Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lexington hires a new police chief

The Lexington City Council has haired David Belvery to be the new city's police chief. Belvery starts on August 11th.

David Belvery will start Aug. 11, said Christopher Phelps, chairman of the city’s police committee.
The new chief, who will have a starting salary of $50,000, was selected from a field of 22 candidates for the job left vacant by the June 7 resignation of David Schneider. Belvery comes from Creve Coeur, where he worked for 20 years, including a stint as interim chief.

Among Belvery’s first tasks will be reviewing the department and three part-time officers who were laid off in June as part of the department’s reorganization, said Phelps.

Under a contract with Lexington, the McLean County Sheriff’s Department has provided patrols and police services to Lexington since the local department was effectively closed. That agreement will likely continue until early September.

Phelps said he hopes the department can move forward and return to professional standards that give people confidence that their complaints will be effectively handled.

Issues surfaced with Schneider’s administration after Emery notified Lexington Mayor John Mohr that reports of burglaries and other crimes were not showing up in the county’s computerized reporting system. The lack of reporting hindered the sheriff’s department and other agencies, including state police, in linking potential crimes.

More than 100 reports have not been entered into the network since 2008, Emery told the mayor. The incidents included sex offenses, property and drug crimes and domestic violence incidents. The sheriff’s department expects to complete its review of the reports by the time Belvery arrives to determine if charges can still be filed on any of the potential crimes.

The local agency also has issues with its evidence room where drugs, cash, guns and other items collected during investigations were left unmarked.

Medical marijuana will still take time to implement

Remember medical marijuana? By the time anybody in Illinois fills a legal prescription for it, it'll be 2015.
That year-and-more ramp-up was built into the four-year pilot program, which was three years in earlier versions of the bill.
Right now, the state is about to make applications available to be one of the 21 growers – that's one grower per State Police district, as well as 60 dispensaries.
How will the state measure the success of the program?
Really, it's going to be a factor of whether people's lives are better; whether we're enriching the lives of those that are suffering from debilitating medical conditions – the pain and nausea,” said program coordinator Bob Morgan. “If that's going to be a success, that's going to be my benchmark, personally.”

New law would help schools without a nurse to administer epi-pens when needed

A new law will allow Illinois schools without nurses to administer medicine to children with severe allergies.
Under the law, school personnel can be trained to administer epinephrine injections, or epi-pens, to kids who are having a severe allergic reaction. Previously, only school nurses could give that medicine to students, and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says that presented a problem.
“Unfortunately, not all schools in the state of Illinois have school nurses,” Madigan said, “and that’s why it was important for us to expand this law to make sure other people can administer.”
Madigan says the training will be relatively simple for the State Board of Education to implement.
Illinois schools are not required to keep epi-pens on hand, but Madigan is hoping to change that through future legislation.

Juvenile justice people need more money for programs

The juvenile justice people in Illinois say they could use more money for more and better programs, considering the responsibilities.
“We accept youth committed to us from counties statewide. We are mandated to provide educational, mental and physical health screening and services for the youth,” says acting director Candice Jones of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, “and, additionally, youth who have special disabilities or special education requirements; mental health, as well as substance abuse.”
Jones was part of a hearing to give state representatives information about the criminal justice system.

Oberweis thinks current administration not doing enough for "coal country"

Illinois is coal country, and the Republican running for U. S. Senate thinks the current administration is not doing enough to recognize that.
State Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove), who is trying to unseat three-term incumbent U. S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), visited a Springfield-area coal mine to learn more about the industry and pledge to do a better job for it if elected.
Our administration is doing everything they can to destroy the coal industry,” Oberweis said, “because they don't think it's the environmentally best approach. I happen to believe it's not a good idea to dramatically increase the cost of energy for hardworking middle-class families in America.”
He found a friendly audience in leaders at Arch Coal's Viper mine at Williamsville. The mine's safety manager, Brad Kauffman, said the Obama administration is engaging in an “open war on coal.”
Kauffman and the mine have something to brag about: 510,000 man-hours, and counting, without a reportable accident. That's almost ten months.

