Black Asks Council To Keep Supporting Blue

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From a volunteer to a dispatcher to an officer to a sergeant to a lieutenant, Jason Black held virtually every position possible for the Litchfield Police Department over the last 24-plus years, but on Thursday, July 15, Black was honored for his newest role - retiree.

Along with wife Michelle and several friends, family members and fellow officers, Black was on hand for the Litchfield City Council meeting on Thursday to be recognized for his contributions to the department.

“He is one of the most loyal and dedicated servants this city has ever seen,” Chief Kenny Ryker said of Black, who started as a dispatcher in 1997 before becoming an officer in 2001. Promotions to sergeant in 2005 and lieutenant in 2019 followed as well.

Black, whose last day was June 20, thanked the council for the opportunity to serve the city for 24 years and implored them to continue their support of the department.

“Here’s your heroes,” Black said, pointing at his fellow officers lining the side of Corwin Hall. “It’s been a privilege to serve with them every day and they need the support of the community and this council more than ever.”

The proclamation from Mayor Steve Dougherty honoring Black in his retirement led off the meeting, but the item that drew the most discussion was one that could keep his fellow officers busy.

After several community members expressed concern, the council discussed cracking down on motorized bicycles and their operators who are not obeying the rules of the road.

Mayor Dougherty said that there had been a recent death of a rider on a motorized bicycle, with council members Marilyn Sisson and Tim Wright both expressing their concerns after witnessing riders ignoring stop signs, driving on the side of the road around traffic and speeding.

Mayor Dougherty suggested that Sisson and Wright get with Chief Ryker and develop a plan for increased enforcement, which Ryker said the department was ready to do.

The Litchfield police chief added that enforcement is slightly complicated with the machines though, due to an Illinois Supreme Court ruling that says they are bicycles, not motorcycles if they follow specific parameters.

Ryker said that the department also has to be careful not to selectively enforce the statutes and treat all violators equally.

City Attorney Kit Hantla said that the city is able to make ordinances stricter than the state statute for protection of the citizens.

Alderman Dwayne Gerl asked Ryker if the motorized bicycles should be stopping at the stop signs anyway. Ryker said that was correct and officers would be watching to make sure that was happening more closely.

In other business, the council approved the minutes of the July 1 meeting, approved an ordinance amending the requirement for zoning notices and approved the start of the condemnation and demolition process on five vacant residential structures in the city.

The council also approved an agreement with Eagle Eye Commercial Cleaning for cleaning services for the Carnegie Building. 

Alderman Sisson asked if the company was in Litchfield. City Administrator Tonya Flannery said that Eagle Eye is based in Mt. Olive, but is operated by Litchfield native Austin Quinn and is one of the few insured cleaners in the area. Flannery added that the city will receive some money for the cleaning from the Litchfield Chamber of Commerce, which also has an office in the building.

Before entering into closed session, the council also passed the phase one engineering proposal from Martin Engineering for the Jackson and Hauser intersection rehabilitation for $7,500, approved the purchase of a 50 horsepower variable frequency drive from Illinois Electric Works for $7,374 for the wastewater treatment facility and approved the Litchfield Tourism Office to create a gift shop in its space in the Carnegie Building and authorized the purchase of Litchfield promotional items for sale not to exceed $3,000.

The meeting went into closed session at 6:53 p.m. and the council acted on one item after it reopened. A grant agreement between the State of Illinois, the Department of Natural Resources and the city for a Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant was approved, paving the way for the development of a sports complex in the Route 66 Crossings area.

The project would include eight soccer fields of various sizes, a concession/restroom/storage building a shade shelter, two playgrounds and a walking path. The city has an agreement with UCB Bank to purchase the property and the estimated cost of the project, including land acquisition, is $2.5 million.

The OSLAD grant would provide $400,000 and the city has also applied for a Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grant, which would pay for half of the land acquisition. The funds for the development of a complex will be allocated from the TIF and tourism funds.

More on the proposed complex will come in future council meetings. The council will meet next on Thursday, Aug. 5, at 6:30 p.m. at Corwin Hall.

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