Monday, July 31, 2017

Twin Cities Mayors in Japan

Mayors Tari Renner of Bloomington and Chris Koos of Normal are in Japan for a week-long celebration of the 55th anniversary of the Bloomington-Normal Sister Cities Program with Asahikawa. According to the Pantagraph, attending the activities there are our Twin Cities mayors, a delegation of a few local residents, including former exchange students and members of the Sister City committee and their spouses. Illinois Leaks/Edgar County Watchdogs and  claim Mayor Renner's girlfriend is attending the events in Japan on public money--which they claim is illegal.

Governor Rauner Hopes For School Funding Plan Today

Democrats in the Illinois Senate last week said they'd send the plan to pay for schools to the governor later today. Rauner says he will strip-out extra money for Chicago schools and then send the plan back to lawmakers. If lawmakers don't agree, some schools across the state could not have enough money to open in a few weeks.

Still No Motive In McLean County Stabbing

Prosecutors in McLean County still aren't saying why they think a woman stabbed her mother to death along some hiking trails earlier this month. Christine Roush on Friday pleaded not guilty to killing her mother and leaving her in the woods near Funks Grove earlier this month. Roush's accomplice, Matthew Isabell, was also in court and also pleaded not guilty on Friday. Police say they're still looking for a third person in connection to Teresa Ann Poehlman's murder.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Von Maur Drive at Vets Pkwy Crash Update

19-year-old Shane Babb of Heyworth is accused of driving under the influence of drugs, following a three-vehicle crash Thursday night on Von Maur Drive at Veterans Parkway that injured 3 people.  According to the Pantagraph, witnesses described Babb as jumping from his vehicle "and screaming that he wanted his mommy" after his car struck a light pole after the crash, said police.

Pantagraph: Suspects in Funk's Grove Murder Plead Not Guilty

20-year-old Matthew Isbell of Marquette Heights and 22-year-old Christine Roush of Washington--the two defendants charged in the July stabbing death of Teresa Ann Poehlman of East Peoria--pleaded not guilty Friday at separate arraignments in McLean County Circuit Court, according to the Pantagraph. Roush is the daughter of the victim. Poelhman's body was found July 2 by hikers on a trail in the Funk's Grove Nature Preserve. According to a previous probable cause statement from the McLean County State's Attorney's office, Roush told Isbell she planned to kill her mother and he was aware of why they were going to Funks Grove. Police continue their for a third suspect.

Lawmakers Quickly End Second Day Of Special Session

Illinois lawmakers are expected to once again "gavel and go" at the State Capitol.  Lawmakers spent less than 30 minutes in special session yesterday, some say today's gathering could be even shorter. Governor Rauner called lawmakers to Springfield this week to deal with the Democrat's school funding plan.  But Democratic Senate President John Cullerton says he won't release the plan until Monday.  The governor is vowing to change it as soon as he receives it.

Jobs Numbers Good for Bloomington

Job growth is on the rise in the Bloomington, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Illinois Department of Employment Security.  Bloomington saw the largest increase in the state, adding 3,100 jobs since last June, a jump of 3.4 percent. Unemployment dropped from 5.3 percent in June 2016 to 4.4 percent in June 2017. The Rockford and Danville areas were the only metro areas that saw job losses.

Illinois Pulls Fire Ball And Freak Out Rides From Fairs

Rides like the one that failed at the Ohio State Fair won't be found at any of Illinois' remaining fairs or festivals. The Illinois Department of Labor yesterday ordered all fair operators to pull Fire Ball and Freak Out rides from their midways.  Illinois State Fair spokeswoman Rebecca Clark says that order includes a Freak Out ride that was supposed to be at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield.  In all, 12 rides across Illinois are being closed or canceled.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Lots Of Talk, Little Action On School Funding At Illinois Capitol

Most of the Illinois lawmakers who bothered to show up at the latest special session spent their day at the Capitol at press conferences.  Lawmakers didn't do very much during yesterday's return to the statehouse in Springfield.  Governor Rauner held two news conferences where he once again asked Democrats to release their school funding plan so he can change it.  Democratic legislative leaders held their own news conferences, explaining that they'll release the plan next week.

