Metro-East News

County board member reinstalled three months after resigning

A longtime county board member who resigned to join the Metro East Sanitary District Board is back after three months, amid shakeups at the district.

Helen Hawkins was confirmed Wednesday and sworn back in to represent District 16 on the Madison County Board. It’s a seat she vacated a few months ago when she resigned to take a seat on the Metro-East Sanitary District, as it is a conflict of interest for a County Board member to serve on the sanitary district board or vice versa.

Last month, County Board Chairman Prenzler nominated Susan Presswood, of Pontoon Beach, to take Hawkins’ seat, but some members of the County Board protested that he had ignored Hawkins’ endorsement of Chris Hankins for her spot. The board voted 14-12 to reject Presswood, who is married to Nameoki Township Supervisor Randy Presswood and owns a hair salon.

The seat had to be filled within 90 days with a Democrat, so Hawkins’ re-nomination was just in time, she said. Hawkins said she feels she accomplished what she set out to do in her short tenure on the MESD board.

“I was very fortunate that the stuff I wanted got done from my recommendations,” Hawkins said. “We got the trees out of the drainage ditches and get the lake lower.”

Among other actions, MESD executive director Steve Adler, recently appointed by Prenzler, has laid off 10 full-time employees, and another 10 full-time employees were made seasonal in a shakeup at the district.

But Hawkins said it was her idea to return to the County Board, and she will continue as an “honorary, non-voting” member of the MESD board.

“I’m not really leaving them,” she said. “I’m just going back to my old seat with the intention of finding funding for (MESD). Man, we need funding bad.”

Hawkins said she would officially resign from MESD after Wednesday’s County Board meeting, in case she was not approved. The vote was unanimous.

Other news

In other news, the County Board voted to rescind a $100,000 loan from Madison County to the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities.

The money was to pay for renovations for a science, technology, engineering and math center for Madison County students, in cooperation with Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and the Regional Office of Education.

But Jackson Center Director Ed Hightower said that there was a misunderstanding about the money, which led to the center’s request to withdraw the loan.

“It was our understanding that this was going to be a grant, and when it played out, it was a loan,” Hightower said. “We shared with them that we were not interested in a loan and asked them to rescind it.”

Hightower said they had planned to open the STEM center Sept. 15, but now it will be delayed until November. The loss of money does not kill the project, he said; they will be able to raise the money elsewhere, but the delay meant they could not get bids out early enough to stay on schedule.

Prenzler told the Madison County Board that he does not believe it is “a dead issue” and will work to find another way to support the STEM center.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald