Thursday, August 31, 2017

NTSB Blames Pilot Error, Fatigue For Deadly 2015 Plane Crash

Federal investigators say the pilot of a small plane that crashed near Bloomington's airport in 2015 lost his bearings as he headed home. The NTSB yesterday released its report into the April 7, 2015 crash that killed seven people. The report blames pilot error and pilot fatigue. The pilot and his passengers were all returning from the NCAA Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis when the plane went down.

Illinois Farm Land Prices Dip

Illinois' good, rich, black dirt is worth a little less. A new report unveiled yesterday at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur said farmland prices have dipped. It's still not cheap to buy good ground in Illinois. The report says land prices vary from five thousand-dollars an acre for fair land, to almost 11 thousand-dollars an acre for excellent farmland.

Caterpillar Lands 663-Million-Dollar Pentagon Contract

Caterpillar's stock is trading higher on the news that the company will be building tractors for the U.S. military.  Cat announced a 663-million-dollar contract with the Pentagon yesterday.  No one is saying just what Cat will be building, but the work will be done at Cat's East Peoria facility where heavy tractors are made.  The five-year deal runs through 2022.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Koos Backs DACA

DACA is currently under review, and Normal Mayor Chris Koos has now joined the list of U.S. mayors and other government officials who support extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  DACA provides individuals who meet certain criteria, work authorization and temporary relief from deportation. To qualify for the program applicants must have arrived to the US before the age of 16, be enrolled in school, have a degree, or be enrolled in the military. In addition, applicants go through a rigorous background check.

Senate Approves School Funding Bill

A landmark education funding reform bill was approved by the Illinois Senate Tuesday, paving the way for more than 850 Illinois school districts to begin receiving state aid money this year. The bill will now go to Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature. The governor said Monday that he plans to sign the bill.

No money can go to districts, however, until a new plan is in place. Although school officials have said they will be able to open classrooms for the new school year, many districts have worried they would run out of money if a plan wasn’t approved soon.

The legislation passed Tuesday also provides $75 million in tax credits for people who contributed to private school scholarships.

The tax credit program will expire after five years if lawmakers don’t extend it. The credits would be worth 75 percent of a taxpayer’s annual contributions to a scholarship fund, with a maximum credit of $1 million annually. The money may be donated to a specific school but not a specific student.

Students receiving the scholarships must have a household income of less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $73,000 annually for a family of four.

Under Illinois’ current school funding system, districts must rely heavily on property taxes to fund schools. That’s created large differences in funding levels, with some wealthier districts spending four times more per student than districts with less property tax wealth.

Under the new plan, the state will determine how much money each district needs to adequately educate its students, taking into consideration the number who live in poverty, are English learners or need special education services. The state then looks at how much money the district is able to generate from property taxes, and directs aid first to districts that need it to reach the spending target.

The legislation also provides money to help Chicago Public Schools make payments to its teacher pension funds, as Illinois does for other districts, and gives districts relief from some state mandates, such as allowing them to offer fewer days of physical education each week.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Illinois Becomes a Sanctuary State

Illinois will limit how local and state police can cooperate with federal immigration authorities under a plan signed into law Monday by Gov. Bruce Rauner, a move that puts the first-term Republican at odds with his party on immigration issues. This law prohibits police from searching, arresting or detaining someone solely because of immigration status, or because of so-called federal immigration detainers. But local authorities will be able to communicate with immigration agents and hold someone for immigration authorities if there’s a valid criminal warrant, according to the new law.

Renner Takes Leave of Absence

Mayor Tari Renner said he is taking a temporary leave of absence from his mayoral duties…. Renner says it is for medical reasons. Renner did not disclose the nature of his illness. He will continue working as a political science professor at Illinois Wesleyan University. Renner recently acknowledged the the State Police had begun an investigation into the usa of a city credit card to purchase airline tickets to Japan for his girlfriend for the Sister Cities celebration. Renner claims she went as a delegate.

Previous Story  

Bloomington's "Ticketgate" Update

Lawmakers Return To Illinois Capitol Today

Illinois' top lawmakers say they're on the same page when it comes to paying for schools in the state, now it's time for rank and file lawmakers to follow. The Illinois General Assembly returns to work today. Lawmakers are expected to start the process of approving a new plan to pay for schools. But there are still possible stumbling blocks. Republicans may not like the hundreds of millions of dollars that will head to Chicago schools, while Democrats are expected to have issues with a scholarship tax credit included in the plan.

