Photo by Andrew Richards
The Madison County Jail in Edwardsville.
EDWARDSVILLE — A scaled-back Madison County Jail renovation plan moved forward Wednesday as a citizens’ group representative vowed to speak out about what he calls excessive spending on the project.
The Madison County Board voted 27 to 1 to award a $733,000 contract to AAIC, a Collinsville architectural and planning services firm. The contract is the first step in a $9.3 million project to fix the most severe deficiencies at the 40-year-old jail.
Stephen Adler (R-Alton) was the lone dissenting vote.
The county’s initial plan to finance an $18.8 million renovation through a bond issue was defeated by a 2-to-1 margin in the March 18, 2014, election after the Bonds on the Ballot group collected 23,000 signatures to let voters decide whether the county should borrow the money.
Dan L. Smith of Bethalto was among those involved with the effort to allow voters to decide the bond issue. He told the board Wednesday the group doesn’t believe the jail requires $9.3 million in work and suggested the county focus on property tax relief.
“You have lost credibility,” Smith said. “We will be watching this closely.”
A press release Wednesday from Madison County Republican Party Chairman Chris Slusser hailed the revised project as a “win for taxpayers.
“Instead of being forced to accept Alan Dunstan’s original ‘Cadillac version’ of the so-called ‘renovation’ project that involved all sorts of unnecessary bells, whistles and a massive amount of debt, the County Board is now taking a much more reasonable approach to making the needed repairs to the jail’s infrastructure that involves no borrowing,” Slusser said.
The first phase of the project is expected to cost $4 million and would correct deficiencies, while the second phase would involve cellblock work. The board will vote on each phase, County Board Chairman Alan J. Dunstan said.
In a press release issued after the meeting, Dunstan defended the county’s initial plan, saying it would not have resulted in a tax increase.
“The initial proposal, issuing bonds to fund the entire jail renovation project would — over the long-term — have resulted in considerable savings to taxpayers,” Dunstan said. “Funding for the project was from existing revenue with no new taxes. The same funds will now be utilized to renovate the jail on a piecemeal basis.”
Dunstan said the initial proposal received the support of the majority of Madison County Board members.
“Even after a new plan was developed, a plan supported by members of both parties, several individuals outside the County Board, individuals associated with the extreme right, continued to voice opposition,” Dunstan said. “Today, the county board made the right vote and I am glad they are now in support of the project.”
Democratic and Republican board members concurred on the need for the renovations.
“I think the first phase … is something we have to do,” Thomas K. McRae (R-Bethalto) said, adding that his tour of the jail highlighted urgent problems.
“I wouldn’t want any member of my family there with conditions as they are now,” Helen Hawkins (D-Granite City) said.
In other action:
• Seven Republicans —Judy Kuhn of Trenton, William S. Meyer of Highland, Michael (Mick) Madison of Bethalto, Adler, Brad Maxwell of Edwardsville, McRae and Lisa Ciampoli of Collinsville — voted against a resolution to provide pay raises for the circuit clerk, auditor, recorder, coroner and County Board chairman. The resolution would freeze their salaries until Dec. 1, 2017, when the salaries would increase 2 percent per year until Dec. 1, 2019. The salaries for circuit clerk, auditor, recorder and coroner are $109,990; the chairman’s salary is $101,168.
The board is legally required to determine the salaries of positions up for election in November 2016 before the election, according to the resolution.
The board also voted to freeze the salaries of board members at $14,495 per year until 2020.
• The board approved a tentative agreement with the Policemen’s Benevolent Labor Committee that provides sheriff’s deputies with annual raises of 2.25 percent through Dec. 1, 2016, and increases the county’s clothing allowance for deputies from $550 to $750 per year.