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April 20, 2014, 6:53 pm
970 WMAY News Archives for 2013-03

Edwards A Firm ''No'' On Tax Hikes For Infrastructure


A Springfield alderman is rejecting tax or fee increases of any kind to pay for infrastructure… and says the city must learn to live within its means. 

 

In a Facebook post, Ward 1 Alderman Frank Edwards says if the city is still giving out pay raises, then it hasn’t yet cut to the bone. 

 

Edwards also tells constituents not to bother calling him on the issue… because he will not vote for tax increases to fund an infrastructure program.

Milton Says He Was a Victim Of ''Ethnocentrism''


In his final weekend on the job, outgoing Springfield school superintendent Walter Milton suggests the deck was stacked against him from the time he arrived in town. 

 

Milton says there are elements of what he calls “ethnocentrism”… and what others have called “racism”… throughout the community, and he says that made it more difficult for him to achieve what he wanted to do. 

 

[Milton made his comments for our weekend “Podium” program.]

School Board Member Stands By CCPA Vote


A Springfield school board member says she stands by her vote to close the Capital College Preparatory Academy… despite the backlash it has caused. 

 

Lisa Funderburg says the district had no choice financially but to close the school.  But Funderburg’s challenger in the April 9th election, Teresa Jones, says the school board did not fully explore all other alternatives before pulling the plug on CCPA.

 

Funderburg and Jones are facing off in Subdistrict 1, one of four contested races for the Springfield school board.

Lawmakers Criticized For ''Frivolous'' Bills


Illinois lawmakers are taking some heat for wasting time on frivolous matters. 

 

Critics say lawmakers should be focused on big issues like pensions rather than bills banning the sale of lion meat or prohibiting drivers from having a pet in their laps. 

 

But local lawmaker Rich Brauer tells a Quad Cities TV station that some of those smaller bills are big issues to constituents, and shouldn’t be ignored.

State Police Mourn Second Line Of Duty Death In Five Months


An Illinois State Police trooper who had asked to be return to highway patrols has been killed in the line of duty… when his squad car was struck by a semi near Chicago. 

 

28-year-old Trooper James Sauter had been in air operations but had only recently returned to road patrol work.  The accident remains under investigation.

 

It was the second line-of-duty death for ISP in five months.  Trooper Kyle Deatherage was killed when he was struck by a semi while conducting a traffic stop on I-55 near Litchfield last fall.

Chandlerville Man Sent To Prison For Fatal DUI Crash


A Chandlerville man is expected to serve around four-and-a-half years in prison for a DUI crash that killed a Springfield woman last fall. 

 

19-year-old Dalton Levi Jones pleaded guilty to two felony charges in the death of Yvonne Salay-Tyson of Springfield in a head-on crash on Route 125 on November 3rd

 

In exchange for his plea, prosecutors agreed to limit the amount of time behind bars they would seek against him.

State Fire Marshal Offers Non-Fire Safety Tips


The state fire marshal isn’t just focused on fire safety this spring. 

 

Larry Matkaitis is offering some springtime safety tips… including removing drawstrings from children’s clothes so that they don’t become entangled around playground equipment. 

 

He also advises keeping house plants away from children, because they may pose a choking risk.

Milton: ''Ethnocentrism'' Played A Role In His Troubles


Although he doesn't want to call it "racism," outgoing Springfield school superintendent Walter Milton says prejudice worked against him during his tenure in District 186. 

 

Milton says there is "ethnocentrism" in the community that made it harder for him to achieve his goals.  When asked if that bias was present on the school board, Milton replies that it exists in the community, quote, "overall." 

 

A majority of the board pushed for Milton's early exit, but Milton says being forced out in the middle of the school year is highly unusual and something he didn't deserve. 

 

He appeared on our weekend show "Podium," which airs Saturday morning at 5:30 and Sunday morning at 5 and 11am.

Dist. 186 Subdistrict 1 Candidates Agree More Cuts Coming


The candidates competing in Springfield School Board Subdistrict 1 agree that more cuts are coming... and that they need to be kept as far away from the classroom as possible.

 

Lisa Funderburg and Teresa Jones met in a live joint appearance on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show" (mp3 download).

 

Funderburg says she wants the board to reconsider some of the cuts she voted for earlier this year, but which a majority of the board rejected.

 

Those include eliminating "coaching" positions where teachers work with other teachers to improve their skills.

 

Funderburg also wants to see reductions in headcount at the district's central office, in areas like human resources and communications.

 

Jones says she may ask top administrators to take a pay cut... in order to set an example from the top down.

 

The school board elections are April 9th.

Several Area Title Loans and Licensed Nurses Reprimanded by Dept. of Financial and Professional Regulations


Several title loan operations in Springfield will have to pay a combined three-thousand dollars after being fined by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations.

 

Illinois Title Loans of Springfield is charged with requiring payments that are 50 percent more than the customer’s monthly income.

 

QC Financial Services has been charged with not having accurate information about whether customers were eligible for the loans.

 

Four area registered nurses have been reprimanded.

 

Petersburg’s David Turner has his license suspended for 30 days for being late with child support payments.

 

Nicole Gory of Springfield has been reprimanded for not reporting being fired.

 

Erin Robbins of Lincoln is on indefinite probation and Jill Turner of Jacksonville is indefinitely suspended because she failed to submit to drug tests.

 

Meanwhile a cease and desist order has been given to Mike Coady from Sherman for running an unlicensed roofing operation.

 

The monthly report covers financial institutions, medical professionals, contractors and other licensed professionals.

Houston Unveils Piecemeal Infrastructure Funding Plan


Mayor Mike Houston has now decided to put an infrastructure funding plan before Springfield aldermen… even though he doesn’t yet have majority support for any aspect of the plan.

 

Houston is introducing four separate ordinances, representing individual pieces of his plan.

 

Three of the ordinances would raise the city sales tax… if all three were adopted, the full increase would be one-percent, with the money to go to major road and sewer projects and ongoing maintenance.

 

The fourth ordinance would raise the city’s sewer fee to leverage an EPA loan program for sewer repairs.

 

The mayor hopes letting aldermen “pick and choose” will lead to some combination of ideas that will address growing infrastructure needs.

Ordinance To Open Executive Session Meetings about Tree Trimmer Introduced


Two Springfield aldermen have now introduced an ordinance to release recordings from executive session meetings where a disciplinary case involving City Water Light and Power employees was discussed.

 

Frank Edwards and Gail Simpson say they want to shine some light on the comments of city officials about a whistleblower who reported that the workers were doing tree removal on private property… using city equipment on city time.

 

Eric Reiss claims the city falsely described him as non-cooperative in the case.

 

Those recordings cannot be released without a majority vote of the aldermen.

Springfield Park Board Authorizes Audit


The Springfield Park Board has authorized a special audit of park district finances following the resignation of executive director Mike Stratton.

 

The board voted Thursday to pay the firm of Kerber, Eck and Braeckel up to $10,000 to conduct the audit… although that dollar amount could increase if needed.

 

The board wants a full accounting of district money after learning that Stratton had received unapproved salary advances and reimbursements for questionable expenditures.

 

Other district employees were also allowed to cash in unused vacation time under a policy from Stratton that had not been approved by the board.

Unemployment Up to 9.2 Percent


Unemployment has taken another big upward jump in Springfield.

 

The February jobless rate climbed to 9.2 percent… up four-tenths from January and eight-tenths from February of 2012.

 

In fact, last month’s unemployment marked the highest February totals since 2010.

 

The highest jobless rate in the state now belongs to Decatur, which has been hit by manufacturing losses.

 

Unemployment there in February soared to 13.7 percent.

Riverton School Board Candidates Fear Consolidation


Most candidates for the Riverton school board say they fear consolidation with another school district may be inevitable in the next few years.

 

Eight of the nine candidates for the board took part in a public forum this week, and all said they don’t like the idea of consolidation.

 

But most think ongoing financial troubles and pressure from the state may leave the district with no choice.

 

However, some board members warn that consolidation may bring new and costly problems, from facilities to transportation.

Reported Virden Cop Impersonator Unfounded


Officials in Virden now say that a report of another police impersonator incident appears to be unfounded.

 

A motorist called authorities Thursday to report a man in an unmarked vehicle with a flashing light on the dash.

 

The motorist did not pull over, and the other car eventually passed him.

 

But after investigating, authorities now tell the SJ-R the other motorist may have just flashed his headlights at the first driver, and was not attempting to pull him over.

 

They say there is no apparent connection to a handful of police impersonation incidents in Sangamon and Macoupin Counties in recent weeks.

Carjacking Suspect Arrested


A suspect that Springfield police say went on a weeklong one-man crime spree has been arrested.

 

Authorities captured 29-year-old Joshua Rego of Springfield after he allegedly carjacked and robbed a woman in the parking lot of Kohl's Thursday afternoon.

 

After taking $600 cash from the victim, police say Rego forced her at gunpoint to drive him to the downtown area.

 

From there they traced him to the north end, and then to a motel, where he was arrested.

 

Rego is also suspected of stealing a car from Friendly Chevrolet last weekend, and another car from his girlfriend earlier this week.

 

He is also a suspect in the theft of cash from a register at M&M Pools.

DIRT Nabs Another: Drug Bust Scores Nearly Two Pounds of Pot


Score another major drug bust for Sangamon County’s DIRT team.

 

Less than a month after the drug enforcement unit returned to the streets, it has executed search warrants against several suspected drug houses.

 

The latest led to the arrest of a Springfield man, charged with selling marijuana out of his home as well as out of a detail shop on South Holmes.

 

28-year-old Milton Holmes is facing multiple charges after authorities seized nearly two pounds of marijuana and more than $7,000 cash.

UPDATE: Reported Fake Cop Incident In Virden Appears To Be False Alarm


Officials in Virden now say that a report of another police impersonator incident appears to be unfounded. 

 

A motorist called authorities Thursday to report a man in an unmarked vehicle with a flashing light on the dash.  The motorist did not pull over, and the other car eventually passed him.

 

But after investigating, authorities now tell the SJ-R the other motorist may have just flashed his headlights at the first driver, and was not attempting to pull him over.  They say there is no apparent connection to a handful of police impersonation incidents in Sangamon and Macoupin Counties in recent weeks.

Riverton School Board Candidates Talk Consolidation


Most candidates for the Riverton School Board agree that their district may be forced into consolidation in the next few years.

 

Eight of the nine candidates for the board took part in a public forum Wednesday.  While none liked the idea of consolidation, virtually all said that financial problems and state pressure could make it inevitable in the not-too-distant future. 

 

The school board voted this week to eliminate 27 teaching positions as part of an effort to cut $2 million from the budget... which has been affected by cutbacks in state fundng.

Unemployment Climbs In Springfield


Springfield's jobless rate has taken another big jump up. 

 

The city's unemployment in February climbed to 9.2 percent, up from 8.4 percent at the same time a year earlier.  But it remains below the statewide rate of 9.5 percent. 

 

Most other major Illinois cities also saw spikes in unemployment, especially Decatur, where the jobless rate soared in February to 13.7 percent, highest in the state.

Man Arrested On Carjacking, Car Theft Charges


A suspect that Springfield police say went on a weeklong one-man crime spree has been arrested. 

 

Authorities captured 29-year-old Joshua Rego of Springfield after he allegedly carjacked and robbed a woman in the parking lot of Kohl's Thursday afternoon.  After taking $600 cash from the victim, police say Rego forced her at gunpoint to drive him to the downtown area.  From there they traced him to the north end, and then to a motel, where he was arrested. 

 

Rego is also suspected of stealing a car from Friendly Chevrolet last weekend, and another car from his girlfriend earlier this week.  He is also a suspect in the theft of cash from a register at M&M Pools.

Sangamon County DIRT Team Busts Car Detailer


The Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office’s DIRT team are at it again. They conducted two search warrants in Sangamon County, both related to the same case.

 

The team received several complaints about illegal drug sales at a Detail Shop located behind a residence in the 2900 block of South Holmes, so they made a controlled buy and busted 29-year-old Milton Holmes at his home in the 700 block of North 6th, and seized a nearly two pounds of suspected marijuana and $7,100 in cash. Holmes is charged with Manufacture and Delivery of cannabis, but more charges are expected to be filed.

 

The Springfield Police Department’s PAC unit provided information on the case.

Mayor Houston Lays Out Infrastructure Plan


Mayor Mike Houston has decided to send his infrastructure funding plan to aldermen piece by piece.

 

Houston is introducing four separate ordinances, each with components of his original plan to pay for street and sewer repairs. The first three take his original one percent sales tax hike and split it into pieces of one half, one quarter, and one quarter percent. The fourth ordinance provides an alternate funding plan for sewers by increasing the city’s sewer fee five percent a year for ten years.

 

Houston says breaking the plan apart will let aldermen pick and choose the best way to pay for infrastructure needs, but he admits that so far, none of the ordinances have enough votes for passage.

Riverton School Board Candidates Face Stark Reality of Dwindling State Dollars


Candidates for the Riverton School Board say there’s not much hope that the district’s revenue picture will improve any time soon.

 

The school board voted this week to slash 27 teaching positions as it tries to cut $2 million from next school year’s budget.

 

Candidates taking part in a forum in Riverton last night say they expect state funds for education to keep shrinking… and see little hope that voters would agree to a tax increase.

 

So they say, unless grant money or other revenue sources can be found, more cuts are likely.

Dist. 186 Subdistrict 5 Candidates Differ on Teachers' Wages


A candidate for Springfield school board who recently picked up the endorsement of the teachers union says she would be willing to consider a wage freeze for teachers as a cost-cutting move.

 

Subdistrict 5 candidate Donna Moore says it is one idea that could be considered as District 186 tries to find a way to cut millions more from its budget.

 

Moore received the Springfield Education Association’s endorsement this spring over opponent Katharine Eastvold… who says she thinks teachers should receive a reasonable salary increase from year to year.

Alderman Jobe: Make Infrastructure Finance Plans Public


A Springfield alderman says it’s time to start bringing some infrastructure funding plans up for a vote.

 

There has been behind-the-scenes discussion for months on how to pay for critical street and sewer needs, but Alderman Cory Jobe says the conversation needs to come out into the open.

