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Gillespie Council approves $17.1 million appropriation ordinance

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Members of the Gillespie City Council on Monday night approved the appropriation ordinance for fiscal 2025, rescinded a housing inspection ordinance approved last month, and took steps toward condemning a former commercial building in downtown Gillespie.

The newly approved appropriation ordinance authorizes expenditures of up to $17,130,799 during the fiscal year that began May 1. Unanimous approval of the ordinance came after a 10-minute public hearing held immediately prior to the council’s regular monthly meeting.

The appropriation sets spending ceilings for expenditures from specific line item funds, Treasurer Dan Fisher told the council, but it is not an indication the city will spend anywhere near the total appropriation amount. While this year’s appropriation is in excess of $17 million, Fisher pointed out, actual annual expenditures for the city are expected to hover around $3 million to $4 million.

“The appropriation is the first step in a three-part process to allocate expenditures,” Fisher said. “The best way to think of the appropriation is, ‘What would be the most we would spend on any line item if we found the money?’  It doesn’t mean we are going to spend that much.”

Once appropriated, Fisher said the funds cannot be expended until the council approves individual expenditures during the course of the fiscal year. A final step in the three-part process comes when the council formally approves payment to projects and programs previously approved by the council.

“Appropriation, authorization, and payment,” Fisher said. “This is just the first step.”

Ald. Dave Link questioned a line item authorizing up to $350,000 for a new building.

“What new building?” he asked.

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Fisher said the appropriation was included in the event the council moves on building a new Street Department building or remodels existing space at the Civic Center to house the Police Department. Neither project is a certainty, he said.

“We try to think of things we might do if we have the money,” Fisher said. “That’s what this is.”

The fiscal 2025 appropriation ordinance exceeds last year’s appropriations of about $14.7 million by more than $2 million. Part of that increase is accounted for by $4.5 million appropriated for the city’s ambitious Streetscape Program and $1.3 million Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) grant the city will receive but immediately parcel out to other agencies. Excluding the appropriations for the Streetscape Program and CEJA grant, the lion’s share of the new appropriation is devoted to the Water Department and Police Department, followed by General Administration, Street Department and Sewer Department, all of which have appropriations exceeding $1 million.

The Water Department appropriation totals $2,845,700, down from last year’s appropriation of $3,391.500, which was inflated by the injection of grant and loan funds for the city’s water infrastructure replacement project.  A total of $2,316,000 is appropriated for the Police Department, compared with $1,281,000 last year. The appropriation for General Administration Expenses totals $1,356,500, compared with $1,341,500 last year. Funds appropriated for the Street Department total $1,281,500, compared with $1,120,500 a year ago.

The new ordinance appropriates $846,000 for Recreation and Parks, compared with $553,300 last year. Up to $600,000 in expenditures are authorized from the Motor Fuel Tax Fund, compared with $500,000 last year. Expenditures of up to $280,000 are authorized from the Tax Increment Financing Fund (TIFF), compared with $270,000 last year. A total of $200,000 is appropriated for Parks and Recreation Areas, compared with $190,000 last year. 

The ordinance sets a spending limit of $220,000 for the Administrative Building, compared with $210,100 last year; $160,000 for FICA, compared with $150,000 a year ago; and $42,020 for Elected and Appointed City Officials’ Salaries.

The ordinance sets spending ceilings of $65,000 for Liability Insurance, $40,670 for the Public Library, and $33,900 for Emergency Services and Disaster Administration—all of which are unchanged from the previous year.

INSPECTION ORDINANCE RESCINDED

On a motion by Ald. Bob Fritz, seconded by Ald. Bill Hayes, the council unanimously voted to rescind an ordinance approved last month which would have required annual housing inspections for all rental properties in the city. Mayor John Hicks called for the vote before proceeding with the regular order of business. Several rental property owners who attended the meeting and asked to publicly address the council, left the council chambers immediately after the vote.

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Hicks said council members did not realize the city already had an ordinance governing housing inspections when it voted 7-1 to approve a new ordinance last month. The existing ordinance calls for an inspection before a new tenant moves in after a former tenant moves out.

“If you have a good renter and they stay for several years, we don’t need to have an inspection,” Hicks said. 

The council apparently approved the rescinded ordinance in an effort to make inspection requirements for long-term rental properties the same as those recently approved for short-term rental properties.

Later in the meeting, Tim Loveless, a local landlord, questioned why the council doesn’t announce proposed ordinances before acting on them. That practice, he said, would give residents an opportunity to voice concerns before an ordinance is actually ratified by the council.

City Attorney Rick Verticchio said municipalities used to place ordinances on a “first reading” before taking formal action the following month. Ordinances approved by the council, however, do not take effect for 30 days, Verticchio said, which essentially gives interested persons time to object or comment before the ordinance is enforced.

NUISANCE PROPERTY DESIGNATION

Council members voted unanimously to declare a property at 118 West Chestnut Street as a public nuisance after hearing a complaint from Christine Blank, Macoupin County Public Health Department Administrator. Blank said MCPHD owns a neighboring property at 112 West Chestnut Street, which the department currently is offering for sale.

“We have some major problems with the property next door, which attaches directly to ours,” Bland said.

“We’ve been watching it closely for the last two years.”

