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Gillespie voters to consider IMRF issue in April

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Meeting special session Tuesday night, Gillespie City Council members voted unanimously to approve a resolution placing a tax referendum for Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund on the April 4 consolidated election ballot.

Mayor Pro Tem Dona Rauzi, presiding over the meeting in the absence of Mayor John Hicks, said the special meeting was needed in order to meet the deadline for including the issue on the April ballot.

If approved by voters, the city would be authorized to levy a new tax for IMRF benefits of up to .35 percent of the equalized assessed valuation of taxable property within the city. City Treasurer Dan Fisher told the BenGil Post the amount levied probably will be less than the full .35 percent authorized. The maximum levy would result in an increase of $35 in additional taxes for a $30,000 home with an equalized assessed valuation of $10,000. 

An additional .35 percent levy would increase the city’s total property tax extension by about $100,000—from $232,943 to $332,524.

If approved by voters, approximately 25 full-time city workers would be able to participate in IMRF for their retirement benefits. The issue originally came up when Police Department employees approached the council about switching their retirement plan from the Fraternal Order of Police to the IMRF system. Over the ensuing weeks, Maintenance Department, Water Department and other full-time employees joined the request.

Lake Manager Gary Thornhill said some employees were disappointed that they were not informed about Tuesday’s special meeting, but Rauzi pointed out the only action planned was to vote on the resolution to place the issue on the ballot.

“Now it’s time for you to go to work,” Rauzi said. “You guys will actually have to get out and knock on doors and get people to vote for this so you guys can be in IMRF.”

Notice of the meeting was properly given, and it was posted on the marquee sign outside city hall.

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One resident, J.F. Singleton, apparently was aware of the meeting and attended to a meandering list of complaints, including sewage system issues he said he had heard about. He said he had heard of people having sewage back up into their basements and “nothing has been done about it.”

Singleton said he lives in a second-story apartment on Macoupin Street, and had complaints about noise levels and “harassment” against him, though it was unclear whether he was referencing harassment from city officials or other people.

Rauzi and Ald. Wendy Rolando said they did not know Singleton. “I don’t see how we can harass you if we don’t know who you are,” Rauzi said.

Singleton, who is white, alleged racial prejudice and harassment toward the LGBTV+ community, but again was unclear about the source of the bigotry.

“I’d like to do something with you all to bridge that gap” he said. 

Rauzi eventually took note that Singleton was not on the agenda for the night and gaveled the meeting to adjournment. She advised Singleton to contact city hall and have himself added to the agenda for the next regular meeting of the council.

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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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