Renewing Wood Lake

Upgrades come just as Lake Shelbyville is named top project in nation

Photo by Keith Stewart Volunteer members from the Sullivan AmBucs install decking at the new fishing pier at Wood Lake. The pier was completed as of this week. The volunteers will next construct a roof for the pier.

Photo by Keith Stewart
Volunteer members from the Sullivan AmBucs install decking at the new fishing pier at Wood Lake. The pier was completed as of this week. The volunteers will next construct a roof for the pier.

•July 29, 2015•

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

These days, the Lake Shelbyville area is glistening and not just because of the hot sunshine beaming down on the water.

Two weeks ago this Thursday the US Army Corp. of Engineers announced that Lake Shelbyville had taken this year’s top spot as the Natural Resources Management project of the year.

And as if any further proof was needed, that same day, a small group of volunteers was working on installing a handicapped accessible pier at Wood Lake, just a half mile north of the Bruce-Findlay road–one of several upgrades to the 30-acre lake that when finished looks to make it a unique destination, particularly for fishing.

The volunteers constructing the pier come by way of the Sullivan AmBucs, a local chapter of the national service organization that has come to be best known for, not only providing ‘AmTrykes’ for disabled children, but also constructing ramps to make homes and businesses accessible.

And that’s where the group has drawn much of their expertise with their latest project–building a 50’x20’ handicapped accessible pier at Wood Lake that when finished, will not only allow fishing more than 45’ feet in, but also at night with the aid of solar-powered lights and a roof overhead.

“It’s a real opportunity for AmBucs to do some real good, not only for Sullivan, but the Shelbyville area,” said Denny Hutchings, a member of the Sullivan AmBucs group. “To have a facility like that as close as it is to Sullivan, open to the public and that is a nice fishery, it could be a real boom to the area, and it’s a chance for AmBucs to have a little wider impact. Just a great opportunity.” Read More

ALAH District Short Another State Payment

Reduction in funding causes change of summer maintenance, insurance policies

•July 22, 2015•

by Ariana Cherry
Arthur/Sullivan Reporter

At their meeting last Wednesday, the Arthur-Lovington/Atwood-Hammond school board discussed being denied a fourth state aid payment and how that looks to impact projects.
“We didn’t receive our fourth payment from the state which equaled about $80,000, ” said Superintendent Kenny Schwingel.
While the district didn’t expect to receive that missed payment from the state, it did still put them short for funding toward extra projects. The district had several projects for summer maintenance that were needing to be done, but because of funding issues, they had to be put on hold for the next school year. The total cost of the maintenance projects was over $105,000, but after taking a second look at the list, it was narrowed down to $70,000. Some of the projects that were put on hold include putting up a second hitching post, new storage shed and repairing/replacing the entrance at Arthur Grade School. Read More

Eagle Creek Task Force Forms

Local officials come together to provide oversight on shuttered resort

•July 15, 2015•

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

A group of local officials and representatives have recently come together to form a task force overseeing the future of the long-shuttered Eagle Creek Resort.
“Some of us locally think we need to have some local control in overseeing it to make sure it continues forward,” said Moultrie County board chairman Dave McCabe. “Everyone has been wanting to get it accomplished for years now, but it never seems to get done.”
Eagle Creek was closed in July of 2009 after mold was detected. Some hope for its reopening surfaced in 2010 when Decatur-based BMDD Resorts Corp. was hired to renovate and reopen the resort. But that hope soon faded last year after the firm pulled out among disagreements with the state over the project, leaving Eagle Creek to once again sit unusable.
“With the way DNR has been prolonging this, I’m not sure whether we can be effective or not,“ said Sullivan Mayor Ann Short who is also a member of the task force. “But if we can accomplish something positive, I’ll be thrilled.” Read More