Madigan Has His Say

House Speaker Michael Madigan is accusing Gov. Bruce Rauner of a “no compromise” position on a school funding bill that’s the source of the latest gridlock at the state Capitol. The Chicago Democrat says the proposal is fair to all schools. The Republican governor has vowed to change it through his amendatory veto powers. Rauner says Chicago Public Schools receive a “bailout” in the bill, but he hasn’t detailed what he’d change in it. The special session is expected to continue through Friday and then again on Monday.

Town of Normal , Unit 5 Joint Committee

Town of Normal and McLean County Unit 5 officials hope resurrecting a joint committee will make both more stable and less susceptible to external obstacles. A Normal, Unit 5 joint committee could meet in August. The committee would include members from both entities, meeting quarterly to discuss collaboration possibilities and keep eachother informed of their statuses. Last year's Rivian Automotive deal sparked an interest in the committee, after Unit 5 expressed frustration that the tax break deal had been sprung on them at the last minute.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Some Lawmakers Skipping Special Session

There could be a lot of empty seats at the Illinois Capitol for the first day of special session. Lawmakers are due back at the statehouse in Springfield at noon today, but yesterday two Chicago lawmakers announced that they're not coming. State Rep Kelly Cassidy and State Rep Ann Williams yesterday said they will instead stay in Chicago and help get schools in the city ready for the return of students. Williams says she has no desire to "play political games" this week.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

WEEK TV: Chief Deputy: Pathologist believes human remains belong to Robert Bee

Tazewell County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Jeff Lower said the dental records of the remains found south of Pekin match missing teen Robert Bee, and the forensic pathologist believes the remains are his. DNA testing is still pending. A recording of the full press conference is below.

WEEK TV: Tazewell County Sheriff says remains found in Pekin believed to be that of 13-year-old male

The Tazewell County Sheriff reports that an autopsy conducted on human remains discovered in Pekin Monday are consistent with those of a 13-year-old male. According to WEEK TV,  the Sheriff's Office stressed in a release sent early Tuesday afternoon that no positive identification can be made until DNA testing can be done. 13-year old  Robert Bee, from Pekin was last seen about two miles north of the rural home on Illinois Route 29 where the bones were discovered Monday by a man mowing his lawn. 

Bloomington Approves Public Safety and Community Relations Board 8-1

Bloomington is moving forward with the Public Safety and Community Relations Board, voting 8-1 in favor of the measure. The only council member to vote against the board was Diana Hauman. . The board will serve in a purely advisory role. The panel will be able to review if the complaint procedures have been followed properly, and suggest community policing policies. The board does not have the ability to reinvestigate any complaints. No felons or police officers will be eligible to serve on the board.

Rauner Calls Special School Funding Session

Governor Rauner is summoning lawmakers to Springfield Wednesday for a special session on school funding as Rauner's stare-down with Democrats continues.  Democrats defied Governor Rauner's noon Monday deadline and didn't send him their school funding reform bill, from which Rauner wants to cut what he calls a Chicago teachers' union bailout.  But, Mayor Emanuel says the governor has a chance to get most of what he wants, given that Rauner's said he likes the rest of the bill.  Many schools couldn't open this fall without action on a funding bill.

Autopsy Planned For Pekin Remains

Forensic investigators hope to know soon if the human remains found in Pekin are those of a missing 13-year-old boy. Pekin Police yesterday said they found the remains behind a house along Route 29 south of Pekin. Investigators say they're going to rely on dental records to see if the remains are those of 13-year-old Robert Bee Jr., who went missing last November.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Special Session Called for Wednesday on Illinois School Funding Reform Bill

Another special session starts Wednesday.  Gov. Rauner last week set noon today as the deadline for the Senate to submit Senate Bill 1 to him so he could rewrite it to make it less generous to Chicago schools. The deadline was not met. Senate President John Cullerton issued a statement saying that Rauner should convene meetings so that a compromise on school funding reform can be reached. Rauner rejected the idea.

Source: State Journal Register

Searchers Find Shirt In Canvass For Missing Pekin Teen

A group of searchers say they're not sure a shirt found over the weekend is a clue in finding a missing Pekin boy, but they're hoping for the best. Searchers with Trucks 4 Kids, a private group that searches for missing children, turned the shirt over to Pekin Police yesterday. The group hopes the shirt helps them find 13-year-old Robert Bee Jr., who went missing in November of last year. Bartonville Police Chief Brian Fengel says the group is trying to follow every lead in the case.

