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King pleads not guilty

Appearing in court before Circuit Judge Kelly Wayne Parker, the Iron County man charged with the November 2017 murder of Thomas Ventimiglia waived formal arraignment.

William “Billy” King, of Belleview, entered pleas of not guilty to the charges of first degree murder, armed criminal action and unlawful possession of a firearm.

King was arrested by Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers on Nov. 7 following the early-morning murder of Ventimiglia on Nov. 5.

Ventimiglia was shot and killed on Highway 21 near the intersection of County Road 96 in Iron County at about 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 5. Tips and information from witnesses led investigating authorities to believe King had been the perpetrator.

On the morning of Nov. 6, King’s vehicle was found abandoned at Snow Hollow Lake, about a mile south of where the murder occurred.  At 1 p.m. the same day King was arrested near the intersection of Highway 21 and Route N, less than a mile from where the murder occurred.

Iron County Sheriff Roger Medley said King had given himself up because he was cold and wet.

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School board discusses safety, achievements

The Fredericktown Board of Education met for its regular monthly meeting this past week and discussed school safety and individual school achievements.

Superintendent Brett Reutzel discussed questions from the community regarding school security. Due to the recent school shooting in Florida, Reutzel said the board and himself have been receiving a lot of questions.

"Everyone is on top of it now, but we have to continue to stay on top of it months from now," Board member Leo Francis said. 

Reutzel said all entrances district wide have cameras, there are three School Resource Offices (SRO) in the district, metal detectors are used for large gatherings and everyone must be buzzed into the school during school hours.

The idea of a community meeting was discussed but the board decided it would be best not to have all safety measures public information.

"We have three resource officers while some campuses do not have any," Reutzel said. "All law enforcement are always welcome to come have lunch and be at the campus at anytime."

Fredericktown High School Principal Shannon Henson spoke passionately about the safety of students. He shared with the board the idea of purchasing a film which goes on the exteriors doors which would stop them from shattering if they were shot at. While the bullets would still go through the glass Henson said this would prevent anyone from getting through the entrance.

The board also discussed the idea of having an outside group come to the district to perform a security assessment and the possibility of having an outside third party try to gain access to the buildings as a test of their security.

Reutzel recognized Kelly A. Burlison Middle School for being awarded an Exemplary Professional Learning Community School by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

"The teams really do a good job," KABMS Principal Ken Lunsford. "Sikeston had 11 teachers come down just to observe our processes today."

Reutzel also recognized Fredericktown Elementary School and Fredericktown Intermediate School for being featured in the Missouri School-Wide Positive Behavior Schedule Winter 2018 Newsletter.

"We are very proud of both of our schools and the work they do with PBS," Reutzel said. "Mary (Moyers) and Joe (Clauser) work very hard with their staff."

Reutzel said that the Fredericktown High School JROTC Program recently earned the "Honor Unit with Distinction" accreditation placing them in the top 30 percent of all Army JROTC Programs nationwide and overseas.

"The new review is more intense than it was in the past," Reutzel said. "They needed 70 percent for the accreditation and finished with 96.5 percent."

The board heard from Fredericktown R-I School District Director of Transportation Scott Sikes about their need for more buses.

Sikes said the need has become more urgent due to aging buses and repairs which cost more than the buses are worth.

"I am very thankful for what you have allowed us to do," Sikes said. "If Mr. Reutzel thinks it fiscally possible we are going to have to move ahead if possible."

The board approved Sikes request to seek bids for new buses.

High School Athletic Director Craig Gibbs gave a report to the board of the current athletic program for approval.

Gibbs said the school averages 23-24 percent participation in fall activities.

"That is pretty standard for schools our size," Gibbs said. "We have kids who are participating in JROTC, FCCLA, clubs and Ag programs as well, which are not recorded in those MSHSAA statistics."

Gibbs also discussed Kid Guard for students without insurance and policies which the athletes have to follow in regards to following the law, social media, drugs and alcohol.

"Athletics are an extension of the classroom," Gibbs said. "We have coaches teaching very valuable lessons. I really believe that sports are important."

The board approved the proposed athletic program.

The seventh pay application for the intermediate school addition in the amount of $150,269.10 was approved by the board.

Reutzel said the remaining balance which includes the retainer and payment for finishing the site work is $127,298.32. The addition is set to be in use March 9.