 

Jobe favors a sales tax increase to finance bonds for a long-range infrastructure program, but others prefer increasing the sewer fee paid by city residents.

 

None of those ideas have yet been introduced as an ordinance before the City Council.

Ordinance Required For Release of Executive Session Recordings on CWLP Tree Trimmer Case


At least two aldermen say they will push for the release of recordings of City Council executive sessions related to the discipline of City Water Light and Power workers accused of doing private work on city time.

 

Frank Edwards says administration officials may have misled aldermen with comments they made about the complaining witness in the case.

 

That witness, Eric Reiss, says he was falsely accused of failing to cooperate or show up for hearings in the case.

 

970 WMAY requested the recordings in question, but the request was denied on the grounds that aldermen must vote to release executive session materials.

 

Edwards and Alderman Gail Simpson are now asking for that vote.

Springfield Park District Discusses Possible Funds Audit Tonight


The Springfield Park Board holds a special meeting tonight to discuss a possible special audit of park district funds.

 

Its finances have been under scrutiny following revelations that park district employees had received large payouts for unused vacation time, without board authorization.

 

Former Executive Director Mike Stratton resigned several weeks ago after questions were raised about the vacation pay and other expenditures and reimbursements.

Man Who Stabbed Doctor Gets 28 Year Sentence


A Springfield man has been sentenced to 28 years in prison for stabbing an emergency room doctor at St. John’s Hospital in 2010.

 

The State Journal-Register reports 48-year-old James Hughes began swearing at Circuit Judge John Belz as Belz was pronouncing sentence.

 

Hughes was removed from the courtroom after the outburst.

 

He stabbed the doctor with a steak knife after she entered an examining room to treat him.

 

The doctor has recovered from her injuries.

Council Closed Door Session Records May Be Released


By this time next week the public may get a rare chance to review records of a behind-closed-doors meeting with Springfield officials.

 

Ward 1 Alderman Frank Edwards says he feels the city council was lied to by the Houston Administration about the credibility of a witness who complained about misconduct by CIty Water Light and Power employees. Edwards says those executive session recordings must be made public to set the record straight. Ward 2's Gail Simpson is joining in the call to release the recordings.

 

 

970 WMAY News has requested the records from closed meetings where the firing and subsequent rehiring of CWLP employee Matt Winters was discussed. But that request was rejected by the city clerk, who says executive session minutes can only be released with a city ordinance. Winters was the center of attention last March when a ratepayer reported to seeing him and several other people using City Water Light and Power equipment on city time to cut down a tree on private property.

School Board Candidate Would Consider Wage Freeze For Teachers


A candidate for the Springfield School Board says it might be necessary to consider a wage freeze for teachers, as District 186 looks for ways to cut millions more from its budget. 

 

Subdistrict 5 candidate Donna Moore... who got the endorsement of the city's teachers union this spring... says it's just an idea that should be considered among other ways of bringing spending under control.

 

Moore's opponent, Katharine Eastvold, says teachers are the biggest expense for the district because they are its biggest asset. Eastvold says there's nothing wrong with giving teachers a reasonable increase in salary from year to year.  Both candidates appared live on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show."

Jobe Pushes For Votes On Infrastructure Funding Proposals


A Springfield alderman says it's time to call the question about how to pay for the city's urgent infrastructure needs. 

 

Alderman Cory Jobe says various funding proposals should be put into ordinance form and brought before the City Council in order to put aldermen on the record.  Mayor Mike Houston has so far declined to introduce his funding plan because he lacks the votes for passage. 

 

Jobe believes there are at least four votes in support of finding infrastructure funding from a sales tax increase... which would be paid by both residents and visitors to the city.  He's also calling on other aldermen with different proposals to bring their ideas forward in ordinance form.

City Officials Form Working Group to Focus on Diversity


Top Springfield city officials will work together to formulate strategies for boosting minority hiring at City Hall.

 

Mayor Mike Houston has formed a Diversity Council… led by community relations coordinator Sandy Robinson and made up of other city department directors.

 

The mayor says the objective is to make sure that the city’s workforce reflects the racial makeup of the community… and to change a perception in the community that certain groups do not have a fair shot at city jobs.

Snow Emergency Lifted for Springfield


It’s another sign of the city’s rapid rebound after Sunday’s record snowfall.

 

The city is lifting its Snow Emergency declaration, as of 7am this morning.

 

That means cars can once again park on designated snow routes, something that had been prohibited since the emergency was declared at the height of the snowstorm.

City Continues Debate on Nearly $1 Million Contract For Yard Waste Disposal


More Springfield City Council debate is expected next week on a nearly-one-million-dollar contract to provide a drop-off site for limbs and branches.

 

The three-year deal with Rex Evans would allow residents to drop off branches and large limbs at the Evans Recycling facility on J. David Jones Parkway any time of the year.

 

The city would still offer its periodic free curbside pickup.

 

As part of the deal, Evans would purchase the city’s “tub grinder” to mulch the branches and limbs… at a price of $167,000.

Tree Trimming Witness Calls For Criminal Charges Against CWLP Employee


The controversy continues over three City Water Light and Power workers who were disciplined for doing work on private property… using city equipment on city time.

 

The man who brought the incident to light says he was unfairly maligned by city officials who claimed he failed to show up to testify at an arbitration hearing for the three workers.

 

Eric Reiss says he was never notified about the hearing, which resulted in a fired worker being reinstated.

 

He also questions why the workers were not prosecuted for theft.

 

Some aldermen want Mayor Mike Houston to release recordings of closed-door discussions about the case.

Delays in FOID Card Issuance Exceeds 30 Days, More Than 70,000 Applications In March


State police say people are now having to wait more than 60 days to obtain a Firearm Owners Identification Card.

 

But some gun enthusiasts contend the wait is much longer… between three and four months.

 

Both sides agree that there has been an explosion in the number of FOID card requests since the Connecticut school massacre reignited the debate over gun control.

 

A record 70,000 FOID card applications have been received by the state so far in March.

Medical Marijuana Sponsor Urges Constituents To Contact Their Lawmakers


The sponsor of a bill to legalize medical marijuana hopes people will contact their local lawmakers to urge support for the bill.

 

Democratic Representative Lou Lang says he has almost enough votes lined up to approve the bill, but remains one or two short.

 

Springfield-area lawmakers Sue Scherer, Raymond Poe and Rich Brauer have not committed to support the bill, according to Lang.

 

He says many lawmakers may want to vote for medical marijuana, but fear a backlash if they are perceived as soft on drugs.

Aldermen Push to Make Executive Session Records Public, and Other City Business


Several Springfield Aldermen are suggesting that the city release executive session recordings where the council talked about an incident that led to the firing and rehiring of a City Water Light and Power employee. Current CWLP employee Matt Winters was fired and later rehired from cutting down part of a tree on his brother's property last March. Some aldermen say that releasing the recordings of the session will clear the credibility of the witness, Eric Riess, who claims he was not allowed to testify during an arbitration hearing that led to Winters getting back his job. Riess contends that criminal charges should be pressed against Winters. Mayor Mike Houston says there was enough evidence to fire Winters but not to press criminal charges.

 

In other city business, another hospital skywalk could soon start construction if the city council approves an agreement for Memorial Health System to lease some airspace over Miller Street. The ordinance granting the request for a lease was placed on the consent agenda. Plans provided to the city shows a second floor skywalk that attaches a parking garage with the hospital's Center for Learning and Innovation.

 

Meanwhile, a sports complex that will have baseball, softball and soccer fields is now closer to becoming reality. The area just northwest of the I-72, I-55 interchange could soon be the place for the Legacy Sports complex, a field that developers hope will host area and national little-league tournaments Aldermen Cory Jobe initially held up the ordinance granting a zoning variance because of concerns raised about traffic and drainage. Jobe says those issues have been addressed and the project is ready to move forward.

 

Aldermen will continue to debate an ordinance that would give nearly $1 million to a company to dispose of yard waste. The three year contract with Evans Cartage would have the company taking all yard waste from the city to process it into compost and other organic material. The agreement will also declare a tub grinder surplus and provide for the sale of the machine to Evans. Public Works Director Mark Mahoney says this deal could mean some savings in the long run because of gas and wear and tear upkeep for the grinder and space rental for the yard waste plus other factors. Alderman placed that ordinance on the debate agenda.

 

An ordinance that would cap the number of non-seasonal employees at city hall will have to wait another day for Aldermen to pass. The measure failed to get enough votes to get out of committee. Aldermen Stave Dove, one of the sponsors of the measure, was absent from Tuesday's committee meeting. Several members of the public spoke to aldermen, commending the mayor and the city for cutting back but also pushing the importance of holding the city accountable when it comes to headcount.

Springfield Snow Emergency To Be Lifted At 7am Wednesday


The City of Springfield will lift its Snow Emergency declaration at 7am Wednesday morning, according to a press release from the mayor's office.

 

The declaration was put in place Sunday during the record 18-inch snowfall. The end of the emergency declaration means that cars will once again be allowed to park on designated snow routes.

New City Diversity Council Seeks To Improve Minority Recruitment, Hiring


The City of Springfield is working to change a perception that minorities do not have an equal opportunity to land jobs in city government.  

 

Mayor Mike Houston has announced the creation of an internal working group known as the Diversity Council.  

 

That group, to be led by Community Relations Director Sandy Robinson, will meet to evaluate the current culture of city employment… and how to best change those practices to be more inclusive and reflect the racial makeup of Springfield.  Robinson says that the newly formed council will also evaluate ways to improve diversity in the awarding of contracts.  

Proposal Would Require Every City Ordinance To Include Fiscal Impact Note


Several items on the agenda for tonight’s Springfield City Council committee of the whole…

 

Aldermen will consider a proposal to require a financial impact statement be attached to all future ordinances.  The proposal came up after aldermen voted earlier this year to cut the city’s towing fee in half… only to be told at the last minute would havea  financial impact.  

 

Also on tonight's agenda is a resolution that would oppose Governor Pat Quinn's proposals to withhold a portion of the state shared income tax.  Budget Director Bill McCarty says that could cost the city up to $1.3 million dollars in the first year alone.

Lawmaker Looking For Final Votes To Pass Medical Marijuana Bill


The sponsor of a bill to legalize marijuana use for medicinal purposes is asking people to contact their local lawmaker and urge them to support the bill. 

 

State Representative Lou Lang (D-Skokie) says he is only one or two votes short of approval in the House… and believes more than a dozen lawmakers want to support the bill but fear a political backlash. 

 

Lang dismisses the idea that approving medical marijuana will open the door for more widespread use of pot. He says the point of the bill is simply to provide relief for seriously ill people.

Davis: More Cooperative Approach On Capitol Hill Is Within Reach


Even though he views himself as the “Number One” target of Democrats in next year’s Congressional elections, Republican Rodney Davis says he’s still optimistic about a more cooperative working relationship with the other side of the aisle on Capitol Hill.

 

Davis appeared live on 970 WMAY, ahead of a meeting with business leaders at the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. 

 

Davis says his message is despite years of partisan gridlock, there is a greater desire among rank-and-file lawmakers to work together and start getting things done.

Cleanup Near Complete After Record Snowfall in Capital City


Many roads in and around Springfield are in much better shape… a day after the end of the biggest snowstorm in the city’s history.

 

Springfield public works crews have been working around the clock since the 18-inch-plus snowfall began early Sunday.

 

Public works director Mark Mahoney says the record snow gave the city a chance for a real-time test of its tracking equipment to show where plows have been… and what parts of town haven’t yet been plowed.

 

Main roads in the city and county are largely clear, but some side roads may still be snowpacked.

 

Most local schools are expected to resume classes today, and Springfield Mass Transit District buses should be back to normal operations today.

Major Road Projects in Sangamon County Announced By Governor Quinn


Sangamon County has two major projects on Governor Pat Quinn’s half-billion-dollar list of road and bridge work for the spring construction season.

 

The state plans to seek bids next month for the projects… including a $1.8 million resurfacing project on Route 4 from Chatham to Auburn, and a million-dollar program for widening and other improvements on South Sixth Street Road from Stevenson Drive to the 6th Street frontage road.

 

Quinn says the 200 projects statewide represent one of the biggest spring construction plans in the state’s history.

City Headcount Cap Back In Front of Springfield Aldermen


Springfield Alderman Joe McMenamin is reviving his call for a cap on the number of employees in city government.

 

His proposal to limit that number to 1500 was defeated several weeks ago on a 5-5 tie… but McMenamin says he’s tweaking the proposal in hopes of picking up the last vote needed for passage.

 

Mayor Mike Houston voted present last time… and says he doesn’t believe the cap is necessary.

 

But McMenamin says at a time when the city is considering raising taxes for infrastructure, it needs to bring all of its spending under tighter control.

Robocalls Opposing Same Sex Marriage Go Out Before U.S. Supreme Court Hearing


As the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the issue of same-sex marriage today, both sides of the debate in Illinois are also picking up the pace of their lobbying efforts.

 

Family-PAC… which opposes same-sex marriage… has been conducting robocalls around the state.

 

Some targeting Southern Illinois ask voters if their lawmaker stands with, quote, “the Chicago homosexuals, or your family?”

 

Supporters of marriage equality are also trying to line up the last few votes needed to win approval in the House when lawmakers return next month.

Slew of Bills to Address Shortage of Primary Care Physicians in Rural Areas


State lawmakers are trying to address a growing shortage of primary care physicians, especially in rural areas around the state.

 

But those efforts have not gone smoothly.

 

Several bills in Springfield attempt to alleviate the effects of the doctor shortage by giving nurse practitioners more autonomy, licensing midwives, allowing dentists to administer vaccinations, and allowing psychologists to prescribe certain mental health medications.

 

None of those bills have yet passed the Illinois legislature.

Road Crews Work To Clear Streets Of Massive Snowfall


Springfield Public Works crews are still trying to conquer the record-setting snowfall that hit the city from early Sunday to early Monday. 

 

Director Mark Mahoney says the major snowstorm is providing the first real-time test of the city’s tracking system… that allows officials to determine which areas have been plowed and which haven’t. 

 

Crews will work through the night to get into residential areas and make sure all second- and third- tier roads have been tackled.

SMTD Day And Night Bus Service Cancelled For Monday


Springfield Mass Transit District buses will not be running for the remainder of the day today or tonight. 

