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Benld City Council approves $1.5 million appropriations ordinance



City resident Ben Marcacci appeared briefly before the council to propose a program to install public art pieces along the Benld-Gillespie Bike Trail.

The Benld City Council on Monday night approved a $2.2 million appropriations ordinance governing municipal spending for the current fiscal year. Council members also approved a previously tabled business license for a tax preparation service, agreed to advertise for bids for grading work at the new Benld Sports and Recreation Park, and approved a long-delayed lease for the Benld Post Office during the panel’s regular monthly meeting at city hall.

Though required by law, the appropriations ordinance is not a budgetary device. It sets spending limits for various line items for the fiscal year. In practice, most municipalities spend less than the amounts appropriated.

The appropriation approved Monday night includes $639,390.25 in proprietary funds (sewer and water funds, Motor Fuel Tax funds, and other funds that can be spent only for the purposes for which they were collected) and $1,514,612 in general funds, for a total appropriation of $2,153,002.25. The newly approved appropriation ordinance is $140,571 less than last year’s ordinance.

The $638,390.25 appropriated for proprietary expenditures compares with $1,018,820 appropriated last year. The new ordinance appropriates $165,315.50 for Sewer Department expenditures, compared with $382,320 last year, which included funding to complete the city’s sewer improvement project. A total of $318,074.75 is appropriated for the Water Department, compared with $501,500 last year. A total of $155,000 is appropriated for trash pick-up, compared with $135,000 last year. Motor Fuel Tax expenditures are capped at $111,000, compared with $105,000 last year.

The appropriation for General Funds, breaks down as follows: $272,060 for Police Protection, compared with $257,260 last year; $271,457.50 for Maintenance, compared with $171,075 last year; $208,394 for City Property, compared with $144,059 a year ago;  $41,891 for Administration, compared with $36,300 last year; $35,000 for legal fees, which is unchanged from last year; $17,450 for the city’s annual audit, compared with $15,900 last year; and $1,500 for the city cemetery, compared with $1,400 last year. The ordinance appropriates $1,200 for unemployment insurance, $7,859 for city parks, $3,500 for the public library, and $1,500 for the municipal band, all of which are unchanged from last year.

The appropriation also caps expenditures at $650,000 for development of a new sports complex on the former site of Benld Elementary School. The amount represents proceeds of an Open Spaces Land Acquisition and Development grant administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The new ordinance was unanimously approved on a motion by Finance Chair Jerry Saracco, seconded by Ald. Dustin Fletcher.


After tabling action last month, the council voted 4-1 to approve a business license application of Ed Rieffer, who said he planned to open a tax preparation service at 207 East Central Avenue. The council tabled the issue last month because Rieffer was not present to address questions the council had about the nature of his planned business. Rieffer’s application identified the business, called Fast Cash Now, as “taxes and loans.” Council members deferred action out of concerns that Rieffer planned to open a pawn shop or pay-day loan business.


Appearing before the council Monday night, Rieffer said he is a licensed tax preparer and planned to operate a tax preparation service at the address. He added that he “might” buy and sell real estate, using the storefront as a base of operation, and confirmed that one of his primary reasons for establishing a business is to facilitate renovating and renting three apartments in the building. City ordinance requires an operating business on the ground floor for any building on Central Avenue renting second floor apartments.

City Attorney Rick Verticchio initially recommended approving the business license.

“We told him before that we didn’t know what kind of business he wanted to start,” Verticchio said. “He’s told us that now. He’s going to prepare taxes and possibly buy and sell real estate.”

Rieffer told the council he bought the building for $5,000 and intends to renovate the structure to serve as an office and rental property. The building currently has broken windows and a frequently unsecured back door, all of which Rieffer said he planned to address contingent of the council’s approval of his business license. He said he wanted to do something downtown because “Benld is basically a ghost town.”

“If this town is a ghost town, why do you want to open a business here?” Ald. John Balzraine asked.

Rieffer said he wanted to do something to help “build up” the community. He said he plans to make his swimming pool installation business a part-time concern in order to devote full-time to the tax preparation service.

City Attorney Rick Verticchio asked if Rieffer plans to have the business open throughout the year, or if it will be open only during tax season. Rieffer said the tax preparation license requires him to be open a minimum number of hours per year. He produced a tax preparer’s license that he secured through Jackson Hewitt for the 2022 tax season. Under questioning by Verticchio he acknowledged he does not have a current license, nor is he licensed to buy and sell real estate. Rieffer said, however, that he plans to obtain both certificates before opening.