Dig at the McLean County Museum of History uncovering old courthouse relics

An archaeological dig in Bloomington has uncovered part of a courthouse where Abraham Lincoln once worked.
The excavation in front of the McLean County Museum of History revealed the footprint of the 1836 courthouse that stood on the site. Greg Koos, the museum’s executive director, says Lincoln frequently practiced law in that courthouse from the time it was built until he ran for President in 1860.
“Almost every year, twice a year, through that period of time,” Koos said, “and so it became a very important place for him to do legal business.”
That courthouse was replaced by a larger building in 1868. That replacement burned down in 1900, after which the current structure was built. The footprint of the Lincoln-era courthouse had been lost with the later construction.  
Koos says the artifacts uncovered during the dig will have to be turned over to the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, but he hopes to have them returned to be put on display in Bloomington. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

New law makes it easier to get college credits online

A new state law is designed to make it easier to get college credits online.
The law will allow the Illinois Board of Higher Education to make agreements with other states to make sure that the credits earned through Illinois schools or institutions in other states are recognized by more schools. Gov. Pat Quinn says he’s seen how many students there are around the world that have benefitted from attending schools like the University of Illinois, either in an online or traditional capacity.
“I think many people know that when you want to learn and learn well, go to the University of Illinois. However, if you want to come in-person, that’s great, if it has to be online, so be it,” Quinn said.
The governor’s office says distance learning is becoming more popular with Illinois students, with nearly one in every ten community college students taking at least one online course each year.

Children's advocate group say current state budget stinks

While the governor and his opponent debate what future state budgets should look like, a group that advocates for children says the current budget is no good.
The Fiscal Year 2015 budget allocates $300 million to early childhood education – the same as last year, but down from $379 million in 2009.
What’s needed?  “We’ve run the numbers based on taking the funding level from 2009 and adjusting that for inflation.  We would now need to be roughly at $418 million to have just kept pace with where we were in 2009,” says David Lloyd, director of the Fiscal Policy Center for the group Voices for Illinois Children.
That failure to keep pace means that while 100,000 3- and 4-year-olds could attend pre-school in 2009, that number is now 78,000.
Early childhood education has traditionally been a strength of Illinois vs. other states.
The group also objects to the funding of elementary and secondary education.  The Education Funding Advisory Board recommended state funding of $8,767 for the 2014-15 school year.  The General Assembly came in at a $6,100 “foundation level,” and is actually funding only 89 percent of that. Bringing everything up to the recommended level would cost $5 billion, Lloyd says.

Stem cell research at the U of I ongoing

Stem cell research could lead to repairs to muscles damaged by vigorous exercise.  The research, at the University of Illinois, is now being done on mice.
The mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs, are injected into the leg muscles of the mice prior to exercise.  What's standing between this point and being able to use this on humans?
“The No. 1 challenge in translating our work to humans,” says kinesiology and community health professor Marni Boppart, “is identifying a source that is readily accessible … from tissue that we may not necessarily depend on – primarily adipose tissue or fat tissue.”
The stem cells in question are from adults, not embryos, and naturally occur in the body.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

July employee of the month named at Gibson Area Hospital

Marie Martin of Fisher has been awarded the Gibson Area Hospital & Health Services July Employee of the Month.

Marie has worked for GAHHS for 36 years in Lab, M & S, Home Health (20 years) and was responsible for the startup of the Durable Medical Equipment store in downtown Gibson City.

"Working in these departments I have learned the different areas of health care," said Marie. "From hospital patient care, caring for individuals at home, proper submission of insurance claims and many other issues I have become very well rounded."

Marie graduated from Fisher High School and Bloomington School of Practical Nursing. She currently works in the Patient Financial Services Department as a Long Term Care Billing Representative. Marie has seen a lot of changes in 36 years and likes the small town hospital atmosphere and is amazed at how GAHHS has grown.

Marie enjoys spending time with her husband, Bob, daughter Angie, son Adam and three stepchildren. She also has one grandson, Drew and seven step grandchildren. She looks forward to spending Wednesday’s with her grandson Drew. Marie relaxes by working in her yard, her flower gardens and also enjoys traveling to Biloxi, Mississippi with her husband.

