Smiles on Faces Four Hooves at a Time

Photo by RR Best Andrea Ebert is seen with Jasper, one of her two mini therapy horses, during a visit to Aspen Creek in early December.

Photo by RR Best
Andrea Ebert is seen with Jasper, one of her two mini therapy horses, during a visit to Aspen Creek in early December.

January 21, 2015

Mini horses make visits to local residential centers

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

Andrea Ebert describes it as her perfect storm.
The nurse of more than 30 years who also has a master’s degree in gerontology was able to combine her love for people and for horses last fall by way of creating Heartland Mini Horses, an organization she formed out of Taylorville that seeks to provide therapeutic visits to nursing homes and assisted living centers with the help of two hairy little horses: Jasper and Bailey.
At just 32 inches tall, Jasper is a two-year old miniature horse and is joined by eight-month old Bailey who stands an inch shorter, is black-and-white, and acts as Jasper’s sister in the way they will playfully gnaw at one another.
“Anything over 34 inches is pony stage,” explained Ebert. “As far as training them, these horses have to have a great deal of patience. There are times I’ve had Bailey sit for five minutes waiting for someone to touch her.” Read More

Moultrie Moves On 911 Improvements

Photo by Keith Stewart Last month, the county board, acting in their new capacity with recently elected Billy Voyles joining the board, formally agreed to contract with Coles County’s 911 center to make improvements to Moultrie’s emergency phone services. Pictured, from left to right: Billy Voyles, Kevin McReynolds, Roger Glazebrook, Arlene Aschermann, Dave McCabe, county clerk Georgia England, Ron White, Gary Smith, Tim Rose, and Todd Maxedon. McCabe was voted to retain the chairmanship, and White was again chosen as vice-chairman at their reorganization meeting in December.

Photo by Keith Stewart
Last month, the county board, acting in their new capacity with recently elected Billy Voyles joining the board, formally agreed to contract with Coles County’s 911 center to make improvements to Moultrie’s emergency phone services. Pictured, from left to right: Billy Voyles, Kevin McReynolds, Roger Glazebrook, Arlene Aschermann, Dave McCabe, county clerk Georgia England, Ron White, Gary Smith, Tim Rose, and Todd Maxedon. McCabe was voted to retain the chairmanship, and White was again chosen as vice-chairman at their reorganization meeting in December.

January 14, 2015

Committee rejects tax referendum, for now

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

At their final meeting of the year, the county board approved 911 upgrades that will now task Coles County with the ability to tone out or directly page emergency personnel here in Moultrie County.

At their December 11 meeting and acting in their newly elected capacity with former board member and Democrat Ken Johnson replaced by Republican Billy Voyles, the board unanimously approved the more than $45,000 in upgrades that will now allow Coles County’s 911 center CECOM, with whom Moultrie has contracted for 911 services for just over three years, to directly page out the appropriate emergency personnel.

Before these upgrades, CECOM, upon receiving a wireless 911 call, had to contact either the Moultrie sheriff or Sullivan fire department, depending on the nature of the call, and verbally relay the emergency information. The 911 caller would become part of a three-way phone call before CECOM disconnected and let the Moultrie county agency take over. This relaying of information is said to have taken up valuable minutes in paging out emergency responders, minutes that the upgrades look to avoid. Read More

County Consolidates Pay Schedules into One

January 7, 2015

Some employees receive extra check

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

At their November meeting, the county board unanimously approved consolidating the county’s three different payrolls into one, a move that saw an immediate cost, but one that looks to provide a net savings down the road.

Citing cumbersome payroll processing for each of the county’s three payrolls, board chairman Dave McCabe explained that the consolidation will make for more efficiency in the county clerk’s office.

“You may remember some time ago we made the decision to delay the pay period so that we’d have time when someone left the county’s employment to take care of any changes in money we owed them, [or that] they owed us,” said McCabe. “Like most businesses do, you have a delay from your first pay period to reflect those…well, that got to be a little messy because we were just changing new employees so the old employees were under the old plan, and the new employees were under the new plan, and somehow we got a third one in there, and I’m not real sure how that third one got in there, but what it resulted in was Pam (Wittkowski, chief deputy clerk) and Georgia (England, county clerk) were having to calculate three separate payrolls for each pay period. Very time consuming, very confusing, so they worked with our auditor and talked with me a little bit about it and decided we would go to a one week delay for everybody.” Read More

Council Asked to Take a Crack at the Courts

Photo by Keith Stewart A long crack can be seen running through one of the two tennis courts at Wyman Park.

