By Herb Meeker
News Report Staff
Effingham Police Department on Tuesday night recognized three of its own for going above and beyond in their duties over the past year and a mother and daughter for saving a loved one trapped under a car in June.
Dawn and Kacie Bloemker faced a nightmare situation at 2 p.m. on June 10 outside their Effingham home. A jack had failed and trapped Tim Bloemker as he was doing some work under the vehicle. Acting quickly, Dawn and Kacie made it possible to jack up the vehicle high enough to save Tim. Though seriously injured, Bloemker escaped death that day thanks to his loved ones.
“If it was not for these women, he might not be here today,” Effingham Police Chief Jeff Fuesting said in recognition of the two Special Act Award recipients.
Effingham Police Sgt. Danny Lake received a departmental award for protecting a family during a confrontation with a suspect last November that left the officer suffering face and head injuries. Telecommunicator Jane Lustig received a Special Act Award for her efforts to direct Houston emergency responders to save an elderly woman trapped by flooding from Hurricane Harvey. EPD Sgt. Jim Dillow received Chief Fuesting’s commendation for his extra efforts on acquiring and placing new police car decals as part of a departmental update on branding of the police department vehicle fleet this year.
Appearing before the Effingham City Council Tuesday, Chief Fuesting also told how Lake responded to an emergency call on a residential break-in on Nov, 13, 2016. Sgt. Lake encountered the suspect in the garage after arriving on the scene, with backup from other officers en route. Lake was injured, but he prevented the suspect from entering the house. Other officers arriving on the scene later faced a physical confrontation with the suspect before he was arrested.
Fuesting said Lake was facing a person suffering from a mental crisis at the time. It was noteworthy that the officer did not respond to the incident with deadly force, thereby preventing an added tragedy.
Lustig became involved in helping the hurricane victim in Texas because a local resident in Effingham County called about trying to get help. During a four-hour period, Lustig worked to get a message through to Houston emergency authorities to direct help to the elderly resident confined to a residence as floodwaters were rising there. The telecommunicator eventually got through the 911 backlog in Houston to reach the Houston Police Department and directed help where it was needed.
Sgt. Dillow was involved in changing the look of the police vehicles from the start to finish. He checked on vendors and prices. He even took time out of his personal schedule to apply the decals to squad cars. Fuesting said Dillow “turned old cars into new cars” with his work. The Chief has had to correct some residents asking how the department could afford so many new squad cars – the new decals have made that much of a positive impression.
Recognition was also given to J & R Collision as a recipient of the Business Appreciation Award.
In other business, the city council was divided on paying a $50,000 membership contribution to the Effingham Regional Growth Alliance. The financial issue was for discussion during the meeting with a future vote expected later this month.
Mayor Jeff Bloemker said the contribution is an “investment in economic development” through cooperative efforts with the city’s economic development efforts. City Commissioners Merv Gillenwater and Kevin Esker expressed doubts on paying money through a membership contribution without realizing returns on the investment. Gillenwater also said he opposed voting for the contribution this year because the Alliance, which has collected contributions in past years from the city, cannot be nailed down on how the city money will be used.
“This is taxpayer money and we need to be held more accountable on this,” said Gillenwater, who questions why the city should pay a membership fee when there is little control on how the Alliance uses the money.
“If I’m putting money in an investment, I expect a return,” Esker said.
Commissioner Kevin Willis said it would be best to separate the membership fee from an investment. Willis did not offer any criticism against the Alliance.
Mayor Bloemker said the term “membership fee” is misleading. The city’s cooperation with the Alliance is “tapping into a network of successful people and businesses” for the good of the city.
The council will consider the issue during the Oct. 19 meeting when Alliance representatives will appear before the council.
In other business, the council approved final plats for Lakeside Hills, first addition, St. Johns and Prime Bane Subdivision, first addition. Development plans on the lots around St. Johns Lutheran Church will be considered by the Effingham Planning Commission next week.
The board also discussed annexing territory on properties, along West Fayette and East Fayette avenues and Celtic Crossing Subdivision, now receiving city water service. Annexation is required when city water service is extended outside city limits.
The council also learned about future lighting and pedestrian safety measures along North Keller Drive. An Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program grant combined with city Tax Increment Financing funds will help fund the improvements along the busy retail section of the city. The city will apply for the grant later this year and if awarded the money the construction could start in 2020 to make the “concrete jungle” on that end of town safer for pedestrians.
Effingham Fire Chief Joe Holomy said firefighters and other organizers raised $1,800 for hurricane relief going to the Salvation Army. He said the fundraiser culminated during the Fire Department’s Open House on Oct. 1.