Meeting fails to settle issues on Hinsdale/Clarendon Hills police merger
Updated: March 1, 2013 6:23AM
HINSDALE — A meeting Jan. 22 between representatives of both Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills and the police officers failed to satisfy concerns regarding a potential merger.
One thorny issue in the police consolidation discussion is the fact that Clarendon Hills police officers, unlike Hinsdale officers, have been paying into Social Security, in addition to their police pension, for the past 30 years. In 1983, the Hinsdale Police Department left the Social Security system when the federal government offered the opportunity to do so.
When they retire, employees of the Clarendon Hills Police Department will be entitled to Social Security benefits, such as disability and survivor benefits, in addition to their pension, Hinsdale Police Chief Bradley Bloom said.
Village officials are exploring how they could compensate the Clarendon Hills officers for their reduced benefits should the merger take place.
But Social Security benefits are beyond the scope of a collective bargaining agreement, Bloom said. And any contract between the villages and the police officers will be for a limited period of time, while Social Security benefits are expected to be for life.
“They want the same guarantees they have under Social Security,” Bloom said.
Cauley is strongly in favor of merging the two departments, believing it’s in the best interest of both villages, in that “it keeps the same level of public safety and saves our communities substantial money. This is the only (place) where we could save close to $500,000 as a village without affecting the level of service,” Cauley said.
The savings would come because a consolidated department would have one police chief, one deputy chief and three sergeant positions.
Yet, the salaries of Clarendon Hills police officers would increase about 8 to 10 percent to match the Hinsdale police officers’ salaries, Cauley said.
Still, he realizes that the 14 officers in the Clarendon Hills Police Department are “a close-knit group,” who may think a merger would mean Hinsdale taking over their department.
“There is always the perception that one is taking over the other,” Cauley said.
The villages tried to address that upfront. The plan was for the cost of operating a merged department would be split between the two villages according to a formula based on population and the number of calls. But the consolidated police force would be governed by a joint committee consisting of the same number of representatives from each town.
“Hinsdale would not have the deciding vote,” Cauley said. “It would be a partnership of equals.”
The contracts of both Hinsdale and Clarendon police officers expire April 30.