Friday, September 29, 2017

Coliseum Five All Plead Not Guilty

The five people accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars when managing Bloomington's US Cellular Coliseum appeared in court Friday. 58-year-old John Butler, 47-year-old Bart Rogers, 57-year-old Kelly Klein, 27-year-old Jay Laesch, and 50-year-old Paul Grazar all plead not guilty to the charges against them. They'll be back in McLean County Court on November 3rd. The five were indicted on September 20, with 111 charges among them.

Conservatives Furious With Rauner Over Abortion Law

Some of Illinois' most conservative lawmakers are vowing to never support Governor Bruce Rauner again after the governor signed a law to have taxpayers pay for abortions. State Rep Peter Breen said the governor broke a promise when he signed the law yesterday. Breen said he's watched the governor's inability to lead for months, but the 'broken commitment' on the abortion law is the final straw. Breen said hundreds of elected Republicans, and hundred of thousands of Republican voters feel the same way.

Central Catholic Gets National Recognition

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos named 342 schools National Blue Ribbon Schools. The award is based on academic achievements.  On that list are Central Catholic High School in Bloomington, Central Intermediate School in Washington, and Peoria Christian Elementary School in Peoria.

Supreme Court To Hear Illinois Case Challenging Union Dues

An Illinois case could mean huge changes for how public employee unions across the country operate. The Supreme Court yesterday agreed to listen to arguments in the 'Janus' case. The case centers on a state of Illinois worker who says he shouldn't be forced to pay dues to AFSCME. Right to Work supporters say the high court could issue a clear ruling on the idea of forced union membership. AFSCME officials in Illinois say the 'Janus' case is politically motivated, and that it is designed to break public sector unions.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

TV Time for Tari

In an exclusive interview with WMBD TV , Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner says his workload and lack of personal balance played significant roles his decision to step away from his elected position for nearly one month. Renner announced he was taking a leave on absence as mayor at the end of August, at the advice of his doctor and loved ones. Renner denies his leave had nothing to do with an Illinois State Police Investigation into the alleged use of city city funds purchase of airline tickets for his girlfriend.

See Video:

Source: WMBD TV

Congress Honors Mattoon Teacher For Stopping Shootings

Mattoon High School teacher Angela McQueen is officially on the Congressional record as a hero. Congressman John Shimkus lead a moment yesterday to recognize McQueen for her role in stopping a September 20th shooting at the school.  Shimkus called McQueen a hero, and said without her the shooting could have been much worse.

CEOs Lead Illinois' Amazon Effort

Some of Illinois' top CEO's are leading the push to land Amazon in the state.  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel yesterday announced an all star line up of corporate leaders including United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, Loop Capital Chairman Jim Reynolds, and former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker who will try and sell Amazon on locating its next headquarters in Illinois.  Amazon's HQ2 is worth five billion-dollars and 50 thousand jobs

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Bloomington Downtown Task Force Latest

Bloomington's Downtown Task Force might not be succeeding in winning many converts to their idea of knocking down a parking ramp to put up a new library and bus transfer station, but they are trying to tackle the challenge of infrastructure. Tuesday, Public Works Director Jim Karch explained to the group there are future street and sewer repairs. He also said it's important to note there are hidden components many cant see, like historic vaults under sidewalks. Committee members say they want to make sure they make their plans from the inside out.

Source: Pantagraph

New Connect Transit GM

Connect Transit has found a new general manager. The Board of Trustees voted on Tuesday to make Interim General Manager Isaac Thorne the permanent GM of Connect Transit. Throne replaces Andrew Johnson, who resigned in March to head to the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District.

Illini's Smith Encourages Players To Be Socially Active

University of Illinois football coach Lovie Smith says he tells his players to speak their minds and express their opinions. But the coach isn't saying anything specific about players taking a knee during the national anthem. Smith on Monday said he encourages his players to be socially active. The Illini are usually still in the locker room when the national anthem is played, so there haven't been any protests for the team so far this year.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Bloomington Mayor Renner to Return to Duty

Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner will be back on the job next Sunday after taking about a month’s leave for what he said are medical-related reasons. Mayor Pro tem Karen Schmidt says Monday’s night’s council meeting was her last. Schmidt says she’s respected Renner’s request for privacy and is not aware of the medical issues that led him to take his leave.

Lawmakers Send Controversial Abortion Bill To Governor

Conservatives are keeping a close eye on Governor Bruce Rauner. The Democratic controlled legislature yesterday sent the governor a controversial abortion plan. The proposed law would have taxpayers pay for abortions. The governor promised to veto the plan in the past, but has wavered a bit since lawmakers approved the proposal this spring. The governor has 60 days to sign the law, scuttle it, or ignore it.

