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September 17, 2014, 12:36 pm
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The Council Roundup

The Council Roundup, Wednesdays at 10 with Bishop On Air


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North Mac Schools Closed Again For Safety Checks

Classes are cancelled again today in the North Mac School District, as officials continue to check for any other malfunctions like the faulty water heater that caused a carbon monoxide leak Monday.


That leak sent 130 students and staffers from the North Mac Intermediate School in Girard to the hospital, although everyone is now recovering.


Meanwhile, Springfield District 186 acknowledges that it does not have carbon monoxide detectors in its schools, although buildings with the newest HVAC systems have carbon dioxide detectors.


The district also says that systems are checked daily, and the mechanical rooms are sealed.

Juvenile Charge for Teenager Who Brought Gun to Southeast High School

The teenager accused of bringing a gun to Southeast High School last week is currently being charged as a juvenile… although prosecutors could move the case to adult court later.


The State Journal-Register reports one factor could be the teen’s prior record… at the time of the gun incident, he was facing charges in connection with the theft of a pickup truck from a local car dealership last month.


It’s the second firearms incident at a city school in less than a month.


In a separate incident at Lanphier High School, the teen suspect is being tried as an adult.

CWLP Discuss Electric Bill Increase to Avoid Technical Default

City Water Light and Power officials say an increase in customer electric bills might be one way for the utility to avoid its second technical default in less than four years.


The utility again went before aldermen Tuesday night to spell out the extent of its electric fund problems.


Among the ideas floated is a restructuring of rates and other charges that could push the average residential bill up by 12 dollars a month.


The utility needs a combination of new revenue and spending cuts totaling eight-million dollars to avoid a default that could lead to a credit rating downgrade or cancellation of its line of credit.

Houston Defends Infrastructure Record Amid Criticism

Mayor Mike Houston is defending his administration’s track record on infrastructure… but says Springfield residents may have to resign themselves to more flooding problems if the city keeps getting hit by the torrential rains that have become increasingly common in recent years.


Houston is objecting to a newspaper editorial that suggested the city needs to get more serious about its sewer problems.


The mayor says those problems are being addressed as part of an overall infrastructure plan… but says no system could withstand the kind of downpours that have hit Springfield multiple times in the last few years.

Rauner Would Have Vetoed Medical Cannabis Law If Governor

Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner says he would have vetoed the state’s medical marijuana bill if he had been governor when it passed.


But Rauner says it’s not that big an issue to him, and thinks there are more important priorities.


But his comments have drawn fire from the bill’s legislative sponsor. Democrat Lou Lang calls Rauner’s comments “heartless” and “appalling.”


Meanwhile, Rauner is still critical of the secrecy in the medical cannabis law… saying it’s allowing politically-connected people to seek licenses without being subjected to public scrutiny.

Fracking Rules Deadline Delayed by Legislative Committee

There’s been another delay in approving state rules governing hydraulic fracturing… but a pro-fracking group isn’t bothered by the latest snag.


A legislative committee has put off action for 45 days… and is directing the state Department of Natural Resources to tweak the rules to make sure they comply with the fracking law approved last year.


Fracking supporters say DNR’s first draft of the rules imposed too many restrictions on an industry that they hope will create jobs and provide more energy independence.

No School Wednesday for North Mac Intermediate School

There will be no classes held on Wednesday at North Mac Intermediate School in Girard.


The school was closed on Tuesday, following a carbon monoxide leak on Monday that sickened over one hundred students and staff. Superintendent Marica Cullen - in a statement to the media - said that a team of experts attempted to recreate the leak on Tuesday, in order to verify the reported cause from Monday's incident, which was a faulty hot water heater flue. The results of the test verified the cause.


The North Mac School District has said that it will not hold classes at the Intermediate School on Wednesday, in order to allow the carbon monoxide introduced to the building during Tuesday's test to fully dissipate and to be able to declare the building free of the dangerous gas.

Houston Defends Infrastructure Plan, But Warns Flooding May Be Unavoidable

If Springfield continues to see the types of massive downpours that have become increasingly common in recent years, Mayor Mike Houston says residents may just have to accept flooding as a recurring fact of life. 


Several bouts of flooding in recent years have led to calls for upgrades to the storm sewer system.  Houston says improvements are being made through the city's infrastructure program... but doubts that a system can be built that could cope with the volume of rain the city has seen at times in the past few years.

AFSCME Picks Quinn... As The Lesser Of Two Evils

There’s no love lost between AFSCME and Governor Pat Quinn… but the largest state employees union has nonetheless thrown its support behind the Democratic incumbent. 


A statement from AFSCME acknowledges differences with Quinn over issues like pension reform… but says the union is backing him because it's more important to defeat his GOP opponent, Bruce Rauner.  Rauner has been an outspoken critic of public sector unions.


