REND LAKE – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed Senate Bill 299, legislation that immediately dissolves the current Rend Lake Conservancy District (RLCD) Board and allows for new members to be appointed. The current board has been plagued by investigations and allegations of mismanagement. The bill was sponsored by State Sen. Gary Forby (D-Benton) and State Rep. Kurt Granberg (D-Centralia).
“Rend Lake is extremely important to Southern Illinois and those who depend on it deserve a board that is looking out for them,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I hope that new members will refocus the board on that mission, while continuing to develop the beautiful Fish and Wildlife Area as well as the nature trails, camping sites, and other recreational spots available for Southern Illinois.”
The RLCD was established in the 1960s to oversee the 18,000-acre Rend Lake reservoir that was created to provide a dependable source of water to 160,000 people in 60 surrounding communities of Franklin and Jefferson counties in Southern Illinois. The lake itself is located just outside of Benton, and is also a local attraction for water sport, camping, hunting, and fishing enthusiasts.
“Rend Lake is a beautiful area that Southern Illinois can be proud of, and I am hopeful that a new board will help to refocus attention on improving both the supply of water to surrounding communities as well as the recreational areas that we all enjoy,” said Sen. Forby.
“I am glad to see that this bill made its way through the General Assembly,” said Rep. Granberg. “A new board at the Rend Lake Conservancy District is necessary in order to clean the slate and get back to making it an asset to our community.”
The reconstituted seven-member board will be appointed in the same manner as previous boards. The Franklin and Jefferson county boards will each appoint two members to the panel, and the mayors of Benton, West Frankfort, and Mount Vernon each appoint one trustee. After the initial appointees’ terms established by SB 299 expire, their successors will be appointed for five-year terms of service. Current members of the board can be reappointed.
The need for legislation to reconstitute the board arose after a two-year battle to clean up the RLCD board’s operations. In 2003, the general manager was let go after an internal audit alleged that he had misappropriated $500,000, as well as other district funds. A state audit later revealed nearly $10 million over 8 years was used on recreational facilities rather than on improving the water supply. In line with the audit’s recommendations, the board hired a new in-house attorney as well as an engineer, along with revamping the recreational properties. The board also hired a new general manager, Keith Thomason, to take over full time for Glenn Poshard. Poshard was appointed in 2004 as an interim general manager to help the RLCD get its business back in order during the search for a permanent replacement. The FBI, IRS, and the US Attorney all have ongoing investigations in to the financial dealings of the RLCD.
The law is effective immediately.