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Business Directory on The BenGil Post

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A recent e-mail from the Coal Country Chamber of Commerce to its members may have added a little confusion regarding the BenGil Post and its business directory. The BenGil Post is a for-profit business. It’s owned by G-Pie Media, LLC, which is a subsidiary of Ageless, LLC. It does not own the South County News, nor do any of the owners of South County News have ownership in The BenGil Post.  We are two separate entities that have partnered together to create a an all-in-one news source for the community.

Any business, whether they are part of the CCCC or not, can be in The BenGil Post’s business directory for free.  The directory is a part of the BenGil Post, and is owned solely by the BenGil Post. Micky Robinson graciously took forms to local businesses of the CCCC to get their businesses located on the directory as quickly as possible. We work with the CCCC, just as we work with the MEDP, local businesses that are not part of the CCCC, and other private institutions.

Even though we are a for-profit business, our primary objective is to help repopulate the main streets of Gillespie and Benld, as well as keep the current businesses open and profitable.

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Gillespie Council will consider grocery tax

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Alderwoman Wendy Rolando discusses flags in the business district.

The Gillespie City Council directed City Attorney Rick Verticchio to draft a new ordinance during a sometimes contentious meeting Monday night, which would impose a grocery tax on unprepared food items sold in the city limits. Mayor John Hicks acknowledged the city no longer has a grocery store, but noted that the Dollar General store and convenience stores in the city sell a limited number of grocery items. 

“We have been notified that the city can collect a grocery tax,” Hicks said. “It’s not going to be a phenomenal amount.”

The one percent grocery tax will replace a state grocery tax that was rescinded as part of the current state budget. The tax also was suspended via executive order during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Verticchio, who participated in Monday’s meeting by phone, said he would prepare an ordinance and have it ready for council action for the council’s August meeting.

In other action, the council authorized the mayor to work with the city’s insurer to expedite repairs to the city garage, approved the final payment for the new boat dock installed at Gillespie Lake, and approved the purchase of 20 American flags for display downtown during patriotic holidays. It was a heated exchange between Street Department workers and a city alderman, however, that lent a contentious tone to the meeting.

PRIVATE USE OF CITY EQUIPMENT

A question from Ald. Dave Link about city workers using city equipment on private property sparked an angry response from Street Department workers, including Supervisor Dale Demkey. Link alleged a city worker used a mini-hoe, skidster and truck for a project on a resident’s personal property. The ensuing argument, however, reached no resolution.

“It was city equipment and a city employee who took the afternoon off for the work,” Link said. He demanded to know who authorized the equipment’s use.

“We’ve done it before,” a maintenance worker responded.

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“We put a stop to that back when I first came on the council,” Ald. Bill Hayes countered.

Link angrily denied Demkey’s allegation that Link had used township equipment to move a storage building at his downtown tavern, and to remove concrete from property owned by Link. Link said the broken concrete from his project went to the municipality for its use.

“There’s no reason a city employee can’t use that equipment,” Demkey said. “It’s not like we get paid a lot of money.”  Demkey confirmed that he authorized the use of the equipment, and accused Link of targeting the Street Department.

Ald. Hayes said Link was responding to complaints from citizens who saw city equipment being used for private purposes. He said he, too, had received complaints. “If you’re going to do this for one person, you going to have to do it for all,” Hayes said. “You’ve got to treat everyone the same.”

“It’s been this way for years,” Ald. Landon Pettit said. “It’s not the first time this has been done.”

A visitor to the council meeting suggested forming a committee to act on requests to use city equipment. The Army Corps of Engineers, he said, follows a similar practice to loan equipment for “humanitarian purposes.” Establishing such a procedure, the spectator said, would not only standardize how the decisions are made but also protect the city from liability concerns.

“I know this is the way it’s been done in the past and I ‘get’ both sides,” Ald. Dona Rauzi commented. “But is it right?”

The discussion ended with no clear resolution before the council moved on to other business.

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DAMAGE TO CITY SHED

The council voted unanimously to authorize Mayor Hicks to work with the city’s insurer to expedite repair of some $13,000 in damage to the city shed that was caused when a street sweeper malfunctioned. Reportedly, the hydrostatic system on the sweeper failed, causing the machine to go out of control and crash into the shed. More damage was caused when the operator backed the malfunctioning machine out of the wreckage.

Mayor Hicks said the city has been unable to get an insurance adjuster to view the damage and authorize repairs. In the meantime, he said, a portion of the building’s roof is in danger of collapse. “I’d like to get this done as soon as possible,” Hick said.