Ex-Lawmaker Leads Charge Against Noisy Downtown Trains

A former state lawmaker contends that freight traffic has already picked up dramatically through downtown Springfield, especially during the late night hours… but says no one appears to be tracking the exact number of trains rolling through. 


Bill Edley is leading a push for a full accounting of train traffic… and is calling for a fast track to establish a “quiet zone” in downtown where those trains would be restricted from blowing their horns.  That could require warning signal upgrades or even closing some crossings.

Physician: 1 In 3 Springfield Schoolkids Is Overweight Or Obese

A study of Springfield grade schoolers suggests 1 in 3 is overweight or obese. 


The SIU School of Medicine and other agencies formed the Springfield Collaborative for Active Child Health.  It looked at 1st and 4th graders in eight participating schools and found one-third of them exceeding body mass index standards. 


But a doctor with the medical school says the good news is that as those students learn more about healthy eating choices, they tend to make better choices, and to encourage others in their family to do the same.

Action On Fracking Postponed Again

There’s been another delay in finalizing the rules that will allow fracking to proceed in Illinois. 


But a pro-fracking group says it’s not bothered by that 45-day postponement in a legislative hearing on those rules.  The coalition has complained that the first draft of rules from Governor Pat Quinn’s administration will hamper efforts to extract oil and gas from below the Earth’s surface, and hope the delay will allow for the changes the group wants to see.

New Child Safety Seat Push Underway

A new push on child safety seats gets underway this week… with an emphasis on the proper use of the devices for the smallest children.  IDOT says it will be encouraging the use of rear-facing seats up to the age of 2.  The agency notes that a child under 2 is five times less likely to die or be significantly injured in a crash if they are properly restrained in a rear-facing seat. A child safety seat check will be held this Saturday from 10 until 1 at Green Hyundai on South Dirksen Parkway.

North Mac Schools Closed Today, Carbon Monoxide Detectors to Be Installed

There is no school today in the North Mac school district, while all schools there undergo a health-life-safety check.


Officials want to make sure there are no other hidden problems like the faulty gas water heater that caused a carbon monoxide leak at North Mac Intermediate School in Girard… sending well over 100 students and staff to area hospitals.


Most of them have now been released, although at least three people were admitted to St. John’s Hospital for overnight observation.


First responders from a three-county area, along with Girard residents with medical training, rushed to the scene to help students suffering from headaches and nausea from the leak.


There were no carbon monoxide detectors at the school, and no requirement for them… but the devices are likely to be installed in the days ahead.

New Dist. 186 Teachers' Contract Costs $1.5 Million in Additional Pay Increases

Springfield teachers have a new contract.


The Springfield Education Association and the school board both ratified that one-year deal Monday night.


It provides an across-the-board $500 pay raise, along with “step” increases based on years of service.


SEA president Crysta Weitekamp says teachers believe they deserve more, but understand the budget crunch the district faces.


The pact will cost the district $1.5 million in additional pay.


That would still leave close to a million dollars in cash reserves at the end of the year, if the state makes good on its funding promises.

School Security to be Focus of Sit-down Between District and Springfield's Police Chief

Springfield school officials plan to sit down with police chief Kenny Winslow this week to discuss security issues at school… and beyond.


The district has seen two incidents of students bringing guns to school since the start of the school year, less than a month ago.


Superintendent Jennifer Gill thinks the students were not intending to use the guns at school… and were carrying them for protection against threats out on the street after they left school grounds.


She says it’s a problem for the school district, and for the community as a whole, to try to fix.

Two Dozen Students Kept From Classes at Dist. 186 Lack Proof of Immunization

Twenty-five District 186 students are still being held out of class for lacking proof of immunizations... two weeks after the deadline set by the district.


That's far fewer than in recent years, because of an intense public relations push to remind parents of the earlier deadline to get the required shots.


School board president Mike Zimmers says he doesn't know what's wrong with those 25 families and why they haven't taken care of the problem... but Superintendent Jennifer Gill says there are lots of different reasons, and the district is working with each of those families to fix the problem and get the kids back in school.

Durbin Doesn't Back Down for Criticizing Companies Contemplating Inversion

Republican Jim Oberweis accuses Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of “bullying,” but Durbin makes no apologies for his tough talk against American companies who are contemplating moving their headquarters overseas.


Durbin has called companies like Walgreen’s and Burger King “unpatriotic” for considering the strategy called “inversion.” Walgreen’s dropped the idea after Durbin publicly berated the Illinois-based corporation.


Durbin says it’s his job to stand up against companies who want to turn their back on America.

Years Old Video of Lawmaker Throwing Papers Passionately Resurfaces in Political Ad

A viral video that became an Internet sensation a couple of years ago has popped up again… in a race for an Illinois congressional seat.


The video shows state lawmaker Mike Bost throwing papers and yelling on the House floor.


Now Bost is running against Democratic Congressman Bill Enyart… and Enyart has a new ad showing the tirade while calling Bost “Meltdown Mike” and saying he would make Washington worse.