Weeds are thriving as well as good plants this growing season

This has been a great growing season – for weeds.
The same conditions that are helping corn and soybeans to a good year so far are helping the plant species we don’t want on our farms, on our lawns and in our gardens – and that’s in spite of the fact that many weeds didn’t survive last winter, says Aaron Hager, a weed expert in the Department of Crop Science at the University of Illinois.
“But it didn’t take us very long here once our soils warmed up, air temperatures warmed up, we kept receiving the precipitation events to have the seeds of the summer annual species germinate and those plants emerge quite readily,” he said.
Most farmers use herbicide, while some farmers try organic measures, such as bugs that will eat the weeds but not the crops. Hager says the best bet for gardeners is to pull out the weeds by hand, with as much root as possible.
Hager says weeds are defined as any plant we don’t want – farmers don’t want them because they compete with their crops for resources, and gardeners don’t want them because they’re unsightly – but there are no rules in terms of species that are necessarily weeds: Morning glory is a common ornamental plan, but it’s a tough weed if it ends up on a farm, whereas corn would be a weed if it sprouted in a lawn or garden.

Seizure disorders like epilepsy qualifies patients for medical marijuana

Epilepsy and other seizure disorders are now on the list of maladies that qualify patients for medical marijuana.
This new law, effective in January, applies to adults, who would be allowed to smoke medical marijuana, and to children, if they have permission from a parent and are given a non-smokable form of cannabis.
“When I saw all the children that showed up at committee to testify – the parents, the children – that to me was the most compelling proof that we were doing the right thing, and if anything good came out of session this year, (it) was this bill,” said State Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), who sponsored the measure.
Parents of epileptic children said they have not had success treating seizures with pharmaceutical drugs, but that cannabis did help. Adam Frederick of Washington, Ill., says he moved to Colorado to access pot for his daughter, who was experiencing 40-50 seizures a day, and pharmaceutical drugs were not helping.  Medical cannabis is cutting seizures by 80 percent, he said.
The medical marijuana system, just enacted into law this year, is still being set up; it might be spring before anybody gets any legal medical marijuana.

Federal government sends extra help to stem the illegal gun trade in Chicago

The federal government is sending extra law enforcement agents to Chicago to help stop the flow of illegal guns into Illinois.
Seven additional agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives will soon be stationed in Chicago. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) says that extra help will assist efforts to track illegal handguns that come into the state.
“We’re getting better at this,” Durbin said. “We’re collecting more information. We’re connecting the dots. We’re putting law enforcement where it needs to be with this new information, and we’ve expanded this approach beyond a smaller region to a much larger undertaking.”
Durbin says a key part of this effort is getting more law enforcement agencies to report crime guns they recover to the ATF. Currently, about half of Illinois agencies do that, but Durbin says police in other states must do the same to limit interstate gun trafficking.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Now half the counties in the state have the emerald ash borer

The emerald ash borer has turned up in two new counties in Illinois: Peoria and Tazewell.

This is the bug that kills ash trees, and it has been spotted now in residential areas of Dunlap, Peoria and Minier.

This is a problem for two reasons, says Scott Schirmer, the emerald ash borer program manager for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. “The fact that it’s beyond the borders of where we assume it to be and understand it to be, and also the fact that it’s out beyond the area where we allow movement of wood, so it’s significant two-fold,” he said.

Schirmer says these two counties will be added to the quarantine area, bring the quarantine to 51 counties, half the counties in the state. The bug arrived in the United States in 2002, turning up in Michigan. It appeared in Illinois in 2006 and is blamed for the loss of 30 million to 40 million ash trees here since.