Demkey said the Street Department had asked the council to replace the street sweeper for several years. “No one paid any attention,” he said.

“I say we go ahead and fix it,” said Ald. Pettit, “and if the insurance company gives us any grief, we have a lawyer.”

After further discussion, Pettit’s motion to give the mayor power to act was unanimously approved. Hicks said he will contact the insurer to see if he can expedite the claim and, if the insurance company is unresponsive, take action to get the damage repaired.

“It’s a safety issue, it’s an emergency,” Pettit said. “Let’s get it fixed.”

FINAL BOAT DOCK PAYMENT

On a motion by Ald. Frank Barrett, seconded by Link, the council voted unanimously to authorize a $53,275 final payment on a new boat dock recently opened at Gillespie Lake. The payment represents the city’s share of the new dock’s $253,000 total cost. The city received a $200,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for the project.

NEW FLAGS

The council agreed to take donations from the public to subsidize the purchase of 20 American flags to be displayed on downtown utility poles during patriotic holidays such as Memorial Day and Independence Day. Ald. Wendy Rolando said she had sought to purchase new flags for the past four years but had been thwarted by the lack of a budget for the project. She said the brackets for displaying the flags already are on the poles and the Street Department had agreed to place and remove the flags when needed.

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“It’s been suggested that we have a fundraiser or offer sponsorships to purchase the flags,” she said, adding she located a source to purchase three-by-five-foot flags with poles for $75 each. 

The council informally authorized Rolando to collect donations to purchase the flags, and several people present committed to donating to the project. However, Ald. Pettit’s motion to purchase the flags outright and reimburse the General Fund with donations was unanimously approved. Pettit said the donation fund also can be used to replace flags as they become worn.

FACIAL HAIR

Ald. Pettit suggested amending future employment contracts to include a provision requiring employees to comply with OSHA standards regarding facial hair, after an extensive discussion about a Water Department employee who refused to shave his facial hair. Ald. Hayes said OSHA requires employees at the Water Treatment Plant to be clean-shaven because an emergency with water treatment chemicals could require the employees to wear respirator masks. Facial hair reportedly prevents the respirators from properly sealing around the mouth and nose.

Water Plant Operator Dave Pickett later said the issue was moot because the employee had finally agreed to shave.

Hayes said the employee initially refused to comply on the assumption the rule was an arbitrary decision from Pickett.

“Someone needs to tell him it’s not us, it’s OSHA,” Verticchio said via phone. “I’m surprised they haven’t come down on us already.”

Verticchio said an employee who refuses to comply could be written up and, if he continues to resist, be terminated.

“The only employees this would apply to are people who might have to wear masks,” Hicks noted.

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Pettit said future contracts should reference OSHA standards because OSHA rules are subject to change during the employee’s tenure. “It would save our superintendents headaches in the future,” Pettit said.,

EXTRA PAY FOR POLICE CHIEF

The council unanimously approved a resolution enabling the city to pay the Chief of Police an hourly wage in addition to his salary for hours spent on patrol. Verticchio explained the Police Chief has been putting in extra hours as a patrolman because the police force is critically short of personnel. 

“The only reason he’s on patrol is because we are short,” Vericchio said. The department currently is short four full-time officers. “This is not a permanent situation,” Verticchio said, noting the resolution authorizes the supplemental payments through October to give the city time to hire additional officers.

The measure was approved with both Link and Hayes voting “present.”

In a related matter, the council authorized Police Chief Jared DePoppe to send two new candidates to the state’s Police Academy at the end of August in an effort to fill vacancies on the police department. DePoppe said those candidates have not yet been selected but he is actively interviewing applicants. He said one current applicant is expected to complete academy training early next month.

Ald. Janet Odell-Mueller asked if there was any way the city could obligate Police Academy candidates to stay in the city’s employ for a specific period since the city pays for their training. DePoppe said there is no such mechanism, noting the city has paid to train numerous officers who later resigned to move on to other positions.

In other action, the council approved DePoppe’s request to spend $2,122 to buy new radios compatible with ambulance and fire department communication devices.

DAMAGED DUMP TRUCK

The council referred to committee the issue of whether to repair or replace a damaged dump truck assigned to the Street Department. The truck bed reportedly is rusted out and in need of replacement, and the truck cab has damage resulting from a collision with a utility pole. 

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Mayor Hicks said the city received an estimate of $14,443 to replace the truck bed and $6,470 for repairs to the cab. The cab repairs, he noted, may be subject to insurance coverage.

“That’s half of what it would cost to buy a new dump truck,” Pettit said. He asked if the Street Department could function with a F-450 or F-550 instead. 

