The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Chief Police Resigns

by Shirley Linder, Quill Editor

The Stronghurst Village Board convened at 7 p.m. and immediately a motion was made by Michael Bohnenkamp, seconded by David Vancil that the board enter executive session in regards to an employee.

At 7:10 p.m. the board returned to open session with Mayor Eric Chockley announcing that Chief Gary Smith had resigned his position as Chief of Police.

Chockley read the letter of resignation that he had received from Smith on November 30th. The letter stated that after two years of service he felt he had not gained the respect and confidence of the community and a few members on the board and the lack of trust affected the police department, so with mixed feelings, he tendered his resignation effective immediately. He stated he was proud of the success the police department had achieved in the short amount of time he was here.

Chockley also stated, "We have not decided on a replacement." He said, the executive session was held to inform the whole board that Smith had quit.

There are no plans to hire a new chief of police, instead, the police sub-committee will oversee the police department.

Michael Bohnenkamp, a former deputy sheriff, is the head of this committee with members Brendan Schaley, an Illinois State Trooper, and Deb Hale. Bohnenkamp said that Arbry Vancil, Lynn Hoyt, and Blake Fox had agreed to remain in their positions as part time deputies for the village.

The committee has met and set the patrol schedule for the month of December and this schedule will be faxed to Henderson County Sheriff's Department so they will know when someone is on duty in Stronghurst.

In other business:

Diana Doran spoke on behalf of the nursing home board after having each member of that board introduce themselves.

All of the Oak Lane board were present with the exception of Ralph Tatge and Sally Fisher. She also introduced Kathy Symmonds, director of nursing who had been employed there for 8 years and Richard Clifton, who has been the administrator for over 18 years.

Doran read the board a few facts about the Henderson County Retirement Center which was licensed in June 1989 and opened in August 1989. Oak Lane Nursing & Rehab is the established dream of such community members as Lyman Fort, Richard Riley and Demi Moore and others. They are a medical facility dedicated to the care of the people who reside within their walls. They offer a safe and caring home for those with medical and/or age related issues. They added 18 supportive and assisted living residences since 2009 with the addition of Oak Wood Estates. They operate under both federal and state guidelines. Since opening the doors 22 years ago they have had approximately 924 admissions with an average of 6-8 years stay, They have employed 1,760 employees and last year their annual salary exceeded 1.2 million dollars. They remain one of the top 3 employees of Henderson County for the last several years. There are several businesses in Stronghurst that have benefited from this facility. In 22 years they have spent approximately $211,200 in water bills alone. This does not include money spent for fuel, food, tires, postage and bank just to name a few. Doran stated, "We are all aware of the event that brought this board to your meeting, we are here to re-establish our partnership with the village working together for the benefit of our community. We have already spoken with the Henderson County Sheriff's Department on this matter to achieve the same agenda for all parties involved. The evening of November 4, 2011 our facility and staff had one thing and one thing only as a goal to secure the safety of a missing resident. Our 911 call was logged in at the sheriff's office at 7:09 p.m. Police Chief Gary Smith did not arrive at the facility until 8:14 p.m. Had this been under other circumstances, such as a resident wandering in the dark with extremely low temperatures this situation could have been a very sad ending. That hour could have made all the difference. We believe that if there had been a more timely response to our 911 call events may have been very different. It is our goal to establish an understanding between the Village of Stronghurst Police Department, the Henderson County Sheriff's office and the facility in dealing with this type of situation in the future. This would establish the priority of a fast response when assistance is needed and create a partnership in the search and/or rescue for a future resident." There being no questions from the village board members, the Oak Lane board members left the meeting.

In other business the board:

Present were: Mayor Eric Chockley; Trustees, Michael Bohnenkamp, Brendan Schaley, Deb Hale, Tony Anderson, Amanda Kane, David Vancil; Clerk/Treasurer, Lou Ann Nortrup; Employees, Ronnie Gittings, Mike Nelson, Arbry Vancil; Guests, Tom Edmonds, Diana Doran, David Gerst, Nancy Stevenson, Bill Allaman, Judy Roessler, Tom Pullen, Kathy Symmonds, Richard and Linda Clifton, Chris Cook, Roxann McIntyre, Deanna McIntyre, Dalton, Jens Notestein and Shirley Linder

The next regular meeting will be held on Monday, January 2, 2012 at 7 p.m.