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Local News Archives for 2017-11

Free Wood Heating Study for Businesses

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois invites businesses throughout the state to apply for a free engineering study to learn about the potential cost savings of using low-value wood residues as heat.

Illinois businesses have until December 31, 2017 to sign up for this offer to evaluate the feasibility of swithing from propane or other fuel sources to wood biomass. The ISTC is wrapping up a two-year wood fuel study made possible through a matching grant of $249,328 from the U.S. Forest Service. Partners of the study include Western Illinois University's Value-Added Sustainable Development Center and the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus.

So far, the ISTC has helped six greenhouse operations of various sizes gain insight into the costs of converting to wood heat, including the return on investment of installing a wood boiler system. Now the ISTC is expanding the scope of its study by offering the opportunity of a free engineering study to all Illinois businesses.

Those selected to participate in the research project will receive assistance with project scoping, engineering and financial analysis. Small-value applications of less than $10,000 may be provided direct cash assistance while large applications will be provided in-kind support of engineering design and grant preparation.

An estimated one million tons of renewable wood Illinois could be used to displace the use of petroleum-based propane and other fossil fuels. The ISTC's project is examining the scientific, economic and cultural aspects that would support the expansion of utilizing low-value wood residues for energy.

Businesses interested in learning more abut applying to have a wood fuel engineering study conducted should contact Sriraam Chandrasekaran, lead research engineer of ISTC at 217-300-1477 or email

Hillsboro to Apply for HUD Grant

Prior to their regular meeting Tuesday evening, the Hillsboro City Council hosted a public hearing on a proposed Community Development Block Grant for Housing Rehabilitation in the city.

The city will apply to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for the grant by December 15. The funds will be used to rehabilitate up to ten homes located in the 600 block of Eccles, Leva, Anna, Virginia, Park, Beal and Railroad Streets; the 1100 to 1400 blocks of School Street between Eccles and Railroad streets; and the 1100 to 1400 blocks of East Tremont Street between Eccles and Railroad streets. The total amount offered, if awarded, is $500,000.

Tom Dunham, the city's agent for the grant process who presented the information, said the city will be able to spend up to $45,000 per house. Once the money is approved, Dunham will send out an application to all people who live in the target area and are eligible.

During the regular meeting, the council adopted two resolutions relating to the grant. The first was a resolution of support for the grant, and the second was a resolution committing funds to the project. The second resolution states that the city acknowledges that if the grant is received, the city will commit up to $10,000 towards the project. Mayor Brian Sullivan said municipalities are judged based on a point system during the grant awarding process, and that if the money had not been committed by the city, Hillsboro could be lowered on the list of municipalities being considered for the grant. Both resolutions passed, 4-0.The council also approved a Lease / Purchase agreement for Tasers for the police department. According to Commissioner Michael Murphy, the agreement with Taser is a five-year program in which the city will pay $1,908 the first year, and $2,808 each year after that. The total cost in the agreement was $13,209.96. Murphy also said that payments will also be received from Schram City since Hillsboro supplies the village with police protection.

The council authorized city attorney Kit Hantla to begin demolition proceedings for a house on 1116 South Main Street. Hantla said the only way to do anything with that particular property is through a demolition process because of a six-figure lien the house has from the Department of Health and Human Services. He said it could be six weeks before anything happens.

Commissioner Murphy said the house has been vacant for many years and is a public safety hazard. He added that he already has people interested in the property once the demolition process is complete.

The next Hillsboro City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, December 12, at 7 p.m.

Blackburn's Tree of Lights

Blackburn College on Thursday, November 30 will kick off the holiday season and illuminate Carlinville with Blackburn College's third annual Tree of Lights. The tree, decorated with more than 50,000 lights donated by Ace Hardware, will be on display through the holiday season. The festivities will begin at 5:30pm in front of historic Hudson Hall on the campus. The Tree of Lights ceremony is an event for the whole family and is free and open to the public.

During the festivities visitors can enjoy carols performed by the Blackburn Voices ensemble and hot cocoa and other refreshments.

