Lebanon Council approves study that could expand TIF

Economic Development Resources Project Manager Daniel Schmidt presented the map of the newly suggested boundaries for the expanded TIF district to the Lebanon City Council members. During his presentation, Schmidt read a list of reasons that the new area qualifies for blight and/or conservation status, including deterioration, inadequate utilities, and a lack of growth or a decline. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Angela Simmons)

By Angela Simmons

LEBANON – The Lebanon City Council members voted to adopt an amended eligibility study and TIF plan that could expand the Lebanon TIF property area by more than double the original projection. Economic Development Resources Project Manager Daniel Schmidt presented the amended study to the council at their first regular July meeting. 

“152 acres either already in the city or anticipated to be annexed to the city. Fifty of those acres are improved, 84.5 acres have been determined to be vacant, and the remaining 17 acres have been determined to be right of way,” Schmidt explained, as he pointed to the new, larger area on a map he presented to the council. 

The established TIF district is a fraction of the size and sits in one corner corner of the suggested boundaries. The only new businesses included in the new boundaries that Schmidt mentioned by name were the Lebanon Flea Market and Casey’s General Store. 

Schmidt said that EDR was asked to figure whether or not the area qualified for TIF redevelopment funds, and found that they qualified based on a few factors, including deterioration of buildings, fences, parking lots, fences and more; Inadequate utilities such as asbestos cement pipe carrying potable water, clay pipe used for sewage, and poor storm drainage; And a lack of growth and equalized assessed value. In fact, the area had a decrease in EAV for three of the five calendar years from 2012-2017 according to Schmidt. All of these factors qualified the improved area for conservation status. 

In the vacant area, he noted that there was obsolete platting, deterioration of neighboring structures in the improved areas, and again, decreases in EAV, which qualified the area as “blighted.”

After the council voted to approve the initial TIF district in April 2018, Mayor Rich Wilken said efforts would begin to pursue a larger eligibility study. He hopes to lure some large businesses to the area South of Highway 50 on Route 4, including what he referred to as “light manufacturing and warehouse and distribution” that he said the city has been in the hunt for, but will now be more enticing. 

He added that including the area along McAllister is important in case the railroad ever shuts down the line so that the city can expand their industrial and commercial area since they would own the property. 

This was only the initial presentation by Schmidt. With the council’s approval, he will now formally begin looking at annexing the properties in what would be the new TIF zone, and City Attorney John Long suggested coordinating efforts to see if there would be any issues with water establishment with customers switching from SLM or Tri-Township Water due to federal statutes that make it necessary to get permission before annexation. 

Schmidt and Long will return to the council with any issues, and barring none, EDR will make a final boundary recommendation in August, and the council would vote to adopt a permanent TIF expansion in October. 

The council members voted unanimously to move the project forward. 

In Other News…

• The council members also unanimously voted to award the new Lebanon Water and Sewer Plant project to Haier Plumbing, pending approval of the EPA grant. Haier made a bid for the project in the amount of $12,132,000. The plant would house not only water and sewer, but all of the city’s public works employees and equipment. The plan is for ground to break this fall. 

• A unanimous vote allowed for $209.85 to be spent in addition to $18,000 already allocated for two cameras for Lebanon Police cruisers, as well as better microphones and other equipment. Police Chief David Roth has applied for and secured a grant that will reimburse all of the city’s costs for the equipment itself, but he cautioned the council that the $18,209.85 does not include installation, and he was not sure yet what that amount would be. 

• Six of the eight council members returned comments to Personnel Committee Head, Alderman Rick Gale, regarding the AFSCME contract. Gale will compile the comments and then contact AFSCME Representative Ed LaPorte to set a meeting and see what can be done regarding finalizing the contract with the city workers. 

Further investigations into the back pay, as well as the continued pay raise, brought to light by Treasurer Paul Grob at the meeting, are ongoing.

Regarding what to do about the back pay payments, Gale said “We have asked for recommendations for resolutions from the Illinois Municipal League regarding the best procedure to handle that, and best procedures to follow, but that is information only at this point.”

In her report, Clerk Luanne Holper said that she and Accountant Barb Cioni would be requiring written requests before processing financial transactions moving forward to prevent further confusion, a move that Alderman Bart Bartholemew said was “Very smart.”

Springer refuses to step down amidst public pressure

O’FALLON – What would have been a brief special meeting for the O’Fallon District 90 Board about security upgrades and selling off retired technology turned into a four hour meeting with hours of public comment about about Board Member Steve Springer. For the second month in a row, parents, community members, and district staff spoke out for and against Springer.

A series of emails from 2016 between Springer and Superintendent Carrie Hruby regarding a transgender District 90 student and potential Muslim students have caused O’Fallon community members, local civil rights advocacy groups and even Illinois state officials, to request Springer’s resignation.

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The end of an era – Shiloh Asst. Police Chief McGill retires

SHILOH – Shiloh’s longest employed police officer has retired after thirty years on the job. Assistant Police Chief Gary McGill is looking forward to the next chapter in his life, but still hopes to serve the community of Shiloh. 

