News Report Staff

Effingham County Board agreed Tuesday there is a public health concern with the unlawful distribution of prescription controlled substances in the county.

But the wording of a resolution dropped the word “crisis” to not give the impression the county is unsafe for raising families or that an outright war on drugs is required, based on county board comments.

The county joined a lawsuit involving other counties to hold drug companies and distributors liable for the opioid crisis causing widespread addiction to painkiller drugs and also deaths for the addicted. The opioid problem made its mark on Effingham in 2015 when Dr. Naeem Mahmood Kohli was sentenced to two years in federal prison for illegally dispensing prescription drugs to patients with a drug addiction.

County Board member John Perry acknowledged the seriousness of the problem, but urged a change in wording to the resolution approved Tuesday. Effingham County State’s Attorney Bryan Kibler said the action by the board was giving him authority to seek recovery of costs for the County Health Department and Sheriff’s Department related to local efforts related to opioid abuse. The vote was unanimous with all board members present for the meeting.

Appointing a new Coroner with the death of Duane Guffey last week is expected in less than three weeks. The board agreed to meet at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, March 12, in special session to make a decision on the appointee, who will fill the position up to December 1. A special election during the November general election will decide on a new Coroner through 2020. Guffey was re-elected to a four-year term in 2016.

For now, Effingham County Sheriff Dave Mahon is handling the Coroner duties. He is being assisted by deputy coroners.

“I’m confident with what we’re doing with the deputy coroners,” Mahon told board members.

Board Chairman Jim Niemann expressed the spirit of loss with Guffey’s sudden death (see related story on page A1) during the meeting. Niemann said he first met Guffey in 1984 as both of them worked in law enforcement. Niemann talked about Guffey’s dedication and his personality. He also recalled how Guffey used to be the “cleaned-up guy” from Guffey Cleaners in a short commercial shown before films at the old Heart Theater about 40 years ago.

In other business, the board appointed Lucas Ruholl and Mike Schabbing to the County Ambulance Oversight Committee. This fills a vacancy for replacing former board member Johnathon Paholke, but also adds a new seat to the committee.

Quinten Reinheimer was also appointed to the Economic Development Advisory Board.

The board also approved a resolution setting the number of election judges at three per precinct for the upcoming primary election and for future primaries in the county. The county liquor ordinance was amended by eliminating the requirement that liquor license holders reside in the county or own property there.

The county will share $2,900 from its Bridge Fund to assist a culvert project in Union Township.

A closed session discussion on labor negotiations and personnel failed to produce a consensus for a vote on a laborers’ contract relating to probation officers.