Police arrest alleged auto burglar

Police arrest alleged auto burglar

DECATUR—An early morning arrest by the Decatur Police Department has one man in custody in connection to a string of auto burglaries.


Police Lieutenant Shannon Gutierrez Seal says the 3rd shift officers responded to an auto burglary call on the 1500 block of E. Buena Vista just after midnight and another at 1800 E. Lake Shore Drive shortly thereafter.


After viewing security footage at the site of the Lake Shore Drive burglary, police were able to develop a suspect description.


Later during the same shift another burglary occurred on the 200 block of W. Wood. After a witness delivered a similar description of the suspect that police had identified on the security footage, police then found him at the intersection of Edward Street and Wood Street.


The 27 year old male was taken into custody and transported to the Macon County Jail.

Casino development to be part of larger gambling discussion

Casino development to be part of larger gambling discussion

DECATUR– A possible casino development is just the tip of the iceberg for the Decatur City Council to consider when it comes to gambling within city limits.


Joining Byers & Company Thursday morning, Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe said the City Council will indeed hold a study session to discuss a casino, as well as storefront video gaming, “When we talk about a casino we have to look at all the factors; for example, the economic numbers that are being cited right now are based on the number of casinos that are currently in the state, that’s not accounting for more being built.”


Talks of a casino being built on the City’s west side in the Decatur Conference Center and Hotel started late last year.


Moore Wolfe said a casino discussion would be part of a larger study session focused on gambling as a whole, “When we approved video gaming we didn’t imagine that it would become what it is today, we wanted to help our neighborhood bars that maybe needed some more business, but we didn’t think as many places would take advantage of the machines as they have.”


The Illinois General Assembly is widely expected to discuss the expansion of gambling statewide, which would allow for the first new casino licenses to be given out in over a dozen years.


Two former Argosy casino executives have toured Decatur and have expressed interest in building a casino in the Decatur Conference Center and Hotel.


Moore Wolfe did not set a date for the study session, but said they would like to conduct it sooner rather than later.


Local efforts increase to send 1,000 cases of water to Flint, Michigan

Local efforts increase to send 1,000 cases of water to Flint, Michigan

DECATUR—Flint, Michigan may be over 400 miles from Decatur, but their water crisis is hitting close to home for several locals.


A group headed up by Jacob Jenkins and Crystal Cleere is leading the efforts to send 1,000 cases of bottled water to the northern Michigan town.


Their efforts began over the weekend when Jenkins posted a video to his Facebook page requesting assistance to get clean water to Flint residents.


Cleere said once the first video was posted on Facebook, people jumped on the Decatur Water Challenge, “By using the right hashtag you can get almost anything trending on Facebook so we decided to do that and it grew exponentially from there, it’s really been amazing.”


Cleere said as of Wednesday afternoon they had donations from Decatur, but also from places as far away as Baltimore and California. Locally the Macon County Sheriff’s Office, Decatur Public Schools, and ADM have gotten into the donation efforts.


“We are participating with the other residents in Decatur to do whatever we can in a short amount of time and I know we are going to blow them away with the amount of donations they will receive,” Sheriff Tom Schneider said. “A lot of people look at it as ‘that’s Flint, Michigan, we are in Decatur Illinois,’ but we look at it as another place needing some assistance and if we can offer that assistance we are definitely going to.”


Cleere said they are going to take a U-Haul truck up to Flint on Friday and personally deliver the cases to the residents themselves, and ADM will send up additional cases in the week following.


Donations are still being accepted by the Sheriff’s Offices, DPS-61, Gateway Community Center (1143 E. Cantrell Street), Rated R Tattoo (2697 N. Main Street), Hands of Favor Beauty Salon (3135 N. Woodford Street), and My Shipping Place (303 E. Pershing Avenue). Donations will be accepted until Friday morning.


“This could be us, anything could happen,” Cleere added. “We have places like the Red Cross and the government but there is nothing wrong with helping you’re brother, then you don’t have to wait for anybody.”