UPDATED: Five Indicted For Stealing From Bloomington Owned Coliseum

The indictments of five former managers of Bloomington's city-owned coliseum reads like a madcap rush to steal. McLean County prosecutors yesterday unsealed the 111 count indictment against the five. Prosecutors say they stole money, defrauded the city, and laundered cash as far back as 2010. But the court documents show brazen theft in March of last year, in the final days when the five managed the coliseum. All five are facing decades in prison. Former Bloomington city leaders say they want to know what responsibility the city's current administration has for not catching the thefts.

Sen. Rose, Rep Brady Reveal Plan for Higher Ed in Illinois

A pair of Republican lawmakers from university communities in the state say they have a plan to keep Illinois students in Illinois. State Rep. Dan Brady and State Senator Chapin Rose yesterday unveiled a plan to have Illinois' public universities focus on their strengths, and stop campuses from trying to be all things to all people. Brady and Rose say their plan would have students apply to a single university clearinghouse and then send students to the most appropriate university. The two don't say anything about closing campuses, but do say some schools may have to cut some programs

Bloomington City Council Votes to Raise Sewer Rates

If you live in Bloomington, you  will see a steep increase in your sewer rates next year. Council narrowly passed an immediate rate hike with 5-4 vote, rather than favoring a more gradual increase over five years. Next year, sanitary sewer rates will go up by 50 percent. Storm water sewer rates will go up by 30 percent. Rates will continue to rise by 3 percent each year after. Council members who supported the measure say the more drastic increase is necessary to fix the city's failing infrastructure and shows that fixing the utilities is a priority.

Monday, September 25, 2017

5 Former-Coliseum Officials Charged

Five former management officials of the then-named US Cellular Coliseum, which is owned by the city of Bloomington,   face a total of 111 indictments accusing them of stealing city funds, money laundering, wire fraud and filing false sales tax returns. The Pantagraph reports the indictments, returned Sept. 20 by a McLean County grand jury, were unsealed Monday after all five defendants posted bond. Charged are Bart Rogers and John Y. Butler of Central Illinois Arena Management, and their employees Jay C. Laesch, Paul E. Grazar and Kelly W. Klein.

Homicide Person of Interest Nabbed in Bloomington

A 40-year-old Missouri man was arrested Sunday in Bloomington in connection with a homicide investigation in Missouri. Deacon Zelch of Bourbon, Missouri, was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Services at a residence on Van Schoick Street near Bloomington’s Miller Park on Sunday afternoon.

Governor Rauner Vetoes Cursive Mandate

Illinois school kids will be spared from lessons on cursive. Governor Bruce Rauner on Friday vetoed a proposed state law that would require students to learn formal handwriting skills. The governor says the cursive requirement is just another unfunded mandate from Springfield, and doesn't help Illinois kids in the realities of 2017. Supporters of the idea said young people need to learn to read and write in cursive to be able to sign legal documents

Bloomington Streets Update

The city of Bloomington is spending $3.8 million to resurface 18 streets and six alleys and nearly another $1 million for sidewalk improvements by the end of the current construction season. The streets resurfacing and sidewalk projects are being funded with $2.4 million the city receives from the 4-cent motor fuel tax and $2.4 million from the quarter of the 1-percent sales tax increase designated solely for streets and infrastructure.

Record Heat Should End By Midweek

Illinois' record September heat should end by midweek. The National Weather Service says more heat records may fall across the state today and tomorrow. But by Wednesday temperatures will start to cool down, and most of Illinois should see a return to more seasonal temperatures with highs in the low 70s by the weekend.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Coroner Confirms ID of Remains Found in Tazewell Co.

Tazewell County Coroner James Baldi confirmed early this morning that remains found in rural Tazewell County in July belonged to missing teenager, Robert Bee, Jr. Bee was 13 when he ran away from his Pekin home in November 2016, when being seen by a truant officer. His remains were found on July 24 about two miles away. A man discovered the skeletal remains while mowing his property near Route 29. Investigators believe the remains were in the woods behind the property, but some were moved by animals onto the man's property.There's no word on a cause of death. the case remains under investigation.

