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Article updated: 1/8/2013 10:18 PM

Aurora panel supports bonuses for police

By Marie Wilson

Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner's proposed bonuses for officers who patrolled the city during its first murder-free year since 1946 met early support from aldermen on the finance committee Tuesday, but they did not yet come before the full city council for a vote.

Alderman-at-Large Bob O'Connor and aldermen Abby Schuler and Lynda Elmore all voiced support for giving a $500 bonus to each of the Aurora Police Department's 289 sworn officers, an idea of Weisner's announced last week after the city finished 2012 without a murder.

The bonuses would cost $144,500, an expense Schuler said is "an amount we can justify in the budget."

Weisner did not attend the finance committee meeting, but Chief Management Officer Carie Anne Ergo said the bonuses are expected to be funded by attrition throughout the year among more than 1,000 city employees. An amendment to Aurora's $396 million budget should not be necessary, she said.

"This is an opportunity to really recognize the dedicated effort and the extraordinary effort of our officers," Ergo said. "It is a one-time merit award and will not affect their pay in any other area."

Elmore said she reached out to leaders in her ward on Aurora's far east side to inform her position on the possible bonuses. She said she was surprised to hear everyone she asked "supported it 100 percent."

Putting a value on Aurora's historic year without a murder may be difficult, but aldermen on the finance committee said they were satisfied with the proposed amount.

"It's not a significant amount of money, but it's something that I think says thank you," Elmore said. "I think it was a good choice and a good amount."

Alderman Rick Lawrence, who frequently opposes Weisner's ideas and policies, was not part of the finance committee discussions. He said Tuesday he supports the city's police, but he thinks bonuses should be given to outstanding officers instead of all sworn personnel.

Lawrence also questioned why support staffers, such as 911 dispatchers, are being left out of the payday when they, too, play a key role in public safety and emergency response.

"This, to me, is the mayor's publicity stunt," Lawrence said.

With unanimous support from the finance committee, the bonus proposal should come before all aldermen during a committee of the whole meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15. It could reach the city council level for a vote at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22.

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