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Benld Council enacts ordinance against water meter tampering

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Benld resident Katie Jenkins appeared before the council to ask that the city consider establishing a three-way stop at the intersection of Illinois and Dorsey Streets. She said the intersection is a school bus stop and traffic often drives through the area at high speeds, endangering children who are present.

The Benld City Council on Monday night voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance establishing a fine of $500 against the property owner when an incident of water meter tampering is discovered. The ordinance is aimed at deterring property owners or tenants from reconnecting water services that have been disconnected for non-payment.

In other action, the council voted to eliminate the deadline from its agreement to sell the former site of First National Bank to Derek Tiburzi for redevelopment as a business location.

City Attorney Rick Verticchio told the council last month that persons who reconnect water services after they are shut off for nonpayment are technically “stealing” water. The Macoupin County State’s Attorney has been reluctant to prosecute such cases as a criminal matter, however, because it is not possible to prove who reconnected the service beyond a reasonable doubt. The ordinance relieves the city from proving who tampered with the water meter by making the property owner responsible for an ordinance violation rather than a criminal charge.

Under the new ordinance, the property owner will be held responsible whether they or a tenant actually tampered with the meter. Moreover, the ordinance allows the city to add the fine to the water bill associated with the property if it hasn’t been paid within 30 days, and require it to be paid before reconnecting the service. While water service accounts are supposed to be in the tenant’s name, Verticchio said existing ordinances make the property owner ultimately responsible for unpaid water bills.

In a somewhat related matter, the council voted specifically to shut off water service to a home where the owner moved out and allowed a tenant to move in without having a property inspection done and without reassigning the water service account to the new tenant.

“Shut the water off,” Verticchio said after being advised of the situation. “I’ll write you a note saying it’s okay if you want me to.”

Council member John Balzraine moved to shut off water service to the residence in order to have the consensus of the council on record. His motion was approved by a unanimous vote.

The council very briefly discussed measures to enforce the city’s ordinance that requires a housing inspection before allowing new tenants to move in. Verticchio said the city already has an ordinance establishing a fine for evading the home inspection requirement. Under the ordinance, property owners are required to provide the city with the names of tenants or persons buying properties contract for deed. Additionally, property owners are required to have a home inspection done by the city housing inspector and to pay for that inspection to be performed. Failure to comply with any of those requirements is subject to a fine.

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“You already have all that,” Verticchio advised.

WATER RATE INCREASE

The council voted unanimously to increase water rates for Benld customers in response to a recent increase imposed by the City of Gillespie, which provides treated water for the Benld system.

“We are getting an increase from Gillespie,” Mayor Jim Kelly said. “Like it or not, we’re going to have to raise our rates. Even with this increase, we still have the second cheapest rate in Macoupin County.”

City Clerk Terri Koyne said a home using 5,000 gallons for water per month will still their bill increase from $76 to $82.50 for water and sewer. The minimum bill for water and sewer will increase to $22.50.

In a related matter, Koyne said the city is still experiencing problems with the U.S. Postal Service delivering water bills, with bills often being lost or delayed in the St. Louis postal hub. She said residents who have not received a bill by the first of the month should call City Hall to find out what they owe.

TIBURZI SALES AGREEMENT

On a motion by Balzraine, seconded by Mickey Robinson, the council voted unanimously to accept Mayor Kelly’s recommendation to eliminate a deadline from an agreement to sell the former site of First National Bank in the 200 block of East Central Avenue to Derek Tiburzi. Tiburzi was the high bidder to purchase the property from the city in April 2022 after the city condemned the property and razed the deteriorating two-story brick building. Tiburzi agreed to pay $6,000 down plus monthly payments of $1,000 for 24 months for a total purchase price of $30,000.

The original agreement required Tiburzi to erect a permanent building for business enterprise within three years.

Last month, Tiburzi and members of his family appeared before the council to ask for an indefinite extension on the deadline because contractors had advised them the soil was improperly compacted to support a building.

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Mayor Kelly said the city’s action eliminates the deadline, allowing Tiburzi to continue to make monthly payments after which he is expected to build a business building as soon as feasible. The only restriction remaining is that Tiburzi build a business facility rather than housing or some other building.

DEMOLITION PERMITS

The council took no formal action, but briefly discussed and directed Verticchio to write a draft ordinance regarding permits for demolition projects. The discussion followed an incident last week during which the city was required to bring in a private contractor to finish knocking down a brick building across the street after it became unstable in the midst of workers attempting to raze the structure by hand.

“We have no permit for demolition,” Mayor Kelly told the council. The initial proposal includes a $250 fee for the permit, plus a requirement that the property owner post a $1,000 bond.

Ald. Dustin Fletcher suggested requiring the demolition site to have adequate fencing for safety considerations, and a system to notify the city when workers are on site. If the building on Central Avenue had collapsed, he said, the city would have no way of knowing if workers were trapped under the debris. Emergency workers could have wasted time and effort searching for people who might not even be there.

Fletcher also said exposed basements should be inspected before contractors fill them in to ensure they are not improperly backfilled with construction debris.

EXECUTIVE SESSION

Following a 20-minute executive session, the council voted unanimously to declare as public nuisances the following properties: 209 North Illinois, 111 South Sixth, 111 South Main, and 304 North Fourth.

STOP SIGN REQUEST

Benld resident Katie Jenkins appeared before the council to ask that the city consider establishing a three-way stop at the intersection of Illinois and Dorsey Streets. She said the intersection is a school bus stop and traffic often drives through the area at high speeds, endangering children who are present.

Mayor Kelly referred the matter to committee and noted that making the intersection a three-way stop would require a new ordinance.

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In the meantime, Ald. Fletcher said he would ask the Police Department to patrol the area during times when school buses are picking up and discharging children.

BACKHOE RENTAL

In other action, the council agreed to rent a backhoe from Equipment Share, St. Louis, for 1,584 for one week.

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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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Community News

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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