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City of Benld purchases truck, tables action on building permit changes

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The Benld City Council on Monday night agreed to purchase a new truck for the Maintenance Department at a cost of $54,111, retained an auditing firm for the upcoming city audit, and accepted the resignation of the Deputy City Clerk. Council members, however, tabled action on an amendment to the city’s building permit ordinance and tabled action on approving a business license application.

Mayor Jim Kelly opened the meeting by observing a moment of silence for the late Wanda Bernot who previously served the city as City Clerk.

In other action, council members heard a brief update regarding the status of redevelopment work for a sport and recreational park on the former site of the Benld Elementary School. Mayor Jim Kelly said Doug Ratterman of HMG Engineers had visited the site and plans to have a proposal for a new ball field on the site within the next five weeks, at which time the ball field project will be sent out for bids.

“They’ve staked it,” Kelly said, adding the engineers will give the city proposed plans soon. “They’re setting it up for the least amount of dirt moving,” he said.

In association with the non-profit Benld Sports Association, the city is developing the 11-acre site as a sports and outdoor recreation park. Community Unit School District 7 transferred the property to the city several years after a mine subsidence event destroyed the then seven-year-old Benld Elementary School. With the city acting as the sponsoring agency, the project was awarded a $600,000 Open Spaces Land Acquisition and Development Grant through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Once construction is complete, maintenance and operation of the facility will be the responsibility of the Sports Association.

TRUCK PURCHASE

On a motion by Ald. John Balzraine, the council voted to purchase a 2022 Dodge Ram truck from Victory Lane Ford. Mayor Kelly said that with the addition of a snow plow and required lighting, the cost of the truck comes to $54,111, which will be paid in full from the city’s general funds.

Kelly said the city is not earning enough interest on investments to make it cost-effective to secure a loan for the vehicle. Since Victory Lane is selling the truck under terms of a state bid contract, no bidding process was required.

CITY AUDIT

Council members agreed to retain Scheffel Boyle Certified Public Accountants to perform the city’s annual audit at a cost not to exceed $17,450.

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“It will be a regular audit since we didn’t spend more than $300,000 in grants,” said City Clerk Terri Koyne. She said the audit also is likely to be done early because the auditor assigned to Benld is expected to be leaving for maternity leave.

BUILDING PERMITS

The council took now action on approving an amendment to the city’s building permit ordinance, pending further revisions to be added by City Attorney Rick Verticchio. Essentially, the amendment will require building permits to be issued to the owner of the property, rather than the contractor retained to do the work.

“We have too many solicitor contractors seeking building permits,” City Clerk Koyne said. According to Koyne, the contractors applying for the permit sometimes turn out to be out-of-area contractors who solicited residents to secure a contract. Such solicitations, she said, are illegal without a soliciting permit issued by the city. “I’d love to be able to deny permits for contracts obtained illegally,” she said.

Mayor Kelly said the amendment also should address persons buying a house contract-for-deed. “I’d like for the actual property owner to be the one to apply for the permit,” he said.

Jono Verticchio, representing the Verticchio Law Firm, said the amendment can be written to require permits to be issued to the property owner only. A revised amendment will be presented at next month’s meeting.

BUSINESS LICENSE

The council also tabled action on a business license application submitted by Ed Rieffer. Mayor Kelly said he advised Rieffer to attend the meeting so aldermen could ask questions before approving the permit.

Essentially, council members voiced concerns about the nature of the business Rieffer is proposing. From his description on the application, there were indications Rieffer plans to open a pawn shop, while describing it as a loan business. Pawn shops are subject to additional restrictions and state licensing requirements, according to Verticchio.

“If it’s a pawn shop, it’s a pawn shop,” Verticchio said. “You can’t get around that by calling it something else.”

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DEPUTY CLERK RESIGNATION

Council members voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Deputy City Clerk Carol Wood, effective May 24.

Mayor Kelly said Koyne and City Treasurer Cindy Crites will screen applicants for the job and forward their recommendations to the full council. The council will have an opportunity to interview recommended candidates before hiring a new Deputy Clerk. In the meantime, Koyne advised she may be working more than 60 hours per month.

SURPLUS PROPERTY

The council voted unanimously to add a Ford truck and Crown Victoria to the list of surplus property to be advertised and offered for sale to the highest qualified bidders.

NUISANCE PROPERTIES

On a motion by Ald. Jerry Saracco, seconded by Ald. Dustin Fletcher, the council voted to declare properties at 207 and 211 East Central Avenue as public nuisances. The property owners will be issued citations giving them 30 days each to abate the nuisance to avoid court proceedings.

CAT ISSUES

Ald. Balzraine reported that Macoupin County Animal Control recently trapped 18 feral cats in the city, and plans to return for more trapping programs. He advised city residents to stop feeding stray cats, noting that feeding feral animals is a violation of city ordinance.

STOP SIGN ORDINANCE

The council directed the City Attorney to draft a proposed ordinance making the intersection of Illinois at Kentucky streets a four-way stop. Ald. Fletcher said he asked Police Chief Jared DePoppe about the need for the additional stop signs, who agreed the ordinance is needed.

City aldermen are expected to formally act on the ordinance in June.

SUPPLIES PURCHASE

Council members unanimously approved the purchase of $3,055 in fittings from Schuette Supplies.

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WATER REPORT

The council voted unanimously to pay $100 to post city water reports on the ILRWA website. City water customers can review mandated water quality reports at www.ilrwa.org/CCR/Benld.pdf.

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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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