Monday, November 20, 2017

Report: Lesser Charge Filed in VenuWorks Theft Case

Curtis Webb, the former director of operations for the Coliseum  was charged with a new count of theft Monday as part of plea negotiations on a second felony theft charge related to money he allegedly stole while working for VenuWorks. The Pantagraph reports the newly-filed theft count is a Class 3 felony, a step below the initial charge of theft of government property. Webb could receive a sentence ranging from probation to two to five years in prison if he pleads guilty to the new, lesser charge. Investigation show that a lesser amount than was initially thought was allegedly taken.

Bloomington-Normal To Get New Bus Stop Shelters

Some of the folks who ride the bus in Bloomington-Normal are about to get a better bus stop. Managers at Connect Transit said on Friday that they plan to install three new bus stops before the end of the year. Crews will pour new concrete, add new plexiglass plates, and better brand the stops. Connect Transit says it chose the three stops because they are some of the system's busiest.

University of Illinois Student Among New Rhodes Scholars

A University of Illinois student is among the latest Rhodes scholars. U of I senior Thomas Dowling found out yesterday that he is among the 32 Rhodes scholars this year. Dowling is studying political science and history at the U of I.  He plans to get a Masters of Public Policy while studying as part of the program at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom next year.

Decatur Police Look For Answers After Deadly Shooting

Investigators in Decatur aren't saying if the wounded man they found Saturday night has anything to do with the dead man they found just a little bit earlier. Decatur Police aren't offering many details about Saturday's deadly shooting. Detectives say they found Todd Feldkamp from Effingham shot to death in the backyard of a home Saturday night. They say officers also found another man from Effingham who'd been shot a few blocks away. Police say he's expected to live.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Normal Township Slows Tax Breaks For Ag Firm

There's a slight hiccup in the drive to give a Canadian firm hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax breaks to open a manufacturing hub in Normal. Normal Township leaders yesterday voted to wait till next week to decide if they'll give up their property tax haul from the facility that Brandt Industries wants to turn into its new plant. Unit 5 schools and the McLean County board have already voted to give up their tax claims for nine years to lure Brandt, and as many 300 jobs, to the community.

Jobs Numbers

Illinois' unemployment rate decreased to 4.9% in October and nonfarm payrolls increased by 3,400 jobs over the month. October's monthly payroll drop kept over-the-year job growth well below the national average. While Illinois job growth has had its ups and downs, since the beginning of the year, the 3-month trend shows an increase of 1,900 average monthly job gains from May to October

Caterpillar Looks To Build Utility Vehicles

Illinois' big yellow engine maker is looking to make something a bit smaller.  Caterpillar yesterday announced plans to get into the utility vehicle market.  The first model looks like a heavy duty golf cart that can carry up to one thousand pounds.  Cat hopes to get the vehicles to dealers by next year.  The new utility vehicles will be made in Minnesota as part of a deal between Cat and Textron Specialized Vehicles.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Normal Township Proceeds Slowly on Brandt Tax Break Issue

Normal Township board members voted 3-1 on Thursday to meet again next week on a tax abatement plan for the Brandt Group of Companies, a Canadian agriculture manufacturer considering occupying the soon-to-be-vacated Kongskilde factory at 19500 N. 1425 East Road in rural Hudson.

McLean County Man Arrested on Charges of Child Porn

A McLean County man faces charges for child pornography. Normal Police arrested 52 year old Theodore Nystrom for possession of child pornography. Nystrom's arrest comes after an investigation found numerous electronic storage devices at his home in the 2000 block of North Midway in Normal. On them authorities discovered illegal images and videos. Nystrom is being held at the McLean County Jail on $50,000 bond.

Normal Library Gets a Grant

The Normal Public Library is celebrating a new grant. The American Library Association's grant is used to promote computer science and computational thinking. The Normal Public Library will use the $25,000 to teach young people how to code. The library plans to work closely with local entities to give the students opportunities for learning and growth.

Illinois Board Of Elections To Look At Database Next Week

Illinois' election managers say they'll decide next week what to do about the Trump Administration's request for voter information. The Illinois State Board of Elections yesterday said it will review questions about security regarding the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program at its meeting next week. A number of lawmakers and advocates say they fear the program is vulnerable to hackers or will be used to suppress voters.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

McLean Co Approves Tax Breaks for Brandt

The McLean County board joins Unit 5 in giving a Canadian manufacturing company tax breaks to open a new plant in the community. Brandt Industries is looking to buy a manufacturing plant, that will soon be vacant, just north of Normal. The company is planning to bring  300 to 500 good-paying jobs to the area over the next seven years. Several council members did raise concerns that the deal was sprung upon them at the last minute. The tax breaks will cost the county about $70,000 over the next decade. More smaller taxing bodies will vote on the deal in the coming weeks. Normal Township votes Thursday morning.

