Gillespie city aldermen voted unanimously Monday night to authorize the Mayor and City Clerk to sign a new contract with the Fraternal Order of Police which authorizes substantial wage increases for city police officers. Additionally, the council set a special meeting for 6 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 16, to vote on whether or not to submit a tax referendum to voters that would support a place pension plan for local police. Both measures appear to be aimed at retaining officers.
The vote to approve the FOP contract followed a 25-minute executive session to discuss personnel issues. Police Chief Jared DePoppe met with the council for about half of the closed-door session.
The newly approved two-year contract is retroactive to May 1 and will increase starting wages police officers from $18.03 per hour to $22 per hour. The wage goes to $22.25 with one year of service, $22.50 after two years, and $22.75 after three years. Wages were increased by $1.50 per hour for Lieutenants, 75 cents for Sergeants and 25 cents for the school resource officer.
Under the agreement, the contract can be reopened in March to possibly adjust wages, contingent upon the city’s revenue estimates at that time, to take effect upon the contract’s anniversary date. Ald. Dona Rauzi, Police Committee Chair and one of the lead negotiators, said the new contract has been in development since March.
Rauzi told the BenGil Post the new contract will make Gillespie Police wages more competitive with surrounding communities with an eye toward keeping officers on the payroll. Police officers accepting jobs in other communities has been a perennial problem for Gillespie and other small towns. Officers often choose to move on after the city has expended money for training and police cadet certification.
“Officers were leaving because of pay,” Rauzi said.
In a related matter, the council set a special meeting for next Tuesday to consider whether or not to seek a tax referendum to support a pension plan for city police. Officer Justin Klopmeier appeared before the council to ask aldermen to approve language to appear on the ballot for the referendum. Klopmeier said a decision is needed by Aug. 22 in order to qualify for a position on the November ballot.
Local police are interested in the program, Klopmeier said, “to help retain officers and keep them here by providing a good retirement.” The initiative would allow local police to participate in a statewide retirement pool for full-time police officers. Officers would contribute to the fund and the city would provide matching funds.
“It’s going to be an expense,” City Attorney Rick Verticchio said. “It’s going to be a cost to the city. Basically, it will be a tax. It will only go into effect if it passes as a referendum in the November election.”
Klopmeier said he did not have exact numbers for what the city’s contribution would be, but he estimated it would amount to about 10 percent of the current payroll costs for the Police Department.
City Treasurer Dan Fisher said the city should consider other employees if it chooses to participate in the police pension program. Verticchio pointed out that the pension plan being promoted by local police is open exclusively to full-time police officers in Illinois.
“I don’t think we should make a decision tonight,” Fisher said. ‘I think we should have a special meeting. We have to be fair to all our employees.”
Mayor Hicks said the week delay between Monday and next Tuesday will give aldermen time to review information and make a more informed decision. “We’re not against it,” he said. “We just want people to know what’s going on.”
In other action related to the Police Department, the council accepted Chief DePoppe’s recommendation to hire Wade Hendricks, Benld, as the school resource officer, effective immediately. Hendricks, a veteran of local police departments, will take the place of Roby Irby, Hillsboro, who was hired last August to take the place of Jassen Stinnett who had retired from his position as the school resource officer. Irby reportedly transferred to street patrol this summer.
“I think he’ll be a great asset for the school district,” DePoppe said of Hendricks.
DePoppe reported that a full-time dispatcher recently resigned and he is in the process of accepting applications for a replacement. The Department also is taking applications for a full-time police officer position.
Also on DePoppe’s recommendation, the council declared as surplus two patrol cars—a 2015 Ford Taurus and a 2012 Chevrolet Impala. Both cars will be advertised for sale via competitive bids.
FOOD TRUCK PERMITS
Council members unanimously adopted an ordinance that for the first time will govern the operation of food trucks in the City of Gillespie. Mayor Hicks asked City Attorney Verticchio to draft the ordinance last month after he received a request from a food truck operator wanting to know the rules for food truck operation in the city.
Under terms of the ordinance, food trucks must be parked on a privately owned location.
After a brief discussion, the council reached a consensus to set the permit fee at $100 for an annual permit good for four days of operation. Additional days of operation will be permitted for a fee of $25 per day.
The new ordinance also applies to food trucks operating at Gillespie Lake.
Food operations sponsored by charitable or civic organizations as a fundraiser are excluded from the permit requirement.
Verticchio said he plans to present an ordinance at the council’s next monthly meeting dealing with residential fencing that will take into account input from the council. Among the issues to be resolved are setback requirements for fences between neighboring properties. Verticchio said ordinarily, fences must be set back three feet from the property line. “If you have a fence that’s set back three feet and your neighbor has a fence that sets back three feet, that leaves six feet between,” he said. As an alternative, he proposed allowing neighbors to mutually agree to a single fence on the property line. The written agreement, he said, would be recorded at the Macoupin County Courthouse so future property owners would know there is an agreement that mutually recognizes the location of the boundary for purposes of fencing.
He also suggested fine-tuning restrictions for fencing at the front of the property. Ideally, the front fence should be five feet back from the street, but he suggested the city could be more flexible for fences that are “see-through” fences such as a picket fence or low chain-link fence.
CIVIC CENTER IMPROVEMENTS, MAINTENANCE
The council accepted a bid of $15,000 from Patrick Riley, Chatham, to repaint the Civic Center exterior. The contract calls for power washing, priming rusted areas and repainting the entire building with acrylic paint. The bid was the lowest of four bids submitted by contractors from throughout the state. Tiles and Styles, Chicago, bid the project at $25,720; El Greco Painting, South Holland, submitted a bid of $27,200 and Jay Dingus, St. Charles, Mo., offered to do the project at a cost of $29,800.
Council members also approved a $1,380 contract with Young’s Roofing, Litchfield, to replace damaged downspouts. Young’s was the only bidder for the project.
Ald. Bob Fritz said he looking into the cost of a canvas awning to go across the front of the building, which would be installed once the painting project is completed.
Ald. Rauzi reported that an architect had done a walk-through to the area vacated by the Gillespie Fire Department. The architect is expected to submit a tentative plan for the council’s review to convert the vacated space into space to house the Gillespie Police Department. The plan, Rauzi said, should be available for the next monthly meeting of the council.
The council approved two resolutions to make payments to contractors from the Tax Increment Financing fund for work done to the Civic Center. Those payments included $390 to Hawkeye Steel Sales for replacing damaged steel siding and $1,500 to Bolash Roofing and Construction, Inc.
LIBRARY AIR CONDITIONING
Acting on a request from Steve Joyce, librarian for the Gillespie Public Library, the council voted to spend $4,300 for an air conditioning unit at the library. Joyce said the library has undergone extensive improvements in recent months, including $2,000 for plumbing, $1,500 for lighting improvements and nearly $14,000 for new carpeting. The failure of an air conditioning unit last week came as an unexpected expense the library could not afford.
Joyce said the expenditure will replace the outside condenser unit, which is 14 years old and covers one-half of the downstairs.
“The inside unit is okay,” Joyce said.
In other action, the council:
- Voted to enter into a $2,200 contract with Bill Claro, Gillespie, to repaint parking space lines, handicapped parking spaces and yellow curbing on Macoupin Street. Verticchio said the council could enter into the contract without seeking bids by affirming the painting project is an emergency situation for public safety.
- Voted to allocate $500 to the Lions Club to hire a band for a chili cook-off event. The 100 block of Chestnut Street and one block of Montgomery will be closed for the event.
- Voted to donate $100 to sponsor a hole for a golf tournament sponsored by the Gillespie Fire Department in October at Timber Lakes Golf Course near Staunton.