Planning Commission approves Schnucks pour liquor license, new strip mall

Richard Hoenig, store director of Schnucks, spoke at Tuesday’s meeting and said the sale of beer and wine in the Kaldi’s Coffee Shop is meant to complement food sold in the shop. 
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

O’FALLON – At the planning commission meeting on Tuesday, May 14, the commission approved recommendations for a pour liquor license for Schnucks and a strip mall development behind Jimmy John’s in O’Fallon. 

Applicant Jed Penney for Schnucks Markets, Inc. has filed an application with the city of O’Fallon requesting planned use approval to obtain a pour liquor license to allow for the sale of wine and beer in the existing Kaldi’s Coffee Shop and covered patio at the grocery store. 

Schnucks, located at 907 E Highway 50, is currently zoned B-1 Community Business District and the applicant is requesting it be rezoned to B-1(P) Planned Community Business District to allow for the sale of retail liquor for onsite consumption. 

Richard Hoenig, store director of Schnucks, spoke at Tuesday’s meeting and said the sale of beer and wine in the Kaldi’s Coffee Shop is meant to complement food sold in the shop. 

Hoenig said those who choose to partake in the wine and beer consumption would be restricted to the coffee shop and the covered outside patio. 

Illinois State Statues require places with alcohol sales to be separated by a minimum of 100 feet from places of worship. Crossview Church is located 279 feet away from Schnucks, which meets the state’s requirement. 

Pastor of Crossview Church, Kent Wilson, spoke at Tuesday’s meeting against the request of Schnucks due to the risk of drunk driving and the nearby children who use the church’s land for recreational purposes. 

“Why would anyone want to subject our children or even our adults for that matter to the possibility of having an alcohol related incident on its property or the property of its neighbors,” Wilson asked those gathered at the meeting. 

“I’m not willing to jeopardize the health and safety of children or for anyone just so Schnucks can offer a single bottle of beer and make a few extra bucks,” he said. 

Hoenig said those working in the coffee shop would have the right to refuse service to customers should they be visibly impaired. “We do not want anyone leaving impaired from our establishment.”

“If something should happen, I want to be on record that our church stood up against this,” Wilson responded. 

The commission ultimately approved the recommendation in a majority vote to approve the pour liquor license for Schnucks on the condition that the liquor sales be between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., which coincides with Kaldi’s food sale hours. 

Also at the May 14 meeting, the commission passed a motion to recommend approval of the Planned Use for The Shops at Richland Creek.

The applicant, Geren Moor of Franklin Land Associates, LLC has filed an application requesting approval of a planned use and preliminary plat for parcels of land generally located in the southwest corner of Green Mount Road and Central Park Drive, extending south to include frontage on Frank Scott Parkway.  

The application is for a 17.23-acre mixed use development to be known as The Shops at Richland Creek, including an 8-lot preliminary plat.  The initial phase includes three buildings, totaling 17,800 square feet of retail and restaurant development on Lot 8 (3.03-acre proposed parcel). 

The remaining lots would be for various other retail, hospitality and service type uses.  The site includes providing a public street connecting Frank Scott Parkway to Central Park Drive, with a signalized intersection at both Frank Scott Road and Central Park Drive. 

The development will also construct private drives to provide access to the other seven lots associated with The Shops at Richland Creek, including a right-in, right-out on Central Park Drive and cross-access to the retail strip center and the Bank of Edwardsville/ Bussey Bank lots along Green Mount Road. 

The applicant is requesting the property be rezoned from “B-1” Community Business District to “B-1(P)” Planned Community Business District. 

Jeff Pape of GBT Realty Corp., spoke of the development and some of the potential businesses that would make up the plaza. 

Pape said potential businesses that have expressed interest in being in the plaza are taco bell, mod pizza, chicken salad chick, wasabi sushi, smoothie king and The Learning Experience, which is a pre-school program. 

The commission recommended approval of the Planned Use Rezoning with the following conditions.

• Variance to the buffer requirement to allow for the existing natural buffer to be allowed in lieu of constructing a structural buffer.

• All recommendations of the traffic study shall be incorporated in the approval of The Shops at Richland Creek. 

• The traffic study must be approved by St. Clair County Department of Roads and Bridges.

• A set of Declaration of Restrictive Covenants and Reciprocal Easement Agreement must be recorded with the plat to maintain common improvements, provided for cross-access and cross parking for all the lots, compatible materials and size of signage and buildings. 

• The remaining lots in The Shops at Richland Creek will be subject to the Commercial Design Handbook as well as the Declaration of Restrictive Covenants and Reciprocal Easement Agreement for the overall development of the project.

• The planned use for The Shops at Richland Creek will include the approval of the uses outlined in the report for Lot 1 – Lot 7.

Central 104 Board swears in elected members, appoints officers

Newly elected board members David Swaney and Andrea Mouser were sworn into office at Monday’s meeting. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

O’FALLON – At the Central 104 Board of Education meeting on Monday, returning board members were sworn into office. 

