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Elburn Police Dept. looking to hire full-time officer to solve staffing problems

ELBURN – The Elburn Police Department is looking to hire another full-time officer after having trouble finding someone to fill part-time officer positions.

For the past couple of years, Elburn Police Chief Nick Sikora has talked about the difficulty the department has had recruiting part-time police officers, and when they do come on board, they have difficulty keeping them.

According to Sikora, as the economy gets better, recruitment for police officers has become more competitive, and two scenarios have become more prevalent. One occurs when a part-time officer working for the village receives an offer for a full-time position with another department. Although this didn’t used to be a problem, due to potential scheduling conflicts, departments will no longer allow their full-time officers to work part time for another department. In addition, fewer police officers are looking for part-time police work when they retire.

So Elburn officers are being asked to work a lot of overtime.

“The men and women in our department have really taken a step up and are working 12-hour shifts three days a week,” said Sargent Erich Schlachta. “They’re willing to do anything to keep the streets of Elburn safer, even if it means working 60 hours a week. I’ve pushed my men and women as far as I can.”

Although there has not yet been a formal vote, Village Board members were in agreement with Sikora’s request to add another full-time position to the department’s ranks in exchange for eliminating a part-time slot. Schlachta presented options for cuts to the police budget to help offset the overall impact on the budget.

The cost to hire an additional full-time officer for the remainder of the current fiscal year with an Aug. 1 start date is $85,000. The reduction of a part-time position will save the department $20,000, and trimming a number of line items will save another $13,000. In addition, the board decided to put off a $22,000 expense to conduct a space needs analysis to determine the need for a new police facility.

The cost to pay a full-time officer for a full year of salary and benefits in the next fiscal year will be between $130,000 and $135,000. In addition, although this won’t be a factor this year, adding another full-time officer to the pension plan in the next fiscal year will cost an additional $36,000.

Village President Jeff Walter said that if the village wants to provide the level of police coverage they say they want, this action is necessary.

“I know it’s pricey, but the chief has made a pretty compelling case that it’s really hard to get people,” said trustee Bill Grabarek. “Everybody is suffering in the part-time department.”

The good news, said Schlachta, is that there is a part-time officer currently working for the department who is qualified and ready to take on the full-time position. He said there won’t be a need for training, no equipment costs, and he is ready to step into the job immediately.

The official vote to approve the change will take place when the budget modifications are brought back to the board.

Also at the July 15 meeting, the Village Board voted to approve an intergovernmental agreement with Blackberry Township, which adds the township to a cost-sharing partnership with the village and the Shodeen Group in paying to build a park at Keslinger Road and Liberty Drive in the Elburn Station Subdivision. In exchange, all residents of Blackberry Township, as well as all Elburn residents, will have access to the park for their activities.

The village and Shodeen received an OSLAD (Open Space Land Acquisition and Development) cost-sharing grant to pay for the park, $400,000 of which is paid by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, with the remaining $400,000 now to be divided into thirds and paid by Elburn, Shodeen and the township.

Although the township will participate in the initial cost to build the park, it will not be responsible for maintenance of the park once it is built. An SSA (special service agreement) that Elburn Station residents will pay is supposed to cover the costs of park maintenance. Blackberry Township approved the agreement at its July 9 meeting.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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