Throughout this issue, we are reading about infrastructure's vital importance to the daily lives of our region and our local economy. Infrastructure takes many forms, and we at Peoria County are stewards of some of the public's infrastructure: namely 315 miles of highway and more than one million square feet of buildings we own and occupy.
After a year's worth of analysis, the County Board asked the voters in November to increase sales taxes for the next 15 years to create a dedicated funding source for necessary life-cycle improvements to our highway system. We prioritized the most critical $75 million of the $200 million-plus in projects we had identified.
The sales tax would have improved critical county highways in both the City of Peoria (yes, there are county highways within the city) and in the rural areas of Peoria County. We would have boosted the local economy and put people to work. After 15 years, the tax would have been retired. In our current economic climate, it was understandable that a majority of Peoria County voters could not support another tax increase.
But the referendum's outcome does not eliminate the need, nor minimize this issue. The result is that county highways—like Glen Avenue between Sheridan Road and Knoxville Avenue—will continue to deteriorate with no funding mechanism in place for improvements.
Perhaps the new paradigm is that the motoring public has grown to accept poor road conditions, because it is more palatable than paying more taxes. But, of the mandated services local governments provide, what can be more basic than our road infrastructure? This is something we must accept.
Our region's healthcare infrastructure is a blessing, especially in light of Caterpillar's relocation of their executive team. And this year, Peoria County is tapping into that infrastructure to stabilize the financial position of Heddington Oaks, our skilled-care nursing home. Both OSF HealthCare and UnityPoint Health – Methodist | Proctor have graciously "loaned" subject matter experts in healthcare finance and long-term care to assist us in balancing our mission of providing skilled nursing services for the impoverished and infirm seniors with being competitive in the market.
In the coming weeks and months, we will use the knowledge of our experts working with our new management team at Heddington Oaks to build a new financial model to stabilize and rebuild our census. This will secure a key component of the nursing home infrastructure in our community. iBi