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)

Naeelah Chism is Selected for Fulbright U.S. Student Program Award

(LEBANON, IL.) — McKendree University senior Naeelah Chism has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Program Grant to be an English teaching assistant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for 10 months. The highly competitive Fulbright program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange initiative. Each year, more than 1,900 U.S. students, artists and young professionals are offered grants to study, teach English or conduct research in more than 160 countries. 

“I was first drawn to Malaysia after learning more about the Vision 2020 plan that is currently underway to help Malaysia achieve developed nation status by 2020,” said Chism. “This country hopes to develop in a variety of areas and this includes economic development, sustainability, strengthening infrastructure, improving well-being for all, and enhancing inclusiveness toward an equitable society. I found this most interesting about Malaysia.” 

Students are chosen for the Fulbright based on their academic merit and leadership qualities. Chism, of Fairview Heights, Ill., will graduate from McKendree University in May with a bachelor’s degree in political science and minors in gender and legal studies. She is a 2019 recipient of the university’s Dr. Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award, which recognizes compassion, understanding, tolerance and participation in service programs. She volunteers at the Christian Activity Center, is an assistant resident director, a leader in the United Feminists group and active in the “It’s on Us” week on campus. In 2018, she went to Washington, D.C., to advocate for sexual health education and women’s rights. 

Upon her return to the U.S., she plans to pursue a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy. 

The Fulbright Program is the world’s largest and most diverse international educational exchange program, designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and other countries. Since its inception in 1946, it has provided more than 380,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and other professionals with the opportunity to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. Fulbright alumni include 59 Nobel Laureates, 82 Pulitzer Prize winners, 72 MacArthur Fellows, 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients, and thousands of leaders across the private, public and non-profit sectors. 

The program is federally funded and overseen by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in more than 160 countries and the U.S. also provide direct and indirect support.

McKendree Students to Perform ‘Dead Man’s Cell Phone’ Apr. 4-7

(LEBANON, IL.) — A man dies in a quiet café. His cell phone continues to ring incessantly until the woman at the next table picks it up—and gets caught up in his troubles. So begins “Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” presented by the McKendree University Theatre Department, Apr. 4-7 at the Hettenhausen Center for the Arts. The Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday’s matinee starts at 2:30 p.m.

Admission is free but reservations are required. Contact the Hett box office between noon and 4 p.m. at 618-537-6863. The Hett opens for general admission seating 30 minutes early.

Written by Pulitzer Prize finalist Sarah Ruhl, “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” premiered in 2007 and won a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play. The play explores modern technology’s ability to both connect and isolate people, said Director Michelle Magnussen, associate professor of theatre.

Cast members are Loren Terveer as Jean; Andrew Letscher as Gordon, a dead man with lots of loose ends; Brittany Thompson as Mrs. Gottlieb, his mother; Amanda Morgan as Carlotta; JD Lindley as Dwight, Gordon’s brother; and Korenna Anderson as Hermia, Gordon’s widow.

Makenna Kramer and Hunter Tucker are stage managers for the show. Assisting Technical Director Douglas Magnussen is crew member Elizabeth Birkner.

Concerns about liability surround proposed bike trail signage

By Angela Simmons

LEBANON – Gateway East Trails (GET) has requested that the City of Lebanon place signs that guide cyclists coming into and leaving the city by way of the Trestle Trail. The bike trail sits outside of city limits but is inside Lebanon Township. Dr. George Fero represented the group in a presentation to the Lebanon Streets and Alleys Committee. 

A letter from GET to the Lebanon city council notes that the signs will not cost anything for the city. Fero added that the funds would come from a Metro East Parks grant. The letter continues to state that the group fears for the safety of daily riders and riders coming into town for events like the upcoming Tour de Stooges and the 2020 Grand Illinois Bike Trek. The trek is expected to route as many as 300 riders through the area. 

The proposed east to west path, with signage along it, is “north on Strack Street to East Third Street, then west to Oak Street, then north on Oak Street to Schuetz Street. The route then heads west to Madison Street.” The letter further stated that riders would, if needed, be guided down Cherry Street to the new bathroom and drinking fountain facilities at McAllister Park. 