New Restaurant in Bloomington Awaits a Liquor License

A restaurant featuring menu that boasts 50% vegetarian and vegan offerings is planned for the former Main Street Grill site in downtown Bloomington. Nightshop, as it is called, could be open by the end of the year if the City Council approves a liquor license later this month. Christopher Golwitzer and Matthew Spears told the Bloomington Liquor Commission this week they also intend to host live entertainment, mostly in the form of music on a local level, regional level, national and international level.

Lincoln, Logan County Chamber Pausing Operations

The Lincoln/Logan Chamber of Commerce is taking a break, though no one is sure that the group will ever resume operations.  Chamber CEO Cathy Wilhite said this week that financial troubles forced them to lay off their entire staff and close up shop.  Lincoln Mayor Seth Goodman says he hopes the Chamber can recover, particularly to once again host the annual Lincoln Balloon Festival which was the Chamber's signature event.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Canadian Ag Equipment Giant One Step Closer to Moving to McLean County

McLean County is one step closer to seeing an agriculture equipment company from Canada moving into the community. The Unit 5 School Board approved a tax abatement plan with Brandt Industries in a special meeting Monday night. The school board voted 5-2 to give Brandt Industries tax breaks to move into the former Kongskilde manufacturing plant, between Normal and Hudson. However, the vote was reluctant. Part of those breaks means Unit 5 will lose property tax revenue. The school district collects about $80,000 a year from that property.

Bloomington City Council Rejects VenuWorks Offer to Run BCPA

The Bloomington City Council voted unanimously Monday to reject VenuWork's offer to take over operation of the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.  It's going to stay with the the city's parks, recreation and cultural arts department, for now. VenuWorks had offered to run the BCPA for an additional flat fee of 3 thousand dollars a month.

Illinois Senate Names New Sex Harassment Task Force Members

The Illinois Senate isn't wasting time in naming members to its new sexual harassment task force. Both Democrats and Republicans yesterday named lawmakers to the new Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention. There are seven Democrats and five Republicans, three other victim advocates are also getting a seat on the new task force at the Capitol

Monday, November 13, 2017

Ag Manufacturer Wants Tax Breaks To Locate In Normal

Local leaders in Normal are once again being asked to give-up tax dollars to land a new business. Brandt Industries late last week said it wants to open a new manufacturing hub just north of the town. There's a promise of anywhere between 300 and 500 jobs. But in order to land the manufacturing center, the local schools and local governments are being asked to give-up nine years worth of property taxes.

Parents of Missing Chinese U of I Student Returning Home

The parents of a Chinese scholar allegedly abducted and killed in Illinois had hoped to stay in the United States until the remains of their daughter were found. But after months of agony, they are ready to return to China, where they will wait for answers half a world away. Twenty-six-year-old Yingying Zhang (ying ying zahng), a visiting scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, disappeared June 9. A former graduate student has been charged with kidnapping and killing her. Zhang's body has not been found.

Illinois Governor, First Lady Want Holiday Cards For Troops

Illinois' governor and first lady are trying to brighten the holiday for some Illinois service members. Governor Bruce Rauner and his wife Diana yesterday announced a holiday card drive for the troops. The state's first couple says anyone can send a card and they'll make sure that it gets to a solider serving across the globe. If you want to send a card, send it to the USO Cards for Heroes in Chicago by November 20th.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Bloomington Post Office to be Renamed After Sgt. Rogers and so is Part of of a Highway

The U.S. Post Office on Towanda Avenue will be renamed after fallen U.S. Army Ranger and Bloomington native Sergeant Joshua Rodgers thanks to Congressman Darin LaHood introducing  H.R. 4326 to the U.S. House of Representatives in the nation's capitol.

Earlier this week, State Representative Dan Brady sponsored a House Joint Resolution in Springfield honoring Rogers which designates part of Veterans Parkway in the Cities of Bloomington and Normal as the "Army Ranger Sergeant Joshua P. Rodgers Memorial Highway.

On April 27, 2017, U.S. Army Sergeant Joshua P. Rodgers was killed in action supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan. The Bloomington native was 22 years old.

U Of I Student Government Okays New Mascot Search

Student leaders at the University of Illinois want to look for a new mascot.  The school's student government approved a resolution Wednesday night that asks for a new mascot search.  The U of I has been without a mascot since the university retired Chief Illiniwek in 2007.

