Suspicious Fire Damages Abandoned House in Bethany

Photo Submitted by Kade Grimm Flames are seen engulfing the exterior of an abandoned house located at 409 N. Washington Street in Bethany Friday.

Photo Submitted by Kade Grimm
Flames are seen engulfing the exterior of an abandoned house located at 409 N. Washington Street in Bethany Friday.

Ongoing investigation into cause

May 6, 2015

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

A fire that took place Friday evening caused extensive exterior and interior damage to an abandoned house in Bethany.
According to Bethany fire chief Jim McMahan, his department received a call at 9:08 p.m. Friday about a fire at 409 N. Washington. His department was on scene five minutes later. McMahan, who lives near the property, says he could see the fire from his house.
“Flames were shooting up about 30 feet above the house,” he said. Read More

Okaw Valley Middle School Baseball Coach Charged with Sexual Abuse

Rural Shelbyville man arrested Thursday in Findlay

April 28, 2015

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

An Okaw Valley middle school baseball coach was arrested last week after allegations surfaced that he had sexual relations with a 13-year old girl.
According to court records, Wade T. Burch, 25, of rural Shelbyville was arrested last Thursday by Illinois State Police special agent Rodney Slayback after an investigation into allegations that he was sexually involved with a 13-year old OVMS student.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Burch voluntarily met with both Findlay police chief Chris Nichols and Slayback last Wednesday afternoon at the Mattoon Police Station. There, Burch was told of the allegations against him and subsequently interviewed. According to Slayback, Burch was told repeatedly that he was not under arrest and free to go, but the rural Shelbyville man agreed to stay until having to leave to umpire a baseball game.
The affidavit goes on to explain that Burch initially denied the allegations but eventually admitted to the possibility that he had met with a 13-year old girl during the Thanksgiving break last November and that he could have possibly kissed her at that time, but cited difficulty in recalling the events due to having been drinking heavily. Read More

Sullivan Schools’ Amended Budget Improves by Nearly Quarter Million

Final budget later this year could improve even more says superintendent

April 29, 2015

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

In what is a typical move for most school districts across the state this time of year, the board unanimously approved a tentative amended budget at their April 13 meeting.
In it, the budget decreases the district’s deficit spending by $242,305 when compared to the initial budget passed last September. Overall, the decrease in deficit spending can be largely traced to contingencies the district had inserted into the September budget that have now been pulled out after Superintendent Brad Tuttle found them to likely no longer be a possibility. He said that he hopes the district can further pull out more contingencies as the school year nears its conclusion. Read More

Two Vehicle Wreck Sat. Near Howie’s

No serious injuries reported

April 29, 2015

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

A wreck occurred Saturday night after a vehicle entered route 32 and collided with an oncoming car south of Sullivan.
According to Moultrie County Sheriff Chris Sims, a 17-year old was heading east on county road 800N at approximately 9:15 p.m. Saturday and proceeded onto route 32 on which a vehicle operated by Jessica Todd was traveling southbound. Read More

Amended ALAH Budget $1.4 Million Off From Tentative

Nearly $500,000 in cuts not helping

April 29, 2015

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

This month’s regular Arthur-Lovington/Atwood-Hammond board meeting revealed that the tentative budget approved last fall, was nearly $1.5 million off from current estimates. In the next breath, superintendent Kenny Schwengel informed the board that the school district along with every other in the state, would not be receiving their final two mandated categorical grants from the state. That coupled with the Governor’s 2.15 percent cut to K-12 aid means ALAH will not receive approximately $464,000 for this fiscal year–money that last fall they were told they would receive. Read More

Bethany Approves TIF Loan for Hired Hand and Echoes

Village grants $48,000 five-year loan

April 29, 2015

by Derek Pope
Bethany Reporter

Earlier this month, village officials voted to approve another round of TIF funding to renovate the noted but aging buildings on East Main Street. This time however, funding will be aimed at improving two of the easternmost buildings on the block, which house some of the village’s newest businesses—the Hired Hand Winery and Saloon and Echoes Studio.
In a 4-2 vote, members of the village board approved an agreement with the establishments’ ownership, granting a $48,000 five-year forgivable loan. The two dissenting votes came from council members John Book and Jeannie Ruppert. Read More