Alderwoman Cheri Wright reminded Fero that the council had previously voted to not approve the bike trail. “When we voted against the bike path, our attorney said we as a city cannot take that liability at all,” Wright said, asking why the city should consider taking responsibility now. 

Fero said that Attorney John Long was citing the example of a man that sued a township after a crash, and said “now that the attorney has voted against it, their liability is even higher.”

The condition of the bike path was brought up by audience members and Wright, who said that she had gone to the path just that afternoon to examine it. The path has 90 feet of damage due to flooding, which Fero said will be remedied “before May 4” with concrete. 

JD Beil, which owns property adjacent to the bike trail, said that hygiene is an issue along with the current damage to the trail. “With each flood, it brings mud and sediment. There’s toilet paper and feminine hygiene products and all this other stuff coming up down there. I don’t know why the city would entertain anything to do with the bike trail,” he said, citing continued flooding to his property and to nearby city-owned property. 

The committee, which includes Wright and Aldermen Frank Almeter, Landall Mack and Al Gerdes, didn’t feel comfortable making a recommendation of approval to the full council, but said they will bring it up for discussion at the full council meeting on March 25.

Lebanon Woman’s Club donates to community

Vice-President Cathy Symonds and the Looking Glass Playhouse Vice-President Brad Sanker.

LEBANON – In support of the Lebanon Women’s Club’s goal of returning all funds raised back to the community, Vice-President Cathy Symonds recently presented donations to the Lebanon Food Pantry Chairperson, Donna Weil, and to the Looking Glass Playhouse Vice-President Brad Sanker. 

On February 28, President Abby Murphy also presented a donation to Chapter One president Jessica Zurliene in support of their back-to-school backpack initiative.

Vice-President Cathy Symonds and the Lebanon Food Pantry Chairperson, Donna Weil.

Lebanon city council gives approval to larger TIF district

Mayor Rich Wilken stands with members of Lebanon Girl Scout troops after declaring the week of March 10 to be Girl Scout Week. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Angela Simmons)

By Angela Simmons

LEBANON – Maps were placed in the Lebanon City Hall of an amended 116 acre TIF district. The maps will be part of placing the amendment to the TIF district and comprehensive plan on file for public inspection. The council voted to place the amendment to on file for public inspection, and several other actions that are part of the final granted approval. 

The amended area includes the larger, 116 acre TIF district. Daniel Schmidt, Project Manager for Economic Development Resources (EDR) presented more aspects of the redevelopment plan that includes added land uses inside the new area, including office spaces, more retail and single family homes. There will also be extension of municipal utilities and infrastructure to some areas that aren’t currently served by the city. Schmidt estimated that there would be a projected project cost of $8 million dollars for the area. 

A small property will also be annexed into Lebanon “to have control over an intersection within the TIF district” according to Wilken, in order to take advantage of a grant for stoplights within the district. 

Along with placing the amendment for public inspection, the council also sent the amendment to the other taxing bodies and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). 

There will also be Joint Review Board that meets on Friday, April 12 at 1 p.m. The board is made up of representatives of most, but not all, of the impacted taxing districts. 

They also set a public hearing date of Monday, May 13 at 6:45 p.m. 

In Other News:

• Mayor Rich Wilken declared the week of March 10 to be Girl Scout Week in Lebanon. In his declaration, Wilken applauded the Girl Scout movement and Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois for providing a safe, inclusive space for girls to learn life and leadership skills. Girls were present from multiple local troops, including 283, 676 and 155. 

• A contract between the city of Lebanon and Green’s Grass Guy for mowing the College Hill Cemetery was approved.

Lebanon delays awarding mowing contract due to contract concerns

By Angela Simmons

LEBANON – Companies that bid on a mowing contract with the City of Lebanon will have to wait another week to find out any information. At a special council meeting on March 4, the council voted to delay any kind of vote until legal representatives could look over the contract after city attorneys deemed any contract typed by city administration to be “inappropriate.”

“I was asked to review a contract put together by the clerk, and I question whether it’s the responsibility for the clerk to put together contracts. I spoke to both John [Long] and Terry [Bruckert], and they said no, it’s a legal contract that should be put together by the city attorney, so I don’t think we should be voting on that tonight,” said Mayor Rich Wilken. 