Community Bus Project

Connect Transit continues to get the Community Bus in working order. Several local officials gathered Thursday to help Connect Transit decide on the most logical and convenient locations for the bus to stop for voter registration. The Community Bus is one of Connect Transit's retired buses, turned into a traveling, transferable, bus. It can be whatever the community needs, at the time.The Community Bus should be ready in the next couple weeks.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Rep Dan Brady Sponsors Resolution Honoring The Late Sgt Joshua Rogers

State Representative Dan Brady (R-Bloomington) sponsored a House Joint Resolution honoring a fallen soldier which was adopted Wednesday on the last day of the House Veto Session.
The resolution  designates Veterans Parkway in the Cities of Bloomington and Normal from the intersection of Interstate 74 to intersection of Interstate 55 as the "Army Ranger Sergeant Joshua P. Rodgers Memorial Highway".  Sgt. Rogers died April 27, 2017, in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, as a result of small arms fire while engaged in dismounted operations.

Outback to Eastland Mall

Outback Steakhouse is relocating to Bloomington's Eastland Mall. Project leaders announced the restaurant's move at Wednesday's Planning Commission meeting. The restaurant will be built in the parking lot of the former Macy's, at the intersection of Empire and Veteran's Parkway. If the council approves the plan, project leaders expect to start construction in the spring and have the restaurant open before next Thanksgiving.

Illinois House Approves Limited Property Tax Freeze

State representatives in Springfield can say they voted to freeze property taxes, but the plan is a long way from becoming law.  The Illinois House yesterday approved a limited, two-year freeze for homeowners in Cook County and the collar counties.  Downstate communities would have to vote to freeze their property taxes.  But the Illinois Senate may not call the plan, and it could die from inaction in Springfield.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

OSF Healthcare and Blue Cross Blue Shield Update

There is an update on the ongoing contract dispute between OSF Healthcare and Blue Cross Blue Shield.....WEEK TV reports OSF Healthcare is continuing to negotiate with Blue Cross Blue Shield to keep the hospital system in network after January 1.This comes after the announcement last month that Blue Cross was dropping most OSF Healthcare hospitals after the first of the year. If negotiations fail, OSF said physicians and other providers employed by OSF will remain in-network after the end of 2017. Physician office visits will still be covered in network.  However, inpatient and outpatient services, surgeries, lab work and outsourced therapy services will no longer be in network if the two entities cannot come to an agreement by year's end.

Family Sues Pontiac Police For Wrongful Death

The family of a woman run down by a Pontiac police officer is suing.  Rita Murphy's family filed their wrongful death lawsuit this week.  State Police investigators say Pontiac officer Jace Koerner hit Murphy back in August.  Murphy's lawyers say the officer was speeding and changing lanes at the time of the accident.

Local Right To Work Ban Fails Again

Democrats at the Illinois Capitol can't quite get the support to ban cities and towns from declaring local right to work zones.  The Illinois House tried again yesterday to ban local zones that'd allow cities to exempt companies from some union work rules.  The ban fell one vote short.  Governor Rauner said the failure by Democrats is a victory for workers and job creators in the state.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Victim in Fatal Crash on I-55 Identified

McLean County Coroner Kathy Davis is releasing the following information regarding a single vehicle accident that occurred on Interstate 55, northbound, near mile marker 156, in Bloomington, Illinois.

At 2310 hours of November 6, 2017, McLean County Coroner’s Office received notification of a single vehicle accident, with one fatality, that occurred at the above location.

Pronounced deceased at 2335 hours, on November 6, 2017, was John M. Brillhart, age 45, of Springfield, Illinois. Preliminary autopsy report indicates that Mr. Brillhart died from multiple blunt injuries due to a sports utility vehicle crash, reportedly sustained as the driver if the vehicle that left the roadway at a high rate of speed. Toxicology results are pending. This incident remains under investigation by the McLean County Coroner’s Office and the Illinois State Police.

Fatal Accident

A 45 year old man is dead following a single vehicle accident on I-55 northbound near mile marker 156 shortly after 11:30 last night. An autopsy is scheduled for today. The name of the decedent is being withheld at this time pending further notification of family. This incident remains under investigation by the McLean County Coroner’s Office and the Illinois State Police.

Normal Passes Preliminary Property Tax Increase For Police, Fire Pensions

Normal appears destined for that 6.38 percent tax hike next year. The Normal City Council Monday night approved a preliminary property tax increase to cost the owner of a home valued at $165,000 an extra $44 per year to cover employee pension costs.