Bloomington May Resurrect Downtown Parking Meters

You may soon have to pay to park in downtown Bloomington. A special city committee looking to revitalize the city's downtown is looking at bringing back parking meters. Bloomington got rid of paid parking meters in the 1980s, now Alderman Jamie Mathy wants to bring them back. Mathy's plan is to make the city's parking garages free, but charge for on street parking. He said last week that he wants to discourage the people who live and work in downtown from taking up all of the parking meters.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Not Guilty Plea, Again, In Missing U Of I Scholar Case

The suspect in the disappearance of a University of Illinois scholar is once again pleading not guilty.  Brendt Christensen yesterday pleaded not guilty to a new set of kidnapping charges.  Investigators say he lured Yingying Zhang into his car on the U-of-I campus last month.  Police think Zhang is dead, but Christensen is only charged with her kidnapping.  The new charges come from a grand jury indictment earlier this month.  Christensen's trial is tentatively set for September.

Proposed Bloomington Police Review Board: No Felons, No Cops

No felons, and no cops for that matter. The Bloomington City Council is slated to vote Monday  on a proposed ordinance to create a civilian police oversight board and it will not include convicted felons or police officers. Some community activists wanted to allow convicted felons to apply for the board and to exclude former or current police officers. Police Chief Brendan Heffner earlier said he is against felons serving on the board unless someone from law enforcement is also on that board.

source: Pantagraph

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Nursing Home in Chenoa Contests a Fine

 A Chenoa nursing home is contesting a fine for the State Department of Public Health. The IDPH says Meadows Mennonite Home failed to protect six residents from a staff member, when unauthorized, inappropriate pictures and video were posted to social media, some of which included partial nudity. The department says the facility failed to alert IDPH. Meadows Mennonite Home issued a statement saying the person who posted the pictures was not associated with the facility.

source: WMBD TV

Streator Teen Killed

One of the lockers at Streator Township High School will be empty this fall  after a workplace accident took the life of 17-year-old Senior Hunter Wolfe. WEEK TV reports Hunter was working for the Summer for Luckey Transfer, LLC and busy unloading a rail car when he got too close to high voltage power lines near the tracks.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Williams Convicted of Attempted Murder

It did not take long for a McLean County jury to find 30 year old Darvell Williams guilty of attempted murder and eight other charges reports the Pantagraph. Williams fired shots in an attempt to kill Willie Love on Nov. 26 in the 2100 block of East Empire Street.

County Mental Health Position Delayed

There is a delay in hiring a mental health coordinator for McLean County for at least a month. That's because County Board members this week approved the creation of the position but has yet to find the funding to pay for it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mellor Sentenced to 8 yrs in Prison

Former high school teacher Sarah Mellor of Bloomington who was convicted of killing her husband last fall at a campground near Carlock is sentenced to eight years in prison. The Pantagraph reports Mellor is eligible for her time served in jail since her arrest in October 2016,

Excessive Heat Watch

Air conditioning is a must this week for just about everyone in downstate Illinois. The lower two thirds of the state is under an Excessive Heat Watch from this afternoon till Saturday evening. Forecasters say temperatures will be in the 90s, but the humidity will push the heat index well above 100 degrees.

Normal Hyatt Place Backs Off Request For More Public Money

Taxpayers in Normal are getting a bit of a break, for now.  The local Hyatt Place hotel in Uptown Normal yesterday said it's withdrawing a request for 264-thousand-dollars in public support to stay open. The hotel had said it needed the money to get a better deal on refinancing its debt.  Hyatt managers say they canceled their request when they learned the new Illinois budget will mean 300 thousand-dollars less in tax money for the town of Normal.  The town already helped build the hotel with special financing and a deeply discounted land price.

Governor Rauner Wants To Change Democratic School Funding Plan

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is asking Democrats in the Illinois Senate to send him their school funding plan--so he can change it! The governor yesterday promised to use an amendatory veto on the proposal. Rauner doesn't like nearly a half-a-billion-dollars earmarked for Chicago Public Schools. Illinois lawmakers approved the school funding plan earlier this month, but did so in a way that forces the governor to spend money on schools in the way they see fit.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Cat Loader To Represent Illinois At White House Display

Caterpillar will be Illinois' representative at the White House's showcase of made in America machines. Cat officials late last week announced that a Caterpillar 966M wheel loader will be a part of today's display. Cat spokeswoman Kathryn Karol says the company is proud to represent not only the state of Illinois, but stand as an example of the "best in class products" that make Cat a world leader.