The contract is to mow at College Hill Cemetery. At the February 25 city council meeting, Alderwoman Cheri Wright, the head of the city’s Cemetery Committee, opened sealed bids. Before doing so, she said   “Prior to opening them, I’d like to make a motion to accept the lowest bid, pending checks of their qualifications.” Alderman Al Gerdes pointed out that the city already had the responsibility of accepting the lowest responsible bid, meaning lowest cost that meets the full insurance and other qualifications. Attorney John Long said making the motion and taking a vote to accept the lowest responsible bid “couldn’t hurt.” The vote was unanimous.

The bids for contract were opened in order of receipt. Wilson’s Landscaping, who previously held the contract with the city, offered a two year contract for 2019 and 2020 at $975.00, with an option to add 2021 at $995. Precision Lawn and Tree offered a two year contract for 2019 and 2020 at $925, with a 2021 option at $945. Green’s Grass Guy bid $875 for 2019 and 2020, and kept the price the same for a third year option. The final bid was from Homescape Outdoor Services for $1,300 for 2019 and 2020 with no third year option. 

The bids were priced per cut of the cemetery property, and Wright said that there’s an average of 23 to 25 cuts per year from April 1 through November 30. According to the bid letter, each Monday, the contractor would be contacted by the “City Street Superintendent” Jody McNeese who would inform them whether or not there was a need to mow. The letter continued in listing the specifications of the job, including “Each mowing should include trimming of headstones, copings and markers. Each mowing will include removal of debris from headstones, copings and markers.” It also stated “Contractor will maintain liability and worker’s compensation insurance for duration of contract.” 

Alderwoman Wright was responsible for vetting the lowest responsible bidder, which would have been Green’s Grass Guy, run by Anthony Sutton and his girlfriend Danielle Green. Scott Wilson of Wilson Landscaping urged the city to figure out whether or not Green’s Grass Guy was sub-contracting his work and had the proper insurance. 

“I see these numbers coming in, and I deal with this all the time, and the question would be whether or not he’s subcontracting or doing the work himself,” Wilson said. 

Sutton and Green, also present, confirmed that Sutton and a part-time employee would do the work. A volunteer Caseyville firefighter with ten years of landscaping experience, he said this would be his company’s first municipal contract. 

At the March 4 special meeting, after an exchange where the contract and possible insurance concerns were brought up, Sutton asked for a copy of the contract before it would need to be signed so that his attorney could view the paperwork, and several aldermen also said they wanted to view a possible contract before the March 11 council meeting where an official vote would be expected. 

Along with this discussion, Alderman Rick Gale said he would like a presentation from lawyers from Bruckert, Gruenke & Long that outlines specifically what services are covered under their retainer, and which services are extra. 

“I don’t want John to be the one to do it, because his comment is that so-and-so from the office does that. I want whomever in their office handles this to be the one to explain. I don’t think we have a good understanding of exactly what’s covered,” Gale said. His request was supported by other council members. 

In Other News:

• The council gave approval to amending the minimum acreage under a planned unit development in SR-1, R-2 and MH-1 zoning districts from five acres to three acres. The Ladriere Building Company will be able to move forward with developing the subdivision Perryman and Woodland. Jeff LaDriere said he was thrilled to be able to “get to work,” and quipped “Proper planning is mightier than the shovel.”

Lebanon city council approves TIF district expansion

EDR Project Manager Daniel Schmidt shows the Lebanon City Council the additional 116 acres of property that were deemed able to use TIF development funding. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Angela Simmons)

By Angela Simmons

LEBANON – Lebanon City Council gave a final approving vote to the amendment to the TIF eligibility study. Economic Development Resources (EDR) Project Manager Daniel Schmidt made a presentation before the vote detailing just what the amendment would cover, and gave the results of the eligibility study that he conducted. 

The area originally voted into the Lebanon TIF District was between South Fritz and South Madison streets along Route 50, and contained seven parcels. The new area would be a significant expansion to 49 parcels, four of which are vacant. 

The part of the 116 acres inside the new TIF district that’s developed include “38 buildings, according to St. Clair County with more than 50 percent, something like 60 percent, being of the age of 35 years or more. That allows us to look to qualify the area as a conservation area,” Schmidt said. 