His final shift on May 25 ended by going to lunch with Police Chief Richard Wittenauer, newly appointed Assistant Police Chief Jesse Phillips, and Officer Jerod Allen. “It just felt like another lunch. After lunch Jesse kept waiting for me to go home and I didn’t want to. I wanted to work till the end of the day, maybe just to say I did. When I walked out the door, in the whole time Jesse Phillips was giving me a ride home it felt surreal. I kept having the feeling over and over that I forgot something. But I didn’t. It was just thinking in that I wasn’t going to go back,” McGill said. 

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Twins herald a message of hope for cancer survivors

Sheila Gump, left, stands with her daughter and son-in-law, Micaela and Brandon Johnson. Gump is carrying twins for the Johnsons after a bout with rare cervical cancer left Micaela facing infertility. (Provided photo)

Most parents would do anything to help their children, but one Southern Illinois mom has stepped up to be a surrogate for her daughter, carrying twins due this summer. When O’Fallon resident Micaela Gump Johnson was first diagnosed with a rare form of cervical cancer, she had been trying to have more children and never imagined the journey that lay ahead of her, or that one day, her mother would be carrying her children for her. 

Johnson was 23 when she was diagnosed with small cell neuroendocrine cervical cancer in 2015. She and husband Brandon had one young son, Aidyn, and had been trying for more children.

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Central 104 Board names new elementary principal

Jayson Baker was named the new principal at Central Elementary School at the May 14 Board of Education meeting. After the meeting, Baker met some of the teachers in attendence.
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

The Central 104 School Board unanimously approved the appointment of a new principal for Central Elementary School. The unanimous approval of hiring Jayson Baker for the position was applauded by the board and audience. 

He began his 12 year career as a Preschool for All teacher in Millstadt, then taught first grade and kindergarten there before leaving to teach kindergarten in Mascoutah. Baker currently serves as the Principal of the Evansville Attendance Center, a 150 student k-8 building in the Sparta Community Unit School District. 

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Osborne to be honored by National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution with award

Betty Osborne will be awarded the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution Community Service Award. (Photo by Brian Keller)

Betty Osborne, who has dedicated herself to honoring O’Fallon veterans, now finds herself in the spotlight as the recipient of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution Community Service Award. Her numerous contributions to the community and tireless spirit at 90 years young helped earn Betty the prestigious award, as well as recommendations from her fellow committee members and Mayor Herb Roach. 

The prestigious award has eligibility requirements that include contributions to the community, which DAR- Cahokia Mounds Chapter member Kathy Dice said that Osborne has made in spades. “She has really worked hard to bring so many great things to O’Fallon and has dedicated her whole life to honoring our military. She’s so deserving of this award. We’re so pleased to be able to honor her,” said Dice, who is currently serving as the Chapter Community Service Award Chairman.

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Shiloh resident proposes pocket park to trustees

Greg Peterson points to some currently vacant lots along Fox Glenn Drive in Hunter’s Crossing Subdivision as a possible park location. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Angela Simmons)

SHILOH – Resident Greg Peterson came to the Shiloh Board to help preserve green space and create a park in the Hunter’s Crossing Subdivision. He’s hoping the board will step in and help create a pocket park in the subdivision, especially after recent language in the update to Shiloh’s Comprehensive Plan. 

“The subdivision is mostly filled up with homes right now. There’s just a handful of vacant lots left, and they’ve got prices on them from like $27,000 to $30,000. In the subdivision, you wouldn’t believe the number of walkers they have, the number of children they have. Every five minutes, it seems like someone is walking by, pushing a stroller, maybe a stroller with two babies in it. It’s on the end of the street, and they’re just always walking,” he said. 

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Memorial President provides update on healthcare issues and hospital system

Memorial Hospital President Mark Turner gives a presentation about healthcare issues and provides updates on the local hospitals to the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals group. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

O’FALLON – Healthcare costs and insurance can be confusing for anyone. Memorial Regional Health Services President Mark Turner spoke to the O’Fallon- Shiloh Chamber of Commerce members about what the current issues are facing the industry professionals and consumers today as everyone tries to navigate health insurance. 

O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce Events Coordinator Jessica Lotz introduced Turner, and spoke of the growth of Memorial’s healthcare system, including the new Memorial East Hospital, the new Memorial and BJC physicians offices, as well as Siteman Cancer Center coming to the area. 

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First responders and animal advocates saved the day for family of ducklings

Shiloh area first responders enjoy a bit of time with the rescued ducklings. (Photo courtesy of Sheila Gelberg Ford)

SHILOH – Shiloh Police Sergeant Sean Joy never imagined that when he started his shift on April 17, he would be called to Shiloh Middle School to a rescue scene, especially one involving nearly a dozen ducklings. Shiloh Police officers, as well as O’Fallon-Shiloh Emergency Services and O’Fallon Fire all responded to a call to come help save the ducklings from a storm drain. 

