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October 20, 2014, 5:46 pm
970 WMAY News Archives for 2012-07

Springfield City Council Eyes Water Restrictions

The drought has already resulted in burning bans in many areas, including Springfield. And now the City Council will spend time tonight looking at water restrictions for Springfield residents.


Mayor Mike Houston would not only like to see restrictions, but he'd also like Council to enact fines for those who violate the restrictions.

Gaslight Court Mobile Home Park: "No More Big Dogs"

Dog owning residents of the Gaslight Court Mobile Home Park in Springfield got a surprise in their mail Monday, as the Park announced a ban on large dogs and certain dog breeds.


In a statement, Gaslight Court claims the ban is necessary to keep the insurance company from cancelling its policy on the Court.


Many of the dog owners are outraged and plan to move before the ban takes effect November 1st.

ACLU Concerned About Police License Plate Reader Technology

They’d like to know what the Springfield Police is doing with the data gathered from automatic license cameras. The American Civil Liberties Union is concerned about the potential misuses of the technology.


ACLU Attorney Karen Sheley, in a live on-air interview with 970 WMAY’s Greg Bishop, thinks that the information which Springfield police have gathered with the cameras could violate the rights of its citizens. The ACLU has requested a response on the issue from the Department and expects to hear back from City Police on Monday.


Cliff Buscher, Assistant Police Chief told WMAY News that the Springfield Squad Cars currently don’t have the cameras, but they’ve ordered some.

Davlin Letter Details Revealed

More information is available about the note late Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin wrote to his family just before committing suicide in December 2010.


The State Journal-Register filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit with the Illinois State Police for the letter, but only received a summary.


The paper says they were told by police that the person who had the letter was asked to hand it over to authorities but they did not because they feared its contents would be printed in the news.


Instead, the person with the letter read it to police over the phone.


The letter is reported to have dealt with family matters and does not indicate why Davlin took his life.


Davlin committed suicide the day he was due in court to answer questions about missing funds from an estate he was executor.

Vision Air Passengers Back Home After Mechanical Delays

A couple hundred Vision Airlines passengers are home after their flight was delayed from Myrtle Beach.


Mark Hannah, the executive director of the Springfield’s airport authority, says that mechanical problems led to the delay.


The flights out to four cities, including Springfield, were supposed to leave Sunday, but passengers didn’t get back in the area until Monday afternoon.

Sangamon County Corn Yield Estimates Postponed

The Sangamon County Farm Bureau has postponed their annual corn yield estimates because of the sever drought.


The State Journal-Register reports that the annual count that began in 2003 would not be accurate this year because of the lack of rain.


Last year’s yield average was 165.7 bushels per acre.


The information is used for marketing purposes.

Hit and Run Suspect Arrested

A suspect police say was involved in a hit and run accident that left a woman in critical condition is now in custody.


Vernon T. White was arrested over the weekend and is charged with leaving the scene of an accident with an injury, aggravated reckless driving and driving on a suspended license.


Vernon is accused of hitting an 18-year-old Colorado woman as she was walking early Sunday morning on Capital Avenue.

Woman in Critical Condition Following Wreck Was Not Wearing Seat Belt

A Hillsboro woman is in serious condition after she was ejected from her vehicle when it rolled multiple times.


A police report says that 30-year-old Tanya Storm, the driver of the SUV, lost control on Route 16 in Montgomery County when she was distracted by something in the back seat.


The two passengers, a 32-year-old male and a 2-year-old child, are listed with non-life threatening injuries.


Storm is charged with not wearing a seatbelt.

Myrtle Beach Passengers Finally Home After 24 hours

Around 200 travelers were stranded coming back from Myrtle Beach Sunday because mechanical delays, according to Mark Hanna, Executive Director of the Springfield Airport Authority.


Passengers flying out to four cities – including Springfield – finally got on planes to Indianapolis and Louisville, but those flights didn’t get passengers back to Springfield until Monday afternoon.


Hanna says he was told one of the 737’s was down for scheduled maintenance and the other was having mechanical problems and was not safe for take-off.

School District 186 Registration Time

It’s time to get the kids registered for school in District 186 for the 2012-13 school year. Registration begins this week, with High School registration taking place on August 2nd and 3rd. Elementary School registration (Kindergarten through 5th grade) will register on August 6th. And Middle School (grades 6 through 8) will register on August 6th and 7th.


All students - with the exception of Iles and Lincoln Magnet Schools which have their own registration dates – are required to register for this coming school year. Graham and Southern View Elementary have already begun their new school year and registered their students earlier in the summer.


For more information about registration or for a school locator, visit SPS 186 (dot) org.

Governor Quinn Calls Special Session August 17th

It’s going to be an interrupted Summer break for Illinois legislators. Governor Pat Quinn has declared that he’s convening a Special Session of the 97th General Assembly on August 17th to deal with Pension Reform.


Quinn says through the declaration that the pension liability of 83 billion dollars is unfunded and unsustainable, costing taxpayers millions of dollars daily. The Fiscal Budget for 2013 is 33-point-7 billion dollars.


Quinn says if left unchecked, the pension crisis compromises the State’s credit rating and threatens vital educational, human services, and public safety programs.

High Speed Rail Meeting August 15th

Your last chance to sell Illinois Department of Transportation Officials where to put the high speed trains in Springfield is August 15th.


This is the last series of meetings that IDOT will hold before submitting their recommendations to the Federal Government.  


The meeting will be August 15th from 4 to 7pm at the President Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center.  



Springfield Fire Department Declares Burning Ban

The Springfield Fire Department has declared a burning ban within corporate city limits, as well as within all jurisdictions which receive fire protection from the Department.


The burn ban is effective at midnight tonight and remains in effect until Midnight, August 6th.


The insufficient rain, low humidity and wind conditions – combined with the dry conditions over the past few months – highly increases the chances of fires getting out of control.

Burn Ban in Divernon

As the city of Springfield gets ready to place water restrictions on residents, Divernon has issued a ban on outdoor burning throughout the entire fire prevention district.  


The ban means no burning of yard waste or garbage.  


It does not include charcoal grills, but residents are cautioned to keep a careful eye on the grill and to not leave it unattended.



Early Morning Fire Causes $100k in Damage

It was bad enough, but it could have been a lot worse. 


Springfield firefighters are crediting smoke detectors and an alarm system to alerting the residents to a basement fire in the 3700 block of Northwest Territory Drive.  


No one was hurt, but the fire did $100,000 dollars damage to the home.


Firefighters are investigating the cause of the blaze, which broke out just before six Monday morning.


Springfield Vision Air Passengers Flights Delayed

Some people from Springfield who flew out to Myrtle Beach on Vision Air from Capital Airport are still waiting to come back home. Vision delayed flights to four cities including Springfield on Sunday.


Passengers finally got on planes to Indianapolis and Louisville, but flights to Cleveland and Springfield have not yet left. Vision Air is not commenting on the situation and Myrtle Beach TV Station WMBF reports that their airport officials are unaware of any problems with Vision Air.

Early Morning Fire Ongoing

Springfield firefighters are responding this hour to an early morning house fire way west of Springfield.


The fire alarm came in at 5:45 Monday morning as fire crews sent several trucks to the 3700 block of the street Northwest Territory.


Assistant Fire Chief Greg Surbeck says firefighters are currently on the scene.


There is no word of injuries or possible causes of the fire at this time.


Stay with 970 WMAY for updates on this developing story.

Sangamon County Can't Ban Tanning Minors County-wide

Springfield Alderman Sam Cahnman’s ordinance banning minors from using tanning beds at commercial tanning parlors in Springfield seems more in doubt as Sangamon County officials say they can’t have a county-wide ban.


The State Journal-Register reports that the county is not home-rule and cannot supersede state law.


Current state law says that minors between 14 and 17 must get parental permission before entering a tanning bed.


Cahnman tabled his ordinance several weeks ago because of a lack of support.


Opponents say they understand the links between tanning and cancer, but banning tanning booths in Springfield would put the dozen tanning parlors in the capital city at a disadvantage.

Driver Charged With DUI After Early Sunday Morning Accident

A 27-year-old driver involved in an early Sunday morning accident on westbound I-72 has now been charged with driving under the influence.


Police say Sydney Evans was traveling on the ramp from I-72 to the 6th St. exit when his vehicle went off the road, down the embankment and then over the other exit ramp from 6th street to I-72.


Evans was also cited for driving with a suspended license.


He was transferred to Memorial Medical Center and treated for minor injuries.

Vehicle Flips After Tire Blows Out Sunday Afternoon

One person is injured after a sedan carrying four people overturned Sunday afternoon on I-72.


Police say the vehicle was traveling eastbound just a half-mile from the 6th street exit when a tire blew out causing the driver to lose control and roll over.


The vehicle landed on its roof in a ditch.


A 55-year old passenger was transported to Memorial Medical Center with what’s reported as non-life threatening injuries.


Police say no one else was injured in the wreck.

Olympian With Springfield Roots Medals in Synchronized Diving

Kelci Bryant, image taken from
Kelci Bryant, image taken from

A Springfield native puts an end to a twelve-year medal drought after taking silver in synchronized diving Sunday afternoon at the London Olympics.  


Kelci Bryant, and her teammate Abby Johnston, won the silver medal during the 3-meter synchronized diving competition at Aquatics Centre.


The last American to bring home a medal in synchronized diving was Laura Wilkinson during the 2000 Sydney Olympics.  


Bryant was born in Springfield but, according to her bio, has never trained in the capital city. In 1997 she began training for diving in St. Louis, then trained at Illinois State University and later Perdue.  Currently, Bryant trains at the National Training Center in Indianapolis.


Special Meeting Set For Tuesday To Consider Emergency Water Restrictions For Springfield

Springfield could be under mandatory water restrictions in a matter of days. 


A special city council meeting is set for Tuesday to consider emergency measures to limit water use during the drought.


The ordinance would limit residential use of sprinklers and allow people to wash their cars at home only on the weekends… although commercial car washes would not be affected. 


Fines for violations would range from 50 dollars for a first offense to 500 dollars after the third time. If approved Tuesday, the measure would take effect immediately.

Police Investigate Death Of One-Year-Old; Girl's Mother Is Focus Of Investigation

Authorities hope autopsy results will give them more to go on as they investigate the death of a one-year-old girl. 


The child was found dead at the MERCY Communities apartment complex for homeless women and their children on South 19th Street. 


Police who were called to the scene discovered the girl’s mother with stab wounds… and possibly under the influence of drugs. Investigators say the mother may have been responsible for the child’s death, but say the autopsy results are needed to confirm their theory.

Grass Fire Burns Dozens Of Acres Near Rochester; Barn Burns But Homes Spared

It’s a searing reminder of the dangers of any kind of open flame in these hot, dry conditions. 


A grass fire near Rochester quickly got out of hand Friday, burning more than 200 acres of open field and destroying a barn and shed.  But nearby fire departments stayed on the scene for hours and kept the fire from damaging any homes in the area. 


Authorities are still trying to determine how the blaze started.

House Number Painters Are Not City Employees

The City of Springfield wants residents to know that there is an individual who has a legitimate permit to paint house numbers along the curb – but the individual is not acting on behalf of the City, nor is he an employee of the City of Springfield.


The individual states that large numbers are more easily seen by police, fire department personnel, ambulance drivers or other service vehicles which may need to find a home quickly. However, taking advantage of the offer is up to the individual home owner.


The City of Springfield does not require that house numbers be painted on the curb.

Park District Does Its Part To Conserve Water

In keeping with the rest of the Springfield City water conservation effort, the Springfield Park District says it will do its part. It’s cutting back on watering turf at the Botanical Garden, decreasing the watering of park boulevards, and they say they will focus on only watering newly-plated trees.


The waterfall at the Lincoln Park Lagoon has been shut down, and the fountain around the Carillon has been shut down until leaks can be repaired.


Golfers may notice that the greenest grass will be on the fairway – watered every other day – and the greens. Non-playing and rough areas, including the driving range at Lincoln Greens will not be watered at all.

Burn Ban for Riverton and Sherman

The Riverton Fire Protection District and the Sherman Fire Protection District has declared a NO BURN BAN within their district boundaries.