Harvey: Red Cross

A group of volunteers from Bloomington are in  Texas to help out with the Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts. Five volunteers are currently deployed, with more to come this week as relief efforts continue.  You can donate to the Red Cross relief efforts at

Part Of Bloomington Cemetery Named For Fallen Solider

It's the kind of bittersweet honor parents wish they never receive. Managers at Evergreen Memorial Cemetery in Bloomington on Saturday named a part of their cemetery for Sergeant Joshua Rodgers, a local soldier who died in Afghanistan earlier this year. Rodgers' mother Vonda said her son would be happy to be in such a peaceful place. Cemetery managers say the Sergeant Joshua P. Rodgers Veterans Field will be the final resting place for other local soldiers and their families.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Fire at a Bloomington Apartment Bldg Under Control Rapidly

No one was injured in an apartment fire in the 300 block of Mecherle Drive in Bloomington Saturday afternoon. According to the Bloomington Fire Department, the small blaze was contained to one apartment and under control within a half hour.


Murder Suspect Now Charges with Multiple Sex Crimes

Bloomington murder suspect Kyle Brestan is now facing 19 charges for allegedly sexually molesting a teenager in an unrelated case. State’s Attorney Jason Chambers said the sex crimes came to light after his office in June filed charges related to manufacturing and possessing child porn. Brestan has been in the McLean County jail awaiting trial for the stabbing death of 27-year-old Shannon Hastings of Peoria at a Bloomington hotel.

Fire at a Bloomington Apartment Bldg Under Control Rapidly

No one was injured in an apartment fire in the 300 block of Mecherle Drive in Bloomington Saturday afternoon. According to the Bloomington Fire Department, the small blaze was contained to one apartment and under control within a half hour.

Friday, August 25, 2017

VA Clinic Coming to McLean County

The Veterans Administration is planning for an outpatient clinic in McLean County to open in 2019. The VA secretary has approved plans for the 20,000-square-foot clinic for five primary care teams and mental health services. A location has not yet been determined. The Pantagraph reports the VA would sign a 10-year lease for the clinic and anticipates selecting the site in October 2018.

Victim ID'd in Fatal Motorcycle Accident

41-year-old Richard A. Jones of Bloomington was identified Friday as the victim of a fatal motorcycle crash on Raab Road in Normal. Jones struck a concrete barrier at Raab and North Pointe Drive on Thursday. Police suspect alcohol was a factor.

AFNI Holding Hiring Event Saturday

Looking for a job? AFNI is hiring. Stephanie Price shared the news on Friday's Morning Buzz that the same day interviews will take place Saturday from 10am to 2pm at their offices at 1310 Martin Luther King Drive.

Explore our Open Positions in Bloomington

MLK 800x400

1310 Martin Luther King Drive | Bloomington, IL

Collections Specialist
Customer Service Representative
Spanish Bilingual Collections Representative
Web Chat Customer Service and Sales Representative

Illinois Leaders Agree On School Funding Deal

It looks like Illinois' top lawmakers are finally on the same page when it comes to paying for the state's schools.  Governor Rauner and legislative leaders announced yesterday afternoon that they have a deal on school funding.  The details are slowly leaking out, but the broad strokes of the proposal are expected to be finalized Monday.  Illinois schools are still waiting for their first state aid payment.  It was supposed to be sent out August 10th.

Fatal Accident

A man was killed in a motorcycle accident at the intersection of East Raab Road and North Pointe Drive in Normal. A 42-year-old male was the sole occupant of the motorcycle. He was pronounced dead at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center around 7:35 pm Thursday. His name has not yet been released. An autopsy is scheduled for Friday. The McLean County Coroner's Office and the Normal Police Department are investigating the incident.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Bloomington Thunder to Rebrand for the 2017-18 USHL Season

The Bloomington Thunder announced on Thursday that it will rebrand as the Central Illinois Flying Aces for the 2017-18 season, which will mark the team’s fourth season as a member of both the United States Hockey League and the CSH International ownership group.

Chief Operating Officer Brendan Kelly says th new identity underlines their continued commitment to elevating our game both on and off the ice and building long-term success in Central Illinois.

According to Kelly, the Flying Aces nickname emerged because of how it embodies the skill and speed of play in the USHL and its elite players.

The rebrand coincides with a series of changes for the upcoming season. In May, former NHL player Mike Watt was named the second head coach in team history, which was followed by the addition of assistant coaches Andy Contois and Chase Fuchs. The team’s front office has also undergone a series of changes, headlined by the hiring of Kelly, who has more than 15 years of experience in the sports industry.