Photo by Keith Stewart
A long crack can be seen running through one of the two tennis courts at Wyman Park.

December 31, 2014

Growing local tennis association calls for need of better facilities

by Ariana Cherry & Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

The Sullivan City Council was addressed by a member of the public in their last regular meeting of the year to see whether rebuilding tennis courts in Wyman Park might be a possibility in the future.
Christopher Dobosz, owner of the Okaw Valley Tennis Association, addressed the council with the current state of the courts and how his tennis association, in growing each of its three years, is in need of newer and more courts to continue the program in Sullivan.
“The tennis program, in our third year, is growing every single year,” said Dobosz. “We’re expanding to other cities and other towns around here. We are also doing Shelbyville, Findlay, Bethany, Tuscola. We’re adding Lovington and Arthur next spring. We also sponsor many other actives in the park and at the tennis courts. We do a Nickelodeon world wide day of fun. We do that and all of these at no charge to children to come and enjoy the park and enjoy the tennis courts. We do lessons. We do play days. We have Jazzercise. I want to make this more than just tennis. It’s education. It’s growing the children. Also, a lot of these people that are coming to these programs, coming to these tournaments, they’re all coming from out of town, so we have a lot of people that are coming in, stopping, spending money at the gas stations and at food places, and it’s really been working well.” Read More

Bending Birthday Traditions for Christmas

Photo by RR Best Nine-year-old Shalyn Hunter decided to instead of capitalize on her Christmas Eve birthday to donate her presents to the local Secret Santa group. Pictured, from left to right, are Sullivan police chief and Secret Santa organizer John Love, Hunter, and fellow Secret Santa organizer Janet Dirks along with a few of the gifts Hunter donated Sunday.

Photo by RR Best
Nine-year-old Shalyn Hunter decided to instead of capitalize on her Christmas Eve birthday to donate her presents to the local Secret Santa group. Pictured, from left to right, are Sullivan police chief and Secret Santa organizer John Love, Hunter, and fellow Secret Santa organizer Janet Dirks along with a few of the gifts Hunter donated Sunday.

December 24, 2014

9-year-old donates gifts to Secret Santa

by Ariana Cherry

Arthur/Sullivan Reporter

For nine year-old gymnist, Shalyn Hunter, she just isn’t flexible with her gymnastics routines-she is also very flexible with what she is doing with her birthday presents this year. In fact, you could say, she was bending the rules when it comes to tradition.

“I wanted other kids that don’t have presents to have presents,” said Hunter.

“She’s always had a soft heart and has been sweet,” her mother Siovhan stated.

Hunter did something quite extraordinary with her birthday gifts this year. With her birthday being on Christmas Eve, she wanted to make a difference in other children’s lives for the holidays. Hunter asked that all her guests bring a gift for both girls and boys in the following age groups: two to four, four to six and six to eight. They hoped to collect at least 12 to 13 gifts total. After her birthday party celebration this past Sunday at the gymnastics academy that was to include plenty of tumbling tricks, they loaded all the gifts and delivered them to the Secret Santa Program in Sullivan. Hunter admitted to feeling a bit like Santa Claus because she, too, was delivering presents to children. Read More

Man Found Dead Sunday in Sullivan

Photo by RR Best Sullivan fire and police personnel are seen at 412. N. Seymour in Sullivan Sunday, where 58-year-old James Helms was found deceased after an apparent house fire.

Photo by RR Best
Sullivan fire and police personnel are seen at 412. N. Seymour in Sullivan Sunday, where 58-year-old James Helms was found deceased after an apparent house fire.

December 17, 2014

Apparent house fire to blame, but still under investigation

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

A Sullivan man was found dead inside his residence Sunday afternoon after a neighbor came by to check on him.

According to Moultrie County Coroner Lynn Reed, James E. Helms, 58, of Sullivan was pronounced dead in his residence located at 412. N. Seymour at 4:20 p.m. Sunday. An autopsy was performed Monday, and a full report on the cause of death including toxicology results is not expected for two to three weeks. Reed did say that, while preliminarily there does not appear to be anything suspicious surrounding Helms’ death, it is still under investigation.

Helms was found by Sullivan fire personnel Sunday after they received a 911 call at 4:02 p.m. that alerted them of a house fire with a trapped individual. However, when Sullivan fire fighters arrived four minutes later, there was no fire.