He explained undeveloped parcels have been subdivided and meet the definition of vacant land. EDR’s study led Schmidt to work hand in hand with the city to find things like asbestos and clay piping in utilities, lack of sidewalks, improper subdivision of parcels, low light levels and other issues that fall short of current development standards.

“The final factor that we have is a lack of growth and equalized assessed value,” said Schmidt, noting that similar conditions existed in the vacant land. He concluded his presentation by suggesting that the council consider expanding to include the newly analyzed areas to help with redevelopment before they became blighted. 

The vote to accept the study was unanimous, meaning the city can seek TIF redevelopment funds to help develop the area. Mayor Rich Wilken announced that he had spoken with Mike Elbe, and the grocery store project was in the hands of architects and engineers, and the store is still slated for a September 2019 opening. 

In Other News:

• Planning Commission Chairman Jeff Fairlie spoke to the board about the difference between Residential Design Districts (RDD) and Planned Unit Developments (PUD) after a recent vote by the council to have a subdivision development by Jeff LaDriere fall under the guidelines of a PUD. The planning commission had previously recommended adopting an RDD ordinance to allow the development to move forward.

Fairlie said adopting an RDD ordinance, which would be the first of it’s kind in the area according to Attorney John Long, “could be a shiny new penny” and “a draw” for the city. “We would have a new avenue and a new vehicle form to use. We also believe the guidance could be written in clear, new language that will best allow Lebanon to drive the community in the direction that we want to go,” Fairlie said. 

He reaffirmed that the planning commission reaffirmed their original recommendation of adopting an RDD, but that under a PUD, the commission agreed to allow the minimum size to be reduced from five acres to three. He added that the commission wanted to allow LaDriere to move forward with the development as soon as possible. 

The council voted to amend the PUD ordinance to reflect the acreage changes. LaDriere said he just wanted to “dig in the dirt and build some houses.”

• Planning Commission Member Don Burgett needed to step down. The council voted to appoint Jeremy Corbett to take the open seat. 

• The council unanimously voted to put Phase I of the Roger Drive project out for bid. Resident Noel Harpe thanked the council for taking a step forward. Harpe’s property has been subject of severe flooding and sinkholes for over two decades. Due to the hardships of Harpe and her neighbors, the council wanted to move forward with that part of the project first.

Lebanon parent addresses concerns over high school soccer program

Robert Roma, a Lebanon parent, addressed his concerns about the soccer program and its coaching to the Board of Education on Feb. 13

At the Lebanon Community Unit School District 9 meeting on Feb. 13, Robert Roma, parent of a Lebanon High School soccer player, addressed his concerns over the soccer program and its coaching.  

Roma said he feels the Lebanon Board has been kept “completely in the dark” about what he said transpired in the 2018 soccer season. 

Roma described incidents that took place over the season – many of which include game sustained injuries and negligence from the program’s head coach, Cameran Keepper. 

In an away game against Salem High School, Roma said a player sustained a season ending injury to the knee. 

“Cameran lazily made his way out to the field,” Roma said. 

According to Roma, the coach from Salem was the one to assess the player and carry them off of the field. 

“Cameran failed to ensure first aid supplies were present,” he said. 

Roma said he himself assisted the player and made a splint from the players shin guard as there were not first aid supplies present. 

Roma then referenced a letter sent to Superintendent Patrick Keeney by a grandparent of a soccer player, Eric Mills. 

In his letter, Mills claimed Keepper used the team water cooler “as his personal ice chest.” Roma, referencing Mills letter, said Keepper would take his beverage and then put it back in the ice chest – “the same water our kids are expected to drink.” 

There also was an “ongoing belittlement of players,” according to Roma. 

“Some reported to me and some incidents I was actually able to hear from the stands,” Roma said.  

Roma summed up Mills letter by stating it addresses Keepper’s lack of training, soccer team safety concerns and the lack of attention to injured players. 

In a Sept. 20 home game against East Alton High School, Roma said a player received two blows to the head during the game, “which should have been enough for any coach to pull a player from the game.”

Roma said Keepper chose to put the player back in the game “even though it was evident the player was unsteady,” he said. 

“While I was positive he had sustained a concussion from first impact, I was shocked when I learned he also had a perforated ear drum,” Roma said. “I will argue it was Cameran’s negligence that lead to that injury.”