The committee is expected to assess whether it would be more cost-effective to repair the old truck or buy a replacement.

EXECUTIVE SESSION

No action followed a 40-minute executive session to discuss personnel issues and possible real estate. Ald. Bob Fritz requested the session to discuss real estate, while Ald. Hayes asked to discuss a personnel issue. Ald. Barrett asked to enter executive session to discuss resolution to a lake lot lease issue with Don Corby, who was on the agenda to address the council earlier in the meeting. No public action was taken, however, regarding Corby’s issue.

BICYCLE ORDINANCE TABLED

The council voted to table action on a proposed ordinance to ban bicycles, skateboards, scooters and side-by-sides on all sidewalks adjacent to city streets in Gillespie. Police Chief DePoppe urged the council to revisit the ordinance and eliminate the reference to “all sidewalks.” That provision, he said, would force bicycles onto the street and create safety concerns in residential areas where young children typically ride bikes on the sidewalk.

Ald. Link said the original intent was to ban bicycles, skateboards and similar vehicles from downtown sidewalks only. Ald. Rauzi suggested that there needed to be provisions to differentiate between bicycles, skateboards and similar vehicles and mobility equipment used by disabled persons.

The action marked the third time the ordinance has been tabled. Rauzi initially proposed the ordinance because downtown signage banning the use of bicycles on sidewalks during business hours has no ordinance on the books to back them up.

On Ald. Barrett’s recommendation the council also tabled action on a resolution revising procedures for issuing lake lot leases.

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OTHER ACTION

In other action, the council approved the $2,079 purchase of eight new security cameras for the boat dock and campgrounds at Gillespie Lake.

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Macoupin County zip codes included in high-risk lead testing

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Move puts state closer to goal of universal lead testing by 2026

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has announced an expanded list of high-risk ZIP codes, increasing mandatory testing for lead exposure of children who live within those areas. 148 new zip codes, representing parts of 60 Illinois counties, have been added to the list this year, bringing the total of high-risk ZIP codes to almost 1,200.

“There is no safe level of lead in the blood,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “To better serve our children and build brighter futures for all of our residents, IDPH is acting to ensure that more children have access to the testing and interventions necessary to decrease the potential serious physical and developmental health concerns linked to lead exposure.”

Under Illinois law, any child residing in a high-risk ZIP code is to be tested automatically at 12, 24, and 36 months. All children six years of age and younger are required to be assessed for lead exposure through the use of a questionnaire administered by a pediatrician. In addition, children who fall into other risk categories spelled out in the questionnaire are also tested.

High-risk ZIP codes are determined through an algorithm that assesses a number of different risk factors. The department has been expanding that list of ZIP codes gradually and expects to implement universal testing for lead exposure across all Illinois ZIP codes by 2026. The new expanded list, which took effect July 1, 2024, can be found at: Pediatric Lead Poisoning High-Risk ZIP Code Areas (illinois.gov).

Under current Illinois law, blood tests which come back with lead levels in excess of five micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) require a public health intervention. This includes a home inspection to determine the source of the lead contamination. If lead is found, the inspector will work with the homeowner to remove the sources of lead. In addition, there will also be a visit from a public health nurse who will educate the family on ways to protect children from the harmful effects of lead. 

The newly-added ZIP codes come from the following Illinois counties:

  • Adams
  • Alexander
  • Bond
  • Boone
  • Calhoun
  • Carroll
  • Champaign
  • Clinton
  • Coles
  • Cook
  • Crawford
  • Cumberland
  • Dekalb
  • Douglas
  • DuPage
  • Edwards
  • Effingham
  • Franklin
  • Gallatin
  • Hardin
  • Henry
  • Jackson
  • Jefferson
  • Jo Daviess
  • Johnson
  • Kane
  • La Salle
  • Lake
  • Lee
  • Macon
  • Macoupin
  • Madison
  • Marion
  • Marshall
  • Massac
  • McLean
  • Monroe
  • Montgomery
  • Morgan
  • Ogle
  • Peoria
  • Piatt
  • Pope
  • Pulaski
  • Putnam
  • Randolph
  • Richland
  • Rock Island
  • St. Clair
  • Saline
  • Sangamon
  • Shelby
  • Tazewell
  • Union
  • Vermilion
  • Washington
  • White
  • Whiteside
  • Will
  • Winnebago

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Stay safe and leave fireworks to the professionals on July 4th holiday

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Approximately 1/4 of all injured persons suffered multiple injuries due to fireworks

Springfield, Ill- The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal (OSFM) remind organizations and individuals to leave the fireworks displays to licensed, trained professionals this Fourth of July season.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fireworks started an estimated 12,264 fires in 2021, including 2,082 structure fires, 316 vehicle fires, and 9,866 outside and other fires. These fires caused 29 civilian injuries and $59 million in direct property damage. These fires are not only caused by commercial/consumer fireworks, but also by unregulated novelty fireworks that are sometimes purchased at local supermarkets.