 

Because of the heavy snowpack still on many bus routes throughout the city, the SMTD first delayed and then cancelled service for the day. Access Springfield transit for the disabled is also cancelled for the day.

 

The agency expects to resume normal operations on Tuesday.

Lumber Company Shed Collapses Under Weight Of Snow


Among the casualties from Sunday’s record snowfall was an open-air shed used to store lumber at the Carter Brothers lumber facility near Sherman. 

 

An official with the company says the weight of snow piled on the roof… combined with strong winds… was too much for the structure to bear, causing the roof to cave in.  But the lumber inside was not damaged and will be salvaged. 

 

The company has two other similar sheds… but officials say so far they remain intact.

Quinn Proposes Nearly Half-A-Billion Dollars In Road, Bridge Projects


At least two major Sangamon County projects are among nearly half-a-billion dollars in road and bridge work planned for the spring construction season, under a list released by Governor Pat Quinn. 

 

Quinn says the $486 million package will create thousands of jobs and improve public safety by upgrading the state’s infrastructure. 

 

Those projects… which will go out for bid next month… include $1.8 million for resurfacing and other work between Chatham and Auburn… and $1 million for widening, sidewalks, traffic signals and other improvements on South Sixth Street Road from Stevenson Drive to the Sixth Street Frontage Road.

Over Half of Area Roads Fully Snow/Ice Covered


Area roads are either entirely covered by snow and ice or 50 percent clear, according to a report from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

 

The report breaks down the roads and highways by county with a 1 to 6 rating, 1 being all clear and 6 being 100 percent covered with ice and/or snow.

 

No area roads have any rating below 4.

 

Over half of the reported roads in the area are 100 percent covered with snow and ice.

Record Snow for Central Illinois


Road crews have been working through the night in an effort to clear streets of more than a foot of snow that has fallen since early Sunday morning.

 

Latest totals from around Sangamon County range from 13 to 15 inches, shattering records for this time of year. Most schools in the area are closed today, and it’s a good idea to call ahead before venturing out for other activities.

 

In addition, a snow emergency remains in effect for Springfield… vehicles may not be parked on designated snow routes until Wednesday, or until the snow emergency declaration is lifted.

 

Springfield Mass Transit District buses will not be running until at least 9:45am Monday.

 

But take heart… temperatures will be in the mid- to upper- 50s by next weekend.

Illini Fans Say Botched Call Ended Season


Fighting Illini fans are livid about what they see as a botched call that helped Miami hang on for an NCAA tournament victory that ended the season for Illinois.

 

In the scramble for the ball after a missed three-pointer, the ball appeared to bounce off the hands of a Miami player before going out of bounds.

 

But the refs gave the ball to Miami.

 

The Hurricanes held on for a 63-59 win and advance to the Round of 16 at the tournament. Illinois ends its season with a record of 23-and-13.

Legacy Sports Complex To Move Forward


A planned sports complex for Springfield’s southwest side now appears to be on a fast track for approval… after months of delay amid concerns about traffic and drainage.

 

Several Springfield aldermen say their concerns about the Legacy Sports Complex have been addressed, and Alderman Cory Jobe says he will seek to have a zoning ordinance for the facility placed on the consent agenda for next week’s City Council meeting.

 

The Legacy complex will offer baseball, softball and soccer fields.

 

The developer says it could mean millions of dollars in economic impact for the city.

Watchdog: Longer Sentences Don't Deter Crime, Increases Dangers Inside Walls


A push to toughen the penalties for possession and use of firearms by felons and street-gang members is raising concerns about the potential impact on Illinois prison overcrowding.

 

Chicago officials want to impose tougher mandatory sentences and limit the use of probation for such weapons offenses.

 

But prison watchdog groups say longer sentences don’t deter crime… but will continue to increase the dangers inside prison walls.

Major Winter Storm Dumps More Than A Foot Of Snow On Sangamon County


Four days after the official start of spring, Central Illinois is buried under one of the biggest snowfalls in years.  As of 8pm Sunday night, a foot of snow had officially fallen in Springfield, with even higher amounts recorded in other parts of Sangamon County.  And more snow was expected overnight.

 

Stay with 970 WMAY for updates on the weather and road conditions.

District 186, Most Other Central Illinois Schools Closed Monday; No SMTD Bus Service Until At Least 9:45am Monday


The biggest snowfall of the winter has forced school districts across Central Illinois to cancel classes for Monday.  Springfield District 186 is among the districts that will be closed.  In addition, Springfield Mass Transit District buses will not be running until at least 9:45am Monday.  For the complete list of closings and cancellations, click here.

Springfield Declares Snow Emergency; No Parking On Designated Snow Routes


The City of Springfield has declared a snow emergency because of the heavy snowfall.  That means vehicles cannot be parked on designated snow routes for 72 hours from the time of the declaration Sunday afternoon, or until the order is lifted.  Vehicles parked in violation of the snow emergency declaration may be towed.

 

Sangamon County has issued a Level 2 snow emergency.  The advisory declaration states that some county roads may be impassable, and travel on county roadways is discouraged.

Springfield Airport Tower Spared, But Airport Manager Still Concerned About Other Closures


The general manager of Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport is relieved that Springfield is not included on a list of airport control tower closures by the FAA. 

 

But Mark Hanna says he’s worried that the safety of air travel could be compromised by other tower closures, including those at the airports in Bloomington and Decatur. 

 

Bloomington airport officials say they will pay to keep their tower open, even without the FAA funds that were cut because of the federal budget sequester.

Springfield Man Convicted Of Burglary Says SPD Improperly Seized Evidence


A Springfield man has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for a series of residential burglaries in Decatur. 

 

But the Herald and Review newspaper says Floyd Brown’s attorney may appeal the verdict.  Attorney Jon Gray Noll says evidence against Brown was improperly obtained when Springfield police entered his residence without a search warrant.

Lawmakers Take Two-Week Spring Break


With major issues like pensions still unresolved, the Illinois General Assembly is going on a two-week spring break. 

 

Lawmakers have approved some components of a pension reform plan, but there’s still no clear consensus on a comprehensive approach to fix the problem. 

 

They will return in April for an eight-week push to the scheduled end of the session.

Illinois House GOP Seeks Enforce State Balanced Budget Requirement


Illinois House Republicans have proposed a constitutional amendment that they say will put some teeth behind the state’s requirement to have a balanced budget. 

 

Under the GOP proposal, any spending plan approved by the legislature must be certified as “balanced” by the Auditor General.  If the spending plan is found not to be balanced, the state would be ordered to halt paychecks to lawmakers and top state officials, and to stop payments for all non-essential services, until a balanced budget is passed.

Springfield Airport Tower To Stay Open; Bloomington, Decatur On Closure List


Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport officials are relieved at the news that the air traffic control tower her will stay open. 

 

Springfield had been on a preliminary list of possible tower closures because of the federal budget sequester.  But the list of FAA cuts focuses on towers that are manned by contractual personnel, rather than a full FAA tower like Springfield.  That means several Illinois airport towers will close temporarily... including Bloomington and Decatur. 

 

Springfield airport manager Mark Hanna says closing those towers is, quote, "an embarrassment" to the American aviation system, but he warns it could also be hazardous.  And he says no one may really know just how dangerous it will be until something bad happens.

John Mayer To Perform At State Fair


One of the most popular singers and songwriters in recent years will perform at the Illinois State Fair this summer. The fair has booked John Mayer for the Grandstand on August 11th.

 

Mayer is going on tour after taking months off to rest his voice following a battle with throat problems. He will be joined by Phillip Phillips, last year’s “American Idol” winner.

 

The big names also carry a big price tag with tickets ranging from a top price of $65 down to the cheapest seats, $40 each.

Candidate Says Unemployment Figures Justify His Run for Governor


A possible future candidate for governor says the state’s climbing unemployment shows why somebody like him should be a candidate.

 

Republican businessman Bruce Rauner says the jump in the jobless rate - up to 9.5% last month - shows that whatever is happening at the Capitol to fix the state’s economy isn’t working.

 

Rauner is conducting a “listening tour” around the state while he considers a run for governor. He says citizens have told him that they want someone new… not a career politician… to lead the state.

Stripped-Down Pension Plan Passes Illinois House


The Illinois House has approved a stripped-down pension plan that could delay and reduce cost-of-living increases for retirees and future retirees.

 

The proposal says that no cost-of-living increases can be taken until retirees reach 67 or five years after retirement and applies COLAs only to the first $25,000 of an annual pension.

 

Springfield-area representatives Raymond Poe and Sue Scherer both voted against the proposal.

 

Critics contend that it represents an unconstitutional diminishment of promised pension benefits.

IL Auditor General Pleads Guilty to DUI, Sentenced to One Year Court Supervision


Illinois’s auditor general has pleaded guilty to driving under the influence… but will be allowed to hang on to his drivers license.

 

61-year-old William Holland admitted that he was driving drunk when he was pulled over by state police in Springfield on February 6th.

 

Holland was sentenced to one year court supervision and ordered to pay more than $1500 in court costs.

 

But Sangamon County Associate Judge Rudy Braud rescinded the automatic one-year license suspension that Holland faced for refusing a breathalyzer test at the scene.

 

State’s Attorney John Milhiser says he thinks that’s appropriate, because Holland took responsibility for his actions.

Parolee Busted With Crack and $3K While Wearing DOC Monitoring Bracelet


Sangamon County’s DIRT team has been making a big mark in a short period of time.

 

Less than a month after the reconstituted drug enforcement team returned to the streets, it has racked up several big busts… including one Thursday at a home on Gaines Mill Road.

 

The sheriff’s office says a raid turned up 10 grams of crack cocaine, a scale, and $3,500 in cash.

 

25-year-old Donald Newton is facing drug charges.

 

Newton is on parole for a manslaughter charge and was wearing a state Department of Corrections monitoring bracelet when arrested.

 

Donald Newton

Donald Newton, mug shot provided by Sangamon County

Menard County Man Charged With Concealing Death of Springfield Man


Few new details have emerged in the death of a Springfield man found shot multiple times at a home in Menard County this week.

 

20-year-old Aaron Fehl was pronounced dead at the scene at that residence near Sweetwater.

 

39-year-old Charles Brackhan… who owns the home where Fehl was found… is facing a charge of concealing a death.

 

Menard County authorities have said they don’t consider Fehl’s death to be a murder, but haven’t explained what they think happened.

Unemployment Up in Illinois, But So Are Jobs


The number of jobs is on the rise in Illinois… but so is the state’s unemployment rate.

 

The jobless rate in February climbed to 9.5% last month, even though more than 12,000 new jobs were created around the state.

 

Officials say as more jobs become available, more people are actively searching for work, boosting the jobless rate numbers.

Schock Says Too Much Fed Control Of School Boards


Congressman Aaron Schock has introduced legislation that he says will take power away from the federal government and give it back to local school boards.

 

Schock started his political career by being elected to the Peoria School Board at the age of 19 on his way to becoming one of the youngest members of Congress. Now the Peoria Republican says the feds are putting too many rules and regulations on local school boards by, for example, piling on requirements for districts seeking federal grants.

 

Schock says his legislation will limit the ability of the U.S. Department of Education to impose new rules on local districts.

Illinois Auditor General Pleads Guilty To DUI


Illinois’s auditor general has pleaded guilty to driving under the influence. 61-year-old William Holland entered the plea today in Sangamon County Circuit Court.

 

He admitted to driving while intoxicated in Springfield on February 6th, when he was pulled over by Illinois State Police. Holland was sentenced by Judge Rudy Braud to one year of court supervision, and was ordered to pay court costs of more than $1500.

 

Holland issued a statement saying he made a mistake and is glad no one was hurt in the incident.

Jobs Up - And So Is Unemployment


The number of jobs is up in Illinois, but so is the statewide unemployment rate.

 

The February jobless rate jumped to 9.5%... up from 9-percent in January, and 8.9% in February of 2012. The State Department of Employment Security blames the spike on an increase in people actively looking for work as the number of payroll jobs rises.

 

The department says the state added more than 12,000 jobs in February, despite the uptick in the jobless rate.

Increase in Home Sales


February was a big month for home sale. And not just in Springfield.

 

Statewide numbers from the Illinois Association of Realtors show a strong increase in sales numbers across Illinois… up 16-percent in February compared to the same month a year earlier. Median home sale prices were also up around the state, a year-to-year increase of five-percent. The numbers are strong, especially for February, which is typically a slow month for home sales.

 

But the statewide figures are not as strong as the Springfield numbers, which were up 30-percent this year over last.

Much Smaller Pension Reform Plan Passes Senate


After rejecting one proposed pension reform plan, the Illinois Senate has approved a much smaller attempt to fix a portion of the problem.

 

And it took two Senate votes to get the bare majority needed to approve Senate President John Cullerton’s bill… which only applies to current working teachers, but excludes other public sector employees and retirees.

 

Cullerton’s bill would require those workers to choose between cost-of-living increases or state-subsidized health care after they retire.

 

One critic says it barely scratches the surface of the pension crisis.

Money For AFSCME Pay Raises Up To Governor


The new state contract with AFSCME calls for workers to receive raises that were promised under past contracts… but never delivered.

 

But a spokesman for House Speaker Mike Madigan says he’s not sure where that money will come from.

 

It would cost an estimated $140 million to cover the cost of those raises, which Governor Pat Quinn withheld because he said the legislature did not appropriate enough money for them.

 

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown says lawmakers approve lots of money each year… but it will be up to the governor and his agencies to decide whether to apply that money to raises or to other spending priorities.

Summertime City Youth Jobs Lottery Proposed By Alderman McMenamin


A Springfield alderman who wants to cap the number of employees in city government would like to boost employment… of teenagers for temporary summer jobs.

 

Alderman Joe McMenamin proposes a lottery system to choose as many as 25-30 young workers for minimum wage jobs.

 

But there is no formal ordinance yet, and aides to Mayor Mike Houston say they are concerned about launching a new program that was not included in the city budget that was approved just last month.

Cell Tower Disguised as Pine Tree Plan at Pasfield Gold Course Scrapped


It appears that a large cell phone tower… disguised as a giant pine tree… will not become part of the landscape at Pasfield Golf Course.

