Belleville aldermen on Monday night appointed nine people to serve on a task force to figure out how the city will take over the duties of the Belleville Township.
The City Council also approved an ordinance paving the way for the city to accept the responsibilities of the township, which has been around since 1885.
In January, the township board voted to dissolve the township in May 2017 if aldermen passed an ordinance to take over the township’s responsibilities.
The moves were made possible after Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation last year allowing the township to shut down without a vote before the general public. Supporters of the legislation said closing the township is expected to save money.
The township gives aid to needy individuals, often in the form of $245 in assistance for rent, utilities and gift cards for food at discount stores.
The alderman voted 14-1 for the task force with Ward 2 Alderman Mike Buettner voting against the appointments. Ward 7 Alderman Trent Galetti was absent from the meeting.
The discussion over the task force included a heated exchange between City Clerk Dallas Cook and Mayor Mark Eckert.
My one concern about the task force is I don’t see anybody on there who’s representing the taxpayers.
City Clerk Dallas Cook
Cook, who also serves as the township clerk, argued that he has worked since being elected in 2013 to get the township disbanded and that he should have been named by Eckert as a voting member of the task force instead of as a staff support person.
“You could just put the person who’s put this forward,” Cook told Eckert.
Eckert countered that discussion of closing the task began a year before Cook took office.
Eckert said that he purposefully did not name elected officials to the panel.
I assure you we’re going to work together and we’re going to be open about this and we’re going to work to get the best results and recommendations back. This is just the beginning.
Mayor Mark Eckert
“I decided to not make it a political issue,” Eckert said.
“I assure you we’re going to work together and we’re going to be open about this and we’re going to work to get the best results and recommendations back,” Eckert said. “This is just the beginning.”
Cook also said members of the task force represent groups that have received aid from the township. “My one concern about the task force is I don’t see anybody on there who’s representing the taxpayers,” he said.
Township Trustee Michael Hagberg, in an interview, said it’s possible that taxpayers could realize a savings of $200,000 to $250,000 a year with the city taking over the township.
Hagberg said one city employee could handle the general assistance duties from the township. That person would not have to spend eight hours a day on that assignment and would be available for other City Hall assignments, he said. The township currently has two employees.
Eckert also noted that the township rents the building it uses at 111 W. A St. and the city would no longer have to do that.
Eckert proposed that nine people serve on the township transition task force and the council approved the appointments. Here are the members of the committee:
▪ Cory Hartz, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ
▪ Gerry Hasenstab, executive director of Catholic Urban Programs
▪ Jeff Dosier, superintendent of Belleville School District 201
▪ Barb Hohlt, executive director of the St. Clair County Health Department
▪ Tracy McCollum, immediate past president of the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce
▪ Bill Kreeb, the retiring executive director of the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House
▪ Cheryl Brunsmann, executive director of Programs and Services for Older Persons
▪ Doug Boyer, a deacon with the Catholic Diocese of Belleville
▪ Nichele Moore, attorney for the Catholic Urban Programs’ Neighborhood Law Office.
Staff support for the task force would be provided by Cook and Dennis Korte, the supervisor of the township, and Jim Schneider, director of human resources for the city.
In other business
▪ Aldermen approved a new four-year contract for 26 union clerical workers. The contract, which is retroactive to May 1, 2015, has similar raises that other unions have recently received. The clerical workers will get 2 percent raises in the first three years and a 3 percent raise in the fourth year.
▪ Kyle M. Wilson and Aaron T. Spargur were hired to be police officers and will be sworn in on Tuesday.