• Megann Horstead

Village adopts new rule to benefit police staffing, discusses train station the historical society w


A new rule, as approved, by the New Lenox Village Board of Trustees Nov. 13 aims to increase New Lenox Police Department staffing as early as the year’s end.

In a pair of 6-0 votes, officials went on to waive the second read and approve the adoption of a measure allowing for the creation and maintenance of a lateral transfer eligibility list for the Village of New Lenox. Trustee Jasen Howard was absent.

The list is meant to help the Village to fill vacant positions more quickly by establishing a database of qualified candidates eligible for hire that is separate from records kept by the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.

“We find ourselves sometimes, like we kind of are now, down quite a bit [in terms of manpower,] and you can bring in some qualified, certified people,” Mayor Tim Baldermann said. “Personally speaking, and the chief and I have had a number of discussions about this over the years, I am in favor of it. The majority of the hiring I did, as a police chief, was … with lateral transfers. I understand the reason for using the [police and fire] list because you want to give some people an opportunity that maybe have never been hired before, but the nice thing about hiring laterally is you’ve already got somebody that already comes with certifications, they’ve already seen that they like the job, they’ve had an opportunity to be out there and see if they’re [a good fit] for the job.”

The New Lenox Police Department has 31 officers, to date. Chief of Police Bob Sterba wants to have a total of either 37 or 38 staff members as early as the year’s end.

Sterba said his staff has seen some retirees leaving their posts and others resigning to accept opportunities outside of New Lenox.

Other Village departments have already instituted similar lists to help streamline the process of acquiring new employees. The process of bringing new officers on board commonly takes 14 weeks, and the new rule will reduce that.

Compared to other Village staff positions, prospective police officers often experience a more elaborate process as they look to find work in New Lenox, with requirements calling for written/oral exams, a background investigation, medical exams and psychological exams.

The mayor and the Board of Trustees determined that the Chief of Police, along with his staff, must determine what applicants are included on this list and send recommendations to the commission for appointment. That list will keep record of prospective candidates who are at least age 23, possess two years of professional experience, be in good standing with their current department and are currently employed.

Sterba said what the police department has found is that many applicants did not have the necessary certification, and they needed to complete time in a police academy.

With prospective candidates added to the new list having more experience, the amount of time spent in a police academy would be eliminated.

Sterba said these officers would enter field training sooner, and it will not take as long for the officers to complete it because they will only require 8 weeks, instead of 12.

Typically, it takes $6,500 to send prospective officers who lack certification to attend a police academy. That makes for a roughly $20,000 cost savings for each officer who is eligible to advance to field training for 8 weeks.

Under the new rule, applicants will not be administered the written examination. Officers will still need to complete a 12-month probation period, which begins upon the date of hire.

The New Lenox Police Department does not have a residency requirement instituted. Advertisements will be employed and primarily seek applicants who already live in Illinois.

Sterba said the department has already started the employee search process under the Village’s current rules, and is hoping to acquire a pool of applications to review in the coming weeks.

“Public safety is too critical to not have this option,” Baldermann said.

Baldermann clarifies Village’s role with old train station on Route 30

Also at the meeting, Baldermann took time to clarify reports that the Village has the authority to take action on the old train station located off Route 30.

“There’s been quite bit of a discussion about the old train station over off Route 30 there, and, of course, every one of us up here, as elected officials, and some writers have heard over the many years that we have the train station in the worst repair along the entire line,” he said. “People who are riders up there are embarrassed by it, they don’t want use it, [and] they want a new train station. So, [this is] one of the things we said we were going to accomplish. We’re moving forward with that goal.”

Baldermann said it’s important to understand that New Lenox does not possess ownership of the building in question.

The train station does not possess historic landmark status, to date. Members of the New Lenox Historical Society have tried to take action to satisfy this aim only to find that its owners, Metra, did not want it.

The Village recently notified the New Lenox Historical Society that the building would have to come down, or if Metra is willing, they could move the train station.

“Metra very gratuitously said that they would give the building to the historical society, and that they were going to [turn] it over and let them have that, if the historical society wanted to move it over to some other location,” Baldermann said. “Nothing’s happened with it for a couple months, but now time is of the essence.”

Baldermann said Metra wants the train station removed from its current site for a number of reasons, including issues with line of sight, vandalism and liability.

“[The Village] can’t just say it can stay there, or fight for it to stay there,” he said. “The other issue is the utilities are going to be moved to [their] first temporary home. Metra puts up temporary trailers to house their ticket office, if you will, until the regular station is built. The price tag to run utilities to this, which would-be vacant building, would between $150,000 and $200,000.”

Baldermann said even if the taxpayers wanted to foot the bill, the Village wouldn’t be inclined to do this because Metra wants to remove the old train station.

“There are petitions that are circulating [to save the station] that are out there, and that’s fine,” he said. “It’s the democratic process. People can circulate petitions if they want, but a lot of the information has been misinformation that’s been put out there. … No. 1, no one wants to demolish the station, it just has to be moved, but some of the information is, [he said] ‘Why is the Village doing this?’ Well, we’re not. We don’t control it.”

The Village wants to move the station further to the east to correct issues for safety.

“I think speak for all of us up here, including our staff, we don’t have an interest in seeing this building demolished,” Baldermann said. “It’s out of our control, so hopefully the historical society can find a way, if they feel it’s that important, to move that building, like they did Schmuhl School.”

Round it up

A brief recap of action and discussion from the Nov. 13 regular meeting of the New Lenox Village Board of Trustees:

  • Trustees advanced a series of ordinances providing for the installation of stop signs at the intersections joining Eagle Circle and Willowfield Road, Eagle Circle and Somerset Court and Joliet Highway and Gear Drive.

  • The Board of Trustees approved the release of a surety in the amount of $4,954.73 to ensure public improvements to Haven Commons.

  • New Lenox officials granted a building code waiver to the engineering consultant for Target Corporation, providing for the attachment of a simulated wood siding over the existing brick face above the main entrance and along the east and west building corners.

  • Trustees approved a payment in the amount of $1,400 to cover the costs for Phase I environmental assessment for the property on Route 30 and Vancina Lane.

  • Officials approved a surety valued at $331,895 to ensure public improvements are completed to Cherry Hill XIV.

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