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Seneca hires new police officer

The Seneca Village Board has approved the hiring of Frederick "Joe" Nicolas as its new full-time police officer at a rate of $20.17 per hour.

Rich Applebee, public health and safety commissioner, told the board Officer Michael Hetelle resigned from the police department. Nicolas will succeed Hetelle.

Hired in September 2016, Hetelle was one of 25 officers to receive honors in August 2017 during the Illinois chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, also known as MADD, Heroes Banquet in Springfield.

Hetelle joined the Granville Police Department in May 2015, before joining Seneca's department. He also worked with Streator's ambulance department. 

“Officer Hettle has taken a job with the Orland Park Sheriff's Department and of course, we wish him well,” Applebee said.

In February, Seneca resident Ron Webb lodged a complaint in public comment during the village board meeting saying Hetelle was harassing him. Police Chief Ray Meglan said Hetelle handled that situation properly.

Search for new police chief update
At this week's board meeting, three out of five board members were present. That presented a delay in the process of reviewing candidate applications and conducting interviews.
“We have accepted applications until 4 p.m. (March 6) and it would not be fair to proceed any further without a full board,” said Mayor David Spicer. “Commissioner (Randy) Timmons will not be here for the rest of the month and I think it's critical that the entire council be available to vote for our new police chief.”
Meglan, who has been police chief in Seneca for 37 years, recently announced his retirement, effective Monday, April 30. Meglan's police career spans eight mayors and nine public health and safety commissioners.
Spicer hopes the full board will be able to make a decision at the Tuesday, April 3, board meeting.
“I think between now and April 3, the entire council will be able to interview the candidates and make a reasonable and logical decision,” Spicer said. “We will put a vote off for as long as it takes to make sure everyone on the board is involved in this process. It's a big decision and again, I really think it's critical that the entire council make this decision.”
On another police chief matter, the board discussed Ordinance No. 83-05, an ordinance establishing residency requirements for police officers and village employees. Accounts and Finance Commissioner Rick Barla said there are currently four exceptions to the residency requirement: village clerk, treasurer, engineer and attorney.
“We would like to add the police chief to those exceptions,” Barla said. “This is not uncommon, because it allows a broader scope of candidates for local municipalities to choose from.”
Applebee agreed. 
“The vast majority of the candidates are from out of town. A residency requirement for our new police chief would be a barrier to getting the best candidates. And really, residency is a minor part of our search. Candidate skills and the interview are more important.”
The board will vote on the ammendment at the Tuesday, March 20, board meeting.

Additionally, the board approved:
A total of $56,433 in paid bills that include $17,948 from the water department ($11,067 for water meters); $17,730 from the sewer fund ($11,067 for water meters); and $9,616 from the public health and safety fund ($6,827 for monthly health insurance premium).
A tally of $22,134 was paid to Ferguson Waterworks, Schererville, Ind., for 217 water meters. Russell noted there were a little more 200 meters that still had to be replaced. The payment will be split between water and sewer funds.
A pay increase for Nadine Madine Maierhofer from Park Board funds. Maierhofer works on Park Board bookings and special events projects. Her hourly salary of $12 will be increased to $13, retroactive from Feb. 20.

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