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Peoria Approves Settlement With Firefighters; 2021 Budget Presentation Delayed

City of Peoria
The Peoria City Council met Tuesday night.

One last change to Peoria’s budget for 2020 has been finalized, settling a lingering labor dispute and reversing a planned cut. But 2021 budget discussions to address COVID-19 shortfalls will wait another week.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the city council approved an agreement with Peoria Firefighters Union Local 50 that withdraws the union’s ongoing unfair labor practice charge while keeping Engine 20 in service through March 31, 2021.

“There’s nothing nefarious about settling a lawsuit that will promote public safety and save dollars and stop unnecessary litigation,” said District 2 Councilman Chuck Grayeb.

The settlement passed on a 9-1 vote with Zach Oyler opposed and Denise Moore absent.

A planned presentation of the revised 2021 budget was delayed, with City Manager Patrick Urich saying the staff is still finalizing the figures.

“The spending plan will be really an extension of the operating budget plan that we had made and the changes we made as part of the 2020 budget process,” said Urich. “These revisions still anticipate that we’ll have a balanced budget in 2021.”

Urich did submit a budget calendar, with council discussions scheduled for three of the next four Tuesdays – with Election Day not included – ahead of a vote scheduled for Nov. 17. He said that timeline could be accelerated “if council is comfortable with the direction the budget is heading.”

City Attorney Chrissie Peterson provided an overview of the settlement, noting the fire department will operate 10 engine companies and four truck companies through March. The department’s shifts will consist of 44 firefighters.

“If they are short on those positions, they will be filled with overtime,” said Peterson. “There will be no layoffs in the fire department between Oct. 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021.”

Grayeb originally brought the idea of tying the union settlement to saving an engine to the council floor on Sept. 22. At the time, concerns that it would be a “quid pro quo” resulted in the motion failing.

“It’s nothing to do with ‘Illinois politics;’ it’s called common sense,” Grayeb said Tuesday.

Mayor Jim Ardis noted the city and union had not yet finalized the potential agreement at the time of the previous vote.

“Common sense was appreciated in a negotiated settlement that is provided by this agreement, which we didn't have before,” said Ardis.

Snow removal plan

In another matter, Sie Maroon, deputy director of operations for the Public Works Department, presented plans for snow removal this winter as the department copes with staff reductions.

“I guarantee you that Peoria Public Works is going to treat every snowstorm that we’re faced with this season no different than how we've treated others just because we've had the reduction,” said Maroon.

The plan reduces the number of plow routes from 21 last year to 17, and total employees from 59 to 47. Snowfall between 2-6 inches will be removed within 36 hours, as opposed to 24 hours previously. The timeline for more than 6 inches is pushed back from 36 to 48 hours.

“We are going to attack these snowstorms the way they need to be attacked. We're going to be challenged; it's going to take longer,” said Maroon. “We're asking for patience and understanding, and we would hope that that message gets out.”

Other business

Among other items passed Tuesday, the council:

  • Adopted an ordinance capping compensation for the mayor and the district council members through 2025;
  • Agreed to a retainer contract with GovHR USA for recruitment services for potential department head vacancies, at a cost of $14,000-16,500 per search;
  • Executed a $52,300 agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation to replace video cameras at War Memorial Drive intersections with Knoxville Avenue and U.S. Route 91;
  • Accepted a $58,600 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant from the Department of Justice;
  • Approved packaged goods and on-site liquor consumption for J.K. Williams Distilling;
  • Changed Nevada Street between Oregon and Adams from one-way eastbound to two-way traffic;
  • Appointed Julie Enzenberger to the Sister City Commission, Kiran Velpula to the Zoning Board of Appeals, and Sharon Kramer to the Advisory Committee on Police and Community Relations.

Four items of unfinished business – pertaining to residential property registration, bodywork establishments, a sober living facility, and code changes related to duplex and parking regulations – were all deferred.
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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.