Staunton Sisters Killed in Crash on I-55

Two sisters are dead and 12 others were injured in an eight-vehicle accident on Interstate 55 Tuesday evening.

Hailey Bertels, 20, and her 17-year old sister, Madisen, both of Staunton, were killed when, according to witnesses, the driver of a semi struck seven vehicles at highway speed near Hamel. Madisen was driving the vehicle, a 2010 Kia Forte, while traveling south on I-55 at Milepost 27.5 near Hamel. Hailey was in the back seat of the car at the time of the accident. Both girls were wearing their seatbelts.

12 others were injured in the accident and taken to multiple area hospitals. At least two sustained life-threatening injuries.

The accident occurred at 6:14 p.m. Tuesday. It remains under investigation by the state police.

Crimestoppers Seeking Information on Farmersville Burglary

Macoupin-Montgomery County Crimestoppers is seeking information regarding a burglary that occurred during the early morning hours of November 4, at 3033 Mine Avenue on the east edge of Farmersville.

The suspect allegedly forced entry into a building and stole a number of items; including guitars, amplifiers, band equipment, beer lights, beer signs, bicycles, swords, bb guns, fire extinguishers, leather jackets, tools, military hats, bottled liquor and firearms.

Those with information that would help solve this crime or any other crime should visit the Crimestoppers website at, text a tip by entering 722TIP and a message to 274637, or call Crimestoppers at 1-800-352-0136. Citizens may also contact the Montgomery County Sheriff's office at 217-532-9511.

Any information that leads to an arrest is eligible for up to a $5000 reward.

Hillsboro Dive Team Assists in Recovery of Alton Woman's Body

The Hillsboro Fire Department Dive Team assisted in the recovery of an Alton woman who was found dead in a vehicle that was submerged in a pond Tuesday morning.

Kristen Luebbert, 29, was pronounced dead Tuesday after her submerged vehicle was recovered from a small farm pond at the intersection of Rush Lane and Fosterburg Road outside of Bethalto. Lubbert was last seen by her family at her home in rural Alton around 1:30 a.m. Monday. According to the Madison County Sheriff's Office, her family believed she left home in her maroon 2004 Hyundai Santa Fe.

The sheriff's office took a missing person's report at 8:55 p.m. Monday and entered her name and vehicle into the state and national databases as missing. At 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, observations were made near the pond that suggested a vehicle may have entered the body of water

The case is still under investigation, but foul play is not suspected. Assisting the sheriff's office and Hillsboro Dive Team at the scene were the Fosterburg Fire Department, Alton Volunteer Emergency Corp (AVEC) and Team Watters Sonar Search and Recovery.

Patriotic Art Contest Finalists Announced

The three finalists in the Creative Patriotic Art Contest have been announced. Litchfield High School students Natialia Deren, Carson Lemon, and Trinity Renner, along with their parents, will be honored at a banquet on Saturday, December 2, at VFW Post 3912 in Litchfield.

The order in which each contestant placed will be announced during the banquet. There will be cash prizes for first, second and third place. The three finalists were selected from a total of 73 students who participated ranging from Freshmen through Seniors in High School.

The contest is sponsored by Litchfield VFW Post 3912 and Auxiliary. The program was conducted by Litchfield Art Teacher Linda Yurkovich, who has administered the contest for many years at the high school.

Possible Computer Outages Expected at Montgomery County Offices

Montgomery County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Greg Nimmo is informing customers of county government offices that they could experience delays in services due to computer equipment outages.

The outages are expected to occur over the next few days at the Historic Courthouse, Courthouse Complex, Sheriff's Office, and Courthouse Annex Possible intermittent phone outages could also occur as a result of the equipment outages.

According to Captain Nimmo, all county offices are open and will provide services as they are available. Those with specific questions about available services are encouraged to contact the County Officeholder or Department Head in charge of these services.

Carlinville Man Charged in Alleged Sexual Assault and Robbery

Macoupin County State's Attorney Jennifer A. Watson has announced that 20 year old Takoda M. Harbaugh of Carlinville was charged with two counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault and one count of armed robbery, all class X felonies. The Hon. Joshua A. Meyer set bond at $1,000, 000.