Board members David Swaney and Andrea Mouser were sworn in at the May 13 meeting, continuing in their service to Central 104. 

Sarah Svoboda was re-appointed as Board president and DeWonda McComb was nominated and appointed as Board vice president. 

Superintendent Dawn Elser said the Apptegy App, which will serve Central students’ and their families and Central staff, “should roll out by the end of the month.”

Elser said there are currently 14 students signed up for the Central District 104 summer camp that will attend the duration of the camp and approximately 15 additional students who will come three to five weeks. 

Elser said there are ten committed students for the full day tuition preschool program that will be offered in the 2019-2020 school year. 

According to Elser, online registration has begun for the 2019-2020 school year. The first in-house registration date is June 4 from noon until 6 p.m. and the next registration date is July 10, also from noon until 6 p.m.

Graduation for JAMS students is May 23 at the OTHS Milburn campus at 7 p.m. and the last day of school for students is May 30. 

O’Fallon based organization to serve survivors of sex trafficking

Jessica May 

O’FALLON – Being sold for purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation is a brutal reality for many children across the globe – and shockingly, it also impacts the Metro East because of its proximity to St. Louis, where trafficking is considered among the highest in the nation.

Jessica May of O’Fallon is on a mission to ease suffering among victims. In August 2018, May felt as though God called her to raise awareness on the issue of sex trafficking, which ultimately led her to form Renewed Strength Ministries. 

The purpose of the ministry is to educate the community about the sexual exploitation and trafficking of young males in particular, while providing survivors with opportunities for healing and growth through a Christ-centered program where they can experience the renewal of their hearts and minds.

“It was a vision that God gave me,” May said of starting the ministry. Before she founded the organization, May did work with Covering House, a refuge for female victims of sex trafficking. 

“One day he just revealed to me that he wanted me to open a home for boys,” May said. 

May said she then went to Minnesota for a juvenile sex trafficking conference where she listened to survivor stories and learned as much as she could. Weeks later, Renewed Strength Ministries was established. 

While she doesn’t have a background in therapy or social work, May said simply, “I just have a heart to serve.” 

May said she especially has an affinity toward children that have suffered through traumatic experiences. 

“It really saddens me to see them used and abused the way they are — whether it’s physical abuse, sexual abuse or mental abuse, it’s just not okay and that’s not what God called us to do with our children.”

“He called us to love them and take care of them and raise them properly. And unfortunately there are thousands of kids across this country that are abused on a daily basis.”

May said Renewed Strength Ministries and its focus on boy survivors is due to an absence of attention placed on helping male victims. 

“I feel like it’s not acceptable in society to be a male victim,” she said. “I want to make sure I’m helping them bring back their voice and give them the help they need. I have a strong desire to follow where God is leading me and this is where he has led me.”

May grew up in different places around the world as she was in a military family. She came to O’Fallon in 1996 and is an OTHS graduate. She is married and has a 13-year-old daughter. 

May said that statistically, boy victims tend to be underreported. 

“They don’t identify as being victims very easily,” she said. “On average, they are 30 percent of child victims.” 

She said that currently, there are only five homes across the country that are specifically geared towards helping juvenile male victims.

“That’s just not enough,” May said. 

“As far as the Metro East area, St. Louis is actually number three as top city in U.S. for trafficking,” she said. 

Along with May, there are members of a board that make up Renewed Strength Ministries. Kimberly Vander Ven, who is May’s sister, has worked with children for 14 years and is the organization’s director of program development.

Other board members are DeAnn Silvia and Samson Siame. Samantha John serves as volunteer coordinator for the organization. 

Renewed Strength Ministries is the first of its kind in O’Fallon, raising awareness for male victims of sex trafficking. While the organization is based out of O’Fallon, May said the goal for her organization is to build a campus south of St. Louis to house 28 juvenile males in a safe environment. 

The campus and refuge will be called Eagle’s Ranch. Survivors will be able to live in a home on 30 plus acres. There will be seven homes, a chapel, school, therapy center, wood shop and more. The environment encourages healing and helps victims learn life skills. 

The program is geared at helping eight to 17-year-olds and will be considered long term. 

May said many trafficking victims live in the foster care system. 

She said the goal, especially with the older survivors, is to help them either get into a trade skill, find a job or go to college. 

“Just teaching them that life skills (are important) so they can take care of themselves and transition into adulthood,” she said.

Eagle’s Ranch will be open to male survivors all over the country and not just the Metro East. The fundraising goal for Eagle’s Ranch is $3 million. 

To find out more about donations and volunteering with Renewed Strength Ministries, visit https://www.renewedstrengthministries.org.

Shiloh, Chamber of Commerce welcomes newly elected officials

By Annabelle Knef

SHILOH – At the Shiloh Village Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, Mayor Jim Vernier swore in new and returning trustees to the board. 