Source WEEK TV

Friday, September 22, 2017

Report: Most Illinois Cities Gain Jobs, Just Not Enough

Illinois' economy is still stuck in the mud. The latest report from the Illinois Department of Employment Security says most cities in the state added jobs over the past year. But IDES boss Jeff Mays yesterday said they didn't add enough. The report says Illinois as a whole added about 25 thousand jobs between last August and last month. But 20 thousand of those jobs came in Chicago or the suburbs. Mays says the state's economy is stuck in neutral.

State of the University Address

The president of Illinois State University is encouraging the community to stay confident during his 4th annual State of the University Address. Larry Dietz said with the damage of the 2-year Illinois budget impasse, ISU is trying to recover and prepare in the event it occurs again. He said the university is also taking time to revise its strategic plan. Dietz also announced he is seeking a mid-year salary increase for those who qualify, and a promotion salary enhancement for full-time associate professors

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Obmacare Rates to Spike in 2018 for Illinois

A report from an Illinois agency says residents who buy insurance on the state’s health care exchange could see rate increases for the lowest-priced plans by 2018. The Chicago Tribune reports the state Insurance Department submitted rates to the federal government Wednesday. The rates would jump by 16 to 37 percent, increasing the average cost of the lowest-priced silver plans by 35 percent statewide.

Collins In Custody for Fatal DUI Also Faces Home Invasion Charges

The man accused of leaving the scene of a deadly crash in Bloomington is now facing charges in connection to a crime in Normal.  Jakeb Collins is the second person to be arrested for a home invasion and armed robbery on the 400 block of South Oak Street in Normal that occured about ten months ago. A second suspect, Shaquar Rhone, was sentenced to 9 1/2 years in prison.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Father Kills Two Children, Sets Fire, Then Kills Self

Bloomington Police tell us that all three victims in Tuesday's house fire died before the fire was fully involved.

BPD says Eric Ringenberg was seen on home surveillance video hiding cell phones before he set the fire. The surveillance video shows him strangling his two small children, before starting the fire in the home's basement. Then he killed himself.

Pamela Ringenberg, Eric's wife, woke up in her bedroom when the fire alarm went off. Home surveillance video shows her searching for family members and a phone to call for help before fleeing the home. She suffered from smoke inhalation.

Houchin Family Alpacas Participates in National Alpaca Farm Days

Compared to most livestock in North America, alpacas are relatively new. First commercially imported in 1984, many people have seen alpacas on their favorite television shows or on the news, but have never met one in person. Now is your chance!

On September 23rd and 24th, alpaca owners from across the United States and Canada will invite the public to come to their farm or ranch to meet their alpacas and learn more about these inquisitive, unique animals, the luxury fiber they produce and why the alpaca business is perfect for environmentally conscious individuals.

From 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturday September 23 and 11:00 am to 5:00 pm on Sunday September 24, Houchin Family Alpacas will welcome guests to join them for many activities including, getting up close and feeding the alpacas, spinning and felting demonstrations, shop for all natural alpaca products, and learning about raising and owning alpacas.  All for FREE.

Houchin Family Alpacas is located at 16708 E 400 North Rd., Heyworth, IL  61745

To find out more about National Alpaca Farm Days visit To learn more about Houchin Family Alpacas, visit

Bloomington City Mgr Hales to Take a Job in Joliet

Bloomington will soon need a new city Manager. David Hales is leaving his post to become the Joliet City Manager. The Joliet City Council voted Tuesday to authorize his new contract for $215,000. Hales was making $189,000 in Bloomington, where he has served since 2008

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Bloomington Fatal Fire Update: BPD: Fire Intentionally Set

Three people are dead after a fire early Tuesday on Brittany Court in Bloomington.

A joint press release from the Bloomington Police Department, Bloomington Fire Department and McLean County Coroner's Office said three people were declared dead at the scene of the fire at 4:15 a.m.

At a press conference Tuesday at noon,Bloomington Police Chief Hefffner stated, "The fire was intentionally set, but isolated and there is no immediate threat to public safety."

McLean County Coroner Kathy Davis described the victims as a middle-aged male, a toddler and an infant.

The identities of the three victims are being withheld pending notification of their families.

After the press conference, Fire Chief Brian Mohr said a woman was hospitalized but did not elaborate.

The Bloomington Police Department Criminal Investigations Division is conducting an investigation with the fire department and coroner's office.

Fire Kills 3 in Bloomington

Three people are dead after a fire early Tuesday on Brittany Court in Bloomington.

A joint press release from the Bloomington Police Department, Bloomington Fire Department and McLean County Coroner's Office said three people were declared dead at the scene of the fire at 4:15 a.m.

The identities of the three victims are being withheld pending notification of their families.

