Thursday, January 18, 2018

Bloomington Hires New BCPA Manager

James Mack will manage the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts. He comes to Bloomington from Mesquite, Texas, where he has been directing that city's arts council. Mack has also held other arts-related positions, including one in San Diego. Mack starts his new job on February 12.

Former Governor Thompson Files To Help Beaman Sue Police

Former Illinois Governor Jim Thompson is joining the effort to help an exonerated man sue the police officers who he says set him up. The governor last week was one of several high profile leaders and lawyers to file a letter of support for Allan Beaman, who was convicted of the 1993 murder of his former girlfriend. A court later vacated his conviction. Beaman is trying to sue three  Normal Police detectives who he says fabricated evidence. The Illinois Supreme Court is reconsidering Beaman's request.

Another New Wind Farm Proposal

A Houston-based company filed an application for a seperate farm in Chenoa, Lawndale and Yates townships. This comes a few weeks after Invenergy out of Chicago filed for a special-use permit for a wind farm in Chenoa, Gridley, Lawndale, Lexington and Money Creek townships. According to its application, EDP Renewables North America's "Bright Stalk Wind Farm" would generate about 200 megawatts from 58 turbines on almost 5,000 acres of land. It's anticipated to generate nearly $2.5 million in tax revenue in its first full year of operation and about $42.7 million in its first 20 years. It could be ready to go as soon as next year. The county's Zoning Board of Appeals will begin discussing the application at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Bloomington Downtown Task Force Meeting Did Little to Change Minds

Perhaps an exercise in futility as a two-hour special meeting did nothing to change the minds of a majority of Bloomington aldermen who oppose a controversial proposal to build a new public library downtown on the site of the city's Market Street parking deck. Some aldermen chose not to even attend last night seeing the meeting as unproductive since the library board and most aldermen favor expanding the library at its current location on E. Olive St.

Town of Normal Approves Resolution for New High Rise at Uptown Circle

The Town of Normal is moving forward with a new building development in Uptown Normal. The council approved a measure Monday, giving Bush Construction exclusive rights to develop the site on the northeast side of Uptown Circle into a five-story building that includes parking, retail areas, office space, and apartments. Several residents asked the council not to approve any plan that would tear down three historic buildings. Council members told the crowd that they heard their concerns and would take them under consideration.

Normal Demands Transparency from EDC

The Normal Town Council is calling for greater transparency in how its money is being spent for economic development initiatives. The council recently approved about $67,000 in funding for the BN Advantage group. The Economic Development Council is receiving $32,000 of that money for marketing and communication, on top of its usual $100,000 in annual funding. However, the council denied an additional $50,000 that was requested by the EDC. Council members expressed disappointment at the lack of the progress they've seen over the last two years.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Nestle to Sell Plants Including Bloomington for $2.8 B

Nestle announced it is selling its plants in Illinois including Bloomington for $2.8 billion to Ferrero.  All 415 employees locally are expected to keep their jobs.

McLean County Approves Recycling Plan That Could Lead to Mandatory Recycling

McLean County board members voted today on a plan that could lead to mandatory recycling down the road.   The county's solid waste committee approved a plan by a 10-8 vote that includes a provision to allow towns and cities to turn to mandatory recycling if not enough people volunteer.  Republicans on the county board said people should not be forced and Democrats said sometimes people need "a little encouragement."

Bloomington's Downtown Task Force Gets Its Say Tonight

A special session of the Bloomington City Council will meet tonight at the request of mayor Renner with the Bloomington Downtown Task Force, the Bloomington Library and Connect Transit to hear the Task Force's catalyst plan to reinvigorate the downtown area. The plan includes tearing down the Market Street parking ramp to build a new library and public bus transfer station and leaving a little parking area left over. The library board and most aldermen favor have already stated they favor leaving the library at it current Olive Street location and expanding it.

Normal Town Council Tonight

The Normal Town Council will vote whether to begin negotiations with a developer, Bush Construction, on an agreement that could result in a proposed $29.2 million mixed-use building on the northeast part of Uptown Circle.  The proposal is for a five-story high-rise with first-floor retail space, second-floor offices and third-, fourth- and fifth-floor apartments on the northeast section of the circle, to replace what's now a parking lot at 104 E. Beaufort St., and possibly adjoining retail space.Construction could begin as soon as this fall.

Monday, January 15, 2018

ISBE: Private School Changes Could Hurt All Illinois Schools

Illinois' public school managers say they're worried that changes Governor Rauner made to help private schools could end up hurting all schools in the state. The Illinois State Board of Education on Friday said that the governor's amendatory veto of the plan to authorize new money for Illinois schools will cause 'disruption and confusion' for all 852 school districts in the state. The governor changed the law to add more private schools to Illinois' new scholarship tax credit program.

Candidate Ives Says Rauner Betrayed Republicans With Abortion Law

The conservative running for Illinois governor says Republican voters should feel betrayed. State Rep Jeanne Ives yesterday said that Governor Rauner betrayed the party base when he signed a law last summer that will have taxpayers pay for abortions for state employees and women on Medicaid. Ives told the crowd at yesterday's March for Life in Chicago that with the right leaders in Springfield, Illinois could outlaw abortion.

Durbin Spokesman Stands By Senator's Version Of Trump Meeting

Dick Durbin's office is doubling down on his version of a meeting with President Trump where Durbin says the president used some vulgar language. The latest came yesterday after Georgia Senator David Perdue told ABC's "This Week" that the way Trump's comments are being portrayed is a 'gross misrepresentation.' Durbin spokesman Ben Marter Tweeted yesterday that Perdue doesn't have the credibility on Capitol Hill to back up his comments.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Illinois Reviewing Medicaid Work Requirement Rule

Illinois' Medicaid managers say they're reviewing a new rule that may allow states to ask people on the government's healthcare rolls to work.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services yesterday approved what it's calling community engagement, which opens the door for work or volunteering requirements.  The Department of Healthcare and Family Services, which runs Medicaid in Illinois, says it is looking at the rule change implications in the state.

State Farm Importing 250 Workers from Tacoma, Washington

State Farm in Bloomington is bringing in about 250 workers. The company will be taking in some of the employees being displaced by the closure of their operations center in Tacoma, Wash. to come at the end of the year. While not all of the positions are being replaced, about 250 of the jobs will be moved from Tacoma to State Farm's Bloomington headquarters.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

State Farm to Leave Downtown Bloomington

State Farm employees are leaving the insurer's downtown building by the end of the month.

The Pantagraph reports State Farm informed local officials about the decision during phone calls Thursday afternoon.

Despite this move, the company plans to continue to call Bloomington home with its 15,000 local employees.

This comes as the company redefines itself into a modern workplace, a move that includes condensing its IT departments, realigning management, offering buyouts and redesigning space at its corporate and south headquarters.

Cold Blast Targeting Illinois

Illinois' warm week is coming to a quick end. The National Weather Service says most of the state will see temperatures drop from the 50s today to the 20s tomorrow.  There's also a chance for rain or snow for most of the state

One of Butler's Attorneys May Be Disqualified for Conflict of Interest

The state is asking that one of the lawyers for CIAM owner John Butler be disqualified from the legal team defending him on criminal charges related to his alleged theft of city money. Scott Kording is on Butler's felony case. The state claims that Kording's current representation of Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner in an Illinois State Police investigation into the use of a city P-card for plane tickets poses a conflict of interest.

Parents Question Unit 5 School Board Over Football Coach's Resignation

Parents at Normal West High School are asking the Unit 5 School Board for answers, after the school's head football coach unexpectedly resigned last month. Darren Hess has been with the program 15 seasons. When he resigned in December, he told the public he wanted to spend more time with his family. Many suspect he was forced to resign, after emails became public in which the administration was questioning how assistant coaches were paid. Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel says the IHSA is reviewing the payments.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

New Plan Would Build Hotel, Conference Center In Downtown Bloomington

There's a new plan to build a new hotel and conference center in downtown Bloomington.  Developer Jim Pearson yesterday said he wants to find partners including the city of Bloomington to build a 110-room hotel and adjoining conference center next to the city's downtown coliseum.  This is not the first proposal.  Others in the past have fallen short because of the tremendous potential cost to taxpayers in Bloomington.

Bloomington Downtown Task Force Meeting is On Again

Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner is calling a special council meeting with the Bloomington Downtown task Force next week. It comes after the council voted 5-4 Monday to cancel a work session with them. The group was expected to talk about combining a bus station with a new library in the downtown area, as a possible catalyst project to drive visitors. It is one of the Downtown Task Force's recommendations to help revitalize the area. Some alderman have said they're not interested in moving forward with the idea, and are disappointed the meeting is rescheduled.

Fire Kills Clinton Woman, Injures Son

An elderly woman died Tuesday night in a house fire in Clinton, and her son was being treated for injuries at a Springfield hospital.  The fire started around 9:30 p.m. toward the back of the house. The DeWitt County Coroner is not disclosing the address or the woman's name until her family is notified

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Bloomington State of the City

Bloomington mayor Tari Renner says the city has seen a lot of accomplishments and progress over the last year. During his annual state of the city address, Renner spoke about the progress Bloomington has made in infrastructure improvements and economic development. The mayor says the city is looking to continue to to revitalize the downtown and to bring in more visitors, improve facilities around the city, and bring more business to the area. The mayor also acknowledged there are some communication hurdles and fiscal challenges ahead. Bloomington is looking at a $3 million deficit in its upcoming budget.

Downtown Task Force

Bloomington's Downtown Task Force presented most of its findings to the council, Monday night. The recommended quick fixes, like bringing center and main street down to one lane, and creating more diagonal parking, rather than parallel and adding more public art and green spaces. The council voted to cancel this month's Committee of the Whole meeting, where the task force was expected to talk about the idea of bringing a Connect Transit hub and the Bloomington Public Library together in one downtown building.

Fire Update

Fire destroyed a two-story house and a car parked next to it Monday afternoon west of Bloomington at 8778 E. 1350 North Road.  The fire was reported around 3pm but was under control about 6:30 p.m.  Dale Township firefighters stayed at the scene after 9 p.m. to clean up and secure the scene. No injuries were reported. The cause of the blaze and damage estimate has not yet been released.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Firefighters On-Scene of a Blaze West of Bloomington

Firefighters from Dale Township, Mount Hope, Carlock, Danvers, Allin Township, Minier, McLean and Bloomington Township are on the scene of a 2-story house fire west of Bloomington in the 8000 block of East 1350 North Road, about ½ mile east of Covell Road. The home on that property is destroyed, along with a vehicle. The good news is that there are no injuries reported so far

Lil Beaver Brewery Opening this Week in Bloomington, IL

After a longer than anticipated build out period, Lil Beaver Brewery at 16 Currency Drive in Bloomington is set to open its doors on Thursday, January 11th with a Tap Handle Dedicated to Local Charities.

The Brewery was founded by long-time friends Chad Bevers and Dale Thomas, both local to Bloomington-Normal.  The brewery has had beers available on draft in Bloomington-Normal at select locations since November, but is excited to announce the opening of the taproom this Thursday, January 11th, at 4pm. 

“Our initial hours will be limited and we’ll be featuring 10 different beers”, said Thomas, “we’re only offering our products for on-site consumption for the first couple weeks, then we’ll start offering bottles and growlers to go as well.”  Thomas also commented “our lineup will be ever changing, so you can expect something different nearly every time you visit.”

“In addition to providing great hand-crafted beers, we’re also excited to announce an ongoing promotion to help support local non-profit organizations,” commented Bevers about his project.   Bevers, who by day is the Executive Director for Midwest Food Bank in Normal IL, has worked for non-profit organizations the majority of his working career.  “I know firsthand how important awareness is for non-profit organizations, and we want our brewery to help accomplish that.”

Lil Beaver Brewery has partnered with MarcFirst as the initial recipient of their ongoing promotion to raise money and awareness for local non-profits.  The promotion, called the Helping Handle, will generate $1 for the selected charity of the month every time someone orders a pint.  “The beer on this handle might rotate throughout the month, but there will always be a tap designated as the Helping Handle”, said Bevers.  “In addition to the $1 we’ll be donating, we’re also going to ask our customers if they would like to match it.”

“MarcFirst is our initial recipient, and will be for the months of January and February”, stated Bevers.  “Their annual bowl-a-thon is in February, and since we’re donating a Brewer’s Experience Package for their auction we want to promote them for both months.”  The Brewer’s Experience will allow the winner to help design and brew a beer, then share it with their friends at a private release in the taproom before it’s available to the public.

Report: 2017 Was Illinois' Sixth Warmest Year

Scientists say 2017 was one for the record books in Illinois. The Prairie State Research Institute last week said that 2017 was Illinois' sixth warmest year ever. Researchers say temperatures were ten degrees above normal. The hottest days of the year came in September, and the late winter of 2017 was unseasonably warm as well.

Closings/Cancellation 1/8/18

Pontiac Grade Schools 429 - Closed

Pontiac Township High School  - Closed

Prairie Central Schools  - Closed

Central Catholic High School, and Epiphany and St. Mary's Schools - Closed

Unit 5 Schools  - Closed

Friday, January 5, 2018

Uptown Circle to Get Another Hi-Rise?

Town of Normal officials are looking at proposals for another high-rise that could be coming to Uptown Circle. The various plans including but not limited to 104 E. Beaufort St.  with a price tag of between $21 million and $30 million. The Pantagraph reports one of  the plans could be approved as soon as next week. The town owns the property at 104 E. Beaufort St., which is a two-story building and adjacent parking lot that is home to The Pod. That art and gift store is closing next month.  Published reports also indicate the development could also include 106 E. Beaufort St (Windy City Wieners) and 108 E. Beaufort (Slingshot CoWork entrepreneurial development space).

Fire at Uftring Chevrolet in Washington

Several fire departments are currently fighting a large fire at the Uftring Chevrolet car dealership in Washington.

Business 24 is shut down to one lane westbound near the dealership.

Not much is known about the fire at this time, including the cause or potential injuries.

Wind Farm Update

The McLean County Zoning Board held a second hearing on Thursday night, to consider a proposed 3rd wind farm. Chicago-based Invenergy submitted a permit application last month to bring about 100 wind turbines to McLean County. They would span across about 13,000 acres, in 5 different townships. Community and board members expressed concerns over the estimated turbine noise. A company rep said the turbines will meet state noise standards.

McLean County Backs Away From Recycling Mandate

Leaders in McLean County might not be ready to force landlords and business owners to recycle.  The county's land use committee yesterday refused to sign off on a proposal that would require apartment owners and businesses in the county to recycle cardboard, glass, plastic, and metal cans.  County board member Ryan Scritchlow says he has a problem with forcing landlords and business owners to do something.  Advocates say they want a recycling mandate to meet their goal to have 80-percent of people in the county participating in a recycling program.

Closings/Cancellations 1/5/18

For Friday, 1/5/18

  • Cornerstone Christian Academy, 1 hr delay - before school care available at 8 a.m. 
  • Deer Creek-Mackinaw schools 
  • Heartland Head Start 
  • Pontiac Grade School 429 (no athletic practices or games)
  • Pontiac High School and Livingston Area Career Center
  • Prairie Central Schools 
  • Lexington schools 
  • Tremont schools
  • St. Patrick's School, Washington      

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Bloomington Man Apprehended for Sexually Preying on Children

Andre Banks, 53, of Bloomington, faces multiple counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a victim under age 13 and multiple counts of criminal sexual abuse of a victim under 13. He was arrested on Jan. 2. The investigation is ongoing. Police believe there may be additional victims in the Bloomington-Normal area. Anyone with information is asked to call Det. Mike Burns at (309) 434-2457 or CrimeStoppers at (309) 828-1111.

McLean County Gaming Machine Burglars

A pair of burglary suspects seen in Chenoa over the weekend were also spotted in another McLean County town.  The men were observed at the Downs Travel Mart around 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 31, according to the McLean County Sheriff's Office. The men were also spotted damaging and stealing from gaming machines in Chenoa on New Year's Eve.  Anyone with information should call the McLean County Sheriff's Office at 888-5019 or CrimeStoppers at 828-1111.

Wind Farm Hearing

The McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals finished the first part of its public hearing Tuesday night of deciding whether or not the county will get a new wind farm.. Most of the meeting was focused on Chicago-based Invenergy, the company proposing the new wind farm. The company wants to build 100 new wind turbines over five townships. It would be the county's third wind farm Several community members voiced concerns over turbine placement and property values. Invenergy's experts say that the turbines are not likely to bring down property value.  The company says the project would create more than 500 new construction jobs and power 69,000 homes annually. The board is planning to meet again on Thursday.

United Van Lines: Illinois Top State For People Moving Out

More people are moving out of Illinois than any other state in the nation.  United Van Lines yesterday released its annual survey of where people are moving to and where they are moving from.  Illinois is the top state to get away from as United says 63-percent of people moving left the state.  Vermont is the most moved-to state, but United says the rest of the top-ten most popular states are all in the west or the south.

Rape Charges

A 20-year-old Bloomington man and two juveniles are accused of sexually assaulting a woman at a Normal motel in a case that may lead to charges against two additional suspects. The Pantagraph reports Adrian Damian-Moya is charged with three counts of criminal sexual assault involving the use of force during a November incident at Motel 6. Two male juveniles have been detained and charges are being evaluated against another man named in a probable-cause statement read by a prosecutor Tuesday at Damian-Moya's bond hearing.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Bloomington Bacon & Beer Festival

Bloomington's Bacon & Beer Festival is the region's first bacon & beer event and will bring many delicious beers and bacon dishes together. The Friday, February 16th event at Grossinger Motors Arena will feature 10+ local restaurants that will showcase numerous bacon dishes. The event will also offer samples of approximately 100 different craft beers. All samples are included in the price of admission.  CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS

Fire at Grand Bear Lodge

Multiple fire departments battled a large fire at out at Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Resort in Utica, IL  near Starved Rock State Park.  The blaze broke around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to LaSalle County Sheriff deputies. The La Salle News-Tribune reports the fire started in the water park area of the resort. No injuries have been reported. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Illinois Takes Next Step In Managed Medicaid Care

Another 800 thousand people in Illinois' Medicaid program are starting the new year with a new doctor. The state took the next step in its massive Medicaid managed care program with the new year. State officials say it will be cheaper, eventually, to get the three million people who are enrolled in Medicaid in the state into regular contact with doctors and nurses. The state is spending 60 billion-dollars on this round of managed care, though there are questions about if the state should spend more.

Peoria Coroner: Cold Blamed For Elderly Woman's Death

Investigators in Peoria are blaming an elderly woman's death on the bitter cold. Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood says it appears that 86-year-old Barbara Crain died Saturday after falling outside her home. Harwood says Crain didn't suffer any injuries from the fall, but was left outside in single degree temperatures. Police say they don't know how long Crain was out in the cold.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Illinois Gets 200 New Laws To Start 2018

Illinois is starting 2018 with 200 new laws. Lawmakers created new rules for everything from car test drives to how domestic abuse victims get to handle the cell phone bills. In addition to all of the new rules, two of Illinois' biggest changes from 2017 - the income tax increase and new school funding formula - officially take full effect this year as well. See More Here

Peoria Police: McDonald's Customer Left Cocaine With Payment

If you're missing some cocaine after a trip trough a McDonald's drive through, the Peoria Police Department may have your drugs. Officers say someone on Saturday paid for their burgers and fries with a handful of cash, and a few eight balls of cocaine. Police say they think the woman mistakenly left the drugs behind, but they're not saying how much the cocaine is worth.

Chicago Murders Lower Than 2016, But Still High

Chicago ended 2017 with nearly 100 fewer murders than the year before, but the city saw more murder than most other U.S. cities. Chicago Police say just over 660 people were killed in the city in 2017. That's down nearly 100 killings from 2016. But over 600 murders puts Chicago far ahead of cities like New York and Los Angeles which saw under 300 murders each.