Julia Warchol was sworn in at the May 6 meeting, taking the seat previously held by Colleen Powers, who retired her position. Trustee Kurt Burrelsman was also sworn in for an additional term. Trustee Greg O’Neil was sworn in on May 2, as he was unable to attend the Monday meeting. He attended the meeting electronically. 

The O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce president Sid LeGrand spoke to trustees at the May 6 meeting.

“We are grateful to the elected officials that retired, your job is a tough one. And we are grateful to and welcome the new elected officials on the board, LeGrand said. “This is a great community. We are fortunate to have you a part of the Chamber.”

“We have some great participation from Shiloh,” he said. “Thank you very much for being a part of the Chamber and thank you to Mayor Vernier. If there is anything we as a Chamber can do, feel free to let us know.” 

In other action at the Monday meeting, trustees authorized Mayor Vernier to sign the asset purchase agreement between the Village of Shiloh and Illinois American Water Company. 

Trustees agreed in a majority vote to break the partnership with Buxton Company, the economic development firm that represented the Village for the past year. 

Trustees authorized a $37,840 TIF A fund allocation for the resurfacing of the Three Springs Park tennis court. 

“These courts have not been touched since they were constructed over 13 to 14 years ago,” Village administrator John Marquart said. “It’s long overdue.”

OTHS Special Education program transitions students into adulthood

By Annabelle Knef

O’FALLON – There’s a very special place, nestled quietly in O’Fallon. 

The OTHS Special Education program and Transition House serves students with a range of abilities in the O’Fallon community. 

Martha Blackburn, O’Fallon Township High School Director of Special Services, said the Transition House, a separate facility that provides education to 18 through 22 year olds, serves many purposes in O’Fallon. 

Back in 2011, District 203 purchased a house across the street from the Smiley Campus that was once the pastor’s house for the Methodist church. 

“Dr. [Darcy] Benway and I were very much on the same page and that was wanting to have a separate facility for our older transition kids,” Blackburn said. “The pastor was moving so we had the opportunity to purchase the house.” 

Blackburn said the district then “gutted” the home, taking down walls and doors, in order to have an open space for students to congregate. The Transition House began operating in the fall of 2012. 

Blackburn said funding for the Transition House came from an “ARRA” grant.

Stacy Becker, who has taught special education at the high school since 2000 and at the Transition House since 2012, said that by federal law Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) students are allowed to stay in high school until the day before they turn 22. 

“Many of them were staying here on campus, but they had brothers and sisters who were graduating,” Becker said. 

Becker said the Transition House not only increases students self esteem, it also increases their ability to gain skills they wouldn’t if they stayed within the four walls of the Smiley Campus. 

Becker said students are still able to walk through the graduation ceremony after four years along with their peers. 

“Many of our students were doing that but were coming right back to the high school,” she said. 

Becker said that while her students may have received their certificate of completion after four years of high school, they would return to OTHS to be further educated on independent living and vocational skills in order to transition into adult life.  

“We serve a wide range of students with different ability levels and different things they are good at and things they need to work on,” Becker said. “Some of our students require a lot of support whether physical or educational support.”

Becker said some students in the Transition House may have high school credits still left to finish. “Or, they have all of their credits for high school and they are just ready to work on more independent living skills like how to cook for themselves, ride the metro, budget or do laundry.”

While there is no “typical” day at the Transition House, Becker said every student receives vocational training, life skills training such as cooking or cleaning, and partake in some form of recreation at the YMCA. 

Stephanie Copelin, a teacher at the Transition House, said it depends on a student’s individual plan for how long they stay in the program. However, a majority of the students stay until they age out at 22-years-old. 

The Transition House also aids in finding employment for its students. Several students work at Sodexo, a food services company that serves O’Fallon District 90 schools. Other students work in retail businesses throughout the community. 

“We try to get our students connected in different areas and jobs to see what they would be interested in and something they could maybe continue in,” Copelin said. 

Blackburn said the district’s “ultimate success” through the Transition House is seeing students get placed in jobs. “We feel like we have done a good job preparing our students for that.”

“Unfortunately, the use of adults with disability in the community is low,” she said. “We would love to see that increase.”

Blackburn said a future goal for the program is to create a business for the community that employs students from the Special Education and Transition program. 

The business, Blackburn said, would give students official job skills and also serve as an example “to show people that adults with disabilities can work in the real world and are a great support to any business.” 

Another future goal for the program is secure a larger facility for transition students. While there are currently 19 students in the Transition House, Blackburn said the number is projected to steadily increase in the next few years. 

Blackburn said it is already “tricky space- wise” at the Transition House with 19 students and additional staff. 

Next year, Blackburn said transition students will have to rotate schedules. While some are at the facility, some may be at their job or at the YMCA. 

As the 2019-2020 school year is Blackburn’s final year at the district before her retirement, it is her goal to have a place secured by the 2020-2021 school year. 

Before students enter the Transition House, they are meeting their individualized education goals at the Milburn and Smiley Campuses, according to Tiffany Niedringhaus, Special education coordinator.