They say the ban is caused by insufficient totals of rain, low humidity and sustained winds with gusts over 15 miles per hour, which highly increases the chance of a fire getting started or getting out of control.


The ban takes effect immediately and will be in effect until August 3rd at Midnight.

Swimmers Get Itchy From Lake Jacksonville Water

Two cases of “Swimmers Itch” have cropped up in people that have swum in Lake Jacksonville last week.


The itch is a rash caused by an allergic reaction to certain parasites in the water, which come from infected birds and snails. The parasites can burrow into the skin, causing an allergic reaction. The Illinois Department of Public Health says anyone who wades or swims in infected water may be at risk. Swimmers itch is not contagious and can’t be spread from person-to-person.


Swimmers can get relief from the rash by using a cortisone cream or anti-itch lotion, applying baking soda or cold compress to the rash, or bathe in Epsom salts, baking soda, or soak in an oatmeal bath.

Springfield Woman Arrested For Shooting

Sangamon County deputies have arrested a 31-year-old woman in connection with a shooting that sent a man to the hospital.


Deputies who responded to a call in the 25-hundred block of North Grand Avenue East found the 30-year-old victim shot twice… police say the wounds are not life-threatening. The sheriff’s department says the shooter had already fled the scene, but police quickly identified her and stopped her vehicle.


They’ve charged Naomi Painter with aggravated battery with a firearm and aggravated discharge of a firearm. Police have not yet recovered the weapon.

Springfield Government and Businesses Are Talking Trash

Area businesses and Springfield city government are talking trash -- Zero Waste to be more specific.


A Friday morning presentation at the Citizens Club of Springfield welcomed a recycling advocate and commercial recycler to talk about how Springfield government and businesses can achieve a goal of Zero Waste.


Left to right: Todd Shumacker and Wynne Coplea

Wynne Coplea from the Illinois Green Economy Network says that municipalities can put forward policies and ordinances to encourage zero waste and recycling.


Todd Shumacker with Midwest Fiber Recycling says residents and businesses can use single-stream recycling, something his company facilitates, to cut down on landfill use and also help create more jobs in the recycling industry.


Springfield Public Works Director Mark Mahoney says city government is looking at ways to not only help businesses achieve Zero Waste, but also to increase internally the amount of recycling done by city government.

With Record Water Usage, Utility Asks for Voluntary Conservation


City Water Light and Power is renewing its call for voluntary water conservation measures, as water usage continues to set records.


As the drought continues with no break in sight, the utility processed more than 40 million gallons of water Wednesday, breaking a record set less than two weeks earlier.


CWLP is asking homes and businesses to limit outdoor watering and even use of washing machines to non-peak hours between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m.


Odd-numbered addresses are being asked to use sprinklers only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while even-numbered addresses should do so only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Unemployment Numbers Up in Springfield & Decatur

Unemployment is up slightly in Springfield.


The jobless rate in the city and surrounding areas climbed to 7.7 percent in June, up one-tenth of one-percent from a year ago.


Decatur saw a spike in its unemployment rate, jumping from 10.5 percent to 11 percent last month.


But Rockford, which has had some of the highest unemployment in the state, saw its rate fall almost a full-percentage point in June compared to 2011.

New Round of Subpoenas For Retired Illinois Lawmaker

Federal prosecutors are taking a closer look at a Chicago lawmaker who recently retired.


The Chicago Tribune reports the U.S. Attorney’s Office has issued a new round of subpoenas seeking information about a scholarship fund named after retired Representative Connie Howard, and asking for records from an Illinois House committee that she chaired.


Howard oversaw the House computer technology committee, and at the same time sponsored the scholarship program that bore her name, which reportedly used state grant dollars to provide scholarships to undergraduate students.


The subpoenas were issued days after Howard stepped down for what she called “personal reasons.”

Chicago Mayor Tones Down Chick-Fil-A Criticism

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is toning down his harsh remarks about the Chick-Fil-A restaurant chain, which is battling to open a second restaurant in the Windy City.


Earlier this week, Emanuel had said that Chick-Fil-A’s values were not Chicago’s values.


But now an Emanuel spokesman says the mayor was referring only to the company’s founder and president, who has supported groups which oppose same-sex marriage.


The mayor’s office says Emanuel will not block Chick-Fil-A from opening a new franchise in Chicago.

CWLP Asks All Customers To Conserve Water

City Water, Light and Power is now asking its water customers, including Southern View, Leland Grove, Grandview, Jerome, Williamsville, Rochester and customers of the Sugar Creek Water District to voluntarily restrict outdoor watering.


The Utility says water usage is continuing to break records. The treatment plant produced over 40 million gallons of drinking water on Wednesday.


CWLP is requesting restricting outdoor water use to between 7pm and 8am and stagger watering days to Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday for even numbered addresses…Monday, Wednesday and Friday for odd-numbered addresses. Also, they’re asking to restrict washing machine and dishwasher use to 7pm to 8am. For more information on water conservation, visit

Joblessness Up In Springfield

Springfield’s road to economic recovery continues to be bumpy.


The City’s jobless rate edged up one tenth of one percent last month, compared to June 2011. A net loss of 600 jobs pushed the unemployment rate locally to 7.7 percent.


The news was somewhat better in other parts of the state, especially Rockford where unemployment is almost a full percentage point lower than a year ago.

IL Attorney General Office Workers Authorize Strike

Clerical and paralegal workers in the Illinois Attorney General’s Office have authorized a strike if they can’t reach an agreement on a new labor contract.


The State Journal-Register reports 250 workers represented by the Illinois Federation of Public Employees are seeking a one-time stipend in lieu of a pay raise.


But a spokesman for Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the request is unrealistic.


Talks between the two sides are continuing.

Federal Subpenas for Tuition Waiver Records of Chicago Area Lawmaker

Another Illinois lawmaker is coming under scrutiny over the tuition waivers he handed out under a program that was recently scrapped by the General Assembly and Gov.  Pat Quinn.


Federal subpoenas have been issued for records from Chicago Democratic Representative Dan Burke.


Burke is the third lawmaker under federal investigation for the program, amid allegations that some legislators improperly handed out the scholarships to the children of political supporters, even those who lived outside their legislative districts.

Resigned Lawmakers Says Departure was for Personal Reasons

Another Illinois lawmaker has resigned, but it’s not clear if her decision has anything to do with federal prosecutors’ interest in her efforts to help an AIDS prevention group land state grants.


Representative Connie Howard submitted her resignation several weeks ago, but it just became public this week.


Her resignation letter says she is stepping down for “personal reasons.”


Federal officials have looked at her involvement in those grants, and are continuing to review the activities of other lawmakers who may have intervened in the grant process.


But Howard has also reportedly been in poor health.

Chicago Company Improperly Jacks Up Baseball Card Values in Auction

A major U.S. memorabilia company improperly jacked up auction prices for some baseball cards and sold hair advertised as belonging to Elvis Presley even though its authenticity was in doubt, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.


Among the allegations is that the company did not disclose that a rare Honus Wagner baseball card had been altered, a fact which would have lowered its million-dollar auction price.


That company, Mastro Auctions of Chicago, is now shut down.


Owner William Mastro and two former company executives are facing charges of mail fraud.

Recreation of Springfield Murder Case Airs on Network TV

Some of the actual people who were caught up in a notorious Springfield murder case were on hand –- or on screen – for Wednesday’s national broadcast of an episode of ABC’s summer series “Final Witness.”


The episode, which was shot in Springfield last year, re-creates the Mark Winger case.


Winger was originally hailed as a hero for killing an intruder that had bludgeoned his wife to death, but later police learned that Winger had killed both people and framed the man to take the blame.


Detective Charlie Cox, who helped crack the case, attended a screening at a Springfield bar.


Also on hand were family members of Roger Harrington, the transit van driver who was falsely accused, but was later revealed to be one of Winger’s victims.

OEM Issues Open Burning Advisory

The Sangamon County Office of Emergency Management has issued an Open Burning Advisory for all areas of Sangamon County.


OEM Director David Butts says there is an elevated fire danger in our area because of the lack of rain and triple digit temperatures on ten days over the past 4-week period.


Butt says when wind gusts are present, the dry vegetation can easily catch fire that will spread quickly. The advisory is until further notice.

VA Out patient Clinic Showcases Tele-Health Programs on August 8th

The Springfield VA Outpatient Clinic is having an open house on Wednesday, August 8th, to highlight their Tele-Health programs.


It’s designed to help provide additional services to Veterans and prevents them from having to travel. The clinic is at 5850 South 6th street.


The Springfield VA Outpatient Clinic has over a dozen Tele-Health clinics including speech, wound care, pain school, rehab, dermatology and retinal.

Sheriff's Office Offers ID Theft Workshop on Friday

The Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office and the Illinois Comptroller’s Office is offering an “Identity Theft, Frauds, and Scams” workshop at the Sangamon County Office of Emergency Management – 2801 North 5th Street on Friday from 10am to 11:30am.


The workshop is free to the public. Topics include proactive and reactive steps to take when dealing with Identity Theft…addressing everything from information about most common types of financial fraud and how to prevent becoming a victim.

State Representative Resigns Under Scrutiny

A state representative whose involvement in an AIDS awareness organization provoked interest from federal prosecutors has resigned her office.


Democratic State Representative Connie Howard submitted her resignation earlier this month, citing only “personal reasons” for stepping down. Howard is one of several lawmakers who have come under scrutiny for the way grant money is doled out. However, subpoenas for records from her office were issued over three years ago, and she has not been accused of wrongdoing.


Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax says Howard has been in poor health in recent years.

Call Center Consolidation Causes Major Problems

The consolidation of 20 Illinois State Police call centers down to just four has run into some glitches.


The Southern Illinoisan newspaper reports that the Du Quoin center… which now fields calls that had previously been handled by four separate centers… suffered numerous technical problems this week that at times left the center without phone service, caller I-D, or GPS services.


AFSCME says Du Quoin and other centers have also been plagued by understaffing, leading to long overtime shifts for many workers. The union has criticized the consolidation, which was implemented as a cost-cutting move. AFSCME says the centers will be overworked and unable to provide timely response to people seeking State Police assistance.

Gambling & Shopping Could Help Boost Tourist Numbers

Gambling and shopping could take their place along Lincoln as key attractions to draw more visitors to Springfield.


That’s according to Mayor Mike Houston, who is hoping to build on an increase in tourism numbers locally last year.


Houston says that although the number of visitors to the city is up, too many are spending just a day here and then leaving.


The mayor hopes a planned outlet mall near Scheels and the addition of video gambling at liquor establishments will give people more reason to plan an overnight stay, or even one that lasts several days.

Lawmakers Object to Dangerous Inmates Transferring Out-of-State

Lawmakers are objecting to reports that the Quinn administration may seek to move some dangerous inmates to prisons out-of-state if the Tamms supermax prison is shut down as planned.


The governor’s office won’t confirm details of a proposal to move as many as nine inmates to prisons in other states, but acknowledge Illinois does have deals with other states to house inmates when dictated by safety issues or other needs.


Lawmakers who represent the area near Tamms say the move shows that Illinois cannot absorb the loss of the supermax prison, and accuse Quinn of outsourcing Illinois corrections jobs to other states.

Chicago Alderman Has Beef With Chick-Fil-A

A Chicago alderman says he will block Chick-Fil-A from opening a restaurant in his ward, because of statements made by the chain’s founder opposing same-sex marriage.


Alderman Joe Moreno calls the company discriminatory and says he doesn’t want the chain in his ward.


Chick-Fil-A founder Dan Cathy’s support of groups that defend the traditional definition of marriage has led to a growing outcry.


Talk of allowing the chain to open a restaurant on the University of Illinois-Springfield campus has stalled as students have raised similar objections about the company’s values.

Fight Over Marriage Equality Could Be Put to Illinois Voters

As a court fight over marriage equality in Illinois continues, some lawmakers want to take the issue out of the hands of the courts, and put it into the hands of the voters.


Four Republican representatives have signed on as co-sponsors of the resolution, which seeks to put a constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot, one which would state that “only a marriage between a man and a woman would be valid and recognized in Illinois.”


Past attempts to put similar language on the ballot in Illinois have failed.