Kendricks found guilty of murder; faces possible life in prison

Kendricks found guilty of murder; faces possible life in prison

DECATUR–  A Decatur man is facing possible life in prison after being found guilty of first degree murder Tuesday afternoon.


28 year old Rickie Kendricks was found guilty of killing 21 year old Isaiah Wiley in 2012, late Tuesday afternoon. Kendricks was sentenced to 45 years to life in prison by Judge Thomas E. Little.


At the time of his death, Wiley was considered a key witness in the murder trial of Demarta Cunningham, who killed two relatives earlier in the year.


Kendricks was arrested on July 29th, 2013 and has been held without bond in the Macon County Jail since that time. Kendricks will get his sentencing read on March 4th.

Social groups voice concerns ahead of State of the State

Social groups voice concerns ahead of State of the State

SPRINGFIELD– State of the State addresses usually aren’t centered on budgets, but the ongoing stalemate remains a big concern today for interest groups both for and opposed to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s agenda.


Illinois Chamber of Commerce president Todd Maisch has been supportive of Rauner’s position in the budget stalemate, but he said business leaders around the state aren’t “blind” to opportunities for a compromise between Rauner and the Democratic majority in the legislature.


“There is a growing anxiety level, but it’s not leveled at the governor, it’s leveled at the mutual, I guess, dysfunction in state government,” Maisch said, “but we think that the bottom line is that there are certain key issues that need to changed fundamentally for the state to advance.”


Those issues include items included in the “turnaround agenda,” which Illinois Manufacturers’ Association vice president Mark Denzler wants to hear discussed during the speech.


“We hope the governor continues to talk about workers’ compensation reform and tort reform and the need to make Illinois’ economy stronger,” Denzler said.


Emily Miller, policy director at Voices for Illinois Children, said it’s not her place to judge Rauner’s “turnaround agenda,” but she wants to hear more talk of ending the budget impasse than about new policy initiatives in today’s speech.


“Real change takes time,” Miller said. “What has to be done right now is a budget because all these people are suffering. Children and seniors are suffering.”


Miller spoke at a Tuesday press conference with other members of the Responsible Budget Coalition, which has been advocating raising taxes to avoid cuts to services. Andrea Durbin, chief executive officer of the Illinois Collaboration for Youth, said to social service agencies, the state of the state is “frightening.”


“The inability of our elected leaders to do their constitutionally mandated jobs is leading to systemic collapse of the safety net that we all rely on to keep kids and communities safe,” Durbin said.


Gov. Rauner is set to deliver his State of the State address beginning at noon at the Capitol.

Board of Education continues to discuss building usage

Board of Education continues to discuss building usage

DECATUR – DPS-61 officials are continuing their discussion on how to best utilize the facilities owned by the school district.


A short brainstorms session was held at the Board of Education’s meeting Tuesday night in which the members came up with several ideas.  Superintendent Lisa Taylor says the FACES group, charged with coming up with options for the facilities, will take the ideas into account, and try to come up with a few viable options in the near future.


“We’re about halfway through our planning session, so it was time to touch base with the board and see if the board had any more ideas or options to explore that they want the planning committee to look in to,” says Taylor.  “This info will go back to the FACES committee and they will sort through them and vet some of the options.”


Ideas like an arts academy or vocational school came up, though many board members just wanted to utilize their facilities as best as possible.  Taylor says it will be a long process, but they should have some set ideas ready to be presented to the board sometime in June 2016.


“The planning committee will be costing out options and deciding which options would be best to present to the board,” Taylor says.  “It was good to make sure we include everything that the board, as the leaders of the district, wanted as we form options.”


Taylor says they will likely send out some kind of informal survey when they come up with a short list of options.  She says it is important to make sure they get everyone’s opinion since it affects so many in the Decatur community.


Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the board officially suspended the district’s adult education program, with exception to the C.N.A. classes.  The board reluctantly approved the suspension because the state has not appropriated any funds for it.  Taylor says it was something that had to be done.