Bethany Bar Closes for the Summer, TIF Funds Revoked

Village also hears petition concerning rental utilities

July 8, 2015

by Derek Pope
Bethany Reporter

At the end of May, Bethany’s first bar in decades decided to close—at least temporarily. The Hired Hand Winery and Saloon, located in Bethany’s downtown district, formally announced the closure on their Facebook page on May 31, pledging to return to business in August. The reason they cited for the closure was an extended family summer vacation, but the announcement came unexpectedly following the approval of a sizable loan from the village’s township investment funds (TIF) intended to aid in the business’s summer operations.
Prior to the village board’s approval of the loan in April, the owners of the Hired Hand and its sister business Echoes Studio, Shane and Erin Weybright, approached the village’s TIF committee with an appeal for funds that they deemed necessary for keeping the two establishments operational throughout the summer and ultimately in the months and years to come. They requested the necessary money to install a new heating, and more importantly, air conditioning system in the outdated downtown buildings that housed the businesses. The Hired Hand’s ownership said that during their first year of operation, the complete lack of an air conditioning system so badly hurt their summer business that it may ultimately be impossible to financially endure another summer without one.
Bethany’s TIF committee and village board ultimately agreed, approving a recommendation to award the Weybrights a $48,000 five-year forgivable loan, in part to improve the downtown buildings themselves, which must be repaid in part should the business permanently close or be sold within that time frame.
The decision was not without objections, though. Read More

UPDATE: Sullivan Teacher Dies After Being Struck by Vehicle

Christina Sanders, 30, pronounced dead Thursday

July 3, 2015

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com
A Sullivan elementary school teacher was pronounced dead Thursday evening after being struck by a vehicle Tuesday.

According to the Moultrie County sheriff's department, Christina Sanders, 30, of Sullivan was pronounced dead at Carle Hospital at 5:33 p.m. Thursday.

Shortly before 7:13 p.m. Tuesday, Sanders was struck by an automobile while jogging along county road 850E just north of the Bruce-Findlay road according to the sheriff’s department.
The release further adds that the automobile was being driven by Kali Forsyth, 18, of Sullivan. Read More

Aikman Wildlife Pulls Special Use Permit

Organizers now looking for another site

July 1, 2015

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

A special use permit filed in May for a zoo near Arthur has been withdrawn.
According to the Moultrie County planning and zoning officer Jan Haegan, James Aikman’s application for a special use permit for his wildlife park was withdrawn Monday afternoon.
Shortly thereafter, a post on the Facebook page Aikman Wildlife Adventure, which James Aikman confirmed as the project’s official page, explained the decision to withdrawal the application, citing the last zoning board of appeals meeting, which concluded with its members not recommending a permit for the zoo.
“The last meeting made it very apparent by the objectors that no matter what we do, nothing will ever be good enough,” read the post. Read More

The Bakery is Back

Photo by RR Best JoBeth Risley is seen boxing up fresh glazed doughnuts early Friday morning. After first opening last Thursday, the Sullivan Bakery has sold out of its goods every day since.

Photo by RR Best
JoBeth Risley is seen boxing up fresh glazed doughnuts early Friday morning. After first opening last Thursday, the Sullivan Bakery has sold out of its goods every day since.

By heavy demand, a Sullivan favorite re-emerges

June 24, 2015

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

Last Thursday just before 3:45 a.m. Drew Zbinden walked a block west to 112 East Harrison and began making doughnuts.
But not just any ordinary doughnuts.
Sullivan Bakery doughnuts–and 40 dozen of them.
The bakery then flipped round its open sign at 5:30 a.m.
Two hours later, all 480 of the cake and round yeast-raised rings, 96 of which were glazed, were gone.
Not to worry right? The bakery still had cookies, brownies, and six dozen muffins.
Gone.
In fact, if you walked into the newly opened bakery Thursday after 9 a.m., it appeared as though they hadn’t opened at all as their three pastry cases sat empty.
Still unbeknownst to the public the mad rush earlier that morning, patron after willing patron continued to come to the bakery in anticipation of a morning pastry.
“You’re only about three hours too late,” said Jerry Risley, Drew’s father and part owner.
“How about 5:30 a.m. tomorrow?” said JoBeth Risley, Drew’s mother (also part owner).
“We’re sold out,” said Zbinden to another customer. “Sorry.” Read More

Hypnotized by “Hairspray”

Photo by Keith Stewart Pictured is Sara Reinecke as Tracy Turnblad, the teenage girl who has aspirations to make it on to the Corny Collins Show.