No action on the new attempt is expected until this fall at the earliest.

Second Arrest in Pease's Robbery

Authorities have made a second arrest in the armed robbery of a Pease’s candy store earlier this month.


Acting on a tip, police arrested 22-year-old Michael Poole late Monday.


They had earlier charged 19-year-old Towan Davis in the holdup.


A third suspect is being sought.


Police say the three worked together to rob the store at gunpoint, pistol-whipping a worker before making off with a thousand dollars in cash.

Illinois Tourism Sets A Record In 2011

The tourism industry has made a comeback in Illinois. 


State officials say the numbers of visitors set a record last year, with 93 million tourists arriving in 2011.  That tops the previous record of 91 million, set in 2006 before the economic downturn. 


State officials say the uptick is a sign that tourism has rebounded from the recession.

Cellini Lawyers Seek Probation

Bill Cellini’s lawyers have formally requested probation for the Springfield powerbroker, who is awaiting an October sentencing on corruption convictions.


His defense team says the prosecution recommendation of an eight-year sentence is based in part on allegations for which Cellini was acquitted, and which therefore should not be factored into his sentence.


A court filing says that Cellini was not a major player in the schemes being pushed by others in former governor Rod Blagojevich’s inner circle.

Springfield Area Father Acquitted of Shaken Baby Charges

A Springfield man who spent the last two-and-a-half years in jail is now free after a jury acquitted him of shaking and injuring his infant daughter.


Testimony at the trial of Richard Britts indicated the girl may have had a pre-existing medical condition that caused her to have a seizure while Britts was watching her.


Experts also testified that the child did not have some of the telltale signs of shaken baby syndrome.


Britts had been in custody since his arrest in April of 2010.

Victim Named in Saturday's Deadly Crash

Authorities have now released the name of the woman killed in a suspected DUI accident in downtown Springfield Saturday evening.


22-year-old Quana Poole was killed when her vehicle was struck by a van driven by 26-year-old Alex Robertson of Waverly.


Police say Robertson ran a red light at 9th and Monroe around 6 Saturday night, causing the accident.


Robertson has been charged with aggravated driving under the influence and is being held on $250,000 bond.

Ordinance Proposes Residency Requirement Be Ballot Initiative

The voters of capital city would get the final say on a residency requirement for new hires at city hall in an ordinance up for consideration at the Springfield City Council.


If passed, Aldermen Joe McMenamin’s ordinance would put the question on the November General Election ballot.


McMenamin says his persistence on the residency issue is a campaign promise.


The Springfield City Council is off today and will take up the issue, along with other proposed ordinances, during the committee of the whole next Tuesday.

Slottag to Retire as Communication Director After Serving Four Mayors

The longtime spokesman for four consecutive Springfield mayors is retiring.


Ernie Slottag will leave his post as city communications director next month.


He was hired in 1995 by then-Mayor Karen Hasara, and was kept on by Tim Davlin, Frank Edwards and Mike Houston.


Slottag will be replaced by Nathan Mihelich, a former Channel 20 reporter who served as a press aide to Houston during his 2011 campaign for mayor.

District 186 Will Vote on Proposed Policy Change Next Month

The Springfield School Board will vote next month on several proposed policy changes, including one to formally add “sexual orientation” to the list of categories that are protected from discrimination within the school system.


Board member Scott McFarland says he believes the district already follows a policy of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and says its omission from official district policy was just an oversight.


The board will also consider more specific rules prohibiting political activity on school property.

Another Springfield Connection at the London Olympics

There’s another Springfield connection to the Olympics.


Chris Jeffers, who oversees two family-owned McDonald’s restaurants in Springfield, was chosen to manage the McDonald’s that will operate in the Olympic village during the London games.


He was chosen on the basis of meeting performance goals at his Springfield stores.

Man Charged in Fatal DUI Crash

The Sangamon County coroner has released the name of the woman killed in a suspected DUI crash in downtown Springfield Saturday night.


A statement from the coroner says 22-year-old Quana S. Pool of Springfield was the driver of one of the vehicles involved in the crash. A Waverly man, 26-year-old Alex Robertson, is accused of running a red light at 9th and Monroe while under the influence and colliding with Poole’s vehicle.


The cause of death is under investigation. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday.

Big Ten Imposes Own Sanctions On Penn State

The Big Ten Conference is imposing its own sanctions on Penn State University, in addition to the fines and other punishments handed down by the NCAA because of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse coverup. 


The conference says Penn State is on probation and will have to forfeit its share of the conference’s bowl game earnings… an estimated $13 million over the next four years.  The Big Ten says the money will go to programs that benefit child abuse victims in cities where Big Ten schools are located… like Champaign-Urbana. 


The conference reportedly considered kicking Penn State out of the Big Ten completely, but ultimately decided against it.

Family Of Five Displaced But Unhurt Following Early Morning Fire in Loami

A family of five is receiving help from the local Red Cross chapter after escaping an early-morning fire at their home in Loami.


The blaze was reported shortly after midnight.  The family was home at the time, but was able to escape the flames unharmed.


Fire crews were on the scene for five hours trying to contain the blaze, which heavily damaged the home.  Loami Fire Chief Jim Weakley says the cause of the fire has not been determined, and no damage estimate is yet available.

Jury Selection Beings Today in Drew Peterson Case

Jury selection gets underway today in the trial of Drew Peterson, the former Bolingbrook police officer who’s now accused of killing his third wife.


The death of Kathleen Savio was originally called an accident, but authorities reopened the case after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy, disappeared.


She is presumed dead, but her body has never been found.

Illinois Sailor Dead After Shielding Girlfriend in Colorado Theater Shooting

A Navy sailor from Illinois is being hailed as a hero for shielding his girlfriend from the gunfire inside that Colorado movie theater.


27-year-old John Larimer of Crystal Lake was among those killed in the rampage.


His girlfriend says the two had gone to the midnight showing of the new Batman movie together, and when the bullets started flying, he covered her up with his own body.

Geoff Neuhoff Passes Away at Age 59

An important figure in Springfield broadcasting has died.


Geoff Neuhoff passed away suddenly on Sunday, according to a statement from his company, Neuhoff Communications.


He was president and CEO of the company, which owns four radio stations in Springfield, including WFMB-AM and FM, along with stations in Decatur, Danville and Idaho.


Neuhoff was 59.

Kirk Status Update Expected Soon; Senator Suffered Stroke Six Months Ago

Staffers for U.S. Senator Mark Kirk say they will have an update on his condition in the near future. 


Kirk is still recovering from a stroke six months ago that has kept him away from Capitol Hill ever since. 


He has not cast a vote since then, but is listed as co-sponsor on numerous bills.  However, Chicago Public Radio reports that Kirk’s staff declines to say whether the senator personally approved each decision to sign on as co-sponsor. 


A statement from Kirk’s office says the senator is eager to get back to work as soon as possible.

Drew Peterson Trial Begins Monday

Jury selection begins Monday in the trial of Drew Peterson. 


The former Bolingbrook police officer is accused of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio.  Her death was originally ruled an accident after her body was found in her bathtub. 


But after Peterson’s fourth wife Stacy disappeared and was presumed dead, more attention was focused on him and his possible role in Savio’s death.  Peterson remains a suspect but has not been charged in Stacy’s disappearance.

Some Tamms Inmates Could Be Moved Out-Of-State

Some of the violent felons currently housed at the Tamms prison could be sent to facilities out of state if Governor Pat Quinn closes the supermax prison in Southern Illinois. 


The Lee newspapers report that the state has arrangements with more than two dozen other states to house each other’s inmates when safety or other considerations make it necessary. 


At least nine inmates…including the so-called “I-57 killer” Henry Brisbon… could be moved to prisons outside Illinois.

Illinois Man Among Dead In Colorado Theater Massacre

One of the 12 people killed in the Colorado theater massacre Friday was a Navy sailor from Illinois. 


Authorities identify hmi as 27-year-old John Larimer of Crystal Lake. 


He was one of several military personnel who had gone to the theater to see the Batman movie, only to become caught up in one of the deadliest mass shooting incidents in U.S. history.

CWLP Asks Customers To Voluntarily Conserve Water

City Water Light and Power is asking customers to voluntarily conserve water as the dry spell continues and water usage hits record levels. 


The utility set a single-day record for water usage this week. 


City officials are working on an ordinance to impose some mandatory water restrictions, but those won’t be in place until at least August.

Heightened Security Remains In Place At Local Theaters After Deadly Colorado Shooting

Springfield police say they will have an increased presence at movie theaters over the next few days in response to the massacre at a Colorado theater where the new Batman movie was being shown. 


AMC Theatres, which operates Springfield’s indoor multiplexes, has also imposed new rules… prohibiting people from wearing masks or costumes at its facilities.

Layoff Notices Issued To 600 DCFS Workers

AFSCME says children will be put in danger by deep staffing cuts now underway at the Department of Children and Family Services. 


The agency has sent out layoff notices to 600 workers, the result of cuts that slashed 86-million dollars from the agency’s budget this year.


DCFS says it will realign its workforce to steer more of the remaining workers to front-line jobs in casework and investigations.

Quinn Signs New Restrictions On Cell Phones Behind The Wheel

Illinois now has new restrictions on cell-phone use behind the wheel. 


Among the measures signed by Governor Pat Quinn are bans on using a phone while driving through any road construction work zone; previously it was only prohibited in work zones where reduced speeds were imposed. 


Another new law contains an outright ban on use of hand-held devices by commercial drivers.

Pawnee Under Boil Order

The village of Pawnee is under a boil order for the next few days following a water main break. 


Officials say it will be Tuesday at the earliest before the problem is corrected. 


In the meantime, Pawnee residents should either boil water or use bottled water for drinking, cooking or doing dishes.

House Special Session On Lawmaker's Fate Could Also Deal With Pension Reform

The Illinois House will hold a special session next month to decide whether one of its members should be kicked out. 


House Speaker Mike Madigan has called the House into session on August 17th for an expulsion vote against Representative Derrick Smith.  The Chicago Democrat is under federal indictment for allegedly accepting a $7,000 bribe in exchange for helping a day care center land a state grant.


That special session of the House next month may have more than one item on the agenda.  Governor Pat Quinn says as long as lawmakers are here to decide the fate of Derrick Smith, they should also take action on pension reform. 


Lawmakers have been told to plan to be in session for just one day, but a spokesman for the Illinois House did not rule out the possibility that pension reform could be acted upon.

Meet The Mayor Next Tuesday

The next Meet the Mayor with Michael Houston is scheduled for Tuesday, July 24th in the Mayor’s office on the third floor of Municipal Center East.


Mayor Houston offers an open door, one-on-one session to speak with concerned citizens about municipal issues.


The sessions are open to the public. There are no forms to fill out, and appointments are not required.


The sessions will run from 5:30 to 7:30pm

House To Vote In August On Whether To Expel Lawmaker

The Illinois House will meet in special session on August 17th to vote on whether to kick out Rep. Derrick Smith, who is facing federal bribery charges.


A House committee this week recommended that Smith be expelled because of the charges.  Smith denies the federal allegations against him, but refused to testify before the House committees that were investigating the case.


A two-thirds vote of the House would be required to expel Smith from the House... and even then, he would remain on the ballot in November, with a chance to win election to another term in the legislature.

Nelson Center Pool Reopens

After several weeks of repairs, the Nelson Center pool is reopening. 


The pool opens today (as of 1pm Friday) after being shut down to fix a malfunctioning pump. 


To make up for the lost pool time during the dog days of summer, park district officials say they will extend the season at Nelson Center, keeping the pool open during most of September.  Usually the pool would close Labor Day Weekend, but forecasters are predicting a hotter-than-normal September.

Springfield Police Plan Increased Presence Around Local Theaters After Deadly Colorado Mass Shooting

Springfield police plan to increase their presence in and around local movie theaters this weekend, just to keep a watchful eye out for any possible copycat crimes in the aftermath of the deadly shooting at a Colorado theater.  


Deputy Chief Cliff Buscher says moviegoers should be alert to any signs of trouble, but indicates there is no specific reason to think that anyone is in particular danger at the movies. 


He notes that even with a greater police presence, it’s almost impossible to prevent or plan for a “lone wolf” type of attack.

