Proposal to help McHenry County health department with enforcement not ready for board, Franks says

 
 
Updated 11/18/2020 8:49 AM

After calling on the McHenry County Department of Health to bring a proposal to the county board with what it would need to enforce the governor's ban on indoor dining, McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks said the proposal is not yet ready to be discussed.

Franks said he had hoped for a quick turnaround to discuss it at the Tuesday meeting, but now thinks more time is needed to gain clarity into how best to assist the health department and to make sure any ideas go through the county board of health first.

 

"I want to get more direction from our health board before we start telling them what to do and start passing ordinances that they may or may not agree with," Franks said in an interview Tuesday. "I don't want to do anything blindly."

A proposal to help with enforcement was discussed at last Thursday's committee of the whole meeting when Public Health Administrator Melissa Adamson told board members the health department has been struggling with enforcing the new mitigation measures placed on the county by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

During the discussion, Franks said he would be open to considering anything that might help the department in enforcing the new restrictions, specifically the ban on indoor dining, a sentiment which board members Kelli Wegener, Michael Vijuk, Suzanne Ness and Paula Yensen, all Democrats, agreed with.

The health department did come up with an initial proposal last Friday and was planning on running it by the board of health at its Monday meeting, but that meeting was later canceled, Franks said.

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This lack of preliminary approval, combined with the fact the proposal felt a bit incomplete, led Franks to decide to leave the item off the agenda for Tuesday night's McHenry County Board meeting.

"It was a pretty simple proposal dealing with COVID and saying that, if there was an executive order dealing with COVID, that they would be able to enforce it," he said. "But the state's attorney thought it was sort of redundant ... I just don't want to pass something for the sake of passing it."

The McHenry County health department already has the technical authority to enforce the governor's executive orders. The main roadblock in doing so is unclear legal guidance on how to apply punitive measures, such as fines on businesses, Adamson said in Thursday's meeting.

Charges against businesses can include a class A misdemeanor resulting in a fine ranging from $75 to $2,500, according to the state's enforcement guidelines. However, it is ultimately up to the McHenry County state's attorney's office to determine whether these charges can apply to a violation of the new ban on indoor service as well.

The health department has expressed a need to streamline the adjudication process of businesses that repeatedly violate the new COVID-19 restrictions, something which could theoretically be discussed as part of a proposal for the county board, Franks said.

Once the health department can come together with its board to nail down what exactly it needs out of a county ordinance on enforcement, Franks said he would be happy to call a special board meeting to discuss the proposal as soon as possible.

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