BELLEVILLE — The Belleville City Council on Wednesday approved new ranks in the Fire and Police Departments, and allowed a variance to open a convenience store in a neighborhood with single-family homes.
In light of Fire Chief Scott Lanxon's retirement Feb. 3, Mayor Mark Eckert appointed Thomas Pour as interim fire chief. Pour, 46, is currently deputy fire chief and has served the city for more than 21 years.
And, Eckert appointed Arthur "Bud" Jacobs Jr., a battalion chief, to be the interim deputy chief. Jacobs, 47, has more than 20 years of service to the city.
The council voted 11-1 to approve Pour. Alderwoman-At-Large Lillian Schneider voted no. She said "present" during the vote for Jacobs.
Ward 3 Alderman Kent Randle, Ward 4 Alderman Jim Davidson, Ward 5 Alderman Phil Silsby and Ward 6 Alderman Paul Seibert were absent.
Before the vote, Schneider asked why Pour and Jacobs will assume the current pay of their predecessors.
Eckert said the interim chiefs will take over the same responsibilities and without the raise, Pour and Jacobs might earn less than the firefighters they lead.
The city budgeted $90,079 for Pour, which is what Lanxon would have made in the 2013-14 fiscal year, and $84,521 for Jacobs, which is what Pour earned.
Lanxon, 53, has been the city's fire chief for more than six years and served the city for a total of 28 years.
The council also recognized the promotion of Belleville police detective Mark Heffernan to sergeant. His promotion will be effective Thursday.
The council meetings are usually on the first and third Mondays of the month, but Monday's meeting was rescheduled due to the weather.
In other news:
* The council had a moment of silence for Lois Hock, a former city clerk, who died Dec. 23 at age 80. She was the first woman to hold an elected position in the city and worked for the city for 33 years.
Eckert said Hock was "truly a lady who really cared."
Ward 5 Alderman Joe Hayden said Hock pushed aside partisan politics and had ideas before her time: She wanted to televise council meetings and spearheaded requiring committees to share meeting agendas and minutes with the public.
* Ten aldermen voted "yes" to give a Cahokia businessman a variance to open a convenience store in a neighborhood that is zoned single-family.
Ehssan (Sammy) Hamdan will open a store at 528 N. Douglas Ave., which is vacant.
Ward 2 Alderwoman Melinda Hult voted no and Schneider abstained after stating she did not receive information about the issue. Schneider expressed the same sentiments at the previous council meeting in December.
At the December meeting, some aldermen said they were concerned that Hamdan did not properly maintain the outside of his store in Cahokia and the city should adhere to zoning designations and keep the area residential.
Other aldermen said they want to see a vacant building occupied and were willing to give Hamdan a chance as long as he does not later apply for a liquor permit.
* Puze USA Inc., which has The Wine Tap at 223 E. Main St., received a special use permit for a liquor license. The restaurant and bar is under the new ownership of William Luan, who took over for Dave Nagle and Allison Babcock.
*The council also thanked city employees for their maintenance of city roads during the snow storm this week.
Eckert also said he was proud of volunteers who helped shovel snow for older residents and those with medical conditions.
Schneider suggested the city also plow in alleys because some residents only have alley access to their homes, especially in the McClintock area.