By Bob Balgemann


Updates on recent activity at the city’s police and fire departments, as well as a follow-up on dispersing $350,000 to small businesses suffering from the impact of COVID-19, were provided Dec. 28 at a Committee of the Whole meeting.

The city received its full $350,000 request from the Economic Support Program (ESP), enabling it to give out grants to small businesses of up to $25,000 each. Budget and Finance Officer Becky Tobin told aldermen the final $50,000 of that award would be given to five eligible local businesses the first week in January 2021.

“Everybody is really excited about this and for some businesses, this is a lifeline,” she said. “They’re really appreciative to the city for this.”

The city earlier received $1.055 million through the first of two parts of the Coronavirus Relief Fund, under the Federal CARES Act. That money was to be used as reimbursement for its COVID-related expenses. The second part was the ESP, which now is providing some relief for businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fire update

Belvidere Fire Chief Al Hyser provided a detailed six-part report on some of the things that recently had been going on at the department.

Christmas-related, community activities included Firefighters Shop with the Kids, held on Dec. 5 in conjunction with those he described as “our local law enforcement brothers and sisters.” Belvidere Deputy Police Chief Matt Wallace provided details later in that department’s update. 

Boone County Fire Explorers, which Hyser said had been a long-time wish of his for the fire department, became reality earlier this year. “We were able to team up with Poplar Grove No. 3 Fire and participate in development of 20 Belvidere and Boone County youth interested in a fire service group,” he explained. “We hosted 2020’s final class, in forcible entry, at Station 1 (downtown), followed by a hamburger and hotdog cookout. The kids learned a lot over the year, in spite of COVID-19.”

Renovation of the downtown State Street station is 85 percent completed, he reported. “We hope to be moving into freshly remodeled areas in January,” he said. “I’m sure our members will be excited to get their firehouse back in order. It’s like a frat house right now.”

In response to a question from Alderman Wendy Frank, the chief said the renovation was on the second floor of the administration side of the historic firehouse, some of which was built in the late 1800s, in an area that probably hadn’t been touched since the 1940s.

“The guys have gutted the whole thing, re-drywalled, repainted, fixed the floors, the ceilings…”

Before he could finish Frank asked, “What will that area be used for?”

Hyser said the biggest part of that space will be for the fire inspectors, as they review construction plans and take care of related responsibilities. The officer of the day will have new quarters up there, he continued, and then the inspection coordinator will have his own office.

“Who is the inspection coordinator/” Frank asked.

“Travis Tangye, who took over for Craig Wilcox, who retired,” the chief answered. 

Hyser wrapped up his update by saying so far this year, the department has responded to 3,230 calls for service, compared with 3,098 last year, a four percent increase.

He then updated the Christmas evening fire in the 1400 block of 5th Avenue.

“Our department was at a gas leak investigation in the 500 block of 8th St. when a young man walked over to our crews and said his house was on fire. Response time as you can imagine was less than 30 seconds.

“The fire was in the basement of a duplex, single-story residence, which was valued at $135,000. The fire was quickly extinguished by fire crews, but there was $20,000 in damages because of extensive smoke. Crews rescued a cat and two exotic birds from that structure. No injuries to firefighters or residents were reported. The fire cause is undetermined.”

Police update

Deputy Chief Wallace provided that department’s most recent update, starting with Shop With a Cop at Walmart: “There were a lot of partners like the fire department, Boone County Fire, Sheriff’s Dept. and Crimestoppers. This has been going on for a long time.”

Officers and others delivered Christmas trees as part of the Hometown Christmas festivities with the department sponsoring a tree and helping out with 15 other trees on behalf of 4-H, he continued.

One of the department’s sergeants, Patrick Staples, will be retiring Jan. 8 and, through the promotions process, Senior Detective Dave Bird has been named to replace him, effective that date.

The department has been working with the fire and police commission on changing the rules to create a lateral list of possible hires, which would allow employing at least one officer from another department for the Belvidere department, the deputy chief said. In addition, the entry list of candidates has expired so a new one is being created.

He provided a snapshot of some of the law enforcement activities that recently occurred:

• A drug search warrant was served in the 300 block of East Jackson St. during which four people were arrested and more than four pounds of cannabis and cocaine were seized, along with $2,000 in cash.

• Patrol seized two handguns in separate incidents, one of which was a traffic stop during which the suspect ran.

• The department’s canine, Shep, has been diagnosed with a torn ACL in his knee and will require surgery.

• There was a shooting in the 200 block of West Locust St. during which a 17-year-old male was shot in the back near the YMCA. Circumstances of that incident are still being investigated, he said.

• Officers delivered food for the department’s Feed the Need campaign to the First Presbyterian Church and the VA. On Dec. 28 they conducted a mobile food pantry through the Northern Illinois Food Bank, and delivered meals for 1200 people at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Belvidere.

At the conclusion of his report he offered a motion for someone on the committee to make. That was to accept a $100 donation from Women of the Moose for the Feed the Need program. The motion was made, a second provided, and aldermen voted 8-0, with two absent, to accept the donation. 

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