Specialized classes for different intellectual abilities are offered at both the Milburn and Smiley Campus. Life skills training are integrated into every student’s education. 

23-year-old becomes newest Shiloh trustee

By Annabelle Knef

SHILOH – A resident of the Village of Shiloh her entire life, Julia Warchol is ready to give back to her community by serving as trustee. 

At 23 years old, Warchol said she feels that assuming her position so young is an accomplishment for her generation. 

“It’s time for my generation to give back to the community and get involved,” she said. “It is an honor to serve our community.”

Warchol’s family has lived in Shiloh for more than 100 years. Her mom, Tina Wrzek, has been a trustee since Warchol was 13-years-old. Upon being sworn in at the Shiloh Board meeting on May 7, Warchol will serve as trustee alongside her mom. 

“Living here my whole life, I’ve had the opportunity to watch Shiloh grow and develop into what it is today,” she said. “One day, I plan on raising my family here and I would like to be a part of the day- to- day activities in the community.” 

As she takes her seat as trustee, Warchol said she most looks forward to being a part of the decision making process for the future of Shiloh. 

“My biggest goal is to help ensure financial stability so that community funds get distributed appropriately to the areas we need to secure the future of Shiloh for generations to come,” she said. 

Warchol said she would also like to see improvements in Shiloh parks. 

“Recreation is what brings families together and connects our community to its citizens,” she said. 

Warchol said local government is important because it is where people have the most influence. “It’s where decisions about schools, roads and police departments are made.” 

Warchol said that Shiloh, despite its growth and expansion, “still has a small hometown feel.” 

“You can’t walk into the gas station without seeing at least one person you know,” she said. 

Warchol also spoke on Shiloh’s “outstanding” school district, Shiloh District 85. “The school and its faculty and staff go above and beyond for the students.” 

Warchol has been married for four years this November and will graduate with an Associates in Paralegal Studies later this month. She is currently a Bankruptcy Paralegal at JD Graham, PC.

Lebanon greets Spring at annual May Market

LEBANON – Hundreds of Lebanon and surrounding residents gathered on Saturday, May 4 to stroll the historic brick street to shop from over 60 vendors offering unique items to enhance your home, both inside and out. Vendors offered items such as plants, furniture, wood crafts, jewelry, handmade soap, essential oils, art and crafts. There was also food vendors for hungry visitors. The Lebanon May Market took place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is an annual event.

(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)


State leaders take aim at Pritzker ‘fair tax’ proposal and minimum wage hike

State Senator Jason Plummer and State Rep Charlie Meier present at their townhall in O’Fallon.
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

By Annabelle Knef

Illinois State Rep. Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) and State Sen. Jason Plummer (R-Vandalia) co-hosted a town hall meeting on Wednesday, April 25 and discussed issues facing the state such as the proposed graduated income tax and minimum wage increase. 

Meier was blunt in his assessment on how things are going in the state.

“Illinois is a mess,” Meier said at the town hall held at the Katy Cavins Community Center. “It’s not easy living in Illinois.”

Plummer said that bad policy making has put the state in a “really tough spot.”

“We represent you all and we have to make sure we are taking your message and values and beliefs to Springfield,” Plummer said.

“We are in a really tough spot, not because of a lack of resources, bad workforce or because a bad geographic location — we have great resources, great people, great opportunities. We are in this position we are right now because of bad public policy.”

Meier said that legislators, on the other side of the aisley, have proposed an additional $12.2 billion in new spending. 

“They say it’s going to save the state of Illinois but if we ever get to the graduated income tax, it is going to be so they can raise taxes on whatever level of income you are,” Meier said. “Once they get this through with (a Democratic) super majority, they will be able to tax us on all kinds of incomes.” 

Meier said Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker is falsely framing the graduated income tax as a “fair tax,” something that a super majority of Democratic legislators might be able to pass.  

But Plummer pointed out that the Illinois state constitution dictates that citizens be taxed on a flat rate – not a graduated rate.

“No matter what your income is, you pay the same rate — not the same amount, but the same rate,” he said.

Plummer criticized the billions of additional spending, as proposed by Democrat legislators. 

“My calculator doesn’t work in a way where we can borrow more, spend more and kick our liabilities to the future,” he said.

While the current Illinois income tax rate is 4.95 percent, the proposed graduated income tax “will be a massive tax hike on all families and all small businesses,” Plummer said.  

He said Illinois residents will hear propaganda from the Governor about how the income tax hike is considered a “fair tax” for the next couple of years. 

“You have to be an educated group with facts so you can talk to people about what this is going to do to downstate Illinois and to small businesses and families,” he said. “It will be a significant tax increase.”  

Meier recognized that taxes in Illinois are responsible for pushing residents to migrate out of state. 

“The first people to leave after this new tax goes in are going to be the people paying the largest amount of taxes already,” Meier said. “So we are going to lose revenue sources.” 

