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Public Hearing Summary – Tuesday, April 19th

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Despite Tuesday night’s threatening weather, a total of 15 people, several of whom are current County Board members attended the first of three public hearings conducted by County Board Chairman Andy Manar at the Macoupin Economic Development Partners Office, Staunton, on the process of redrawing County Board districts.

Districts are redrawn every 10 years after results of the most recent U.S. Census are released.  In a meeting that lasted less than an hour, Manar reviewed the state statutes governing the redrawing of county board districts, reviewed the newest census data and discuss the effect of an advisory referendum held in 2008 on the question of reducing the size of the County Board.  That measure was overwhelmingly approved by a vote of 12,693 to 7,907.

The measure failed in only four of the county’s 66 precincts, three in Virden and one in Girard.  Manar said he supports trimming the board down from its current membership of 27.  Three members currently serve from each of the board’s nine districts.

One option for reducing the size of the board would be to reduce representation from three to two, for a total membership of 18.
Deanna Taylor of Staunton, one of those attending the hearing, asked if it would be possible to limit membership to just one member per district.

By statute, the board has the authority to determine the number of members serving on the board.  While its possible the size of the board could be reduced to just nine members, Manar said most county’s the size of Macoupin have larger county boards.  The 2010 Census puts the county’s population at 47,765, down from 49,019 ten years earlier.  If the population were to be evenly distributed among the board’s nine districts, each district would have 5,307 people.  Current board districts range in population from 4,992 to 5,795.  The closest to the ideal is District 8, which includes Carlinville, with 5,307.

In as much as possible, the statute directs the board to create districts that incorporate entire precincts. In some areas, especially highly populated districts, that is nearly impossible, Manar said.   The addition or elimination of a single precinct could skew the population by as much as 1,000 people.

The largest of the county board’s districts is District 6, which encompasses the largely rural northwest side of the county and stretches from the north county line south to past Medora, covering more than half the county’s geographic area.  District 1 is the smallest, covering the heavily populated Staunton area.

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Manar said he hopes to introduce a resolution to the County Board before June calling for a reduction in the size of the board.  By state law, the board has until July to pass a resolution establishing the size of the board; if the board fails to meet that deadline, the issue would go to a “commission” comprised of various county officials. Though unlikely, it is conceivable the districts could be left “as is” because of the marginal variation in population among them.

Manar said the board is not required to hold public hearings on the reapportionment process.  “I thought it was a good idea to do this,” he said. “Especially since the referendum in 2008, I thought it was important for us to hear peoples’ thoughts.”

He said one person attending the hearing asked why the 2008 referendum was advisory and not binding.  Manar said there is no provision in state law for the County Board to have a binding referendum on the issue of board size.  “Otherwise, we would have had a binding referendum,” he said.

Tuesday night’s hearing was the first of three scheduled over the next few weeks in Macoupin County.  Upcoming meetings are set for 6 p.m., Monday, April 25, at the Palmyra Village Hall, 114 East State Street, Palmyra; and 6 p.m., Thursday, May 12, in the Macoupin County Board conference room on the second floor of the Macoupin County Jail, 215 S. East Street, Carlinville.

Written by David Ambrose

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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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