Roma and Mills – who was also present at the Feb. 13 meeting, expressed frustration that the discussion surrounding the soccer program was not added to the agenda prior to the Board meeting. Roma said his attendance to the Board meeting was discouraged by members of the Board and superintendent. 

“I feel like the Board would be dropping the ball if they didn’t take some action,” Roma said.

“That individual is a detriment to the school district, to the school and to the kids and I don’t feel the individual should be in this position,” Mills said. 

Keeney thanked Roma and Mills’ for their comments and said the Board would take them under advisement. 

In other action at the Feb. 13 meeting, 

  • The Board approved Mike Berne as After School Reading and Math Tutoring Director. 
  • The Board approved the resignation of Shannon Connors as Lebanon School District Aide and Post. 
  • The Board approved the Yearly Running Start Intergovernmental Cooperative Agreement. 

Keeney said the intergovernmental agreement is between the district and SWIC and allows for high school juniors and seniors to attend SWIC full time and receive an associate degree when they graduate from high school. 

“They would meet requirements for high school graduation as well as when they finish the two years they would have an associate degree,” Keeney said. 

Funding from the state pays for half of the student’s SWIC tuition and the student would be responsible for the other half. 

Students would still be able to participate in social aspects of high school such as sports and prom. 

The program is open to five students and has criteria including test scores and grade point average.

“It’s a very good program,” Keeney said. 

Lebanon’s Roger and Merril project will soon be up for bids

By Angela Simmons

LEBANON – Mayor Rich Wilken presented the map of the proposed engineering changes to flood zones on Roger Drive and Merril Street to the streets and alleys committee. A current 24 inch pipe will be removed and 160 feet of larger pipe will be laid to help increase flow. 

The map of the project, as created by Mark Rujawitz of Rhutasel and Associates, Inc, was long awaited by city council members. They recently requested that Mayor Wilken request the visual to help move the project forward. The map details multiple areas of need, including grading, new culverts, bends, multiple manholes, and large sections of new pipe. 

Wilken proposed beginning with the laying of the largest section of pipe to help alleviate deep flooding water and sinkholes on the property of longtime resident Noel Harpe’s home, along with several of her neighbors.

“It would start on the west side of Roger in front of Ms. Harpe’s land, and go to the discharge into the ditch behind her property. To the west of her property. The next phase would be the culvert on McKendree Park. When the engineer was here, he said it’s kind of cattywampus in there,” Wilken said. 

Wilken has been heading up the project alongside Streets and Alleys Supervisor Jody McNeese. The pair has met with representatives from McKendree University, federal and state organizations, and retained Rujawitz to create a plan of attack to solve an issue that spans more than twenty years. 

“I had discussions with Jody and Mr. (Landall) Mack trying to brainstorm a bit. We really believe that we need to get out for bids and get this project going. In our discussion, we thought we’d like to recommend going out for bids and to try to get the job done in the 2018-2019 fiscal year. This is kind of a lean time for income inside the city, and if financing is a problem, we do have the $80,000 line of credit that the treasurer got for us. It’s just sitting there unused, and it doesn’t look like we’re going to need it for what we had thought. We could dip into it, and when we go into the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the minute that all the real estate tax money comes in and our general fund gets healthy again, we can make a choice whether to pay off the short-term note immediately so we have that $80,000 line of credit in case of emergencies again, or we can pay off part of it or something. When this project is done, hopefully in this fiscal year, in 2019-2020, we can look at getting the other part of the project done so we can finally put a period on this all too long of a sentence,” Wilken explained.

The line of credit was originally set to use for the demolition at 124 St. Louis Street and legal fees if needed. Alderwoman Cheri Wright believed that the money was partially used, but Wilken says it hasn’t, and the city was able to use other funds to pay for the demolition. Alderman Al Gerdes questioned whether or not the line of credit was also supposed to help the city have a buffer “needed for down at the grocery store.”

“It was in case we needed anything for EDR or if we needed more money to pay legal fees for 124 St. Louis Street. We’re going to court next week for that, and we have not had to touch the line of credit. We may not need any money for this project. I’m just saying that it’s there, and we aren’t paying any interest on it. If we did need it, we have it there to use,” said Wilken. 

