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Local

Lee County Officials eye $43,000 mic system

But bidding process in question

DIXON – Many Lee County Board members want their voices to be heard – literally.

On Tuesday, member Rick Ketchum, D-Amboy, proposed spending $43,000 on a new microphone and voting system. The annual maintenance contract would be $4,300 after the first year.

The system involves wireless microphones, which pick up sound easier, unlike the current system, which requires cords. The new equipment would electronically records members' votes, making it easier for the county clerk's office to keep minutes.

The county received price quotes for the system, including one from a local company, but the lowest was from Johnsburg-based Roll Call-Pro, which specializes in such systems.

Some members questioned whether the law required the county to go through a formal bid process.

Ketchum said he didn't know.

Member Greg Witzleb, R-Dixon, said the county appeared to be "cherry-picking" the company.

"I don't think we're doing this properly," Witzleb said. 

John Nicholson, R-Franklin Grove, and John Ferrone, R-Dixon, agreed.

"I want this [system] as much as anyone, but we have to do it legally," Nicholson said.

Judy Truckenbrod, R-West Brooklyn, wondered whether the members were using a stall tactic.

"We talked about this 2 months ago," she said. "This seems after the fact. I looked online for other companies that do this [type of system]. I found nothing."

Marilyn Shippert, R-Dixon, said the new system would greatly assist the county clerk's office.

"We have done a lot to improve technology in many departments of the county," she said, "but the board is in the stone age."

Ferrone denied any delay tactics, saying he suspected everyone wanted the new system.

However, Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said spending $43,000 on the system wouldn't be responsible.

Ketchum said Roll Call-Pro was offering the $43,000 price for this month only; it'll go up after that. 

State's Attorney Henry Dixon, who is the county's legal adviser, didn't speak. But when asked whether he agreed with statements that the county needed to go out for bids for items over $30,000, he mouthed "yes."

The board made no decision. 

Whiteside County's current microphone system is similar to Lee County's.

In other business

Also at Tuesday's Lee County Board meeting:

• The Lee County Board voted 22-4 for an ordinance allowing the installation of video gaming machines at bars in the unincorporated parts of the county.

Whiteside County already has approved such an ordinance, as have Sterling, Rock Falls, Dixon and Morrison, among other towns.

Some Lee County Board members, including Tom Demmer and Charlie Taylor, questioned whether the ordinance's provision allowing the sheriff to confiscate illegal machines was permitted under state law.

State's Attorney Henry Dixon said he, too, questioned the confiscation part of the ordinance, but he said the board could look into that issue and amend the document later.

"There's no reason you shouldn't pass this ordinance," he said.

Demmer, Taylor, Marvin Williams and David Gusse, all Dixon Republicans, voted against it.

Taylor said the confiscation language was vague and gave the sheriff too much power to confiscate machines without giving due process.

• Last month, the Lee County Board rejected the city of Amboy's request for $7,000 to help fund its community building. Last year, Amboy was one of nine agencies that got part of the $100,000 senior tax levy – an annual process. All but Amboy submitted a request for the next fiscal year.

At Tuesday's board meeting, Amboy Mayor Frank Mekeel requested the board to reconsider. He said the city never received the letter informing it of the opportunity to re-apply for funding.

Mekeel said he also missed the newspaper advertisements about the available money.

"The $7,000 is a subsidy that the community building needs," he said.

The building is where a senior meals program takes place.

Rick Ketchum, D-Amboy, chairman of the board's Finance Committee, said everything was fair game in the budget and that another vote could be taken.

The board voted 15-11 against reconsidering the issue.

• This was the board's last meeting until the Nov. 6 election. The current board has one more meeting after that – Nov. 27. The new terms begin Dec. 1.

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