Illinois House Panel Votes 11-1 to Recommend Expulsion Of Accused Lawmaker

A state lawmaker is a step closer to losing his seat in the Illinois House.


A House panel voted 11-1 to recommend expulsion for Representative Derrick Smith, who is accused of taking a $7,000 bribe in exchange for helping a day care center land a lucrative state grant.


Smith’s fate is now up to the full House, which has not set a schedule for when it may hold an expulsion vote.


Even if Smith is expelled from the House, he remains on the November ballot.

District 186 May Add Sexual Orientation To Anti-Discrimination Policy

Springfield public schools currently do not have a policy that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but that could soon change.


The school board policy committee will consider a proposal to add sexual orientation to the list of categories covered under the district’s anti-discrimination policy.


School board member Scott McFarland says he and fellow board member Bill Looby recently discovered that sexual orientation had been omitted from the policy and decided that needed to be corrected.


McFarland says he hopes the change will be viewed as non-controversial.

One Dead, Two Survive, as Vehicle Drives Off Interstate

An unidentified 94-year-old is dead after the vehicle they were in drove off I-55 near mile marker 94 Thursday afternoon just before 4.


A statement from the Illinois State Police says that two other passengers survived the single vehicle crash.


A police report indicates the northbound vehicle went off the road for unknown reasons, struck several trees, and then caught fire.


The 66-year-old driver from Blue Island, Illinois, and the 85-year-old passenger from California were transferred to Memorial Medical Center in stable condition.

Water Restrictions Could Come to Springfield Soon

Springfield residents could be under mandatory water restrictions before the end of the summer, and could see those restrictions continue into next year if there’s no break in the drought.


Mayor Mike Houston will introduce an ordinance that will limit when residents can water lawns or wash cars.


The mayor hasn’t said yet how much of a fine he will seek for violations, and says the rules probably wouldn’t be aggressively enforced anyway.


Houston says the goal is to get people into a mindset of conservation now, since even more stringent rules could be needed next year unless the drought ends.

Shakeup at District 186, Financial Officer Resigns

As District 186 tries to finalize budget numbers for this school year, the district’s top financial officer has abruptly resigned.


No reason was given for Leonora Beck’s departure, but a district spokesman says she was not fired and says her departure was not directly connected to school board complaints about large variations in the estimated savings from proposed budget cuts.


Beck’s predecessor as business services director, Agnes Nunn, will come back to serve as an unpaid consultant to help the district pull the budget together before a scheduled vote in late August.

Cellini Sentencing Postponed

Sentencing has been postponed again for Springfield powerbroker Bill Cellini.


He had been scheduled to appear in court next week to learn his punishment for an attempt to extort a campaign contribution from a Hollywood producer who had sought to do business with the state.


But Cellini’s lawyers say he is not well enough to travel to Chicago for the hearing, so the judge granted the delay until October 4.


Cellini suffered a heart attack earlier this summer and was then hospitalized again for treatment of a blood clot. He is now recovering at home.

Sheriff Williamson Back From Running of the Bulls, Thinking About Running For Office in 2014

Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson has marked one item off his “Bucket List,” after traveling recently to watch the famed Running of the Bulls in Spain (watch that video below).


Sheriff Neil Williamson
Sheriff Neil Williamson image taken from

Now Williamson has to decide if he wants more time to travel, or if he wants four more years as sheriff.


Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Williamson says he will make a decision by early next year, but notes he does have a campaign fundraiser scheduled for next week.


If Williamson decides not to run, at least two of his deputies are expected to enter the race to succeed him.


Raw Video: Running of the Bulls in Pamplona


Above: Video provided by Sangmaon County Sheriff Neil Williamson, who just got back from witnessing the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, first hand. Williamson shared his video with 970 WMAY so that we could share it with you.

Springfield May Restrict Water Usage

Springfield could be under mandatory water restrictions in a matter of weeks.


With lake levels dropping as much as an inch a day, Mayor Mike Houston says he will introduce an ordinance putting a series of water conservation measures in place. While the working proposal would not prohibit things like watering lawns, it would limit such activities to certain days of the week.


Houston hasn't decided what penalties to put in the ordinance... and says the goal isn't to write tickets. It's to get people thinking now about water conservation... especially since even tighter restrictions may be needed by late winter or early spring next year if the dry spell continues.

Over One-Hundred CWLP Customers Scammed

City Water Light and Power is reporting that 115 CWLP customers have been taken advantage in an ongoing identity scam.



In the scam a fraudster calls and says that President Barack Obama will pay rate payers’ utility bills.


A post on the capital city utility's Facebook page says that CWLP Customer Service Representatives are aware of three fraudulent bank routing numbers that are used in the scam and are trying to inform rate payers when they call in with questions.

Slew of Ordinances Pass on Consent Agenda

Springfield Aldermen voted to pass several significant ordinances Tuesday on the consent agenda.


One would give public works the authority to go on nuisance property to trim weeds.


A set of ordinances approves an agreement with the state of Illinois to provide fire protection services for the Illinois State Fair Grounds. There are also several ordinances that allow for the purchase of six heavy-duty vehicles for the Springfield Fire Department for just over a quarter-million dollars.


The city also moved to approve $32.7 million for the new pump stations for the water division.


A re-write of the city's process for subdividing land was also approved, making it easier for developers to propose new developments to city hall.


In addition to these ordinances, aldermen approved a contract for the sale of the former west branch library to Sacred Heart Griffin school for $40,000.


Aldermen place what is considered non-controversial ordinances on the consent agenda to approve several ordinances with one vote.

Video Gambling Machines Pass Springfield City Council

Legalized gambling in bars and restaurants is coming to Springfield.


Aldermen voted 7-2 in favor of permitting video gaming terminals at local liquor establishments that purchase a state and city license.


Only Ward 2’s Gail Simpson and Ward 7’s Joe McMenamin voted against the proposal, despite testimony from opponents who warned that increased gambling will lead to more social problems.


Ward 5 Alderman Sam Cahnman voted “present.”


The machines could begin showing up locally within weeks, as soon as the state gets its centralized computer system for video gaming up and running.

Tanning Ordinance On Hold After Long Debate

A proposal to ban indoor tanning for anyone under the age of 18 is on hold.


Alderman Sam Cahnman kept his ordinance in committee because he lacked the votes to pass it.


Aldermen debated the issue for more than 90 minutes Tuesday night, with supporters arguing that tanning poses a public health hazard, while opponents say the ordinance interferes too much with personal choices.

Former West Branch Library Sold, Future of Building Uncertain

It’s unclear what’s in store for the former Lincoln Library West Branch building, now that aldermen have approved its sale to Sacred Heart-Griffin High School.


Alderman Kris Theilen told the city council last week that the building, which has been closed since 2008, would be converted to office and classroom space for the school.


But SH-G officials tell 970 WMAY News that they will conduct a space utilization study before deciding what to do with the building.


The former West Branch had been appraised at $250,000 just a few years ago… but SH-G’s $40,000 bid was the only one submitted for the purchase of the building.

Arbitrator Sends Case Back to Cook County Judge in Ongoing Pay Raise Dispute

An arbitrator has sent the dispute over promised pay raises for state workers back to a Cook County judge, with a warning.


Arbitrator Edwin Benn says it’s the job of the courts to settle the law on whether Illinois is obligated to fulfill the contract with its employee unions, and says the decision will have a direct impact on all future collective bargaining.


Governor Pat Quinn has refused to pay those raises, saying lawmakers failed to appropriate money for them.


AFSCME sued, and the judge ruled that Illinois did not have to pay money that had not been approved by lawmakers.


He then sent the case back to Benn to determine if there really was insufficient money for the raises. But Benn says that’s a question for a judge, not an arbitrator.

Woman Sues Former Employer For Violating Illinois Human Rights Act

A local woman is suing her former employer, saying the company should have done more to accommodate a medical condition that sometimes caused her to fall asleep on the job.


Rosemary Garman had worked for Health Care Services Corporation in Morgan County for nine-and-a-half years before she was fired in 2011.


Her lawsuit, filed by Springfield attorney John Baker, says she suffered from a Vitamin D deficiency and an underactive thyroid, which caused drowsiness.


The suit claims the company refused to negotiate with her about ways to work around the problem, and says that constitutes a violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act.

Seven People Indicted in Corruption Sting

A one-time campaign treasurer for former state Senator Rickey Hendon is one of seven people charged in a government corruption sting.


A federal indictment accuses Dean Nichols and six others of attempting to pay $5,000 bribes in order to land $25,000 federal grants.


But the grants did not exist, and the purported federal official who claimed to be arranging the deal was actually an FBI agent.


Hendon, who resigned from the legislature last year without explanation, was not mentioned in the indictment.

Springfield Aldermen Pass Video Gambling

Springfield aldermen approved video gambling Tuesday 7-2 with one voting present. Aldermen Gail Simpson and Joe McMenamin voted no and Aldermen Sam Cahnman voted present.


The ordinance would parallel the city's liquor commission where the mayor makes the decision on which establishments can receive the license.


If there is an appeal, the ordinance does allow for that to come before the council.


Establishments that serve alcohol will be able to apply for up to 5 gaming machine licenses from the city for their establishments if they have a state license.


The city will charge $500 per establishment and $250 per machine, per year.


City officials says there are no solid estimates to how many machines there will be or how much money the licenses will bring in.


Mayor Mike Houston says that the money generated will be used strictly for road and sidewalk projects.

Tanning Ban Ordinance Stalls in Springfield City Council

After nearly two hours of debate from proponents and opponents of the tanning ban for minors under 18, Springfield aldermen moved to keep the ordinance in committee.


Alderman Sam Cahnman, who requested the ordinance, says he doesn't think the number of votes are there to pass the measure.


Tanning salon owners expressed both the revenue aspect and the potential loss of business to other cities like Chatham and Rochester. One tanning salon owners addressed the parental rights issues.


Meanwhile, several dermatologists and representatives from the area cancer society said that the science is clear--tanning increases the risk of cancer and more children are showing signs of melanoma.


There was also significant discussion that about how the ordinance will be enforced.


Bill Logan, the mayor's assistant, said he called the county during the meeting and was was told that the county must follow Illinois state law and cannot pass a county-wide ban on tanning for minors.


The current state law allows children between the age of 14 to 18 to tan with permission from their parents.

Springfield Voters Could Vote on Residency Rule For New Hires

The issue of residency could soon be put to the voters if an ordinance being proposed on first reading makes it through the city council.


Aldermen Joe McMenamin
Ward 7 Aldermen Joe McMenamin. Image taken from

Ward 7 Alderman Joe McMenamin says that his ordinance would let voters decide on the policy for new hires within city government to live within city limits.


The advisory question has was one of the cornerstones to McMenamin's campaign.


Recent attempts by McMenamin to pass the ordinance resulted in the ordinance remaining in committee.


McMenamin has also worked to make the possibility of a residency requirement part of future contract negotiations with the city's unions.


Aldermen will decide the ordinances fate next Tuesday during the Committee of the Whole.


If the ordinance passes, voters would vote on the resolution in the General Election, November 6th.

Woman Fired For Medical Condition Sues Former Employer

A local woman has filed suit against her former employer, claiming the company unfairly fired her over a medical condition that caused her to occasionally fall asleep on the job. WLDS Radio in Jacksonville reports Rosemary Garman is suing Health Care Services Corporation under provisions of the Illinois Human Rights Act.


According to the suit, Garman suffers from a Vitamin D deficiency and an underactive thyroid, causing her to be drowsy and occasionally fall asleep at her desk. The suit says she sought a “reasonable accommodation” that would allow her to work around those times when her condition caused her to fall asleep, but contends the company fired her without discussing ways to accommodate her condition. Garman had worked there for nine-and-a-half years when she was fired in April of 2011.


Springfield attorney John Baker is handling the case on behalf of Garman.

Two Local Grade Schools Return To School This Week

Two of Springfield’s Elementary Schools will be returning to the classrooms this Thursday. Graham and Southern View Elementary school students will be going back to school on July 19th – a month before the rest of the District.


Although the two schools have the same number of school days as the rest in the district, their days are spread out more evenly over the year. Summers are shorter, and they have a longer fall, winter and spring break.