Meier and Plummer also addressed the Illinois minimum wage increase to $15, which is an 82 percent increase from the current minimum wage rate. 

Plummer said that while small businesses will surely feel consequences to the minimum wage increase, social service providers, non-profits, hospitals and educational institutions will also be severely affected. 

“This puts them out of business,” he said. “Unless they can figure out how to get more funding from the state, they have to close their doors.” 

“Numbers show this will probably cost 100,000 jobs.” 

Plummer said the budget Pritzker has passed “is not balanced.”

“There are a bunch of charades to make it look like it’s balanced,” he said. “The budget has to balance based on existing revenue. This budget isn’t balanced but even if it were, it’s balanced on a bunch of hopes and prayers about legislation that may or may not happen, regulations that may or may not go into effect.”

To Infinity and Beyond: Mercury Project engineers presents to OTHS students

Former engineers who worked on the Mercury 6 project came and spoke to students at OTHS. From left: Dean Purdy, Norman Beckel, Jerry Roberts, Earl Robb. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

By Annabelle Knef

Former engineers on the first human spaceflight program in the United States recently spoke to O’Fallon Township High School students of their experiences. 

Earl Robb, Jerry Roberts, Norman Beckel and Dean Purdy were the engineers behind Project Mercury — America’s first pursuit of space travel — running from 1958 through 1963.

Two members from the original “Mercury 6” panel were not present at the April 25 presentation. Bob Schepp died earlier this year on March 7. He was one of the original McDonnell Aircraft Mercury 6 engineers. 

Ray Tucker was unable to attend the presentation due to serious health issues. Tucker was responsible for the installation and checkout of the electrical group complex from the blockhouse to the spacecraft for both the Mercury and Gemini Projects. 

Earl Robb said he was hired by McDonnell Aircraft Co. (MAC) in August of 1952, immediately after he completed his college degree at SIU-Carbondale.

Robb said at the time he was hired, there was no “man in space type of activity” going on. He remained employed in Mechanical Design Engineering assignments with MAC and McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) for his entire 41-year career.

Robb’s first 6 years included jet airplane design including several fighter and fighter-bomber aircraft and a four-jet engine executive and commercial aircraft. Following the aircraft design experience, Robb was assigned to Manned Space related programs including the Mercury program. 

In late 1958, Robb was assigned to a group to help finalize the design configuration and theory of a “manned space satellite” to be proposed to the government. After MAC submitted the proposal, Robb was assigned to the Mercury Capsule production design group. He worked on structural design of the capsule pressure vessel, skins, shingles, hatches, windows and heat shields. 

Jerry Roberts, graduate of University of Arkansas, was a manned space vehicle and cruise missile Guidance and Control Systems (GCS) engineer at McDonnell Douglas for over three decades. 

Roberts was initially assigned to the Mercury Program followed by Gemini, Manned Orbital Laboratory and Skylab. He started each manned vehicle assignment with design and development in St. Louis and then transferred to Launch Operations in Cape Canaveral, Florida. 

He was a valued member of the blockhouse crew for vehicle launch and recovery operations on each manned program. After Skylab, Roberts returned to St. Louis and was involved with GCS design and development for various cruise missiles. He finished his career as Chief Design Engineer and Design Department Manager in the Astronautics Division. 

Norman Beckel, graduate of Pennsylvania State University, joined McDonnell Aircraft February of 1958 and retired from McDonnell Douglas Corp. in March of 1993. He was initially assigned to the Communication, Navigation Identification Group on the yet to fly Phantom F4H jet aircraft and was reassigned to the Mercury Communications Group when McDonnell was awarded the Mercury Project. 

As part of the McDonnell crew assigned to test and launch the spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, Beckel worked closely with the Mercury Astronauts in preparation for launch. 

After Mercury and Gemini, Beckel was assigned to Program HEXAGON, which was an unmanned satellite that provided photographs of virtually anywhere on Earth. 

Dean Purdy, just like his fellow engineers, joined the MAC team right after his college graduation from Indiana Institute of Technology in 1955. 

Over the next 39 years, Purdy worked on one Mach 2 jet fighter program, three missile programs and eight space programs including five manned space programs. He joined the Mercury team in early 1959 working in the electrical power and sequential systems design group, staying with the Mercury Program until completion. 

Purdy also took part in the Gemini Project electrical design team before he transferred to the St. Louis Gemini Operations team. He then went to the Manned Orbiting Lab to oversee the electrical design of the Heat Shield Qualifications Vehicle.

Subsequent space activity included Program Management of the last two Orbital Attitude Maneuvering System pods for the Shuttle program; the Modular Power Subsystem for NASA’s Multi-Mission Modular Spacecraft; Electrophoresis Operations in Space; and the Transporter Electrical Storage System and External Lighting Modules for the International Space Station.

Purdy was Director-Military and Space Electronics when he retired in 1994. 

