MINOOKA – The next Minooka police officer to be sworn in may well be a dog.
Thanks to a donation from Grundy County State’s Attorney Jason Helland, Minooka now has the funds to purchase a drug-sniffing canine officer and send it and its handler to six weeks of basic training.
During the Tuesday Village Board meeting, Helland presented Police Chief Justin Meyer with a ceremonial check in the amount of $13,500 for the new canine program.
“An opportunity presented itself to enhance the police department and to support the patrol division,” Meyer said. “We had to jump on it. It’s a great tool for the narcotics division.”
According to Helland, Grundy County ranks third in the state, out of 102 counties, of illegal drug assets seized. Only Cook and Will counties rank higher.
“Even though we are only a county with a population of 50,000, we are third in the entire state in asset forfeiture due to drugs,” Helland said.
Interstate 80 and I-55 corridor is a major drug corridor, he said.
The start-up money for the Minooka canine program comes from the Grundy County asset forfeiture account.
From December through July Grundy County seized $100,000 in drug assets. Not a month goes by that a trap doesn’t seize 100 pounds of cannabis, Helland said.
“It’s definitely a necessary program,” he said of the canine program. “It’s very much needed.”
The department intends to purchase a Labrador retriever, which should arrive mid-February, Meyer said. Minooka police officer Matthew Juras will be the dog’s handler.
The annual cost after training will be $1,700. Mallard Point Veterinary Clinic has offered to donate annual preventative care and boarding for the canine officer.
In addition to traffic stops, the canine will be used for random searches at the schools, Meyer said.
“It’s a great opportunity for a smaller agency like ours,” Meyer said.
In other council news, trustees approved by a 6-0 vote an ordinance that provides assurances Airgas Merchant Gases, which is considering Minooka as a location, to build a new facility.
The company is a new division of Airgas, the largest supplier of industrial, medical and specialty gases and related equipment in the U.S., according to the Airgas website.
The company is headquartered in Cleveland, but has a purchase contract on a 7.6 acre lot in the Prologis Internationale Centre in Minooka. The company is looking to construct and operate an air separation and liquid purification plant used in the manufacturing and distributing of liquid gases.
The assurances include waiver of water tap-on fees and separate meters for the water and sewer since a large quantity of the water used is evaporate through the process and not discharged to the sewer system.
A final decision has not been made by Airgas Merchant Gases, Village Administrator Dan Duffy said. The company is waiting to hear what the state of Illinois’ incentive program will be first.