When Alderman Mack asked if they gave their recommendation that the city council put the project out for bid, Gerdes quipped “I’m all for it. It’s been long enough. Too many wet socks.”

Stifel advises Lebanon mayor about city’s low bond rating

By Angela Simmons

LEBANON – Lebanon Mayor Rich Wilken recently heard back from Stifel Public Finance about the status of the city’s bond rating. The mayor enlisted the firm to perform the inquiry in an effort to move forward with a joint facility for city hall and the Lebanon Public Library. 

In a December city council meeting, the council voted 5-3 against a $4.16 million dollar referendum for a new 10,000 square foot public library facility at 318 S. Fritz. The building was formerly St. Joseph’s grade school, and needed environmental and structural repair, in addition to design elements, new materials and more. 

After George Fero, Sr. presented to the council at the December meeting on behalf of the library board, Alderman Bart Bartholomew said “We need a new City Hall, too. Why couldn’t that be combined? If we build a new City Hall, we would have to have another bond issue. We could combine them to have one bond.”

When the referendum failed to get the council’s approval, Wilken took audience suggestions to start a committee to look into feasibility of a joint use facility. Volunteers from the community and city council spoke up to join the committee, and Wilken had plans to seek more volunteers. 

He then took Bartholomew’s comment and decided to enlist Stifel to see what the city’s rating would be for a bond for a facility. The nearly month-long review recently returned to the mayor’s desk

“They advised me that there are ten standard bonding levels, starting at AAA…. We are sitting in their estimates, looking at our last three years, we have qualified for a triple A three. Out of the ten classes, we are in the ninth category,” Wilken explained. 

He continued that the representative from Stifel said “It’s not terrible for a city of your size, and we aren’t at a junk bond status, but he said obviously, the level that you’re at can have some effect on the interest rates. As we look further into this, that’s information that the committee needs to be aware of.”

Wilken said the next step is to continue seeking volunteers for the committee, discussing the use of bonds and more intricate details of the possible joint use facility. City Treasurer Paul Grob had to leave the meeting early, and there was no further discussion from the council on the status of the city’s bond rating.

Lebanon council examines possible changes to city personnel benefits

By Angela Simmons

LEBANON – Lebanon aldermen discussed several benefits package and personnel updates at the most recent city council meeting. Alderman Rick Gale, head of the Personnel Committee, brought up the manual changes that seem to be debated the most, and set a special committee meeting to get into the discussion at length. 

City employees currently get paid for ten hours of holiday pay instead of a standard eight, not only for standard holidays, but also Black Friday and Good Friday, a source of debate among many council members. They also get ten hours of sick pay every month, and an additional 17 hours of sick pay towards the end of the year. On top of the sick pay and holiday pay, employees are also given personal and vacation days. 

Gale is proposing several changes, and other aldermen have said that they have previously tried, but changing the personnel manual seems to be an uphill battle. Any changes made would be for non-union employees, and all personnel should be given the option whether or not they want to join. He also suggested tying pay increases to the cost of living standard, instead of an arbitrary amount. 

The council voted to approve a 3.4 percent increase in healthcare benefits, a hike that Gale said comes just one year after a ten percent increase in price. Both the alderman and Mayor Rich Wilken stated that the plan, a platinum plan with a $500 deductible, was not losing any coverage, and was something the city should feel good about offering to their employees. The city was not required to meet with the union because there was no reduction of benefits. 

The insurance plan will be offered on a fiscal term, something Gale notes “provides a very small window for negotiation.” Wilken added that the city hoped to move to a new calendar year based plan at the end of this year, which would allow more negotiation time, and the possibility of finding lower rates. Gale stated multiple times that he does not feel that healthcare prices will get any better. 

The committee will meet again on February 20 to dedicate an entire session to the personnel manual changes, job descriptions, the possibility of a Building Safety Inspector/ Code Enforcement Officer position, and more. Gale said he welcomed the other aldermen that were not on the committee to attend and have a voice in the discussion. The meeting will be held at Lebanon City Hall at 7:00 p.m. The following evening, a special meting of the planning commission will be held at city hall, also at 7:00 p.m.