“You came to this council and told them you’re certified,” Verticchio said. ‘Then you tell us you didn’t renew your certification last year. I don’t think it’s inappropriate for the council to ask you to show them that you’re certified to do taxes now.”


“I don’t see why he has to have a license right now for us to approve a business license,” Ald. Fletcher commented. He said the city’s ordinances would empower the city to inspect the building and apartments, and to revoke the business license if Rieffer fails to meet his commitment to the city.

“I think we should table this until he actually has his tax license or real estate license,” Ald. Saracco indicated.

“I’m not going to spend more money on the building without approval,” Rieffer responded. “I’m not going to start work until I get approval. I’ll cut the grass and board up the windows, and let it rot.”

Ultimately, the council approved the business license contingent upon Rieffer securing a license to prepare taxes and subject to city inspection of the premises in compliance with city ordinances. Council members voted 4-1 to approve the business license with Ald. Balzraine voting “no.”

“I want to tell you why I’m voting ’no’,” Balzraine told Rieffer. “I don’t trust you, pure and simple.”


On a motion by Ald. Fletcher, the council voted unanimously to advertise for bids for grading work at the new Benld Sports and Recreation Complex on the former site of Benld Elementary School. The action is contingent upon the city engineer delivering drawings and bidding specifications for the project within the next two weeks.

Mayor Jim Kelly said HMG Engineers were working on plans to minimize the amount of grading and excavation needed to prepare the site for ball fields and other amenities. In the meantime, he said two bids have been received for playground equipment, both of which are less than the engineer’s estimate.


By a unanimous vote, the council agreed to enter into an agreement to lease a building on East Central Avenue to the U.S. Postal Service.


The lease had been in limbo for several months as City Attorney Verticchio negotiated with the Postal Service to reach the final terms. A major sticking point was a provision carried over from the previous lease requiring the city to provide snow removal service, although the city never fulfilled that aspect of the previous contract.

The new five-year lease retains the snow removal provision and will start Oct. 1, 2025. Under the currently lease, the city receives $3,300 annually. Under the new lease, the city will net $4,794 after paying the Postal Service’s lease broker’s fee.


City resident Ben Marcacci appeared briefly before the council to propose a program to install public art pieces along the Benld-Gillespie Bike Trail, creating an “art trail” people can experience on bike or by walking. Marcacci, who creates art himself in his Benld-based studio, said he spoke with Rick Spencer, who teaches welding at Gillespie High School, and that Spencer expressed interest in involving students in the project.

Marcacci said he has traveled extensively in connection with his job to 87 countries and countless small communities, many of which turned to art to attract visitors and enhance the quality of life for local residents.

“What brings people in is art,” he said. He cited Casey as an example of a small community uniting to create public art pieces to attract visitors. Casey gained notoriety as the home of the “world’s largest” wind chimes, world’s largest golf tee, world’s large mailbox and other “world’s largest” attractions. “Casey is two miles off the interstate, we’re three,” Marcacci said.

Ald. Balzraine expressed concerns about vandalism.

“That would be taken into consideration,” Marcacci said, adding that the sculptures he makes are made from quarter-inch steel. “I’d be more concerned about people climbing on them.”

Marcacci said the council would have approval of subject matter for all the sculptures. Additionally, he pointed out other communities have had success with public art projects ranging from murals to sculpture parks or art trails.


“Other people are doing this, guys,” he told the council.


Following a 20-minute executive session, the council took action to declare as public nuisances properties located at 200, 209 and 211 East Central Avenue. In a separate action, the council voted to declare 215 East Central Avenue a public nuisance, and tabled consideration of acquiring the property.


Voting 4-1, the council approved a measure to increase the building inspector’s compensation from $40 per inspection to $55. Ald. Saracco cast the sole negative vote, later explaining he had concerns about the number of inspections performed.

Mayor Kelly asked aldermen to make a list of properties in need of inspection and turning it over to the building inspector.

“That was my concern,” Saracco said. “That’s why I voted ’no’.”


  • Set a special meeting for 3 p.m., Monday, June 24, to discuss possible uses for the city’s $51,000 share of a multi-community Climate and Equitable Jobs Act grant administered by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
  • Thanked the Italian Club for purchasing a new stove for the city park pavilion.
  • Approved purchase of $5,559.60 in materials for the Maintenance Department.

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Court News

Macoupin County Courthouse News




Cases filed during July 7 through July 13. Visit the “Court News” category under the “Community News” tab for other editions.


Timothy D. Conlee, 29 of Gillespie, is charged with aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer, driving on a suspended license, and reckless driving in connection with a July 6 incident.

Dylan J. Arview, 25 of Benld, is charged with driving under the influence while license revoked or suspending, DUI, driving on a suspended license and driving 15-20 mph above the limit in connection with a July 5 incident.