 

The State Journal-Register reports that park district officials have discovered that the 1967 grant which was used to purchase the course contains a provision that prohibits such commercial use of the property.

 

AT&T had wanted to erect the 100-foot tower on the property, and vowed to camouflage it to make it look like a large tree.

 

But neighbors had objected, saying the tower would be an eyesore that would reduce their property values.

Seven Shot After Rap Concert in Chicago


Seven people have been shot at a party following a rap concert at a Chicago nightclub.

 

Chicago police say at least three people opened fire early this morning at a club called Mr. G’s in the Gresham neighborhood of Chicago.

 

All seven victims were taken to nearby hospitals, mostly by others who were at the party. All seven are reported in stable condition.

Money For Past AFSCME Pay Raises Could Cut Into Other Budget Priorities


The state's new contract with AFSCME calls for union members to receive $140 million in pay raises that were previously promised, but never delivered.  But a top legislative spokesman says it's not clear where that money will come from. 

 

House Speaker Mike Madigan's spokesman Steve Brown appeared live (Wednesday) on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show."  Brown says there are no guarantees that an additional $140 million can be added to current budget and revenue projections to cover the cost of those past raises. 

 

But he says the legislature will approve billions of dollars for state government operations...and it will be up to Quinn and his agency directors how to allocate that money, and whether other jobs or services will have to be cut to accommodate the raises.

Expanded Weather Warnings To Be In Use This Spring


Tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings may sound a little different this spring. 

 

The National Weather Service is expanding a pilot program to put more specific information about potential storm damage into the warnings. 

 

Under the new system... known as "Impact Based Warnings"... a severe weather alert will include one of three different types of warnings: that tornado damage is possible but the storm will be short-lived; that serious damage is expected from a long-lived storm track; or that "catastrophic" damage to life and property is expected from a long-track storm.  The last category is extremely rare, happening only 8 times in Central Illinois since 1950.

Sangamon County 80th Healthiest County in Illinois


Sangamon County ranks pretty low on a list of the state’s healthiest counties.

 

A new report online at CountyHealthRankings.org says Douglas County in central Illinois is the healthiest in Illinois and Alexander in southern Illinois is the least healthy.

 

Sangamon County came in at No. 80.

 

The report is from the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Alderman Dove Supports Sewer Fee Increase


Springfield Alderman Steve Dove is joining ranks with Alderman Joe McMenamin about seeking a modest increase in Springfield’s sewer fee.

 

The effort, which would raise the fee by about $4 a month, would raise $2 million for the sewer infrastructure, according to a post on Dove’s Facebook page.

 

Dove says the best thing about the proposal is that the money would be designated only for sewer projects.

 

Another proposal from Mayor Mike Houston to increase the sales tax by one percent is getting mixed reactions from aldermen and constituents who fear increased sales tax will keep businesses selling big ticket items out of the city.

 

The city is grappling with how to fund tens of millions of dollars in street, sidewalk and sewer repairs.

New AFSCME Contract Approved


AFSCME members have approved a new three-year contract with the state… one that will mean higher health care costs for workers and retirees, but that is also supposed to give those workers long overdue raises.

 

Under the deal, workers will pay an additional one-percent of their salary for health care.

 

And retirees who had no health care premiums in the past will now have to pay for their coverage.

 

But the deal also calls for the state to fund salary increases that had been promised in the past but were withheld because the money wasn’t appropriated.

Sangamon County Judge Rules Pensions Don't Include Health Benefits


Public sector retirees who had hoped to keep their free health care have lost a round in court.

 

Sangamon County Judge Steven Nardulli ruled Tuesday that health benefits do not fall under the definition of “pensions,” which are protected under the Illinois Constitution.

 

But the plaintiffs in the case say they plan to appeal the ruling.

City May Stop Energy Conservation Standards All Together


The city of Springfield may stop enforcing energy-efficiency provisions of the city’s building code entirely… rather than impose new stringent standards mandated by the state.

 

State law requires the city to use the most recent published International Energy Conservation Code standards… but builders say that would increase the cost of new construction.

 

For now, a proposal to adopt those stricter standards remains stalled in a City Council committee… and unless that changes, Mayor Mike Houston says the city will not be able to enforce any energy-efficiency codes.

SPD Takes Lead in CCPA Leak Investigation


Springfield Police Springfield police will take the lead in investigating the leak of confidential student data from the Capitol College Preparatory Academy.

 

The Springfield school board voted Monday night to seek an outside investigation into whether state and federal laws were broken when student names and standardized test scores were released to members of the public and the press.

 

District 186 officials had also planned to consult with the FBI, but deputy Springfield police chief Cliff Buscher says the city will take charge for now… and will call in the feds as needed.

 

Investigators spent the day Tuesday reviewing records and interviewing staff at the school district’s administrative offices.

Local Drug Busts Score Marijuana and Cocaine


Local authorities have made two significant drug busts in the last day.

 

James Merrifield
James Merrifield -- Click for larger image

The recently-reformed Sangamon County DIRT team raided a home on North English Tuesday morning, seizing more than 100 marijuana plants, drug paraphernalia, and cash.

 

40-year-old James Merrifield was arrested.

 

Meanwhile, city police found marijuana and cocaine in a bust at a home on South Grand Avenue East.

 

Officers seized cash and a car that they say was used for drug transactions.

 

28-year-old Eric Bias is facing multiple drug charges.

 

 

Lottery Up to $260 Million For Tonight's Drawing


You might start seeing some lines at lottery terminals today.

 

The Powerball jackpot has now climbed to at least $260 million for tonight’s drawing.

 

A single winner who took the prize in a lump sum would clear around $120 million after taxes.

AFSCME Ratifies Contract; Deal Cuts COLAs, Reduces Starting Pay, Ends Free Retiree Health Care


AFSCME members have ratified a new three-year contract, which Governor Pat Quinn describes as the best deal for taxpayers in Illinois history, as the union agrees to cutbacks that Quinn says will save the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

 

The deal includes no cost of living increase in the first year, and just two-percent in each of the remaining two years of the pact.  In addition, starting pay for new hires will be cut by as much as nine-percent from current levels.  And retirees -- many of whom currently pay no health care premium -- will have to start paying something toward their insurance, effective July 1st.

 

In exchange, Quinn agrees to seek funding for pay raises that were promised under past contracts, but which were not paid because lawmakers did not appropriate the money for them.  The deal was worked out during a contentious 15-month negotiation, said to be the longest in state history.

City Close To Nullifying Energy Conservation Code Enforcement


The City of Springfield is moving to not enforce any energy conservation code, after an ordinance to update the city's code with the latest published International Energy Conservation Code standards failed to come out of committee for a third time.

 

Beginning this year, the state of Illinois mandates local units of government enforce the most recently published code book.

 

Mayor Mike Houston says if the city refuses to pass the latest IECC updates into the code books as acording to state law, he will just have the building department simply not enforce any energy conservation measures.  

 

Currently on the City of Springfield's books is the IECC of 2009, not the most recent published, as is the language in state law.

 

Aldermen could go through and gut the code book of any energy conservation measures, but that remains to be seen if that's how the aldermen will act.

 

Future construction in Springfield will still have to be built to the most recent codes, but the city will not seek compliance.  

 

Supporters of having the city enforce the state law say it creates a level playing field for builders.

 

The area home builders association says it wants the city to support repealing the state law entirely because it increases the cost of home more on the low end market.

 

Aldermen will decide the fate of the city's energy conservation enforcement efforts next week.

Too Much Fluoride May Be A Bad Thing


Area public drinking water systems are being recognized by the state’s Division of Oral Health for fluoridating drinking water, but critics of the decades old practice say the public health policy needs to be reevaluated.

 

A press release from the Illinois Department of Public Health congratulates over 440 public drinking water systems, including City Water Light and Power's water division, for complying with the state’s fluoride mandate. However, critics at the Fluoride Action Network say recent studies show too much fluoride can harden bones, cause fluorosis of the teeth and also hinder growing children's cognitive development.

 

City Water Light and Power has complied with Illinois' fluoride mandate for fifteen years, according to the Department of Public Health.

Springfield Man Busted For Indoor Pot Growing


The Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office busted a Springfield Man this morning for an indoor marijuana growing operation.

 

Sheriff Neil Williamson says 40-year-old James E. Merrifield was charged with production and possession of over 50 cannabis plants and possession of marijuana over 500 grams, after police searched his home and found over 100 pot plants.

 

Police say throughout the home at 252 North English, they found numerous pieces of drug paraphernalia, a scale, and nearly two thousand dollars in cash.

Springfield Police Will Take Lead In District 186 Leak Investigation


Springfield police will take the lead in the investigation of the leak of private student data from the Capital College Preparatory Academy. 

 

SPD investigators arrived at the District 186 administrative offices this (Tuesday) morning to begin looking through records and talking to staff as they try to determine who released confidential records containing student names and test scores. 

 

School district officials had also discussed calling in the FBI to investigate possible violations of federal law, but deputy Springfield police chief Cliff Buscher says his department will handle the case and will only call in the feds if necessary.

Tensions Flare as School Board Votes For External Investigation Into Leaked Student Test Data


Springfield Police and the FBI have both been contacted about a possible criminal investigation into the leak of private student data from the Capitol College Preparatory Academy.

 

The Springfield school board voted unanimously Monday night to seek an external investigation of the leak… which included student names and standardized test scores.

 

The vote came after a verbal clash between board president Susan White and vice-president Bill Looby. White accuses Looby of “unethical” conduct and of attempting to “smear” her.

 

Looby released an e-mail that White sent to District 186 officials seeking some of the same data that was improperly leaked… although White did not request student names.

 

White says no board member was responsible for the leak… but as many as 200 school district employees had access to the data.

School District Teacher Credential Audit Shows Five Percent Lack Proper Certification


Five-percent of District 186 teachers do not have the proper certification for the classes they are currently teaching.

 

That’s the finding of a compliance audit conducted by the Regional Office of Education.

 

The audit was conducted earlier than usual this year after a Lanphier High teacher was found not to have the proper credentials… after she was arrested for having sex with a student.

 

The audit found elementary school teachers in high school classrooms…and vice versa… and some regular ed teachers in charge of special ed classes.

 

The violations leave District 186 on a “pending further review” status, which could lead to sanctions if the problems aren’t corrected.

Alderman McMenamin's Plan Raises Sewer Fee For Sewer Upkeep


A Springfield alderman is proposing an increase in sewer fees… but a smaller one that originally proposed by Mayor Mike Houston… as a way to pay for some of the city’s infrastructure needs.

 

Alderman Joe McMenamin’s proposal would raise monthly sewer fees by about a third, an increase of more than $3 per month.

 

McMenamin says the money would be kept in a special sewer fund that could only be used for sewer projects.

 

Some aldermen had already rejected Houston’s plan to double sewer fees over four years.

 

Houston is now touting a sales tax hike to pay for sewer and road projects.

Compliance Audit Finds 5% Of District 186 Teachers Lack Proper Certification Or Qualifications


A compliance audit of District 186 finds 68 teachers -- roughly 5% of the district total -- do not have the proper certification, and in some cases lack the proper qualifications for their current teaching assignment.

 

Regional Superintendent Jeff Vose says many of the violations are minor, but 12 are considered major violations -- including elementary school teachers with high school assignments (and vice versa), and regular ed teachers in charge of special ed classes.  Some of the violations were left over from the last audit of the District in 2010.

 

The audit is held every two years, but this year's version was moved up after a Lanphier High School teacher was found to lack proper certification following her arrest on charges of having sexual relations with a student.

 

Because of the audit findings, Vose has recommended that the District's certification of compliance be withheld "pending further review."  Vose and district officials say corrective action is being taken.

DEVELOPING: School Board Members Clash Over CCPA Leaks; Board Votes For External Investigation


UPDATE: School board votes 7-0 to seek external investigation of leak of CCPA student data.  Superintendent Walter Milton says Springfield police and FBI have been contacted.
 
PREVIOUS: Springfield school board president Susan White accuses board VP Bill Looby of attempting to smear her and of "unethical" conduct in comments regarding leak of private student data from CCPA, then refuses to allow Looby to respond immediately to allegations.
 
White says no board member had access to or was responsible for the leak, and says Springfield police have been consulted about investigation.
 
Stay with wmay.com or connect with WMAY on Facebook or Twitter for updates on this story.

 

 

Hundreds of Illinois Prisoners Transferred Around State Prisons


About 150 female inmates have been transferred to the Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln… with hundreds more to follow in the weeks ahead.

 

In all, around 950 women will be moved from the Dwight Correctional Center to Logan… which will become a maximum-security facility for female prisoners.

 

As part of the complicated process of closing Dwight, about 1,000 male prisoners from Logan were transferred to the nearby Lincoln Correctional Center… and hundreds more were shipped out to other prisons around the state, where they are being housed in gymnasiums and other temporary space.

More Revealed About Delay in IL GOP Chair Ouster Vote


Illinois Republicans were very close to dumping party chairman Pat Brady before having to postpone the effort at the last moment… according to an e-mail sent out by a GOP committeeman.

 

That e-mail, obtained by Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax, says there were enough votes to get rid of Brady on the day before a scheduled special meeting on March 8th.

 

But then one of the State Central Committee members who had planned to vote to oust Brady changed her mind, after getting calls from U.S. Senator Mark Kirk and House GOP leader Tom Cross.

 

That left the group one vote short and forced cancellation of the meeting.

 

Some party leaders have pushed to get rid of Brady since he publicly urged Republican lawmakers to support same-sex marriage.

 

Brady could face another ouster attempt at a state party meeting next month.

State Health Officials Ring Alarm About Youth & Young Adult Homicide Rates


State health officials are trying to raise awareness about the alarming number of homicide deaths among Illinois teens and young adults.

 

A PSA campaign from the State Department of Public Health says homicide is the number two cause of death for Illinois residents ages 10 to 24.

 

The campaign is trying to send the message that youth violence is preventable… not inevitable.

 

Governor Pat Quinn addressed a Chicago church on the issue Sunday… he says houses of worship are an effective place to enlist the public in the fight against youth violence.

Fardon Reportedly Frontrunner For U.S. Attorney Job in Chicago


A former federal prosecutor who was part of the team that put former Governor George Ryan behind bars is the reported frontrunner to become the new U.S. Attorney for Chicago.

