McLean County may become lone wolf in adopting HOI plan

Local News

MCLEAN COUNTY, Ill. (WMBD) – Leaders in McLean County are not quite ready to sign off on Pritzker’s Restore Illinois Plan, but they are at a stalemate deciding on if they should adopt the Heart of Illinois Plan.

Thursday night the McLean County Board held a special meeting for the sole purpose of talking about re-opening the county. Specifically, they were deciding whether to adopt the Heart of Illinois plan initially proposed by Peoria city and county leaders.

The HOI plan was created for 11 central Illinois counties as a substitute to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s plan.

“As one board members myself, I feel like its time to do it,” said Vice Chairman, Jim Soeldner. “We’ve been under a quarantine for long enough, and we are showing that social distancing and the masks have worked.  I also think its time to get back out and let businesses start to regenerate revenue and get back to work.”

However during the meeting, County Health Administrator Jessica McKnight read the health department’s reaction to the move. In the statement health department leaders wrote “The department does not have the necessary systems in place, nor resources, to move forward with the HOI plan.” It went on to state “The Peoria county board has yet to adopt the plan, and without the approval from all 11 counties the HOI plan cannot be implemented.”

Administrator McKnight says she’s worried opening up would put state funding in jeopardy, adding an estimated 32% of the health departments budget relies on state grants.

Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner also chimed in, in a letter he sent to the board he wrote “ Mayor Ardis and I always intended this plan to be consistent with governor Pritzker’s executive order, and I urge you to be prudent and wait until further plans are vetted and to operate within the framework established by Governor Pritzker.”

“The longer these businesses are shutdown, I think the more chances you have of businesses going out of business or filing for bankruptcy and that causes lots of problems,” said Board Member George Wendt.

Other board members expressed their concerns with adopting the HOI Plan. Board member Elizabeth Johnston said Illinois is the only state in the Union that is meeting the five markers to re-open set out by the federal government. She says that is proof that Governor Pritzker’s plan is working in some manor.

“As much as I think Peoria put it together to bring it forward and to put it in place,” she said. “It actually kickstarted a discussion with the Governor and he has made the adjustments.”

Soeldner says one of the reasons this is being brought up now, is because many community members are still voicing concerns to the board, and they wanted to show them that those concerns have been heard.

“By us putting forward either plan it shows that we are paying attention and that we are concerned and that we are trying to move things forward.”

The board voted 12-8 in favor of postponing the discussion to a later date, though that date has not yet been announced.

It should be noted that even if the board chooses to adopt the HOI plan at a later date, both the Bloomington and Normal mayors have already said they will not follow it, or require community members to.

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