County, Ameren officials speak at Chamber breakfast

Adam Larck/ TimesNewspapers
Tazewell County Administrator Michael Freilinger talks about finances in the county at the East Peoria Chamber of Commerce Eggs & Issues breakfast Friday.

After Tazewell County Board Chairman David Zimmerman spoke Friday at Eggs and Issues in East Peoria, County Administrator Michael Freilinger had one correction to make.

Freilinger said that Tazewell County does not have the fourth or fifth lowest property tax rate in the state, it has the lowest property tax rate in the state. 

During his talk about the country for the upcoming year, Zimmerman said that the board had the option to raise the rate to provide more services, but decided to stay low for residents and figure out other means to provide services. One of these ways is imposed fees, such as fees that  the county’s animal control department charges.

Currently, the county operates with a $60 million budget. Freilinger said the county is also debt-free after recently paying off the county administration building.

“We are in great financial shape,” Zimmerman said.

Helping bring money into the county has been a continuing interest in economic development.

“Tazewell County has been the one county in central Illinois that has been more committed to economic development than anyone else,” Zimmerman said.

He gave examples of Monsanto investing $25 million in Tazewell County with a new expansion and the Excel Foundry being 

constructed south of Pekin. 

Moving away from the budget, Zimmerman discussed the latest space needs study that was recently completed. The results of the study suggested three things: a new county board building, expanding the justice center and possibly putting a parking deck in downtown Pekin.

Zimmerman said the last option would cost between $12-$16 million and, if pursued, may be done in conjunction with Pekin.

Looking ahead, both Zimmerman and Freilinger said that the county plans to cap the landfill in Pekin that has remained stagnant for a number of years after the original owner went bankrupt. Capping the landfill will cost between $2-$3 million.

Freilinger also said the county is trying to correct the wage structure to be more competitive when hiring county workers. 

After hearing the update about the county, Steve Bergquist and Tim Lee, both from Ameren Illinois, talked about storms and power outages.

Lee started the presentation by talking about what people need in a safety preparedness kit. Things Lee listed included medicine, flashlights and batteries, clothes and canned food and water.

He also said to keep objects secured down, as they can become projectiles in a tornado.

Bergquist, meanwhile, gave an overview of operations in the central Illinois area. He said that division one, which covers Tazewell County, Peoria, Galesburg and Kewanee areas, features more than 9,600 miles of overhead wire.

The area, along with much of Ameren Illinois, now uses a Modernization Action Plan that has made the system into a smart-grid system. The system helps to show where exactly power outages are to make responses quicker for fixes.

Bergquist ended by giving some statistics on the damage Washington took in the Nov. 17, 2013, tornado. 

He said power was restored to 95 percent of residents within two days after the storm. In total, 912 poles and 112 miles of wire were replaced, along with 274 transformers.

Ameren Illinois, along with 773 contractors, put in 70,500 man hours of work.