Robb said public opinion at the time of the Mercury Project was vey wary of its goal, which was to put a man into Earth’s orbit and returning him safely. 

“There were a lot of experts saying man couldn’t exist in space,” Roberts said 

He described the astronauts in the Mercury Program as “very brave people.” 

O’Fallon to have fireworks display on Sunday, July 7

By: Annabelle Knef

O’FALLON – For the first time in over 30 years, the city of O’Fallon will have its very own firework display, which will take place at the Family Sports Park on the evening of Sunday, July 7. 

O’Fallon Mayor Herb Roach said when he was running for office, he kept a list of all the different suggestions and ideas that he heard from people to bring the community together. 

One idea he heard was for the city to have a Homecoming event. “Last year we brought together City Fest, which replaced what was once Homecoming in the past,” Roach said. 

Roach said he then began thinking of the feasibility of a firework display in the city of O’Fallon. 

“We haven’t had one here in O’Fallon in over 30 years.”

The city began looking at different sites where the display could take place and they invited different licensed firework companies. 

The prime site everyone felt the most comfortable to host the display, according to Roach, was the Family Sports Park in the area across from the firehouse. 

The city chose Quincy based firework company and operators Fireworks Authority Inc. Roach said they not only have a great reputation, they also gave the city a low quote in a figure under $15,000. 

Roach said the company reviewed the site, along with the Parks and Recreation Department, O’Fallon Fire Department and O’Fallon Police. 

The company submitted a drawing that dictated the amount of space needed for a safety clearance and the Family Sports Park was well qualified for the space allotment. 

“We are excited about doing it,” Roach said. “Everybody we have talked with is excited about it.” 

Roach said while the sports park is able to fit several hundred cars for parking, the city will soon correspond with nearby businesses about parking availability on the night of July 7. 

Roach said a lot of community members won’t need to travel to the sports park for the firework display, they may be able to see it from their back yards. 

Roach said the firework display “will pull the community together as one.” “This is what we did with City Fest and that is what we are trying to do with this.”

Roach said the reason the firework display is not on the Fourth of July is due to factors such as schedules for the Parks and Recreation Department and the firework company partnering with the city. 

The Parks and Recreation Department is built a year in advance for certain summer activities such as sporting events, according to Roach. He said firework companies such as Fireworks Authority Inc. are sometimes booked two or three years in advance, especially around the Fourth of July holiday. 

The firework display will take place later in the evening on Sunday, July 7, around 9 p.m. and will last approximately 20 minutes. 

18th annual Shiloh School District Art Show to take place May 3

The 18th Annual Shiloh School District Art Show at will be held on Friday, May 3 at Shiloh Middle School. 

The Art Show will begin at 6:30 p.m. and continue until 8:30 p.m. Art teacher Linda Johnson puts together the annual Shiloh art shows. 

“The halls of Shiloh Middle School will be filled with the creative endeavors of all the students in the Shiloh School District,” Linda Johnson said. 

The art gallery will feature work created in the art classes throughout the year. Every art student in the Shiloh School District will have at least one artwork in the show. 

Early childhood classes through the eighth grade have all contributed to the displays. 

“We have two-dimensional works as well as three dimensional sculptures,” Johnson said. “The students have drawn, painted, colored and sculpted creations that will make anyone proud of their accomplishments.” 

The walls of the middle school will feature over 1000 original art pieces from Shiloh students. 

In addition to the students’ work that will be featured, the art show will host a creative environment for children of all ages and adults to make and take art home. 

The art creative stations will feature activities such as flying dragons, inflatable bubble, stamping patterns, Native American rubbings, VIP name tag design, building blocks, airplane design, animal mask and origami fortune tellers.

Participants can make as may art activities as they would like, according to Johnson. “Each station has easy to follow directions to assist in the creation.”

 These interactive stations will be in the Shiloh Middle School cafeteria. 

“This part of the art show has been a favorite of students,” Johnson said. “They remember the activities year after year and look forward to creating these special activities during the show.” 

Fifth annual Armed Forces Ball to take place May 4

St. Clair County is hosting its fifth annual Armed Forces Ball that will take place on Saturday, May 4, at the Regency Conference Center in O’Fallon. 

The event will honor the service of military members including airmen, soldiers, sailors, marines, coast guard and veterans assigned to Scott Air Force Base and other locations throughout the Metro East. 

Ellen Hughes of the St. Clair County Armed Forces Ball Committee said that each year approximately 400 tickets are sold. Of that 400, 100 of the tickets are given to military members for free. 

Each table at the ball will consist of 10 people, eight of them being members from the surrounding communities and two of them being military members. 

Hughes said it is set up that way so community members, business owners and individuals in the military can mingle and get to know one another. 

“It’s a formal affair,” she said of the military ball. 

Hughes is the wife of the late General John Hughes, who was the Director of Military Affairs for St. Clair County. He acted as liaison between Scott Air Force Base and the county and worked under County Chairman Mark Kern. 

