LYONS – After all trustees were seated at an April 16 Village Board meeting, Village President Chris Getty walked into the village’s chambers to a standing ovation.
Supporters of the village president had come in force to the meeting, but as they cheered, others in the crowd shouted him down.
Although the meeting addressed several issues, including new taxes and accepting recently voter approved referenda, significant time was spent addressing why Lyons had recently laid off seven officers – about a third of the police force. To continue to provide enough officers for regular patrols, the village will also move four police supervisors to assume street patrol duties. If an officer is out on vacation, is sick, or when a supervisor is otherwise occupied by an investigation, Getty said the village will use overtime to cover the shifts.
The village’s chambers were packed for the meeting with about 200 people, according to village estimates. Attendees included supporters of the village president, Lyons residents opposed to the police cuts and members of area police unions.
Getty opened with a statement from the village that once again laid out the village’s case for the cuts, and said they were in response to failed negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police and that the village had eliminated only its least experienced officers. Getty said the union had first accepted then rejected a 4 percent pay increase offered in December. The union has said before that sudden, new demands at the end of negotiations forced a no vote from members, but have not provided specifics.
According to Getty, the village will save about $650,000 a year with the layoffs.
“We support our police in the village of Lyons,” Getty told the crowd, which elicited heckling from those opposed to the layoffs.
Frequent shouting from the audience called Getty a liar and asked if seven years on the police force in Lyons was considered inexperienced. Supporters of the village president shouted back at residents and Getty had to warn that if he continued to be interrupted, the meeting would be ended prematurely.
“I’m going to conduct this meeting and if there’s going to be outbursts and interruptions, I’m going to end this meeting,” Getty said.
After votes by trustees on the meeting’s regular agenda, the floor was opened for audience participation. The majority of residents who approached the podium questioned Getty and the Village Board about the police cuts and called on the village to find other areas to make cuts in order to re-hire the officers. Residents said they were concerned with the lack of officers on patrol and worried that criminals would begin to target Lyons, knowing officers could response less quickly.
While the police layoffs may have provided the spark, residents opposed at the meeting also expanded their complaints to more diverse issues that questioned their trust in the village and its leadership. Lyons resident Paul Mayerhofer questioned why Getty had hired a full-time assistant, had hired his brother as a village consultant and why the board had voted to give themselves raises and full health benefits.
“If you drop all of that, you can hire some officers back,” Mayerhofer said.
Supporters at the meeting in turn said they trusted the village’s president. Resident Richard Balicki praised Getty and the board for making tough cuts and former Lyons Mayor Marie Vachata said she had always felt safe in Lyons and still did after the cuts.