In Other News:

• In a heated discussion about the flooding at Roger Drive and Merril Street, aldermen asked Mayor Wilken where the plans were from Rhutasel and Associates, Inc. engineer Mark Rujawitz, especially since they were paid for. Alderman Bartholomew said that he even made a note on the bill because it has been paid. Rujawitz presented to the city council two weeks ago, and had promised multiple aldermen that he would email the plans that he had come up with. They’re still waiting. 

Lebanon resident and Ward I alderman candidate Charles Witty asked “Is the city in the habit of paying for something they don’t have?” The bill was over $3,000.

“I don’t have any answer to that. I don’t know how it got paid. I didn’t authorize it,” answered Wilken, adding that the city finance committee caught that it had already been paid out. 

“Maybe it’s an emailable report and we give him a deadline. We’ve got to have it,” Alderman Cheri Wright said. 

“I’ll tell him we want the report that we paid for,” Wilken said, adding that the sooner they had the completed report, the sooner they could put the project out for bids. 

He noted that he has had continued meetings about the property, including the possible addition of a retention pond on McKendree University property to help alleviate flooding. 

• The council approved several purchases for the Water and Sewer Department, including $1,349 for a two inch trash pump, $850 for a metal detector, and $500 for repairing threads on the engine of a 2006 Ford F250. The truck, formerly used by Streets and Alleys, could cost as much as $2,950 to completely repair. 

• The next full-council meeting will be February 25 at 7:00 p.m. 

Renowned Egyptologist visits McKendree to discuss female rulers

Dr. Kara Cooney, a renowned Egyptologist and author, gave a presentation at
McKendree University recently about female rulers in Egyptian history.
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Angela Simmons)

LEBANON – Adventurer, author and Egyptologist Dr. Kara Cooney recently enthralled an audience at McKendree University’s Hettenhausen Center For the Arts. Dr. Cooney’s talk, When Women Ruled the World, was the university’s third installment of National Geographic Live. 

Dr. Cooney is a professor at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) teaching courses in Egyptian art and architecture, ancient Egyptian civilization, and women and power in the ancient world. In travels that have taken her to multiple countries around the world, she is currently researching the reuse of coffins. “I look at these coffins as social documents. I look at them to tell me about gender, socioeconomic place, religious understanding. I look at a coffin the same way you all might look at a wedding dress when it hits the aisle. This work is very painstaking and very time consuming,” she said. 

Dr. Cooney explained why she preferred to use the rich history of Egypt to provide a lens into current society, as there were more than 3,000 years of history for her to examine. She said “I’ve devoted my whole life to the study of people that I cannot talk to that lived 3,000 to 5,000 years ago. I find it useful for me to use the past and then apply it to the modern world around me. I understand the modern world better by looking at the past.”

One of those areas of modern life that she’s able to examine by looking at the past is females in power. In her third book and second trade publication, When Women Ruled the World, Dr. Cooney writes about six powerful Egyptian females, five of which were actually kings, and one queen regent. Before delving into her book, the professor shared current statistics and facts about females in power, both in the United States and around the globe. 

Women in the U.S. currently have around 20 percent governmental power, “snuggled up between Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.” The top three countries with females in power are Rwanda, Sweden and South Africa, with Rwanda having the highest of just over 55 percent. Dr. Cooney notes that feminism is looked at negatively lately, “but feminism is just half of the population thinking they should have 50 percent of the power and we have a very long way to go. There are many ways to get there, and the Egyptians got there before we did.” Currently, Egypt has under five percent of females in power. 

In economic power, the worldwide average is four percent of females in charge of Fortune 500 companies, with the U.S. average slightly exceeding that at just six percent. “If we have a choice whether or not as shareholders to give women power over out money, we do not. 

The realm that gives women the most power is the military. “You’d be surprised to know that even though women are not allowed to be combat forces in this country, female officers are taking over every branch of the armed services, except the Marines, by leaps and bounds, with numbers approaching 25 percent. That’s from just 20 years ago when there were practically no female officers.” She stated that the reason was that the military is a hierarchical system from the top down that recognizes leaders and promotes them. 

“I’m not trying to be man-hating. I’m not trying to say this is a right or a left problem, or a male or female problem, because this is who the females are electing, too. We want men in power, we feel more comfortable with men in power,” she explained, adding that in our divided nation, what joins people is a common panic at the possible collapsing future, and what to do about that is the divider. 

