The Watch | Election Commission discusses early voting spike



God love the people who keep doing their jobs without drama and fanfare, despite the hot mess which has been 2020. And that includes most of our public officials.

On Oct. 13, Peoria County Election Commission geared up for the Nov. 3 election, learning that early voting was up 300% over 2016.

Commissioners were told 32,000 ballots had been mailed and 15,800 had been returned — about 1,000 of them because the voter had changed his/her mind. Ballots postmarked by Election Day would be counted through Nov. 17, with the official canvas on Nov. 18.

Three different grants were approved: The $109,000 Center for Tech and Civic Life Grant, which can be used for any election expenses for this election, and has been used so far for extra staff. The $246,000 federal Cares Act Grant has, so far, been used to purchase a $83,000 ballot return envelope scanner and any Personal Protective Equipment not received from the state of Illinois. The third grant was a postage grant for $90,000; between $56,000 and $57,000 was used for the application mailing and the first ballot mailing.

Peoria Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners met Oct. 5, via Zoom. William Purham and Renee Andrews were absent, but there was a quorum; there were no community comments.

Chief Executive Officer Jackie Newman said renovations at the main office will allow residents to do business with PHA staff using kiosks instead of in-person interactions. Work order repairs and inspections of properties continue. Communication with residents of Taft Homes regarding redevelopment project continues. Peoria Area Food Bank is relocating its warehouse, leaving the building adjacent to PHA offices available for PHA storage use.

A report was given on the one-year and five-year agency plan, which includes capital improvements. PHA works with the city of Peoria on this; public hearings and a public comment period have been held. Resolution to approve was unanimous. In other business, replacement for 10 roofs at Harrison and nine scattered-site homes were approved.
On Oct. 8, Peoria County Board members met in person, though some board members phoned in and the public was encouraged to watch the meeting virtually.

The first item was a vote to suspend the existing rules and allow board members to vote by phone.

Chairman Andrew Rand began public comments by saying there were so many comments on one agenda item — the Hanna City Trail resolution — that a representative comment would be read and the other 324 supportive comments would be entered into the record. The one comment opposing the resolution was also read.

County Administrator Scott Sorrel explained the intergovernmental agreement between Peoria County, Farmington and Hanna City for the Hanna City Trail Negotiation Commission. He said Fulton County was no longer able to participate, but the others could continue.

According to Sorrel, federal and state grants could cover up to 90% of the purchase price of the property. He said 2,000 individuals signed petitions earlier this year in support of the trail.

District 1 representative Sharon Williams was cited for years of work on the project. The vote was unanimous to approve.

Peoria City Council members discussed financial matters on Oct. 20.

Peoria Township is keeping costs down and anticipating possible future COVID-19 costs. The council voted to issue bonds secured by Hotel, Restaurant and Amusement taxes to save the Peoria Civic Center. There was discussion of fire department changes and settlement.

While there were positive comments about the budget process, Mayor Jim Ardis noted a lot depends on state funding which had anticipated passage of the Fair Tax Amendment on Nov. 3. (That amendment failed.)

There were heated exchanges between council members about Councilman John Kelly’s proposed Urban Decay Tax Abatement Area. While tax increment financing districts are intended to provide incentives that spur investment in blighted areas, there are concerns that TIFs result in gentrification that makes properties too expensive for the original residents.

Peoria City/County Landfill Committee held a special meeting at the Twin Towers on Oct. 7, its first in-person meeting since March.

A report from Foth Engineering covered pre-approved special wastes: seven approvals were given on items from asbestos-related wastes to treated wood and contaminated soil and debris. Other reports covered: A gas flare shut-down in August; no gases were released. A monitoring well had acetone levels; an alternate source write-up will be done for Illinois EPA. The annual dam owner’s certification and maintenance inspection, which found no problems; the paperwork is ready for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

League of Women Voters of Greater Peoria observers attend and report on local government meetings. Check

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