County hires new administrator, OKs bridge projects

MORRIS –The Grundy County Board chamber echoed with applause and cheers Tuesday night as the board hired a new full-time administrator.

The county promoted the current interim administrator and land use director Heidi Miller to the position. She was hired with no contract, as the board finalizes specifics. Board members met in closed session Tuesday to hammer out some of the details, but members declined to comment on specifics.

Board members expressed their appreciation and satisfaction with Miller since she took on the duties of administrator.

“I am very, very excited about this job. I love this job,” Miller said in her speech to the board. “This county means a lot to me and I look forward to working with all of you.”

The county has been without a full-time administrator since September after Chris Wittkamp quit abruptly after just five months on the job.

In 2012, previous administrator Shawn Hamilton left the position for a better opportunity with the city of Park Ridge. At that time, the county opted to fill the position with county secretary Sandy Pommier and Miller, and later hired Wittkamp on a part-time basis and later to full-time basis.

After Wittkamp left, Miller was appointed to interim administrator while she continued her work in the land use department.

County Board Chairman Ron Severson said Miller will retain many of her duties as land use director, but will focus on her new administrative role.

Miller’s land use assistant, Cheryl Wardell, will manage any extra land use work and Severson said the county may hire a part-time building inspection officer to help as well.

“Heidi feels she can handle this,” Severson said after the meeting. “We need to be looking where to chop expenses ... so we’re running the ship with kind of a skeleton crew right now.”

The administrator position has experienced much turnover with Miller being the fourth person to fill the role in the last five years.

With the county facing financial challenges this upcoming year, the board said it is necessary to stabilize the administrator position, which plays an important role in leading the county.

“To have someone like Heidi in place, and also Sandy Pommier in place, is going to be a benefit,” board member John Galloway said during the meeting. “There’s stability and not all of this other noise going on like we’ve had for multiple years. We can direct our attention to the problems, concerns and issues we have at hand.”

The county’s personnel committee and legal team are in the process of drafting the contract and should have it ready for approval by the next board meeting, Severson said. As of now, it is unclear whether Miller’s contract will last one or two years.

“I’m very happy about this,” Severson said. “I think we’ve got a team that works really well together.”

Bridge projects

receive funding

The highway department will spend just more than $900,000 on four bridge projects.

Erienna and Highland townships each will receive $100,000 to replace culverts – structures, usually pipes, that allow water to flow under a road – for bridges on Nettle School Road and Scully Road. The county funds will cover half of each project’s total costs at $200,000 each.

Grundy County Engineer Craig Cassem said the county actually only will spend about $50,000 on each project, as part of the costs will be covered by Township Bridge Program funds since the bridges will be more than 20 feet long.

Another $240,000 was allotted for the replacement and reconstruction of a Kinsman Road bridge near Armstrong Run. The reconstruction of a bridge on Indian Trail Road will cost the county $265,000.

The money for both bridges will come from the county’s Motor Fuel Tax Fund and the County Bridge Fund.

The county approved the expenditures during Tuesday night’s board meeting.