the board since the start of the pandemic, she and staff have been working seven days a week.

“The hard part has been the executive orders, and the inordinate amount of time we spend on the phone trying to provide guidance (to businesses).

She said they work on providing guidance as executive orders change.

“The biggest change is universal masking requirement for those two years old and above, who are medically able, they must (indoors).”

“We are taking more of a soft approach, more of an educational approach, working very closely with (Sheriff Dusty Terrill) and (State’s Attorney Meeghan Lee), on what kind of enforcement issues we’re looking at to try to keep the public as safe as we can — but also try to be reasonable.”

She told board members her department checks in on confirmed cases twice a day, and monitors their symptoms. “If they’re presenting anything new we highly recommend they go see their provider.”

The health department notifies those they came in close contact with, We quarantine and then check on them to make sure they are asymptomatic.” Those quarantined due to close contact are usually quarantined at home, she said.

Mercer County Sheriff Dusty Terrill told the board domestic trouble calls are up 27% from the middle of March to the middle of April — compared to the same time frame last year.

The jail currently has 14 Mercer County inmates, and 20 inmates from outside of the county — of those 16 are from the U.S. Marshals Service, three from Cook County, and one Warren County inmate.

“The outside county numbers are lower, partially because of fewer arrests and partially because I want to minimize the risk of bringing outside inmates to our jail increasing risk of outbreak inside,” said Terrill.

At the current numbers the jail is bringing in $36,900 each month.

Courthouse elevator modernization work is going out for bid, according to Mercer County Administrator Ron Fullerlove. According to Public Building Commissioner, Montie Schell, the earliest work could begin would be after the November election.

“Due to the lead time to order the equipment and schedule crews they wouldn’t get started until October, and the construction schedule is six to 10 weeks. That puts it right in the middle of an election … the busiest time in the courthouse. With being postponed last year and getting bids out during COVID, that is where we are,” said Schell.

Schell said all equipment, electrical and cylinder will be replaced — and the cap will be updated.

The Public Building Commission has the funds earmarked to replace the elevator. Work on the 53-year-old elevator was delayed last year while the board compared the cost of courthouse repairs to moving integral courthouse services.

Installed in 1967, the elevator was expected to have a 20 to 30 year life.

Ron Fullerlove, county administrator, said a ‘drop box’ is being installed in front of the courthouse. Residents will be able to drop off tax payments and fines, to further decrease traffic into the courthouse.

Tax bills went out May 5, according to Treasurer Bev Lower. Due dates are June 26 and Sept. 11. She said distribution should be around July 10.

She asked county department heads to keep an eye on their fund balance, “If it’s getting low we need to figure out what we need to do to keep functioning,” she said.

Lower said money from the state is coming in a slower than normal. “It’s that time of year where we do get slim coming up on distribution.”

Fullerlove said work on next year’s budget is set to begin the first of June. “We’re not sure until we see the results of sales tax — what kind of definite we’re going to see this year,” he said he’s already challenging department heads to look at current balances compared to how much time is left in the year, “So we don’t get down to the 12th month and start making adjustments,” said Fullerlove, “A lot of our tax revenues are going to be down next year.”

“We need to be tightening our belts looking forward because we don’t know what we’re going to be dealing with,” said District 4 board member Josh Frieden, R-New Boston.

The board also reappointed Gary Grant Esslinger as Trustee on the Greene Township Fire Protection District.