“Adult education is definitely a need in this community because it is serving a part of our population that really needs help and needs better training for the workforce,” she says.  “The legislature and their disagreements has now caused programs to be cut for people who are in the most need.  It’s something beyond our control, unfortunately.”


Taylor says they will have to wait till funding comes in before they reinstate the program.  She says they may not get the full amount of funding they expect, so the district could have to cut some of the adult programs if they don’t get the full amount.


In other business: The Board of Education officially approved the district’s 2016-2017 school calendar as presented.  For a list of important dates for next school year, click here.

2016 Midwest Drone Conference & Expo

2016 Midwest Drone Conference & Expo

Drone conference draws crowd of interested farmers

Drone conference draws crowd of interested farmers

DECATUR– Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), or drones, aren’t the unknown commodity they once were, but that doesn’t mean farmers across the nation aren’t paying attention.


Nearly 20 exhibitors signed up for this week’s Midwest Drone Conference and Expo at the Decatur Conference Center and Hotel to show off new drone technologies.


Macon County Farm Bureau President Tim Stock says farmers and agricultural professionals have bought into UAVs as a valuable part of their everyday business, “This technology has exploded in agriculture, it’s a new way for guys to evaluate crop conditions, guys are learning more and more about drones and how they can be used on the farm.”


In 2015 commercial UAV sales topped $260 million, with that number expected to jump to over $480 million this year, with half of those sales going to drones purchased in the agricultural industry.


The many rules and regulations surrounding drone usage is always something in the back of their minds, Stock says, but it hasn’t stopped farmers from buying, “Right now it’s making sure everything is registered, but I have not heard of any instances where there have been problems caused because of the regulations in place.”


In addition to companies like Champaign based Horizon Precision, Gibson City’s FlayingAg UAV, and Crop Copter, based out of Foosland, Illinois, there are also several educational speakers focused on ag law and drone safety.


The Midwest Drone Show will be held at the Decatur Conference Center and Hotel Tuesday January 26th, and 27th.


Budget concerns could lead to layoffs at EIU

Budget concerns could lead to layoffs at EIU

CHARLESTON, Ill. (AP) – Eastern Illinois University’s president says the state budget impasse will bring potential layoffs and furlough time for employees to the school.


The Mattoon Journal-Gazette and (Charleston) Times-Courier reported Monday that EIU President David Glassman sent a budget update letter to the campus. In it he blamed Illinois’ financial troubles for EIU’s monetary problems. He says EIU hasn’t received its state appropriation of about $40 million.


Glassman laid out immediate cuts including all non-instructional equipment purchases, delaying maintenance and repairs that aren’t related to safety and security and freezing employee-reimbursed travel.


Glassman said layoffs and furloughs will be possible if EIU’s state appropriate continues to be delayed as the semester continues. He said the school aims not to diminish academic excellence.


The state has been without a budget since the summer.

Candidate challenges muddy up early voting

Candidate challenges muddy up early voting

DECATUR–  A number of contested political races in Illinois will convolute the early voting process for many in Macon County.


County Clerk Steve Bean says a total of six Presidential candidates are having their qualifications questioned by Illinois voters, “There are two Republican candidates and four Democratic candidates who are being challenged for ballot placement and the State Board of Elections will have to sort through over 116,000 signatures to determine if they can stay on the ballot.”


Among the candidates whose signatures are being tested include Republicans Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, as well as Democrats Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley.


Early voting ballots are to be sent out by February 4th, and Bean says they plan to do that, even if the ballot could change by March, “Federal and State law say we have to mail out the military ballots but what we are going to do is mail out a ballot with the candidates listed as they are right now but we will signify which candidate is facing objections.”


The State Board of Elections will meet on February 11th to begin sorting through the signature challenges.


Bean says his office will be open on Lincoln’s birthday and President’s Day because of a new state law, but they may not have a ballot ready by then, “Some challenges could take up to a month to figure out, and if that happens we won’t have a ballot to vote on by February 12th.”


The March primary election will be held on March 15th.