The Macon County Board unanimously approved a resolution at a special meeting Thursday allowing Rockies Express to begin construction of the company's high-speed natural gas pipeline.

The board voted 13-0 to let Rockies bore under county roads when working on the $5 billion, 1,679-mile pipeline that when completed will carry natural gas from the Rocky Mountains through eight states to Ohio.

Earlier this month, the board had tabled the measure when board member Jay Dunn, D-Decatur, raised concerns about the company's use of local union contractors and workers on the project.

Before Thursday's vote, board member Phil Hogan, R-Dalton City, who was one of the two members to vote against tabling the measure at the previous meeting, questioned why the special meeting and what had changed two weeks since the board stalled the project.

"I think that we have made our point, and it's now time to let this project to move forward and they need this resolution for it to go forward," said board Chairman Bob Sampson, D-Decatur.

Last week, a Rockies official met with some labor officials and a representative from Gov. Rod Blagojevich's office to discuss the possibility of including union workers on a $35 million compressor facility project in Christian County near Blue Mound.

Rockies spokesman Allen Fore stressed on Thursday that all the workers on the pipeline in Macon County will be union, and discussions are ongoing about the possibility of including them on construction of the compressor facility.

Board members Keith Ashby, R-Decatur; Merv Jacobs, R-Decatur; Linda Little, R-Decatur; John Snyder, D-Decatur; Melverta Wilkins, D-Decatur; David Williams, R-Maroa; and Ed Yoder, R-Oakley, were absent.

Thursday was the first board meeting since former board member David Wolfe, D-Oakley, passed away from health complications related to diabetes Wednesday. He was 47.

Wolfe's chair was draped in a black mourning cloth and a bouquet of yellow roses was placed on the desk in front of his seat for the meeting.

Sampson, who succeeded Wolfe as board chairman, said he had instructed county officials to fly the county's flags at half staff in honor of Wolfe until after his funeral on Saturday.

Sampson will be charged with appointing a replacement to the county board at a later meeting.

Copyright (c) 2008, Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.