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Local News Archives for 2018-05

IDOT to Close Route 16 Monday Between Hillsboro and Nokomis

Due to road construction that will begin on Monday, the Illinois Department of Transportation has announced that Route 16 between Hillsboro and Nokomis will be closed a half mile northeast of Irving.

The project consists of a bridge replacement as well as improvements to shoulders, guardrails and pavement and will require a complete closure of the road. It will be closed for 25 days, with work expected to be completed by Friday, July 13, weather permitting.

Motorists can expect delays and should allow extra time for trips through this area. To avoid the work area, when feasible, use of alternate routes should be considered. Drivers are urged to pay close attention to changed conditions and signs in the work zones, obey the posted speed limits, refrain from using mobile devices and be alert for workers and equipment.

Area construction details may be found on IDOT's traveler information map on the website, gettingaroundillinois.com.

Litchfield Schools Placed on Lockdown After Ammunition Found


Students at Litchfield Middle and High Schools were sent home earlier than anticipated Wednesday after ammunition was found on school grounds.

According to the state police, two pieces of ammunition were found in the men's bathroom at the high school at 8:40 a.m. Wednesday, causing the school to be placed on lockdown. Students were taken to a safe location and their parents were contacted. All students were dismissed without further incident.

Police are continuing to investigate the matter, and no further information has been made available at this time. WSMI News will have more on this story as it develops.

Two Litchfield Residents Charged for Their Roles in Burglary


Six people were charged Thursday afternoon, including two from Litchfield, after a burglary was reported at a residence in Cottage Hills.

Kenneth Barker, 31, was charged with one count of residential burglary, and Tasha Corn, 29, was charged with obstructing justice for their roles in the incident. Both are from Litchfield. Barker is being held on $100,000 bond and Corn was given $15,000 bond.

The Madison County Sheriff's office was alerted to a residential burglary in the 1300 block of 8th Street in Cottage Hills Thursday just after 1 p.m. The victim of the burglary told police that several suspects entered his residence as he was sleeping and caused him to wake up. He found the suspects in possession of his television and was allegedly battered when he tried to stop the incident.

The suspects allegedly left with the television in a car, which was spotted by reporters at the scene of the incident. The vehicle was spotted at a residence in the 1300 block of 2nd Street, where police said the victims fled to. The residence was surrounded and the suspects were asked to vacate in a peaceful manner, but allegedly refused to comply.

Police were eventually able to get a warrant to enter the residence after hours of failed negotiations. After tear gas was utilized, police apprehended four individuals. Along with Barker, they included Duane Reams, 31, and Christopher Martin, 45, both of Bethalto, and Michael Eldridge of Hartford.

Corn and another female, 27-year-old Brittany Stinnett of Cottage Hills, were not charged with burglary, but rather were charged with obstructing justice after allegedly providing authorities with false information.

The East Alton, Wood River and Bethalto Police Departments, the State Police and the Cottage Hills Fire Department all assisted at the scene.

House Approves Extension of Litchfield TIF District


The Illinois House passed Senate Bill 424 Tuesday, enabling an additional twelve years of Tax Increment Financing for District One in the city of Litchfield.

The bill would extend the life of the city's TIF district to 35 years from the originally set 23. It was established June 2, 1998, and is set to expire at the end of 2021. The legislation would push the expiration to 2033, and would cover the downtown business district, the commercial corridor along Route 16 and the crossing along Historic Route 66. The extension had previously passed in the Senate and now, after passing in the House, awaits the Governor's signature before becoming law. If the Governor signs it, the bill would become effective immediately.

Litchfield Mayor Steve Dougherty, along with city Administrator and Economic Development Director Tonya Flannery, have consulted with State Representative Avery Bourne and State Senator Andy Manar prior to the bill passing both houses of the General Assembly.

The approval of each taxing body the district affects was required before the extension was granted.

Hillsboro Adopts Resolution Opposing Pending Gun Legislation

On Tuesday evening, Hillsboro became the first city in Illinois to publicly adopt a resolution opposing the passage of legislation by the General Assembly that would restrict the Second Amendment Rights of U.S. citizens.

