Alderman leaves meeting, resigns

A Vandalia alderman who criticized city council members voting to allow two gaming businesses, then walked out of Monday’s council meeting, has resigned from the council.
But, Vandalia’s mayor planned to talk to Terry Beesley about reconsidering that action.
Beesley initiated a lengthy discussion at the end of Monday’s meeting by saying that he feels that aldermen who supported two businesses operating solely for gaming made the wrong choice.
After voting 6-2 at its Oct. 6 meeting to not increase the number of Class A liquor licenses, to allow for gaming businesses, the council voted 4-3 on Oct. 20 to overturn that decision.
The action was reversed when aldermen Russ Stunkel and B. John Clark changed their minds on the issue, deciding to allow it. Another alderman who opposed the additional licenses, Andy Lester, was not present for the Oct. 20 meeting.
Under state law, businesses must have a license to sell beer and wine in order to obtain a license for gaming machines. Local businesses and clubs who currently operate gaming machines are allowed to do so under different conditions, such as qualifying as a truck stop or club.
In a phone message early Tuesday morning, Beesley told The Leader-Union that he submitted a letter of resignation.
Later that morning, Mayor Rick Gottman said that he planned to talk to the Ward III alderman about the possibility of withdrawing that resignation.
“He’s been a good alderman,” Gottman said.
Beesley started out on Monday by saying that he had told Mike Wehrle, who plans to rent space for one of the gaming businesses, that allowing businesses solely for gaming “was a bad idea.”
Qualifying that opinion, Beesley said he feels that money generated by those two businesses will “go out of town … and make the town look more seedy.”
Beesley said he assumed that since Wehrle had spoken with him, he had also contacted other aldermen.
“We overturned this based on one call from one person who wanted it his way, who – to the best of my knowledge – isn’t one of our constituents.
“I understand (that) Mike is a business owner in Vandalia, and he’s got a vested interest in the city – I totally get that. His family lives here, that’s great.
“He’s still not one of our constituents and those are the people we should be looking out for, so I feel that we overturned this for special interest reasons, not for our constituents,” Beesley said.
“I think we sold the public out,” he said.
Beesley also contended that the vote to overturn the Oct. 6 decision was made when Lester was not present.
When Alderman Dorothy Crawford asked whether the two aldermen who changed their minds could give their reasons, Beesley said that he wanted to finish his statement.
A short time later, Stunkel did explain his reasoning.
“It was brought to my attention that this is a legitimate business,” he said, adding that some are already operating gaming machines.
“To say ‘no’ to you, ‘yes’ to you, it’s not proper,” Stunkel said. “This is a legal business,” he said later in the meeting.
Beesley told those voting to overturn the decision that Gene Hebenstreit, one of the two operators of the new gaming businesses, made two incongruent arguments.
He said that Hebenstreit said that he wanted to attract truckers who parked in the Walmart lot, and also that women feel more comfortable using machines at businesses such as his than at others also having machines.
“He’s feeding us a line,” Beesley said. “They just don’t fit together.
“They’re preying on the women of this town, and we’re going to let them.
Beesley presented projected figures on gaming for the current year, contending that the city will get only a small percentage of the revenue from the gaming machines.
At the Oct. 22 meeting, Alderman Neil Clark said that the council “can’t legislate morality.” Monday night, Beesley said, “Every law we have on the books is based on morality. We can legislate morality all of the time; we draw a line as a government in morality.”
Beesley said that he would propose legislation stipulating that anyone other than a nationally or state-recognized club must offer a full menu of food in order to get a liquor license.
At the Oct. 22 meeting, B. John Clark asked whether the city could prevent gaming businesses should the state remove the liquor license requirement. He brought that up again on Monday.
In response, Beesley said that he could find no proposed legislation on that issue.
Crawford said that if the city is going to prohibit businesses offering gambling, it would have to “shut down the Eagles, the Moose, the VFW, all the bingo games.”
Beesley said that gambling, in general, is not the issue for him; it’s the type of business.
“This business plan is a leech, that’s all it is,” he said, contending that the service organizations offering gaming “provide valid services to the community.”
The discussion ended after Stunkel and B. John Clark said that they wanted to move on in the meeting.
“We’ve got your opinion,” Stunkel said, adding that the wanted to make a motion to adjourn the meeting.
Clark said to Beesley, “You’re beating a dead horse.”
At that point, Beesley gathered up his papers and walked out of the meeting.
Also at Monday’s meeting:
• Gottman praised the efforts of all emergency personnel who responded to the car-train accident last Thursday evening, giving special praise to Police Chief Jeff Ray and Lisa Wagner, the police and fire dispatcher handling radio duties that night.
• The council approved two Tax Increment Financing grants.
The council OK’d a grant for concrete improvements at Mr. Lube at 722 School Street and one for facade improvements to a building at 1501 Veterans Ave. owned by Wehrle.
The Mr. Lube grant is for up to $11,100, for a project estimated at $22,200, and the one for Wehrle is for up to $13,882, for a project estimated at $27,764.
• The council observed a moment of silence for the four members of the Greenville family who died as a result of Thursday’s car-train accident.
It also had a silent moment of prayer for Ryan Cunningham, a Fayette County Hospital paramedic who was seriously injured in a motocross accident last weekend.

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