Belleville officially takes over township’s duties

As part of Belleville’s plan to take over the duties of the Belleville Township on Tuesday morning, the city will staff the office with two part-time, non-union employees instead of hiring the two full-time, union employees who have been working at the township for several years.

Also, people who are seeking general assistance will still go to the township’s office at 111 W. A St. until about September when they will be asked to go to the city’s human resources offices at 512 W. Main St.

The city on Tuesday morning will officially take over the Belleville Township’s duties of giving general assistance to needy individuals who do not qualify for any other type of welfare.

It’s all the result of state and local legislation that allowed the city to assume the township’s duties in what lawmakers said was an effort to save money by dissolving the township founded in 1885.

The township, which has virtually the same border as the city of Belleville, usually gave aid to about 45 people a month. They can get up to $245 a month in discount store gift card or rental assistance. No cash is given out.

Township leaders also have given grants to community groups but state law does not require that type of aid as it does the general assistance to needy individuals.

On Monday night, the City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to create the General and Community Assistance Department, which will be overseen by Sherry Favre, the director of the city’s Human Resources and Community Development Department. The ordinance, which noted the township was to dissolve at 11:59 p.m. Monday, also establishes two fund accounts to receive the township’s money.

Belleville residents who claim the owner-occupied exemption in a home worth $100,000 can expect to pay about $18 this year in property taxes to support the new General and Community Assistance Department. Last year, this homeowner paid about $24 in property taxes to the township.

Mayor Mark Eckert said the township has around $500,000 in reserves that will be transferred to the city.

Debbie Dawson and Jennifer Conklin are the two Belleville Township employees who will not be retained by the city.

Dawson and Conklin declined to comment.

Township Trustee Michael Hagberg said Dawson earned about $54,000 annually and Conklin about $50,000. They also received health care benefits and the township contributed to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund on their behalf.

Favre said the office on West A Street will be staffed by two part-time employees. Mickey Meddows will earn $24 an hour for the lead position and the second employee will earn $14.79 per hour. The second employee has been hired to work for three months and the city will reassess how to handle the staffing for the new department.

“I have nothing negative to say about the manner in which they did their job, it’s just we’re going in a different direction,” Favre said of Dawson and Conklin.

“We’ll be going really into a case management direction trying to connect people to other community services ... to try to get better assistance for the people,” Favre said.

Belleville is changing the hours of operation at the West A Street office.

The city will operate the West A Street office Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., which would be a total of 34 hours. The township hours were 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday to Friday for a total of 35 hours.

After the city clerk and treasurer offices are moved back to City Hall this summer, the city will move the General and Community Assistance Department to 512 W. Main St., where the clerk and treasurer have been temporarily located while City Hall is being renovated.

Eckert said the city will save money because after September, the city will not have to pay rent for the new department, the city will have part-time employees instead of full-time employes with benefits and the city will not have to pay township supervisor and trustee salaries.

Eckert said he can’t guarantee that the city may have to hire a full-time employee to work in the new department.

“We believe we can do it effectively this way but we may after 12 weeks, we may look at each other and say, ‘You know what, we have to have one full-time for sure,’” Eckert said.

The city’s Finance Department will handle the new department’s billing and other financial needs.

Eckert said the city will continue to rent the West A Street office until September.

Eckert on Monday night recognized Township Supervisor Dennis Korte for his 42 years of service to the township. He has been the supervisor for the past 20 years and he was a trustee for 22 years before that.

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