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Benld Council approves new Civic Center doors

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Rick Verticchio, accompanied by Jono Verticchio, updates the council on the status of court actions against nuisance properties.

As temperatures plunged into single digits and only three council members were in attendance, the Benld City Council on Monday night voted to authorize the purchase and installation of new doors on the west side of the Benld Civic Center at a cost of $12,275.86.

R.P. Lumber, Carlinville, submitted the low bid for the project. Wills Milling, also of Carlinville, submitted an unsuccessful bid for $12,383.

The new doors will replace a double-door system on the west side of the Civic Center. The doors were not part of a recent extensive project underwritten by former resident Rick DeStefane. Mayor Jim Kelly said the existing doors do not properly seal, allowing rainwater and air to infiltrate the building. “If you go back there, you can see daylight coming in,” he said.

Moreover, Kelly said the doors do not reliably lock. He said he was recently called to the Civic Center after the doors apparently blew open in the night following an event. Kelly said hardware on the existing doors reportedly is not the hardware they were supposed to come with.

“We’ve spent so much on that building, I think we ought to fix the doors the way they’re supposed to be,” Ald. Jerry Saracco commented.

The opening currently is covered by two doors of equal width that meet in the center. The new configuration will consist of a state two-foot door, plus a three-foot door wide enough to meet ADA standards. The new doors will close onto a removable steel post in the middle that can be taken out to accommodate wheelchairs in the event of an emergency.

Kelly said he would recommend making the new doors for emergency use only, limiting access for renters to the front entrance only.

POST OFFICE LEASE

The council tabled action on accepting a new lease agreement for the city’s post office facility on Central Avenue after City Clerk Terri Koyne pointed out several possible issues with the leasing contract. Koyne said the new lease has an incorrect address for the facility and requires the city to provide snow removal and cleaning services. Moreover, a cover sheet delivered with the document limits the amount to $25,000, while the actual lease amount is $25,500.

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The lease was negotiated by a third party, which will require the city to pay a commission upfront. After paying the commission, Koyne said the city would realize a revenue increase of $125.50 per month.

City Attorney Rick Verticchio said he would look into the issues Koyne raised, but questioned why the city would renew the lease at this time since the current lease doesn’t expire until the end of 2024.

“Why would we be paying a commission a year before the new lease takes effect?” he asked. “I don’t think we need to do anything until the end of this year.”

CHICKENS IN CITY LIMITS

The council referred to committee a request from Travis Darling, who lives on West Walnut Street, to amend a city ordinance limiting the number of chickens residents can maintain in backyard chicken coops. The current ordinance limits residents to having no more than six chickens at a time.

“I feel that is too restrictive,” said Darling, noting he and his wife have five children. He suggested raising the number to 15, which he says would be an adequate number to provide his family with eggs and meat.

Travis Darling addresses the council about amending an ordinance to increase the number of chickens residents can keep on their properties from six to 15.

The family currently has six chickens, the maximum allowed by the current ordinance. Darling said the chickens provide his family with fresh eggs and a sustainable source of meat, contribute to soil fertility, and provide educational opportunities for his children, as well as entertainment for the family. He said he has taken steps to reduce odors from his coop and has had no complaints from neighbors.

Mayor Kelly said he would ask the committee to consider amending the ordinance. Verticchio pointed out the city also could approve a variance on a case-by-case basis.

CITY PROPERTY AND HOUSING

The council spent several minutes in open session discussing the status of several court cases advancing against nuisance properties.

The council again declined to consider extending the terms of a contract under which Derek Tiburzi is buying the former site of the First National Bank. The contract gives Tiburzi five years to erect a permanent business building, but Tiburzi asked for more time after a contractor told him the backfill on the site is not solid enough to support a concrete pad. Mayor Kelly reported the city recently hired Ranger Excavating to dig a trench to check the backfill material and found that it appears to be solid.

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Kelly said the original basement was only five feet deep and fill material placed in that area appears to be solid. However, well below the level of the backfill, Ranger encountered sandy soils from construction that apparently predated the bank building that was demolished by the city. He said Tiburzi’s contractor apparently did not take core samples to confirm his assertion that the backfill is not adequate.

Verticchio said the current contract does not have provisions for extending the deadline on the basis of the site’s condition. He said he would contact the contractor to determine what, if any, tests were conducted.

“Without that, we’re not going to extend the deadline,” he said.

Verticchio also reported the city has secured court authority to demolish and nuisance property at 207 South Fifth Street. He asked the city to notify him of when it plans to raze the building, so he can inform the owner, who may want to remove personal property before the building comes down.

Verticchio said there is some evidence that potential buyers for a trailer at 407 North Fourth Street have been living in the structure even though it has not been inspected for residency and apparently is not connected to the city sewer. He said he told the buyers they can be at the residence during the day to work on it, but they cannot stay overnight.

“I told the people the police is going to come and arrest them if they’re staying there at night,” he said.

A court hearing has been set for property at 208 East Central Avenue. Verticchio said the owners claim they are going to demolish the building but have done nothing toward abating the public nuisance.

“Even if they say they’re going to knock it down, we want a date,” Ald. Saracco said. “They’ve been stringing us along on that for two years.”

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The owners of 500 North Seventh say they are talking to a potential buyer, but Verticchio said the owners will have to reimburse the city for legal expenses, and the buyer will have to abate the nuisance within 30 days.

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Court News

Macoupin County Courthouse News

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

FELONIES

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.

MISDEMEANORS

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.

TRAFFIC

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

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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.

DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE FILED

  • Tasha McQuay versus David McQuay

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

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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:

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  • 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

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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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