Benld council debates hire of new police officer

Benld council debates hire of new police officer

At the Nov. 18 meeting of the Benld council Molly Margaritas was accepted as a full-time officer. Coal Country Times photo by Jordan Grucza.


By: JORDAN GRUCZA

Coal Country Times Reporter

The Benld Police Department was at the forefront of the conversation at the Benld city council meeting on Monday.

First the council, with regrets, unanimously accepted the Nov. 9 resignation of a full-time police officer, Adam Durbin, who wished to be put into the part-time roster. In his place, the council accepted part-time officer Molly Margaritas, who was present at the meeting, into the full-time position.

“Molly’s been working part-time for us for about a year and she’s done an excellent job for us,” said Benld mayor Jim Kelly. “I recommend her for the full-time position.”

Kelly also recommended to the council that the city hire a fourth police officer, but was immediately met with a debate from alderman Jim Tilashalski.

“The last committee meeting that we had just discussed if the police chief had anyone in mind for a fourth officer,” Tilashalski said. “I was kind of surprised to see that we were voting for a fourth tonight.”

“Not a specific officer,” said city clerk Terri Koyne. “We were just voting to look into hiring a fourth officer.”

“The money that goes to the police department is from the general fund,” Tilashalski said. “In 2018, we had a $65,855 shortfall. In 2019, we discussed making a true effort to keep costs down. Our general fund this year, according to our audit, is down $21,000. Most of that is due to a communication tax. Fewer people are using their landline phones now. There was also a reduction in $2,000 in gaming.

“In our past history, around 2012, we had four police officers,” Tilashalski said. “Before the union came in, we went back to three officers. Keep in mind that when you go back to four, you are going to be dealing with everything that relates to the union, in connection with all the compensatory things there.

“The mayor, I thought, had concerns about the money spent at that time, which is why I thought we were working with Gillespie to see if we could get them to do something that’s part of our police department,” Tilashalski said.

The rest of the council was quick to step in once Tilashalski’s point was made. Alderman Dustin Fletcher said the part-time officers are already working too many hours, and the city is not working with a pool of part-time officers.

Alderman Teresa Tucker stated that those part-time officers filling in hours are exhausted, and that the city has a problem with part-time officers moving elsewhere for full-time jobs, leaving Benld with a revolving door of new hires which have to be trained.

“We’re constantly pouring money down the hole,” Tucker said.

“This is all according to the chief,” Tilashalski said.

“He’s the chief,” Fletcher said. “That’s his department.”

Kelly said that hiring a new officer will still be cheaper than paying time and a half. Fletcher added that the fourth officer will give all of them incentives to stay in town. Fletcher made the motion to start the process of hiring a fourth officer and begin advertising for the position. The motion passed, with all but Tilashalski voting yes.

The council also discussed the ordinance for the sale and use of marijuana within city limits, but found that they did not have enough information to go on to make any kind of motion.

Attorney Gina Verticchio, standing in for city attorney Jono Verticchio, shared useful information in the discussion, saying that the statute sets limits for the amounts for possession of cannabis, with 30 grams for Illinois residents and 15 grams for non-residents.

Verticchio also said that the city has the right to tax cannabis sales up to three percent. Fletcher also pointed out that if the city doesn’t pass an ordinance by January of next year, the city will receive no money from the taxes.

Kelly decided to table the vote, as the council has another month to research and discuss the ordinance.

Next meeting

The next Benld city council meeting is scheduled to be held Monday, Dec. 16.