County Issues

Reflecting On Our Future
William Prather, Peoria County Board

During the first quarter of each year, units of government tend to reflect on the previous year’s accomplishments while at the same time committing to a work plan for the coming year. Peoria County is no exception and considers itself fortunate for the opportunity to keep local business owners, their employees and our citizens informed of our progress, as well as our intentions for 2008.

The Peoria County Board is pleased with our accomplishments in 2007. We began the year with a comprehensive work plan that included priorities such as the daunting task of lead paint abatement, financial backing of Firefly Energy, creation of a finance department and establishment of an energy performance contract.

Because Peoria has the highest prevalence of childhood lead poisoning in the state, we identified lead paint abatement as a top priority last year. The Peoria City/County Health Department was able to make inroads toward abatement, thanks in large part to a $3 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Last spring, 150 people participated in training; 87 received licenses as workers, inspectors, assessors or supervisors. The health department also expanded its workforce dedicated to lead paint abatement by hiring a lead program manager.

On a global scale, Peoria-based Firefly Energy joins the fight to lower lead levels by producing the next generation of lead-acid batteries, with a lead reduction of up to 70 percent of that contained in normal batteries. Peoria County’s continued support of the company by pledging $3.3 million last year as co-guarantor was a boost to the economy and retained jobs in the community.

Streamlining the County’s financial responsibilities by creating a finance department was another top priority completed within the past year. Financial duties, such as accounting, payroll, purchasing, debt management, budgeting, revenue forecasting, and financial planning and reporting, are now handled by a single department. We believe restructuring the County’s financial responsibilities improves our efficiency and enhances our financial sustainability.

Also efficient and sustainable—albeit environmentally—is a guaranteed energy savings performance contract, which Peoria County secured in 2007 to mitigate rising energy costs at the courthouse, health department and county jail. Peoria County intends to capitalize on its energy performance contract by identifying projects that pay for themselves within 10 years.

Indeed, Peoria County tries to project at least 10 years into the future. By keeping our vision for the community in the forefront,
we know where we are going; how we get there is our work plan for the year. This year, we will address capital improvements for
Bel-Wood Nursing Home, reach a decision regarding funding for the Peoria Riverfront Museum and assess your needs as determined by our first annual National Citizen Survey. Overall, the County Board identified agenda items for our five strategic goals: financial sustainability, partnering with our citizens, growing the economy, planning quality growth and delivering quality services. As we begin to work our 2008 plan, we anticipate another successful year. IBI

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