In addition to fireworks, novelties such as sparklers, snappers, and poppers are dangerous. Sparklers account for the greatest number of fireworks injuries, and often to the youngest victims. Sparklers burn in excess of 1,200 degrees – hot enough to melt many metals and turn steel glowing red.  An instantaneous touch of this will cause a burn and may result in permanent damage or scarring.

“Fireworks and the 4th of July go hand-in-hand, but if not used properly or by professionals they can cause serious injuries such as burns, dismemberments, amputations, or worse, an accidental death. Consider using other items such as glow sticks or silly string to celebrate the holiday or simply attend a professional display,” said Illinois State Fire Marshal James A. Rivera.

During the July 2023 seasonal reporting period, 34 hospitals and facilities reported a total of 108 injuries to the OSFM. There were no fatalities reported during the 2023 reporting period. The reported injuries were related to a wide variety of fireworks with “Mortars” (47%) listed as the most frequent type of fireworks or pyrotechnic effect involved in injury. This was followed by Roman Candles (13%), Firecrackers (11%), and Bottle Rockets (10%). Nearly 50% of all injuries affected hands (21%), torso (13%), and eyes (14%). Lacerations were the leading type of injury at 21% followed by second degree burns at 20%. Abrasions accounted for 15% of the injuries and first degree burns at 13%. Dismemberment/amputation injuries decreased to 10 as compared to 20 in 2022.

IDNR reminds those who are sponsoring fireworks displays in Illinois to be sure their fireworks vendor has the required state licenses and certificates issued by the IDNR and the OSFM prior to their fireworks show.

The Illinois Explosives Act requires that anyone who purchases, possesses, uses, transfers, stores or disposes of explosives, including display fireworks, must have an explosives license and explosives storage certificate issued by the IDNR. Licensing and storage requirements administered by the IDNR do not apply to Consumer Fireworks (classified as 1.4 explosives).

Approved consumer fireworks are regulated by the OSFM and are permitted only in villages, counties and municipalities that have passed ordinances allowing such displays. Consumer fireworks may be purchased and displayed only by adults who have obtained permits from their local jurisdiction. Hand-held fireworks – including firecrackers, roman candles, and bottle rockets or any consumer firework with an unreliable trajectory are not approved for sale or use in Illinois. A complete list of approved and prohibited consumer fireworks can be found at:

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https://sfm.illinois.gov/content/dam/soi/en/web/sfm/sfmdocuments/documents/firepreventiondocs/pyfi-approvedprohibitedfireworks.pdf

“The last thing anyone wants during the Fourth of July is a fireworks-related accident that leads to life-altering injuries or even death,” said IDNR Director Natalie Phelps Finnie. “Understand the rules and play it safe.”

The Illinois Explosives Act is administered by the IDNR Office of Mines and Minerals, Explosives and Aggregate Division. This Division is staffed by trained and experienced blasting specialists located throughout Illinois. In addition to requiring comprehensive licensing, training and examination for individuals, the law requires that unattended display fireworks and explosives must be stored in an explosives magazine, storage facility or container that is inspected and certified by IDNR.

IDNR currently has 2,206 individuals licensed for the use of explosives in Illinois, of which approximately 742 are specifically for the use of display fireworks. There are 740 certified explosives storage magazines in Illinois, which contain nearly 41 million pounds of explosives. Of those storage magazines, 99 are certified specifically for the storage of display fireworks.

Anyone possessing, using, transferring, or purchasing display fireworks without a valid IDNR individual explosives license or storage certificate is violating Illinois law and could incur penalties. A violation of the Illinois Explosives Act can be a Class 3 felony, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. In addition, IDNR can assess administrative fines for violations involving display fireworks and other explosives.

Emergency responders are reminded to contact IDNR and the OSFM immediately with reports of personal injury or property damage resulting from the use of explosives, including display fireworks.

Go online for more information on the IDNR explosives regulatory program or for more information concerning the OSFM pyrotechnics regulatory program.

To report an explosives incident or accident concerning display fireworks, the public should contact IDNR Office of Mines and Minerals, Explosives and Aggregate Division at 217-782-9976 and the OSFM at 217-785-0969.

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