COVID stories in Joliet include a crossing guard shortage

If you would like to work as a school crossing guard, Joliet has a job for you.

The city has a crossing guard shortage, which apparently is related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s only been one applicant in the past year,” Sgt. Jim Rouse, who is in charge of the Joliet Police Department Traffic Division, told the City Council Public Safety Committee this week.

Crossing guards start at $32 a day in Joliet.

The city needs 35 guards to cover all crossings and is down to 21, according to a Rouse report on the situation.

The department was sending police to cover some crossings.

“Now because of the current shortage in the police department, we don’t even have police to cover them anymore,” Rouse said.

Rouse proposed a hike in the compensation for guards covering more than one crossing a day, which is possible at some crossings because of location and timing. Instead of getting $6 extra for double-duty for half the day and $12 extra for double-duty for a full day, the guards would get an extra half-day pay or extra full-day pay for double-duty.

Many guards are unwilling to do double-duty under the current pay, Rouse told the committee.

The City Council seemed willing to go along with the idea, and Rouse said it may be a temporary situation anyway if the city gets more applicants now that the federal government has reduced unemployment compensation.

Hard to get parts

The COVID-19 pandemic is also taking a toll on the city fleet.

Fleet Director Jeff Price asked the Public Safety Committee for permission to order prisoner transport vans when they become available because they’re so rarely available now.

“The two current prisoner transport vans are near the end of their life,” Fleet said. “When the opportunity is there, we just want to say execute and move forward.”

Even keeping newer vehicles maintained is harder because the city garage often can’t get replacement parts.

“Everything is delayed,” Price said. “It’s just a fact of what we live in now.”

The committee gave the preliminary OK on the vans noting that the full council still will have to approve the purchase before it is made.

Mask dispute

The Public Safety Committee one was the same in which Councilman Joseph Clement refused to wear a mask, despite Committee Chairwoman Jan Quillman’s insistence that he do so.

My story on that standoff noted that Councilman Larry Hug did put on a mask but wore it below his nose, which is counter to the state mandate.

Hug informed me that while it was true his mask was below his nose, it was only because his reading glasses kept getting steamed up as he tried to read numbers in the proposals the committee was being asked to approve.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News