The charges allege that on October 19, 2017, Harbaugh while displaying a knife secually assaulted a 62 year old woman. The charges also allege Harbaugh took US currency from the woman while threating her with a knife.

"The heinous conduct alleged against Mr. Harbaugh is extremely serious and will not be tolerated in Macoupin County," said State's Attorney Watson. "I want to thank the Carlinville Police Department for the exemplary work on this case."

Semi-finalists Announced for 70th 'Voice of Democracy' Competition

The ten semi-finalists in the 70th annual Voice of Democracy Scholarship competition at Litchfield High School were announced on Friday.

They are Damon Burdell, Keighlee Cox, Cole Eichelberger, Carlee Ernst, Ellen Fleming, Alexander Jackson, Devan Morgan, Jordan Morgan, Grace Thrasher, and Clayton Walch.

The Voice of Democracy Scholarship Competition is a national audio and essay contest that is sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Auxiliary. The title of this year's theme is, American History: Our hope for the future. These essays were selected from 40 essays entered by the high school. The 10 semi-finalists will record their essays and submit their recordings for judging. All students freshman through seniors in high school were eligible to participate.

On the local level, the first place winner will receive $500 and a gold V.O.D. Medal, and his or her CD will advance to the 12th district judging. Second place winner will receive $200 and a silver V.O.D. Medal. Third place will receive $100 and a bronze V.O.D. Medal.

All semi-finalists will be awarded a certificate of merit, and be honored at an awards banquet on December 2, at the Litchfield VFW Hall.

Deputy Weitekamp Receives Commendation


Montgomery County Sheriff's Deputy Lance Weitekamp has received a commendation from the Illinois Metropolis Enforcement Group (MEG) Directors and Task Force Commanders Association.

On November 3, in Peoria, Deputy Weitekamp was presented with a plaque for his actions during an arrest. The award read, In recognition for your diligence and relentless courage in a drug enforcement incident."

While serving an arrest warrant on a woman, Weitekamp was involved in a 9-minute, full-blown physical altercation with the woman's boyfriend. Once both subjects were in custody, a search warrant was obtained for the residence. Seized in the residence was 30,830 grams of cannabis, 97 grams of cannabis butter, 205 cannabis plants, 9 fentanyl patches, 80 hydrocodone pills, 46 grams of methamphetamine ice and over $8,000 in U.S. Currency.

"Deputy Weitekamp's actions are a great example of our deputies and their dedication to combating illegal drugs in the county," said Montgomery County Undersheriff Rick Robbins. "Deputy Weitekamp was involved in a violent situation in which his level of training and physical abilities were challenged and he prevailed. He is to be commended for his actions."

(Photo Courtesy of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office)

Bourne to Host Personal Safety Seminar

State Representative Avery Bourne is partnering with Fusion Fitness and Aquatics Center to host a personal safety seminar on Thursday, November 30. The seminar will take place at the Hillsboro Area Health System Education Center. It will be presented by Trooper Heath Bryan with the State Police District 18 in Litchfield

During the seminar, the police will be expanding on three basic principles for personal safety and talking about new scams and crimes that are on the rise. They will also provide information about travel, in-store shopping, and online purchasing safety for the upcoming holiday season.

Those who would like to attend the event should RSVP by calling Representative Bourne's Litchfield District Office at 217-324-5200. The seminar will take place from 7 to 8 p.m.

Manar Addresses Teacher Shortage

On Monday, State Senator Andy Manar and members of the Senate Education Committee addressed the statewide teacher shortage at a hearing in Decatur.

According to a press release, teachers around the country often skip over Illinois when they're looking for a job because of low starting salaries, licensure difficulties and lack of mentoring, among other issues.

Senator Manar said that there are empty classrooms across the 48th Senate District because state bureaucracy is getting in the way of making sure teachers are there to fill those jobs. Manar said that information from the hearing will be used to determine whether there are changes that can be made to state law that could reverse the trend, making it easier for teachers to be hired in Illinois.

Numerous education professionals offered testimony at Monday's hearing about reasons for the shortage and possible solutions; such as making it easier for out-of-state professionals to be certified in Illinois, addressing pay disparities, better marketing of the teaching profession to college students, and offering new teachers more professional support and mentoring opportunities.

Those who addressed the committee included representatives from the Illinois Federation of Teachers, Illinois Education Association, National Board Resource Center, and State Board of Education.

Council Addresses Billing Mix-up for Jack in the Box, Western Oil

At their meeting Thursday evening, the Litchfield City Council addressed concerns over billing adjustments for water and sewer service for Jack in the Box and Western Oil.

According to City Clerk Carol Burke, due to a mistake that was made when setting up the water lines, Jack in the Box and Western Oil had been paying for each other's water services since 2004; Jack in the Box had been paying more than they should have for water on a monthly basis, and Western Oil had been paying less. Due to a change in one of the companies and a defective meter, the city was only able to accurately calculate the amounts paid since 2011.

Rather than cutting a check to Jack in the Box, city attorney Kit Hantla said the fair thing to do would be to give the business a credit.

Two separate motions were made to address the issue. The first was to credit Jack in the Box for the $10,870.15 extra that was paid on their bill. The second was to waive a late fee for a bill paid by Western Oil. Burke recommended waiving the late fee because the company was unaware that the council meeting addressing the entire issue was scheduled for after the bill's deadline. Both motions passed, 7-0, with alderman Dwayne Gerl absent.

The city of Litchfield was also awarded a $2500 grant by Ameren Illinois at the meeting. The grant was the result of Litchfield being named a 2017 Progressive City after performing 319 residential and business energy efficiency projects.

Ameren Illinois Representatives Paula Nixon and Jason Kline were in attendance to present the award. Mr. Kline said the city may use the grant on a community project of the council's choosing.

Mayor Steve Dougherty said the city will proudly display two road signs the city was also given, and will continue their efforts to better the city's energy efficiency.

The council also approved a motion to spend up to $2984, plus shipping, with Hydro-Kinetics Corporation, to replace a potassium permanganate feed pump for the city's water department. According to Alderman Dave Hollo, the longevity of the pump is between 5 and 7 years.

The next Litchfield City Council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, November 16, at 6:30 p.m.

Manar Appointed to 2 State Coal-related Boards

State Senator Andy Manar has been appointed to two state boards charged with research and policy development affecting the Illinois coal industry.

In a statement released Wednesday, Senator Manar said he is proud to have a greater voice in promoting Illinois coal because of its potential for job growth in central and southern Illinois. Manar was appointed to the Illinois Coal Development Board, which sets and promotes a yearly agenda for research and methodologies to increase the use of Illinois coal resources. The board also advises the Office of Coal Development and the Illinois Clean Coal Institute on coal research and development policy projects.

Additionally, Senator Manar was appointed to the state's Flue Gas Desulfurization Task Force, which was established in September under legislation that Manar sponsored. The panel will weigh the costs and benefits of using modern scrubber technology on coal-fired power plants to burn Illinois coal, as well as the cost of constructing new stacks compared to converting existing stacks at plants.

The task force will report its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly and the governor.

Man Injured After Hitting IDOT Truck on I-55

One person was injured in an automobile accident on Interstate 55 Tuesday afternoon near Springfield.

At 1:24 p.m. Tuesday, a semi driven by Ronnie VanZandt of Abingdon, Virginia, was traveling north on I-55 when his vehicle struck the rear of an Illinois Department of Transportation Truck. The IDOT truck was parked in the right lane north of mile post 88 pulling an impact trailer and displaying an active arrow board moving traffic to the left.

According to the State Police, VanZandt, 65, failed to yield to the IDOT truck and struck the impact trailer, veered left and overturned in the median.

VanZandt was taken to Memorial Hospital in Springfield with non-life threatening injuries. The identity of the driver of the IDOT truck has not been released at this time. The lane in which the accident occurred was closed for around 2 hours.


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