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County board fighting virtual meeting difficulties

Board hasn’t been meeting in person due to COVID-19

Ogle County Board Chairman John Finfrock (center) leads a virtual meeting of the board from the Ogle County Courthouse on Tuesday.
Ogle County Board Chairman John Finfrock (center) leads a virtual meeting of the board from the Ogle County Courthouse on Tuesday.

During last week’s Ogle County Board virtual meeting, board member Benjamin Youman (Davis Junction) became frustrated and had to interject. 

“If you think you’re muted, you are not,” Youman said. “You’ve been talking on the phone and distracting everyone. So everyone, please make sure you’re muted and it’s proper protocol for teleconferences. You’re supposed to pay attention and not hold side conversations.”

The board has been conducting its meetings via Zoom, but board members and the public call in on their phones rather than over video online. A small group of board members and county employees run the meeting from the old courthouse. 

Board Chairman John Finfrock (Mt. Morris) said the meetings will continue to be this way and a potential change depends on “what the governor says”. 

Gatherings of 50 or less with masks and social distancing are allowed under the state’s current phase four, but Finfrock said it isn’t possible to distance everyone in the boardroom and allow everyone to have a microphone. 

There are 24 board members. Other county employees like county clerk and assistant, sheriff and state’s attorney attend the meetings. 

“We’re stuck with this, unfortunately,” Finfrock said. “And none of us like it. Our committee meetings with seven and five, those we do in person socially distanced. I’m not sure how long it’ll be for the big ones. And that’s a problem.”

Some of the early committee meetings held virtually were hard to hear over the phone, but Finfrock said those issues have been resolved by meeting in a smaller room with everyone closer to the microphone. 

With the meetings being held virtually, all votes must be done by roll call, rather than using the ayes and nays system when protocol allows for it. That extra use of time has been among the frustrations of staying virtual. 

“We had a lot of yes’s tonight, but because it’s a virtual meeting, it requires a roll call for each vote,” Finfrock said. “Hopefully in the near future we can get back to what we like to do, and that’s get together as a group.”

Support given for grant applications

The board approved four resolutions of support for four county business applications for downstate small business stabilization grants during its July 21 meeting.

The $20 million program supports small businesses in suburban and rural counties across Illinois, providing grants of up to $25,000 to small businesses. 

Public Auction Service, Maxson Restaurant and Riverboat, National Bus Trader and the Dogwood Inn were the businesses that had their applications supported. 

Dogwood Inn and National Bus Trader were approved by a vote of 23-0 with one abstention. Board member Wayne Reising (Oregon) said the businesses are clients of his and abstained. 

Maxson was approved 24-0. 

The vote for Public Auction service was 13-10 in favor with board member Lyle Hopkins (Polo) abstaining. His wife owns the business. That was the reasoning behind board members voting against it. 

“It gives a perception and we don’t need to work with that,” board member Dan Janes (Stillman Valley said. “We have enough issues. I can’t support it with it being an active member on the county board. I think it sets a precedent.”

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