Parents and guardians of Graham and Southern View students who have not registered their children for school should do so as soon as possible.


The rest of the district starts school on Monday, August 20th.

CWLP May Ask For Power Reduction

City Water, Light and Power may be cutting back the flow of electricity voluntarily due to high usage during this heat wave. The Midwest Independent System Operator regulates the flow of electricity over an 11-state region of the electric grid – which includes Springfield.  They're coordinating with its members for the possibility of energy reduction.


Should that happen, there are several ways customers can reduce electric demand, including turning the air conditioner thermostat up two degrees, use minimal lighting, and disconnect home appliances not in use.


For more information on reducing electric usage, visit CWLP’s Facebook page, or call 789-2070.

Springfield's Former West Branch Library Nearing Sale, Future of Building Uncertain

The future of Springfield’s former West Branch Library is still up in the air, even after the eventual sale to Sacred Heart Griffin.


Sister Katherine O’Connor tells WMAY News that the school will perform a space utilization study on the property to determine the best use for the school and for the city.


That means that the initial use Alderman Kris Theilen conveyed to the council is not certain.


Last week Theilen told the council that SHG said they would use it for administration offices and possible classrooms. The Ward 8 Aldermen says he wanted the surplus property to sell for between $50,000 and $60,000.


An ordinance accepting the bid of $40,000 from SHG is up on the consent agenda tonight at city hall. 


The property that was built in the early 60s was eventually closed in 2008. Jay Wavering, the city’s purchasing agent, says in 2005 the property was appraised at $250,000 but there is also asbestos and a myriad of other problems in the property that has diminished the value.


There is currently a parking lot on the east side of the library parcel and an empty lot on the west side. SHG owns both parcels adjacent to the former library.


Wavering says that SHG was the only bid placed on the property.


Two other parties showed interest, according to Wavering, but never submitted a bid. 

School Board Delays Action on New Budget

Uncertainty over the numbers has prompted the Springfield school board to delay action on a proposed new budget for the fiscal year that started July 1st.


District officials say they need more time to assess the potential savings from various budget cuts.


The most recent estimates project hundreds of thousands of dollars less in savings than originally thought, leading board members to ask how the original numbers could have been so far off the mark.


The school board will hold a work session on the budget in mid-August.

Springfield Park Board Mulling Purchase Portion of Griffin Woods

The Springfield Park Board is still considering an option to purchase a portion of Griffin Woods, despite questions about the price tag and the usefulness of the property.


The State Journal-Register reports the board is asking for more information about how that one-point-seven acre parcel would be affected by the Schnuck’s grocery chain’s plans to develop the rest of the 20-acre woods on the city’s west side.


The section under consideration by the Park District has fewer trees than other parts of Griffin Woods, and part of it would be set aside for use as a retention pond to capture runoff from other areas that Schnuck’s plans to turn into a retail development.

Gill Wants Modification In Rules Requiring Emergency Room Treatment

The emergency room doctor who’s running for Congress in the 13th District is visiting small critical-care hospitals around his district this week.  Democrat David Gill says those hospitals… serving areas like Litchfield, Hillsboro and Pana… would be devastating by Republican plans to shrink Medicare spending. 


Dr. David Gill
Dr. David Gill

Gill says Medicare is a successful, efficient program that should be expanded to include even more people… creating a “public option” that he says would be better than President Obama’s health care reform plan. 


Gill also wants to ease some regulations on hospitals… he’s calling for an easing of the rule that requires hospitals to treat everyone who comes into the emergency room.  Gill says doctors should be able to use their triage skills to decide when a patient can be sent home without receiving costly treatment.


He appeared live Monday on 970 WMAY's Jim Leach Show.

Summer of 2012 One of the Ten Worst Droughts

The summer of 2012 now ranks as one of the ten worst droughts in modern times… and state and federal officials are searching for ways to help those affected by it.


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin visited a farm near Springfield Sunday to remind area farmers about low-interest federal loans that are available to assist those facing severe crop losses.


Meanwhile, Governor Pat Quinn visits Southern Illinois today to talk about state programs for farmers and communities affected by the drought.

Premiums For State Government Retirees Still Unclear

There’s still no word on how much state government retirees will have to pay for their health insurance premiums, and it could be weeks or months before they find out.


The State Journal-Register reports those premiums are part of the ongoing negotiations between the Quinn administration and AFSCME.


Retirees have gotten some or all of their health insurance premium payment subsidized by the state, but the governor recently signed a law to end that practice, effective July 1st.


It’s not clear if premium payments will be retroactive to that date once the contract is finalized.

Illinois State Police To Consolidate Dispatch Centers

The state is moving forward with plans to consolidate 20 state police dispatching centers down to just four.


That will leave Illinois with fewer state police call centers than any of its neighboring states.


The Bloomington Pantagraph reports that dispatch centers in Pittsfield and Macomb have already been closed and their duties relocated to the center in Springfield, which will remain open.


The move was intended to reduce state police headcount by 60 positions and save more than a million dollars, but a state police spokesperson says only four people will be laid off, and declined to give a revised estimate on savings.

Cellini Lawyers May Seek Delay In Sentencing

Defense lawyers for Springfield powerbroker Bill Cellini will ask for a delay in his July 23rd sentencing, as Cellini continues to recover from a recent heart attack and blood clot. 


The defense is asking for Cellini to be sentenced to probation for his role in a shakedown scheme aimed at trading state business for campaign donations to then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. 


But prosecutors say Cellini needs to do time in prison to deter others from similar crimes. They have recommended an eight-year sentence, but acknowledge that it may be appropriate to lower that because of Cellini's age and health.

Proposed New Makeup For City Insurance Fund Oversight Goes Before City Council

A proposal to revamp the structure of the committee that oversees Springfield’s self-insurance fund goes before the city council starting next week. 


The Houston administration and the city’s labor unions agreed on the new committee makeup after a court ruling that the current oversight committee was not exempt from the Open Meetings Act, and therefore must conduct its deliberations in public.


The new committee excludes representatives for retirees and employees who are not part of a union.  City attorney Mark Cullen says the new group would be able to deliberate and negotiate privately, but any final action would require public approval.

Ex-Springfield Woman Thanks Those Expressing Concern Following Daughters' Murder

The former Springfield woman whose three daughters were murdered this week… allegedly by her ex-husband… is thanking people for the support they are showing her. 


The State Journal-Register reports Jessica Schaffhausen issued a written statement through the Wisconsin police department that is investigating the killings.


A memorial fund for the Schaffhausen family has been set up at the First National Bank of River Falls, Wisconsin.

Quinn To Travel To Southern Illinois To Discuss Drought

Governor Pat Quinn heads to southern Illinois Monday to discuss the state’s response to the ongoing drought.


A state task force is looking at everything from aid for farmers to public water supplies.  Quinn this week also encouraged Illinoisans to pray for rain.

Prosecutor: Cellini Should Serve 8 Years

Federal prosecutors say Springfield powerbroker Bill Cellini deserves an eight-year prison sentence for his role in the shakedown schemes of former Governor Rod Blagojevich.


But the Chicago Tribune reports that the sentencing memorandum filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office says the sentence could be reduced somewhat because of Cellini’s age and recent health problems.


But the report rejects a defense suggestion that Cellini be given probation, and says a prison term would serve as a deterrent to others.


Cellini is scheduled to be sentenced July 23rd.

Former Springfield Woman's Ex-Husband Charged In Murder Of Their Three Children

A North Dakota man has been formally charged with murder in the deaths of his three daughters in the home of his ex-wife, a former Springfield resident.


Police say the daughters of Aaron Schaffhausen died of “sharp force injury” to the neck, and one of the girls was strangled.


Schaffhausen was on an unsupervised visit with the girls when they were killed, he reportedly called his ex-wife, the former Jessica Stotz, and told her he killed them.


He is being held in Wisconsin on $2 million bond.

State Drought Task Force Begins Work

Governor Pat Quinn has convened a state drought task force to discuss ways to cope with the ongoing dry spell.


The group has a particular focus on Illinois agriculture, as more farmers around the state are concerned that their entire corn crop could be lost if the state does not get significant rain soon.


But the task force is also looking at water supplies and potential public health issues from the drought.

Three Pet Limit Placed On Kincaid Residents

They’re taking a stand against animal smells and messes in Kincaid, just south of Springfield.


The village passed an ordinance this week that will limit all households in the village to no more than three dogs or cats. The measure was in response to complaints from people saying that the presence of too many pets has led to chronic problems with animal droppings in people’s yards.


Any Kincaid residents who already have more than three animals won’t have to get rid of any, but they won’t be able to replace them, either, until they have fewer than three.

Springfield Police Receive Promotions

Springfield Police Department

Eight members of the Springfield Police Department have received promotions.


Four sergeants were promoted to lieutenant, filling vacancies left by recent retirements. And then four officers were bumped up to sergeant.


The SPD says the city now has a full contingent of lieutenants on staff to oversee day-to-day operations of the department.

Village Of Kincaid Puts Limit On Number Of Pets

In response to complaints about odors and messes, the village of Kincaid is imposing a limit on the number of dogs and cats that any one household can have. 


The village board voted this week to cap the number at three.  But residents who already have more than that won’t have to get rid of any. 


Existing pets will be grandfathered in, but they can’t be replaced after they die unless the homeowner has fewer than three.

Channel 20 Anchor Jerry Lambert Signs Off

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston has declared this “Jerry Lambert Day,” in honor of the longtime Channel 20 anchor who is retiring after Thursday night’s ten o’clock news. 


Lambert has been the main anchor at the TV station since 19-95.  He is retiring to return to his family home in Florida.  Lambert is also well-known for his extensive community involvement, appearing at numerous charity events around the area.

Government Watchdog: Temporarily Replace Members Of Congress Who Cannot Serve

As questions persist about the condition and prognosis of Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., a government watchdog says there should be a provision to appoint a temporary replacement for members of Congress who are incapacitated.  


Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association tells Chicago’s WLS Radio that it’s not fair for thousands… or millions… of constituents to be deprived of representation for an indefinite period of time. 


Jackson’s staff says he is hospitalized for a mood disorder, but have not elaborated on the nature of the ailment or how long he’ll be away from work.  In addition, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk has been away from Capitol Hill for months while he recovers from a stroke.

Daughters of Former Springfield Woman Killed, Ex-Husband In Custody

A former Springfield woman is mourning the deaths of her three children, allegedly at the hands of her ex-husband.


Police believe Aaron Schaffhausen killed the three girls, ages 11, 9, and 5, during an unscheduled and unsupervised visit with the girls at their home in Wisconsin.


His ex-wife, the former Jessica Stotz, had agreed to the visit, but later received a message from her ex-husband saying he had “harmed” the girls.


Police have not said yet how the girls died, but say there had been other domestic disturbances involving the family.


Aaron Schaffhausen will make a first court appearance later today.

Parents Question Officials About Medicaid Cuts

Worried parents of medically fragile children are pressing for answers about what state budget cuts will mean for their families.


Groups of parents quizzed state officials Wednesday at simultaneous meetings in Chicago and Springfield.


The parents say cuts in Medicaid programs will force their children into institutions.


Some have filed a lawsuit against the state.

Springfield Woman Charged With Embezzlement

A Springfield woman is facing federal embezzlement charges for allegedly taking more than $400,000 from her employer.


A federal grand jury indicted 50-year-old Alice Foss, accusing her of using her position as chief financial officer to siphon off funds over a 12-year period from Don Moss and Associates, a consulting firm.


Foss allegedly gave herself unauthorized bonuses and reimbursements for expenses, and used company money to pay a variety of personal expenses.

Vehicle Involved In Fatal May Accident Was Stolen

The vehicle involved in a deadly accident on I-55 near Lincoln in May had been reported stolen, according to information released at a coroner’s inquest in Logan County.


That car was apparently stopped on the highway at around 11 at night without its lights on.


A semi plowed into the back of the car, killing both drivers.


The Lincoln Courier reports the inquest revealed neither driver had drugs or alcohol in their system, but offered few other details about how and why the stolen vehicle wound up at the accident scene.