It was his idea that bore the annual military ball. Gen. Hughes died in August of 2018. 

“Five years ago, he said we need to do more for the base, we need to give back somehow,” Hughes said. “That is how the idea of the ball came to be.” 

Tickets cost $100 per person and all of the proceeds earned through the ball goes back to Scott Air Force Base and military members and veterans in the surrounding communities. 

“It stays local,” Hughes said. “That is important to us because we want people to know that we are doing this because of our community. We try to have everybody benefit from it,” Hughes said of the ball proceeds. 

Hughes said the ball has “really grown” since its inception five years ago. “The first year was successful but not to the degree it is now,” she said. 

The ball kicks off at 5:30 p.m. and will consist of entertainment by the Charles Glenn group, a silent auction with more than 100 items, cocktail hour with donated beer and wine and a sit down dinner. 

Major General Stephen E. Farmen, the 21st Commanding General of the U.S. Army Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, will also make remarks at the event. 

Hughes said that previous events have raised in excess of $20,000. 

To purchase a ticket to the fifth annual Armed Forces Ball, visit http://ofallonchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/st-clair-county-armed-forces-ball-6328.

Shiloh Board discusses sewer system sale, 2019-20 budget

SHILOH – At the Shiloh Committee at Large meeting on Monday, trustees discussed the Asset Purchase Agreement between the Village of Shiloh and Illinois American Water for their purchase of the Village’s sanitary sewer system. 

The current wastewater collection system called the “System” is around 37 years old, according to Mayor Jim Vernier. 

“There’s a lot of equipment out there that is 37 years old,” Vernier said. “With the current system, the Village is losing money.”

Under the Asset Purchase Agreement, Shiloh would sell substantially all of the assets that constitute or are used in furtherance of the System to Illinois American.

Trustees spoke in favor of the Asset Purchase Agreement with Illinois American Water and will bring the vote to the next regular board meeting. 

Trustees then discussed the proposed fiscal year 2019-2020 budget. The budget is balanced, proposes revenues and expenditures that are conservative, but reflect the current fiscal and economic climate in the Village, according to Village administrator, John Marquart.

Marquart said numbers within the proposed budget will change as developments move from their stalled status to within the Village of Shiloh.

The park and tourism funds will be active in particular, according to Marquart. The park fund is outlined for projected improvements in the Three Springs Master Plan, a multi-phase plan to revitalize the Village’s largest park. 

Improvements include tennis court repairs, playground enhancements, sealing the Three Springs Park parking lot, repainting the basketball courts, etc. 

Within the tourism fund, marketing activity will continue in full force, according to Marquart. The marketing activity aims to show surrounding communities that the Village is a destination. 

The total proposed budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year is a figure of about $7.5 million. 

Trustees then discussed the partnership renewal with Buxton Company, the economic development firm that has represented the Village for the past approximate year. 

Trustee Greg O’Neil said he doesn’t wish to move forward with the partnership because Buxton has not brought enough commercial development to the Village. 

“I, personally don’t feel like another $50,000 is going to get us anywhere,” O’Neil said. 

Trustee Mark Herrmann agreed with O’Neil and said for the $50,000 cost per year contract, he expected “a bit more” development within the Village. 

Trustees, with the exception of Tina Wrzek, agreed to sever the partnership with Buxton Company. However, the vote will move to the next regular board meeting on Monday, May 6. 

Shiloh 85 recognizes student award winners, discusses status of nonprofit foundation

Shiloh Elementary principal Tiana Montgomery recognized Noah Yates and Audianna Washington as Young Author award winners.(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

SHILOH – At the Shiloh District 85 meeting on Monday, April 15, Shiloh school administration recognized young authors, a racial harmony recipient and a finalist for the state science fair. 

Shiloh Elementary principal Tiana Montgomery recognized students Noah Yates and Audianna Washington for being Young Author winners. Student Kylie Sullivan was also recognized as a Young Author but was not in attendance at Monday’s meeting. 

Montgomery said they had the opportunity to go to this year’s Young Author Conference at Westhaven Elementary School on April 6. 

“They had a different format this year. They called each student by name — it was almost like a graduation,” Montgomery said. 

The conference theme this year was “Wild About Writing.” Each student had a book that revolved around the theme. 

“We’re very proud of their accomplishments and for being able to participate in this year’s Young Author Conference,” she said. 

SMS principal Darin Loepker recognized seventh grader Mckenzie Ballinger for her accomplishment as a Young Author winner and eighth grader Bella Durbin for being selected as the Illinois Principal Association (IPA) Middle School Student of the Year. 

Loepker said Durbin is a level headed and intelligent student. 

“I’ll always remember her leadership in the building, she leads by example,” Loepker said.  

Jalen Smith, a Shiloh Middle School student, was recognized as a Racial Harmony recipient.(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

Loepker then recognized student Jalen Smith as a Racial Harmony recipient. 

“Jalen is such a wonderful student and a leader in the building. He is one of the most well adjusted young men that I have ever had in school,” he said. “He is one of the most responsible boys I have ever had.”