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Blank said the owner of the neighboring property established a fenced-in area for storage, essentially closing off an alleyway between the two buildings. Within the fenced-in area, the owner placed a storage unit but more recently has allowed trash to accumulate inside the fenced area. Because of the accumulation of trash and junk, she said, the area has become infested with rodents. Moreover, she said, there are indications that one or more homeless persons are “squatting” in the area. Additionally, trees that have been allowed to grow up in the alleyway, encroaching on the foundation of the MCPHD’s building and allowing water to enter the agency’s building.

Blank said the building itself is open to the elements and there is evidence animals are living inside.

Blank said at least one person has expressed interest in buying the MCPHD building as well as the neighboring property but the neighboring property owner has been uncooperative.

Ald. Bill Hayes said he sent the property owner an ordinance violation notification, demanding that he owner clean up the property.

“All an ordinance does is impose a fine,” Verticchio said. “If he’s not taking care of the property, he’s not going to pay the fine.”

Verticchio recommended declaring the building a public nuisance with an eye toward eventually getting permission from the court to raze the building and clean up the site.

“Declare it a nuisance,” he said, “and give them 30 days to fix it. They won’t do that. They can’t do that. It can’t be fixed, so the court will give the city permission to tear it down. The problem with that, of course, is that it’s expensive.”

Since MCPHD has an interested buyer for both properties, Verticchio said the city might be able to get a court order to take possession of the nuisance property and sell it to a new owner with the provision that the new owner will tear down the old building.

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“Someone else might be interested in that property,” said Ald. Dave Link.

“No problem,” Verticchio replied. “We can advertise it for bids.”

Blank also complained about the deteriorating condition of the sidewalk in front of the MCPHD property. Fisher said the sidewalk already is scheduled for replacement and bids will be let next month.

IMRF ISSUES

Without taking formal action, the council gave Fisher permission to negotiate with city employees to come up with a way to make retroactive payments of the employees’ shares into the Illinois Municipal Retirement System. City employee participation in IMRF became effective March 1, but the city was not immediately notified, according to Fisher. As a result, six pay periods went by with no IMRF payments being made into the system.

Fisher said the amount owed will be about $650 to $700 per employee. In addition, the retirement system is owed the city’s share for the same period.

“I would recommend that we come up with a method for us to pay the employees’ share and for them to pay us back,” Fisher said. Even such a straight-forward solution could become complicated, however. Fisher said that if employees draw on their deferred compensation funds to repay the loan, the payments would be taxable. Deducting a repayment plan from future paychecks will avoid the tax issue but will result in complicating bookkeeping procedures.

“We need direction from the council on how you want us to do this,” Fisher said. “It’s not going to be easy from a bookkeeping standpoint. Once we’re caught up, it will be much easier.”

Fisher said the issue may be further complicated by the fact the nearest pay period started on March 3—two days after IMRF membership became effective. He said he is trying to find out now if IMRF is going to demand a prorated contribution for two days. 

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Council members generally agreed the city should cover the back payments for employees and give the employees the option of determining how they wish to pay back the funds.

“This is not the employees’ fault,” Fisher noted, “but I don’t feel it’s our fault either.”

CEJA GRANT

Fisher informed the council that an application for a federal CEJA grant has been awarded by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the agency responsible for administering the program. Gillespie was the lead agency among 16 area units of government that collectively applied for the award. Fisher said the total grant amounts to $1.1 million, of which Gillespie will retain $70, 248.57.

Under terms of the grant, the City of Gillespie will receive the entire grant, then be responsible for disbursing funds to other participating units. 

Other participants that will receive funding include: Village of East Gillespie, $51,654.72; City of Benld, $58,721.50; Village of Eagarville, $50,684.28; City of Staunton, $80,929.61; Gillespie Public Library, $70,248.57; Benld Public Library, $58,721.50; Gillespie Township, $73,458.48; Cahokia Township, $69,004.42; Community Unit School District 7, $98,167.33; North Mac CUSD 34, $98,584.12; Gillespie-Benld Ambulance Service, $133,202.60; Village of Royal Lakes, $51,038.87; City of Bunker Hill, $60,102.51; Village of Mount Clare, $51,878.67; and Brushy Mound Township, $53,919.08.

The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act is a federal program to mitigate against economic conditions that result as the nation moves away from fossil fuels to embrace renewable, “green” energy sources. The local grant award is related to job losses resulting from the idling of Shay Mine No. 1, formerly Monterey Mine No., 1. Each entity was awarded $50,000 plus additional funds based on “job loss” and “revenue loss” factors.

Fisher said he planned to meet with representatives of the other applicants on Tuesday night. In the meantime, he recommended council members think about how the city will use its share of the grant money. He said there had been previous discussion about using it for park improvements, but he also recommended setting aside three percent for administrative costs, including the cost of additional auditing services. Macoupin County, which also is receiving a CEJA grant, plans to use its award for economic development, and Fisher recommended that the city also use at least 10 percent of the award for economic development purposes.

OTHER ACTION

  • Declared a pumper truck used by the Street Department as surplus property and voted to offer it for sale to the highest qualified bidder. While the truck is operable, the water tank is rusted out and incapable of being repaired.
  • Donated $100 to the GHS cross-country program.
  • Approved allowing the CeeJo’s tavern and grill to offer bingo gaming to its patrons.
  • Gave the mayor power to act on either repairing a broken beer tap appliance at the Civic Center, or buying a new one at a cost of $2,184 if the old one cannot be repaired.
  • Learned that the local Masonic Lodge recently donated $3,000 to the city to be used for park improvements. 

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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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