Madison County seeks input on opening up

By Bob Pieper for Chronicle Media

Kurt Prenzler

A special “Opening Up Madison County Again” commission has been appointed by Republican County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler to develop strategy for the reopening of county businesses, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The commission will operate in line with President Donald Trump’s “Opening Up America Again” guidelines — which allow states to implement varying business reopening strategies depending on the needs of specific counties — as well as Illinois state guidelines, coming from the office of Gov. J.B. Pritzker, according to an April 22 announcement on the Madison County website.

Initial appointments to the commission – all selected to represent specific segments of the business and non-profit communities – are:

  • Bob Gvillo, president of the Madison County Farm Bureau, representing agriculture and meat packers;
  • Rev. Danny Holliday, of Victory Baptist Church in Alton, and Rev. Ben Tolly, superintendent of the Gateway Conference of the Free Methodist Church, representing religious congregations;
  • Matt McSparin, owner of Edison’s Entertainment Complex, representing restaurants and bars;
  • Mike Rathgeb of Spencer Homes, representing home builders;
  • Ben Golley of Today’s Beauty Supply in Alton, and Nancy Schneider of the Chef’s Shoppe in Edwardsville, representing retailers; and
  • County Board member Erica Harriss, who in addition or representing government, operates her own business.

Input from area business is now being sought, according to Prenzler.

“I want to hear from small business owners, especially those who have been hit hard,” Prenzler said.

Prenzler also said that he hopes to expand the committee.

In addition, Prenzler is asking Pritzker to allow Madison County input on plans to reopen commerce statewide.

Smaller counties may not draw as much attention as large metropolitan area in statewide economic re-start programs, Prenzler suggests.

Situated on the Missouri-Illinois border, Metro East will straddle two or more, potentially incongruous, statewide economic restart programs.

In Missouri, a stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Mike Parson (R) is set to expire on May 3; at which time the governor plans to implement a phased “Show Me Strong Recovery Plan” that will potentially allow many businesses to reopen.

Irma Clark, 375th Medical Support Squadron lab generalist, prepares samples for a urinalysis, March 23. The lab has the capability of testing for various pathogens for regular patients while also providing avenues for COVID-19 testing. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Kristin Savage)

Pritzker, last week, announced an extended but modified stay-at-home order, effective May 1-30, allowing requiring a face-covering or a mask for all individuals in public places where they cannot maintain a six-foot social distance, and in all public indoor spaces, such as stores.

“Essential” businesses and manufacturers will be required to provide face-coverings to all employees who are not able to maintain six-feet of social distancing, as well as follow new requirements that maximize social distancing and prioritize the well-being of employees and customers. Those will include occupancy limits for essential businesses and precautions such as staggering shifts and operating only essential lines for manufacturers.

The modified order allows:

  • Phased reopening of state parks,
  • Reopening of greenhouses, garden centers, and nurseries as newly defined “essential businesses,”; with required social distancing requirements and facemasks for employees and customers. Animal grooming services may also re-open.
  • Limited reopening of “non-essential” retail stores for fulfillment of telephone and online orders through delivery or pick-up outside stores.
  • Limited access to educational institutions for establish procedures such as pick-up of necessary supplies or student belongings.

The governor’s office has previously announced businesses in Illinois are to reopen under terms of a multi-state Midwest regional plan, developed cooperative with Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Indiana. Release of that plan had been pending as the Chronicle went to press.

Meanwhile, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson (D) has extended the stay-home order in her municipality through at least May 15 and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page (D) has extended that county’s state-at-home order indefinitely.

Interaction between residents of the Missouri and Illinois sides of the St. Louis area is common, regional leaders note.

The vast majority of employees in Granite City’s largest businesses now reside in St. Louis County, a study by the city’s economic development department found.

Ideas for the Opening Up Madison County Again” commission can be submitted to or

Community Needs Assessment

Madison County residents and business owners have until Thursday, April 30 at 3 p.m. to submit comment on the use of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding in the county.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), early this month, awarded Madison County Community Development $1.75 million in Community Development Block Grants, authorized under the CARES Act to benefit low- and moderate-income people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

HUD requires grant recipients conduct a Community Needs Assessment to establish goals and objectives for use of the funds.

The Madison County Board and its Grants Committee will then develop specific projects, based on federal guidelines, according to Madison County Community Development Administrator Trudy Bodenbach.

The assessment will focus in large part on healthcare and public service needs, as well as rent and mortgage assistance, according to a notice posed on the Madison County website April 22.

Madison County residents, municipalities, townships, homeless providers, food pantries, healthcare providers, first responders, banking institutions, landlords, housing managers and beyond are encouraged to take part in the assessment.

Comment can be filed online at

For additional information contact

Other COVID-19 developments

The Madison County Health Department now offers an online COVID-19 Dashboard with data (updated daily) on confirmed cases, lives lost, hospitalized patients, patients recovered from the disease, and COVID-19 cases by ZIP code.  The dashboard can be accessed at

The St. Clair County Intergovernmental Grants Department is now accepting applications for assistance from individuals who have experienced loss or reduction of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county’s Community Action Agency can assist eligible applicants with rent, mortgage, utilities, food, transportation, and medical payments.

To apply, call 618-825-3200 or email, providing name and address, to request a paper application, which will be mailed to applicants along with a self-addressed, postage-paid return envelope.

An application can also be found online at

Both Madison and St. Clair counties are attempting to ease property tax burdens for those suffering economic hardships because of the pandemic.

The Clair County Treasurer’s Office is delaying the mailing of 2019 Real Estate Property Tax Bills until June 15. First and second installment due dates are tentatively scheduled to be extended until July 30 and September 30, respectively.

In addition, the St. Clair County Board is expected to take action at its April meeting to delay the first installment penalty through August 31, according to the treasurer’s office.

Madison County Treasurer Chris Slusser plans to offer a two-month grace period for the county’s first property tax payment of this year, in order to assist those struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Plans call for the first installment for property taxes to be due on July 9; however, for those struggling financially, late penalties will be waived — provided the payment is received by Sept. 9.

Slusser notes the grace period must still be approved by the Madison County board, which is expected to consider it in May.

Madison County is one of only two counties in the state that offers taxpayers four installments to pay real estate taxes. Other counties offer only two.

Monroe County property tax bills are not scheduled to be mailed until August.

Scott Air Force Base has on-site capacity to test and analyze tests for COVID-19, the base Public Affairs Office has announced. However, base spokespersons have not indicated whether any COVID-19 cases have been confirmed on the base or whether COVID-19 patients have been transported on 375th Aeromedical Wing flights.