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Local

Board pushes back vote on law enforcement ordinances

DIXON – The bundle of law enforcement regulations that would make it easier for the county to fine repeat offenders was pushed back another month after more concerns among Lee County Board members.

The ordinance groups more than a dozen offenses based on frequent complaints the Sheriff's Department receives, and sets fines ranging from $100 to $750.

The offenses are abandoned and inoperable vehicles, loud noise after hours, fighting in businesses or public places, public urination or defecation, trespassing, curfew, disobeying police officers, underage drinking, illegal fireworks, farm animals roaming at large, public drunkenness, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol at a private campground.

Board Vice President Marilyn Shippert said she has received more comments and concerns from constituents on this issue than anything else, and most are opposed to the piece about livestock roaming at large.

Roaming livestock was included in large part to numerous complaints made by county resident Andrew Hayen, 31, who told the board Tuesday that he reported 10 incidents in the last year of his neighbor's pigs going onto his property as well as standing in the road.

It's a safety concern, and the animals are not appropriately fenced, he said.

Ordinance violations require a more lax burden of proof than criminal offenses, focusing on preponderance of the evidence rather than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. More than half of the evidence would need to point to the offense, as in civil cases.

"The burden is smaller but so is the penalty," State's Attorney Matt Klahn said, adding that the current fines set by state statute are higher for the violations, which would be misdemeanors.

Board member Rick Humphrey said he was concerned it would make writing a ticket easier but harder for community members to defend themselves.

People would still be able to contest the tickets, Sheriff John Simonton said.

Board members also repeated issues with having all of the violations together in one ordinance, rather than making separate votes.

"There's good things in there, but I think it's too many things lumped together," Humphrey said.

The ordinance, which was introduced in June, was tabled last month for more review and discussion in board committees, and Simonton said they're open to input and amendments, but no one has formally brought up issues during the last month.

Board Chairman Jim Wentling advised board members to go to the public safety and administrative services committees, which next meet at 9 a.m. Sept. 12 and 9 a.m. Sept. 10, respectively, at the old Lee County Courthouse.

The ordinances would apply only to complaints in unincorporated areas in the county; cities are responsible for enforcing their own codes.

NEXT MEETING

The Lee County Board next meets at 6 p.m. Sept. 18 in the third-floor board room of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St.

The agenda will be posted at leecountyil.com 2 days before the meeting.

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