An Introduction And Note On Some Recent Technical Issues

Before I go on about the issues that have affected this site for a while now, I wanted to take a moment to (sort of) introduce myself.

My name is Richard, and I’m the webmaster, cook and bottle washer for McHenryCountyBlog.com.   I’ve been working with mainframe and personal computers since 1978, employed in IT support roles since 1987, and put my first webpage up in 1994.  I helped Cal put his site up in 2005, and have done my best to take care of his tech issues since that time.

Like a lot of computer people who grew up with the industry, I’ve always relied on my knowledge and skill set to feed my family rather than formal education or maintenance of expensive certifications.  In the 21st century that can limit your options, so I entered McHenry County College to pursue an associate’s degree in Computer Science with a concentration on Network Security.  After a year in school and over 40 credits, my GPA is 3.89 on a 4.0 scale.

I only mention these unimportant and uninteresting details to establish that at least in my own opinion I do have at least two clues at any one time about both general issues regarding Internet security and performance threats for websites and the specific nature of the challenges and attacks that Cal has recently faced.

When you put up a website, you have to carefully plan the infrastructure that might be needed.  As Cal has always accepted only local advertising and has shied away from generic ads that has no local basis, the funds available to run the site have always been modest.

While Cal posted yesterday about the site being under attack, that was no exaggeration.  In the past month, the site has had a massive increase of “brute force” attacks, which try to exploit weaknesses in the structure of a website or poorly maintained web servers. Although we have had adequate server capacity for normal operations in the past, addition of these constant threats to our server load has pushed it into a coma at times.

Over the next few weeks, you will begin to see some changes on McHenry County Blog.  The site is being moved to a new and more capable server, with many optimizations and security upgrades that ought to make for quickly loading pages and a hassle-free experience in general.

Having said that, one inevitable change that is coming is the addition of a donation option in order to help Cal recoup the costs of a site that has grown far past the hobby stage.  If you value the effect this site has had on McHenry County over the past 10 years, that I hope you choose to throw a few acorns at the squirrels powering his webservers when you can.

Valley Hi Surplus Discussed by Public Health Committee

Public Health Committee's budget hearing on Valley Hi.

Public Health Committee’s budget hearing on Valley Hi.

Today I went to the 8:30 AM meeting of the McHenry County Board’s Public Health Committee.

Lots of interesting information surfaced as budgets from various departments were outlined.

During the public comment time, I asked for an explanation of the $30 million Valley Hi has sitting in the bank.

Chairwoman Donna Kurtz referred to the extra money as “reserves.”

I said it reminded me of the illegal county surplus during the late 1960′s.

Then, the County Board was accumulating money to build a new courthouse.

I explained that it was illegal because everyone who paid their taxes under protest got a refund.

I pointed out the the county nursing home spends about $10 million a year and takes in about the same amount.

Ralph Sara, Tom Annarella and Peter Austin at the Public Health Committee budget hearing for Valley HI.

County Administrator Peter Austin, Valley Hi Administrator Tom Annarella and Ralph Sarbaugh, the County’s Finance expert, at the Public Health Committee budget hearing for Valley HI.

Breaking even is what an enterprise fund like Valley Hi should do, so Administrator Tom Annarella is doing a good job financially. (“Tom is controlling costs,” County Administrator Peter Austin later pointed out.)

Annarella said the cash reserves were now $36 million, more than the $30 million figure I mentioned.

Austin said the while $36 million was in the bank, the real cash reserve was $15-20 million.

He argued that there should be a year’s cash reserve equal to one year’s expenditures, plus $5 million for maintenance (a new roof for the seven-year old building, new parking lot, new flooring, new TVs, etc.)

Tonight at 7 PM at Valley Hi on Hartland Road (north of Woodstock to the east of Route 14), the Operating Board will be discussing capital improvements and asset preservation, Annarella said.

Valley Hi

Valley Hi Nursing Home

Annarella pointed to a plan to retrofit the building to save money on energy in lighting, etc., which was expected to cost $170,000 after receipt of a $60,000 grant.

Over a four-year period the savings in energy would pay back the $170,000.

In addition, all of the flooring is to be replaced at a multi-hundred thousand dollar cost. The new surface will be fake wood and stone which will be easier to maintain and can be cleaned with just soap and water.

Replacement of the roof is also contemplated.

“I consider it extreme reserves,” Committee member Paula Yensen said.