“St. Clair County Animal Welfare Advocate Sheila Ford was notified through Facebook that someone at the track meet at SMS saw the ducklings, being led by mama duck, fall into the storm drain, and she went to O’Fallon Firehouse 3, which is in Shiloh, and asked for help. Dispatch called and asked if we could go help, and we ran out there. Officer Jacob Kienitz and Officer Bradley Blake came out there with me to see what we could do,” said Sgt. Joy.

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New state funding model allows for money to flow into local schools

O’FALLON – Illinois schools are finally being compared in an even light thanks to the new Evidence-Based Funding model that Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law last August. The model uses a formula of 26 factors to figure out where all Illinois school districts fall on an adequacy scale, with 90 percent being the current target. O’Fallon and Shiloh schools will all be getting additional funds based on the new formula. 

Adequacy in this sense means how much the districts spend per student versus how much the state thinks they should be spending, based on the calculations. Of the four local districts, District 104 has the highest adequacy percentage at 81 percent, and will be getting $15,187.69. District 90 came the next highest at 69 percent, receiving $205,749.50, Shiloh weighed in at 66 percent and will receive 47,970.52, and OTHS has an adequacy of 62 percent, receiving $442,069.14.

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D90 Board Member proposes arming teachers

Patricia Cummings received the “Todd Stonewater, Edward Jones District 90 Support Staff Member of the Month” Award for April.
According to Principal Joi Wills, “Patricia Cummings has been a member of the Fulton team for a number of years and has gone above and beyond to support the staff and students. Every year when I’m in the process of developing the building schedule, I receive many texts messages, phone calls, emails, and taps on my office door from teachers requesting Mrs. Cummings be assigned to their classroom for the year. This is a reflection of the way she goes above and beyond what is expected of a paraprofessional in the building. Fulton appreciates her support, professionalism, and the high expectations she holds for our students.”
(Submitted Photo)

O’FALLON – District 90 Board Member Steve Springer proposed arming the district’s teaching staff. Springer read from a presentation and resolution that sought to arm staff, but none of his fellow board members chose to support the proposition. 

“I am are concerned about how we can best protect our students – within the framework of the law – in the event of an active killer coming into our schools. Districts may be fearful of how quickly lives can be lost while waiting for law enforcement teams to arrive on scene of a school attack. An average of 8 students/staff is wounded every minute an attack goes unchallenged,” Springer said during his presentation.

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Big changes are coming to the Ward 3 area of O’Fallon

Alderman Gilreath (at right) updates Greg Zelinske about the Southview water main updates that will begin in late August. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Angela Simmons)

New developments, sewer updates and road closings were just some of the town happenings revealed to Ward 3 residents by their aldermen Matthew Gilreath and Kevin Hagarty. The aldermen recently held their bi-annual Ward 3 town hall meeting where they update residents on city and ward happenings, and residents are able to ask questions and bring to light possible issues. Mayor Herb Roach was also present for the meeting. 

Here are some of the items that were discussed:

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O’Fallon resident eliminated from American Idol

Christina Jones made it to the Top 50 of the American Idol contestant pool. (Photo courtesy of American Idol)

It’s the end of the line on American Idol for O’Fallon contestant Christina Jones. Jones made it to the top 50, and then was eliminated when the judges selected 24 contestants to move forward. 

Despite a success that many who knew Jones believed that she would have, she was in disbelief at making it to the top 50. “I was honestly surprised that I made it that far because of the competition. There were so many phenomenal singers there I was overcome with pride in myself because I knew that I am capable of more than I think I am,” she said.

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Central Principal Jared Weh tenders his resignation

Central Elementary Principal Jared Weh tendered his resignation at Monday night’s Board of Education meeting. Weh, who lives in Carlyle, said he plans on pursuing a position closer to home. Weh is pictured with District 104 Superintendent Dawn Elser.
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Angela Simmons)

O’FALLON – Central School District 104 will soon be in the market for a new principal, as Central Elementary School Principal Jared Weh has submitted his resignation. Weh’s last day with the district will be June 30. 

Weh was the principal of Breese Elementary School District 12 before coming to District 104, and has been with the O’Fallon district for seven years. Six years were spent at Joseph Arthur Middle School, and this past year, Weh made a transition to being the principal at CES.

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Pineapple on Pizza: A Rotary Exchange Student experiences the United States

Radha receives a flag from Rotary Club of O’Fallon Sunrise Club President Kim Sabella.
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

O’FALLON – Vaidehi Rajesh Agrawal is enjoying her time in America as an exchange student through the O’Fallon Rotary. Also known as Radha, she hails from the city of Bhusawal in Maharashtra, India and has developed a love for pineapple pizza and having adventures. 

She recently presented to the Rotary of O’Fallon Sunrise group about Indian culture, her family, and her time so far in America, and then fielded questions from attendees. Radha is currently staying with Mark and Tiffany Rhodes, and their daughters, Bailey and Madeline. The exchange program lasts for a year, and she’s been in the country for seven months. 

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