Assistant Superintendent Mary Jo Jensen requested approval to create a position for the coordination of dyslexia screenings mandated by the government using Title I funds.

Jensen said the position is needed due to the amount of work which will go into the screening process. She said the new law will require all students in grade first through third be screened for dyslexia in the first 30 days of school.

Other grades will also be screened under different time limits and criteria. Jensen said one in five students have some form of dyslexia and the school has already been implementing some of the teaching and screening techniques. 

Jensen's request was approved by the board and the position will be posted.

The board set March 20 (the next school board meeting) to rehire 2018-19 certified staff. 

The last day of school was set for May 24 for students and May 25 for staff.

The board then approved the updated list of substitute teachers.

Reutzel gave a food service report during his superintendent report. He said they are in the black and everything is going fairly well. 

Reutzel also said the Fredericktown Foundation is moving forward with the work on the soccer fields. He said they have the funds and pledges to do the field and build the building. 

In his discussion of the budget, Reutzel discussed four projects he would like to see at the top of the board's list.

First, he said finishing the intermediate school with lights and HVAC throughout the building would cost around $100,000.

Second, he said he would like to see the alternative learning campus to have its ramps, sidewalk and steps going into the building completed. This would cost $50,000 or if they add asphalt to the parking lot any where from $100,000 to $130,000.

Third, Reutzel said the moisture issue in the elementary school gym would cost around $35,000.

The final project he mentioned was  the bus issue which was previously discussed by Sikes.

"I think it is something we need to think about in the coming months," Reutzel said. "We will need to provide bids, discuss our funds and look at the projects."

The board has requests out for all the projects and will begin to look at options in the months to come.

Reutzel said he has several companies and an individual interested in purchasing the intermediate school modular units. They requested to look at them once they are empty. 

Reutzel said he will send pictures once they are emptied and move the process along. The board still plans to donate one of the units to the Fredericktown Fire Department.

Henson announced Fredericktown High School is going to very carefully and methodically open prom.

"We are kind of the ugly duckling when it comes to this," Henson said. "Basically friends will be able to bring a guest. If we are going to do this, I would like to ease in on the cautious side."

Henson said they surveyed the junior and seniors and the response was overwhelming the students wanted an open prom. 

The board also discussed upcoming calendar dates. The JROTC Military Ball is is at 6 p.m., Feb. 23 at the middle school. FCCLA Sweetheart Coronation will be Feb. 24 at the high school. Retired School Personnel Chili Supper scholarship fundraiser will be 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., March 2 at the Senior Center.

The high school play will be March 2-3, the Winter Sports Banquet is March 15 and the Shop with a Hero Basketball Tournament is March 16 inthe middle school gym.

The next regular school board meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m., Mar. 20, at the school district offices. 

Honoring those who have fallen

The Mineral Area Veterans club is raising funds for a war memorial in Marquand. 

The current memorial is a red granite marker that lists the names of 23 area soldiers who died during service.

"It was erected 40 years ago and the bronze plate is showing its age," Mineral Area College Professor Todd Kline said. "The club's original mission was to have the plaque refinished and reinstalled. Then we decided to go a step further and build something that will raise the profile of the monument."

Kline said that the club has decided to have a 48 by 30 inch gray granite monument which will be set in a brick foundation.

While the club is still in the early stages of the project, Kline said that fundraising efforts have already exceeded expectations.

The club held a fundraiser Mardi Gras Luncheon on Feb. 13 where they served closed to 200 meals and ran out of food. 

The initial goal of the club was to raise $300 to refinish the current monument but that goal has been raised to $2,500 in order to expand on the monument.

When asked why they chose Marquand, Kline said he came across the monument while researching 28 local soldiers who died in Vietnam.

"I came across bits and pieces of info on all of the soldiers," Kline said. "Most of the information obtained early came from the virtual wall but you will notice that we found out a lot about these two (Marquand soldiers) from a book titled 'Scars of Vietnam' by Harry Spiller. Harry's book mentioned that there was a memorial in Marquand honoring those lost in war."

When Kline visited Marquand to inspect the memorial he noticed the nameplate was in need of refinishing.

"Quotes for that run in the $300 to $500 range and I decided that it would be a good project for the club," Kline said. "The next thing we know we started talking about adding a monument to the existing one."

Clifford D. Combs and Lawrence (Larry) S. Mills are the two Marquand soldiers Kline was referencing from Spiller's book, both of whom were recruited in 1968 by Spiller himself.