“The fire was out and had been for some time,” said Sullivan fire chief Mike Piper. “There was no heat smoke and no fire. It appeared that the fire had occurred several hours before, probably when he succumbed to it.” Read More

Fixing 911?

December 10, 2014

County to vote on 911 improvements Thursday

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

The Moultrie County Board will decide Thursday whether to sign off on 911 upgrades totaling more than $45,000.
Given the current state of 911 here in Moultrie County, the board and its public health committee have long struggled with how to address the issues with both the lack of automatic location information as well as the extra time it takes in paging out emergency responders.

Photo by Keith Stewart A.J. Roley, a 911 dispatcher at the Coles County Emergency Communications Center, handles an emergency call last Thursday night.

Photo by Keith Stewart
A.J. Roley, a 911 dispatcher at the Coles County Emergency Communications Center, handles an emergency call last Thursday night.

Right now, if you dial 911 from your cell phone in the county, here is what happens:
Your call gets sent to CECOM, the 911 center in Coles County, where a dispatcher will ask for and record your emergency information, including your address. From there, your call becomes a three-way conversation as the dispatcher then calls either the Moultrie County sheriff or the Sullivan Fire Department depending on the nature of the call. CECOM verbally relays the emergency information to the county and then typically disconnects unless further needed. Either Sullivan fire or the county sheriff’s department takes over, and sometimes, requests either more or the same information that the caller gave CECOM before then paging out the appropriate responders, whether that be Lovington Ambulance, Bethany Fire, or Sullivan Police, to name a few.
That whole process can take several minutes–minutes that can make a difference in life-threatening situations and minutes that the county is trying to eliminate by making improvements to its 911 service. Read More

Bethany Advances Towards Major Road Project

December 3, 2014

Still, much of Robinson Street improvements up in the air

by Derek Pope
Bethany Reporter

At last month’s regular village board meeting in Bethany, city officials approved a measure that would provide initial funding for a major roadwork project that was previously reported could cost the village up to $1 million to complete.

In reference to Robinson Street, that $1 million price tag is now expected to be considerably less, prompting the village to approve $45,000 in preliminary funding that could ultimately be wasted if officials decide not to further pursue the project. The vote, which passed 4 to 2, was just one in a series of decisions that Bethany’s village council will make in coming months concerning the reconstruction of Robinson Street. Read More

Sullivan Schools to Hold Tax Hearing, Again

November 26, 2015

Two levy rates presented, but board errs on side of caution

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

Earlier this month, the Sullivan school board agreed to schedule a truth in taxation hearing early next month, though presented two different levy rates, one of which will be decided at next month’s regular board meeting.
Citing recent speculation that school districts across the state might be facing a cut in their already cut state aid for this financial year, Sullivan Superintendent of Schools Brad Tuttle presented two tentative tax rates, both of which represent increases over last year’s levy amount, but one that would require a truth in taxation hearing, at an increase of 6.69 percent, and one that would not at an increase of 4.99 percent, just under the five percent limit that decides whether such a hearing is legally required.
“As early as this financial year, we could get a prorated version of our prorated version,” said Tuttle, who had travelled to Springfield earlier that day. “For the first time, I heard from some people that understand in Springfield that there is a legitimate chance we could not get 89 percent this year. They don’t know that,  but that’s speculation that could happen.”
Districts were told earlier this year that they would receive 89 percent of their otherwise full amount for this financial year. In addition to this level of funding being potentially cut further, Tuttle cited “major concerns” about the income tax extension likely to run its course and end come January and the implications that, too, could have on school revenue.
“The only reason I tell you that is because I think it’s important as we think about this tentative (levy), that we talk about this,” said Tuttle, “to guarantee that we would be able to levy the amount to get our maximum rates.” Read More

Expenses, Revenue Both Down, Tax Levy Up

November 19, 2014

New levy increases $7,141

Barry Featheringill
Sullivan Reporter

Once again the city of Sullivan had the first reading of the ordinance for the levy and assessment of taxes for the fiscal year beginning May 1, 2014 and ending April 30, 2015. This year the total appropriation, or money spent, of $28,173,950.00 is down from past year’s total appropriation by $663,850.

“This reduction is due to several factors but mainly fewer transfers from general fund, fewer gas fund purchases and a reduction in the water and sewer department expenses since the construction projects will not be completed in the fiscal year as had been previously hoped,” explained city treasurer Myron Salmon.

The receipts from sources other than the tax levy are also down by $697,991 from last year, and the amount raised by the new tax levy represents an increase of $7,141. Read More