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Harrisburg council split on replacing police officer

 
By Travis DeNeal tdeneal@dailyregister.com
updated: 3/2/2019 1:46 PM

HARRISBURG -- The four attending Harrisburg council members remained split on whether to hire another police officer at Thursday's meeting, meaning a new officer was not hired.

At the previous council meeting, Mayor John McPeek and Streets and Public Improvements Commissioner Natalie Miller voted in favor of directing the city's police merit board to forward a name for hiring a new police officer.

The police department has one less active officer on duty after the retirement of former police Chief David Morris in November of 2018.

At the earlier meeting, a citywide hiring freeze for all departments and positions was determined still to be in effect.

At Thursday's meeting, Miller introduced a motion to amend the city's hiring freeze so that another police officer could be hired.

Miller and McPeek voted in favor of amending the hiring freeze. Accounts and Finance Commissioner Richard Harper and Public Property Commissioner Mike Weirauch voted against the amendment.

Public Health and Safety Commissioner Beth Montfort was absent due to illness. Montfort had voted against hiring a new officer at the previous February council meeting, recommending that council wait until the new fiscal year.

Harper said the city may not be able to afford a new police officer. Instead, he warned, current budget numbers indicate the city may be forced to lay off up to three employees before the end of the fiscal year on April 30.

Miller said the safety of the public and the safety of current officers means the city should hire another officer. She said the city's police officers are being overworked because they are down an employee.

Harper later gave a budget presentation with the most currently available figures, to explain why he said the city needs to keep a close eye on expenditures.

OTHER NEWS

The city agreed to award its water main rehabilitation construction project to Bryant Construction, which came in with a low bid of about $2.3 million. Matthew Tosh, a co-owner of Brown and Roberts, the engineering firm on retainer for the city, said that the total cost of the project is estimated to be less than original forecasts. Initially, the project was estimated to cost about $3.3 million in total, but Tosh said the project now is likely to be about $2.8 million.

In addition, the city qualifies for a principal debt forgiveness loan from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency of $1.5 million.

The project will replace many very old water mains in the city. City officials have said some of the water mains are still the original cast iron mains installed when running water first came to Harrisburg about 100 years ago.