Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ford County Circuit Court news

Following is a list of cases filed recently in Ford County Circuit Court, as posted at

• Kyle E. Gibson, 26, of Gibson City, for four counts of burglary and one count of burglary to a school, day care or place of worship.
• James D. Hawk Jr., 47, of Paxton, for theft (under $300) with a previous theft conviction.

• Storm J. Cochrane, 22, of Normal, for two counts of domestic battery.
• Ryan D. DeAtley, no age or address listed, for two counts of domestic battery and possession of drug paraphernalia.
• Charles M. Phinney, 54, of Sibley, for resisting a police officer.
• Robert C. Schaub, 17, of Gibson City, for illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor.

Traffic tickets
• Cole D. Shoemaker, 22, of Mahomet, for a headlight violation.
• Heather L. Meents, 39, of Roberts, for driving 26-34 mph above the speed limit.
• Lucas S. Boward, 20, of Downs, for driving 21-25 mph above the speed limit.
• Daniel R. Flessner, 24, of Thawville, for driving 15-20 mph above the speed limit.
• Thomas J. Garrity, 54, of Beecher, for improper traffic lane usage.
• April J. Novak, 22, of Downers Grove, for driving 15-20 mph above the speed limit.
• Michael J. Fox, 30, of Rantoul, for driving 15-20 mph above the speed limit.
• Cassandra L. Switzer, 41, of Roberts, for driving 15-20 mph above the speed limit.

Small claims
• Cavalry SPV II LLC vs. Robert Steffy.
• Vermilion Valley Bank vs. Bryan Zorn of Piper City.

• John R. Tosone vs. Christopher McNamara of Gibson City and non-record claimants/unknown heirs.

Ford County Sheriff's report

The Ford County Sheriff’s Office released the following list of activity for the period of May 10-16:
  • On May 16, Tony Garrett of Champaign was arrested in rural Elliott for driving under the influence of alcohol and possession of cannabis after a deputy observed him urinating in a roadway.
  • On May 16, a residential burglary and theft was reported in rural Piper City.
  • On May 16, a sheriff’s deputy assisted Gibson City police and Gibson Area Ambulance Service personnel with a suicidal male in Gibson City.
  • On May 15, a Piper City resident reported he was notified by his bank of a fraudulent attempt in Roberts to access his bank accounts. No loss was suffered by the Piper City resident.
  • On May 15, a Cabery resident reported receiving harassing text messages.
  • On May 15, a dog bite was reported in Piper City.
  • On May 15, a loud music complaint was received from a Melvin resident.
  • On May 14, a residential burglary alarm was received in the Rasmussen Addition to Gibson City.
  • On May 14, a complaint of neglected horses was received in rural Kempton. The matter will be investigated by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
  • On May 13, a sheriff’s deputy and two Illinois State Police troopers assisted Cullom Ambulance Service personnel with a suicidal female in rural Cullom.
  • On May 13, a sheriff’s deputy assisted Paxton police with investigating a theft from the Village Pantry in Paxton.
  • On May 13, a sheriff’s deputy responded to a 911 call in rural Piper City that was filled with static. The resident advised he was having phone line problems with his carrier, Frontier Communications.
  • On May 13, sheriff’s deputies assisted Roberts-Melvin first responders with a medical call in rural Roberts.
  • On May 13, sheriff’s deputies assisted the Sullivant Township Fire Protection District with a vehicle fire in Sibley.
  • On May 11, Charles Phinney was arrested at his home in Sibley for obstructing a peace officer and filing a false police report following an attempt to repossess a vehicle by employees of a car dealership.
  • On May 11, sheriff’s deputies assisted Gibson Area Ambulance Service personnel with a suicidal male in rural Gibson City.
  • On May 11, a complaint of several subjects wanting to start a fight was received in rural Paxton. The subjects were stopped, interrogated and sent on their way after being identified.
  • During the week, deputies handled seven civil matters and issued eight traffic citations.

Gibson City Police report

The Gibson City Police Department released the following list of persons arrested or ticketed recently:
  • Ranran Wang, 19, of Urbana, for speeding on May 17.
  • Gabrielle D. Doss, 21, of Hoopeston, for speeding on May 15.
  • Storm J. Cochrane, 22, of Normal, for domestic battery on May 12.
  • Robert L. Magers, 54, of Danville, for speeding on May 9.

