Wearing blue shirts with their union name on it, members of the Illinois Federation of Public Employees, which represents the probation officers in the county, packed the St. Clair County Board meeting room on Monday, just days before a possible strike.
Probation Supervisor Paul Sullivan, the president of the council president, spoke at meeting and called for a fair contract.
“We don’t feel our concerns have been listened to for many years,” Sullivan said. “We feel we have not been treated fairly, we feel we haven’t been treated with respect.”
Sullivan said the probation officer oversee about 3,000 cases at one time; of those 1,500 to 1,600 that need active supervision. About 1,000 of the cases are medium to high risk violent defendants, such as with gun charges, or domestic battery.
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The probation department is already underfunded and understaffed, Sullivan has said, which has led to officers supervising caseloads two to three times what the Illinois Supreme Court recommends.
“We’ve done so quietly and professionally for many years,” Sullivan said. “We’ve done so in the face of being underfunded, and understaffed, and we’ve also done our job at a great cost benefit and cost savings to the state of Illinois and to this county.”
He said he understands the state is behind in reimbursement, but the 2017 payments have been vouchered to the county, just not paid out.
“We’re here tonight to ask the board, to give Chief (Andrew) Judge Gleeson the means to negotiate a fair contract with us.”
The union last week filed an intent to strike, giving the county a five-day notice of the possibility of a probation department work stoppage.
A session with a mediator is scheduled for Wednesday. The earliest a strike would begin is Thursday, Sullivan said.
Sullivan said the board has withheld information as to where nearly $700,000 from probation fees has gone. Officers requested information on how the money was used but have not received an answer.
“We don’t know where those funds have gone, we don’t know what they’ve been used for, nor do we know what the current balance of that fund despite asking for that information on numerous occasions,” Sullivan said.
The union represents 50 officers, supervisors and support staff in St. Clair County, Randolph, Monroe, Perry and Washington Counties.
In response to Sullivan’s comments on Monday, Kern reitterated how the state is behind in reimbursement for probation services reaching $5.6 million, including $793,000 from last year fiscal year and this year alone.
“That makes it pretty hard for the board to operate,” Kern said.
Kern listed the salary and benefits costs for probation officers range from $58,000 to $94,000 a year.
“When we talk about raises, it’s a significant portion of the budget that has to go there,” Kern said. “That’s not saying we don’t want to work together and figure this out. Judge Gleeson, we’ve been working with him to see what we could figure out of the contract. We take this very seriously ... we hope we can move together and see a resolution. We don’t want to see anything happen, or a strike happen either.”
Kern said county employees have received only a 1.5 percent pay bump this year because of the state reimbursement issues.
“All of this comes down to having enough money to operate the county. I think we’re all trying to move in that direction,” Kern said. “I know that you are loyal to this county and are working hard. We’re looking at all the funding.”
▪ Road repairs: County board members approved Kinney Contractors perform joint repairs on varoius county highways for $50,495.
Acting County Engineer Norman Etling said the work is expected to take place next month.
Etling said the road joints and pavement may expand and break in the extreme heat, leading to the needed repair.
The repairs are planned along Ashland Avenue between Illinois 159 and Old Collinsville Road, Hartman Lane between Lebanon Road and Crown Lane, Old Collinsville Road between Lebanon Road and Ashland Avenue, and South Green Mount Road between Illinois Route 15 and Illinois 177.
▪ Shafer Excavating: The County Board approved a plan proposed by S. Shafer Excavating to have truck parking and a mechanic shop on nearly 9 acres along Brookhaven Drive near Caseyville.
The property is located right off Illinois 159.
The planned mechanic shop is planned to be 60 feet by 60 feet. A building for truck parking is planned to be 95 feet by 60 feet, said Anne Markezich, the County Zoning Department manager.
▪ Landscaping business: The County Board approved a plan presented by Steven and Julie Kelley to allow them to run as their landscaping business,on 4.9 acres at 7505 Red Ray Mine Road outside of Freeburg.
The couple presently runs their business at 806 W. Apple St. in Freeburg, Markezich said.
At the Red Ray Mine Road location, there will be up to four employees, working from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to county documents. Equipment has to be stored in an existing 68-foot-by-70-foot shed. Bulk items can’t be sold or housed on the property, the county documents said.