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Swayed by the argument for public safety, commissioners voted 4-1 at their Dec. 18 meeting to waive a hiring freeze so that a police dispatch position could be filled.

A dispatcher who was a member of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund was granted a job transfer and will become the department’s record clerk. The transfer created an obvious vacancy in the police dispatch staff, but village jobs that fall under the IMRF are under a previously approved hiring freeze in an effort to save money.

Police Chief James Ryan told commissioners that not filling the position would jeopardize the public’s safety, and asked that an exception be made.

Commissioner Theresa Steinbach noted that by allowing the transfer to take place, the resolution was inconsistent and allowed for a loophole.

“I don’t think the transfer was in the spirit of the ordinance,” Steinbach said. “Why wasn’t the transfer subject to the freeze as well?”

Mayor Anthony Calderone said that he did not contemplate transfers, though he did seek a legal opinion before allowing the transfer to take place.

“I intended to freeze just those positions for the IMRF,” Calderone said. “The goal behind the incentive was to eliminate or reduce the hourly rate the person was making.”

According to Village Administrator Mike Sturino, the starting salary for dispatchers is roughly $34,000.

The village council also addressed the police department’s request to promote one of its officers to the rank of sergeant because of a current sergeant’s medical condition. A motion to direct the fire and police commissioners to appoint one candidate from its current police officer eligibility list, effective Jan. 8, 2007, was approved unanimously.

Citing federal guidelines that protect a person’s medical information, village officials declined to name the sergeant.

Village attorney Michael Durkin said that both the village and police department’s doctor’s reports have indicated the sergeant will not be able to function as a police officer, having reached her maximum medical improvement (MMI) level.

The sergeant currently has an application pending before the pension board, which could take several months to complete.

While everyone was in agreement on the motion, Commissioner Patrick Doolin questioned the necessity of the promotion and asked, “What’s the rush?”

He suggested that it might be more cost-effective to restructure the command staff rather than promoting a new sergeant and hiring a new police officer. However, Calderone stressed the department is already shorthanded, and that a new officer would be necessary.

A union contract dictates the starting salaries for both patrol officers and sergeants. Beginning officers make some $44,000 per year, according to Sturino, and sergeants are paid $72,300 per year.