Memorial Day scheduled services for the area

Following is a roundup of the area's Memorial Day services:

Fisher AMVETS Post No. 52 and Patriarchs Militant of Illinois will conduct three area Memorial Day ceremonies open to the public May 25. Participants will gather for the first service at 12:15 p.m. at the IOOF Hall, corner of Sangamon and Third streets in Fisher before heading to the cemeteries. The first service will begin at 1 p.m. at Willowbrook Cemetery, 1/8th mile south of U.S. 136 on County Road 600. At 2 p.m. a ceremony will be held at Mt. Hope Cemetery on Illinois 47 near Foosland. Services begin at 3 p.m. at Shiloh Church Cemetery between Fisher and Mahomet on Illinois 47. The public is encouraged to attend and observe. Contact Harold Curfman at 897-6544 or the AMVETS at 897-6265 with questions.

Gibson City’s Memorial Day parade kicks off at 10 a.m. Monday, May 25, from in front of the former Moyer District Library building on Sangamon Avenue, across from the Gibson City Courier office. Parade entries will begin lining up at 9 a.m. Every child up to the age of 15 who is in the parade will have a chance to win one of two brand new bicycles. The parade members will then make their way south on Sangamon Avenue and continue to Drummer Township Cemetery for special memorial services around 11 a.m. at the Drummer Creek Veterans Memorial in Gibson City. Following the ceremonies in Gibson City, the Legion will travel to Elliott Cemetery for memorial services there, likely to begin around noon. At both services, the speaker will be the district commander for the AmVets, Darell Tucker. Students from Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School will deliver a song for the event. In the case of inclement weather, the services will be held at the Legion post in Gibson City.

A Memorial Day service will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, May 25, at the Melvin Cemetery in Melvin. The Rev. John Brennan of the local Lutheran church will provide an opening address. There will be special music by the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School chamber choir, with “Taps” played by a GCMS band member. Larry Dueringer will then read the roll call of deceased veterans. Refreshments will be served at the Melvin Community Hall on Main Street after the service. In the event of rain, the service will be held in the Melvin Community Hall.

Paxton American Legion Prairie Post 150 will hold its annual Memorial Day observance at 11 a.m. Monday, May 25, at Glen Cemetery in Paxton. Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School’s marching band will give a musical tribute. The ceremony immediately follows the Memorial Day parade. The parade starts at 10:30 a.m. when it leaves PBL Eastlawn School, 341 E. Center St., and heads toward the cemetery. Marching units will form behind the PBL High School marching band starting at 10 a.m. Organizations such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are invited to participate.

The Wagner-Davis Legion Post in Roberts will hold a Memorial Day service at 9 a.m. Monday, May 25, at the Roberts Gym. The speaker will be the Rev. Brian King. The Legion post’s firing squad will be in attendance. Jeff Sturm will perform “Taps.” The master of ceremonies is Wayne Tornowski. Coffee and rolls will be served afterward by the Legion post’s auxiliary.

The Martin H. Suntken American Legion Post 244 of Sibley will hold Memorial Day services at 11 a.m. Monday, May 25, at Mount Hope Cemetery in Sibley. The service will feature music performed by the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School chorus as well as the Martin H. Suntken American Legion unit’s color guard. The service will be led by the Rev. Corrine Blissard.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Roskam says there is money to be found in Medicare fraud

An Illinois congressman says there's money to be found in Medicare.

U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton), who's chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight in the House Ways & Means Committee, says the director of fraud for Medicare testified before his panel that the fraud or error rate at Medicare is 12.7 percent.

"12.7 percent of Medicare payment are fraudulent or erroneous. That translates into $1 billion a week, every week, out the door," he said.

Medicare pays claims first, then investigates their validity later. It's not clear how much of that $1 billion a week is recovered, but Roskam says Medicare should change its system, and more carefully examine its invoices.

He $1 billion a week is money that could be used for something else, if fraud and errors were minimized through aggressive compliance checks. However, in the same speech, he criticized the IRS for being heavy handed when going after those it suspects of not paying their taxes.

Ford County tax bills to increse

Most Ford County landowners will notice an increase in their property tax bills when they receive them in their mailboxes next week.

In all but a few isolated areas of the county, tax rates are up from last year, according to data provided by Supervisor of Assessments Candice Short.

Generally, taxes are up almost 5 percent in Ford County, as the average bill is $2,518 — up from $2,407 last year and $2,268 in 2013. The average bill has gone up every year since 2011, when it was $2,012.

County Treasurer Penny Stevens said 9,996 bills will be mailed to taxpayers on May 19, seeking payment of a total of $25,170,123 on behalf of 73 taxing districts — including the county, its schools, townships, municipalities, fire departments and cemetery districts, among others — and 24 drainage districts.

The amount to be collected is up from $24.2 million last year, when there were 10,082 bills mailed; $23.2 million in 2013, when there were 10,230 bills mailed; $21.6 million in 2012, when there were 10,157 bills mailed; and $20.4 million in 2011, when there were 10,146 bills mailed.

