Douglas

Police Chief Jeremy Douglas reports to the Watseka City Council public safety committee Tuesday night.

Hiring another officer could help the City of Watseka not pay as much overtime.

Chief Jeremy Douglas talked with the city council’s public safety committee about that other other police matters Tuesday night.

He said that overtime for the department was at $129,319.31 at the end of FY19. That number includes both full- and part-time officers.

That dollar amount is for 4,234 hours, which is a little more than what two full-time people would work for regular hours. That number of hours is 2,080.

Douglas told the committee that the overtime in FY19 amounted to several factors (as it does every year). Some of that overtime, he said, amounted to: 857 hours of sick time, for a total of $25,119.84; 423 hours of comp time, for a total of $11,242.95; 1, 656 hours of vacation time, for a total of $52,455.62; and 176 hours of personal time, for a total of $5,156.21.

Douglas noted, too, that the department has run short on the number of officers it has. Currently there are nine officers. Adding in the overtime to cover for those short shifts, he said, is an average over-time cost of $22,880.

A new officer, Douglas said, would cost a total of $54,833.74 per year.

He said there are going to be officers becoming eligible for retirement in the next few years. The officers with more longevity have a different benefits package than the newer officers, he said. The vacation time, he said for example, is quite different. “There’s still going to be personal time and there’s still going to be sick time,” he said.

To send an officer to a part-time academy costs about $2,000, and takes about six to nine months to complete depending on how the schedule is set. The person going to the academy goes on their own. Sending an officer to a full-time academy, he said, costs about $6,000 and the city also pays for room and board while they are at the academy, which takes about 14 weeks.

There is an officer going to part-time academy now, he said. If the city would want to send him to a full-time academy instead, he said, the next one isn’t until fall. The time to get that officer on the street would be approximately the same, but it would cost the city more, he said.

Mayor John Allhands said that looking at the numbers for the overtime it appears as though adding an officer would make sense.

He said, too, that he believes adding an officer would help alleviate some of the mandated overtime that is currently needed.

Alderman Dennis Cahoe said that 10 years ago, the department had 12 officers and two investigators.

Alderman Mark Garfield said he believes the city should move on the issue. “I’ve been good for this for a while,” he said.

Douglas said the officers are staying busy and calls for service are up.

The committee voted 8-0, with Alderman Dave Mayotte absent, to move ahead with hiring another officer.

In another police department matter, Douglas said the part-time hourly rate is lower than many other departments in the county. Wateka’s part-time rate is $17.50 per hour.

Onarga pays $23 an hour, Woodland pays $20 an hour and Milford pays $20 an hour. He said part-time officers come in to help alleviate some of the overtime issues. When a full-time officer works overtime, he said, the average pay is $44 per hour.

“It makes sense that we raise the rate,” he said. Some people who could work part-time hours have said they would go to other departments because the hourly rate is better.

Currently there are about five part-time officers who work in Watseka. Douglas said he would like to see the hourly rate raised to $25 per hour.

The committee voted 8-0 to raise the rate to $25.

In another matter, Douglas said that the officers have been busy in the last month taking training and classes on a variety of topics for continued education. CPR, administering Narcan, tactical leadership, fighting fentanyl, and using the breathalyzer machine are all topics of training that has been completed.