The new visual identity of the team, including the color scheme, logos and jerseys, along with a new official website will be unveiled at a news conference in the coming week.
Leading up the 2017-18 campaign, the Flying Aces will announce a new, value-based ticket pricing structure and an enhanced promotional schedule featuring numerous giveaways, theme nights and more. In addition, there will also be special news for fans who purchased a jersey during the 2016-17 season.

With the name change, the team’s social media handles have changed effective immediately. The new handles are below:
Twitter: @ciflyingaces
Instagram: ciflyingaces

High Lead Levels Found in Bloomington Schools

High levels of lead have been discovered at several District 87 elementary schools: Oakland, Irving, Sheridan and Bent.  An Illinois law passed in January requires all elementary schools and day care facilities in the state, built before 2000, to check drinking water sources for possible lead contamination. District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly tells the Pantagraph they are shutting off those fixtures, replacing them, adding filters and retesting the water.

Source: Pantagraph

Biss Pushes Higher Taxes In Latest Campaign Stop

Voters in central Illinois don't have to guess where Dan Biss stands on taxes in his bid for governor: Biss wants to raise taxes again. The state Senator-turned-Democratic candidate for governor yesterday told a crowd of about 75 in Bloomington that he wants to raise income taxes on top earners. Biss also told the crowd that if elected he'd legalize marijuana, push for universal pre-school, and move to protect unions in Illinois. 

School Funding: Lawmakers Likely To Return To Springfield Next Week

There could be good news for Illinois schools. Lawmakers appear to be coming back to Springfield next week. The Illinois House yesterday scheduled a number of hearings for Tuesday at the statehouse in Springfield. Lawmakers say it's the surest sign yet that legislative leaders are making progress on a plan to pay for Illinois schools.

Unit 5 Looking at A Structural Deficit

Unit 5 is starting its new school year on uncertain financial footing, as state lawmakers haven't approved a school funding formula. The Board of Education is considering a tentative 2017-2018  budget, which includes a $1.2 million structural deficit in its Education Fund. Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel says the district had high Equalized Assessment Value in the past, which dropped and leveled off, meaning there is less revenue from property taxes coming in. There's still a chance this year's budget could be balanced, if the state gives Unit 5 its final categorical payment that is owed from last year. But Daniel says the district will still have some tough decisions to make in the future.

Bloomington District 87/BEA Reach TentatIve Deal

A tentative deal has been reached between Bloomington District 87 and the Bloomington Education Association on a three-year contract. The tentative agreement includes a 1 percent increase on base salary in the first year and 1.4 percent increases in the second and third years of the contract.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Rauner To Sign Immigration Legislation

Illinois is about to become a sanctuary state. Governor Rauner's office yesterday said the governor will sign a new law next week that stops state law enforcement agencies from asking people about their immigration status or holding people simply for an immigration violation so they can be turned over to federal agents. Local police departments and sheriff's offices could still set their own policies. A number of suburban law enforcement officials say they support the proposal, but a number of conservatives are furious.

McLean County Sheriff Gets Call About Pot Found

If you're missing 134 pounds of marijuana in central Illinois, the McLean County sheriff may have your pot. McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage yesterday said someone who bought a home in Chenoa called to say they found three large bales of marijuana in a car inside a storage shed. Sandage says he thinks the drugs may belong to someone already in prison. Though, the sheriff says if the drugs are yours, please contact his office

Powerball Jackpot At $700M

When the jackpot is this high, even people who never buy a lottery ticket get in on the action.  The Powerball jackpot for tonight's drawing is 700-million-dollars.  That's the second-largest jackpot ever.  It's been two months since someone hit all five numbers and the Powerball.  If you win, the cash option comes to 443-million-dollars.

More Charges Pending Against DUI Suspect in Fatal Hit and Run

McLean County State's Attorney Jason Chambers says he will file more serious charges against a suspected drunk driver after a deadly hit and run last week.  32-year old Steven McCuen will now face a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol and causing an accident involving a fatality. 16-year old Dale Nelson died late Monday night at a OSF Childrens Hospital, after doctors removed him from life support. He was hit while riding his bike with friends along Six Points Road in Bloomington. The McCuen is the driver accused of hitting Nelson with a van  then fleeing the scene. The new charge could put McCuen in jail for a four-to-15-year prison sentence, if convicted.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Boy Struck By DUI Suspect Dies

The Peoria County Coroner Tuesday confirmed the death of 16-year-old Dale Nelson, who died overnight at a Peoria hospital.  Nelson was the youth who was struck while riding his bicycle by 32-year-old Steven McCuen of Bloomington who was driving a van on 6 Points Road on August 14th at about 8:30 pm. McCuen was arrested on August 15th  and charged with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, two felony counts of aggravated driving under the influence and a misdemeanor DUI charge. This is McCuen's 3rd DUI.

