Area Update: Easter honored as a national ag leader

Area Update: Easter honored as a national ag leader

NORMAL — Former University of Illinois President Robert Easter was honored Tuesday as one of 100 leaders nationwide who are "changing rural communities and agriculture for the better."

The Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives honorees were unveiled on National Ag Day at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Easter was among six Illinoisans honored.

The Mahomet resident has remained active in agricultural issues, serving as the chairman of the Food and Agriculture RoadMap (FARM) Illinois, created to develop a plan for how the state can remain a regional, national and global hub for innovation and address food insecurity.

Said Easter: "I believe that production of food, fiber and fuel through agriculture is an honorable profession fundamental to human existence and that meeting the needs of the expanding global population is essential to survival and prosperity of our human species."

The News-Gazette

Thomasboro Village Board

Police hours could be cut

THOMASBORO — The village board is considering a reduction in man-hours for Thomasboro's police department, in an attempt to save money for the coming fiscal year.

Police Chief Keith Willis said the department, which consists of him and part-time officers, averages 68 man hours a week and 272 a month, including time in court and training.

A proposed reduction of $5,000 from the police budget would result in a cut of a month's worth of policing hours.

"If I had to take hours out, it'd most likely be from the day shift," Willis said. "I know that's bothersome because of school."

The board decided to give more thought to the subject.

"I don't think we have enough information to make a decision now," Mayor Brad Morris said.

PHILLIP KISUBIKA

Rantoul Press

BEMENT SCHOOL DISTRICT

Electives returning to curriculum

BEMENT — When Bement High teachers started volunteering their study halls to add electives to the school's curriculum, it was easy for Superintendent Sheila Greenwood to say yes. It will result in the return of classes like drama, as well as family and consumer life courses and a psychology class this fall.

"Some people have come forward and said, 'Hey, I can do this to help these kids. I can teach this,'" Greenwood told the school board. "It gives students more choices, more electives."

The moves are being made without adding staff, so the cost should be minimal.

The school board also approved the re-employment of all 11 of its non-tenured instructors and staff.

That helps temper the ongoing budget stalemate in Springfield. Schools have been receiving General State Aid payments this year, but the Bement superintendent said rumors are that school funding could be held hostage as negotiations begin for 2016-17.

"What is potentially going to happen is that this coming year they are going to tie the education budget either into higher ed or the overall budget. So there is an outside chance — and this is where the leverage is going to happen — that we will not have state money for '16-17," Greenwood told the board.

STEVE HOFFMAN

Piatt County Journal-Republican

VILLAGE OF RANTOUL

Another TIF district on agenda

RANTOUL — In a further effort to entice development to Rantoul, the village board is expected to pass development of a fourth tax increment financing district next month.

Consultant Geoff Dickinson of SB Development Advisors, which provided the redevelopment project plan to the board, said the area — located east of Rantoul's Wal-Mart — has had minimal investment.

"It's a mix of vacant and improved land," Dickinson said, and will adjoin TIF II. "If there should be extra money in either district, the village would have the power to shift money between the two (districts) to facilitate redevelopment."

In promoting the need for the TIF district, Dickinson said it was found that some of the area was blighted, with buildings 35 years old or older.

"It's not a deeply troubled area but an aged area," he said. "We found a lack of growth in equalized assessed valuation," and its value has been outpaced by an increase in the consumer price index.

Other flaws found in the study: a lack of community planning; lack of growth and value; obsolete platting; it is not laid out to facilitate development; and the area contributes to flooding.

The city would have a $15 million budget with the new TIF. Village Administrator Jeff Fiegenschuh said the money can be used for a number of things within the district, ranging from demolition of property, to providing incentives, to purchasing property.

Rantoul's third TIF was instrumental in development of the BRG plant west of Interstate 57. Its oldest TIF is located on the former Chanute Air Force Base.

Village officials hope the new TIF will help attract a mixed use of retail space and possibly another new hotel, Fiegenschuh said.

DAVE HINTON

Rantoul Press

VILLA GROVE CITY COUNCIL

Hearing set on site condemnation

VILLA GROVE — A public hearing to appeal the condemnation of an abandoned mobile home park operated by William Fosser at 411 N. Third St. will be held on March 21 at the council chambers.

In August 2014, the Douglas County Public Health Department declared the property a risk to public health and charged Fosser with several health violations, including lack of water, garbage build-up and inadequate control of rodents and insects.

The city of Villa Grove filed papers of condemnation against the property earlier this year. Fosser is appealing the ruling and has requested a public hearing on the matter.

AMY ROSE

N-G Correspondent

PAXTON CITY COUNCIL

New water control system urged

PAXTON — The public works committee is recommending to the full city council that it approve spending up to $25,000 for a new wireless control system that connects its water towers to the pumping station.

Public works superintendent Mark LeClair said the current system is not operating correctly so employees must monitor in person the plant gauges so that the towers are not overfilled or underfilled.

The committee is also recommending the council approve seeking bids for interior and exterior restoration of both the elevated tower in the industrial park at the city's west side and the downtown water tower.

Engineer Greg Gustafson told the aldermen they could perhaps secure a more favorable bid by seeking estimates for two successive years at once. The plan would be to do the estimated $140,000 work on the west tower later this year and the approximate $154,000 in work on the downtown tower in 2017.

CAROL THILMONY

N-G Correspondent

MONTICELLO CITY COUNCIL

Livingston Street reroute deals OK'd

MONTICELLO — Three agreements aimed at getting the ball rolling on a Livingston Street reroute were approved by the city council.

The city plans to reroute the western-most block of the road, connecting it directly to Railroad/Bridge Street.

The goal is to improve traffic and pedestrian safety around the municipal swimming pool by taking out a nearly 90-degree curve at Park and Railroad/Bridge streets.

"It kind of straightens it out so that it is more parallel with the railroad tracks," said Monticello Community Development Director Callie McFarland.

The portion of Park that leads to Railroad/Bridge would be closed.

The idea is fairly simple, but the process of obtaining a 2,200-square-foot piece of land the city needs for the road is much more complex.

This week, the council approved in principle a purchase agreement with Pfizer/Wyeth Corp. to purchase the triangular piece of land near city-owned Pepsin land for $1,000.

The city now has 60 days to examine "Tract 8," which could have contamination due to an elevated fuel tank formerly on the property.

The next step is for engineers for the city and Pfizer to agree on a maximum amount the company would reimburse the city for cleaning up the tract.

STEVE HOFFMAN

Piatt County Journal-Republican

LEROY CITY COUNCIL

Police social media policy discussed

LEROY — Alderman Brad Poindexter told the city council and Police Chief Jason Williamson that more discretion is needed regarding posting to social media pages.

Poindexter said he did not agree with the recent posting on LeRoy police's Facebook page of a suicidal subject response performed last week.

"Is that necessary?" Poindexter asked.

Williamson pointed out that no names or addresses were listed in the news release he posted, but he said he had a responsibility to inform the public when it comes to heavy police presences in town.

The posting said Farmer City Police, the McLean County Sheriff's Department and other units responded to a situation.

Alderman Judy Marshall said she has previously worked with courts and said she agreed that it is the police department's duty to inform the public when it comes to such incidences.

JERRY NOWICKI

LeRoy/Farmer City Press

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