Benton, IL leaders vote on police department relocation, new fire truck

Benton, IL leaders vote on police department relocation, new fire truck

BENTON, IL (KFVS) - Money is tight in Benton, Illinois as leaders discuss attempts to relocate the police department's headquarters, and replace some expensive equipment at the fire house.

A town hall meeting was held on Tuesday at 6 p.m. to discuss the issues.

On Wednesday, city leaders approved to relocate the police department to the old scout cabin building on Washington Street.

"It's a block and a half, two blocks west of the fire department," City Commissioner Don Storey said. "So all of our first responders will be in the center of Benton."

Storey said he hopes to get started on construction for the new police department in September.

City leaders recently spent around $550,000 on a new City Hall Building, which they plan to move to on August 19.

The current venue was originally an office built by the Old Ben Coal Company, and would was occupied by the city in 1977.

"Vintage, 1953," Mayor Fred Kondritz explained in December of 2015, "And not a whole lot's been done to it. The roofs leak, the electric is outdated, and it's not handicap accessible."

While the new venue is still undergoing renovations, it will not be equipped to house the police headquarters which currently shares the Old Ben Coal building with government offices.

"Wherever the police department ends up will need to meet certain specifications for storage, space, and general operation," said Finance Commissioner Dennis Miller after Monday's City Council meeting. "Our current year's budget has $200,000 built into it for relocating the police department, and we're trying to make that transition without creating any debt."

Miller said the budget for the current fiscal year is not balanced, but would be if the police department didn't need to be moved.

One option for where to build the new station is the lot that used to house the "Teen Town" Cabin, which was demolished in recent months.

The relocation will be one of a number of budget woes that the city plans to outline at Tuesday's town hall meeting

Another option was discussed on Monday by Fire Chief Shane Cockrun, who outlined the need for a new ladder truck at the city's fire department.

The previous ladder truck was used for around 31 years, six years past its expected lifespan, until recently when necessary repairs were valued at greater than $55,000.

The truck is currently out of commission.

"We feel that right now, essentially our citizens are exposed," Cockrun said to the council. "We don't like putting ourselves in that position where we cannot provide necessary services."

Insurance regulations dictate the City of Benton must have access to two such pieces of equipment at any given time.

Without access, Benton Fire's safety rating may be diminished, which could lead to higher homeowner's insurance rates for residents.

Currently, the only one available is about 10 miles away in West Frankfort

"We're at this point now where not only can we not provide for anyone else, we cannot provide for ourselves," Cockrun said after addressing the council. "We cannot expect another community to come in to bail us out when we have someone hanging out a window in a fire… that could be 10, 15, or even 20 minutes wait time."

City leaders also voted on Wednesday to look at a used 105 ft. ladder truck in north Texas for the fire department.

Benton fire officials will head down to check out the condition of the truck and come back with their opinion on whether or not to purchase it.

Storey said the cost of the cost of the truck is $350,000. Storey said if the used truck falls through, Plan B would be to look into ordering a new truck and take some bids on getting one.

"The turnaround on getting a new truck would be 14 months," Storey said. "A new one, you're looking at about

The city is looking to sell a vacant lot on Huddleston St., right next to the civic center.

Commissioner Story said the money will go towards the ladder truck and the police department relocation.

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