 

Several Chicago media outlets say Zachary Fardon is the top choice to replace Patrick Fitzgerald, who retired last year.

 

Fardon was part of the Ryan prosecution team and was then the Number Two man at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Nashville, but currently works in private practice.

State, Local Police Promise Intensive Enforcement Effort Against St. Patrick's Day DUI


State and local police are promising to be out in force overnight… as they make sure St. Patrick’s Day partying doesn’t get out of hand. 

 

Extra patrols and roadside safety checks are planned to watch out for impaired drivers.  St. Patrick’s Day has become associated with a dramatic uptick in drunk driving incidents.

Fake Cop Reported Again In Macoupin County


There’s been another apparent sighting of that fake cop driving around with flashing red-and-blue lights. 

 

The latest happened earlier this week in Macoupin County.  An 18-year-old woman driving with a 19-year-old male passenger reported the car driving erratically with those lights flashing Monday night on Illinois Route 16.  The woman did not stop and the vehicle eventually turned off. 

 

It’s the second such incident in Macoupin County in recent weeks, along with three such cases in Sangamon County.

State Seeks $20 Million From Lottery Manager


The Illinois Lottery says the private firm that runs the lottery owes the state $20 million. 

 

Crain’s Chicago Business reports that Northstar Lottery failed to meet revenue projections for the fiscal year that ended last June. 

 

The company and the state have been battling over the amount of money owed. Northstar can still appeal the $20 million ruling before a third-party mediator.

State Launches Awareness Campaign Against Youth Violence


State health officials are trying to raise awareness about the alarming number of homicide deaths among Illinois teens and young adults. 

 

A PSA campaign from the State Department of Public Health says homicide is the number two cause of death for Illinois residents ages 10 to 24.  The campaign is trying to send the message that youth violence is preventable… not inevitable.

Kirk Seeks Bipartisan Compromise On Gun Legislation


U.S. Senator Mark Kirk says he’s hopeful for bipartisan compromise on legislation to keep guns out of the hands of illegal traffickers and expand background checks for firearm purchases.  The Illinois Republican says he spoke with President Obama this week about his efforts on Capitol Hill.

Lawmaker Criticized For Comments Against Same-Sex Marriage


A state lawmaker is catching heat for comments she made to a radio program last month about same-sex marriage. 

 

Republican Representative Jeanne Ives of Wheaton says gay rights activists are trying to, quote, “weasel their way into acceptability.” 

 

Supporters of a pending same-sex marriage bill in the Illinois House criticized Ives for the comment… but are also having some fun with it, calling themselves “the Weasel Caucus.”

School Board Forum Focuses on Trust, Leadership and Communication


Rebuilding the community’s trust remains a common theme among the candidates running for the Springfield school board.

 

The 12 candidates competing for seven seats held a second forum Thursday night, and many stated the need to prove to the community that the board could be a good steward of tax dollars.

 

School board president Susan White says that process will begin with selecting a new superintendent who can set reasonable spending priorities for the next few years.

 

But board member Scott McFarland says the bigger issue is for the board itself to resolve its internal conflicts and work better together.

Residents Oppose Cellphone Tower


Neighbors near Pasfield Golf Course are objecting to plans to build a 100-foot cell tower in the park… and to camouflage the tower by making it look like a giant pine tree.

 

AT&T says the tower is needed to support the growing number of mobile devices, from smartphones to notebooks and tablets.

 

But the State Journal-Register reports neighbors fear that the large tower will be an eyesore that will hurt their property values.

Unemployment Up In And Around Springfield


Unemployment is on the rise in and around Springfield.

 

The city’s jobless rate climbed to 8.8% in January, compared to 8.5% a year earlier.

 

The biggest job losses came in business and professional services.

 

Sangamon County did better than surrounding counties.

 

Logan and Menard Counties are each above 9-percent unemployment… while Morgan, Macon, Macoupin and Montgomery Counties have jobless rates ranging from 10 to 14-percent.

Area Man Wins Birthday Surprise Scratch-Off Lottery


Some people dread their birthdays every year… but a Girard man will be looking forward to his for at least the next 20 years.

 

Ryan Kreoger bought scratch-off lottery tickets on his birthday… including a game called “Birthday Surprise.”

 

That ticket paid off big, giving him an immediate $150,000, followed by another $150,000 on each of his next 20 birthdays… a total of more than $3 million.

 

Kreoger says he will keep his job, but says the winnings represent a lot more financial security.

Saturday's Powerball Drawing Tops $200 Million


The Powerball jackpot has climbed to $216 million for this Saturday’s drawing.

 

A single winner who claims the top prize in the multi-state game would clear more than $92 million after taxes.

Crime Stoppers Ups Reward For Tips Leading to Cop Impostor Arrest


Have information that could lead to the arrest of a suspect in the recent reports of a cop imposter?

 

Crime Stoppers says you could get at least $750, but that amount could be more, depending on the arrest and what charges the suspected imposter faces.

 

In the past few months there have been four reports in two different counties of a man in a beat up white car with a discolored hood using flashing lights to pull over young women.

 

In one case, the suspect sexually assaulted the victim.

 

The cop imposter suspect is described as being older with salt and pepper hair and a southern accent.

 

For more information on contacting crime stoppers, visit CashForTips.US

 

Composite of fake cop suspect drawn by ATF, provided by the Sangamon County Sheriff's office

Composite of fake cop suspect drawn by ATF, provided by the Sangamon County Sheriff's office

Bishop Paprocki: Pope Francis I Election Historic, Won't Change Church's Stance on Social Issues


Springfield Bishop Thomas John Paprocki says he joins Catholics across Central Illinois in celebrating the selection of new Pope Francis the First.

 

Paprocki notes the historic nature of the selection, marking the first time that a Pope has been chosen from outside Europe.

 

Because Pope Francis comes from South America, Paprocki believes he will be especially inspirational to America’s growing number of Hispanic Catholics.

 

But Paprocki expects no change in the Church’s hardline stances on issues like same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion.

Lawmakers Debate Pension Proposals While Acknowledging Constitutional Question


A Senate committee has approved two pension-reform proposals… even as lawmakers continue to debate whether or not the ideas are even constitutional.

 

Several of the senators who supported the measures in committee Wednesday say they’re only doing so to keep the debate going… and are not committing to voters for either proposal when they come up for a full Senate vote.

 

While some lawmakers question the constitutionality of changing promised pension benefits, others say the current proposals don’t go far enough to reduce the state’s unfunded liability.

Illinois Same-Sex Marriage Still Short on Votes


Supporters of same-sex marriage in Illinois may still be as many as a dozen votes short of the number needed for passage.

 

The bill has already cleared the Senate… but always faced a tougher road in the House. Speaker Mike Madigan says the bill is still 12 votes short of approval.

 

But supporters of the legislation think they’re closer than that… and believe that some of those who have been on the fence are now leaning toward approval of the measure.

 

If it clears the House, Governor Pat Quinn says he will sign it into law.

Some Fallout Expected When Local Boy Scouts Decide on Gay Membership


The Boy Scout Council serving Sangamon and surrounding counties expects to suffer some fallout from the renewed debate over gays can be a part of scouting… no matter which way the decision goes.

 

The national Boy Scout organization announced earlier this year that it would reconsider its longstanding refusal to admit gay scouts or scoutleaders… and then put off a final decision while it conducts a survey on the issue.

 

Dan O’Brien with the Abraham Lincoln Council says whatever decision is ultimately made, the outcome of the process is likely to affect fundraising and recruitment.

Bishop Celebrates Selection Of New Pope


Springfield's Catholic Bishop will hold a Mass of Thanksgiving Thursday in celebration of the selection of a new Pope. 

 

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki says he believes Pope Francis I will inspire American Catholics because of his historic status as the first Pope chosen from the New World.  Paprocki believes Francis will be a strong spiritual leader who will fiercely defend traditional Catholic teachings. 

 

The celebration Mass will be held at noon Thursday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Local Boy Scouts Brace For Impact Of Possible Policy Change On Gay Scouts


The head of local Boy Scout programs says the current debate over allowing gay scouts and scoutleaders will likely have an effect on the organization's fundraising and membership... no matter which way it goes. 

 

Dan O'Brien says that while the national Boy Scout organization is compiling information and opinions for the next few weeks, the local Scouting group will simply remain focused on trying to provide quality programs for thousands of Central Illinois youngsters.

City Could Face $1.3 Million Hit In Quinn Budget Proposal


Governor Pat Quinn’s budget proposal could pose a million-dollar threat to Springfield’s city budget.

 

Quinn has recommended capping the shared income tax receipts that the state sends back to local governments.

 

Springfield budget director Bill McCarty says that could cost the city anywhere from $600,000 to $1.3 million this year alone.

 

Alderman Sam Cahnman wants the city council to pass an ordinance urging Quinn and the General Assembly to drop the idea.

Hunter Lake Still on Hold


There’s still no end in sight to the decades-long saga of Hunter Lake.

 

Springfield city officials say they need another study on the viability of pumping water from city-owned gravel pits to see if that could be an effective alternative to building a second lake.

 

The study is part of the ongoing effort to secure the necessary federal permits to build the lake.

 

The city has spent millions to acquire the land needed to construct Hunter Lake, but would need to spend millions more to complete the project.

State Senator Manar: Illinois Population Growing, So is Sangamon County


Critics have complained for years that Illinois is becoming a less desirable place to live… and that the state is losing population and jobs.

 

But a local lawmaker says the numbers suggest otherwise.

 

State Senator Andy Manar says U.S. Census data shows the state’s population grew steadily from 2000 to 2010… and a supplemental census in 2012 shows that trend is continuing.

 

The data cited by Manar also shows population growth in Sangamon County… now up to a population just under 200,000 people.

Area Home Prices and Sales on Upward Trend


Springfield home sales… and prices… remain on an upward trend.

 

Local stats show February sales skyrocketed 30-percent compared to a year earlier, and median prices were up 10-percent.

 

The Capital Area Association of Realtors says pent-up demand and increases in hiring have sent more people into the housing market.

 

Now they are concerned that a shrinking supply of homes could drive prices too high.

Six-Month-Old Chicago Shooting Victim Shocks City


Even in a city that has become used to gun violence, it’s a crime that has shocked Chicago.

 

Authorities say residents are shattered by the death of a six-month-old girl who was shot multiple times as her father changed her diaper in a minivan.

 

The girl’s father was also hit multiple times and is in serious condition.

 

Police believe the 29-year-old father was the intended target of the shooting, and say he had an extensive history of criminal activity and gang involvement.

Quinn Budget Proposal Could Cost City Hundreds of Thousands A Year


A budget proposal from Governor Pat Quinn's office could cost the City of Springfield and other municipalities shared income tax revenue.

 

Alderman Sam Cahnman is requesting an ordinance be drafted for passage by the city that would urge the Governor and the General Assembly against capping shared income tax revenue at last year's levels.

 

Budget Director Bill McCarty said the proposal from Quinn's office has been estimated to cost the city between $600,000 to $1.3 million in the first year.

 

Cahnman says that number could increase year-after-year.

Area Home Builder Pushes City To Decide on Energy Conservation Code Enforcement


A board member of the State's Home Builders Association wants the city of Springfield to decide what it will do about updated energy efficiency codes.

 

Dean Graven wants the city to either ditch it's compliance to the International Energy Conversation Codes and force the state of Illinois to enforce the standards or get the city in place to enforce the standards.  Either way, Graven says the city must make that decision.

 

An ordinance in front of Springfield aldermen would change the city's code to adhere to the most recent code standards as prescribed by state law.

 

Graven says the state Association of Home Builders will soon provide a policy paper to the city and the state to urge a change in the law to keep the playing field level and not force high costs onto new construction.

 

Graven says that the city refusing to comply with the latest IECC codes won't keep builders from having to comply with the law, but it puts an unnecessary burden on consumers, the home builders and the home building process.

 

Aldermen Frank Edwards said if it's the state's law, let the state enforce it.

 

Edwards says as Springfield considers a tax increase for infrastructure, the last thing they should be doing is hiring more building code enforcers to enforce the latest published IECC Codes. 

 

Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen says that the city could drop all energy efficiency standards enforcement and let the home builders comply with state law on their own.

 

Graven says that the law will hurt the lower end consumer and homes for organizations like Habitat for Humanity.  

 

Graven also says there are a series of discussions with various organizations throughout the state to continue lobbying the state to change the state law.

 

Aldermen decided to hold the ordinance in committee for further analysis on its financial impact. 

More Studies Needed In Quest for Hunter Lake


The City of Springfield is finishing up some analysis to answer questions about the capital city's gravel pits before it can move forward with any plans concerning Hunter Lake.

 

One question contractor Layne Hydro required the city to answer is how pulling water from various gravel pits will affect other wells throughout the area, according to City Water Light and Power Water Division Manager Ted Meckes.

 

A recent completed study says that there is enough water in the area's dozen gravel pits, but they didn't look into the impacts on other water supplies.

 

The second lake, also known as Hunter Lake, has been discussed for decades and the city says the permit with the US Army Corps of Engineers is inactive.

 

A recent demand analysis said that Springfield could use 12 million gallons a day in case of severe drought and a second lake would provide for nearly double that, according to Meckes.

 

Alderman Kris Theilen requested the update to get a synopsis for constituents urging aldermen to break ground without the necessary approval from the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Study: State Workers Earn Less, Give Back More Than Private Sector Counterparts


Anyone complaining about the money that state workers and teachers make may be barking up the wrong tree… according to a study from researchers at the University of Illinois. 

 

The Southern Illinoisan newspaper says the study shows that public sector workers make around 13-percent less than private sector counterparts with similar education and experience. 

 

But that same study says the public sector workers contribute a higher-than-average amount to the state’s overall gross domestic product.

Union Membership Down In Illinois


Union membership continues to shrink in Illinois. 

 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says 14.6 percent of wage and salaried workers in the state belonged to a union in 2012… down from 16.2 percent a year earlier.

 

Union membership has been on the decline since peaking at 21-percent in 1993.  But the numbers here remain substantially higher than the national figures, with just over 10-percent of workers belonging to a union.