The bills the council referred to are House Bills 1465, 1467, 1468 and 1469, Senate Bill 1657, and any trailer bill or bill similar to the others.

According to Mayor Brian Sullivan, the bills being discussed could potentially turn Illinois gun owners into felons overnight.

"I know for a fact that two of the bills would make me a felon," Sulllivan said if the legislation passes. Some of the legislation pertains to trigger modification, which would affect those who shoot competitively. Sullivan, who participates in shooting competitions, said "hundreds of thousands of Illinois citizens" would be made felons. Public Safety Commissioner Michael Murphy agreed with Sullivan, saying the legislation that is being considered "goes against the rights of U.S. Citizens."

Seven counties -- Effingham County being the most recent -- have passed similar legislation opposing these bills in the General Assembly. Hillsboro, however, is the first city to publicly adopt such a resolution.

"I want the state to take notice that not everyone falls in line with Chicago," Sullivan said. He even cited the state's willingness to declare itself a sanctuary state regarding immigration without the consent of downstate citizens as an example of the difference in schools of thought.

The council voted, and the resolution passed unanimously. Mayor Sullivan, who was not required to vote since all four commissioners approved the motion, did vote on the matter because he wanted to go on record as voting in favor of the resolution.

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

DCEO Awards Block Grants to Four Local Communities

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has awarded over $1.8 million in federal funding for Community Development Block Grants in the 95th State Representative District.

According to Representative Avery Bourne, four communities in the district will receive funding, including two in Montgomery County. The City of Hillsboro will receive $370,000 for the rehabilitation of nine homes, with Audubon Township receiving $500,000 for water distribution improvements. Morrisonville and Mt. Olive were the other municipalities awarded grants, with Morrisonville receiving $500,000 for sanitary sewer improvements and Mt. Olive receiving $450,000 for the rehabilitation of twelve homes.

Bourne said the DCEO received 62 public infrastructure grant applications from Illinois communities. The grants are designated to improve public infrastructure and eliminate conditions detrimental to public health, safety and welfare with an emphasis on assisting communities with substantial low to moderate-income populations.

The DCEO estimates that the block grant funding will attract an additional $820,000 in private sector investment in the Hillsboro and Mt. Olive communities, and $1 million in Morrisonville and Audubon Township.

Litchfield Approves Arcade Games for Beach House

Last Thursday, the Litchfield City Council approved contracts with J & J Ventures for video games services and an ATM at the Milnot Beach House at Lake Lou Yaeger.

The council approved a three-year contract with the company for arcade-style video gaming machines to fill empty space that is currently at the beach house. When asked what kind of machines would be provided, a representative from the company said upright gaming machines similar to Pac-Man and Deer Hunter would be likely.

Mayor Steve Dougherty said he had worked with J & J Ventures before and said they are a very good company.

A contract for an ATM machine was also approved with the same company. The machine will make it more convenient for beach goers who need cash but don't have it on them. When asked how often the ATM would be serviced, the company's representative said it was hard to say as they have computers that tell J & J Ventures employees when the machine is running low on cash. He did say that the machine would always be refilled before it gets too low.

The next Litchfield City Council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 7, at 6:30 p.m.

Litchfield Fire Department Holds Drone Demonstration

On Saturday morning, the Litchfield Fire Department hosted other area emergency response teams at Lincoln Land Community College for a demonstration on a drone the department recently acquired.

Litchfield Fire Chief Kevin Schott told those in attendance that he recently visited Lindsey's RC Hobbies in Litchfield looking to purchase a drone. Store Owner Gary Lindsey told him that he had a $1,000 drone for sale that he would let go for $799. Schott told him he was only able to spend $500, so Lindsey agreed to sell it for $499; but before Schott was able to complete the transaction, Lindsey changed his mind and decided to donate the drone to the department at no cost.

