New officer

Photo Carla Waters

Watseka Officer Jeff Ward was introduced to Watseka aldermen Tuesday night.

A new Watseka police officer was introduced at the Tuesday public safety committee meeting.

Police Chief Jeremy Douglas introduced Jeff Ward to the Watseka aldermen.

Ward has been riding with Sgt. Bill Stanley and Officer Scott Muench.

“Jeff is a by-product of Watseka; homegrown here,” Douglas said.

“I’m glad he’s here. I’m glad he decided to join us and he’s going to be a great officer,” Douglas said.

Ward is a graduate of Watseka Community High School. He served in the U.S. Army for five years. He said it was officers that he saw when he was growing up that inspired him to become an officer.

The officers, he said, were serving the community and helping to keep it safe. He said he now wants to do the same.

Douglas also told the committee that calls for the month of August were at 436, which is right about where it was the month before. City ordinance violation enforcement is down, but that is because the city has hired Bill Stanley to work on those violations, he said.

“Since Bill has taken over code enforcement, he has actually taken most of that work off our shoulders,” he said.

“We still do any of the minor ones, grass, some cars, things like that,” he said. “‘Almost everything Bill has taken off our shoulders, which has helped the officers as they do calls. We are still doing some basic city enforcement as we go by and someone is mowing grass in the street or something.”

In another matter, Douglas said that there are some other communities very interested in participating in municipal court with Watseka.

Currently, municipal court meets at city hall the fourth Thursday of the month. He said at the last municipal court, representatives from Clifton and Sheldon were present to see how the system operates.

“Sheldon, Clifton, Ashkum are on board,” he said. “Since I’ve talked to them, I believe Onarga is interested in joining us.” Douglas said that officers in Onarga and Milford will be bringing the idea up to their respective town boards.

“Obviously the benefit of that is the cost,” he said. The costs would be split between the towns participating. “We pretty much have an equation worked out of how much it’s going to be,” he said.

Mayor John Allhands said that Gilman had shown some interest, too. Douglas said he has not heard from that department yet.

In another matter, Douglas told the council that several officers have gone through some different trainings, including being four officers being certified in ATV operation.

He said, too, that there is a chance when the city’s portion of ETSB payments could increase. He said it was budgeted at $116,000 and could go up as high as $164,000. “I just wanted you to know,” he said.

Most of the cost, he said, is based off salaries and equipment that cost the 911 center. The scale is now set by the county board, he said.

He said the process is still be worked through and another meeting will be conducted soon.