Members of the Benld City Council on Monday night approved the appointment of Jason Simmons, Brighton, as a part-time ordinance enforcement officer for the City of Benld. Mayor Jim Kelly’s recommendation to hire Simmons was approved on a motion by Ald. John Balzraine, seconded by Ald. Dustin Fletcher.
“Anything I can do to help improve the city, I’m all about it,” Simmons told the council after the vote.
Born and raised in Benld, Simmons’ parents continue to reside in the city. Simmons currently serves as Chief of the Alton Police Department, where he has worked for the past 27 years. He began his law enforcement career in 1988 as a Benld Police officer and previously worked as a deputy with the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department.
Simmons and his wife, Shelly, are both 1984 graduates of Gillespie High School.
“When this position became available I was excited because it provided me with an opportunity to give back to my hometown that I care deeply about,” Simmons told the BenGil Post via electronic message. “I wish to thank Mayor Kelly and the Benld city council for giving me this opportunity.”
Simmons told the council that ordinance enforcement is “not always perfect” but will help improve property values and the quality of life for city residents. Simmons’ job will be to enforce city ordinances regarding such issues as accumulations of junk and debris, grass cutting and other issues. He expects to spend six to eight hours weekly in his role as ordinance officer, working primarily on weekends, early evenings and late afternoons.
The hiring realizes a long-anticipated goal of the council to improve ordinance enforcement to improve the overall appearance of the city.
City Clerk Terri Koyne told Simmons she would provide him with a copy of the city codebook, and City Attorney Rick Verticchio agreed to meet with him to discuss procedures for ordinance enforcement and issuing citations.
Earlier in the meeting, resident Tom Merrell addressed the council about a neighbor allowing accumulations of junk on his property and creating loud noises at odd hours. He was told that hiring an ordinance officer later in the meeting would address his concerns.
With one dissenting vote, the council approved a $1,950 bid to remove three trees located on city property. Ald. Jim Tilashalski asked about the issue with one of the trees located next to the taco shop on Central Avenue. Ald. Balzraine said the shop owner had complained about bird droppings outside his restaurant and asked that the tree be removed.
Brought to a vote, the contract was approved 3-1 with Tilashalski voting “no.” Tilashalski explained he had no problem with two of the trees but objected to removing a healthy tree at the Central Avenue location. Ald. Brian Frensko and Ald. Mickey Robinson were absent.
City Attorney Verticchio reported the Attorney General’s Office of Public Access recently issued an opinion in favor of the city regarding a complaint filed by former city alderman Peyton Bernot. Bernot challenged the validity of the city’s contract with the City of Gillespie for police protection, alleging the April 17 special meeting during which the contract was approved violated terms of the state’s Open Meetings Act. Verticchio said the Attorney General’s opinion indicated the city acted properly and the police contract is no longer subject to challenge. He added that the Attorney General’s office complimented the city for striving to comply with the OMA under difficult circumstances, specifically citing Ald. Fletcher for reiterating information when public participants on the phone and on Zoom complained about being unable to hear what was being said.
Responding to concerns raised by city officials, a representative of HMG Engineers told the council it could not restrict a semi-trailer truck from using residential streets to park on a vacant lot. He said the truck is under the length and weight limit and since the city is using Motor Fuel Tax funds to maintain city streets, he could not ban the truck from city streets.
In other action, the council:
- Amended the agenda to approve a $650 Dram Shop insurance policy for the city. The premium is $50 less than the previous year.
- Approved emergency repairs to a John Deere tractor at a cost of $2,000 to $2,500.
- Approved the purchase of a pole saw at a cost of up to $800.
- Approved the purchase of an air compressor.
- Approved a prevailing wage resolution, an annual requirement that commits the city to use only contractors who pay their employees the prevailing wage as determined by the Department of Labor.