Most of the larger taxing districts in the county are asking for more property tax revenue this year. The tax rate for the Paxton-Buckley-Loda school district is $5.46 per $100 of assessed valuation, up from a rate of $5.29 last year. Both the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley and Tri-Point school districts also have higher tax rates, with GCMS’s at $5.74, up from $5.46, and Tri-Point’s at $5.74, up from $5.16. With the exception of Paxton and Elliott, every municipality’s tax rate is also up from a year ago, as are the rates for the fire districts of Cabery, Iroquois-Ford, Loda, Piper City and Sullivant. The county’s tax rate, meanwhile, is $1.287 per $100 of assessed valuation, up from $1.248 in 2014 and $1.22 in 2013.

Of the 80 taxing “groups” — which reflect the various combinations of taxing districts each area of the county supports — only three have lower tax rates than a year earlier. Those taxing groups are all in Lyman Township.

Ford County tax bills are gold in color. Payment of the first installment is due June 19; the second installment is due Sept. 4. Payments can be made at the treasurer’s office in the courthouse in Paxton, at any Ford County bank or by mailing a check to P.O. Box 92, Paxton, IL 60957. There is also a drop-box outside the front door of the courthouse to accept payments during non-business hours.

Late payments will be assessed a 1.5 percent penalty per month. Property owners who do not receive a tax bill by May 29 are asked to call the treasurer’s office at 379-9465 to verify their address on file is correct.

Ford County Board calls for a special meeting

The Ford County Board has called a special meeting for 6:30 P-M on Wednesday, May 20th, to discuss and vote on whether to switch employee health insurance providers. The board Monday learned from Insurance and Personnel Committee Chairman Tom McQuinn of rural Paxton that if the county keeps its existing coverage through the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS), the cost to the county will rise 40 percent starting in 2018.

Under its contract with CMS, Ford County pays $880 in premiums per month for each of its 53 employees, resulting in annual costs of $559,680. If the county retains its coverage through CMS and its costs rise by 40 percent, the county would pay $223,872 more per year.

Other business
Also at Monday night’s county board meeting:
  • The board voted to authorize Circuit Clerk Kim Evans to hire a full-time deputy clerk to fill a vacancy in her office. The board’s approval was needed due to the ongoing hiring freeze.
  • The board approved the re-appointment of Candice Short to a four-year term as Ford County’s supervisor of assessments. The state will reimburse the county for half of her $52,000 annual salary.
  • Nuss brought two bills pending in the state Legislature to the board’s attention, including one that would require government bodies to videotape their meetings. Nuss said the bills “could be a big issue” for Ford County’s finances.
  • The board approved a one-year contract — effective from Dec. 1, 2014, through Nov. 30, 2015 — between the sheriff’s office and Village of Kempton. The contract requires the sheriff’s office to provide patrols in Kempton for a fee of $6,253.
  • The board approved the re-appointment of Patricia Wilson of Sibley to a four-year term as a trustee of the Sullivant Township Fire Protection District, effective May 1.
  • The board approved the re-appointment of Duane Meister to a three-year term as a trustee of the Cullom Fire Protection District.
  • The board approved the re-appointment of Robert Link of Gibson City and Michael Griffin of Paxton to two-year terms on the Ford County Board of Review, expiring at the end of the 2016 assessment year.
  • The board approved the $1,000 bond of Gregory Niewold as a drainage commissioner for Drainage District 1 of the townships of Lyman and Wall.
  • The sheriff reported that the wrongful-death lawsuit filed in 2013 against the Ford County Jail on behalf of the late Richard J. Gonzalez, 30, of Hoopeston, is progressing. Doran said the trial is set for October at the federal courthouse in Urbana.

One Earth Energy to get help from the City of Gibson

One Earth Energy has plans to expand the operations of its ethanol plant on the west side of Gibson City. The council voted unanimously Monday night to proceed with both the annexation of an additional 103 acres owned by One Earth Energy as well as the creation of a new tax-increment-financing (TIF) district for that land.

Mayor Dan Dickey said creating a new TIF district rather than extending an existing one is less expensive and more expedient, and he expects the new TIF district to be finalized in roughly three months. Steve Kelley, manager of the ethanol plant, said he does not have any firm expansion plans, but he said the “intention is to expand” with additional rail siding and perhaps another access road. With railroad crossing construction ongoing along Illinois 9 near the ethanol plant, the trucks going in and out of the plant are currently being re-routed 62 miles, and another access road could prevent that in the future.