Chatham Fire Department Gets FEMA Grant

The Chatham Fire Protection District is getting over 235 thousand dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The grant is aimed at increasing the number of frontline firefighters.


Senator Dick Durbin says the funding is provided through the 2011 Department of Homeland Security’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program.


Altogether the program will award around 300 million dollars directly to fire departments and volunteer support groups to expand the number of available firefighters.

Legislative Scholarhips Come To An End

A long-running legislative perk is coming to an end. 


Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation ending the decades-old practice of lawmakers handing out college tuition waivers to students in their districts. 


Many lawmakers had defended the program, saying they used it to reward deserving students… not to hand out political favors.  But some lawmakers have been under investigation for misusing the program… including allegedly using false addresses to give the waivers to students outside their districts.  And critics also say that cash-strapped colleges and universities had to absorb the cost of the waivers. 


Legislators will get to issue one more round of the scholarships this year before the program ends for good.

Aldermen Debate Role of Government and Tanning

The debated heated up Tuesday as the Springfield City Council Committee of the Whole talked about restricting minors under the age 18 from using tanning beds at tanning salons, even with a parent’s permission.


Advocates and opponents agree that the science is clear—tanning can lead to cancer. Where they disagree is what the government should do about it.


Several aldermen said they don’t want to take freedoms away from parents. Proponents of the restrictions say parents are not free to harm their children.


Ward 10’s Tim Griffin, a cancer survivor, understands the science that prompted the ordinance but he doesn’t feel it’s the city’s job to interfere with a parents job of telling their children “no.”


Ward 1 Alderman Frank Edwards says that he’s done passing ordinances that take away freedoms and the issue of tanning is something that needs to be left in the hands of the parents.


Ward 4’s Frank Lesko disagrees. He says this ordinance provides parents with a tool to stand up to their kids who may be defiant and go tan regardless of what the parent says.


The debate for the tanning ordinance lasted almost an hour Tuesday with dermatologists, cancer survivors and also people who have lost loved ones to cancer taking part in the conversation.


Aldermen placed the tanning ordinance on the debate agenda for next week’s city council meeting.

Springfield Closer to Legalizing Video Gambling

Chatham may have beaten Springfield by pulling the lever in favor of gambling devices, but aldermen in the capital city are closer to making legal video gambling a reality.


The City Council debated the video gambling ordinance Tuesday, seeming to be mostly in favor of the measure.


Aldermen debated the process of establishments getting the license from the city, details that are still being worked out by the city’s corporation council.


Not everyone is on board, though. Several area citizens addressed the council Tuesday saying that more gambling will lead to more problems like bankruptcy, addiction and even increased domestic abuse.


Others spoke out at Tuesday’s meeting saying that a non-binding referendum from nearly 20 years ago shows that the public is not behind increased gambling.


That didn’t keep aldermen from advancing the ordinance.


Aldermen will debate the video gambling ordinance further at next week’s meeting.

Synthetic Drugs Confiscated From Decatur Stores

Attorney General Lisa Madigan says more than $57,000 worth of illegal synthetic drugs have been confiscated from four Decatur stores.


Her office teamed with Decatur and Macon County authorities to conduct the check of retail establishments, and found more than 2,000 individual packets of K-2, a type of synthetic marijuana, and the drugs known as “bath salts.”


A statement from Madigan’s office says the stores surrendered the products voluntarily, and does not indicate that they are facing charges.

Illinois Mother Leaves Disabled Daughter in Tennessee

An Illinois woman who abandoned her 19-year-old mentally disabled daughter at a bar in Tennessee won’t be charged with a crime.


Eva Cameron of Algonquin says she left her 19-year-old daughter Lynn at that bar because she could no longer care for the girl, since Illinois has scaled back programs to help those with disabilities.


Eva Cameron has signed her daughter to be a ward of the state in Tennessee, because she says that state has a much better health care system to care for the young woman.


Tennessee officials had initially threatened to charge the mother, but have now determined that she did not commit a crime, since her daughter is over the age of 18.

Governor Signs Transportation Bill, Funds For Local Road Projects

Some local road improvements will get a boost now that Governor Pat Quinn has signed a transportation bill allowing Illinois to move forward with $1.6 billion in transportation projects.


It’s the next phase of a public works program that began in 2009.


Local projects included in the package are the ongoing redesign of Dirksen Parkway at Clear Lake, and the widening of Wabash Avenue west of Koke Mill. Illinois will pay for the projects by selling bonds.

City's Self-Insurance Fund About To Take A Hit

The City of Springfield’s self insurance fund is ready to take a multi-million dollar hit because of a possible settlement before the city council.


An ordinance before the City Council would transfer $900,000 from City Water Light and Power as a deductible in the case… part of a proposed initial payout of $1.2 million for a debilitating injury suffered by a worker at the utility in 2010. The city would then make annual payments for a total of claim of nearly $3 million.


Corporation Council Mark Cullen says the city’s self insurance fund has accumulated around $10 million over the years and is there for these types of cases. Cullen says if the city took the case to trial, instead of settling, there’s no telling what kind of damage award a jury might grant.

City Has New Streamlined Development Plan

It’s nearly six years in the making… city officials say a new development plan will not only streamline development proposals before the Springfield City Council, it will also spur on more growth for the capital city.


The ordinance before the council would change the process for which developers go about submitting proposals for developing plots of land. Dean Graven with the Springfield Area Home Builders Association says that instead of taking the plan to the council two or three times, the city engineer will work out the details with the developers and then present one final proposal to aldermen.


Mayor Mike Houston says that the new system will be faster and more cost-effective for developers.

IDES launches Inmate Cross-Matching

The Illinois Department of Employment Security has initiated an inmate cross-match program to protect taxpayers, prevent fraud and abuse, and help the economy.


The database will be matched against inmate lists from Illinois county jails and state prisons. Among the requirements to be eligible for unemployment insurance is the ability to be available to work. The new system would identify individuals who are incarcerated, but receiving a benefit payment.


According to the IDES, the temporary dollars are often spent at the local grocery, gas station and clothing store, thereby supporting the local economy. They say every $1.00 in unemployment benefits generates nearly $1.63 in economic activity.

Miter Saw Recall

Some SkilSaw Miter saws made in China and distributed by Robert Bosch Tool Corporation of Mount Prospect, Illinois are being recalled. The lower guard can break and contact the blade during use – posing a laceration hazard to the user.


The Saws were sold at Lowe’s Home Centers nationwide and O.C. Tanner from January to April of this year. A little over 22 thousand saws were sold during that time period, but so far, no incidents or injuries have been reported.

District 186 Scales Back Proposed Budget Cuts

District 186 will cut significantly less from the upcoming school year’s budget than originally proposed. 


After initially recommending $5 million in cuts, Superintendent Walter Milton’s staff says the actual reductions will be closer to $3.4 million.  The administration says a closer review of actual spending shows the proposed cuts would not save as much money as originally thought. 


Milton says he will keep looking for additional places to cut the budget.

Retired Judge Sues Over Being Required To Pay Health Insurance Premiums

A retired judge is suing the state in an attempt to block the new law that will require state retirees to begin paying their own health insurance premiums. 


According to the State Journal-Register, former Appellate Court judge Gordon Maag (mahg) says the new law is unconstitutional and deprives retirees of benefits to which they are entitled.  He is asking to have the case turned into a class-action lawsuit covering all state government retirees.

Davis: Bush Tax Cuts Helped The Economy, Should Be Extended For All

Rodney Davis in studio with Jim Leach
Congressional Candidate Rodney Davis

Republican congressional candidate Rodney Davis says President Obama’s plan to preserve tax cuts for the middle class, while raising rates on wealthier Americans, would damage the economy and lead to more job losses.


Davis, who is running to replace Tim Johnson in the 13th Congressional District, says people making 250-thousand-dollars or more are often business owners who may have to cut back on hiring if their taxes go up.


Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Davis says the Bush tax cuts have helped the country economically over the past decade.


Listen to Jim Leach interview Rodney Davis with the player above or download the MP3 here.

Man Charged With Arson After Allegedly Setting Fire To Home With Ex-Girlfriend Inside

A local man is facing charges including aggravated arson after allegedly setting a house on fire with his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend inside.  The couple were among six people in the home in Clear Lake Village when it caught fire early Sunday. 


Authorities say 31-year-old Robert Dunham had threatened to burn down the house because his former girlfriend was seeing someone else.  Witnesses say Dunham poured gasoline on the porch of the home and ignited it.  Everyone inside got out safely. 


Dunham was arrested Sunday afternoon following a police chase.

Shifting Teacher Pensions To Local Districts Hard Pill to Swallow

There were a lot of ideas and not many solutions as a panel debated teacher pensions Monday at Springfield High School.  A panel debated the issue of whether the state continue funding their promised share of pensions for teachers or to shift that burden to the local school districts.


Members of a panel discussion from Springfield High School Monday. Photo by Greg Bishop
 Members of a panel discussion from Springfield High School Monday. Left to right: Collin Hitt, Scott McFarland & Cinda Klickna. Photo by Greg Bishop


School Board member Scott McFarland, the president of the Illinois Education Association, Cinda Klickna, and Collin Hitt, Senior Director of Government Affairs for the Illinois Policy Institute discussed the pros and cons of the cost shift.


The Illinois Policy Institute supports shifting the pension costs to local districts saying that the status quo where the state picks up the majority of the pension cost is an unfair subsidy for more wealthy school districts who can afford to hand out six figure salaries for teachers and not be on the hook for the pension obligation.


The inevitability of the shift seems certain to McFarland. He says that signs coming from the general assembly and the governor’s office show the cost shift of pensions is likely.


The poll taken after the debate at Monday's panel discussion
"After hearing the arguments for and against, do you support local or oppose local pension accountability? 39% support, 48% oppose, 14% unsure"

McFarland also says that District 186 budget talks for the next fiscal year indicate that the district is already anticipating an $8 million deficit and shifting the pension costs locally could tack on an additional $7 million.


McFarland and Klickna say there are other ways to fund the pensions including changing the tax structure and even raising property taxes.


Monday’s discussion began with a text poll of those in attendance. Before the debate just over a third supported the cost shift to local districts. After the debate nearly half of 29 respondents opposed the cost shift.


The Illinois Policy Institute hosted the discussion.


CWLP Warns of Utility Scam

City Water, Light and Power are warning their customers of a phone scam locally.


CWLP customers say they’ve been contacted by someone claiming that a program from President Barack Obama and the Federal Reserve Bank is offering utility assistance. The scam reportedly aims to steal identity information. The solicitation focuses on in-person, social media, fliers, text messages and phone calls.


Anyone contacted by someone asking for bank routing numbers, and full social security numbers for which to pay their utility bills should be advised that CWLP would never request that information.


All bill assistance programs can be confirmed via Customer Service at 789-2030. And rebates at Energy Services at 789-2070. Programs are also listed on the website at CWLP (dot) com.

Police Catch Arson Suspect

A jealous boyfriend may be on the hook for an arson in the 200 block of East Houston Street in Clearlake Village.


The Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office says 31 year old Robert C. Dunham of the 7000 Block of Mechanicsburg Road was arrested for setting fire to a residence Sunday morning, using gasoline and then fled the scene. The home’s occupants say Dunham had threatened to burn down the house because his girlfriend – an occupant of the house – was dating another man.


The Illinois State Police caught up to Dunham on I-72 on the Western edge of Sangamon County as the suspect was allegedly headed to Griggsville in Pike County, but he fled from police and headed back toward Springfield. Eventually Dunham was apprehended at 2700 Prairie Crossing in Springfield.


Dunham is charged with Aggravated Arson and Residential Arson, with bond set at $100,000.

Prison Violence Raises Concerns About Overcrowding

A rash of violent incidents in Illinois prisons in recent weeks is adding to concerns about overcrowding, especially with the impending shutdown of the Tamms supermax prison in southern Illinois.


The Associated Press documented a number of incidents, including an inmate who was stabbed nine times during a fight at the Stateville Correctional Center, and a guard at Pontiac who was stabbed by an inmate.


In another instance, two inmates were found unresponsive in their cells, after apparently overdosing on heroin.


AFSCME, which represents prison guards, says the incidents show that the state’s prisons are too overcrowded and dangerous, a situation that will only get worse if Tamms is closed.

