Daily Egyptian

City council discusses report outlining understaffed police department

By Olivia Spiers

A city-commissioned consultant group reported the Carbondale Police Department does not have enough staff to carry out its expected duties, city officials said.

In the 2017 fiscal year, Carbondale’s city council budgeted $100,000 for an organizational and management review by Novak Consulting Group. The purpose of the review is to reveal possible adjustments that could be made financially and operationally to help boost productivity in the city.

The council began reviewing the eight proposals to gain the public’s opinion at its Tuesday meeting.

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The review deemed the police department is inadequately staffed and unable to meet the policing standards set by the International Association of Police Chiefs. As a solution, the council discussed the possibility of officers working 12-hour-long shifts to implement “proactive policing.”

“Our police department operates on a professional level,” said Mayor John Henry. “It’s of the highest priority.”

Councilman Tom Grant opposed the 12-hour-shift suggestion out of fear that severe fatigue would affect the 48 patrol officers while they are on duty.

“After eight hours, the average worker tends to not be as alert,” Grant said. “I wouldn’t want our officers’ performances to decline like that.”

Police Chief Jeff Grubbs cited the report, stating the 10-hour-long shifts officers currently work allows them to patrol crime-heavy areas effectively. He said the most plausible way to create a more visible police presence in the city would be to hire more patrol officers.

City officials were uncertain whether sufficient funds were available to hire new officers. The city could hire a maximum of four officers, which would total $352,000. In the last fiscal year, the city paid for 64 authorized officers, including non-patrol officers and those on worker’s compensation or military leave.

“The budget’s tight this year, and it will be tighter next year,” the mayor said.

The consultant report also highlighted the Carbondale Civic Center as not generating enough revenue to support itself. The council discussed requiring all organizations to pay insurance fees to use the building.

City Manager Gary Williams said the Women’s March organization paid fees to use the facility on Jan. 21 when about 800 people gathered to stand up for causes like reproductive rights, the Black Lives Matter movement, climate change and universal health care.

The council discussed the possibility of in the future waiving the fees for public events such as the march because the structure is meant to be a place for open community gathering.

Councilman Navreet Kang said the council should not have let the Women’s March organization use the building if it didn’t pay the fees.

“I don’t see how the organizations could pay for the fees without waiving them,” said Councilman Adam Loos. “I’d hate to see us lose that meeting place.”

In other city council news:

Marijuana cultivation center

The Southern Illinois Airport Authority entered into a 20-year lease to construct a marijuana cultivation center.  

The cultivation center located on the north side of the city is expected to increase agricultural economic growth. The construction might result in an expanded tax base, City Manager Williams said. 

The project is scheduled to complete within the next fiscal year.

Don Taco

Don Taco will move into a new building and modify an existing parking lot on East Grand Avenue between Pinch Penny Pub and University Village Apartments.  

The business is removing the existing structure on the property, building a new 2,225 square-foot restaurant in its place, and updating the existing parking lot to satisfy current city regulations.

The restaurant is expected to be moved by May 2018.

The Big Event

The mayor declared April 1 as the official ‘Saluki Day of Service’ for SIU’s program, The Big Event.

More than 3,000 students, faculty and community members contribute over 30,000 hours of community service on average since the project’s beginning in 1982. It has become the largest one-day, student-run charity service for the university.

“The work done here is incredible for the community,” Henry said. “We want to see it for many years.”

University Mall carnival

The council approved the carnival to be held at the University Mall from April 17 through May 2.

The carnival will consist of 10 to 12 rides, three games and a few food booths with typical carnival fare such as funnel cakes, caramel corn, popcorn, and cotton candy.  The carnival will not include any animals, amplified sound, road closures, tents or alcoholic beverages.

The hours of operation will be Monday through Friday from 5:00p.m. to 11:00 p.m. and weekend hours from 1:00p.m. to 11:00 p.m.  

“This is like the old days of Carbondale,” Councilman Kang said. “I urge everyone to come out and join us there.”

Staff writer Olivia Spiers can be reached at [email protected], 618-536-3325 or on Twitter @_spierso.

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