Bobby L. Walker, 35 of Sorento, is charged with driving revoked/suspended with a DUI, driving on revoked license, operating an uninsured motor vehicle, displayed registration plate, and expired registration in connection with a June 27 incident.

Dustin W. Gooch, 34 of Beecher City, is charged with aggravated fleeing/bodily injury, unlawful display of a title, improper use of registration/title, operating an uninsured motor vehicle, and registration light in connection with a June 17 incident.


Jordan A. Black, 24 of Gillespie, is charged with battery/causing bodily harm in connection with a July 8 incident.

Dustin R. Stieglitz, 37 of Shipman, is charged with aggravated assault/use of a deadly weapon in connection to a June 29 incident.

Steven A. Kroll, 33 of Eagarville, is charged with resisting a peace officer, fire fighter, or corrections employee in connection with a June 26 incident.


David B. Brown, 58 of Virden, is charged with cancelled/revoked/suspended registration in connection with a July 3 incident.


Jennifer L. Roberts, 47 of Worden, is charged with driving on a suspended license and operating an uninsured motor vehicle in connection with July 5 incident.

Andrew L. Connoyer, 31 of Bethalto, is charged with improper use of registration, driving 15-20 mph above the limit, and no valid registration in connection with July 7 incident.

Megan E. Bertoldi, 37 of Gillespie, is charged with leaving the scene in connection with July 11 incident.


  • Tasha McQuay versus David McQuay

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School board disciplines staff member; hires AD and Student Services Coordinator




In a relatively brief meeting Monday night, the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education approved a “resolution of remedial warning” against an unidentified district teacher, and hired a new Student Services Coordinator and Athletic Director.

The actions followed an 80-minute executive session during which board members presumably primarily discussed personnel issues. The regular monthly meeting of the board was moved up by one week to fill key positions, such as the Athletic Director and Student Services Coordinator, prior to the start of the school year next month. The district was taken by surprise when former Student Services Coordinator Stephanie Bray and Athletic Director Mike Bertagnolli both announced their retirements within days of each other.

Supt. Shane Owsley said the resolution of remedial warning is a disciplinary action representing “a second strike, so to speak.” Neither the teacher or the nature of the infraction was disclosed in open session.

In other action, the board, voted unanimously to hire Shelsie Timmermeier as the district’s Student Services Coordinator for the 2024-25 school year, stepping into the vacancy created by Bray’s retirement, pending confirmation of certification and a background check. In a separate action, the board also appointed Timmermeier as an assistant high school women’s volleyball coach.

Jeremy Smith was hired, also by a unanimous vote, as the district’s Athletic Director for the 2024-25 school year. In a related matter, Smith’s resignation as middle school head baseball coach was accepted. Additionally, the board posted the coaching position as vacant for the coming school year.

On a motion by Weye Schmidt, seconded by Dennis Tiburzi, the board hired Alex Jasper as a high school social science teacher for the coming school year. The board also voted unanimously to hire Tate Wargo as a first-year, non-tenured physical education instructor, pending confirmation of certification. Both positions were vacated as a result of the sudden resignation of Dalton Barnes in April as head football coach, physical education teacher and social science teacher. 

In related matters, the board also hired Wargo Monday night as an eighth grade boy’s basketball coach, and accepted Jasper’s resignation as a district paraprofessional and posted the position as vacant.

In other personnel action, the board:

  • Hired Amanda Ewin as a one-on-one aide.
  • Hired Anthony Kravanya as a freshman men’s basketball coach.
  • Appointed Melissa Heigert as a volunteer assistant high school softball coach.

In other action, the board gave routine approval to a list of policies provided by the Illinois State Board of Education. 

Supt. Owsley also provided a brief update on the progress being made on safety projects expected to be completed before the start of the school year, including installation of a new intercom system, a card-reader entry system and shatter-proof protective film on exterior windows.

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Gillespie Library, United Community Bank to host Fraud and Scam Prevention seminar on July 22



Gillespie Public Library (Photo by Gillespie Public Library)

Friends of the Gillespie Public Library and United Community Bank are hosting a joint “Fraud and Scam Prevention” seminar at on Monday, July 22 starting at 6 p.m. at the Gillespie Public Library.

The seminar will focus on today’s common scams and frauds, which includes imposter and check scams, money mule fraud and those that target seniors. Presenters will be Jenni Alepra of Gillespie UCB and Kennen Bertolis of Carlinville UCB.

The seminar is open to the public and is free of charge. For additional questions, call the Gillespie Public Library at 217-839-3614.

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