But Republicans say the ad may help Bost by showing his passion and fire.

More Than 100 Taken To Hospital After Gas Leak At Girard School

Dozens of students are recovering from the effects of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning at the North Mac Middle School in Girard. 


The school was evacuated and multiple emergency responders were called in after students began complaining of feeling nauseous.  More than 100 students were reportedly sickened, and many of them were transported to Springfield hospitals. 


The leak was traced to a faulty water heater at the school.  All North Mac schools will be closed Tuesday for a complete health-life-safety check.


District 186: Gun Incidents Prompted By Students' Fears Away From School

Two separate incidents of students bringing guns into Springfield schools appear to have been motivated by the students’ fear of dangers awaiting them after school, and off of school grounds. 


District 186 Superintendent Jennifer Gill says there’s no indication the students had any aggressive intent toward anyone at the school. 


The district has beefed up security… and is conducting random sweeps of classrooms this week in hopes of deterring students from bringing weapons or any contraband into the building.


Aldermanic Candidate Warns Against CWLP Rate Hike

A candidate for Springfield alderman warns against raising city electric rates to deal with a financial crisis at City Water Light and Power. 


The utility says a rate hike may be inevitable as it faces an $8 million shortfall in its electric fund.  But Ward 8 candidate Ernie Slottag, appearing live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show,” says a rate hike is a permanent solution to what may be a temporary problem. 


Slottag… who is challenging incumbent Kris Theilen in Ward 8… also says he has no problem with imposing a residency requirement on new city hires.

Dozens Of Students Sickened By Carbon Monoxide At North Mac Middle School In Girard

UPDATE (12:30pm): The carbon monoxide leak appears to have been caused by a flue that came loose from a water heater.  All North Mac schools will be closed Tuesday for a complete health-life-safety check.


UPDATE (11:35am): St. John's Hospital has received 21 patients from the carbon monoxide leak at North Mac Middle School. The hospital says 15 of those patients are "stable," two are listed in fair condition, and four are being assessed. More patients may be arriving, according to a hospital spokesperson.

Memorial Medical Center has received 25 students; there is no breakdown yet of their conditions.  MMC is asking parents or guardians of North Mac students who are checking on their child's status to call 788-3333.  You must provide the first and last name, gender and date of birth of the child.  Parents and legal guardians can also report in person to the registration desk at Memorial's Emergency Department.


[ORIGINAL STORY:] An apparent carbon monoxide leak has sickened between 65 and 100 students at North Mac Middle School in Girard.


Multiple agencies responded to the scene Monday morning, including a dozen Springfield firefighters who were dispatched to assist with traige and treatment on the scene.  There was no immediate word on the conditions of those who were sickened by gas, although officials tell News/Talk 970 WMAY that some of the students were expected to be transported to Springfield for additional treatment.


Stay with News/Talk 970 WMAY for updates on this developing story.

Increased Security Expected at Springfield Public High Schools

Students in Springfield’s three public high schools could see much tighter security in the days ahead… including the possibility of law enforcement searches of classrooms, lockers and backpacks.


Those searches could include the use of metal detecting wands and drug-sniffing dogs.


Random searches are allowed under school board policy… but are likely to be stepped up after two separate incidents of students bringing guns into a high school.


No one was hurt in either incident, the latest of which happened last Friday at Southeast High School.

Report: Bel-Aire Motel Owner Dies in Florida

The owner of the embattled Bel-Aire Motel has reportedly died in Florida.


The State Journal-Register says news of Gopal Motwani’s death was confirmed by Motwani’s son, who declined any further comment.


Motwani had been trying to sell the residential motel, which has been the target of city enforcement actions to crack down on hundreds of alleged building code violations.


Motwani’s wife is a co-owner of the motel, which the city wants to have condemned and torn down.

Latest Chicago Tribune Poll Gives Quinn Lead Over Rauner

It’s some of the best news Governor Pat Quinn’s campaign has gotten in a while… a new Chicago Tribune poll over the weekend gives Quinn a sizable lead over GOP opponent Bruce Rauner.


The Tribune survey of 800 voters found 48-percent supporting Quinn, 37-percent backing Rauner, and five-percent planning to vote for Libertarian candidate Chad Grimm.


The numbers suggest Quinn’s attacks on Rauner may be working… 49-percent of those surveyed said Quinn was more in touch with the concerns of average voters, while only 30-percent said that of Rauner.

Education Groups Weary of Rauner Plan to Shift Towards Merit Pay

Even some education reformers are raising questions about Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner’s education plan.


Rauner’s plan calls for moving teachers toward a merit pay system, and bringing an end to teacher tenure.


The groups say the state should evaluate recent changes it has already made in teacher evaluation and compensation before making sweeping new moves.


Those changes do call for student test scores to be among the factors used in teacher evaluations, which can in turn be used to make decisions about pay and tenure.


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