Normal Looking At Police Review Commission

The other half of the central Illinois twin cities is looking to create its own police review commission. Leaders in the town of Normal last night got the first chance to hear about a planned review commission that will take a "holistic view" of the town's police department and race relations. Normal City Manager Mark Peterson said it's a "fact" that there is racial bias in the police department, the only question is what the town will do about it. Bloomington, which is right next door, created its police review commission last month.

Bloomington Fire Dept Updates Plan

The Bloomington Fire Department is continuing to work to reduce emergency response times. Fire Chief Brian Mohr told the cit council in a work session Monday night, that the department has made improvements over the last year. EMS response times have gone down. Mohr says that's because the department hired new personnel, made equipment improvements and redistributed its resources to districts in need. Mohr says there's more work that needs to be done. Bloomington hit the national bench mark of a six minute response time only 66 percent of the time. National standards dictate departments should be hitting that mark 90 percent of the time. In the past, Mohr has spoken about needing to put more resources in Bloomington's outlying areas, where service can suffer. On Monday, he told the council that the department sees the highest number of calls in the fire headquarters' districts. He says he would like to staff another ambulance in that area to help bring down response times. Mohr says Bloomington Fire will also continue to try and collaborate with Normal's fire department to better serve the Twin Cities. The council is also considering ways to fund much needed street and sewer improvements.

Peoria-Based Guard Unit to Afghanistan

About 40 members of a Peoria-based Army National Guard Unit are heading to Afghanistan.  The members of the 238th Aviation Regiment will have a deployment ceremony Thursday ahead of a quick trip to Texas, then a deployment to Afghanistan for about a year.  The unit flies Chinook helicopters.  This is the 238th's third deployment to Afghanistan since 2008.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Vigil for Teen Struck by DUI Suspect

The Bloomington community is coming together tonight at Forest Park at 8pm to show support for the family of teen that was hit by a drunk driver. Last Tuesday, a 16-year-old boy was riding his bike on Six Points Road in Bloomington, when he was hit by a van. The driver left the scene. That teen is in critical condition in a Peoria hospital. The family is planning to take the boy off of life support tonight. They are holding out hope that he will breathe on his own when they do.

Clouds May Hinder Eclipse View

You may have to dodge the clouds to get a good look at the eclipse. Forecasters say central Illinois will see some cloud cover during this afternoon's solar eclipse. The National Weather Service in Lincoln is calling for a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly between 9am and 3pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 87.

Powerball Jackpot Swells

Expect long lines at the lotto ticket counter this week. Illinois Lottery officials say no one won Saturday's Powerball jackpot, so the grand prize for Wednesday's drawing is 650 million-dollars. It's been two months since there was a grand prize winner. The odd of hitting all five numbers and the Powerball are one-in-292 million.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Latest Jobs Report: Illinois Job Growth Is Slow

Illinois is adding new jobs, but barely.  The latest report from the Illinois Department of Employment Security released yesterday said the state added just 64-hundred jobs last month.  Illinois Employment Security boss Jeff Mays said Illinois continues to lag behind the rest of the nation in job growth.

Burglars Nabbed

2 men in Bloomington are behind bars after being arrested for burglarizing homes. Police responded to the area of Country Club Place after getting a call about 2 men, carrying backpacks, who were seen walking between homes. Austin Lilley and Ian O'Neill were arrested for residential burglary and are being held at the McLean County Jail.

Bloomington's "Ticketgate" Update

Illinois State Police are looking to see if the mayor of Bloomington broke the law when he bought a plane ticket to Japan for his girlfriend.  Mayor Tari Renner yesterday said he didn't do anything wrong.  Renner said a city worker bought the ticket for a Sister Cities event, where his girlfriend was invited as a delegate, and she reimbursed the city.  The Illinois Supreme Court ruled a few years ago that kind of "float" is against the law.  State Police investigators aren't commenting on the specifics of the case.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

McLean GOP Leader's Trump Facebook Comments

The head of the McLean County Republican Party is responding to critics after posting facebook comments supporting President Trump's statement about the violence in Virginia. McLean County Republican Party Chairman Chuck Erickson called the president's words common sense remarks, on facebook  earlier this week. Erickson now says violence on both sides is bad, but he says their speech is protected under the first amendment.Erickson says that violence from either side is unacceptable.  He says governments must respond as they have in the past with law enforcement, military and due process to stop illegal acts.