The Bloomington Police Department Criminal Investigations Division is conducting an investigation with the fire department and coroner's office.

Illinois Delegation Heads To Seattle For Amazon Pitch

Illinois' pitch to land the new Amazon headquarters in heating up. A combination state/city of Chicago delegation left yesterday for Seattle to look around. A spokesman for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel yesterday said the delegation isn't going to Seattle to meet with anyone at Amazon. Rather the group is going to see what the city offers Amazon's current headquarters, so Illinois can better tailor its pitch for Amazon's second headquarters.

Town of Normal to Offer Early Retirement to Some Workers

The Town of Normal tightens the belt on its budget for next year by introducing an early retirement package. The council unanimously passed the proposal on Monday. The program is voluntary and gives certain employees financial incentives to retire early. Right now, there are 18 employees eligible. Afterward, the town will likely not fill those positions left vacant. City Manager Mark Peterson blames the shortfall on the end of the Metro Zone agreement and less in tax revenue.

Bloomington City Council Talks Sewers Monday

A majority of the Bloomington City Council is in favor of a quick increase in sanitary and storm water sewer rates. At a committee of the whole meeting on Monday, most of the council said they want to see a more drastic hike next fiscal year. If the proposal passes, both sanitary and storm water rates would cumulatively increase by 44 percent. The average household would go from paying $13.85 to $19.91. Alderman could vote as early as next week to decide when the higher rates would kick in

Monday, September 18, 2017

Social Media Apps Linked to 2 ISU Sex Crimes

Illinois State University police are investigating two sexual crimes linked to two separate social media apps: Tinder and Snapchat

Police tell us a man attempted to extort a female student with nude images of her. The two met on the dating app Tinder and communicated via Snapchat. That incident was reported Sept. 7.

Later, a sexual assault was reported Sept. 15 involving a victim who said the crime was committed by a male student. The victim said they met on Tinder and talked with via Snapchat.

To be clear, the two cases are unrelated.

Fed-up Illinois Lawmakers Streaming for the Exit in Big Numbers

Illinois residents aren’t the only ones throwing up their hands at the gridlock and increasingly polarized politics that have defined state government in recent years. More and more, fed-up and frustrated Illinois legislators are heading for the exits. More than two-dozen legislators — about 15 percent of the General Assembly — have either resigned months into the current session or said they won’t seek re-election. They are Democrats and Republicans, rank-and-file moderates and those in leadership posts, including House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, who said last week that she’s ending her nearly 40-year legislative career when her term expires.

New Gas Tax?

Sources say 4 legislative leaders will meet this week to discuss a gas tax increase and new service taxes this week as part of a statewide capital projects plan, but spokespersons for GOP legislative leaders denied any such discussions were scheduled. Illinois' current gas tax of 34.01 cents per gallon already is among the highest in the country.

Governor Vetoes Plan That Would've Expanded Police, Fire Pension Transfers

Illinois lawmakers will have to decide if they want to override the governor on a pension plan that could add more stress to the already fragile police and fire pension programs in Illinois. Governor Rauner last week vetoed a proposal to allow downstate police officers and firefighters to transfer up to six years of credit into their pensions. The governor said many downstate police and fire pension plans are in danger of running out of money. He said adding more stress on to those retirement funds could break them.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

BPD Clears Up Confusion in Deadly DUI Case

Bloomington Police are clearing up the confusion by now saying a second man was the driver in a fatal hit-and-run crash on the city’s southeast side—not 54 year old Darin Scott,  the suspect that authorities initially announced in a press release. 22-year old Jakeb Collins of Bloomington was allegedly behind the wheel of a red mini van Wednesday morning that crashed into a another vehicle on Morrissey Drive at Chrisman Lane killing a 79-year-old Indiana woman and injuring a man. Collins was charged Friday with leaving the scene of an accident involving a fatality. Scott, however, was arrested in a separate DUI incident n Wednesday--his second in a month.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Standoff in Pontiac Ends

A 2-hour standoff with police Friday ends with no injuries and a Pontiac man facing preliminary weapons and aggravated assault charges after his surrender to officers The Pantagraph reports Pontiac police were called at 10:42 a.m. to an apartment building in the 400 block of West North Street for a report of a man pointing and firing a gun from a third-story window. 33-year-old Justin A. Doan refused to leave the building and would not allow a woman with him to speak with police, according to a statement from the Pontiac Police Department. Two residents were removed from the building and police spoke by phone with Doan. The standoff ended shortly after 1 p.m. when Doan and the woman left the building. The investigation is ongoing and more charges may be filed.