Schott, who was grateful for Lindsey's generosity, said the drone will be available to other area emergency management agencies who need it. The drone can be used to complete perimeter searches of cornfields and wooded areas as well as assessing damage from tornadoes and severe storms.

He said it would be used primarily for fire pre-planning. He stated that it usually takes hours to draw maps of buildings, but the drone will allow firefighters to complete mapping in around a half an hour.

Litchfield Resident Requests Reimbursement for Picnic Table

On Thursday evening, the Litchfield City Council heard from a concerned citizen who had a picnic table removed from her property when a nearby property underwent demolition.

Esther Sikorski said she owned a picnic table that was sitting on a slab of concrete on her property, but the table was removed when a structure on an adjacent property was demolished at the city's orders. Sikorski, a lifelong resident of Litchfield, said she would like to be reimbursed for the table because she enjoyed going outside and sitting on it, adding that she purchased it two years ago. She said she was told that the table was not on her property when it was removed, but she argued that she knows for a fact the table was, indeed, on her property.

Sikorski said she was not concerned about the dollar amount particularly, but rather the principle of the matter. She stated that she believes she is being treated unfairly.

Mayor Steve Dougherty asked if she had a dollar figure in mind, to which she responded with $125. He informed her that the council could not take action on the matter since she was speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting. He said the council will discuss the matter further and possibly take action during their next meeting.

The next Litchfield City Council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 7, at 6:30 p.m.

Litchfield to Host Drone Demonstration


The Litchfield Fire Department will be holding a demonstration of their new drone this weekend at Lincoln Land Community College in Litchfield.

The Department recently began using drones along with a new computer program that assists the staff to be better prepared for fires. Images from flights are loaded into FlowMSP, cloud-based pre-planning platform, to make incident responses smarter and the community safer. The demonstration will be held Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon at the facility. There is no cost to attend the event and the public is invited to stop by anytime during the scheduled demonstration.

According to Litchfield Fire Chief Kevin Schott, fire departments from all over Illinois and Missouri will be in attendance. For more information or to have questions answered, contact Bradley with FlowMSP by calling 312-351-2227 or emailing bradley@flowmsp.com.

Two Arrested for Burglary of Hillsboro Restaurant

Two St. Louis men were arrested Sunday evening for burglary of a Hillsboro Restaurant.

Christopher Rea, 18, and Nathaniel Zion, 18, were both arrested on burglary charges and taken to the Montgomery County Jail. According to Hillsboro Police Chief Randy Leetham, authorities received a call at 9:40 p.m. Sunday that a burglary had occurred at Nic's Smokehouse on Broad Street in Hillsboro. Officers responded to the restaurant and found one of the business's doors had been opened after hours.

The owner of the business was contacted and it was determined that some items were missing from the establishment, including bottles of alcohol and cash. Officers identified the suspects and made contact quickly. Both suspects were in possession of some of the stolen items, and told the police that the cash they had was taken from the restaurant.

The State Police Crime Scene Unit was requested on Monday to process the scene.

Two Arrested for Burglary of Hillsboro Restaurant

Christopher Rea, 18, and Nathaniel Zion, 18, were both arrested on burglary charges and taken to the Montgomery County Jail. According to Hillsboro Police Chief Randy Leetham, authorities received a call at 9:40 p.m. Sunday that a burglary had occurred at Nic's Smokehouse on Broad Street in Hillsboro. Officers responded to the restaurant and found one of the business's doors had been opened after hours.

The owner of the business was contacted and it was determined that some items were missing from the establishment, including bottles of alcohol and cash. Officers identified the suspects and made contact quickly. Both suspects were in possession of some of the stolen items, and told the police that the cash they had was taken from the restaurant.

The State Police Crime Scene Unit was requested on Monday to process the scene.

Bourne Urges Firearm Owners to Renew FOID Cards Early

According to Representative Bourne, with 50,000 FOID cards due for renewal this summer, the state police are urging citizens to renew as soon as possible to avoid having an expired card. Applications may be filled out at the State Police's Firearms Services Bureau website, ispfsb.com if applicants are an Illinois resident with a valid driver's license or State ID.