McLean County Employees Lose 2018 Raises, Elected Officials Get Theirs

A lot of McLean County employees lost their raises for 2018, but elected officials still will get theirs. Six full-time officials and the County Board will  get their 2 percent annual raises under a state law that prohibits municipalities from changing an elected official's pay immediately before or during their term.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Normal Looks To Raise Property Taxes For Police, Fire Pensions

It'll likely soon be more expensive to live in Normal. Town leaders are being asked to once again raise property taxes to pay for police and fire pensions. Normal Finance Manager Andrew Huhn over the weekend said the town's police and fire pension funds have about half of the money they need to cover promises to current and retired officers and firefighters. The tax increase will bring in nearly a million dollars.  This is the 11th straight year that Normal has raised its property tax.

Hales' Parting Words

Departing City Manager David Hales offered the City Council some "uncomfortable" words Saturday about members' need to work together and rebuild mutual trust and respect. The Pantagraph reports Hales urged Mayor Tari Renner and the city's nine aldermen to "learn the techniques to deal with criticism and conflict, to deal with trying to build consensus and be good team members." Adding "If you can't, if it's to the point where it is making your life miserable, then you need to look at another way to serve."

Governor Declares Harvest Season Emergency

For the first time ever there is a Harvest Season Emergency in Illinois. Governor Rauner declared the emergency yesterday. He says the wet fall has delayed the harvest and farmers need a little extra help getting their crops out of the fields. The harvest declaration opens the door for counties, cities, and townships to grant farmers permits to carry heavier loads of grain along local and state roads. Farmers hope that'll speed the late harvest to an end.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Fatal Accident

19-year-old David Stiles from Bloomington was killed in  a single car crash early Saturday morning. Stiles was pronounced dead at around 1:15 a.m. after his vehicle left the road and hit a tree. It happened near 8285 North 1900 East Road near Bloomington, Illinois. Stiles was ejected. A preliminary autopsy report indicates he died from multiple blunt injuries. Another male in the car was transported to the hospital. The incident is still under investigation.

Friday, November 3, 2017

New Judge in Coliseum Felony Cases

A new judge will handle the felony cases filed against five former management officials of the then-US Cellular Coliseum. The Pantagraph reports Judge Robert Freitag was named to take over the cases. The city of Bloomington ended its 10-year contract with CIAM in March of last year. About $1.1M was allegedly taken and total 111 indictments were handed down in the case. The coliseum is now known as Grossinger Motors Arena and is managed by VenuWorks.

Judge Vacates Schock's Trial Date

Former U.S. Congressman Aaron Schock won't go before a judge in January 2018, as scheduled. Friday, a judge officially vacated all the set pre-trial and trial dates. This comes after Schock appealed to get the charges dismissed, based on a previous judge ruling that vacated a few of the charges. Until the appeal court makes a decision, all further deadlines and dates are on hold

BPD's Nikolai Jones is PB&PA Officer of the Year

A local police officer in the twin cities is receiving high recognition for all of the hard work he's done around the community. The Police Benevolent and Protective Association (PB&PA) names Officer Nikolai Jones, of the Bloomington Police Department, Officer of the Year. He's recognized for the level of service he gives back to his community, helping in programs like Guns & Hoses, Shop with A Cop, Toys for Tots, Polar Bear Plunge, and more

Rauner Offers Help to Puerto Ricans Displaced by Hurricane

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday said Illinois is willing to serve as a host state for residents of Puerto Rico who were displaced by Hurricane Maria. Rauner contacted the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Chicago office to let the agency know Illinois would like to be considered for FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance program, which FEMA announced on Monday. Under the TSA program, FEMA is seeking host states in the continental United States to coordinate support for Puerto Ricans displaced by the hurricane. FEMA will reimburse host states for 100 percent of eligible sheltering costs. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello will determine what states serve as host states.

Armed Robbery

Bloomington Police responded to a report of an armed robbery in the 1300 Block of North Main. It was reported that the victim was making a delivery on Ginger Trail Street when two male suspects displayed knives and demanded money from the victim. The suspects took the cash and then fled south on foot. The suspects are described as black males, between the ages of 18 and 22. If you have any information contact Bloomington Police.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Jeffrey Alans Helps The Salvation Army

A business in Normal will be working with the Salvation Army to help kickoff the holiday fundraising campaign.

Jeffrey Alans, the home d├ęcor store, will be offering a Christmas tote for $5 with 100% of the proceeds going directly to the Salvation Army of McLean County.

The Christmas totes will be available Nov. 3- Nov 5 at Jeffrey Alans during their Totally Christmas Open House.

