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Gillespie Council to rebid construction project, approves $6,000 hose purchase to transfer water

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Tammy Beechler addressed the city council asking for a $500 grant to subsidize musical entertainers for the Holiday Sparkle, set for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 16 in downtown Gillespie.

After a lengthy discussion, members of the Gillespie City Council voted on Monday, Nov. 13, to rebid a project calling for repairs to the former Gillespie Police Department building on Walnut Street. Stutz Excavating, Alton, submitted the sole bid of $8,743 to close the east end of the building. The gable area of the building has been left open since the city razed the adjacent city garage earlier this year.

Stutz’s bid included closing the end east with a type of insulated fiberboard and removing a retaining wall left on the site of the city garage. The bid, however, did not include siding or other amenities.

Ald. Landon Pettit initially moved to accept the bid but later withdrew the bid after further discussion. Ald. Dave Link said the project should include a garage door to give the Street Department access for small equipment.

“What do you guys want?” Pettit asked Maintenance Director Dale Demkey. “Do you want it storage or do you want a garage door.”

“A garage door would be good,” Demkey told the council.

Link also expressed concerns that the bid did not include siding, suggesting Stutz’s proposal was more a temporary fix to stabilize the building until the city determined how to proceed.

“Since there’s only one bid,” Treasurer Dan Fisher advised, “you could accept the bid, then get a price for a garage door and, if it’s reasonable, do a change order.”

Link, however, objected to the idea of submitting change orders to get what the city wants. “I think we should rebid it the way we want it,” he said.

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Pettit then withdrew his motion and made a new motion to rebid the project with new specifications to include metal siding and a garage door. Mayor Hicks said he would contact Stutz Excavating to see if they would consider rebidding after Pettit’s motion was unanimously approved.

MAINTAINING LAKE LEVEL

The council voted unanimously to give the Mayor authority to purchase a six-inch flexible pipe at a cost of $6,000 to pump water from the Old Gillespie Lake into the New Lake to maintain water levels for the water treatment plant, and to obtain cost estimates for installing a permanent siphon system. The action followed an extensive discussion after Ald. Janet Odell-Mueller asked about ongoing pumping between the two lakes. Ald. Pettit said the city is using a city-owned generator and city-owned pump to pump 400,000 to 400,000 gallons from the Old Lake to the New Lake every day.

Pettit said a six-inch pipe is being used to move more water more quickly and reduce the chances of it plugging up. The last time the city had to transfer water from one lake to the other, it used a four-inch pipe, which became plugged when the pump sucked up a turtle. The city is leasing the pipe at a cost of $1,400 per month.

Mayor Hicks suggested buying the pipe for $6,000 in lieu of continuing to rent it. “The way it looks, we may be pumping all winter,” Hicks said. He said he would contact the company to see if he could negotiate to apply all or part of what the city has already spent on rent toward the purchase price.

On the recommendation of Treasurer Fisher, Pettit amended his motion to include a provision to seek a proposal to make improvements to the dam between the two lakes with an eye toward installing a permanent siphon system to transfer water in the future.

“If you guys want to put in a siphon from the old lake to the new lake, we need to do some work on the dam,” Fisher said. “It would make sense to roll that into the same project.” Fisher said a siphon was part of the dam originally, but the valve is stuck and unusable. IEPA has cited deficiencies in the dam but has never enforced repairs since a failure would only mean water from the old lake wold flow into the new lake.

ONGOING ARSON INVESTIGATION

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Police Chief Jared DePoppe was coy about discussing details after Ald. Link asked about the status of an investigation looking into a spate of suspicious fires in Gillespie and East Gillespie. DePoppe acknowledged that the cases remain under investigation by the Police Department and Illinois Fire Marshall, but would make no further comment.

Link alleged there have been 21 suspicious fires in Gillespie and East Gillespie this year, one of which occurred behind his place of business on North Macoupin Street, which someone apparently torched a small building used as “Santa’s House” for the holidays. Since the night of the fire, Link said, no one from the Police Department or Fire Marshall’s Office has contacted him.

“I don’t know if that number is accurate,” said DePoppe, referring to the number of suspicious fires. He said local police officers are not trained to investigate fires. The Fire Marshall’s Office is responsible for determining whether or not arson is the cause of a fire.

Link also was critical of the police response to the fire behind his business.

“They called me at a quarter to 12,” he said. When he arrived at the scene, Link said it was raining and one officer was sitting in his truck.

“I guess he didn’t want to get wet. The other officer did what he was supposed to do. He got out and was walking around, checking all the alleys, and nooks and crannies, where someone might be hiding.”

As part of his monthly report to the council, Chief DePoppe revealed that Sgt. Justin Klopmeier has submitted his resignation from the force. DePoppe is expected announce a replacement candidate later.

DERELICT PROPERTIES

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On motion by Ald. Link, the council voted unanimously to declare property at 211 South Macoupin Street a public nuisance. The building, a two-story brick structure, most recently housed a Dollar General Store, and recently failed to pass a housing inspection. The resolution positions the city to seek a court order requiring the owner to make improvements in the interest of public safety.

The council also directed City Attorney Rick Verticchio to file a lawsuit to compel the owners of 707 Spring Street to clean up debris and trash at the residence. The owner reportedly has made some attempts to clean up the property after being issued an ordinance violation citation but, according to Ald. Link, there remains a significant amount of trash around the house.

Verticchio said the city could not compel the owner to complete the clean-up without filing a lawsuit. If the city prevails, the court could award the city a right to enter the property and clean it up. As a result, the city would file a lien to recover the cost of the clean-up.

“Do it,” Ald. Link advised.

A daughter of the property owner objected, telling the council her mother is working toward getting the property in shape. Verticchio said the court typically will give the defendant a period of time to complete the clean-up. If the property owner complies with the court order, it would not be necessary for the city to enter the property or file a real estate lien.

Ald. Wendy Rolando reported that neighbors on both sides of 408 Broadway have expressed an interest in acquiring the property in exchange for demolishing the condemned residence and cleaning up the debris.

Verticchio said the city is awaiting a court order awarding the city ownership of the property. In the meantime, he said, “we need an agreement for the neighbors to split the cost of the demolition and split the lot in half between them.”

One of the neighbors, however, appeared before the council to report he was willing to pay half the cost, while the other neighbor wants to do the demolition himself without engaging a contractor. Since the neighbors are not in agreement, Verticchio advised that both parties should submit proposals to the council, after which the council will vote on which one to accept.

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EXECUTIVE SESSION

The council met for 45 minutes in executive session, primarily to discuss collective bargaining with the Laborers Union, which represents the Street Department, Water Department and Lake employees. Upon returning to open session, the council took no action on the employee contract but voted unanimously to offer for sale via sealed bid a parcel of city-owned property lying between Montana Street and Tower Road north of Illinois Route 16.

OTHER ACTION

In other action, the council:

  • Voted to grant $500 to organizers of the Holiday Sparkle to retain musical performers for the event.
  • Approved an ordinance to prohibit parking on either side of LJ Avenue and directed Public Works to erect new signage. Parking currently is prohibited from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on school days. The new ordinance will ban parking at any time.
  • Approved Christmas bonuses in the amount of $100 gift cards for city employees. Providing gift cards precludes the city from having to withhold taxes from employee bonuses.
  • Increased the price of dog licenses from $1 to $2 annually for dogs that have been spayed or neutered, and from $2 to $4 for intact animals.

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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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Community News

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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