Diary of The Trip to Cuba

•April 13, 2016•

By Jose Pound
For the News Progress

Sunday, 13 March – Day 1.

Now I’ll relate some of our daily activities in Cuba beginning with our arrival at Jose Marti Airport in Havana via a chartered Aruba Airline flight (both going to and coming home from Cuba). Jose Marti is a national hero, poet of the Cuban people emphasizing “freedom” and godfather of current Cuban political life. His is the main statue in Revolutionary Square in center of Havana, where both Pope Francis and President Obama spoke to huge crowds of Cubans. It reminded me of a smaller version of Tiananmen Square in Beijing China…surrounded by government ministries.

On our arrival, after the 45 minute flight from Miami, the airport terminal was jammed with people, without much control as where we were to go. Plus it was hot (in the 80s) and humid like a summertime greenhouse without air conditioning. The exit lounge at the airport on our return home was “somewhat” air conditioned. Finding our luggage after arrival from Miami was a two hour event, which was a real strain on your disposition. However, when we all had our luggage, we were directed to a “new” Chinese made luxury bus, which served us well for the next seven days plus it was delightfully air conditioned. There were numerous antique (50s) vintage cars in the airport parking lots. We soon learned that these cars have been carefully maintained/rebuilt as Cuban taxis.

Cuba is being inundated with US visitors…like us. We were there on a People to People program based on regulations of the US Department of Treasury. A Road Scholar contact person told me Cuba is their most sought after travel destination of late. After our experience, I understand why. Read More

Lovington Plans Summer Celebration

•April 13, 2016•

The Lovington Village Board met March 14 agreeing to participate in a village celebration.

Carol Smith of the Lovington Community Club, Alumni Association and Revitalization organizations requested the village celebration for June 17 and 18.

Smith presented planned activities for the event and asked the village to provide two porta potties, police supervision during the parade, blocking streets downtown for vendors and electricity for those vendors.

Board members present expressed no problems with those requests. Read More

News Streets and Sidewalks Around the Square

•April 6, 2016•

By Ariana Cherry
For the News Progress

New streets and sidewalks will surround the recently renovated Moultrie County Courthouse. Rerouted traffic and construction noise are what it takes to get there.

The Sullivan city council approved a bid to resurface the square and other surrounding streets that includes Harrison, Jefferson, Main, Washington and S. Main streets at the last meeting. The estimate of the project was $750,000 with concrete costing $140,000. The lowest bid was from Ne-Co Asphalt Co at $919,126.30.

Presently,the street improvement fund doesn’t have enough to cover the entire project so other funds will come from TIF and the electric fund. TIF had reserved  $450,000 for the project. The street improvement fund has $400,000 with the electric fund contributing $100,000.

It was noted that street improvement projects usually spend anywhere from $20,000 to $42,000. Typically, there is $50,000 in the budget for normal street maintenance unless a larger project has to be completed.

Other costs that aren’t included in the estimate are engineering and road striping. Mayor Ann Short estimated that the entire project could cost a million dollars. “We have $850,000 available, and we could borrow from the electric department to help fund other costs,” she informed.

Commissioner Ken Johnson said he planned on having the project finished within a three-day period.  Read More

Moultrie County Tentative Multiplier Announced

•April 6, 2016•

Moultrie County has been issued a tentative property assessment equalization factor of 1.0000, according to Constance Beard, Director of the Illinois Department of Revenue.

The property assessment equalization factor, often called the “multiplier”, is the method used to achieve uniform property assessments among counties, as required by law.  This equalization is particularly important because some of the state’s 6,600 local taxing districts overlap into two or more counties (e.g. school districts, junior college districts, fire protection districts).  If there were no equalization among counties, substantial inequities among taxpayers with comparable properties would result.

State law requires property in Illinois to be assessed at one-third (1/3) of its market value.  Farm property is assessed differently, with farm homesites and dwellings subject to regular assessing and equalization procedures, but with farmland and farm buildings assessed according to standards based on productivity. Read More

Sullivan Singer Invitational Makes Comeback

Photo Submitted FAME Award for Singers Sullivan Singers placed fourth runner-up in FAME Chicago last weekend with qualifying scores for FAME Nationals. Grant King was named “Best Male Soloist.” The Singers were awarded the prestigious FAME Award that is given to the most “professional and easy to work with ensemble and director.”