Sullivan Police Receiving Reports of Fraudulent Tax Income Returns

April 22, 2015

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

A few local federal tax income filers have discovered their identities stolen after they tried to file but were told they already had.
According to Sullivan police chief John Love, his department recently received just over a handful of calls from local citizens who discovered that someone else had fraudulently filed their federal return.
John Vander Burgh, CPA and owner of Vander Burgh Financial Service LLC in Bethany says such rejections from the IRS for filings are for one of two reasons–the preparer has incorrectly input the social security number by accident or, more seriously, someone else has fraudulently filed their form as a result of identity theft. Read More

Yost’s Trial Moved Up to June

State’s attorney requests speedy trial

April 22, 2015

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

A Sullivan man accused of murdering a woman in March was back in court Monday for a brief hearing regarding a request for a speedy trial.
Michael S. Yost of Sullivan appeared before the Hon. Judge Dan Flannell Monday afternoon after state’s attorney Jeremy Richey filed a motion for a special jury term or, in other words, a speedy trial. The motion was largely a formality since both state and federal law entitles individuals to a speedy trial.
Richey’s motion was granted, and as a result, Yost’s original trial setting commencement date of August 3 was essentially thrown out in exchange for 9 a.m. June 15. Read More

Lovington Park Ordinances See Several Deletions in Effort to Tidy Up Codes

Move comes amidst effort to update across the board

April 22, 2015

by Florence Hallford
Lovington Reporter

The Lovington Village Board has been updating ordinances that govern Lovington for several months now, and the next to fall in line recently was the park code– just in time for all of the enjoyable outdoor activities.
In general, the changes deal with deleting certain sections from the code, essentially lifting bans on things such as riding bicycles in the park and throwing propelled objects including balls. The actual deletions are as follows and were effective as of April 6, 2015:
Under Operations of Vehicles within the park (12-1-5), the following has been deleted: Read More

Zoos Now Allowed Inside Moultrie

Photo by RR Best The Moultrie County Board held its monthly meeting last Thursday in what became a packed courtroom anxious to speak their thoughts about allowing zoos to set up shop in the county. The board eventually voted and approved by a count of 8-1 an amendment that would allow just that.

Photo by RR Best
The Moultrie County Board held its monthly meeting last Thursday in what became a packed courtroom anxious to speak their thoughts about allowing zoos to set up shop in the county. The board eventually voted and approved by a count of 8-1 an amendment that would allow just that.

Ordinance amended Thursday to allow for wildlife parks

April 15, 2015

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

Moving their monthly meeting to a third floor courtroom Thursday to allow for more members of the public to attend, the Moultrie County Board approved by a vote of 8-1 to amend the zoning ordinance to allow for zoos and wildlife parks in the county.
The board’s decision followed more than 45 minutes of public comment, 30 of which were from Urbana attorney Kent Follmer, who is representing 17 landowners opposed to, not only the zoning amendment, but also a specific wildlife project that has been proposed in the county, but that wasn’t up for consideration.
Known as the Aikman Wildlife Adventure, the park would initially span 45 acres and include both a drive-through area where patrons could feed animals and a walk-through that would be similar to a zoo but with much larger habitats. There would also be a 7,000 squared foot walk-through aviary featuring different species of birds that patrons could feed. The park would be located one mile west of the Great Pumpkin Patch southwest of Arthur.
Follmer’s presentation to the board Thursday included objections from the Moultrie County Farm Bureau and local veterinarian Dr. DeWayne Richter.
The Bureau, in a letter to the county board, expressed its stance, saying, “The Moultrie County Farm Bureau opposes production farmland taken out of production for non-agricultural use.”
This was a point that has been and continues to be echoed by Follmer when arguing the intent of the agricultural zoning ordinance and citing its preamble which in part outlines its goal as to “promote and protect the public health, safety and general welfare by separating incompatible nonagricultural uses from potentially incompatible agricultural uses…” Read More