Trying to figure out possible answers, she shared photos of herself with her son and said that she experienced “post-partum everything,” including anxiety and depression that took her own power away. She felt that motherhood made her much more tender from the clinical outlook that she had held.

She also spoke about gender norms and economics in hunter-gatherer societies,  farming communities and patriarchal societies. 

All of this, Cooney says, is important to understand when trying to figure out how women would rule differently from men, and why Egypt was once able to have females in the ultimate power seat. When kings died and children were left on the throne, “Egyptians allowed the woman as regent dozens of times, but sometimes those women can step beyond being a regent for a boy and become king themselves.”

Merneith, a queen regent, confused archaeologists because her grave was situated among kings and held some of the markings of a royal grave. The first dynasty “Queen of Blood” helped her son, King Den, achieve power. Cooney mentioned that there were several graves for women and children, which would have been Merneith’s choice, to ensure that her son and his kingship were safe. In return, King Den made sure to bury her in royal fashion. She was later erased from their history. 

Skipping forward to the twelfth dynasty, Neferusobek was “the last woman standing” from her entire family. Dr. Cooney explained that the first female king was intelligent in stating that her power was divine and came from her father, Amenemhat III, whom had ruled strongly for 45 years, rather than her husband. She likened Neferusobek to Ivanka Trump, her office and position in the White House, and the power that she seems to hold, ostensibly more so than current or former first ladies. Neferusobek ruled Egypt for four years. 

The next female king, ruling for 15 years in Dynasty 18 was Hatshepsut. Cooney’s first trade book came from her research about the ruler, titled The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt. Hatshepsut became a queen regent after the death of her husband King Thutmose II. Since the pair had a daughter, their nephew Thutmose III, a child, was chosen as king. Using a priestess position to catapult herself to regency, she became king seven years into her rule. Arguably Egypt’s strongest female king, Hatshepsut was also erased from history, with statues destroyed and her name chiseled off. 

Cooney’s book also talks about the female kings Nefertiti, Tawosret, and Cleopatra. Nefertiti’s co-kingship is debated among Egyptologists, though most are in agreement, because she ruled under a different name. Dr. Cooney also shared that through discoveries of a colleague, it’s now believed that the infamous coffins and funerary mask of King Tutankhamun were originally meant for Nefertiti. 

Cooney skipped over Twaosret was something that people definitely needed to read about. “There’s incest, it’s very Game of Thrones. She’s the most warrior king of all of them. She’s not related to any of them and takes the kingship anyway. It’s amazing,” she said.

Cleopatra was disastrous, and did not rule alone, according to Cooney. Bringing Egypt together with the Roman society, Cleopatra was deemed a failure for not leaving the country better than she found it, and Cooney hinted that she may have been murdered. 

The authoritarian Egyptian regime allowed female rule “to protect the authoritarian regime, and the female rule under this regime is the most needed and most demanded to protect the it,” Cooney explained. 

Displaying a set of emojis that are vastly different for women and men, Cooney said that women are often not put into power because they’re viewed as too mercurial. “Look at this emotionality and stop distrusting it. This connection with the people around us is, I would argue, the only thing that will get us through the twenty-first century.”

Dr. Cooney’s books are available through several avenues, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and signed copies may be ordered from her website, karacooney.squarespace.com. Also on her website are clips from some of her eight visits to The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, appearances on The Today Show, and clips from several Discovery Channel appearances, including her own series, Out of Egypt. 

Lebanon Auto Parts celebrates new leadership with ribbon cutting

Pictured from left: chamber President Missy Mitchell, Grant Evans with son Henry who has his back turned, Ted Weil from Christ brothers, Kelly Evans with the couple’s youngest son Charlie, Pat Evans (sitting), Bret Evans (on her lap), Angie Evans, Yvonne Green, and Don’s 90-year-old mother Rosemary Allen.
(Submitted photo)

The Lebanon Chamber of Commerce recently held a ribbon cutting celebration to commemorate the new leadership at Lebanon Carquest Auto Parts, located at 105 West McAllister Street. The car parts store had been run by Don Evans, who recently passed away. The location will now be run by Don’s son, Grant.