SPRINGFIELD — Bills that would weaken the appointment powers of Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler and diminish the county’s oversight of the Metro East Sanitary District and Bi-State Development Agency have been sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker for approval.
SB584 changes the appointments for the MESD, removing one Madison County appointment by automatically appointing Granite City Mayor Ed Hagnauer. It would also require the MESD director to reside in the district and restrict the director’s contracts. Current director Steve Adler does not live in the district.
SB 1418 would take one of two Madison County appointments to the Bi-State Development Agency board and give it to St. Clair County.
Both bills originally dealt with entirely different issues, but were amended by Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville, when they reached the Illinois House.
The MESD board currently has five members: two from St. Clair County and three from Madison County because Madison County has the greater equalized assessment value. The proposed law would strip one of the appointments from Madison County and automatically appoint the mayor of the city with the highest assessed value, currently Granite City, to the board.
MESD has undergone a number of changes since Prenzler took office, including replacing the board and the appointment of Adler. The moves have been controversial, in part because of MESD’s reputation of political patronage to the Democratic Party and corruption under previous leadership.
Opponents of the bill have argued that appointing Hagnauer would create a conflict of interest, because the Granite City Wastewater Treatment Plant — owned and operated by Granite City — is MESD’s largest vendor, at more than $1 million per year. Hagnauer serves as the chairman of the plant’s board.
State Reps. Monica Bristow, D-Alton, and Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, and state Sen. Rachelle Crowe, D-Glen Carbon, voted against SB1418 and in favor of SB584.
Pritzker’s office did not respond to questions about when he might act on the bills.
Chairman Kurt Prenzler's Comments, "During the 10 years before the new board took over, MESD lost $8.5 million. During the heavy rains of April 2017, Pontoon Beach flooded, because Horseshoe Lake was too high, and half the pumps were not operational. Under the new board, MESD is profitable again, the ditches are clean, the pumps work, and the level of Horseshoe Lake is managed, resulting in dry basements."