Highland News Leader

Highland police chief voted off 911 board

Madison County Chairman Kurt Prenzler, center, opted to nominate former St. Jacob Fire Chief Scott Prange, right, in lieu of Highland Police Chief Terry Bell, left, to the county’s 911 board. The board approved Prange on a 14-12 vote.
Madison County Chairman Kurt Prenzler, center, opted to nominate former St. Jacob Fire Chief Scott Prange, right, in lieu of Highland Police Chief Terry Bell, left, to the county’s 911 board. The board approved Prange on a 14-12 vote.

On a split vote, the Madison County Board approved former St. Jacob Fire Chief Scott Prange to replace Highland Police Chief Terry Bell on the county’s 911 board.

“It is unfortunate that I was not re-appointed,” Bell said. “I would like to see better representation from this side of Madison County. In addition, I have spent several years on this board and have worked hard to represent both the citizens of Highland and the county as a whole.”

While board members said Prange was qualified, several — including Republicans — said Bell is an excellent public servant and did not believe it was appropriate to remove him.

Board member Judy Kuhn, R-Trenton, said she and Bell had personally met with Madison County Chairman Kurt Prenzler on the issue, and Prenzler had said he would reconsider.

“Taking Chief Bell off the 911 board is taking a Highland representative off the board,” Kuhn said. “This is definitely not a negative vote on Scott Prange; he is a good person.”

However, Prenzler did not reconsider the posting and placed Prange’s name for consideration in lieu of Bell.

The board on June 21 narrowly approved Prange’s appointment in a 14-12 vote, effectively removing Bell.

Prenzler said he believed law enforcement officials were frustrated at Madison County’s 911 consolidation progress, and by appointing new people to the board, he could help speed the process along.

Bell didn’t see how kicking him off the board would accomplish that.

“As a member of the board, I am a single voting member of a group that has had a significant change in recent years. I believe it was short-sighted of Chairman Prenzler to assume that one of the few remaining members left on the board bore the sole responsibility for the inaction of approving a consolidation plan earlier,” Bell said. “This has been a complex challenge that includes the ETSB (Emergency Telephone System Board) Board’s lack of more decisive direction to be sure, but also includes a lack of cooperation from many of the county’s municipalities and the State 911 Board’s unclear direction. This was evident by the multiple counties that sought a waiver as well.”

Board member Nick Petrillo, D-Granite City, also pointed out that the 911 board approved a consolidation plan the week before. It was developed by a subcommittee of law enforcement leaders and 911 operators to reduce Madison County’s 911 centers from 16 to 8 under the statute, and it would be going to the 911 committee for submission to the state next month.

“New people are not going to make a difference in the next 30 days,” Petrillo said.

Board member Phil Chapman, R-Highland, pointed out that at the meeting the prior week, 911 board chairman Terry McFarland advocated ignoring the subcommittee’s recommendations in favor of consolidating to one county center, which Sheriff John Lakin and many other law enforcement officials strongly opposed as an additional layer to emergency response and additional cost to the county, since 911 responses would still have to be dispatched through the individual departments.

“When you have a chairman over the whole shooting match who suddenly decides, with a month to go, ‘Let’s have one call center to handle the whole county,’ you wonder if it’s really Terry Bell’s fault, or the chairman’s,” Chapman said.

For his part, Prange said he had never personally met Bell, but had “heard nothing but positive things about the man.”

“I know there was a lot of opposition about Chief Bell being replaced and I believe that speaks a lot about him,” Prange said. “I was approached a couple weeks ago about filling his spot on the ETSB 911 Board of Directors. I believe my 21 years with the St. Jacob Township Fire Protection District — 10 years as chief — will be an asset to me in this position. I was honored to be considered for this role, and look forward to using my experience to serve the citizens of Madison County.”

In other action, Wood River Mayor Cheryl Maguire was also approved to replace longtime Granite City Mayor Ed Hagnauer on the Southwestern Illinois Law Enforcement Commission in a 24-2 vote, over the protests of other board members who praised Hagnauer’s firefighting background and years of service.

Prenzler said that Hagnauer, a Democrat, had resigned from the board, but board member Michael Parkinson, D-Granite City, said he believed Hagnauer was pressured to resign. Maguire, a retired teacher, defeated three challengers in November to become the first female mayor in Wood River’s history.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

How They Voted

ETSB appointment of Prange:

▪ AYES: David Michael (R-Highland), Ray Wesley (R-Alton), Michael “Doc” Holliday (D-Alton), Robert Pollard (I-East Alton), Jack Minner (D-Edwardsville), Micheal Parkinson (D-Granite City), Kristen Novacich (D-Granite City), Nick Petrillo (D-Granite City), Jamie Goggin (R-Edwardsville), Erica Harriss (R-Glen Carbon), Clint Jones (R-Maryville), James Futrell (R-East Alton), Christy Dutton (R-Bethalto), Michael Walters (R-Godfrey)

▪ NAYS: Judy Kuhn (R-Trenton), Phil Chapman (R-Highland), Donald Moore (R-Troy), Bruce Malone (D-Alton), Brad Maxwell (R-Edwardsville), Tom McRae (R-Bethalto, Ann Gorman (D-Edwardsville), Arthur Asadorian (D-Granite City), Gussie Glasper (D-Madison), Lisa Ciampoli (R-Collinsville), Elizabeth Dalton (D-Collinsville), Larry Trucano (D-Collinsville)