Andy Wheeler (copy)

Andy Wheeler “We are in a crisis, and this is something bigger than our local county can address.’’

KANKAKEE — A few years ago, Kankakee County employees worried whether they would even get paid.

Such concerns have disappeared, County Board Chairman Andy Wheeler, R-Kankakee, told the board Tuesday.

For a long time, the county board had to borrow millions of dollars from special purpose accounts for the general fund, which pays for most county functions.

With a better financial outlook, the county is starting to pay that money back. Recently, it paid back $1.5 million it borrowed from the highway fund three years ago “when things were in freefall,” Wheeler said.

“We have $1.9 million to go,” he said. “That’s good news we want to pass along.”

For the first time in years, the county might not need short-term loans from a bank to carry it through to the next infusion of tax money, Wheeler said.

“This comes with financial management,” he said . “We’re not spending what we don’t have. That’s how you run a budget. You don’t spend more than you take in. It’s interesting when that happens.”

On another issue at Tuesday’s meeting, the board unanimously approved converting a residential zone to agricultural to make way for an expansion of an agricultural maintenance facility on Van Drunen Farms property in Momence Township.

Wheeler, who works for Van Drunen, said he would step out of the room and abstain from the vote unless the board approved him taking part.

A board member moved for a vote to allow Wheeler’s participation, but a majority, including Wheeler, rejected the proposal.

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