If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
By Carmen Ensinger
White Hall City Council approved increasing the starting salary for its police officers by $3.21 by a 4-2 vote at the Aug. 10 meeting.
“The issue we are dealing with is police retention,” Alderman David Meldrum said. “It is not that we are ignoring other departments. I would like to sit down with other department heads and get a full picture of their issues and expectations. But again, this is a police retention issue. We are not losing people from other departments, but we have lost several from our police department who have gone to other departments because they can make more money.”
The issue of the starting salary disparity was brought up last month after an officer, who had just started with the department after the city paid to put him through the Police Academy, left to take a position with the Carrollton Police Department.
Meldrum began checking into the starting salaries with other communities and found they offered much higher starting salaries for their officers. Roodhouse starts their officers out at a rate of $20.48 per hour, while Carrollton starts their officers out at $21.83 per hour. White Hall officers start out at $18.62 per hour.
“We had a police committee meeting and sat down and talked with our officers and the goal we had was to close the pay gap for our officers in comparison to surrounding towns,” Meldrum said. “We feel like we came up with a pretty good way to close that gap and it won’t cost the city any money at all.”
The pay gap is $3.21, which is how much more Carrollton pays its officers.
“I initially wanted to offer our officers more, but Brad (Mayor Staats) said we don’t need to try to beat everyone because that will only start a competition,” Meldrum said. “So, we settled for an increase of $3.21 per hour to close the gap.”
The city is budgeted for six full time officers, though it is now down to only four after two recently quit to go to other departments and have not been replaced as of yet.
Meldrum figured that the additional $3.21 added to the pay to keep six officers on staff would increase the budget by $44,298 per year. But, if the department drops to five full time officers, the money needed to close the gap is down to $36,915.
“By getting rid of that one officer we would make $53,608,” Meldrum said. “That is the cost of hiring the one officer, the wages of the whole first year, the training, insurance and benefits.”
It costs the city roughly $23,000 to put an officer through the Police Academy, then they are also out the cost of the officer who must ride along with him while he is receiving his training on the job.
“This money has already been budgeted for the police department and so if we factor in that money after closing that pay gap, there is an additional $16,693 of money saved or made to the city if we move down to a five man force,” Meldrum said. “We were going to have to put two through training, which would be an additional cost of $23,000, so the actual savings to the city is $39,693 after closing the wage gap. Doing it this way the city makes $16,693.”
But, with every plus, there is a minus.
“The cost of closing the pay gap is more than fully paid for by the police department if the number of officers move from six to five,” Meldrum said. “The downside to that is that our officers are not going to be able to schedule vacations as easily and they are going to have to cover down time with part time help to cover any gaps in manpower, but we talked about it and they are willing to do it. You can’t get six officers if you don’t even have five.”
Meldrum said the good news is he has talked to some former officers and they might be willing to come back once the wage gap is fixed.
“I’ve talked to some county officers and one of them said if we can get this pay gap fixed, he is willing to come back – he is going to think about it,” he said. “He is a good officer with a lot of experience and best of all is he won’t need trained so that is an additional savings to us.”
Alderwoman Sue Vinyard asked how it would affect the union contract they just signed a few months back. This union also covers the dispatchers and the office personnel.
“There is only one pay scale in our contract and everyone is under that same pay scale,” she said. “So, will you be offering that same $3.21 to all of the employees or just the police officers.”
Meldrum said it would just be the police officers. Vinyard then asked if they would not then have to totally rewrite the contract.
City Attorney Bill Strang said that would not be the case – they would only have to amend it.
“You voted to just raise the police officers, which is subject to approval by the Union,” he said. “In other words, we would have to put it in writing what we are proposing and we would send it to the local steward and to the office in Springfield and we would indicate that this is what is being proposed and the purpose of it because it is clearly one of the collective bargaining issues regarding wages, hours and job conditions.”
Strang said the city would indicate that what they are presenting is a $3.21 per hour increase for only the police officers and then it would be up to the union to tell them whether or not they approve it.
“Because right now it is a locked contract and they would have to approve whatever proposal that Meldrum makes,” Strang said.
Meldrum said he did speak to the union and they said they had zero problem amending the contract.
When it came to a vote, Aldermen Meldrum, Brandon Roberts, Derrick Gilmore and Norman Coad voted in favor of the increase and Alderman Rick Cox and Vinyard voted no.
In other action, the council approved hiring two part-time police officers – Layton McClenning and Jason Brannon.
These officers will have to be put through the academy as well, but Meldrum explained that the part-time police academy isn’t as expensive as the regular police academy.
“It’s really weird timing for us because we are so far out from the full-time academy in January,” he said. “We want to give ourselves time to find a certified officer to fill the one position we will have open, but the officer has to be hired full-time to go through that.”
The part-time academy takes 10 months to complete, which means the two men would be ready to start with the city next July. Tuition is $2,000 per officer and $1,000 of this amount is reimbursable by the State. Each officer’s total wages and tuition comes to around $6,726 with $2-$4,000 of it reimbursable.
This brought the subject up of the officer who the city put through the Police Academy and who had signed a contract to work for the city for a specified time period for doing such and who broke that contract by leaving after a few months to go work for the city of Carrollton.
Alderwoman Vinyard thinks the city should pursue legal action against the officer.
“I think we need to pursue this,” she said. “I don’t think we need to drop it because we don’t need other officers to think they can do the same thing. It is more a matter of principal than anything else.”
The city would have to seek outside council because City Attorney Strang also represents the city of Carrollton, which presents a conflict of interest.
A discussion was held about the purchase of cameras for city hall, the library and Whiteside Park.
“A year ago we decided we were going to get cameras and we keep putting it off,” Alderman Coad said. “We have had some vandalism at Whiteside Park with the newly painted pagoda vandalized along with the playground equipment and we have finally settled on a system.”
The system they found would cost $4,500 and would be installed by Roodhouse local Matt Martin. The council unanimously agreed to the installation of the system.
City employees will be thrilled to learn they will be getting two more paid holidays next year after the council approved adding Columbus Day and Juneteenth to the city’s paid holidays.
They also approved fixing the concrete monument on the southwest corner of Whiteside Park at a cost of $1,000 and purchasing two tires for the backhoe at a cost of $1,544 from FS. According to Public Works Director John Harbaugh, they were bad enough “you could almost see the air in them.”
The city is in the process of submitting for an Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development program, which is administered through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. This grant would be for the development of the disk golf course proposed for the White Hall Rez. It is a 50/50 grant and the grant application is due in by Sept. 1.
City resident Jane Bryant addressed the city about an issue on her street involving large semi’s traveling down her street 24/7. Bryant, who lives on North Main, on what used to be Cinderella Lane, says these semis have another road, which is closer, to use to get to their destination, yet they choose to use this road, which is now home to young families with children.
She asked the city council to put up “No Semi’s” signs like they did on Morrow St. After a consensus of the council, they agreed that this would be the appropriate action to take.