"Both of these soldiers graduated high school, went to boot camp, deployed to Vietnam and were buried within a year," Kline said. "Clifford Combs was in Vietnam for five weeks, got in a firefight, was shot in the leg below the knee and bled to death because the medics couldn't get to him. Larry Mills died five weeks later when he went to see a movie in a relatively safe area. Someone threw a grenade in the five ton he was riding in on the way to his living quarters."

Kline said a local citizen recalled the time as being a "total nightmare" for the town, saying that both boys grew up  in Marquand and were popular. Having them both killed a month apart was difficult to take and was really hard for the younger people to handle.

Mills is buried at Rhodes Chapel Cemetery looking over Castor River Valley.

"It is a beautiful cemetery with majestic pine tress, the grandeur of the Castor River valley is spread out before you," Kline said. "You can see many of the places where Dale and Larry lived. Cottoner Mountain, the Roscoe hole, Grounds Creek and the low water bridge are close by. If you ever get out that way think of Larry and Dale and think of all our soldiers that went to Vietnam, think of the family and friends they left behind, think of the wonderful childhoods they had. They would be almost 70 years old now. What would they be doing?"

According to Spiller's book he recruited four soldiers from Marquand who died in the Vietnam War but only two have been identified by Kline.

"One of them moved to another town and that may have been his hometown of record when the military reported it," Kline said. "Some of the locals say that over 15 to 20 were drafted or served. For such a small town, they paid a steep price."

The 23 soldiers on the memorial are Everett E. Barrett, Clifford D. Combs, Tony Weston, John F. Griffon, George C. Johnson, Thomas C. Wallis, James A. Reagan, William D. Marshall, Theodore Westbrook, Charles FM Underwood, Normal H. Henson, Lawrence S. Mills, Randall Allbright, Charles W. Hovis, Lesley A. Jones, Stanley B. Cluck, Legal T. Butler, John P. Johnson, Dewey W. Robinson, Clyde S. Osborn, E. J. Lorance, Chester E. Thorpe and Orville Dudley.

Kline said that the soldiers are from all wars starting with World War I and that Henson died in the Battle of the Bulge. Barrett, Underwood and Lorance also died in World War I but it was difficult to find information on the rest. 

If you would like to assist with the project, checks can be made payable to Mineral Area College Veterans Club, C/O Todd Kline, P.O. Box 1000, Park Hills, MO 63601.

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Roberts gives State of the Chamber address

At the Park Hills-Leadington Chamber of Commerce Investor Meeting last week Chamber President Tish Roberts presided over her first meeting and gave a State of the Chamber address, detailing the successes of 2017 and her hopes for 2018.

“I am very excited for the upcoming year,” Roberts said. “I look forward to working with individuals on all of our upcoming events. I’m hoping that this will be one of the best years that we’ve ever had.”

Describing the success of chamber-sponsored events in 2017, Roberts said the year saw some of the best turnouts in the chamber’s history.

“At Sweetheart Trivia we had 23 teams, which is another accomplishment,” she said. “Our disc golf tournament that we had in 2017 actually grew from 54 participants in 2016 to 60, and that should grow even more for 2018.

"The Firecracker Run was a success, but we felt we needed to make some changes for 2018 to make it bigger and better for the community. The Hefner Furniture Christmas Parade was the biggest in our history. It’s grown every year.”

Roberts said the chamber has already started 2018 strong, with the most profitable Sweetheart Trivia yet and a successful partnership with Parkland Health Aart and Jerry’s Fireworks, which promises to make the Firecracker Run bigger and better than ever.

She expressed the chamber leadership’s desire to really focus on these recurring, annual events in order to make them the best they can possibly be, while working to grow chamber awareness with social media.

“One thing that I would like to mention that is new in 2018 is Facebook giveaways,” Roberts said. “Whoever is the business spotlight for the month will be given the opportunity to participate in a Facebook giveaway. In order to win, you must ‘like’ the chamber’s Facebook page, ‘like’ the business’ page and then ‘like’ and share a post.

“We’ll do this every month. This year, spotlight businesses will not be required to participate, but there is a chance that it could become a requirement in the future.”

She also encouraged those in attendance to nominate the chamber in the Daily Journal’s Best of the Parkland Contest.

“My point is to get involved, help us grow the chamber with wonderful ideas and let’s make 2018 the best year we can,” she said.”