Photo by Keith Stewart
Pictured is Sara Reinecke as Tracy Turnblad, the teenage girl who has aspirations to make it on to the Corny Collins Show.

June 17, 2015

By Dan Hagen
NP Theatre Critic

The dress rehearsal for the Little Theatre’s second show of the season reminded me just how well Hairspray works as a musical.
The John Waters story about outsiders (persecuted for their pounds and pigmentation) who are trying to get inside a local TV dance program in 1964 provides a perfect excuse for dance after dance. You realize that the large cast must be exhausted by the end of director Kevin Long’s brisk, high-energy show, although their smiles never show it.
Colorful costumes by Sherri Milo are shown off to good effect against a terrific set by Noel Rennerfeldt.
From the moment Tracy Turnblad (Sara Reinecke) emerges from her dramatically vertical bed to sing the life-affirming anthem Good Morning Baltimore, the comic book colors of the set catch and please the eye. I particularly enjoyed the big vari-colored light panels surrounding the stage and the angled, Seuss-like buildings.
Double kudos go to Lee Ann Payne as actor and choreographer. The Equity performer (Reno in 2014’s Anything Goes) brings stage presence and assurance to the role of mean mom Velma Von Tussle, glorying like Cruella De Vil in the memory of her triumph as Miss Baltimore Crabs. Read More

County Board Okays Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda

While a formality, board’s approval marks support for Governor’s reforms

June 10, 2015

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

At their regular meeting last month, the Moultrie county board unanimously approved Governor Bruce Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda”, also known as the “Local Government Empowerment and Reform” resolution.
In what is only a show of support with no binding action, the nine-member board gave their approval of the call for reforms that the Illinois governor has been pushing now since he entered office, including those dealing with workers compensation, property tax freezes, term limits, prevailing wage, and empowerment zones or right-to-work areas where union membership and dues would be voluntary and that could be established by referendum or by a governing body’s ordinance or resolution. These zones have been labeled as anti-union by critics. Read More

“Mary Poppins” Starts Off Family Friendly Theatre Season

Photo by Keith Stewart Mary Poppins, played by Effingham native Colleen Johnson has descended on Sullivan this week and may be seen at the Little Theatre on the Square beginning June 3 through the 14th.

Photo by Keith Stewart
Mary Poppins, played by Effingham native Colleen Johnson has descended on Sullivan this week and may be seen at the Little Theatre on the Square beginning June 3 through the 14th.

Will run through June 14

•June 3, 2015•

By Dan Hagen
NP Theatre Critic

One night in Australia in 1909, with rain swelling a nearby creek, 10-year-old Helen Goff’s widowed mother told the girl to take care of her two younger siblings. Mother was going to drown herself, she explained. And then she walked out into the storm.
Terrified, Helen gathered the children on the rug in front of the fire and made up a story about a magical flying horse — a perfect symbol of escape — to distract them. Unsuccessful in her suicide attempt, Helen’s mother returned later, but her daughter never trusted her again.
Helen grew up to wear trousers, engage in various unorthodox relationships and become an author. She changed her name to P.L. Travers and wrote famous stories about a no-nonsense, supernatural protector of children whose parents had failed them.
Which makes sense, doesn’t it?
And now you can see that character soar — literally — across the Little Theatre stage as the first offering in Executive Director John Stephens’ most family-friendly season yet.
Mary Poppins, directed and choreographed by Amber Mak, is a musical drawn from both the original stories and the famous Disney film. Read More