GOP Targets Gangs, Not Guns


Top Illinois Republicans say the way to keep streets safe is to crack down on gangs, not guns.  House Republican Leader Tom Cross and GOP lawmakers have introduced bills that they say will confront the real danger in Chicago and elsewhere… the prevalence of gangs and gang activity. 

 

One bill would increase the mandatory minimum penalty for gang-related gun violence from three to four years with no chance at probation.  The other would expand gang recruitment laws by allowing someone to be prosecuted even if there is no sign that they used physical force to coerce someone into a gang. 

 

The Republicans call the bills the “Protect Our Children” initiative.

Lane Closures Will Slow Down Drivers On Wednesday


Two major projects could slow drivers down in Springfield on Wednesday. 

 

The city says the middle lanes of South Grand between 12th and 13th Streets will be closed for a week, starting Wednesday, to repair a sewer cave-in.  Motorists may want to avoid that area during peak traffic times. 

 

And the westbound curb lane of Clear Lake will also be closed on Wednesday for tree removal.  That project should only take a day.

February Area Home Sales and Prices Up Over Last Year


The Capital Area Association of Realtors says that area sales are on a sustained uptrend, but more homes are needed to meet demand.

 

The latest numbers released by the association says local home sales are up just over 30 percent in February over the same time period last year with median homes sale prices up 10 percent from last year.

 

Foreclosures were also up in February over last year.

 

Don Cave, President of the CAAR, says that “pent-up demand and job creation, along with … rising rents” are key reasons for the increase.

 

Cave also says that new home construction would help increase the available homes on the market and keep prices from quote “overheating.”

St. Patrick's Day Weekend Road Side Safety Check Planned


Illinois State Police plan road side safety checks for the St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

 

Police will be in Sangamon County this weekend looking for impaired drivers, as well as people driving on a suspended or revoked license.

 

A press release from the state police says that 40 percent of all fatal accidents involved drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Majority of Macoupin County Businesses Pass State Police Liquor Test


A vast majority of Macoupin county gas stations, liquor stores, bars and taverns did not sell alcohol to minors in a test conducted by the Illinois State Police and the state’s Liquor Commission.

 

Out of 36 locations tested, only 7 are accused of selling booze to minors. Four of the seven establishments busted by police were in Staunton.

 

Twenty-nine other establishments requested ID from the undercover minors working with police.

Sangamon County Deputies Urge Public to be Watchful for Cop Imposter


Another sighting of an apparent police impersonator has Sangamon County authorities again urging the public to be watchful… and to report anything suspicious right away.

 

The latest encounter happened last Friday night west of Springfield.

 

An 18-year-old woman told police that she was followed by a white car with a flashing red-and-blue light.

 

She did not stop, but instead turned on her flashers and kept driving.

 

The other car turned off in a different direction.

 

But the woman did not report the incident to authorities until the next day.

 

County deputies say if you are involved in a similar situation, call 911 immediately.

Sheriff: Cop Imposter Suspect Shows Same Signs as Sex Offender


The suspect being sought for a string of police impersonation incidents is showing some of the same characteristics exhibited by sex offenders.

 

That's according to Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson.

 

Calling in live to 970 WMAY's Kramer Show Monday (mp3 link), Williamson says whoever is responsible is trying to assert control over women.

 

The sheriff notes that all of the local incidents have targeted young females driving alone late at night.

 

He says that attempt to dominate women is proof of the urgent need to catch the suspect quickly... before the incidents escalate.

 

Two composite schetches of the cop imposter suspect by the ATF, provided by the Sangamon County Sheriff's office

Two composite schetches of the cop imposter suspect by the ATF, provided by the Sangamon County Sheriff's office

Ball-Chatham Lay Off 10 Teachers, Cut Hours for Others, To make up $3 million Deficit


It may be a first for the Ball-Chatham school district.

 

It’s had to lay off 10 teachers… and scale several others back to part-time… as it tries to close a $3 million budget deficit.

 

More than a dozen other non-teaching positions were also cut by the school board Monday night.

 

It’s believed to be the first time Chatham schools have had to cut teaching positions for budgetary reasons.

East Side Icehouse Being Torn Down


It’s a relic from a bygone era… when people had to buy blocks of ice to keep food cool in the days before electric refrigerators.

 

But now the century-old icehouse on Springfield’s east side is being torn down.

 

There are no immediate plans for the property at 9th and Edwards… although it may become a desirable property for development, because it is located on the old Route 66 and is near a planned intermodal transportation hub along the 10th Street railroad tracks.

Abe's Old Hat Antiques To Close For Saturday's Parade, Cites Expected Unruly Crowd


One downtown businessman is tired of pressing his luck with St. Patrick’s Day partiers.

 

The State Journal-Register reports the owner of Abe’s Old Hat Antiques on North Sixth Street will close his business down on Saturday… rather than deal with the unruly crowds that can come out for the noon-hour parade.

 

Despite some new restrictions this year… including a wristband requirement for anyone drinking liquor outside Saturday… store owner Michael Maylor says he doesn’t need the hassle.

 

He posted a sign on his store that talks about, quote, “putting up with the crap” from the parade… and says he will re-open Monday, quote, “after the city cleans up the beer, vomit and urine from our streets and sidewalks.”

College Student Overdose From Opium Intoxication


The Blackburn College student found dead in his dorm room in January may have died of a heroin overdose.

 

The Macoupin County coroner says Josh Ramza of Romeoville died of “opium intoxication.”

 

Opium is a byproduct when heroin is ingested into the body.

 

Ramza’s death has been classified as a drug-related homicide… and authorities are now trying to retrace his steps to figure out where he may have gotten the drug.

Yet Another Police Impersonator Incident Reported West of Springfield


Yet another woman has reported an encounter with a possible police impersonator. 

 

The Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office received a report from an 18-year-old woman who says her car was followed by a vehicle with flashing red-and-blue lights… but no front license plate… on Old Route 36 near Curran Friday night.  The woman says she turned on her emergency lights and kept driving.  The white car that was trailing her turned off the road and drove away. 

 

It’s at least the third such incident reported in Sangamon County in the past month.  The sheriff’s department notes that the incident was not reported until nearly nine hours after it happened… and asks anyone involved in a similar incident to call 911 immediately.

Gov. Quinn Proposes Closing Corporate Tax Breaks To Pay Down Bills


Gov. Pat Quinn says proposed legislation to end some corporate tax breaks is the best way to help pay down $9 billion in overdue bills.

 

The governor told The Associated Press on Sunday that his plan is sound, even though last year he signed legislation approving tax breaks for Sears and CME, which had threatened to leave the state.

 

He says that was different because it saved thousands of jobs.

 

Business groups say Quinn’s push to close loopholes will drive more companies, and jobs, out of Illinois.

In-Home Care Providers Asked to Keep Providing Care Despite Lack of Funding


Some agencies that provide in-home care to senior citizens say they’ve been asked to keep providing the care… even though the state program to pay for the care is almost out of money, and there’s no telling when those agencies will get paid.

 

The state notified in-home care providers last week that funds for the program would be used up within days.

 

Lawmakers are blasting the Quinn administration for failing to plan farther ahead and make the necessary budget adjustments to keep paying for those services.

 

There are fears that some agencies will have to lay off workers… or perhaps close their doors… because of the lag in state funding.

NORML: Medical Pot Pilot Program Has Strict Restrictions


A group that favors legalization of marijuana says pending Illinois legislation to allow use of the drug for medicinal purposes has plenty of restrictions.

 

But Dan Linn with the group NORML also hopes that medical marijuana will open the door for more widespread and less restrictive use of the drug.

 

That’s exactly the fear of opponents of the bill, who say allowing the use of pot for any reason will increase its recreational use, especially among teens.

 

The latest medical marijuana bill cleared an Illinois House committee last week.

 

Linn appeared on 970 WMAY's Saturday Session with Bishop.  Hear that conversation at this link.

IL GOP Holds of on Brady Ouster Vote For Now


Conservative Illinois Republicans have backed off an attempt to get rid of state party chairman Pat Brady for now… but the fight over the future of the party is most likely not over.

 

A group of committeemen had called a weekend meeting for a vote on dumping Brady, after he publicly urged Republicans to support same-sex marriage.

 

But other party leaders say such a move would hurt GOP efforts to be seen as more inclusive and open-minded.

 

Brady’s future could come up again at the party’s next regular meeting, set for April.

Blackburn College Working With Law Enforcement After Drug Overdose Death


Officials at Blackburn College in Carlinville say they are working with local law enforcement… after an autopsy showed that a student found dead on the campus in January died of a drug overdose.

 

24-year-old Josh Ramza was discovered dead in his dorm room. A letter sent to the parents of Blackburn students says the school has programs in place to help students with substance abuse problems.

 

Blackburn is also offering counseling to students to help them cope with Ramza’s death.

GOP Reportedly Lacked Votes To Dump Party Chair


Illinois Republicans are backing away from an attempt to dump party chairman Pat Brady. 

 

Brady was in the hot seat after encouraging Republicans to support a same-sex marriage bill in the legislature earlier this year.  Several committeemen called a special meeting for Saturday to vote on Brady's future, but cancelled the meeting late Friday, reportedly because they lacked the votes to fire him.

 

Brady still has the support of some top elected Republicans, including U.S. Senator Mark Kirk.  But the chairman's fate could come up for discussion again at the next regular meeting of state committeemen, scheduled for April.

Blackburn Student's Death In January Linked To Drug Overdose


A student who was found dead in his dorm room at Blackburn College in Carlinville in January reportedly died of a drug overdose. 

 

The information comes from a letter sent to the parents of Blackburn students from the college president.  The letter says Blackburn is working with local authorities on their investigation, and continues to offer counseling for students who are grief-stricken over the death of 24-year-old Josh Ramza of Romeoville.

Republicans Postpone Effort To Dump Party Chair Over Same-Sex Marriage


Illinois Republicans have cancelled the meeting they had scheduled to consider whether to dump party chairman Pat Brady over his support for same-sex marriage. 

 

Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax says a notice was sent out late Friday night abruptly canceling the Saturday meeting… blaming it on Brady’s refusal to commit to participating in the meeting in person or by phone. 

 

The conservative committeemen who want to dump Brady say the meeting will be rescheduled.

Ald. Jobe Supports Same-Sex Marriage In Illinois


A Springfield alderman is getting attention for his support of same-sex marriage. 

 

Ward 6 Alderman Cory Jobe, who is openly gay and Republican, tells the Chicago Phoenix newspaper that he hopes his public endorsement will encourage other leaders to support marriage equality. 

 

Jobe says the GOP has always stood for family values… and thinks that should applies to the families of gay couples just as it does to straight couples.

Home Healthcare Funds For Seniors Nearly Gone


The state of Illinois is nearly out of the funds used to pay for home healthcare for thousands of seniors. 

 

A letter went out to providers this week warning that the funds will be depleted by March 15, more than three months before the end of the fiscal year. 

 

Unless lawmakers approve more money, some home healthcare agencies could close or be forced to lay off workers, and many seniors who receive those services at home could be forced into nursing homes.

Glenwood One Step Closer To State Tournament


Tickets go on sale Monday at Chatham Glenwood High School for the Titans’ first supersectional appearance since 1975. 

 

Glenwood got another step closer to the Class 3A state tournament with a decisive 63-41 win over Champaign Centennial in the Mt. Zion sectional. 

 

970 WMAY will have live coverage Tuesday night at 7pm as Glenwood faces Cahokia in the Springfield Supersectional at the Prairie Capital Convention Center.

School Board Forum Focuses on Trust, Budget and Future Supt.


The races for Springfield school board seats this spring appear to be focusing on three main issues... finding a new superintendent, closing the district's budget gap, and figuring out how to make the board work more effectively.

 

Former district administrator Chuck Flamini... who is now a candidate in Subdistrict 7... told the audience at a school board forum Thursday night that the board needs less drama, and less trauma for teachers and students.

 

Other candidates agree, saying the board has a "trust deficit" with the community.

 

That forum, moderated by 970 WMAY's Jim Leach, will be replayed in its entirety this Sunday morning at 11, right here streaming online at www.WMAY.com.

Sherman Woman Killed In Thursday Morning Rt. 54 Accident


A Sherman woman has died as the result of an accident on Route 54 near Spaulding Thursday morning.

 

Illinois State Police say 78-year-old Norma Thompson pulled onto Rt. 54 and was struck by a semi.

 

The semi then went off the road and struck the Spaulding Village Hall building.

 

Police say it’s unclear if Thompson was wearing her seatbelt.

 

The semi driver was not injured.

CWLP Customers Report Scammers


City Water, Light and Power says they’ve a couple of calls over the past week about customers receiving suspicious phone calls from out of state.

 

One call from a Minnesota number told the customer they had overpaid their electric bill and would receive a credit if they provided personal information. A second call from an Arkansas number said the customer’s electric account was in arrears and they were in danger of disconnection, and tried to get a payment over the phone. In both instances, the customer hung up and called CWLP.

 

Any customer receiving a suspicious call is urged to call CWLP at 789-2030 immediately.

Springfield Water Restrictions Lifted


It's OK to water your car or your lawn again in Springfield, whenever you want.

 

Mayor Mike Houston has lifted the water restrictions that were put in place last summer in response to severe drought conditions. Lake levels have risen more than two-and-a-half feet since January, and are now back up to the 75-year-average and climbing.

 

That increase allowed Houston to sign an executive order lifting the restrictions, effective immediately.

Mayor Houston May Not Have Votes To Pass Infrastructure Plan


Springfield Mayor Mike Houston is revamping his proposal to pay for infrastructure projects but so far he still lacks the votes to pass it.

 

Houston had earlier proposed increases in sewer fees and the city's sales tax to pay for the multi-million-dollar plan but never introduced the ordinance because he didn't have the five votes needed for approval.

 

On 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show" today, Houston said he's now proposing just a one-percent sales tax hike, to be split among major road and sewer projects and routine maintenance. But the mayor says he's still at least one vote short.

Mayor Houston May Reconsider Veto Of City Towing Fee


We may not have heard the last of the debate over Springfield's towing fee.