Watkins Defies Another Court Ordered Visitation

Jennifer Watkins, who is embroiled with her murdered husband’s parents in a dispute over visitation with the couple’s young daughter, has again defied a court order requiring her to bring the girl to see her grandparents.


Watkins missed another scheduled visit with Dale and Penny Watkins last month.


The State Journal-Register reports Dale and Penny Watkins are still considering their legal options, while they simultaneously pursue a wrongful death claim against Jennifer and others.


Steven Watkins was gunned down in Ashland in 2008 as he attempted to pick up his daughter for a scheduled visit.


Jennifer’s grandmother, Shirley Skinner, is serving a 55-year prison sentence in the killing.

Duckworth Gets Influx of Donations After Walsh Comments

Controversial comments by Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh have led to a cash infusion for his Democratic opponent.


Walsh drew criticism last week when he complained that Tammy Duckworth, an Army veteran who lost both legs and the use of one arm in a helicopter crash while serving in Iraq, was talking too much about her military service, something that Walsh says “true heroes” don’t do.


The Duckworth campaign says she’s taken in more than 85-thousand dollars in donations in the past week, a period of time when the campaign would ordinarily expect to get only a couple thousand dollars.

Relief From The Heat Finally Arrives; At Least 10 Chicago Area Deaths Blamed On Record Heat Wave

The heat wave is coming to an end… relatively speaking.  High temperatures for the next few days are still expected to hit 90 or above… but that will be 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the record-setting temperatures that have gripped Central Illinois for the past week or more.  Heat index readings will also stay well below triple digits.


But dry conditions will persist.  The long-range forecast has little chance of rain for the coming week.


At least ten deaths in the Chicago area are being linked to the extreme heat of recent days.  In most cases, the victim had another significant health condition, and the heat is listed as a contributing factor to the death.  Several other deaths are being investigated to see if heat may have been a factor.

Route 29 Expansion Project To Enter Final Phase

Approval of a federal transportation bill means a green light for the final phase of the expansion of Route 29 to four lanes all the way between Springfield and Taylorville. 


The road has been widened in sections over the last couple of decades, but work on the final six-mile section had stalled because of funding concerns. 


Now IDOT has opened the bidding process for the work, and could have a tentative timeline within weeks.

DHS Inspector General Resigns As Quinn Orders Closer Look At Deaths Of Disabled Adults

Governor Pat Quinn has issued an executive order to increase state oversight of investigations into the deaths of adults with disabilities following a newspaper report that uncovered problems.


The Belleville News-Democrat found that the inspector general for the Department of Human Services did not investigate 53 deaths of disabled adults because he considered such investigations to be state “services,” and deceased clients were ineligible to receive services.


Inspector General William M. Davis has offered his resignation, effective Aug. 1. 

Pease's Candy Robbed

Authorities say Pease's Candy Shop on State Street was the victim of an armed robbery around 3pm Friday.


WMAY News has been told by Cliff Buscher, Deputy Chief of the Springfield Police Department that three black males wearing bandanas walked into Peases. One of the suspects was carrying a handgun. A female store employee was struck in the head.


The subjects fled with an undetermined amount of money.

Durbin: Grants For 10th Street Corridor Available With New Transportation Bill

Illinois is set to receive a large amount of money from a new federal transportation bill passed by congress late last month and signed by the president Friday morning. Some of that money could be secured for rail consolidation through Springfield.


From left to right: Senator Dick Durbin, IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider, Mike Zahn & Brad Shaive

Senator Dick Durbin says the bill offers up $500 million dollars in grants for Illinois. Some of that money could be used to fund improvements for the 10th Street corridor for rail consolidation.


Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider says that once the recently presented environmental impact study concerning the 10th Street corridor is put into the record, the state will move forward to secure some of the grant money to fund the project.


In the meantime, Durbin says that money will be made available to increase the safety of the existing 3rd street tracks.


Other highlights of the legislation, the first transpiration bill passed in over one-thousand days according to the senator, is the number of jobs it will produce for Illinois laborers. A release from the Senator’s office says that approximately 68,000 jobs will be created or saved in Illinois.


Durbin noted that with the near record temperatures outside doesn’t make for ideal working conditions, but Mike Zahn, with the International Union of Operating Engineers, disagrees.


Zahn notes that some laborers have been unemployed for nine months and that is worse than working in triple-digit heat. This bill would give thousands across the state jobs which in turn would boost local economies, according to Zahn.


Brad Shaive with the Laborers International Union of North America Local 477 says this bill is an economic engine. Shaive says the bill not only puts people back to work but it will also fuel equipment manufacturers and road construction material suppliers throughout the state of Illinois.


Durbin notes that the bill does not include earmarks, but he worked to keep Illinois’ earmarks in place as part of the overall available $4.1 billion available for the state. That money, coupled with $14 billion from Governor Pat Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now! plan will help provide the necessary improvements to highways and mass transit development, according to a release from Durbin’s office.


Durbin says not everything about the bill is good. He says the bill does not include any increase of funds for AMTRAK even though the train operations ridership has increased.

UPDATE: CWLP Power Outage Restored

UPDATED: City Water Light and Power says they have restored power to the effected areas. 


A message on the utility's Facebook page says that there was an equipment failure in a connection from an underground wire at a substation. 


As previously reported: City Water Light and Power reported 1,124 customers were out of power this morning in the area between 9th, Sangamon, North Grand and 24th Street.

Illinois Vault Tours Scheduled for Later This Month

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford plans to have public tours of Illinois Treasurer's Vault later this month. 


The Vault was installed in 1948 and now houses unclaimed items from bank's unaccounted safety deposit boxes. 


Public tours will be available several times a day from July 23rd to July 27th. 


It's suggested that groups contact the treasurer's office to schedule a time. 


You can watch video of a media tour from last year below.


Mayor May Develop Waste Hauling Zones, Bypass City Council

Mayor Mike Houston says his administration may act on its own to divide the city up into waste hauling zones, rather than going through the city council.


Houston did not elaborate on how those zones might work during a live interview on 970 WMAY Thursday, and said the overall revamp of the city’s trash pickup system is still under discussion.


One idea is apparently off the table.  Houston says it is unlikely that the city will seek to have residents pay for waste hauling through their CWLP bill, although the utility may take over billing and collection of fees for recycling services.

Houston: Springfield Needs Backup Water Supply

Even though Springfield is getting through its current drought conditions without imposing water restrictions, Mayor Mike Houston still believes the city needs a backup water supply.


And gravel pits aren’t likely to cut it, according to Houston, pointing to a study that will be formally presented to aldermen in the coming days.


Houston says trying to pull water from gravel pits could affect water supplies for other communities.


He hopes the study will provide some clear direction as the city continues to wrestle with the question of whether to build a second lake.

County Efficiency Commission Says Sharing Programs Could Save Townships Money

Sangamon County’s Citizens Efficiency Commission recommends that townships could save money by sharing administrative functions and expenses in their General Assistance programs.


Such an arrangement is already in place between Capital and Chatham townships, according to the commission.


The panel’s latest recommendation says that while each township would still be responsible for the actual assistance benefits it pays out to low-income residents, the system could be implemented with greater consistency and fewer expenses if administrative functions were pooled.


But the recommendation says some changes in state law may be needed to get the maximum benefit.

Illinois' First Auditor General Passes Away at Age 87

The first man to hold the position of Auditor General for the state of Illinois has died.


Robert Cronson passed away earlier this week at Saint John’s Hospice.


He was appointed by the General Assembly in 1974 to fill the position, which was created by the 1970 Constitution.


Cronson retired in 1991 and was replaced by William Holland, who still holds the job to this day. Cronson was 87.

Record Breaking Heat Possible Today in Springfield

Records are falling around the state as the heat wave continues.


And today, Springfield could rewrite the record books, with an expected high of 104 degrees.


That would break the record for this day, set during the legendary summer of 1936, 14 of the daily temperature records for the 31 days of July were set in 1936.

Houston: Video Gaming Could Be ''Primary Funding Source'' For Street, Sidewalk Repair Program

A move to legalize video gambling in Springfield could provide enough money to help the city tackle urgent street and sidewalk repairs. 


That’s according to Mayor Mike Houston, who still won’t release estimates on how much revenue could be generated if the gambling machines are approved for use in the city.  But the mayor thinks it would be enough to serve as a primary funding source for a bond issue that could jump-start the city’s infrastructure improvements. 


However, a formal plan is not likely until after the first of the year… time enough for the city to approve video gambling and to get some idea of how much money it might bring in.

Springfield Coping Well With Drought, But Mayor Still Sees Need For Second Water Source

Even though he doesn’t expect that Springfield will have to impose water restrictions during this hot, dry summer, Mayor Mike Houston still has concerns about the city’s long-range water supply… and still sees a second lake as a potential solution. 


Appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” Houston says Lake Springfield is down only slightly, in spite of drought conditions and some of the heaviest water usage in years.  But Houston says if those conditions persist, he worries about the city’s ability to provide enough water for normal consumption and for usage by City Water Light and Power’s electric plants. 


Houston will present a study to the City Council next week on whether water from gravel pits could serve as a backup source.  But the mayor says taking water from those pits could have a detrimental impact on other nearby communities.

Trash, Outdoor Noise Proposals Still Pending

The forthcoming proposal to overhaul trash pickup in Springfield is now unlikely to include putting waste hauling charges on the City Water Light and Power bill. 


That’s according to Mayor Mike Houston, appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show.”  Houston says he is working with aldermen to reach a consensus that can win majority support, indicating that putting trash pickup on the CWLP bill is not popular among aldermen.  The plan is expected to have residents pay the city directly for recycling services through their utility bill, rather than sending that money to the trash hauler, who in turn pays the city. 


Meanwhile, Houston says he is still working with aldermen on a final proposal for limiting amplified sound at outdoor events.  The mayor created a stir this spring when he proposed an early noise curfew… but now he’s not saying where the cutoff time might be set.

Panhandlers Lobby For Change in City Policy

Panhandling citations in Springfield are being issued at a faster rate than last year, but a local activist wants the city to back off.


Don Norton, an advocate for the homeless, says the city’s ban on panhandling in the downtown area violates their rights.


During Tuesday’s Springfield city council meeting, Norton, representing Homeless United for Change, says he panhandles to make ends meet. And though he’s not homeless now he could soon find himself back on the streets this winter.


Norton says there are many reasons for people to panhandle and the city should be able to address at least one of those needs. He acknowledges that there are organizations that have beds and services but they are severely limited. He also says he’s been harassed by police for panhandling and even cited by the city.


Springfield Aldermen Kris Theilen says that he understands the plight, but there are aggressive panhandlers downtown that must be dealt with.


Norton says the Supreme Court has ruled that peaceful panhandling is protected by the first amendment and that city's can ban panhandling in select areas but not city wide. The city’s ordinance does not ban panhandling outright, but it does make the downtown off limits to panhandlers.


Aldermen Frank Edwards and Doris Turner both said they would like to form a subcommittee to work with Springfield’s homeless population to find some resolve.


The State Journal-Register reports that a new push against downtown panhandling has led to more citations being written in the first half of this year than were written during all of 2011.

Current Heat Wave Put Into Historic Perspective

Large crowds turned out Wednesday night for the fireworks in downtown Springfield, but some people may have waited to come down because of the triple-digit heat earlier in the day.


But the afternoon high of 100 degrees was well shy of a Fourth of July record, that record of 105 degrees was set in 1936, during a heat wave that produced ten consecutive days of record-setting high temperatures of more than 100 degrees.

Report: Lack of DHS Reports To County Coroners Could Have Hindered Possible Criminal Investigations

The state Department of Human Services apparently did not notify coroner’s offices in Illinois’s largest counties, including Sangamon, when a disabled adult who was living at home died.


That’s according to the Belleville News Democrat, which has been investigating the failure of that agency’s inspector general to investigate deaths that may have been linked to abuse or neglect.


The head of the Illinois Coroner’s Association says a heads-up from the department could have allowed coroners in those counties to order autopsies and preserve evidence for possible criminal investigations.


A DHS spokesperson says the agency did contact officials in those counties in many cases, but didn’t always document that contact.