Valley Hi Cash on hand 2006-13She explained that there was an “obligation to taxpayers” to utilize the reserves, mentioning whe had hear that Operating Board members were working on a comprehensive plan.

“What do you plan on doing long-term?” Yensen asked.

“We continue to reduce the tax levy,” Annarella replied.

“And we’re planning to decrease it [even more],” Austin added.

He noted that the levy had been decreased from $6 million to $5 million to $4¾ million and that this year $3 million was the target.

Austin fell back on the argument about the “uncertainty in Springfield.”

“We are stepping [the levy] down, rather than leaping off a cliff.”

John Hammerand complained about what he contended was the underinvestment of the extra money, which Kurtz said the Finance Committee had discussed the day before.

Ralph Sarbaugh, the administrative Finance man, explained that he already had the money “laddreed.” that is invested so some came due each month. He said the Treasurer’s Office put it out to bid among the banks in the county and went with the highest interest rate.

He indicated that the Treasurer’s requirement for 100% collateralization may be a damper on rates.

Hammerand was not satisfied, citing “$186 million sitting in banks, invested at the same pitiful check book interest.”

He estimated the county was losing three-quarters of a million dollars each year by not investing the Valley Hi money at a higher interest rate.

Donna Kurtz

Donna Kurtz

Kurtz weighed in after Annarella argued that a portion of the $36 million was set aside for specific purposes.

“There’s a significant amount of money that’s not being [used].

“It gives the taxpayer the feeling they’re being overtaxed.”

“We’re a victim of our own success,” Austin remarked.

Kurtz called for another hearing on the budget.

“I don’t think we can approve your budget without knowing [what your plans are for the $36 million].

“Any taxpayer with a calculator is going to say,

‘Why don’t you give us a tax holiday?”

Austin brought the Property Tax Cap into the discussion, but did not explain the implications to a “tax holiday.”

He talked of a “vision beyond about what might be,” specifically mentioned gazebos and some other improvements I could not keep up with.

John Hammerand

John Hammerand

Hammerand’s response:

“In the next several years they don’t plan to spend $36 million.

“That’s more than the building cost,”

Mike Walkup, who serves as a liaison between the County Board and the Valley Hi Operating Board noted, “If we do a tax holiday, then we can’t go back.”

Austin again referred to the Tax Cap.

“If you tell me what’s going to happened [with regard to future state reimbursements}...”

“We need to have a lot of reserves out there.”

Later Kurtz agreed: “Every time we lower the levy, we're stuck at that level.

Hammerand re-surfaced an idea he made during the referendum campaign to fund Valley Hi—vouchers for indigent residents so they could purchase nursing home care at the nursing home of their choice.

Kurtz added that there were “multiple options including the sale of the nursing home.”

Kurtz asked how the cash reserves would be utilized “during the next 3-5 years.”

Anna May Miller asked for other projects, observing,

“We don't want to go back out [for approval of another referendum].”

“That is exactly the point,” Walkup agreed.

“We don’t want to go back.”

“Why not?” asked Hammerand.

“If it’s a new project, why not go back?”

“I’m not sure some of what I’ve heard meets [what was requested in the referendum].”

“”I still see it in the same frame of providing care to fragile seniors,” Miller said.

While most of the discussion was on the cash reserves, there was some on the operating budget before the Committee.

Annarella pointed out that 94-96% of the bed are filled, if one includes those being held for patients temporarily in the hospital.

The state average, he said, is 78%.

He also explained that a lot of nursing homes “have decided to get out of the Medicaid beds.“

Alden in McHenry, for example, had cut such beds in half.

“That’s part of the mission,” Kurtz observed, “so we can provide care for the indigent.”

“It’s really the only reason,”

Austin stressed.

“The county nursing home becomes the safety net for McHenry County,” Annarella said.

Hammerand noted that under today’s rules, admittance cannot be limited to McHenry County residents.

“When we call it a county nursing home, it isn’t anymore.

“It’s a state nursing home.”

Durbin Coming to MCC Thrusday

A press release from McHenry County College:

Durbin at McHenry County College Thursday at 3:15

Dick Durbin

Dick Durbin

CRYSTAL LAKE, IL – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) will visit McHenry County College to see how the school is working to close the skills-to-jobs mismatch often referred to as the “skills gap.” Durbin will tour MCC’s manufacturing and robotics labs, as well as visit with students and employers who often hire the program’s graduates.