Federal Grants On Their Way To Illinois Social Service Agencies

The latest money heading to Illinois' social service agencies is coming from Washington, D.C.  The money is coming from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but is earmarked for seniors and people with disabilities who either live on their own or need help in living in a community home. In all, nearly 22 local agencies will be seeing a piece of a million dollars.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Knife-Wielding Armed Robber Caught

A 19-year-old man is charged with armed robbery after he allegedly held up a restaurant worker at knife point Friday night. Jalun E. Caddell was arrested outside Schlotzsky’s Deli, 508 IAA Drive in Bloomington. A second suspect is being sought. A female worker was held with a knife to her throat and asked where the money was and then was struck in the head by one of the men. Anther employee chased Cadell and fought with him until police arrived and made the arrest.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Reward Increased to $50K in Missing U of I Scholar Case

The reward for a tip that helps to find a missing University of Illinois scholar is up to 50 thousand-dollars. Champaign County Crime Stoppers yesterday upped the reward, it was 40 thousand. Police believe Yingying Zhang is dead. Federal prosecutors this week filed new charges against Brendt Christensen for her kidnapping. But investigators say Christensen isn't saying, and they don't know where she is.

Fire Destroys Classic Car in Normal

 A fire in Normal destroys a vintage car. Firefighters responded to a 3-car, detached garage fire on East Irving Street at earlyThursday morning. When they arrived, the fire was through the roof. It took about 30 minutes to get the fire under control. The west side of the garage, which had the most damage, had an antique vehicle inside that was destroyed. Two other antique vehicles were usually housing in the garage, but weren’t at the time of the fire. An investigation is underway to determine the cause

Bloomington Man Sentenced in Child Porn Case

A Bloomington man will spend 5 1/2 years behind bars for child pornography. 22-year-old Braman Benjamin Broy pleaded guilty in January to receiving child porn. He was a member of a site dedicated to sharing such materials. A search of his home led investigators to find more than 2600 images and 530 videos on a computer and hard drives. Following prison, Broy must register as a sex offender and remain on supervised released eight years following his release from incarceration.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Bloomington City Manager Hales is a Finalist For Job in KS

City Manager David Hales is in the running for a similar job in Topeka, Kan. according to the Pantagraph. The finalists for the Topeka job are slated for interviews during the week of July 17-21, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Sen Rose at Chamber Forum: Madigan Bill Holds School Funds Hostage

Senator Chapin Rose says Speaker Madigan put language in the budget bill that holds schools hostage. Rose has been talking about this irritating issue since July 4th at the statehouse. Rose took jabs at Speaker Madigan over the state's financial woes with help from fellow area Republicans Sen Bill Brady, Sen. Jason Barickman and  Rep. Dan Brady during a forum with the McLean County Chamber of Commerce at the Hancock Stadium Club.

llinois To Take Tax Increase From Your Paycheck

Your next paycheck will be smaller thanks to Illinois' new tax increase. The Illinois Department of Revenue this week released the specific codes for payroll managers across the state to start withholding the tax. Illinois lawmakers approved the tax hike, which raises the personal income tax from three-point-seven-five percent to four-point-nine-five percent, a 32-percent increase.

YWCA State-Assisted Home Care Service Cut

YWCA McLean County ends its state-assisted home care services. The state owes $500,000 to the YWCA and $300,000 of that money is for state-assisted home-care services as reported by the Pantagraph.. Nearly 200 low-income, older adults who receive state assistance to remain in their homes in McLean County will have to transition to another service provider as August 5th.  Home-care services for 24 private-pay older adults will stay in place.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

BPD Investigating a Stabbing on Peach Street

Bloomington Police are investigating a stabbing on the city's east side that happened Wednesday afternoon in the 1900 block of Peach Street. The unidentified victim received non-life-threatening injuries and is being treated at a local hospital. No arrests have been made. Stay tuned for the latest.

