Winnebago County 911 agreement causes communication breakdown amongst local leaders

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A 911 agreement is at the center of a letter sent to Winnebago County leaders.

Due to a lawsuit filed by Sheriff Gary Caruana, State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite-Ross advised the County Board to only discuss the public safety sales tax behind closed doors.

The move played a role in Machesney Park, Loves Park and Winnebago leaders to voice their concerns about the lack of communication.

“It’s not a private safety sales tax, it’s a public safety sales tax,” said Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney. “This 911 agreement, we’re not going to be able to get to the finish line with our partners unless we’re discussing with them in an open setting.”

The State’s Attorney and county officials met with local municipalities to draw up the agreement. In it, [Cities of Loves Park and South Beloit, along with the Villages of Machesney Park, Cherry Valley, Durand, Pecatonica, Rockton, Roscoe, and Winnebago] agreed to pay an amount for 911 services if they are given governance.

“When we got the agreement, the governance was totally pulled out of the agreement,” said City of Loves Park Mayor Greg Jury. “What was left in there was everyone still paying.”

The tentative agreement the municipalities agreed to was set to bring in over $600,000 for Winnebago County.

To address his concerns, Jury says he attended a committee meeting and waited nearly three hours to talk to board members. But instead, was asked to leave the room because the matter was only for closed session.

“To me, that’s just not responsible leadership,” said Jury. “They should’ve just told us not to come to the meeting.”

Haney says he’s advocated to discuss the 911 agreement openly.

“I share their frustration. I too am frustrated,” said Haney. “There needs to be some improvement in communication by the State’s Attorney.”

County board member Jim Webster says although he wasn’t surprised to receive the letter, he has the utmost confidence in Hite-Ross’s advice.

“I think she’s done a fine job so far,” said Webster. “She’s in a tough job, it’s a tough position. She has to make some hard calls.”

Jury says the ball is now in the County’s court.

“Figuring out the details can be tricky,” said Haney. “That’s why we want to have more discussion going back and forth in the coming weeks.”

Eyewitness News also reached out to Hite-Ross for comment but did not hear back.

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