The council will wait until its next meeting to approve a professional services agreement, as documentation was not available for review before Monday’s meeting. However, this week’s decision allows the city to go ahead with annexing the land. One Earth Energy has agreed to pay all fees associated with the creation of the new TIF district.

Several members of the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley school board were present at the meeting, as well as GCMS Superintendent Anthony Galindo and GCMS Middle School Principal Jeremy Darnell.

The GCMS school board and One Earth Energy are currently in litigation regarding the ethanol plant’s property value; therefore, the board members could not speak any further on the subject.

Murphy charged with murder

A Milford man pleaded not guilty this week to first-degree murder charges in connection with the beating death of another man.
Danny R. Murphy, 52, who remains at the county jail in Watseka on a $1 million bond, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder on April 9 and was indicted by an Iroquois County grand jury on May 6.

Murphy allegedly caused fatal injuries to 48-year-old Milford resident David C. Garrett during an altercation at a Milford home on the evening of April 7. Court documents said Murphy allegedly beat Mr. Garrett in the head and face, causing his death. At the time, Murphy was on parole for robbery and false impersonation of a police officer.

Appearing with his public defender, Dale Strough of Watseka, in Iroquois County Circuit Court on May 11, Murphy was arraigned, pleaded not guilty and requested a jury trial. The case was assigned to Judge Gordon Lustfeldt.

The prosecution was ordered to provide discovery within 21 days and the defense within 45 days. A pretrial hearing was set for 9:30 a.m. June 25.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Parkland College spring area graduates

Parkland College announced the following people from the area who have earned associate degrees for the college’s 47th commencement ceremony. The ceremony will be held at 8 P-M Thursday, May 14th at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana:
  • Buckley — Samuel B. Bahler and Holly A. Lewis.
  • Cabery — Julia Elizabeth Power.
  • Dewey — Rebekka J. Foster.
  • Gibson City — Weston D. Hasty, Jacob Christian Johnson, Samantha Jo Landeck, Alexandra Lee Percy and Tammy Renee Shanley.
  • Loda — Rebekah J. Aardsma, Craig Jacob Fritz, Heather Elaine Johnson and Kortnie Rae Schroeder.
  • Melvin — Ellyn Mikaele Dunham and Jaimie Michole Hilligoss.
  • Onarga — Alexandra Soledad Gonzalez and Kaitlyn Danielle Redeker.
  • Paxton — Eric James Funk, Jeremiah Lee Houston, Alicia Dawn Kidd, Dylan Michael Kingren, Cody Ryan Long, Paige Patrice Schwartz, Allison N. Shrum, Sarah Ann Spellmeyer, Shannon Erin Tavenner and Kaitlyn P. Uden.
  • Piper City — Ariel Andromeda Ochoa.
  • Rankin — Blake Ryan Widmer.
  • Sibley — Kimber M. Edelman.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Biking on Route 66

If you're looking for a 328-mile bicycle ride, you could try Historic Route 66.
The Adventure Cycling Association, based in Montana, has published a map, Bicycle Route 66. Since the road was decommissioned as an official highway in 1974, it's now a good road for biking, says Jen Milyko, the assistant director of routes and mapping for the Adventure Cycling Association. 
"Now the old Route 66 is perfect for cyclists, because it carries a lot less traffic and is at a slower pace," she said.
In Illinois, the route goes through a lot of rural areas, but it also goes right through the historic Route 66 towns.
The map covers all eight states and 2,500 miles of Historic Route 66. In Illinois, it's 328 miles on Historic Route 66 from East St. Louis to Chicago.
Staying on Route 66 can be complicated, and there are certain detours for bicyclists to avoid interstate highway segments, but Milyko says the map is easy to follow. She says riding Route 66 is something bike riders are eager to do.

Presidential library will be at the University of Chicago

Chicago will be home to the Obama presidential library, but its opening is still several years off.

The best guess for the grand opening is 2020 or 2021, says Marty Nesbitt, chairman of the Barack Obama Foundation. Nesbitt says for now, the official selection of University of Chicago as the library's host should be a cause for celebration, though he says the city may have won this bidding process decades ago.

"Maybe when the president moved here? I think that was a decisive moment." Nesbitt joked. "What was clear to us, from the very beginning, was that there was so much community support, not just on the South Side, but on the West Side, on the North Side, all over the city, and even, as we discovered later, all the way down to Springfield."

Nesbitt says the Obama Presidential Center, as he calls it, will house a library, museum, and the offices of the Obama Foundation, which means the president will be spending at least some of his time working in Chicago once he has left office.

The next step is to choose an architect for the project, and decide which of the two sites put forth by the University of Chicago will be the location of the library.