Photo Submitted
FAME Award for Singers
Sullivan Singers placed fourth runner-up in FAME Chicago last weekend with qualifying scores for FAME Nationals. Grant King was named “Best Male Soloist.” The Singers were awarded the prestigious FAME Award that is given to the most “professional and easy to work with ensemble and director.”

•April 6, 2016•

By Kennedy D. Nolen
For the News Progress

After the Sullivan Singer’s cancellation of the annual invitational last year, the Singers knew they had to make a comeback, director Jeffrey Thomas said.

More than 20 groups participated in the competition, and 4,000 spectators flocked to the SHS gym March 11 and 12.

Singer’s alumni and school board member Jeff White was the emcee for the high school competition, and middle school principal Ted Walk hosted the junior high competition Friday evening.

Read More

ALAH District Dips into Reserves to Cover $240,000 State Owes

Could be 5 months before anymore payments are made

•March 23, 2016•

By Ariana Cherry
For the News Progress

“The current checkbook balance is $5,525,184.24,” stated Superintendent Kenny Schwengel at the last Arthur-Lovington/Atwood-Hammond School Board meeting. “All funds are in the black, but the balance is getting a little smaller.”

Schwengel noted that the district received a second mandated categorical payment in the amount of $199,000. “I am anticipating it to be the last one for the year though,” he cautioned.

“The state still owes us about $240,000,” Schwengel informed. The district has received only two of four mandated payments. “We are definitely up for some challenges,” he solemnly said.

Schwengel explained that it could be five months before they see any type of payment.This could make the district come up with nearly $1 million.

Illinois may not approve any education budget until the November election or some type of reforming takes place he said of future expectations.

“Presently, we are looking at three areas to make some cuts – middle school math, media in the library and Spanish. We possibly could use those resources where they are better needed,” Schwengel said. “We are still in better shape than a lot of schools right now.”  Read More

Lovington Board Reviews Drainage Issues

•March 23, 2016•

The Lovington Village Board helped sponsor the Easter egg hunt held March 19  in the park.

Trustee Dennis Garman presented the request for $500 which was used to purchase new baskets and a variety of treats to fill them with Jenny Peck coordinating the effort.

Board president Jim Minor appointed the new park and recreation committee which will serve one year. Included on the committee are chair/treasurer Jenny Peck, co-chair Brandie Mendoza, secretary Amanda Kreher along with Nina Fridge, Paula Murray and Lisa Clark.

Dave Bowers presented a report to the village board concerning drainage issues and possible solutions.

Representing the drainage district, Bowers explained drainage tile are  being inspected  with a tree needing removed at the west end of town. Read More

Sullivan City Council Approves Temporary Plaza

•March 23, 2016•

By Ariana Cherry
For the News Progress

Spring has arrived which means warmer weather and new shows arriving at the Little Theatre on the Square.

Sullivan residents will be seeing a few changes this season when the theatre opens. Starting May 15, Washington Street will become a one-way street to make room for an outdoor plaza.

The plaza will run from Harrison Street to the outside of the Little Theatre while the alleys remain open. The plaza will be protected by heavy blocks and large planters with outdoor patio furniture and other plants and flowers.

This new arrangement is to create a safe place for patrons to gather before and after shows and during intermission. It also will allow an accessible area for bus drop-offs.

Children will benefit by having a place to safely get autographs. The plaza will also provide an opportunity for specialty vendors during the season.

There are future plans to have a Farm to Table Dinner to kick-off the opening of the plaza and theatre. According to SCED (Sullivan Chamber Economic Development) Director Stepheny McMahon, the plaza will open at no cost to the city. The SCED will be heading the new project. “We have had 16 letters of support and offers to help from the Sullivan Rotary, Little Theatre Advisory, Sullivan High School and My Garden,” she said. Read More

Sullivan Schools Technolgy Budget Grows

•March 23, 2016•

By Mike Brothers

As school technology expands so do the budgets required to keep pace.

Sullivan School Board members were updated on the FY 2017 budget by Supt. Brad Tuttle which includes a $34,938 increase from the prior year.

Formulated by the District Technology Committee the proposed annual budget is $268,003.

With the anticipated E-Rate reinbursment of $57,222 the total district cost should reduce to $210,781.

The iPad student program expands to include the ninth grade in the new budget. The purchase of 80 iPads and cases is $32,320. Read More

Correction…

•March 23, 2016•

On the front page of the Wednesday, March 16 issue there was an error in the Yost Fit to Be Tried article. In that story public defender Brad Rau was incorrectly referred to as David Rau. My apology for the error.