Man Involved in Monday's Hit and Run Has 3 DUI's

32-year-old Steven McCuen is charged with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident which occurred Monday in the 1400 block of Six Points Road, two felony counts of aggravated driving under the influence and a misdemeanor DUI charge. The incident left a 16-year-old boy critically injured. Bond was set for McCuen at $750,000. One of the felony DUI counts indicates that the Monday night incident was McCuen's third drunken driving offense; he has another pending in Logan County, according to court records.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Pantagraph: ISP Probing City Credit Card Use for Japan Trip

The Illinois State Police have opened an investigation into the use of a city credit card to buy an airline ticket to let Mayor Tari Renner's girlfriend travel with him to Japan for a weeklong sister cities anniversary event earlier this month. An official with the state police investigations unit based in Pontiac confirmed to the Pantagraph Wednesday afternoon there is an investigation but declined to comment further. Renner had been invited to be on Thursday's Morning Buzz with Tom Davis but has of yet to respond to the invitation.

Source: Pantagraph

Traffic Pattern Changes for ISU Move-In Days

There are some traffic changes to be aware of this week in Normal as thousands of freshmen come to Illinois State University for move-in days. Most of the changes are centered around Watterson Towers:

  • North Street will become a one way road between School and Fell Avenue.
  • Fell Avenue will be closed to northbound traffic, making it a one-way between Mullberry and College.
  • Fell Avenue will be closed to all traffic from College to North Street.
  • Freshman will be moving in on Wednesday and Thursday at their assigned times. Older students return on Friday.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

BPD: Arrest Made in Hit and Run on 6 Points Road, Youth Victim in Critical Condition

Police have made an arrest in Monday's hit and run that severely injured a 16-year-old bicyclist. 32 year old Steven McCuen was arrested Tuesday by Bloomington Police and the U.S. Marshall service. McCuen is charged with failure to report and accident with an injury and driving under the influence of drugs/alcohol.  Just before 9pm Monday night, it's alleged that McCuen struck the 16 year old male riding a bike on 6 Points Road.  Witnesses reported seeing a white vehicle leaving the scene of the accident. The vicitm was first transported to a local hospital then lifeflighted to a hospital in Peoria where he remains in critical condition.  The investigation of the incident remains ongoing.

Source: Bloomington Police Dept &
Mark Embry at News Happening in Bloomington Normal McLean Co Area and All Over

Portillo's is Open

Portillo's Restaurant in Normal is open for business. After several training days with invited guests, including media day last Thursday, the store is open for the masses. Some diners arrvied as early as 6:30am Tuesday to be one of the first in line. The town of Normal landed Portillo's, a Chicago area favorite, by agreeing to give developer Bloomington Landmark $1.875 million in future sales tax receipts from the restaurant to subsidize demolition and construction. The total could reach $2.5 million with interest.

Applications Pour In For Bloomington Police Review Board

A lot more people want a seat on Bloomington's police review board than first thought.  The city's spokeswoman yesterday said 40 people submitted applications by yesterday's deadline. Bloomington's city council last month created the Public Safety and Community Relations Board to improve relationships between the police and some folks in the community.  Bloomington's mayor and city council will now
select seven people to serve on the board.

Blue Lives Matter Controversy

Controversy in Bloomington Monday night, after a local woman organizes a Blue Lives Matter rally. The local Black Lives Matter chapter claims the organizer, Regina Noland, has Facebook posts that connect her with white supremacist groups. Noland tells WMBD TV she is not affiliated with any of that and just wants to say thank you to those in uniform. Black Lives Matter asked its supporters to stay away from the rally all together, including any counter protests. But that did not stop some protesters that came with faces covered and profanity-laced signs directed at the small Blue Lives Matter crowd.

Governor Wants Leaders Meetings On School Funding

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner says a deal on school funding in the state is 'within reach.'  The governor yesterday asked all four legislative leaders, Democrats Mike Madigan and John Cullerton, and Republicans Jim Durkin and Bill Brady, to sit down this week and come to terms on how to pay for the state's schools.  Rauner changed the Democratic plan to pay for schools, and the Illinois Senate on Sunday voted down those changes. Democrats in the Illinois House are set to take up the governor's ideas tomorrow.  Schools across the state start this week.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Senate Democrats Vote Down Governor Rauner's School Changes

Illinois is no closer to a school budget, even with a vote from the Illinois Senate to override Governor Rauner's school changes. Democrats in the Senate yesterday used their numbers to easily vote down the governor's changes. But Democrats in the Illinois House don't have the same numbers, and won't even take up the plan till Wednesday. Most Illinois schools start this week, but they were supposed to get a state aid payment last week.