 

Aldermen cut that $500 fee in half this week, overriding Mayor Mike Houston's veto of the ordinance. But Houston still insists the higher fee is appropriate, since nearly all of the vehicles that the city tows and impounds are involved in DUI or drug offenses, or had drivers with suspended or revoked licenses.

 

Houston says he may consider an idea floated by 970 WMAY's Ray Lytle to propose reinstating the ordinance for those specific offenses. The mayor says he likes the idea, but hasn't committed yet to actually introducing it.

New County Market Store Opens


To Springfield city officials and economic planners, the newest County Market location is more than just a grocery store.

 

Mayor Mike Houston says the store at 2nd and Carpenter could be a linchpin for development of downtown and surrounding areas. The store is located on the edge of the Mid-Illinois Medical District and is seen as a crucial step in drawing future residents to live in both the medical district and downtown.

 

The store’s official opening today means jobs for around 110 employees.

Driver Being Treated for Life Threatening Injuries After Rt. 54 Accident


The female driver of a vehicle that pulled out in front of a semi truck on Rt. 54 near Spaulding Thursday morning is being treated for life threatening injuries.

 

Illinois State Police report that the car pulled onto Rt. 54 and was struck by the semi.

 

The semi then went off the road and struck the Spaulding Village Hall building.

 

Police say it’s unclear if the injured driver was wearing her seatbelt.

 

The semi driver was not injured.

 

Police from multiple area agencies responded to the accident.

Governor's Bad News Budget Address Puts Blame on Lawmakers


Governor Pat Quinn calls it the “most difficult” state budget he’s ever assembled… and says the blame for that rests with the General Assembly.

 

Quinn says the failure of lawmakers to pass a pension reform plan is forcing him to make deep cuts in education and other areas.

 

Quinn says if he could enact changes to public pensions on his own, he would… but he says he can’t do anything until the legislature sends him a bill.

GOP Responds to Governor's Budget Address


Legislative leaders say they won’t take all the blame for the state’s grim budget prospects.

 

Top Republicans say part of the reason that pension reform hasn’t passed is because of a lack of leadership from the governor.

 

But they say he is correct to focus on the pension crisis… and say fixing it is the single most important task facing the legislature now.

Senate Panel Places Bets on Gambling Expansion Legislation


A Senate panel is trying its luck one more time at passing a gambling expansion bill.

 

The Senate Executive Committee has approved a bill to create five new casinos at location from Chicago to Danville.

 

The bill would also allow for slot machines at Chicago’s airports.

 

Governor Pat Quinn has vetoed similar bills in the past… but hinted in his budget address Wednesday that gambling expansion could provide needed revenue for education.

 

But Quinn repeated his demand that any gaming bill must includes strict ethical safeguards, including… quote… “no loopholes for mobsters.”

Illinois House Committee Approves Medical Pot Pilot Program


An Illinois House committee has approved a pilot program to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.

 

The proposal would contain strict limits on the amount of pot a patient could receive for certain specified conditions, such as cancer or HIV.

 

Supporters think the bill has a better chance this year because it includes tighter restrictions on how medical marijuana would be distributed, and to whom.

IGOLD Rally Draws Thousands To Push For Gun Owners' Rights


It’s a show of strength in numbers that Illinois lawmakers may find difficult to ignore.

 

Thousands of gun owners descended on the Capitol Wednesday for their annual rally day.

 

Even though Illinois is under a court order to pass a concealed carry law, the debate continues on just how restrictive such a law might be.

 

The gun rights advocates mobilized to push for fewer restrictions and to fight back against efforts to impose bans on semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

 

 

Sangamon County DIRT Team Arrests Mother and Son in Drug Raid


Sangamon County’s DIRT team is back in business.

 

Just days after the drug interdiction team was reactivated after being sidelined for budgetary reasons, deputies have arrested a mother and son accused of operating a drug house on the city’s east side.

 

Authorities executed a search warrant on the house and found marijuana, paraphernalia and nearly $900 in cash.

 

46-year-old Michelle Buchanan and 24-year-old Braxton Buchanan will face multiple charges.

 

Michelle Buchanan
Michelle Buchanan
Braxton Buchanan
Braxton Buchanan

 

Bloomington Firefighter Died After Being Hit By Semi


A veteran Bloomington firefighter… who was working as a volunteer firefighter in the town of Hudson… has died after a semi plowed into emergency vehicles which had responded to another accident in McLean County Tuesday night.

 

39-year-old Chris Brown was assisting with that weather-related collision when a rig carrying automobiles lost control and hit three emergency vehicles. Brown was killed and five others were injured.

 

Brown had served for 12 years on the Bloomington Fire Department.

 

He is survived by a wife and two sons.

Gun Rights Group Lobbies State Legislature


A crowd estimated between 7 and 10 thousand people marched to the Capitol to lobby their lawmakers today in support of a reasonable carry law.

 

The State of Illinois is under a federal court order to produce some kind of carry law and members of the Illinois Gun Owners Lobby Day urged their lawmakers to piece together a comprehensive measure that allows for commercial training, statewide rules, and also members oppose any restriction on semi-automatic weapons.

 

Illinois has until June 9th to enact some kind of carry law.

Quinn Blames Legislature For ''Difficult'' Budget


Governor Pat Quinn has laid out his plan for the new state budget… with a healthy dose of finger-pointing at the General Assembly. 

 

Quinn says lawmakers are to blame for what he calls the most difficult budget of his time as governor, because they have failed to send him a comprehensive pension reform plan.  Quinn says he would make changes through executive order if he could… but says he can’t do anything unless the legislature passes a bill. 

 

Quinn and lawmakers will also be at odds over the size of the budget.  The governor based his spending plan on revenues of $35.6 billion, but the legislature is operating on a revenue estimate that’s nearly $600 million less.  [The governor's speech was heard live Wednesday on 970 WMAY.]

Senator Kirk Pushes for Stronger Sanctions Against Iran


Senator Mark Kirk is pushing for stronger sanctions against Iran.

 

Illinois’ junior senator says that sanctions he’s pushed for against Iran need to be tougher to focus on their relationship with North Korea.

 

In a video titled “Before It’s Too Late,” posted to Kirk’s YouTube channel, a voice over says the US must act to detect what could be an undetectable nuclear breakout.

 

In the video, Kirk appears to link the recent North Korean nuclear tests with Iran’s nuclear program.

 

Iran maintains that its nuclear program is peaceful.

 

Mother and Son Arrested In Drug Bust


A mother and her son were arrested this morning after Sangamon County Sheriff’s Drug Interdiction Response Team conducted a raid on a house on the 300 block of S. Livingston seizing 400 grams of cannabis, scales and $877 in cash.

 

Sheriff Neil Williamson says 46-year-old Michelle Buchanan and her son, 24-year-old Braxton Buchanan, were arrested this morning just after 6 am.

 

Authorities got a search warrant after information about drug sales out of the house were provided by informants.

 

Both mother and son are charged with possession and sale of over 30 grams of cannabis and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Supt. Milton Loses Two Jobs in One Day


Walter Milton has lost his job with District 186… and lost out on his bid for a new job in Little Rock, Arkansas… all in the same day.

 

Just before the Springfield school board approved a separation agreement that will lead to Milton’s departure from the district at the end of this month, the Little Rock school board offered its superintendent’s job to someone other than Milton.

 

However, for some, the fight over Milton’s job in Springfield isn’t over.

 

The local branch of the NAACP accuses the school board of violating the Open Meetings Act and failing to be transparent in its dealings with Milton.  In addition, the group charges that budget cuts and layoffs unfairly target minorities, potentially putting the district in violation of the federal desegregation court order.  The NAACP says it may consider legal action.

CCPA Set To Close After School Board Again Votes 4 to 3 for Cut


Despite the pleas of students and parents, the Springfield school board has closed the door on the Capital College Preparatory Academy for the second time in a month. By the same 4-3 vote, board members upheld last month’s decision to close the school in a cost-cutting move.

 

Board member Bill Looby had proposed a compromise to allow the college prep program to keep operating as a “school-within-a-school,” instead of as a stand-alone program, but that proposal was also rejected.

 

Supporters say CCPA has improved test scores and lowered the “achievement gap” in Springfield public schools.

Aldermen Overturn Mayor's Tow Fee Veto


Springfield aldermen have overridden Mayor Mike Houston’s veto of the ordinance that cuts the city’s towing fee in half.

 

Houston wanted to keep the higher $500 fee… noting that most of the vehicles towed by the city are because of drivers stopped for DUIs or suspended or revoked licenses.

 

But aldermen say the fee is just too high and creates a hardship for drivers.

 

Cutting the fee down to $250 could also create a $250,000 gap in the city budget for this fiscal year.

Oak Ridge Cemetery Board Head Resigns, Says Projections Unrealistic


The head of the Oak Ridge Cemetery board has resigned, after warning that the cemetery’s budget is based on what she calls unrealistic revenue projections.

 

The State Journal-Register reports Kate Peters stepped down after raising concerns that Oak Ridge will fall well short of its projections and will have to turn to the city for additional funds to keep cemetery operations running.

 

Peters also complains that the cemetery board is not getting reliable or understandable budget information from the city.

Aldermen Overturn Mayor's Veto on Tow Fee Reduction


Springfield aldermen told Mayor Mike Houston they disagree with his veto of an ordinance that cuts the city's tow fee in half.

 

Nine aldermen moved to override the mayor's veto of an ordinance that passed overwhelmingly two weeks ago.

 

Mayor Mike Houston used his veto power just an hour before the full city council meeting Tuesday.

 

During new business Alderman Doris Turner, sponsor of the measure, motioned to have the council reconsider the ordinance where it received overwhelming support.

 

Only Alderman Gail Simpson voted against the override.

 

Aldermen Frank Lesko was at the meeting but left before the vote was taken.

 

Mayor Houston said the reason he vetoed the ordinance was because over 80 percent of cases where vehicles were towed the driver was charged with DUI or driving with a revoked or suspended license.

 

Houston also says the city will manage the quarter-million-dollar budget hole created by the ordinance. 

Mayor Houston Vetoes Tow Ordinance


Even though it passed the City Council, Springfield Mayor Mike Houston used his veto pen on an ordinance that would reduce Springfield’s tow fee by half.

 

Houston says that the tow fee is meant to be a deterrent and prevent vehicles from being used in crimes.

 

In a memo sent to aldermen, Houston says DUI’s and driving with a suspended or revoked license made up over 80 percent of the tows Springfield conducted.

 

Two weeks ago after the ordinance passed, the Springfield budget director said the ordinance would put a quarter-million-dollar hole in the police budget.

 

Houston asked aldermen to discuss the issue later this month. This is the second time Houston has used his veto power.

School Board Meeting Moved To Accommodate Large Crowds


Tonight’s Springfield school board meeting has been moved to an alternate location… to accommodate the large crowds that are expected. 

 

The meeting will be held in the Grant Middle School gymnasium, next door to the school board offices on West Monroe. 

 

Among the items on the agenda will be a reconsideration of last month’s decision to close the Capital College Preparatory Academy… and final approval of the separation agreement between the school board and outgoing superintendent Walter Milton.  The meeting gets underway at 6:30pm.

Chamber Willing To Consider Tax Hike To Pay For Infrastructure


The head of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce says the business group is willing to consider supporting a sales tax increase… if there are solid guarantees that the money will go to address the city’s critical infrastructure needs. 

 

Steward Sandstrom says the Chamber is firmly behind Mayor Mike Houston’s call to invest tens of millions of dollars into streets, sidewalks and sewers in the next few years, and supports raising city sewer fees to generate some of the money needed.  And Sandstrom says the Chamber would keep an open mind on other funding ideas… including a sales tax hike. 

 

Houston has not proposed a plan for fully funding his infrastructure proposal… because he says he lacks the votes on the City Council needed to pass it.

AFSCME Contract: No Hike In Healthcare Premiums If Raises Are Withheld


The tentative new contract for state workers includes a big incentive for lawmakers to fully fund pay raises. 

 

Under the language of the agreement… posted on Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax Blog website… the contract states that if lawmakers do not appropriate money to pay for wage increases, then workers will not have to pay the higher health insurance premiums also spelled out in the contract. 

 

The deal also calls for workers to receive “step increases” based on years of service, and to pay those increases retroactively.  So far, neither the union nor Governor Pat Quinn has put a price tag on the various salary and step increases contained in the three-year deal.

Dems, GOP Alike Mourn Netsch's Passing


Friends and colleagues on both sides of the aisle are remembering Dawn Clark Netsch as a political icon who served the people of the state with honesty and integrity. 

 

The former state senator and comptroller… who became the first woman to win a major party nomination for Illinois governor… died Tuesday morning at the age of 86.  She revealed in January that she was battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease. 

 

Democrats and Republicans alike say Netsch was a trailblazer for women in politics and someone who set a standard for public service.

Chicago Businessman Explores Bid For Governor


A wealthy Chicago businessman is launching an exploratory committee… with an eye toward seeking the Republican nomination for Governor next year. 

 

Bruce Rauner says he doesn’t have all the answers to the state’s problems… but plans to spend the next 60 days on a “listening tour” of the state to get the input of Illinois residents. 

 

Rauner describes himself as an entrepreneur, not a politician, and says he is “heartbroken” over the current state of Illinois government.  He is one of at least a half-dozen Republicans actively considering a run for the party’s 2014 nomination for governor.

Springfield Man Arrested On Drug, Weapons Charges After Traffic Stop


A driver who allegedly ran a stop sign in Springfield last week is now facing drug and weapons charges. 

 

Illinois State Police say a District 9 trooper spotted the driver running that stop sign at State and Laurel last Wednesday afternoon and pulled him over.  The trooper called for a Springfield Police canine unit… and the dog indicated the presence of drugs. 

 

Consent was given for a search of the vehicle…and afterwards, police say the driver gave consent for a search of his home on South Spring. 

 

Altogether, police say they recovered 10 pounds of cannabis, 8 cannabis plants, and a stolen handgun.  24-year-old Jeffrey Moss is facing multiple charges.

Dawn Clark Netsch Passes Away at 86


Dawn Clark Netsch has died.

 

The longtime Democratic politician was the first woman to become a major party nominee for governor of Illinois, when she ran unsuccessfully against Jim Edgar in 1994.

 

Netsch died early this morning after a battle with Lou Gehrig's disease.

