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Agency deals with ‘illegal issues’

LOTS doesn’t know how much Oregon senior center owes

DIXON – The head of a Dixon-based transit agency says an Oregon senior center owes her agency money, but she has “no idea” how much. She blamed the problems on her predecessor.

In a meeting last month, Jaime Blatti, the director of the Lee-Ogle Transportation System, or LOTS, said “illegal issues” happened with grants in 2011, according to the unapproved meeting minutes. Blatti took over the following year.

The minutes state that Rock River Center owes much more to the system than invoices indicated. At the July 19 meeting, Blatti spoke about grants that her agency had received.

“There were illegal issues that happened in 2011 that were sent in as reimbursement and the grant stated each [agency] had to provide a local match,” Blatti told the LOTS board at last month’s meeting, according to the minutes.

In an interview Monday, Blatti declined to explain her statement.

Asked how much the Rock River Center owed, Blatti said, “Nobody would know. I can honestly say I have no idea. It would take an auditing team from the state to figure it out.”

Blatti said she didn’t know what happened before she took the job.

“I can’t chase every dollar over the past 5, 6 or 7 years,” she said.

She said the problems took place under Roxanne Bauer, who resigned from the position in 2010 after a number of years at the helm. Bauer didn’t return a message for comment.

Blatti said her organization isn’t pursuing the money owed by Rock River Center. Asked about the reference to an invoice in the meeting minutes, she responded, “There’s an invoice, but it didn’t come from me.” She declined to say who sent it.

Ann Haas, Rock River Center’s executive director, said Monday that her agency hadn’t received any invoice since she took the helm April 1. She said she had not heard anything before about owing money to LOTS.

Resistance in Ogle County

Meanwhile, LOTS, which provides public transportation, says it is facing resistance in Ogle County.

Last year, two Ogle County transportation providers, Rock River Center in Oregon and Hub City Senior Center in Rochelle, pulled out of LOTS, citing insufficient funding. Other agencies, officials said, picked up the slack.

At last month’s meeting of the LOTS board, Ogle County Board Chairman Kim Gouker contended his county was not receiving the services from the system that it should, according to meeting minutes. He said he rejected a request to provide county money to the agency.

LOTS board member Geoff Vanderlin said if the two counties provided local matches for grants, the agency could offer more services.

Gouker also objected to the new transit facility in Dixon, which recently opened near Interstate 88 and Galena Avenue. He said the money going toward that would hurt Ogle County’s services, adding that his county never supported having the building.

“I don’t think the transit building benefits the people of Ogle County,” he said Monday in an interview. “I have had several questions from residents of Ogle County. I don’t get really good answers.”

Blatti said she doesn’t understand Gouker’s opposition.

“Isn’t it sad that he wanted us to be homeless? What’s the reason they don’t want the building?” she said.

As for Rock River Center, Gouker said Blatti had no documentation to back up her statements. He said the reference to illegal issues is “an awfully strong statement” to be made at a public meeting without giving specifics.

“That was beyond the pale,” he said.

‘No reason for us to walk backward’

LOTS is a department of Lee County, which is the fiscal agent for the agency’s grants. The Ogle County government has “no rights or ownership” in the system, Blatti said.

The agency has generated revenue from such agencies as Sinnissippi Centers in Lee County, but doesn’t receive much in Ogle County. Blatti said she wanted to team up with Gouker to increase revenue.

LOTS formed a finance committee for that purpose, but at last month’s board meeting, it was announced that the committee had been dissolved.

“The intent was to produce revenue in Ogle County,” the minutes state, “but due to much resistance, that is not an option.”

Blatti asked Sauk Valley Media not to do a story on its issues with Rock River Center and Ogle County.

“We don’t want to put a negative light on the transportation system,” she said. “It hurts everyone involved. There’s no reason for us to walk backward.”

To attend

The Lee County Board meets at 9 this morning on the third floor of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St. in Dixon.

The board will hear a report on the Lee-Ogle Transportation System.

For an agenda for this meeting, minutes from past meetings, or more information, go to www.countyoflee.org or call 815-288-5676.

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