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Pekin Council Approves New Police Contract Despite Cost Concerns

Most of the Pekin City Council participated via teleconference in the Monday, April 27, 2020 council meeting.

The Pekin City Council approved a new four-year contract with its police union after a lengthy discussion over its affordability and communication about the negotiations.

Collective bargaining began in March 2019. Talks went to mediation last December after disagreement on economic issues following several bargaining sessions. The contract includes annual 2.5 percent bonuses retroactive to last year, signing bonuses, and changes to health insurance premiums.

Some councilmembers were concerned the city couldn't afford the contract due to revenue losses stemming from COVID-19. The city now faces a deficit of $4.8 million this year.

"I'm almost of the opinion, I don't think our revenues will ever be back to where we saw them. And with that in mind, keeping the citizen's needs at the foremost, with what they have to exist, I can't support this contract the way it is, I'm sorry," said councilman Lloyd Orrick.

"Based on the information I know, this doesn't seem to be affordable to the city of Pekin," said councilman Rick Hilst.

But Pekin Mayor Mark Luft said many of the terms were set in stone a year ago.

"There were steps that were taken care of in agreements set in place before we got to COVID-19," Luft said.

Hilst also said he would have prefered an executive session via phone to the individual face-to-face or phone meetings offered to councilmembers with the city's bargaining team. But Luft said that was the only way to adhere to social distancing mandates.

The council could either accept the contract as is, or reject it and send it off for arbitration. Orrick and Rick Hilst voted no.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.