State Police Director Leo Schmitz recommends gun owners submit their renewal application at least one or two months in advance so there is adequate time to process them and get a new card out before expiration.

The State Police oversees the FOID card system and issues the cards that are required to buy or possess a firearm or ammunition in Illinois. FOID card applications require state and federal background checks, as well as review of the database from the Illinois Department of Human Services to confirm applicants have not been in a mental institution in the past five years. Persons with common names may find additional delays as identities are confirmed.

Pedestrian Struck by Motorcycle

Two people were injured when a motorcycle struck a pedestrian Thursday night in Jersey County.

According to Illinois State Police, 60 year old Randal Giberson of Jerseyville was driving a 2004 Yamaha northbound on US 67 near Hillside Lane when a pedestrian attmepted to cross the roadway at 8:31pm. Giberson was unable to avoid the pedestrian and a collision occured. Following impact Giberson and a passenger on the motorcycle were ejected.

58 year old Ann Norris of Jerseyville, the passenger on the motorcycle and 36 year old Anna Townsend of Jerseyville, the pedestrain, were both critically injured and airlifted by ARCH and Survival Flight Medical Services to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

The crash remains under investigation.

County Board Approves Salary Increase for Non-Union Employees

Finance Committee Chairwoman Megan Beeler said that the committee looked at union negotiations from the previous year as a reference, and a 35 cent per hour increase was recommended. She also said that the wage increase would apply to full-time non-union employees for Fiscal Year 2019.

Board member Robert Mulch asked why wage increases were handled by the finance committee rather than the personnel committee. Mike Plunkett said that in order to satisfy budget proposals in the past, the finance and personnel committees held joint meetings and the matter ended up being handled by the finance committee. Mulch said that he understood the history, but for consistency, he believed the personnel committee should handle wage increases in the future. Plunkett and Beeler both said it is not set in stone that the finance committee must handle these wage increases and that the authority could go back to the personnel committee if the board desires.

The board also approved the purchase of cyber security training for county employees.

The training comes as a result of a recent malware attack that affected all county computer systems. The training is twelve months long and costs $2,690.12. Beeler said that approving the training would also help with an insurance application that is being filed for reimbursement on expenses spent on the attack. The board approved the purchase, 17-0 with four board members absent.

The next Montgomery County Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 12, at 8:30 a.m.

Litchfield Allocates Funds for Flower Pot Repair

According to City Administrator Tonya Flannery, there are 50 flower pots throughout the city and 41 need either repairs or to be replaced completely. She requested direction from the council as to whether they would like to move forward with the project or not.

In the past, Flannery said community organizations have volunteered to maintain the pots, but with 50 of them, it became a chore for groups to keep up with. She said that the city has received calls from residents who would either like flower pots on the corner of their street or would like to see the pots currently in their neighborhood replaced. She said the scope of work that needs to be done ranges from simple paint jobs to being completely replaced. One of the biggest problems with some of them is that they are not level and stable on the ground they stand on.

Alderwoman Marilyn Sisson said that it's sad that a lot of work gets put into the flower pots and kids end up vandalizing them by tipping them over and breaking them. Alderman Woodrow Street said that he would like to see about using non-taxpayer funds to pay for the project. Mayor Steve Dougherty added that this would not be a one time cost, but rather one the council would probably have to address again in the future.

According to Flannery, the cost to put concrete pads in to stabilize the bases would be around $3500 and would take three weeks of work. She also said it costs between $1000 and $1500 for plants and $2000 to $3000 for watering. She added that the city has received some grant money for the project. The council voted and unanimously approved the allocation of $4000 for the project.

The final payment to the company Joiner Sheet Metal and Roofing for a roof replacement project was also approved.

The payment, in the amount of $15,424.40, was for city hall's roof and HVAC renovation. The council had approved a partial payment at a previous meeting, but voted not to make the full payment until further inspection and repair work had been completed. After the roof had been replaced, leaky spots and an area that was sagging had been discovered by city officials.