The quarantine bans the transportation of unfinished wood and wood products across the quarantine boundary. The existing quarantine covers the following counties: Boone, Bureau, Carroll, Champaign, Clark, Coles, Cook, Cumberland, DeKalb, DeWitt, Douglas, DuPage, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Grundy, Henderson, Henry, Iroquois, Jo Daviess, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Knox, Lake, LaSalle, Lee, Livingston, Macon, Marion, Marshall, McHenry, McLean,  Mercer, Moultrie, Ogle, Piatt, Putnam, Rock Island, Shelby, Stark, Stephenson, Vermilion, Warren, Whiteside, Will, Winnebago and Woodford.

Nabors visits Illinois VA hospital accused of delaying veterans' appointments

President Obama’s deputy chief of staff is visiting an Illinois VA hospital accused of putting veterans on off-the-books waiting lists.

One of the whistleblowers that met with White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors Friday was Germaine Clarno, a social worker at the Hines VA Hospital in Maywood. Clarno says since the problems with long waiting lists for veterans have become publicized, more of her colleagues have been willing to speak up, but some still feel intimidated.

“I think we would’ve had more employees today, but the conference room they gave us was down the hall from the director’s office, where there’s a camera, so I think people were leery of coming up and talking,” Clarno said.

U.S. Sen. Mark S. Kirk (R-Ill.) says the first step to solving the problems at Hines is getting rid of the hospital’s director, Joan Ricard, and he has told her that face-to-face.

“Actually, I suggested to her that she get a criminal lawyer to defend her against the coming FBI investigation which I’m gonna recommend,” Kirk said.

Kirk says Hines has been mismanaged under Ricard, citing employees who claim she has ignored problems with everything from waiting lists to mold growing in an operating room.

Grandstand repairs at the state fair not quite done

Repairs to the grandstand roof at the state fairgrounds won’t be finished by the time the fair begins.

“I suppose in a perfect world, everything would have been completed prior to the start of the fair,” said Illinois Department of Agriculture Spokesman Jeff Squibb. “It will be substantially completed before the fair.”

Workers started replacing damaged roof decking and beams Wednesday. That portion of the job should be done by the end of next week. Workers will come back after the fair and install metal roof panels for that section.

A $60,000 emergency contract was approved in May after inspectors found water seeping through rotting joists and decking. Squibb says neither the state’s chief procurement officer, nor the Capital Development Board, held up the repairs. “The project has followed procurement rules,” Squibb said.

He says the repairs will be weather-tight and won’t affect any grandstand activities or concerts, some of which are sold out.

The State Fair runs Aug. 8-17.

Groups for fracking frustrated by delays

The fracking people are out of patience.

These are the business and labor groups that supported legislation to allow hydraulic fracturing in Illinois, drilling for oil and gas in the New Albany shale play.  They were pleased when the measure passed last year and was signed into law by the governor, but they’re frustrated now with the delay in approving rules so permits can be issued, and they aired their grievances Thursday at a news conference at the Capitol.

“In Southern Illinois, there’s a high level of unemployment.  We have a skilled work force who’s down there and ready to go to work, and it’s difficult to explain to them that the bill passed in June of 2013, and 13 months later, we’re still dealing with implementation of rules and regulations,” said Michael T. Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO.

Tom Wolf, executive director of the Energy Council for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, says plenty of time has passed.  “When we started conversations on special hydraulic fracturing regulations in 2012, the environmental community wanted a two-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.  Well, two years later, it seems as though they got their wish,” he said.

The Department of Natural Resources is responsible for formulating the rules.  The agency published a first draft in November, but has yet to publish the final draft that will be submitted to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules for approval.

The DNR says it has been slowed by the volume of public comments, but it expects to meet a November deadline.

Quinn and Rauner talk about assault weapons

The issue of banning assault weapons is now entering the governor’s race.

Gov. Pat Quinn is in favor of legislation that would ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in Illinois.  His Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner, said at a Republican primary debate in March that he feels it’s appropriate for owners of such weapons to use them “on their property.”  Quinn says Rauner should explain that position.

“I think it’s very important that we the people pin down all candidates on this fundamental issue of public safety: are you for banning assault weapons or not?” Quinn said.

The Rauner campaign responded to the attack with a statement saying other Quinn programs to combat crime have been “disastrous,” such as the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, which is now being investigated by federal prosecutors.