Belleville council OKs raises for firefighters

News-DemocratApril 28, 2014 

The Belleville City Council voted at a special meeting on Monday to approve raises for city firefighters, and to buy and sell property related to the police station and City Hall improvement project.

The council voted 14-0 to accept an arbitration decision that was mainly a compromise on pay raises for employees in Belleville Fire Department Local 53.

Union firefighters will receive 2 percent raises each year for three years. The increases are retroactive to 2012-13 and end April 30, 2015.

The union contract affects 60 of the city's 63 firefighters, excluding the fire chief, deputy fire chief and assistant fire chief.

Interim Fire Chief Tom Pour said another change in the contract relates to having a battalion chief available on each shift to serve as the commander at fire scenes.

The Fire Department operates on four shifts of 15 firefighters each, Pour said.

City leaders called a special meeting to address issues they wanted to take care of before the new fiscal year starts May 1. The council regularly meets on the first and third Monday each month.

Ward 2 Alderwoman Melinda Hult and Ward 4 Alderman Jim Davidson were absent.

As part of the new police station and City Hall upgrades, aldermen voted 14-0 to advertise for sale the city's property at 213 S. Illinois St.

The idea behind the sale is to move the Health and Housing Department from the site to City Hall, at 101 S. Illinois St., in spaces once occupied by the Police Department.

The Police Department's new headquarters will be the current Bank of Belleville building at 720 W. Main St.

The council voted 13-1 on Monday to spend $85,000 to buy additional land next to 720 W. Main St. to build a parking garage for police.

The parcel is owned by Richland Plaza III LLC and Balke Brown Associates. The St. Clair County Assessor's Office lists the 2013 fair market value of the land at $154,914.

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said the city plans to take out a short term loan to buy the Bank of Belleville building and perhaps the cost of the 2.7 acre-parcel for the garage will be part of the package.

Alderwoman-at-Large Lillian Schneider voted against the purchase. She said after the meeting that though she thinks the Police Department needs a new station, she does not think the new building has to be a "five-star hotel."

Schneider has voted against recent steps necessary to move the police station project along, including the initial decision for the city to buy the building at 720. W. Main St. for $3.1 million.

Schneider said she has voted "no" because of the city's decision to buy the building at 720 W. Main St. before the official findings of consultants hired to study various sites.

The Lawrence Group ultimately found the Bank of Belleville building to be the best site.

Also on Monday, the council approved receiving a settlement of $33,750 from developer McBride and Sons Homes related to a legal dispute over a road improvement project at the Brookhill Estates subdivision.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 618-239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDJLee.

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