According to city building inspector Gary Baker, certain rains -- particularly ones coming from the north -- appeared to still be causing leaks at times. He said that he believed the leaks were caused by rain water entering through the HVAC system when the wind blew in a certain direction. His recommendation was for the council to go ahead and approve the final payment. He added that the company will return to work on the roof if a problem is found within two years. The council approved the payment, unanimously.

The council also voted to delay demolition proceedings 180 days for a residential structure within the city.

According to Alderman Ray Kellenberger, the owners of the property, located at 614 North Monroe Street, purchased the property not knowing demolition proceedings had been started. The owners have been working on renovating the structure in order to get it back in livable condition.

City Attorney Kit Hantla said that the proceedings had just been started, so the process was not that far along. Mayor Dougherty told the council that if the owners can get the building rehabbed, it can be placed back on the city's tax roll. The delay was approved, 8-0.

The next Litchfield City Council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 17, at 6:30 p.m.

Hillsboro Student Injured in Car Accident


A Hillsboro High School Student was injured in an automobile accident Sunday morning west of Fillmore.

Katie Schaake was taken by ambulance to Hillsboro Area Hospital, and was then transferred to St. John's Hospital in Springfield. Schaake's car rolled over at 6:40 a.m. Sunday just south of the intersection of Fillmore Trail and North 9th Avenue.

Nine members of the Fillmore Fire Department responded to the scene and were back in service by 7:09 a.m. According to the Journal-News in Hillsboro, the accident occurred after the School's Post Prom event, which is an annual supervised and substance-free event that follows the spring dance.

Man Arrested for Trespassing in Hillsboro


A Hillsboro man was arrested Wednesday afternoon for Criminal Trespass to State Supported Property.

Benjamin Long, 34, was arrested after allegedly trespassing on a Montgomery County Housing property located at 22 Long Avenue. In addition to trespassing, he was charged with Possession of Synthetic Cannabis and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. He was booked into the Montgomery County Jail. No bond was given for the trespassing charge and a $250 fine was given for each possession charge.

The incident occurred just after 1 p.m. Wednesday. Hillsboro Police Chief Randy Leetham was the arresting officer.

Credit Card Skimmer Seized in Raymond

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A credit card skimmer was located at the Raymond Shell Gas Station on Saturday, according to the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities seized the device, which is utilized by thieves to collect credit and debit card numbers and Personal Identification Numbers (PINs). According to the Sheriff's Office, skimmers are known to be located in cities across the U.S., but they are being discovered in rural areas as well.

Montgomery County Undersheriff Rick Robbins said that different types of devices are either put inside the gas pump or are attached over the card reader on the outside of the pump. When the device was installed at the station in Raymond is not known, but it has been sent to the State Police Crime Lab for analysis.

Robbins said that residents who have visited the Shell Station over the past few months should check their financial records to ensure that their information has not been stolen. Additionally, if residents notice any misuse of credit or debit cards, they should contact their financial institution as soon as possible.
(Photo Courtesy of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office)

Senate Approves Litchfield TIF Extension

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Last week, the Illinois Senate approved the extension of a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district for the city of Litchfield for another twelve years.

The bill would extend the life of the city's TIF district to 35 years from the originally set 23. The TIF was established June 2, 1998, and is set to expire at the end of 2021. The legislation would push the expiration to 2033.

At a Senate Committee meeting last Wednesday, State Senator Andy Manar told other members of the committee that Litchfield has what he would describe as "an incredible number of positive economic development projects that are happening, and that the certainty of the TIF is critical to many of the things the city is doing in an aggressive way for job creation for both Montgomery and Macoupin counties."

The committee approved the measure Wednesday, followed by the full Senate Thursday afternoon. It has been sent to the house for consideration. Joining Senator Manar at the committee meeting were various Litchfield officials, including Mayor Steve Dougherty.
(Photo Courtesy of the Office of Senator Andy Manar)

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