Duckworth Offended By Walsh's Comments

Illinois congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth is firing back at her opponent, Republican incumbent Joe Walsh, over comments Walsh made about her military service.


Duckworth is a double amputee, the result of a helicopter crash while she served in Iraq in 2004.


Last weekend, Walsh criticized her, saying she talks too much about her service.


He told a crowd in Elk Grove Village, quote, “our true heroes, the men and women who served us, it’s the last thing in the world they talk about.”


Duckworth says Walsh’s comments are an insult, and the spat is drawing some national attention.

Houston: Revenue From Video Gambling To Be Used for Infrastructure

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston introduced the video gaming ordinance Tuesday and says all the generated revenue from licensing the machines will be devoted to road and sidewalk projects.  


The ordinance says that establishments that have a state license must get a city license to operate gaming devices within Springfield.  The city license will cost $500 and there will be an additional $250 fee per unit, annually.  


Houston says that there are no solid estimates yet on how much money will be brought in to the city's coffers but that after the first year officials will evaluate how much has been brought in and offer up bonds for infrastructure improvements.  


The committee of the whole will review the video gambling ordinance next week.  

Aldermen Block Threshold Change for Contract Approval

Springfield Mayor Mike Houston was the deciding no vote shooting down an ordinance proposing to change the threshold for which council members must approve contracts with the city.  


The proposal would have lowered the threshold from $100,000 to $50,000.


Aldermen debated the pros and cons to having a lowered threshold.  


Opponents say the change would mean a flood of more ordinances for aldermen to approve and that the city's purchasing agent is competent to scrutinize contracts.  Proponents say that the city dealt with contracts when the threshold was at $15,000 just a few years ago and aldermen are there to be good stewards of the city's resources.


Aldermen Frank Edwards, Doris Turner, Frank Lesko, Cory Jobe, Joe McMenamin and Steve Dove, along with Mayor Mike Houston, voted no.       



Springfield Aldermen Approve Fleet Management Position

In a surprise move by Mayor Mike Houston, Springfield aldermen approved two ordinances that establishes a Fleet and Facilities Management division under the Office of Budget and Management and also creates of a Fleet Manager position.  


The ordinances were left in committee last week after aldermen debated whether OBM should oversee the division or whether the fleet and facilities management should stand alone.  


Aldermen Gail Simpson also objected to not having the fleet manager job description.  She received the description just before Tuesday's full city council meeting where Houston pulled the ordinances out of committee and put it up for debate and a vote.    


The Fleet Management division and fleet manager position are the next step for the city to begin consolidating the garages for the city's fleet of vehicles.  


Currently there are separate garages for police, fire, public works and City Water Light and Power.  City officials say consolidating the garages will save up to $5 million in the next five years.  


Aldermen Frank Edwards, Gail Simpson and Tim Griffin voted no for both ordinances.

Excessive Heat Warning Remains In Effect Through At Least Saturday; No Break In Heat Wave Expected Till Next Week

Central Illinois remains locked in the grip of a heat wave that will push holiday temperatures into the triple digits... and the first real relief from the swletering conditions may be a week away.


An Excessive Heat Warning remains in effect through at least Saturday evening.  High temperatures for the Fourth of July and several days afterward are expected to be at or above 100 degrees, with heat index reading closer to 110.


The extended forecast calls for high temperatures in the 90s all the way through Monday.  The first sign of a break from the extreme heat comes next Tuesday, when the current forecast predicts a high in the mid-80s.

Downstate County Clerks Allowed To Intervene In Same-Sex Marriage Lawsuit

Two downstate county clerks will be allowed to defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in a lawsuit filed by more than two dozen couples. 


When that lawsuit was originally filed several weeks ago, both Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez refused to defend the ban, indicating they agreed with the plaintiffs that the ban is unconstitutional. 


But the county clerks of Tazewell and Effingham Counties asked for, and were granted, permission to intervene and argue that the ban should be upheld.

Cahnman: Public Health Takes Precedence Over Business Interests Of Tanning Salons

A Springfield alderman says he’s more concerned about public health than about the possible damage to local businesses from his proposed new regulations on tanning parlors. 


Ward Five alderman Sam Cahnman wants to prohibit the use of tanning beds by anyone under the age of 18… even if they have a parent’s permission.  Appearing live on 970 WMAY's "Jim Leach Show," Cahnman says indoor tanning has been linked to significantly higher rates of skin cancer. 


He acknowledges that he did not talk with local tanning parlors before introducing the ordinance, but says that he will reach out to them.  But Cahnman says their business concerns do not override the health dangers that tanning poses for young people.

Local Author Of Book About ''Andy Griffith Show'' Remembers Beloved TV Icon

A local man who co-authored a book about the Andy Griffith Show says Griffith’s great legacy may be the enduring love letter to small-town America that he helped create.


Griffith died Tuesday at the age of 86.


Back in the 1990s, Dale Robinson of Jacksonville wrote a detailed episode-by-episode guide of the popular sitcom with his friend, the late David Fernandes.  Robinson says that although Griffith was never credited as a director or writer, nothing happened on the classic 1960s series without his approval.  As a result, Robinson says the show paid tribute to all-American virtues without becoming silly or sarcastic.

Judge: Governor Can't Spend Unappropriated Money for Contracts

A Cook County judge agrees that Governor Pat Quinn cannot spend money that was not appropriated by the legislature, even if there is a binding contract in place.


But the judge has asked an arbitrator to collect more information before deciding whether there was really a funding shortfall last year that would have allowed Quinn to withhold promised pay raises for state workers.


That same arbitrator has already ruled once in favor of AFSCME, and the union says it will work to again make its case that the workers are entitled to the raises that were negotiated in their contract.

Paprocki: Prayer Rally Not Political Event

Springfield’s Catholic bishop says a prayer rally Monday at the State Capitol was not a political event, and he’s not telling Catholics how to vote.


But Bishop Thomas John Paprocki says Catholics should speak up and speak out about what he sees as threats to religious liberty, including Governor Pat Quinn’s support of civil unions and same-sex marriage, and President Obama’s rule requiring insurance companies to provide contraception as part of their health plans.


Paprocki says those rules are making it impossible for Catholic organizations to serve the community while remaining true to their faith.

Area Residents Urge Park Board To Intervene With Griffin Woods Plans

Local residents are still fighting to save a wooded area targeted for demolition and retail development.


Some of them are urging the Springfield Park Board to exercise its option to purchase Griffin Woods and keep its old-growth trees intact.


The Park District has the right to buy the land from the Catholic Diocese and develop it into a park, but the Schnuck’s grocery chain also want to purchase it and build a new supermarket and other retail space.

Bishop: Catholics Should Stand Up and Be Heard

Springfield's Catholic Bishop says he is not telling the faithful how to vote... but he is making it clear that Catholics should stand up and be heard. Bishop Thomas John Paprocki presided over a prayer rally at the State Capitol, before a crowd estimate by the Diocese at 375 people. The rally is part of the "Fortnight for Freedom," a two-week-long push by Catholic bishops to encourage clergy and lay people to speak out against what they say is an assault on religious freedom. Paprocki says speaking out... and praying... can help fight back against issues such as President Obama's rule requiring insurance companies to cover contraception, or Governor Pat Quinn's support of civil unions and same-sex marriage.

Holiday Construction Zone Suspensions

The Illinois Department of Transportation is expecting thousands of motorists to travel on state highways during the 4th of July holiday, so they’re suspending all non-emergency road work, where possible.


The suspension begins at 3pm on Tuesday and will resume at Midnight July 4th. Some construction zones will have lane closures in effect, depending on the projects. IDOT is urging drivers to slow down, obey posted speed limits and drive with caution through work zones.


Work Zone speed limits are still in effect whether construction workers are present or not.

Springfield Ranks Third in DUI Arrests In All of Illinois

Springfield ranks third among all Illinois cities, outside of Chicago, in the number of DUI arrests made last year.


The city stepped up its DUI efforts in 2011, nabbing 553 suspected drunk drivers, an increase of 17% over the year before.


Rockford ranked Number One in that survey compiled by the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists.

Springfield Alderman Looking to Regulate Age of Tanning Parlor Patrons

Tanning parlors in Springfield could face fines if they let anyone under the age of 18 use their tanning beds, even if the minor has permission from a parent or guardian.


An ordinance on first reading before the Springfield City Council this week would impose fines of anywhere from 75 to 750 dollars for a first offense, a second offense would carry an automatic minimum 250-dollar fine.


The measure was introduced by Alderman Sam Cahnman.

Group Wants Churches To Address Public Corruption

A Springfield man wants to enlist churches in the fight against corruption in Illinois government.


Use player above to listen to Greg Bishop talk with Scott Stahlman about Tuesday's roundtable. Download the MP3 aduio file here.

Appearing live this weekend on 970 WMAY’s “Saturday Session,” Scott Stahlman says the religious community has been standing idly by while state officials have used public funds and resources for private gain.


He founded the group Return of Illinois in an effort to get more people involved to speak out and take action against corruption in the public sector.


Stahlman says the idea started at a men’s group meeting where they discussed the issue of corruption in Illinois and what the churches are doing about it.


Stahlman says that there are many examples of illegal corruption, as evident with a recent string of convictions related to former Governor Rod Blagojevich.


There are also examples of legal corruption, according to Stahlman.


He notes that people wanting to give to charity take the option to give with their Illinois State Tax Return, but that is taken advantage of by lawmakers looking for funds to use in other programs.


The group will hold a discussion on the subject Tuesday evening at 6 at Lincoln Library downtown.

Prayer Rally Today Urges People To Defend Religious Freedom

Springfield’s Catholic Bishop will lead a noon hour prayer rally today in support of religious liberty.


The gathering is part of a nationwide movement organized by Catholic bishops across the U.S. called the “Fortnight for Freedom,” which urges clergy and lay people to work actively to defend religious freedom.


Bishop Thomas John Paprocki has been a vocal critic of President Obama and Governor Pat Quinn on issues ranging from insurance mandates to cover birth control to civil unions and same-sex marriage.


Paprocki will lead the rally today at the Abraham Lincoln statue on the east side of the State Capitol, starting at noon.

Springfield Ranks #3 In State For DUI Arrests; Sharp Uptick In 2011

Springfield ranks Number Three in Illinois outside of Chicago for DUI arrests, according to a breakdown by the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists


The ranking was boosted by a sharp increase in arrests in 2011, with 553… 17% more than the previous year.

Tanning Parlors Would Be Off-Limits To Minors Under Proposed Ordinance

Anyone under 18 would be prohibited from using tanning beds in Springfield, even if they had a parent’s permission… under an ordinance proposed by Springfield alderman Sam Cahnman. 


Any business that violated the proposed ordinance could face fines of anywhere from 75 to 750 dollars for a first offense, under the proposed language that goes before the City Council this week.

Ordinance Would Allow City Workers To Go Onto Private Property For Weed Removal

Aldermen will also consider a proposed ordinance that would allow city workers to go onto private property to remove overgrown weeds… and ensures that the workers would not face a trespassing charge for doing so. 


The ordinance requested by Mayor Mike Houston says the ordinance would apply to the removal of, quote, “the rank growth… of noxious weeds that threaten the health, safety and welfare of citizens.”


The measure will be on first reading before the Springfield City Council this week.

Report: Aldermen Want More On-Street Parking On Capitol Avenue

Two Springfield aldermen think the redesign of Capitol Avenue should itself be redesigned… to allow on-street parking. 


The Capitol Avenue project led to the removal of 67 parking meters adjacent to restaurants, offices and the Lincoln Library main branch… and 22 more spaces will be removed as the project continues. 


But the SJ-R reports Aldermen Sam Cahnman and Joe McMenamin think restoring some of those spaces will be more convenient for drivers and give a boost to businesses in that area.

DHS To Reassess IG's Role After Revelations That Abuse Was Not Investigated

The inspector general of the Illinois Department of Human Services is being accused of failing to investigate 53 cases concerning alleged victims of neglect and abuse.


The department says that as a result it will ``re-evaluate'' the inspector general's role. A report by the Belleville News-Democrat uncovered the 53 cases dating back to 2003.


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