 

She was well respected for her knowledge of state government and finance.

 

Prior to running for governor, she had served for years as a state senator, and then as comptroller.

 

She was also a delegate to the 1970 state constitutional convention.

 

Netsch was 86.

Retiree Healthcare Costs Becoming More Clear In Tentative AFSMCE Contract


It’s still not clear if state government retirees will have to pay health insurance premiums… but if they do, they now have a clearer sense of how much it could cost.

 

The tentative contract between AFSCME and the state includes a breakdown of the rates that would be charged if a state law ending free retiree health insurance is upheld in the courts.

 

Retirees would pay 1 to 2 percent of their pensions, effective this July… the rate would double in July of 2014.

 

But AFSCME says those rates are far lower than what the administration wanted to impose.

Sketches of Suspected Cop Impersonator Released


The Sangamon County Sheriff’s office has released two sketches of a possible suspect in the case of a police impersonator who has tried to pull over at least two women on Springfield’s far west side in the past month.

 

Undersheriff Jack Campbell says despite some differences in the sketches, which are based on the separate recollections of the two victims, authorities believe the same man is responsible for both incidents.

 

They ask that anyone who may recognize the suspect or has other information about the case to call the sheriff’s investigations division at 753-6840.

 

You can see the sketches below.

 

The image without glasses was described by the second victim, the 21 y/o female The image with glasses was described by the first victim, the 16 y/o female
The image without glasses was described by the second victim, the 21 y/o female The image with glasses was described by the first victim, the 16 y/o female

 

Chicago Man Charged With DUI in Fatal Crash That Killed Area Teacher


A 25-year-old Chicago man has been charged with DUI and other offenses after a crash in Mattoon Saturday night that killed a Springfield woman.

 

40-year-old Amy Thomas was a special education teacher at Sherman Elementary School.

 

Thomas was in one of several cars stopped at a red light on Illinois Route 16 in Mattoon when they were struck by a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed.

 

Authorities say 25-year-old Michael Fogarty may have been going 70 miles an hour, and did not stop or slow down before crashing into the cars.

Milton Meets Little Rock, Public Monday, Vote on Supt. Job Could Come Tonight


A vote could come as early as tonight in Little Rock, Arkansas, on whether Springfield school superintendent Walter Milton will get the top schools job there.

 

Milton met with members of the public in Little Rock on Monday, and defended himself against criticism based on controversies in Springfield and in past jobs.

 

Milton blamed many of his troubles on the media, which he said does not provide the “whole story.”

 

But Milton also dodged some questions, claiming not to know anything about a letter placed in his personnel file by Springfield school board president Susan White.

 

That letter was specifically referenced in the deal between Milton and the board that will lead to his departure at the end of this month.

Springfield School Board to Reconsider CCPA Cuts At Meeting Tonight


The Springfield School Board meets tonight to reconsider last month’s decision to close the Capital College Preparatory Academy.

 

Parents of CCPA students have organized to prevent the closure.

 

They say the school has made a real difference, improving test scores and helping kids who had struggled in other school environments.

 

The board voted 4-3 last month to close the academy, a move that could save the district more than a million dollars.

State Senator Manar Proposes Med School Alum Be on SIU Board


As controversy continues to swirl around the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees, a local lawmaker wants to make sure the university’s medical school in Springfield isn’t forgotten.

 

State Senator Andy Manar is proposing that at least one representative on the board be an alumnus of the med school.

 

Lawmakers are considering a revamp of the SIU Board after rejecting three of Governor Pat Quinn’s appointees to the board last week.

 

Critics accuse Quinn of trying to stack the board against SIU Carbondale president Glenn Poshard.

New McDonald's Breaks Ground in Springfield


It’s usually a sign of economic development and growth… ground has been broken for a new McDonald’s in Springfield.

 

This one will go up on far west Wabash… near the site of the upcoming new Robert’s Automotive and Dick Van Dyke Appliance World facilities.

 

Mayor Mike Houston says that corridor is one of the current hot spots for development in Springfield, and thinks the addition of the new McDonald’s will bring even more growth.

 

The restaurant is scheduled to open in early summer.

Fake Cop Composites Released


Sketches of in the recent cop impersonator reports have been released by the Sangamon County Sheriff's Office.  

 

Composite sketches of fake cop

The above sketches were provided by the ATF.  In a release from the Sangamon County Sheriff's office says 

 

The image with glasses was described by the first victim, the 16 y/o female.

The image without glasses was described by the second victim, the 21 y/o female.

There are no new cases to report, and the investigation continues.

ATF recommends when printing these images, EACH should be about the size of a playing card.

Driver Charged In Fatal Crash


The driver of a vehicle that caused a fatal four-car accident Saturday in Mattoon is charged with DUI.

 

25-year-old Michael Fogarty of Chicago is accused of driving at high speeds when he struck three other vehicles. 9 people were transported to area hospitals with minor and life threatening injuries.

 

40-year-old Amy Thomas of Springfield died at a hospital in Champaign Other charges against Fogarty are possible pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation.

Senator Manar Proposes State Give Dist 186 Payment


State Senator Andy Manar wants the state to make up for some of the money it costs Springfield schools by its very presence.

 

Manar notes that District 186 loses an unknown amount of property tax dollars that would go into its coffers because of the large number of state-owned facilities… which are exempt from property taxes. He would like the state to make small payment to the district in lieu of the full property tax value. Manar’s plan calls for the state to pay one-half of one-percent… an amount he estimates at 200-to-600 thousand dollars.

 

But he acknowledges it will be a tough bill to pass, even though several other Illinois communities already get such payments.

Local Teacher Killed in Mattoon Accident Over Weekend


A Springfield woman and local teacher is dead following a crash in Mattoon Saturday night.

 

The Campaign County Corner confirms that the deceased passenger is 40-year-old Amy Thomas from Springfield.

 

The Journal Gazette and Times-Courier of Mattoon reports that the accident occurred Saturday night involved four vehicles with the striking vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed.

 

Thomas was still alive when she was transferred from Coles County to Champaign County where she died Sunday afternoon from traumatic head injuries, according to Champaign Coroner Duane Northrup.

 

No further details about the accident were immediately available.

New School Supt. Will Be Barred From Outside Consultant Work


The next Springfield school superintendent may have a provision in their contract prohibiting them from conducting outside consulting work.

 

There is no such provision in outgoing Superintendent Walter Milton’s contract, and the State Journal-Register reports that a firm started by Milton has made tens of thousands of dollars performing consulting services for several districts in other states.

 

Milton says he has conducted that work on personal or vacation time… but school board president Susan White says the next superintendent should be focused only on District 186.

Springfield Chamber of Commerce Offers No Suggestion on How To Fund Infrastructure


The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce is renewing its support for a coordinated plan to address Springfield's infrastructure needs.

 

The Chamber issued a statement last week saying it agrees with Mayor Mike Houston on the need to spend more than $86 million in the next three years to upgrade streets, sidewalks and sewers.

 

But the chamber did not take a stand on how to pay for it, and Houston's own plan is on hold because he says he does not have enough votes on the City Council to pass it.

Governor's Budget Address This Wednesday


Governor Pat Quinn is putting the finishing touches on his new state budget, which will be delivered to lawmakers on Wednesday as Quinn offers his annual budget address.

 

In addition to the state’s growing pension crisis and an increasing stack of unpaid bills, the governor also has to find funds to pay for the contract he negotiated with AFSCME last week… one that reportedly will hand out the pay raises that Quinn withheld two years ago because lawmakers did not approve enough money for them.

 

970 WMAY will have live coverage of the governor’s budget speech from the Capitol, Wednesday at noon.

Area State Representative Calls for Repeal of Temporary Income Tax Increase


Democratic State Representative Sue Scherer is calling for an immediate repeal of the state income tax increase approved in 2011.

 

That two-percentage-point tax hike is scheduled to expire in 2015… but Scherer says it should be repealed now, so that the money can go back to Illinois families.

 

Scherer says that will do more to help the Illinois economy and make the state a friendlier place for businesses.

Proposed Law Regulating Drone Weaponry May Get Tweaked


An Illinois lawmaker may back off part of his bill to limit the use of unmanned drone aircraft by local law enforcement.

 

State Senator Daniel Biss has introduced legislation to limit how and when the drones can be used.

 

His original proposal also prohibited putting any lethal or non-lethal weaponry aboard those unmanned planes.

 

But Biss now says he may drop the weapons provision… at the request of law enforcement agencies.

 

Biss says he’s OK with focusing on the surveillance and privacy issues for now, and addressing the weapons question at a future time.

 

The bill has been assigned to a committee hearing set for this Wednesday.

Commander Krumrei Officially Sworn In To Lead Illinois National Guard


The new commander of the Illinois National Guard has been officially sworn in.

 

Daniel Krumrei was promoted to Brigadier General and assumed the command of the Guard during ceremonies Saturday in his home town of Chatham.

 

Krumrei had been the Guard chaplain until he was chosen by Governor Pat Quinn to replace William Enyart… who stepped down from his command post last year to make a successful run for Congress.

Chamber Endorses Infrastructure Plan; Funding Mechanism Still Unclear


The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce is renewing its support for a coordinated plan to address Springfield's infrastructure needs. 

 

The Chamber issued a statement last week saying it agrees with Mayor Mike Houston on the need to spend more than $86 million in the next three years to upgrade streets, sidewalks and sewers. 

 

But the chamber did not take a stand on how to pay for it, and Houston's own plan is on hold because he says he does not have enough votes on the City Council to pass it.

Lawmakers Want Changes After SIU Controversy


A local lawmaker hopes that controversy on the campus of Southern Illinois University will lead to a greater voice for Springfield. 

 

SIU is embroiled in a battle between university president Glenn Poshard and former board chair Roger Herrin. 

 

After lawmakers rejected Governor Pat Quinn's appointments to the board last week, a bill has been introduced to require equal representation from the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses on the board.  And state Senator Andy Manar also wants to give the SIU Medical School in Springfield a guaranteed board seat.  [Manar will be a guest Monday morning on the Jim Leach Show on 970 WMAY.]

New National Guard Leader Sworn In


The Illinois National Guard officially has a new commander. 

 

Brigadier General Daniel Krumrei was sworn in Saturday in a ceremony in Chatham.  Krumrei had been the command staff chaplain for the guard.  He was appoined by Governor Pat Quinn to replace Bill Enyart, who stepped down to make a successful run for Congress last year.

Another Fake Cop Incident Reported, This Time In Macoupin County


There’s another reported incident of a police impersonator pulling over a young woman on a remote highway… and Sangamon County authorities say there are reasons to think it may involve the same individual suspected in two other local cases. 

 

The latest incident happened earlier this week, near Shipman in Macoupin County.  A woman reported that a man in an unmarked vehicle with flashing lights pulled her over and asked to see her license.  The man ultimately let the woman go. 

 

The Macoupin County victim said the man had a shirt and hat with the word “Police” embroidered on them, and she described a dark-colored car… not the white vehicle reported in the Sangamon County stops.  But local authorities say there are enough similarities to cause concern, and they are asking anyone with timely tips to contact police.

Growing Opposition to Walter Milton's Bid For Little Rock Job


Opposition is mounting in Little Rock, Arkansas, to the possibility of Springfield School Superintendent Walter Milton landing the top schools job there.

 

An online petition and a Facebook page have drawn more than 200 people urging the Little Rock school board to remove Milton from their list of four finalists for the superintendent’s job.

 

At least two school board members there have also complained about the inclusion of Milton on the list of finalists… and questioning the judgment of the search firm that recommended him for the job.

 

Milton is scheduled to meet with members of the public in Little Rock on Monday.

New Contract Agreement Reached Between State and AFSCME, Ratification Vote Next Week


State workers will begin voting next week on a tentative contract agreement with the Quinn administration.

 

The deal was hammered out in the early morning hours Thursday… following 15 months of talks that had seemed at times to be hopelessly stalled.

 

The agreement avoids the possibility of a first-ever walkout by state workers.

 

Neither side will openly discuss details of the contract proposal, but a bargaining committee member tells the Associated Press that it includes the pay raise that Governor Pat Quinn withheld in 2011… and also includes pay raises in the final two years of the three-year deal.

 

In exchange, workers would pay more for their health care coverage.

 

The contract is also believed to address the fate of the free health insurance premiums that many state retirees currently enjoy.

House Rejects Pension Reform Amendments


Illinois House members have resoundingly rejected a series of amendments put forward by House Speaker Mike Madigan on the issue of pension reform.

 

Even Madigan’s own Democrats would not back the proposals, ranging from raising the retirement age to eliminating cost-of-living increases for retirees.

 

None of Madigan’s four amendments got more than five “yes” votes.

 

And Republicans refused to vote on the measures at all, saying that Madigan’s tactic was a waste of time.

Lake Levels Up But Still Below Average


Lake Springfield levels are rising, but so far not enough to allow for the lifting of water restrictions.

 

The State Journal-Register reports the lake has risen by about a foot over the last month, thanks to heavier than normal precipitation since the first of the year.

 

But the lake is still nearly nine inches below its average for this time of year, leaving restrictions in place for the time being.

 

City officials note the restrictions don’t have much impact right now, since there’s very little outdoor watering that takes place in the winter months.

Fallen Soldiers Remember 22 Years After Operation Desert Storm


Those who served… and those who died… in the first Gulf War are being remembered as heroes whose service should not be discounted because the conflict they served in was so brief.

 

Thursday marked the 22nd anniversary of the end of Operation Desert Storm, after just four days of ground combat.

 

Ceremonies were held at the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield to mark the occasion and to remember the 14 Illinoisans… including Christian Porter of Springfield… who died in the conflict.

Springfield Student To Tour Civil Rights Sites With Congressional Delegation


A Springfield High School student will accompany Congressman Aaron Schock and other members of Congress on a weekend tour of major sites related to the civil rights struggle.

 

That three-day tour through Alabama will include stops at Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma… where protests and, at times, violence marked the long quest for racial equality.

 

Onsi Kamel, who serves as the student representative on the Springfield School Board, was chosen to join the congressional delegation on the trip, which will also include participation in a re-enactment of a civil rights march.

 

Vice-President Joe Biden will also take part in that event.

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