Council questions new officer
Although it was included in the 2009 budget, some concern remained Monday night as the Edwardsville City Council decided whether or not to add a patrol officer to the police department.
Police Department Chief Mark Mathies opened his comments by saying that the funding had already been allocated, but he wanted to explain why it was important to continue to move forward with the original decision.
“We want to have two patrolmen on 24/7 as the minimum,” Mathies said. “Some days, two is not enough, and some days, it’s just right. What that does for us is increase our visibility, which has greatly diminished since changes were made in the last couple of years.”
The change he referred to was cutting back the department from 22 officers to 14 when he joined the force in October 2007. He said the decision was the right one at the time because it didn’t make sense to have that many officers, but it was necessary now to add at least one.
The necessity has risen because the removal of many of the positions included the middle management section of the force that was responsible for many day-to-day administration tasks. With those people gone, Mathies said the master sergeant had taken over that work and spent 90 percent of his time in the office rather than patrolling the streets, thus diminishing the department’s presence throughout town.
In addition to increasing the visibility of the police, Mathies said the added officer would give the schedule flexibility to deal with absences such as vacations or sick leave.
The shift structure that Mathies plans to use would have four shifts with four officers on duty as well as one detective and chief. The new officer position would ensure shifts were filled while the master sergeant continued his administrative tasks.
“I just don’t see how one officer is going to make a difference for a whole department,” said council member John Eickhoff, about his reservations for spending the money on the position.
Mathies said that ideally he would want two officers, but he understood that budget issues wouldn’t allow for it so he was presenting an alternative.
In addition to adding a new officer, Mathies said he planned to implement an investigator shift that would have a patrol officer rotating in and out of the position to assist the detective.
Mathies said this plan played into his retention goal by giving his officers new opportunities and a new perspective on the police department.
“We’re small enough that we have to be creative with what we offer and not just money and benefits,” Mathies said. “With this rotation into investigations, it gives them another job opportunity to learn different tasks, new skills and look forward to the future.”
In the end, the council approved the new officer, 4-1, with Eickhoff the dissenting vote.
In other business Monday, the council:
• Approved, 5-0, the minutes from the Dec. 22 meeting.
• Approved, 5-0, payment of bills totaling $519,014.46.
• Approved, 5-0, a cereal malt beverage license renewal for Pizzaville, 104 B S. 4th St.
• Approved, 5-0, the city’s participation in the Mid-America Regional Council’s First Suburbs Home Equity Loan Program. Through the program, which is a partnership of MARC and Community America Credit Union, residents could get a home equity loan up to $30,000, for 10 years, at a fixed interest rate of 1.35 percent below their conventional home equity loan rate.
With criteria such as a home under $200,000 and an accepted credit score down to 620, Mayor William “Heinz” Rodgers said this would be a good opportunity for people who couldn’t usually afford to renovated their home a better chance.
With the acceptance of the program, council members agreed they would like to play host to an open house for the public where a MARC representative would be available to explain the program in more detail and answer the questions of interested homeowners.
• Tabled, 5-0, a request by Adams to participate in the MARC Academy for Sustainable Communities. Adams said he would like to take the issue up at the Jan. 26 meeting so he could look into a grant to help cover part of the $1,000 cost.
• Continued, 5-0, a public hearing regarding condemnation of the structure at 325 N. 110th St. City Administrator Michael Webb said he wanted to give the owners of the location, Big House Investments out of California, more time to respond because it took the city longer than expected to track them down and send them a letter informing them of the public hearing.