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Despite some uncertainty, 2008 had some successes

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

A word that could best describe 2008 in Vandalia and Fayette County is “uncertainty.”

In the past year, rains that came often and early caused Fayette County farmers to be uncertain about this year’s crops.

Area residents employed at Orgill’s distribution center were uncertain about the future of their jobs for an extended period. In July, those workers learned that Orgill will close the local center when it opens a new distribution center in Missouri.

Vandalia officials and local tourism officials were uncertain about the future of the Vandalia Statehouse, after Gov. Rod Blagojevich closed state historic sites as a way of trimming the state budget. In the end, an anonymous donor stepped forward to get the old state capitol reopened.

We begin our look back at 2008 in today’s issue:

JANUARY

The city of Vandalia learned that it could use a portion of the TEA-21 monies awarded for downtown streetscape improvements to fund its 10 Looking for Lincoln wayside exhibits. Those exhibits tell stories about Lincoln’s time in Vandalia.

Vandalia’s Lady Vandals defeated Flora to win the Mattoon Christmas Tournament for the first time. Later in the month, the Lady Vandals won the Sandoval Invitational for the seventh time in nine years.

About 3 1/2 years after leading the fight to keep Vandalia Correctional Center open, state Sen. Frank Watson (R-Greenville) was challenging proposed cuts at VCC, including reductions in the dairy herd and the trimming of VCC farm workers.

The Vandalia Board of Education tabbed Stacy South, a 13-year employee of the district, as the successor to Gary Rahe as principal of Vandalia Elementary School.

Fayette Water held public meetings to sign up residents living north and northwest of town as it proceeded with its latest expansion of rural water lines.

The Illinois Department of Transportation held its first series of meetings in towns along U.S. Route 51 – including Ramsey and Vandalia – as part of the ongoing effort to expand the highway to four lanes between Decatur and Centralia.

Saundra Helm and Ed Taylor Jr. received Abe Awards from the Vandalia Chamber of Commerce to recognize their service to the community. Also at the chamber’s annual meeting, 2007 President Dave Bell presented the gavel to the new chamber president, Doug Knebel.

FEBRUARY

Vandalia School District officials held a roundtable discussion to allow the public to give input on a proposal to close the Vandalia Community High School campus during the lunch hour. The roundtable drew a small crowd, with only one person voicing opposition to the plan. The Vandalia Board of Education approved the closed campus a week after the roundtable.

The Fayette County Farm Bureau Board of Directors honored Roy Prater, a Bowling Green farmer, for his 28 years of service on the board. Lyle Barnes, also a resident of the Cowden area, was picked to succeed Prater.

The Vandalia wrestling team earned a school-record five medals at the IHSA State Wrestling Tournament. Matt Shroyer, Adam Bowling, Josh Eller and Cody Pyle all won second-place medals. A week later, the VCHS wrestlers advanced to the state team finals.

After six officials in Kirkwood, Mo., sustained fatal gunshot wounds at a city council meeting, many governmental entities implemented tighter security measures. Fayette County Sheriff Aaron Lay stepped up searches at the entrance to the county courthouse, and Vandalia officials decided to lock city hall doors at the start of city council meetings.

Brownstown native Dave Scott earned a place in the American Softball Association Hall of Fame for his accomplishments during a 26-year career in fast-pitch softball.

Local residents joined Kaskaskia College officials in celebrating the opening of the KC Vandalia Campus on West Fillmore Street.

MARCH

Fayette County Board Chairman Steve Knebel told fellow board members that he wanted to see an Enhanced 911 referendum put before county voters again in 2008. Voters overwhelmingly approved a surcharge for the emergency phone service in November.

A St. Baldrick’s fundraiser at the St. Elmo Fire Department generated about $15,000 for pediatric cancer research. St. Elmo firefighter Bryan Jennings initiated the fundraiser efforts.