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January 21, 2019

1/2/2019 11:03:00 AM
County dealing with new laws taking effect
Crawford County is taking steps to comply with new laws, but it's not always easy.

Keeping up with new state mandates requires money and space, two things local governments don't always have in abundance.

In the case of one law, however, the county had just what was needed.

The new public lactation room law requires every facility that houses a circuit court to designate at least one public lactation room or area by June 1. The room has to be at least 50 square feet and can't be in a restroom.

Also, it must include a chair, a table, an electrical outlet and, where possible, a sink with running water.

The Crawford County Courthouse had a room that fit the requirements. In fact, it's a little larger than the law recommends.

Crawford County Sheriff William Rutan said the county learned of the new requirement a couple months ago and has converted a room on the second floor.

"We made sure it has access to everything it needs," Rutan said.

The room adjoins the jury room behind the large courtroom. It has a refrigerator, a sink a table and a comfortable chair in which women can relax while lactating. It might also receive a fresh coat of paint. The renovations likely cost $500 to $600.

"It covers the whole courthouse, but it's not in the standard access area," the sheriff explained.

The Illinois Senate bill that became the law was written with nursing mothers serving on juries in mind. Another new law, however, gives those women the opportunity to skip jury duty. The nursing mom jury duty law, which started as an Illinois House bill, exempts nursing mothers from jury service.

Meanwhile, requirements of a different law could cause problems for the sheriff's office.

The firearms restraining order law allows family members or law enforcement to petition the court for an order to confiscate firearms in the possession of a person against whom a restraining order has been issued.

It must be shown the person "poses significant danger of causing personal injury to himself/herself or another by having in his/her custody or control, owning, purchasing, possessing or receiving a firearm."

The court may issue this order without prior notice, but a hearing must be held within 14 days. In some cases, the weapons could be seized for up to six months.

Under the old law, the firearms could be placed in the keeping of another individual.

The county hasn't the facilities for holding onto firearms for months at a time. The county will be expected to maintain the guns' upkeep, which could require storage in a temperature-controlled room. Rutan said his department does not have that.

Also, a single case could involve many firearms. In one instance here, 16 firearms were seized at one time.

"We're just going to run out of space," Rutan said.

The new laws come as the county is working to sell the Commercium, a building it has owned for 26 years.

The structure on South Cross was originally the local Marathon Oil office building. County officials hope to sell it at auction as soon as April.

A hindrance to selling the Commercium, a long-abandoned fuel oil tank beneath its parking lot, was removed during the summer. Last month, soil samples taken from the site proved the tank had not contaminated the surrounding ground.

The county is now waiting for the state to certify the results of the soil testing, so it can move ahead with the auction.

Of course, eliminating the Commercium means the county must find new homes for county services housed there.

The county coroner's office will move to the courthouse, Rutan said. It is possible the Crawford County Development Association will relocate to the county annex building.

Rutan also hopes to move his investigators from the Commercium to the annex.

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