Belleville closes pay gap for police

News-DemocratJanuary 22, 2014 

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert in a 2013 file photo.

ZIA NIZAMI — znizami@bnd.com

— The Belleville City Council approved wage increases Tuesday for the Police Department's command staff to address pay discrepancies between its administrators and union employees.

The Police Department's nine administrators will get a 2 percent wage increase added to the adjusted base starting May 1 as part of a new police command staff policy approved by council.

Police Chief William Clay said the policy provides that certain benefits -- namely, educational incentives and clothing allowances -- are not lost when an officer is promoted from a sergeant, which are part of a bargaining unit, to a lieutenant.

Mayor Mark Eckert said the pay gap between the Police Department's administrative and union employees narrowed during the recession.

During those years, the city implemented wage freezes for appointed officials and administrators, but union employees received pay increases outlined in their contracts, Eckert said.

The command staff includes the chief, assistant chief, three captains and four lieutenants.

The policy underscores benefits already allowed, such as military, maternity and funeral leave.

The council also approved the hiring of a new police officer, bringing the Police Department to 84 sworn officers.

Also Monday:

*The council approved Kroger Co.'s request to allow a Ruler Food building larger than 150 square feet with a metal facade at 1703 North Belt West. A construction start date was not available.

The vote was 10 in favor and five against with Ward 1 Alderman Michael Heisler abstaining because he works for a competing grocer. Ward 3 Alderman Kent Randle, Ward 7 Alderman Trent Galetti, Ward 6 Alderman Bob White, Ward 5 Alderman Joe Hayden and Alderwoman At Large Lillian Schneider voted no.

Hayden said the metal design makes the building look like a pole barn.

Randle said he did not want to stop construction but wanted the design to be consistent with brick buildings in the area. Randle read a prepared statement that likened the grocery store's request for incentives and design changes to taxpayers getting a colonoscopy.

In February, the city approved $200,000 in tax increment financing money to Ruler Food. In exchange, the store will invest $2.9 million and create at least 12 full-time equivalent jobs the first year.

* The council approved an agreement with FCB Bank, which plans on opening its 14th metro-east location at 401 S. Illinois St. in Belleville in late spring.

Resident William Bremen questioned why the council was giving TIF incentives meant for dilapidated areas to a bank.

"For a financial institution to come to the city of Belleville for a handout is pretty hard for me to take," Bremen said.

Bremen said he thinks it's great the business is coming to Belleville but should pay its own way.

As part of the business agreement, the bank will get abatement of sales tax on building materials estimated at $40,662; complete sidewalk improvements in the 400 block of South Illinois Street for about $20,759; and asbestos remediation and remodeling cost reimbursement up to $15,000.

The bank shall invest no less than $750,000 at the existing vacant building by May 1; create eight full-time equivalent jobs within the first year and create two additional jobs in the second year.

Mark Zavaglia, president of FCB Banks, said he is excited to be a part of the city's downtown revitalization. The bank will occupy a location that has been vacant for about five years, he added.

"Belleville's a great community," Zavaglia said. "We have a lot of customers here already and we hope to continue to serve them and more."

* The council approved a new system to manage Freedom of Information Act requests, which has a monthly cost of $250 and a one-time training fee cost of $2,500.

* The council approved the appointment of Erika Knight as the mayor's latest administrative assistant. She'll be paid $33,349 a year.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDJLee. Reporter Jamie Forsythe contributed information to the article.

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