City Council recap: new JPD deputy chief, construction co. picked for water plant

By Gary Scott on May 27, 2015 at 8:46am

Jacksonville Police Chief Tony Grootens (right) and Deputy Chief Chad Moore (left) are among those in attendance at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

Jacksonville’s mayor was the tie-breaker for an apparently-controversial hire for a high-ranking Jacksonville Police Department position last night.

Aldermen deadlocked 4-4 on a vote to promote Lieutenant Rodney Cox to deputy chief following last month’s retirement of Tim Shea, who had been with the department for 30 years. Mayor Andy Ezard voted “yes” to pass the motion, 5-4.

Ezard also broke the tie on a motion to table the vote, brought to the council by Alderman Mike Wankel, voting against tabling the measure.

Aldermen Wankel, Lori Large-Oldenettel, Don Cook and Tony Williams all voted to table hiring Cox, and then voted against the promotion. Voting against tabling the measure and subsequently in favor of giving Cox the deputy chief position were Bill Scott, Ben Tomhave, Steve Warmowski and Marcy Patterson.

Aldermen spent nearly an hour in closed session discussing personnel issues prior to the vote.

Ezard talks about getting involved in the vote.

“The appointment request, that came from the chief and myself, so of course I’m going to go to bat for my deputy chief. I was excited that he is going to be our new deputy chief,” Ezard says.

“In a perfect world, things would be unanimous, but I certainly respect the opinions of the other aldermen. I think Deputy Chief Cox will do an excellent job, he’s very organized. I’ve known him for years. He’s a smart individual, and I think he will move the police department in a positive direction like we all want it to.”

Police Chief Tony Grootens notes Cox filled in for retired deputy chief Chris McMinn in 2013.

“It’s an administrative role, and we had seven applicants for the position,” says Grootens. “Lieutenant Cox has been with the Jacksonville Police Department for nineteen years. He’s previously served in that position for a temporary period of six months and did a very, very good job at it.”

No aldermen initiated discussion on open record prior to voting.

Cox was named in a federal lawsuit after city resident Dennis Lancaster alleged excessive force for an arrest in September 2009. He was cleared by the Jacksonville Police Department and the FBI of any wrongdoing.

The other JPD deputy chief, Chad Moore, was also named in an excessive force lawsuit after a July 2011 arrest. That case was also settled.

Alderman Travis Richardson was not present, and the vacant Ward 1 seat was not officially filled at the start of last night’s meeting.

At another point during last night’s meeting, Moore announced two bids were submitted to local car dealerships for two new patrol vehicles. The low bidder was Westown Ford for $42-thousand after trade-in for two sport utility vehicles.

Two aldermen, Marcy Patterson and Steve Warmowski, voted against the measure. Warmowski, who asked that the low bid vote be pulled from the consent agenda, explained he didn’t like the idea of SUVs replacing patrol cars, and that they’ll have higher operation costs.

In other action Tuesday night, officials with Benton and Associates Engineering announced that Williams Brothers out of Peoria was the low bidder for construction of the new water treatment plant with a submitted bid of nearly $31 million. Aldermen approved the notice of intent to award the bid.

Benton Vice President Jamie Headen explains what’s next.

“We’ll be able to submit the bid package to the EPA, which is the funding source. Anticipate about a 45-day review process in hopes that middle to late July, the city will receive the IEPA loan agreement to consider at, hopefully, the second meeting in July,” says Headen.

“At that point, they’ll be able to actually enact the loan agreement and move forward with construction. So, potentially starting in August, with some construction activity this fall.”

City Council also passed a debt authorization ordinance increasing the amount of proposed issuance of bonds for the city to a maximum amount not to exceed $36-million.

“The EPA requires the city to authorize the amount of debt that’s required to construct the water treatment plant project, so those dollars include construction costs and non-construction costs as well as contingencies and other items that are involved,” he explains.

“So, prior to submitting to the EPA, they had to take action to get the debt authorizing amount to match the project need.”

Headen told aldermen that based on the current estimated cost of the water plant, water usage rates should be increased by about a dollar for users of 2,000 gallons a month, and by about two dollars for users of 5,000 gallons, by 2018.

Aldermen also approved a revised agreement with Buster Sanitation for the remaining two years of its recycling contract. City Clerk Skip Bradshaw says it increases what the city pays for recycling in the contract from $56-hundred to $5,740.

Buster officials cited increased recycling costs as the reason for the request.

Also last night, Dr. Susan Weller of the Jacksonville Center for the Arts proposed a downtown Jacksonville arts center that would go in a vacant lot near the municipal building. We’ll have much more on that this afternoon.

Correction: We made several references to this meeting being Monday night. It was Tuesday night.