A.G. Madigan Will Not Seek Re-Election

A political stunner! Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced she will not run for re-election next year.

Madigan made the surprise announcement even though she had previously said she plans to seek another term.

The popular attorney general was first elected in 2002. Her statement Friday did not include her future plans, which leave many people speculating.

Madigan will serve out her fourth term in office, serving since 2003. Her father, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan said he's proud of what his daughter has accomplished

Another Arrest Made in Fatal Hit and Run

A second arrest has made in fatal Bloomington hit and run. 22-year-old Jakeb C.S. Collins now faces charges in connection with Wednesday's deadly hit and run on Morrissey Drive in Bloomington.  Collins was arrested Thursday for leaving the scene of an accident in connection with the accident that left 79-year-old Phyllis Graver of Carmel, Ind. dead and another person injured. Darin Scott, 54, was arrested Thursday on DUI charges--his second DUI in a month--in connection with the crash.

Bloomington Man Charged In Deadly DUI Accident

A Bloomington man will likely stay behind bars after his second DUI in a month killed a woman. Darin Scott is due in court today to answer for a deadly Wednesday wreck that killed one woman and injured another man. Police say that wreck is Scott's second drunk driving wreck in a month, he was arrested on August 14th after another crash in Bloomington. Jail records show Scott paid 100 dollars and left jail after the August wreck.

Latest PARCC Test Scores Show Slight Reading Gains, Math Declines

More than 60 percent of school kids in Illinois still can't read or add at grade level. But the latest standardized test scores in the state show some slight gains. The Illinois State Board of Education yesterday released the latest PARCC scores. The results show students in third through eighth grade did slightly better, as in a few tenths-of-a-percent better, on the reading test. Students in the same grades did slightly worse on the math test. Illinois State Superintendent Tony Smith yesterday said the scores show the state has built a 'solid foundation.'

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Body of Man Found in Creek off Constitution Trail ID'd

The body of the man found in a creek by the Constitution Trail has been identified as Marcus D. Bivens, age 33, of Bloomington, Illinois.

 Preliminary autopsy findings indicate that Bivens died from drowning. There was no assault, strangulation, infection, recent significant trauma, or tumor. Toxicology results are pending.

The circumstances of the man’s death remain under investigation by the Normal Police Department and the McLean County Coroner’s Office.

Anyone who traveled through this area, including the Constitution Trail, over the past 3 days and believes they may have information on this case, is asked to contact Detective Brad Park, 309.454.9527, or

Bloomington City Mgr Hales is a Finalist for Joliet Gig

Bloomington City Manager David Hales certainly has a lot of resumes out there. The Joliet Herald-News is reporting that Hales is a finalist for the same job there. Several weeks ago it was reported Hales was a finalist for the same position in Topeka KS

District 87 School Board Approves "Welcoming School" Resolution

School-aged kids concerned about deportation based on their family’s citizenship status were told they have nothing to worry about while attending Bloomington District 87 schools. The District 87 school board approved a resolution on Wednesday saying as much. Superintendent Barry Reilly says there are “probably” students enrolled in District 87 who come from illegally immigrated families, but says he hopes the resolution will alleviate any worries those students may be feeling after recent changes to DACA.

BPD: Man Arrested in Connection with Fatal Accident

54 year-old Darin Scott of Bloomington is in police custody in connection with a fatal two-vehicle crash Wednesday morning on Bloomington's southeast side in the area of Morrissey Drive and Chrisman Lane. One person was killed and the other was seriously injured.  The Pantagraph reports Scott was arrested Wednesday on preliminary charges of aggravated DUI causing death, improper lane usage, and leaving the scene of an accident.

Governor Rauner Talks To Amazon About New HQ

Governor Bruce Rauner is personally leading the sales pitch to bring Amazon's new headquarters to the state.  The governor's office yesterday said the governor reached out himself to speak with Amazon executives about a second headquarters for the online retail giant.  Developers in Chicago are already pitching specific sites.  Rauner's office didn't offer any details about the governor's proposal to land the new roughly five-billion-dollar headquarters and the 50 thousand jobs that'd come with it.

NPD: Body Found Near Constitution Trail

Normal Police are asking anyone who's walked the Constitution Trail near South Veterans Parkway in the past three days to think if they've seen anything out of place. Officers found a man's body in a creek by the trail yesterday afternoon. NPD investigators aren't identifying the man or saying how he died. An autopsy is scheduled for today that could provide some more answers.