BPD Investigating East Side Incident

Bloomington Police are investigating an incident Wednesday on the cities east side. The Pantagraph reports police and first responders were called to the 1900 block of Peach St. around 12:47pm.  Police and rescue personnel were also observed nearby on the 1700 block of East Empire talking with several different persons of interest at that time.

source: The Pantagraph

Normal Theater to Get Upgrades

The Normal Theater is getting ready to undergo some upgrades. The historic landmark will remained closed through August 21, for some much-needed HVAC repairs. North Street and the sidewalk, from Fell to Broadway, will close as well, adding to the detours in Uptown. The Normal Theater and the One Uptown project are expected to be completed by the end of August. The town is hoping to have North Street and Uptown Circle open by August 10.

BPD Chief To Hold Meeting Tonight to Explain Complaint Process

Bloomington's police chief Brendan Heffner is holding his Chief's Focus meeting today at 5:30 p.m in the Osborne Room at the police department. Heffner uses the Focus Meetings to hear and respond to issues raised by residents. Wednesday's meeting will talk about the citizen complaint process and the Office of Professional Standards. The complaint process has been a point of controversy lately. Right now, the city is considering forming an citizen advisory board, which could review and make suggestions about complaints. The focus meeting is open to the public.

Input Sought for Bloomington Parks & Recreation Master Plan

Bloomington is revamping its Parks and Recreation Master Plan. On Tuesday, more than a dozen community members voiced their thoughts on O'Neal Park. The pool there is nearly 50 years old and is one of the main attractions they would like to see upgraded. The Parks and Recreation Department will host another meeting on Thursday at 6:00 P.M. at Miller Park Pavilion which will focus on the Master Plan as a whole.

Another Route 66 Attraction Set to Open Next Month

Route 66 travelers will have one more stop in the cities next month. The old Sprague's service station at 305 E. Pine St., in Normal is set to open just over a year after the town government took on the struggling rehabilitation project. Normal City Council signed off in May 2016 on spending $229,000 to buy the property, $200,000 to improve the building, $24,000 to buy an adjoining parking lot and $5,000 to compensate Terri Ryburn for her work there.The town renovated the parking lot with $148,000 in sales tax funds for economic development.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bloomington City Council Roundup

VenuWorks addressed its first year managing the downtown arena at last night's Bloomington city council  meeting. Officials say there's still work that needs to be done, despite improvements made over its first year in management.

The company is reporting a loss of $674,000 at the newly named Grossinger Motors Arena, which is larger than expected.

The company did make some improvements to the arena, in areas like security and concession items. Officials say they want to improve the speed of service and its marketing over the next year.

The Bloomington City Council also approved an amendment Monday, to the city's master bike plan, adding a bike lane to Washington Street. Neighbors in the past have said they don't want the bike lane because they are concerned about safety.

Cleanup After The Storms

It's going to be a busy day of clean up for a lot of folks across central and western Illinois. Last nights storms downed trees and power lines across a broad swath of the middle of the state. The National Weather Service is confirming one tornado in Peoria County. Forecasters hope to have a better handle on the storms and storm damage later today.

Video: Bloomington City Council Citizen Advisory Committee and Chief Heffner's Responses

The Bloomington City Council is considering whether or not to form a citizen advisory committee that would review suggestions about complaints against police. More than a dozen people spoke in favor of the Public Safety and Community Relations Board, saying it's an opportunity for the city to be proactive in building trust and relationships between police and the community Police Chief Brendan Heffner has said in the past he doesn't think the city needs a board, but he will respect the council's decision. Heffner told the council, "If something's wrong, we want it fixed. Because we know the bad shadow it puts on law enforcement in other agencies because obviously, we get blow back. So, if somebody's doing wrong, we want to address it." One topic that is still being debated is whether or not to allow a person convicted of a felony on the board. The council is scheduled to vote at its next meeting.

Monday, July 10, 2017

BPD Chief On Possible Citizens Review Board: No Cops? No Felons

Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner doesn't think a civilian police oversight board is necessary, but if the Bloomington City Council creates it he will respect that decision. The Pantagraph reports  he is against having convicted felons serve on the board. Five aldermen have asked that a scheduled Monday night vote on the issue be delayed, They want Heffner to provide more information about how the police department currently handles citizen complaints about police and efforts to build better relationships between the community and the department.