Brown County Board Mulling What To Do With County Poor Farm Property

By Benjamin Cox on January 13, 2023 at 9:56am

A West Central Illinois county is under discussions about what to do with public owned land that is currently being profited from by a private entity.

Brown County State’s Attorney Michael Hill brought concerns to the Brown County Board at their most recent meeting about the county’s Poor Farm property that is currently being leased on a cash rent basis to a private entity for farming.

Hill says he can’t comment beyond what was said at the meeting that was reported on by the Brown County Democrat Message, but he is not recommending the county continue the practice in the future. Hill told the board that farming it through the federal government’s Conservation Reserve Program or having the county doing the farming itself would be okay, because it would be of benefit to the public body or the money would be going to and coming from a public body.

The Democrat Message says that the county recently received a Freedom of Information Act request concerning the Poor Farm property and its current leasing agreement. According to Hill, the county can deny the request because the FOIA request was too broad in scope, which he says is allowable under FOIA law.

According to the report, the poor farm land has to be used for public purposes and Hill says the money generated by it doesn’t meet those requirements. Hill says it sets up the county for being held accountable and being liable to citizens, taxpayers, and state watchdog groups.

Brown County established its Poor Farm in the 1880s similar to many other counties in the state in efforts to take care of the poor, feeble, disabled and mentally ill. The last records that can be found are from 1963, and the building was demolished some time thereafter. No acreage was listed in the report on how much ground the poor farm property currently encompasses.