Year in Review

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

A struggling economy continued to be one of the top stories in Vandalia and Fayette County, as the area lost more jobs and the county dealt with financial matters for most of 2012.
A look back at 2012 begins in this issue with the first six months of the year.
• About six months after an Illinois State Police investigation, St. Elmo librarian Terri E. Gillespie was arrested on theft charges.  Gillespie was charged with two counts, one alleging the theft of up to $500,000 in library funds and the other alleging the theft of up to $100,000.
Gillespie pleaded guilty to the theft of up to $100,000 in August, and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and 120 days of electronic home confinement, ordered to complete 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay restitution of $45,548.
• A local landmark, the fire-breathing dragon at Kaskaskia Supply and Rental, began drawing national attention by being included, along with other unique sites in the U.S., in the website RoadsideAmerica.com.
• Vandalia’s Laurie Mabry, director of women’s athletics at Illinois State University for more than two decades and a former coach at the school, was honored with “Laurie Mabry Day” at the university.
• Discussions began on Phase II of the Kaskaskia College Vandalia Campus. The second phase of the campus project will include computer classrooms, industrial labs, multi-purpose rooms and a distance learning classroom.
• The Vandalia Park District Board of Trustees decided to not renew the district’s agreement with the operators of Vandalia Airport, Jason Mark and Anita Wuertz.
That decision ended about two decades of skydiving at the airport, which is operated by the district. Dave and Dianne Verner moved their skydiving business to the airport in the early 1990s, and Mark and Wuertz bought the business from the Verners in 1999.
• Lewis “Abe” Clymer and John Ashdown received Abe Awards from the Vandalia Chamber of Commerce.
Clymer was recognized for operating a business for about 50 years, and for portraying Abraham Lincoln both at local events and through his participation in the Association of Lincoln Presenters.
Ashdown was recognized for heading up the Family YMCA of Fayette County’s building committee that spearheaded the construction of the new YMCA home.
• Tim Thomason, a Brownstown native and Vandalia resident, was part of a National Guard firefighting unit that was deployed to Afghanistan.
• The Vandalia Community High School wrestling team captured its 18th straight regional title. The next week, Levi Ulmer, Daniel Edwards, Dayin Godberson, Seth Purcell and Dalton Blankenship advanced to the state wresting meet, with Ulmer taking fifth place.
• Vandalia Alderman Terry Beesley reported that he had gotten a representative of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide a free assessment of the city’s raw water intake on the Kaskaskia River. Near the end of the year, the city learned that there would be no cheap fix to the intake problem.
• Kathy Schultz, who started the “Vandalia Memories” page on Facebook, told how the page had attracted hundreds of current and former residents, and had grown to include more than 1,000 old photos of the community.
• At the Patoka Fire Department’s annual banquet, Patoka firefighter Scott Torbeck offered thanks to four area firefighters – John Hinkel of Patoka, Doug Davis of Odin, and Gary Speagle and Shawn Lance of Sandoval – who saved his life on Jan. 5 when he suffered a heart problem.
• Fayette County’s Enhanced 911 committee reached a milestone when it turned all address information over to the U.S. Postal Service. The committee was hopeful at that time that the system would be up and going by the end of 2013, but reported at the end of the year that it would likely be sometime in 2014.
• After numerous trash and vandalism problems on the two city parking lots at Fifth and Johnson streets, the Vandalia City Council decided to ban loitering on those two lots.
• Pana native Josh Morrison, a Republican currently working as an assistant state’s attorney in Sangamon County, announced that he was running for state’s attorney in Fayette County. Democrat Matt Chancey, the assistant state’s attorney in this county for about 5½ years, later entered the state’s attorney’s race. Steve Friedel, the state’s attorney for the past 12 years, announced that he would not seek re-election.
• Regional Superintendent of Schools Julie Wollerman announced that she had selected Bill LaDage, a retired teacher and administrator in the Vandalia School District, to serve as her assistant.
• Democrat Randy Braun and Republican Randy Pollard were re-elected as the chairmen of the two parties’ central committees at party caucuses.
• Graham Packaging announced that it would be closing three plants, including the one in Vandalia, later in the year. Also being shuttered were Graham plants in Ohio and West Chicago.
The closing of the plant would mean the loss of about 200 jobs.
The facility on Imco Drive has served as a home for the production of plastic bottles since Ethyl Corp. opened the plant in 1969.
• Republican Kathy Emerick announced that she was running for the post of Fayette County circuit clerk, challenging incumbent Democrat Mary Sue Ruot.
• The Vandalia City Council discussed making changes to laws governing parking in the downtown business district. The discussions began as a result of complaints about some merchants and residents of downtown apartments parking in front of businesses for extended periods.
• FAYCO Enterprises, which took over local recycling efforts on Sept. 1, 2010, announced that it would be expanding the recycling program. Near the end of the year, it opened a new recycling building on Wagner Street.
• As they discussed salaries for elected city officials, the Vandalia City Council talked about shifting the treasurer’s duties to the city clerk. The council later voted to make the treasurer’s post a part-time, appointed position.