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Benld City Council Meeting Summary

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The Benld City Council narrowly approved a measure Monday night to promote City Comptroller Vickie Ferratto to Supervisor.  A promotion that comes with a $7,291 increase in annual salary.

The action followed a 45-minute executive session to discuss personnel issues.
Upon returning to open session, Ald. Mike Hedrick moved to promote Ferrotta, with a second by Ald. Dave Chiarodo. Hedrick made no mention of the salary increase in his motion.

During the roll call vote, Ald. Mickey Robinson asked about the salary hike.
“That was all discussed in executive session,” Hedrick said.
Robinson continued to push the question, prompting Mayor Jeff Hendricks to disclose that “Ferrattos wages would be increased to the level of a supervisor.”
“Basically, she will go from $13.39 per hour to $16.69 per hour,” he said.  The total annual increase, including benefits, he said, would be $7,291.

Ald. John Grewe and Ald. Rich Plovanich both abstained from the vote.  Robinson and Ald. George Nepute voted no.  Hedrick and Chiarodo cast the only “yes” votes. With the council deadlockd 2-2-2, it was up to the Mayor to cast the deciding vote.
“There has been a lengthy discussion about this,” Hendricks said, as he cast his vote. “Whatever the personality conflicts, I know what she does and I know how hard she works. She does as much as any other supervisor.”

In other action, the council accepted the gift of parcel of land on the north side of Central Avenue currently owned by Community Memorial Hospital, Staunton.  Lynn Fraelle, representing the Build Benld Committee, said “plans are to convert the property into a small park with a pavilion or gazebo and park benches.”

The city also accepted a gift of two lots owned by Gil Hebenstreit on the south side of Central Avenue. The property, located next to a small creek, is located almost directly across the street from the Staunton Hospital property.
On a motion by Nepute, the council voted to forego a spring clean-up day this year not only because of the expense involved, but also because the City of Gillespie also cancelled this years spring clean-up program.

Hendricks said the city spent about $1,100 on the program last year, but the cost was likely to go up this year because of increases in the cost of services from trash haulers. Waste Management, which provided dumpsters for the program last year, had proposed a contract that would significantly increase the cost, according to Hendricks.

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Hendricks said the city had planned to “coordinate with Gillespie so we don”t get their junk and they don”t get ours.  Gillespie, however, opted not to sponsor a clean-up program this year.

Monday night”s meeting was the last for Ald. Nepute and Plovanich. As a result of  this monthÕs consolidated election Nepute will be replaced by Tilashalski next month, and Peyton Bernot will be sworn in to take Plovanich’s seat on the council.

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School board deals with personnel issues during special meeting

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Stephanie Bray

Meeting in special session Monday night, members of the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education accepted “with regrets” the resignation for purposes of retirement of Stephanie Bray, one of the district’s three technology integration specialists, effective June 4.

The board called a special session to deal with the apparently unexpected resignation before the board’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting later this month. However, board members tabled action on approving a revised job description for the Student Information System/Data Integration Specialist position, pending further discussion.

The board also tabled action on posting the newly created vacancy and tabled posting a district-level secretary’s position.

In February of 2022, the board accepted “with regrets” Bray’s announcement of her retirement “no later than the end of the 2025-26 school year.” There was no indication of why Bray moved her retirement date up by two years.

On a motion by Weye Schmidt, seconded by Amanda Ross, the board voted unanimously to accept Bray’s resignation. The action followed a 50-minute executive session to discuss personnel issues behind closed doors. The public portion of the meeting lasted less than 10 minutes.

In other action, the board voted to renew the district’s One Room contract to offer a remotely taught Spanish class to fulfill the district’s foreign language requirement for the 2024-25 school year. This will be the second year an off-site teacher will teach foreign language at GHS, using remote communication technology. Supt. Shane Owsley said the district had no applications for the vacant teaching position last year. This year, an applicant from Brazil explored the possibility of teaching in Gillespie but ultimately accepted a tutoring position at Greenville University. Owsley said hiring the applicant could have become cumbersome because she was not yet certificated to teach high school Spanish. He said he recently changed the job description from Spanish to foreign language to expand the pool of potential applicants.

In other personnel action, the board approved the maternity leave request of Amber Allan, BenGil Elementary physical education teacher, effective Aug. 28 through Jan. 20.

In separate actions, the board accepted Nathan Henrichs resignation as Gillespie High School freshman football coach, posted the position as vacant, and appointed Henrichs as a varsity assistant football coach. The board also voted unanimously to appoint Alex Jasper as an assistant freshman football coach. The board unanimously accepted Wayne Ireland’s resignation as a volunteer assistant football coach, and voted unanimously to appoint Jarrod Herron and hire Trenton Cleveland as volunteer assistant football coaches.

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The board voted unanimously to hire Michael Rodriguez as a high school volunteer assistant women’s basketball coach.

On a motion by Schmidt, seconded by Kelli Vesper, the board hired Alexis Ollis as a head cook and kitchen staff member, pending documentation of certification and a background check. The board also Brittany Hughes as a district kitchen staff worker, pending documentation of certification and background check.

On a motion by Vesper, the board voted unanimously to post a vacancy for a one-on-one paraprofessional aide.

Board members voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Jessica Kelly as a middle school assistant track and field coach and voted unanimously to hire Jay Weber as the high school head track and field coach.

The regular monthly meeting of the board is set for 6 p.m., Monday, June 24, at the district’s administrative office.

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Americana festival set for July 4 at Benld Park

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Jess Barker, The Lodge Brothers, and The New Prairie Drifters are set to take the stage at Benld City Park on Thursday, July 4 as part of the Americana Festival.

The music festival intends to celebrate the birthday and spirit of America with thriving local culture of music, food, and art. It is scheduled to begin at 12 noon and end at 6 pm.

Food will be available for purchase from The Barracks American Table, a new Gillespie restaurant, and skincare products will be available from Nature’s Bliss, a Benld gift shop.

The park is located at 305 North Main Street in Benld. Admission is free.

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Macoupin County Fair underway until Sunday

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Rides, tents, food trucks, music, animals, and plenty of other offerings fill the grounds at the Macoupin County Fair for the 172nd year. The fair is held June 4 through June 9 at the Macoupin County Fairground north of Carlinville.

The oldest county fair in Illinois, the Macoupin County Fair welcomes thousands of guests to the area and unites agriculture, family, and community. The fair continues through Sunday with highlights every evening.

The fair also meets the needs of families on a budget, for just $10 per person you get parking and all-access to the carnival rides. The cost-friendly fun draws in visitors and locals who get to embrace the county’s namesakes.

Tracy Lawrence and Walker Montgomery are set to take the stage Thursday evening, June 6, at 7:30pm. Friday evening features the tractor and truck pull, and Saturday evening is the crowd-favorite demolition derby.

The fair opens every morning at 8am and closes at 12 midnight. For a full list of schedule of events or to pre-pay for entry, visit the fair’s website here.

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