Chamber holds annual meeting

VANDALIA — The Vandalia-Butler Chamber of Commerce held its annual membership meeting on Tuesday morning.

During the meeting, the City of Vandalia, Butler Township, and the Vandalia-Butler City Schools gave their annual “State of” speeches.

Prior to the presentations, chamber members were honored for reaching 20 years of membership. Those recognized included Fastsigns, Hunter Consulting Company, Lion Apparel, Living Word Church, National Auto Lube, Outback Steakhouse, Smith, Denlinger & Company, and THT Press.

Also, the chamber announced nominees for its board of directors. Ballots will be mailed by March 26 and members have until Monday, April 9 to cast their ballot.

Nominees are (* denotes incumbent):

  • Betty Dankworth, Koorsen Fire & Security
  • Darrell Wacker, Vandalia Drummer News
  • David Bucher, Sutton/Dalco Auto Leasing
  • Erin Barlow*, Xcel Sports Medicine
  • Paula Gibbs-Licher, Jan’s Flower & Gift Shop
  • Tim Stammen*, Keller Williams Hometown Realty
  • Zachary Bruening, Edward Jones Investment

Vandalia-Butler City Schools Superintendent Rob O’Leary and Treasurer Eric Beavers were the first to present. O’Leary noted that the implementation of the strategic plan developed by the community in 2016 was well underway with 34 out of 43 strategic actions already underway at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.

Beavers also gave a brief financial report while thanking those in attendance for the community passing a renewal levy last fall.

The City of Vandalia unveiled a video presentation narrated by Communications Manager Rich Hopkins.

He noted that due to the challenge of keeping enough part-time staff in the Division of Fire, the city is in the process of hiring three new full-time paramedic/firefighters.

“This should allow for a stronger and more stable workforce,” he said.

The Division of Fire has also placed a new rescue engine in service at a cost of nearly $500,000 as well as a new medic unit.

Hopkins said that the Division of Police received over 14,000 calls for service in 2017. The city is implementing a NextGen 911 system that will allow police to receive text messages and also use cellular data to better pinpoint the location of a call.

“The Division of Police will be rolling out an informational campaign later this year to let everyone know when the system is fully operational,” said Hopkins.

The Division of Police also began wearing body-worn cameras in 2017 and also received additional training on how best to interact with people suffering of signs of mental illness.

“It’s foresight and training like this that has allowed the Division of Police to receive CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement) accreditation now for 25 years and running,” Hopkins said.

Parks and Recreation saw tremendous growth in the number of people playing Pickleball last year in part due to the new courts at Helke Park. Hopkins also noted the partnership between the city and school district to refurbish the other six tennis courts at Helke Park.

He also announced that the city will hold a ceremony on April 19 to rename the Vandalia Recreation Center after former Police Chief and City Manager Bruce Sucher. Sucher died suddenly a year ago and was instrumental in the development and construction of the Rec Center.

“He was a good friend, and he had big dreams for this City,” said Hopkins. “One of his crowning achievements as a City Manager was the opening of the Vandalia Recreation Center, or as we will be calling it later this year, The Bruce Sucher Recreation Center.

Hopkins also touted the city’s success in economic development. He cited the development at the former Morton Middle School named 40 West, MSW Plastics establishing its first American facility on Ventnor Avenue which will bring 35 jobs, and Ortronics, a cabling company that will bring 125 jobs to the city.

Butler Township Trustee Mike Lang reported that over 80% of township residents have chosen to participate in the electrical aggregation program approved by voters in 2016.

“This has provided a real savings for our residents,” said Lang.

He noted that the township has more than 250 businesses, a third of which are concentrated in the York Commons/Miller Lane Business District. More than 25% of the township’s annual revenue comes from Tax Increment Financing, JEDZ income tax, and the hotel and lodging tax.

New businesses are under development. They include Airport Deluxe RV Storage, Concentra Occupational Health, Home 2 Suites, King’s World Academy, and Red Lion Inn & Suites.

The township added a part-time Code Enforcement Officer, Eddie Robinson, in 2017. Jeff Barnett was also hired as the Service Director after the retirement of Supervisor Doug Brunk.

Lang also reported that the Willowbrook Subdivision Upgrades, a $500,000 project, was completed in 2017. The project included sidewalk, curb, and accessible ramp repairs as well as new pavement on eight streets. The township receiveda $50,000 Community Development Block Grant toward the project.

Butler Townshi’s Fire Department also added three new full-time firefighters/paramedics. The department responded to 3,232 emergency calls in 2017, a 7% increase over 2016.

The Police Department saw an even greater increase in calls for service with 17,737. That is a 27% increase over 2016 and an average of 50 per day.

The department was able to fill five open positions thanks to the police levy passed in 2016. That leaves the department fully staffed with 18 members.

Lang also reported that, due to the success of the township’s bicentennial festival in 2017, the festival will become an annual festival. The details, including dates, will be announced soon.