Members of the Benld City Council on Monday night heard an update on the three-year-old, county-wide CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) program, debated Illinois Valley Economic Development Corporation’s plans to improve and expand a playground at the agency’s Benld Head Start facility, and took action to purchase liability insurance for the coming year and purchase flags ahead of the upcoming Veterans Day observance.
In addition to explaining the program, CEO Facilitator Pete Visintin invited city officials who are also business owners to consider speaking to the class, volunteering as a mentor or becoming an investor in the program. Entering its fourth year of operation, the Macoupin County CEO program involves students from all eight Macoupin County school districts. Enrollment is limited to about 20 students and being accepted into the program is a competitive process.
Visintin described the program as a “nine-month coaching process” to prepare students as entrepreneurs. Individual students conceive and launch their own businesses as a requirement of the program. During the school year, students visit 50 businesses ranging from a local florist to Busch Stadium. Additionally, up to 50 guest speakers address students about business skills and entrepreneurship. “It’s not just looking at a book,” Visintin said.
The CEO concept was launched in 2008 in Effingham. Two years later, the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship was created to foster an expansion of the program to other locations. Today, there are nearly 50 CEO programs operating in four states.
“We are widely regarded as one of the top programs in CEO,” Visintin said.
Visintin said the Macoupin County program is supported by 41 businesses that donate $1,000 per year to subsidize the program.
A highlight of last year’s program, Visintin said, was a large-scale business development conference featuring motivational speaker Eric Thomas which attracted about 500 participants.
IVEDC PLAYGROUND PLANS
Ald. Jim Tilashalski questioned a letter from IVEDC discussing plans to improve and slightly expand a playground behind the building the agency uses to house the Benld Head Start program. Both the building and playground area are owned by the Benld Public Library. Tilashalski said his opinion was that the city council had no say in approving the project and that the request would more properly be directed to the Library Board.
“That playground is actually on the library grounds,” Tilsalski said. “Instead of dealing with us, they should be dealing with the library.”
Mayor Jim Kelly suggested the letter was sent to the city as a matter of information only.
“They do not have enough square footage down there for a playground for Head Start, according to the state,” Kelly said. IVEDC plans to install a new, taller fence and reconfigure the perimeter of the playground to meet state requirements, Kelly noted. The agency also plans to install new playground equipment. Kelly said the project will not involve city funds and will require approval from the Library Board. A final plan, he said, will be presented to the city council for the council’s concurrence before the project starts.
In a related matter, Kelly reported that IVEDC has acquired a building across the street from the Head Start facility which formerly housed a doctor’s office. The agency plans to use the building for meeting space and to house the agency’s Meals on Wheels program which formerly operated out of the Benld Nutrition Center adjacent to the Civic Center. The former Nutrition Center became unusable when the ceiling collapsed and has since been sold as surplus property to a private individual. IVEDC also plans to serve meals in the newly acquired building, basically serving as a place for seniors to eat and socialize.
Tilashalski and Kelly also briefly discussed a letter from American Tower in which the company again sought to acquire rights to a communications tower located south of the Benld Fire Department. Kelly said the company has made numerous requests about the tower but has not made a concrete offer.
“They wanted to know what it would take for us to give them the rights to the tower, and I said, ‘Make a proposal’,” Kelly said. Kelly said the tower currently has no power connected to it and apparently is not being used.
No action followed a seven-minute executive session to discuss legal issues, presumably related to nuisance properties. City Attorney Rick Verticchio did not attend the meeting.
City Clerk Terri Koyne reported that work is nearing completion on the annual city audit which will be presented for the council’s approval in November.
Ald. Tilashalski said he expects to discuss a cannabis ordinance during an upcoming meeting of the Ordinance Committee with an eye toward approving the ordinance prior to a new state law legalizing recreational use of cannabis to take effect in January.
In other action, the council:
- Accepted the low bid of the Illinois Municipal League’s Shared Risk Fund to provide liability insurance for 2020 at a cost of $30,218.29. IML bested a bid from Scheller Insurance, Mount Olive, to provide coverage at a cost of $30,422.
- Agreed to purchase five American flags and eight other flags representing each branch of the U.S. military and POW/MIAs from United States Flag at a cost of about $300. The flags will be delivered and will be flying prior to Veterans Day in mid-November.
- Approved a business license for Anton Fritz doing business as All American Roofing.
- Agreed to renew a notary stamp and bond for Deputy City Clerk Carol Wood at a cost of $50 to $70.