Loepker finally recognized student William “Liam” Caraway, who is a finalist for the state science fair. 

Loepker said Caraway put a lot of time and effort into his project, which is about how age affects perception of others. 

“Liam, we are very proud of you,” Loepker said. 

Board member Ken Davis spoke at the Monday meeting on the status of District 85 becoming a fully functioning non-profit foundation. 

Davis said on April 5, Shiloh District 85 received a letter from the IRS designating the district as a public charity and non-profit. 

“All of us in this room as educators and board members, we want to provide the best educational opportunity for all of our students,” Davis said. “We do that because we love our jobs, we love what we do and we love the kids in this district.”

“This is an opportunity to reach out into the community and to really become partners in supporting education. I can sit here and talk about the budgets we get from the state and how inadequate that is — we have community members that really want to be a part of this and donate to education in our community.”

Davis said the foundation board is now in the process of setting up its first organizational meeting. After that, he said the board will get out to canvas the community and talk to businesses to gain their support. 

“I really encourage that we can make this work for every one in this system — the teachers, staff and kids in this district to be able to provide them with opportunity we all know they can have,” he said. “This was a labor of love. I’m just excited to be able to set up this foundation and have it be a generational opportunity for everyone in this system.” 

Sauer said the district will be able to save close to $10,000 in electrical lighting for the next year due to a partnership with Ameren and a federally funded grant. 

Lights in both school libraries, cafeterias, hallways and parking lots will be replaced with stronger LED lights. 

“It will be certainly be done by the next school year,” Sauer said.

Congressman Bost gives update to area Rotarians

Congressman Mike Bost spoke to the Rotary Club of O’Fallon at their Monday meeting and provided an update on a variety of topics. 
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

Congressman Mike Bost visited the O’Fallon Rotary Club on Monday, April 15, to discuss multiple challenges facing the state and nation – pointing particularly to a strained political climate and rancor over an immigration crisis. 

He said that security at the border is a “very big problem.” 

“I voted twice to fully fund the security at the border,” he said. “Not only the security as some form of structure, I don’t care if you call it a wall or a fence — but we have a problem.” 

Bost said the wall will not stop people from coming into the nation, but rather that “it allows for control.”

“Immigration at the border is a crisis — it’s not a new crisis, but its a growing crisis,” he said. 

Bost said the wall is a sensible, organized way to deal with the massive flow of immigrants trying to cross the border. He remarked that it was a positive thing that the U.S. is a nation that “people want to get into and not get out of.”

“Whenever someone says it’s just like the Berlin Wall — the Berlin Wall was to keep people in. This isn’t to keep people out, it’s to keep people organized on their way to getting in.”

Bost, a Republican from Murphysboro, said the committees he serves on do not create the kind of partisanship that dominates daily national headlines. 

“Thank Heaven because we actually get things done,” Bost said. 

Bost serves on three key committees: Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and Transportation & Infrastructure.  

He also serves on the following subcommittees: Conservation and Forestry; and General Farm Commodities and Risk Management under Agriculture; Oversight and Investigations, and as Chairman of Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs under Veterans’ Affairs; and Highways and Transit; Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management; and Water Resources and Environment under Transportation and Infrastructure.

“We are in a time right now that our economy is booming,” Bost said. “Even in the state of Illinois when many times our state government does everything it can to chase business from the state, we still see expanding business and growth.” 

He said the biggest concern he has seen is many employers in the state cannot find people to hire with with trade skills. 

“Right now, the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in years,” Bost said. “Things are good from that standpoint.” 

Despite the booming economy, Bost said that anger on both sides of the political spectrum needs to improve. 

“I believe in a bipartisan manner we can work together to really achieve a lot,” he said. “It can change.” 

“The anger and frustration that’s been in the last year — it’s not ‘I disagree with you, it’s ‘I hate you,’” he said. “It’s very dangerous.” 

“In my job, conflict is inevitable, combat is optional.” 

Bost then referenced the shooting of Republican member of Congress Steve Scalise of Louisiana at a practice for the annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity. Scalise was shot by a left wing activist from Belleville, James Hodgkinson, and a citizen from Bost’s district. 

“With a person in my district targeting my friends while they were playing baseball — it was horrible,” Bost said. 

In spite of the many issues that divide the country, Bost said there also are a tremendous amount of people that want to work together.

He said it’s necessary for radicals on the right and the left to try and find common ground. 

“When I first started running for state office I had someone come up to me and say ‘when you get there, don’t compromise,’” he said.

“I’m pro- life, that’s something I’m not going to change — but for the most part it was the idea of our fore-fathers that we would have all different ideas and we would find common ground,” he said. “The common ground would be the best place for the nation as a whole. We have to continue to try to work together.”

Prior to his election to the 12th Congressional District, Bost served for two decades in the Illinois House of Representatives, rising to the leadership position of House Republican caucus chair.