MACOMB — "This has been the big thing this year," said Dianne Mayfield, director of victim services for the Western Illinois Regional Council. She told the boards of the WIRC and its Community Action Agency on Thursday that her staff is increasing from five to 13.
"With a state budget finally in place and large increases in funding through the federal Victims of Crime Act," Mayfield said, "our staff numbers have more than doubled."
Mayfield said there are 271 new and ongoing domestic violence clients, and that 1,250 hotline calls have been taken from July 1, 2017 through March of this year. "Crisis line calls have increased by 58 percent," she said.
The victim services director said sexual assault counselors are working with 84 new and ongoing clients, providing 400 hours of advocacy and 191 hours of counseling. She said the advocacy hours have increased by 68 percent in the past year.
Mayfield said 57 of the sexual assault clients are under the age of 17. She said the greatest conviction rates for sexual assault and domestic violence have been in Hancock County, followed by Knox County.
There is a very low use of domestic violence shelters in the five-county WIRC region, Mayfield said. "Our clients don't want to be in a shelter," she said. "They want to stay in their own homes."
WIRC Executive Director Shaun Pritchard said, "You're an incredible person, Dianne." Mayfield has announced that she will be retiring later this year.
Pritchard told the boards that the WIRC will expand sexual assault services into Fulton County. He said a lease has been negotiated for office space in Cuba.
The executive director said new fiscal year dues invoices would be sent to WIRC member communities in mid-July. Pritchard said efforts are underway to get the cities of Canton and Galesburg to rejoin the group after success with programs in other portions of Fulton and Knox counties.
Pritchard reported that applications for utility bill assistance through the LIHEAP program doubled this year with the addition of service to Knox County. He said the WIRC Community Action Agency received $3.3 million and has disbursed nearly $1.8 million to 3,162 applicants.
The executive director said half of a $773,000 weatherization grant has been awarded to 33 home owners. Pritchard said 606 applications have been approved so far this year for $242,000 in federal Community Service Block Grant funding.
Jeff Cozadd reported that the communities of Blandinsville, Plymouth, LaHarpe, and Havana are closing out federal Community Development Block Grant funds awarded in 2015 for housing rehabilitation. He said program funds are being distributed in Macomb, Bushnell, Monmouth, Galesburg, Canton, and Stronghurst. The WIRC is administering nearly $3.8 million in grants.
Pritchard said four new community development grants have been awarded. Monmouth will receive $500,000 for municipal water main construction, LaHarpe will receive $500,000 for water main replacements, Abingdon will receive $500,000 for sanitary sewer rehabilitation, and Joy will receive $500,000 for water tower replacement.
External audit reports were given for 2017 by John Hemming of Wisconsin-based WIPFLi. He said the WIRC ended the year with nearly $649,000 in assets, including a cash balance of $123,337.
Hemming said the WIRC-CAA ended 2017 with more than $1.7 million in assets, including a cash balance of $710,514 and grants receivable of more than $445,000 out of more than $3.2 million awarded during the year. He said both budgets showed "a lot of stability...with no wild fluctuations in accounts."
The WIRC-CAA board elected Rick Barnhill of Warren County as its chairman. Macomb Alderman Don Wynn was elected first vice-president, and Jeff Podhajsky of Warren County was elected second vice-president. Chad Sperry of Macomb was elected WIRC board chairman earlier this year.
The boards voted to award Pritchard a 2 percent merit increase in salary, retroactive to February. Also approved were salary increases of $2,500 apiece to senior staff members Cozadd, Tracy Camden, Josh Mercer, and Tim Lobdell.
The boards began their meeting with a moment of silence in memory of 28-year board member Lowell Lueck, who died earlier this year.

Reach Patrick Stout by email at pstout@mcdonoughvoice.com