LaSalle, Peru, Oglesby, Spring Valley involved in ‘unprecedented, historic’ initiative
LASALLE — Organizations everywhere have been forced to realize that working together and sharing limited resources is a benefit that can’t be overlooked.
The mayors and police chiefs of Spring Valley, Peru, LaSalle and Oglesby announced Jan. 18 they’re moving forward with plans to share certain aspects of their law enforcement services.
With the mayors calling it an “unprecedented and historic move,” the press conference was the official announcement that the successfully quiet discussions that have taken place between the four mayors and their police chiefs and city councils will now be moving forward publicly to further develop their plans.
“Nothing like this has been done before, especially between four different cities in two counties,” LaSalle Mayor Jeff Grove said.
Peru Mayor Scott Harl said the idea began to develop when his city began discussing the construction of a new police headquarters for its department. He said officials realized it would be a benefit to all the surrounding communities if they were able to share a newly constructed facility.
The cities have already consolidated their dispatching services with the Illinois Valley Regional Dispatch Center based in Peru. The shared dispatch went live in 2016 after being planned since 2010.
In a meeting with officers prior to the press conference, Peru Police Chief Doug Bernabei assured officers from all departments this wouldn’t threaten either their jobs or their pensions.
“This won’t result in less officers on the street. This isn’t a layoff scenario, and it will have no bearing on pensions,” Bernabei said.
“We all have the same needs. This would allow for an opportunity for better training and equipment if we’re all working together,” LaSalle Police Chief Rob Uranich said.
Bernabei said their goal was to make it better for everyone, and that the departments involved won’t be in a position to grow unless changes are made.
“We have a duplication of services which don’t need to be,” he said.
Each department would maintain its own identity, but officers were told each city could benefit if they were allowed to share available officers and investigators.
“Twenty years ago, this wouldn’t even have been a discussion, but we’re sharing schools and several other services, and this makes good financial sense,” Peru Mayor Scott Harl said.
The projected savings are significant. While the consolidated dispatching was expected to save taxpayers more than $750,000 a year, the long-term savings of a shared police service was said to be $250 million over the next six decades.
“I think that number is staggering,” Spring Valley Mayor Walt Marini said, adding that opportunities to control long-term pension costs are few and far between.
Another number that will likely be staggering is the amount of details remaining to be worked out.
Bernabei said they’re likely two years away from the approval of a plan for the construction of a new building.
“The next phase is a site location committee, and it will be the first of many, many stages,” Bernabei said.
Other discussions include what will happen to the existing department buildings, the possibility of substations, detailed financial impacts, legalities and much more.
The mayors said the development plans will be transparent and that the public will be kept informed during each step of the process. Each of the cities will be represented by their mayor and three representatives in future discussions, and the respective city councils will also be kept informed.
“If we didn’t have the full support of our police chiefs, we wouldn’t be moving forward with this,” Harl said.
“We believe these improvements can be achieved while still maintaining the independence of the respective police agencies, their police chiefs, and the physical presence of officers in each city, regardless of the location of the main headquarters of the four forces,” Bernabei said.
While no final decision or commitment has been made, Oglesby Mayor Don Finley said his city was happy to be a part of these discussions for the future.
“We all greatly appreciate the service and dedication of our men and women in law enforcement. Based on the initial discussions and studies, this new plan will provide them with greater resources, greater manpower and better access to the tools they need to succeed at their jobs, all while helping them operate their departments more efficiently and with great tax savings to our residents,” Finley said.
LaSalle Mayor Jeff Grove added the long-term benefits to the four communities will be substantial.
“If we can enhance the law enforcement services of our cities, keep our citizens safer while still realizing long-term savings in the very substantial amounts we’re projecting, we certainly want to explore this possibility in greater detail,” Grove said.