The goal is to sell as many totes as possible at the 4 Jeffrey Alans locations and the Prairie Gardens Champaign location, giving Jeffery Alans the opportunity to donate over $14,000 between all our stores in support of their local Salvation Army Chapters.

The Salvation Army will also be receiving any additional donations in store.

Jeanne Ives Has To Amend Governor's Race Paperwork

The woman looking to challenge Bruce Rauner on the Republican ticket is having to start over again.  State Rep. Jeanne Ives yesterday said a paperwork error, a couple of transposed numbers, is forcing her to get all new signatures in her bid for office.  Illinois' election law is very specific, down to the detail for nominating petitions.   Ives' old batch had to be scrapped.  Ives will be at Cities 92.9 Friday at 4:30 p.m. for our Illinois Watchdog Chill Grill with Benjamin Yount sponsored by John's in Lexington.

Congressman LaHood Not Picking Republican Candidate For Governor

He's not likely going to vote for a Democrat, but Congressman Darin LaHood says he's not sure who he's going to vote for in Illinois race for governor. LaHood, as a Republican, isn't publicly supporting either Governor Bruce Rauner or State Rep Jeanne Ives just yet. LaHood says he thinks the governor's support of a plan to have taxpayers pay for abortions will hurt his reelection effort

Union Rallies Against Amazon Bid Over Child Care In Chicago

Union workers are blasting Mayor Emanuel and Governor Rauner for offering billions to lure Amazon to Chicago instead of providing child care for all city families.  The Service Employees International Healthcare union held a rally yesterday at City Hall.  Members questioned why elected officials are willing to empty the bank for Amazon's second headquarters over paying for child care subsidies.  Demonstrators carried signs that read "Babies Before Bezos."

State Senator: 27 Sexual Harassment Complaints Lingering At Illinois Capitol

An Illinois state senator says there are actually more than two dozen sexual harassment complaints on file at the Illinois Capitol, but there's no one to look into them. Senator Karen McConnaughay yesterday said that she found 27 complaints have been filed, despite the fact that the legislature's ethics chief said earlier this week said that there are no active investigations.  McConnaughay says the only reasons the investigations aren't 'active' is because there is no Inspector General to investigate them

U Of I Student Governor Wants New Mascot

There is a new push to get a new mascot at the University of Illinois.  The Illinois Student Government met last night to talk about a resolution to ask for a committee to study a way to get a new mascot.  The school's old mascot, The Chief, has been retired since 2007, but some students say the legacy of The Chief lingers and still carries racist undertones.  The students, however, don't have any suggestions for a new mascot

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Central Illinois Man gets 33 Year Sentence For Bloomington Home Invasion

Isaiah Miller will be pushing 50 when he gets out of prison after a home invasion and robbery last year in Bloomington.  A McLean County judge yesterday sentenced the 20-year-old to 33-years in prison.  Prosecutors say Miller broke into a Bloomington home and held the owners at gunpoint as they searched for 50 thousand-dollars that they believed was hidden inside.

Obamacare Enrollment Begins Today

Thousands of folks who get their health insurance through Illinois' Obamacare exchange can start their enrollment process. Open enrollment starts today and will last through December 15th. There are questions though about just how many plans people will see. Advocates say many counties across the state only have one or two choices of insurance providers.

Illinois Governor Rauner Rated Fifth Least Popular Governor

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner isn't America's least favorite governor, but he is in the top five. Morning Consult released its list of the top ten most and least popular governors in the nation yesterday, and Rauner is the fifth least popular. The poll says 55-percent of Illinois voters disapprove of Rauner's job, just 30-percent are happy with him. New Jersey's Chris Christie is the least popular in America - just 18-percent of voters in his state think he's doing a good job.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

At Least 6 Dead After Suspect Crashes Truck in Lower Manhattan, Shouts 'Allahu Akbar'

At least six people are dead after a driver barreled into a bike path and crashed a rental pickup truck into a crowd in Lower Manhattan Tuesday afternoon, shouting "Allahu Akbar," law enforcement sources tell Fox News and The Associated Press. Another nine people were injured, authorities said. Police tweeted that one person -- who police shot twice -- has been taken into custody and is expected to survive. Police added that there are "no others outstanding." 

click here for updates:

New Illinois Report Card Shows Tiny Improvement

Illinois students are doing slightly better at reading and math. The latest Illinois State Report Card is being released this morning. There's still a lot of room for improvement, 63-percent of kids in the state don't meet the standards in reading and math. That's a half point better than last year. Graduation rates are also up, but so is the state's chronic truancy rate.