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CHARLESTON — A brief dispute followed a Coles County Board member's attempt to call for adjournment of the board's meeting Tuesday before a member of the public finished speaking.

Vice Chairman Brandon Bell made the motion near the end of the comments from county resident Les Combs, who was asking about plans to renew a form of a rural trash program the county ended last year.

Bell's explanation was that the meeting's public comment period had exceeded the 30-minute limit stated in board policy. The board hasn't kept a strict limit on the time for comments at past meetings.

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The dispute followed an objection from James DiNaso of the Concerned Taxpayers of Coles County, a group that's criticized the board on a property reassessment and other issues.

After a brief exchange between Bell and DiNaso, board Chairman Mike ZuHone called for order, telling the two men: "That's enough, both of you."

But during the roll call vote for adjournment that followed, board member Travis Coffey delayed his vote to ask Combs if he'd been able to say all he wanted. Combs replied that he had.

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While addressing the board, Combs asked about the progress on replacing the "roll off" rural trash collection program that was in place for years but ended because county officials say the state notified them it wasn't operated properly.

ZuHone said the new proposal would allow the county's townships to apply for grants from county solid waste funds to operate a similar program that met state regulations.

He said the proposal needs a vote on a recommendation from the board's Health and Safety Committee before it can go to the board for final approval. ZuHone is the committee's chairman.

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The board also heard Tuesday from Concerned Taxpayers member Rex Dukeman, who noted a recent hearing in Mattoon by a state legislative task force on property taxes.

"One thing I've learned is not all the problems we have are in this courthouse," he said, and suggested a committee or group to address common property tax problems.

Bell, chairman of the board's Offices and Rules Committee that oversees the county assessment office, replied that he believes there's been recent progress.

Though the subject of criticism, the recent reassessment of commercial and industrial property helped update records and the county now has someone in the supervisor of assessments position on a permanent basis, he said.

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"I think we're getting closer to getting things better," Bell said.

Meanwhile, in votes Tuesday, the board approved the county's budget for the fiscal year that begins Dec. 1. The budget totals about $12.9 million, an increase of about of about $200,000 from the current year's budget.

The board also voted in favor of closing the county courthouse at noon on Christmas Eve instead of keeping it open until 4:30 p.m. as on regular business days. 

County offices are already scheduled to be closed all day Dec. 25 for the holiday.

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Reporter

Dave Fopay is a reporter for the JG-TC who covers Coles County, the local court system, Charleston schools and more.

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