A handful of once dormant — and even new — city council committees are meeting regularly once again.
The council’s Public Safety Committee, led by retired Vincennes police officer and now city councilman John Stangle, met last week with city police chief Bob Dunham to discuss ways in which the city can be a better partner to the police department.
Among the results of that discussion, Stangle told the council this week, will be an amendment to an existing ordinance that mandates all city police officers and firefighters retire at the age of 65.
Stangle said the committee agreed to recommend that be increased to a mandatory retirement age of 70.
“So you’ll see a change to a city ordinance come before you,” Stangle said. “Everyone agreed it was a good idea.
“So we’ll pass it along to the common council to review and discuss it (on July 13).”
Stangle said increasing that retirement age was one of the first things he wanted to do upon being named as chairman of the Public Safety Committee.
As a police officer for many years, he watched as still active and vital officers were forced to leave promptly upon turning 65.
Even city police chief Bob Dunham, who was just appointed to the post late last year, will be 65 in September.
“I’ve known officers who were still needed, ones who weren’t ready to retire,” Stangle said. “And people are just staying more active these days. There are 70-year-olds climbing mountains.
“That, and Social Security is changing all the time,” he said. “Some officers may need to work a little longer.”
And raising the mandatory retirement age to 70, Stangle said, brings the city in line with the state’s requirement for police officers as well.
Dunham, who is serving his second stint as city police chief, said he would enjoy another five years of serving the city.
“At my age, and with having more than 35 years of experience with the VPD, more than half of that as either assistant chief or chief, I just think as long as I’m healthy and can make a difference, I want to continue helping the (residents) of this community,” he said.
“I’m happy to do that, if they’ll let me.”
The council’s Budget and Finance Committee — one which hasn’t met in years — also met this week to discuss the next budget process.
Budget hearings typically begin in late August, and city council president Tim Salters said, given the COVID-19 shutdown and the jobs that were lost along with it, they need to be prepared for a decline in revenue in 2021 and 2022.
The city council, too, is facing some tough decisions in the face of rising health insurance costs.
“So we just wanted to get a footing on what the budget will look like and where we are specifically,” Salters said. “That way, when it comes time to hold budget hearings, we’ll all be on the same page.
“I think that’s important because COVID will bring some changes.”
And yet another, brand new city council committee will meet next week.
Ryan Lough is chairman of the council’s Parks and Public Spaces Committee, formed for in January. That group will meet for only the second time at 5:30 p.m. on July 1 at City Hall, 201 Vigo St.
The committee was launched as a way to better connect the city council to the Parks and Recreation Department and to come up with ways to improve public spaces.
Lough said he looks forward to continuing some conversations started at their first meeting back in February, specifically looking at ways to make more attractive the large green space located on the north end of the city’s Riverwalk, one recently cleared of several trees thanks to the April storm that brought 80 mph straight-line winds.
“That’s what we’re doing, talking about different ways we could do some things, some empty areas we might want to do more with,” Lough said. “Our parks themselves are run really well. The parks board does a great job.
“But there may be some new ideas we, as a committee, can come up with,” he said. “Maybe we can take that area at that end of the Riverwalk and make it into a small park. And maybe we can look, too, at ways to fund that.”