Durbin will discuss legislation he’s introduced, called the Community College Career Fund Act, to help community colleges train workers for high-needs technical jobs, many of which are currently going unfilled due to a lack of qualified employees in the workforce.

TIME: 3:15 PM
LOCATION: McHenry County College
Manufacturing Lab- Building D (Room D167 – A&B)
8900 U.S. 14
Crystal Lake, IL 60012

***PARKING: Members of the media should park in lot B or D ***

McSweeney Bill Encouraging Community College Cooperation with Manufacturers Signed.

A press release from State Rep. David McSweeney:

McSweeney job-creation bill signed into law

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois community colleges will be better able to partner with local manufacturers to educate a highly skilled workforce under legislation sponsored by Rep. David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills), which was signed into law today.

David McSweeney

David McSweeney

“Illinois has the best workforce in the world, but we have to keep improving to maintain our edge,” McSweeney said.

“This legislation will make it easier for students in our community colleges to get the training they need in order to hit the ground running as soon as they graduate.”

McSweeney’s legislation encourages each community college in the state to voluntarily set up a job training partnership with local manufacturing companies.

This board will make recommendations on how to best mingle the college’s education programs with the needs of local manufacturing employers. The end result will be to produce graduates with the job skills necessary for local employment.

“We should be doing everything we can to give our students the training and education they need to find jobs once they graduate,” McSweeney said. “This bill helps us work toward that goal.”

The legislation is House Bill 4910.

Stop Randall Road Robbery Mailing Discovered in Algonquin

The web site Stop Randall Road Robbery is a bit more robust than when it first went up.

There are now County Board District Chairs:

  • District 1: Andrew Gasser & Tom Wilbeck
  • District 2: Donna Kurtz & Jeffrey Thorsen & Larry Emery
  • District 3: Michael Walkup & Chris Christensen
  • District 4: Chuck Wheeler
  • District 5: Steve Harlfinger
  • District 6: Diane Evertsen

It also lists the names and email addresses of the members of the County Board’s Transportation Committee, which is scheduled to vote on a recommendation to improve Randall Road on Wednesday, September 3rd.

A friend in Algonquin gave me the following, which arrived in the mail today:

Randall D1 mailing frontRandall D1 mailing back

Libertarians on Ballot, Green Party Not

Julie Fox in front of the movie theater at Fair Diddley in mid-May.

Julie Fox in front of the movie theater at Fair Diddley in mid-May.

An email from the campaign of Libertarian Party candidate for State Comptroller Julie Fox is down below.

I sighted Fox once in Woodstock and once in Harvard collecting signatures.

Julie Fox at Harvard Milk Day in early June.

Julie Fox at Harvard Milk Day in early June.

Most observers think having the Libertarian Party on the ballot will hurt Republicans, while, if the Green Party had been able to get on the ballot, it would hurt Democrats.

Fox has been in the Fox River Valley for a long time.  She is a CPA and ran for Comptroller when I ran on the Libertarian Party ticket for Govenror in 2002 against Rod Blagojevich and Jim Ryan.

Fox got more votes than any other Libertarian.

The Green Party slate was led by former McHenry County College Board President Scott Summers of Harvard.

Have you heard the wonderful news?

Earlier today (8/22), the Illinois State Board of Election declared our state slate of candidates eligible to appear on the General Election ballot!

Julie and her fellow candidates and activists have spent their very own time and money to survive the frivolous challenge made to our petition signatures.

Despite the uncertainty of our ballot situation, Julie Fox kept the faith and kept campaigning. We already gambled and ordered yard signs, buttons, bumper stickers and literature. Thanks to her faith and the faith of her early supporters, she kept the torch of Liberty lit and held high.

Now she needs YOUR help!

Due to the unethical challenge to the Libertarian place on the ballot, our campaign coffers are very low.

Can you spare a few dollars to help Julie carry the banner of Freedom and Responsibility through the November election?

If you are ready and willing to help Julie carry this fight to the end, please visit our donation page…

https://juliefox.nationbuilder.com/donate

Every dollar you donate will be spent to further advance the cause of Liberty across the state of Illinois.

Please help Julie if you can!

She has been fighting the good fight for over 20 years!

Please show your appreciation by donating what you can.

Thank You!

Julie Fox For Illinois Comptroller 2014

http://juliefox.nationbuilder.com/