The Madison County Board on Wednesday chose a familiar public servant for the task of leading the Metro East Sanitary District.
In a unanimous vote, the board approved Jim Pennekamp of Granite City, president of the Madison County Flood Prevention District, to fill a commissioner vacancy left after the levee district’s former president, Andy Economy, resigned Nov. 18. The Belleville News-Democrat reported in October that Economy’s Madison auto repair shop was paid $33,150 over a three-year period for work on district vehicles. The newspaper also reported that Economy failed to report the payments to his shop on economic interest documents he’s required to file with the county.
Pennekamp recently retired from his position as special assistant to the chancellor for regional economic development at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and also served 16 years as executive director of the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois. Pennekamp is past president of the RiverBend Growth Association and has served as executive vice president of the Chamber of Commerce of Southwestern Madison County.
At the flood prevention district, Pennekamp works with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to maintain a 74-mile levee system that protects the region from flooding.
“This is such an important issue we’re facing,” County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan said of the levee rehabilitation project. Dunstan and other area political leaders say getting the levees to a 500-year level of flood protection is critical to economic development.
Pennekamp likely will be named president of the district’s board at a January meeting.
“I want to make sure we’ve got the right person in the right place at the right time,” Dunstan said. “Jim Pennekamp will do an outstanding job.”
Before the board’s vote on Pennekamp, five members – Republicans Judy Kuhn of Trenton, Stephen Adler of Alton, Thomas McRae of Bethalto and Lisa Ciampoli of Collinsville, joined by Democrat Helen Hawkins of Granite City – voted against the reappointment of sanitary district Commissioner Frank Laub to a five-year term.
Granite City Democrat Nick Petrillo addressed the board to support Laub’s reappointment.
“I find him to be decent, honest and a person who is not afraid to question,” Petrillo said.
Michael “Mick” Madison, a Bethalto Republican, said the levee district board “showed bad judgment” when it authorized the transactions with Economy’s business.
“I would caution that board to consider that in the future,” Madison said.
Dunstan said shortly after news of the payments to Economy’s shop, the levee district board passed a resolution designed to avoid conflicts of interest in commissioners’ business dealings.
General fund transfer
Adler was the lone vote against transferring $3.2 million from the general fund to the capital projects fund. Treasurer Kurt Prenzler, Dunstan’s Republican opponent in November’s election, issued a statement Monday calling for the board to return the funds to taxpayers in the form of a levy reduction. The $3.2 million is slated to be spent on renovations at the jail and other projects.
Dunstan said he expects the board will reduce the tax levy again next year but cautioned that the state legislature is a wild card because of uncertainty about how a resolution of the budget impasse will affect county governments.
“We don’t know what they’re going to do,” Dunstan said.
“I think our county’s in great financial shape,” he said. “I don’t think we’re trying to hoard money – we’re just trying to meet our obligations.”
East Alton park project
The board approved a 5-year, 3 percent interest $105,930 loan to the village of East Alton to develop the Bill Tite Memorial Lions Park in the 300 block of Ohio Street. The loan fund is administered by the Madison County Community Development Department, operating under the direction of the Madison County Park and Recreation Grant Commission. The commission oversees the operation of the Metro East Park and Recreation District, which was created by a vote of county residents in November 2000. The district is funded by a 1/10th of 1 percent sales tax.