Metro-East News

Belleville to enlist volunteer police officers to help during 'busy shifts'

Belleville Police department to develop auxiliary officers

Belleville Police Chief Bill Clay is planning to develop an auxiliary police force. The new volunteer auxiliary officers will be used to supplement and assist the current police force.
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Belleville Police Chief Bill Clay is planning to develop an auxiliary police force. The new volunteer auxiliary officers will be used to supplement and assist the current police force.

Belleville police officers will soon be getting some help from volunteer police officers.

The City Council voted unanimously Monday night to revise the city’s ordinance regulating unpaid, auxiliary police officers. One of the revisions calls for the volunteers to fall under the command of the police chief instead of the previous practice of having a chief of the auxiliary police force.

The volunteers, who will be given city-issued firearms, will be asked to ride along with officers on Friday and Saturday nights. They also will be requested to help with crowd and traffic control during festivals and parades.

“It has potential to help us in many ways,” Mayor Mark Eckert told the council.

Police Chief Bill Clay expects to have five volunteers on board by the end of the year. His goal is to get 20 volunteers.

The city previously had an auxiliary force but it disbanded before Clay became police chief in 2007.

“We want them to be able to go out and ride along with officers ... on busy shifts,” Clay said in an interview last week.

The volunteers are expected to aid officers when the police department gets a lot of calls for service beginning at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The shift would usually end about 2 a.m.

“You’re going to have more alcohol-related calls, you’re going to have more domestics and things of that nature because of the alcohol,” Clay said.

The auxiliary officers also would be asked to help with crowd and traffic control during festivals and parades.

Budget passes

Aldermen voted 15-1 in support of the annual city budget that includes funding for improvements on West Main Street from Sixth to 12th streets, a 3 percent pay raise for employees and an increase in payments toward the pensions for police officers and firefighters.

Belleville uses property taxes to support the pension funds and the city’s finance director estimates that a resident who claims the owner-occupied exemption on a $100,000 home would pay an additional $58.25 in city property taxes this year.

The $100.8 million budget has 48 funds and the largest one is the $28.1 million general fund, which is used to pay for the day-to-day costs of running the city. The city’s share of sales tax revenue and state income tax revenue are the two biggest sources of revenue for the general fund.

Eckert has said the city’s share of state income tax revenue has dropped about $1 million over a two-year period.

In the $28.1 million general fund, most of the funding goes to two departments: The police department will get $10.3 million and the fire department $6.7 million.

The budget will go into effect on May 1.

Ward 2 Alderman Mike Buettner cast the lone vote against the budget.

Buettner said he voted against the spending plan because it includes revenue from higher fees for bar and restaurant owners. The new fees where narrowly approved last month when Eckert broke an 8-8 tie vote and voted for the fee increases.

The fee increases included raising annual video gaming terminal fees from $100 to $200 beginning this month.

“I just feel like we’ve balanced the budget on the backs of small business owners this year,” Buettner said after the meeting.

Tax breaks

The City Council approved a series of motions that will kick off the process of getting tax breaks for two proposed developments: A Moto convenience store at the intersection of Illinois 161 and Fullerton Road and The Villas of Holly Brook assisted living and memory care center off Frank Scott Parkway near Belleville West High School.

Moto, through its parent company, FKG Oil of Belleville, is seeking two types of tax breaks:

▪ A property tax abatement on 50 percent of the increase in value for five years.

▪ An exemption from state sales tax for construction material purchased in Illinois.

Charleston-based Phillips Investments Inc. LLC is seeking an exemption on the state sales tax on construction material purchased in Illinois.

The exact amount of the tax breaks for the two projects has not yet been determined, but the city’s Economic Development, Planning and Zoning Department estimated the amount could be more than $100,000 for each developer.

Moto values its project at $3.5 million and Phillips Investments said The Villas of Holly Brook is valued at $9 million.

The City Council authorized agreements with St. Louis-based Economic Development Resources for assistance in getting state permission to expand the city’s enterprise zone to include the Moto and Villas of Holly Brook sites. If a project is located in an enterprise zone, the developers can apply for an exemption to the state sales tax for construction materials.

Aldermen also approved agreements with FKG Oil and Phillips Investments to ensure the developers would each pay $8,500 to cover the fees charged by Economic Development Resources.

Mike Koziatek: 618-239-2502, @MikeKoziatekBND