Public Safety committee discusses public parking around high school

By Martha Stoffel

O’FALLON – Preliminary discussions began regarding public safety concerns as it relates to parking around O’Fallon Township High School during the Public Safety committee meeting Monday night. The specific area under evaluation is along Weber Road, from Highway 50 to Third Street, and portions of Agnes Drive and Edna Drive. 

Student drivers are asked to park on the school lots which require a $100 per year or $55 per semester parking pass purchased and distributed through the school. Drivers without a parking pass are often found parking along residential streets close to the high school. The city has regulated, via ordinances, certain parking restrictions along neighboring streets. 

Residents in this area have raised concerns with city officials regarding the narrowing of the driving lane when cars are parked on both sides of the street, vehicles blocking driveways and vehicles being parked too close to trashcans causing their garbage to not be collected. Public Safety has evaluated the area as well and have concerns about the inability of fire apparatuses or other emergency vehicles to pass through the roads when double parking is occurring. 

A recommended ordinance will be presented to the committee at next month’s meeting restricting parking on Weber Road, between Agnes Drive and Third Street, on school days from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The same restrictions will be placed on Agnes Drive and Edna Drive. The section of Weber Road from Highway 50 to Agnes Drive will likely be proposed as a no parking zone.

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.

O’Fallon comes out for first Vine Street Market

By Annabelle Knef and Martha Stoffel

O’FALLON – O’Fallon Stations’ Vine Street Market held its grand opening on Saturday, May 11, and many residents were in attendance.

Residents shopped from various vendors selling plants and flowers, culinary items and artisanal products. Despite the rain and gloom, many stopped to enjoy live music available at the market. 

During the Parks and Environment committee meeting on Monday, the aldermen received an update on the first weekend of the Vine Street Market. 

Despite dreary weather, event organizers estimated 2,200 people attended the opening day of the market. 

Director of Parks and Recreation, Mary Jeanne Hutchison, mentioned a couple of the vendors sold out of their products early in the market.  

“The guys that had the lettuce ran out three times. The bread guy ran out in about two hours,” she said. 

The market has thirty-five culinary, grower and artisan vendors each Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to noon through October 19th. As the area gets further into the growing season, visitors will see a larger selection of produce available. A sponsorship from Avenue Realty Associates will also bring live music to each market day, a performance schedule is located on the O’Fallon Station website.

(O’Fallon Weekly Photos by Annabelle Knef)

JaRon Dent submits letter of resignation

 JaRon Dent thanks a supporter at the April 23 school board meeting. (O’Fallon Weekly File Photo)

O’FALLON – In a special meeting held Wednesday evening, the District 203 Board of Education accepted the resignation of teacher JaRon Dent. 

Dent, who has been on administrative leave for the past two months as the district performs an investigation into him, submitted a short letter to the District stating he was resigning from his position effective May 24, 2019. 

While the school district cannot comment as to the nature of the investigation, documents and reports obtained by the Weekly from the O’Fallon Police Department reveal that the investigation into Dent could revolve around allegations of improper conduct with and grooming of female students. 

The reports detailed a history of text messaging with students and allegations of improper touching. Security footage from the high school obtained by the police showed Dent walking through the halls with his arm around a student. 

While a number of supporters attended the April 23 board meeting and spoke on his behalf, no one was present at the meeting Wednesday night, including Dent or union representatives. 

The board unanimously voted to accept the resignation. 

To read previous article, click here.