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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tour de Coal gets a new home

As one of the organizers of the Tour de Coal ride (Sept. 26 in Benld, Ill.), we had a couple of big decisions to make today.

The home base of the ride for its first three years, the 7-year-old Benld Elementary School, was recently condemned because of massive subsidence caused by one of the 30 former coal mines that surrounds the community.

The first decision was whether to do the ride in 2009. We unanimously decided the ride should go on!

That made the second major decision easier: where to base the ride. Coal Country Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mickey Robinson was already on top of that one. He had contacted civic leaders and gotten permission to use the Benld Civic Center, 200 E. Central Ave., so the ride is definitely on!

We hope the Tour de Coal will serve as a rallying point for the community. The Gillespie-Benld area has taken its share of hard knocks in recent years, with the devastation at the school the latest one. How bad is the damage at the school? Paul Skeans, the superintedent of the Gillespie School District and a key organizer of the ride, said a portion of the school's floor has fallen about 28 inches.

The school district will need a lot of help from the state and federal governments to find a temporary solution and to build a new school. I'm pulling for the community that solutions can be found.

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