BLOOMINGTON — The city of Bloomington officially has a new police chief.
Clay Wheeler, a 27-year veteran of the department, was sworn in at the City Council's meeting Monday night.
As expected, a large contingent of Bloomington police officers attended and looked on as Wheeler's wife, Justine, and interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen pinned the new rank insignia on the collar of his uniform.
Wheeler was sworn in after Rasmussen officially appointed him, with City Council's advice and consent, to replace Chief Brendan Heffner, who resigned as of Friday to become U.S. marshal for the Central District of Illinois.
Wheeler's salary will be $155,940. Heffner, a five-year veteran of the department, was paid $147,000 annually.
"The thing is we have a great department," said Wheeler. "They work hard for this community and I am proud to represent this community. I've spent most of my entire life here, so really all I've got to do is make sure that they are allowed to do the good work that they do."
Wheeler, a 1984 graduate of Bloomington High School, started with the Bloomington Police Department in 1991 as a third-shift patrolman and worked his way up to assistant chief in 2011.
In other action, the council backed pursuing a long-term lease with the Boys & Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal to locate a new clubhouse on 3.27 acres of the 14-acre Sunnyside Park at 1700 W. Illinois St.
Rather than selling the parkland to the club for a nominal $1, city staff preferred a long-term lease of 99 years at a nominal cost of $1 a year, said city attorney Jeff Jurgens.
A lease would allow the city to retain control of the parkland and possibly allow the city to also use the new building, Jurgens said. The building would be constructed on the site of an existing ball field, which would be moved to green space just west of the facility.
The council could vote on the matter on May 29, a meeting rescheduled because of Memorial Day.
Prior to the meeting, Regina Noland led an hourlong rally attended by five people outside City Hall to urge the city to reject a welcoming-city ordinance after Normal's passage of one May 7. That matter involving how police interact with immigrants who entered the country illegally was not on the council's agenda and did not come up during discussion.
The council voted 9-0 to enter into an agreement with VenuWorks, which manages the city-owned Grossinger Motors Arena, to find a new naming rights sponsor for the adjoining, city-owned Pepsi Ice Center.
The council also voted unanimously to restructure the John M. Scott health care program, the operation of its trust and the role of advisory commissioners. Proceeds from the $11.5 million health trust established by the late Judge John M. Scott are overseen by the City Council.
The reorganization shifts from providing direct assistance to individuals to funding grants to programs that prevent illness and promote the health and well-being of McLean County residents, said Jurgens.