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

SHS Alum Speaks at Veterans Day Ceremony

November 12, 2014

Photo by Keith Stewart Sullivan high school students Cody Kay (left) and Tristin Minard (middle), who are both currently enlisted in the Army, march with a ceremonial wreath under the guidance of Steve Jenne (right), a retired Army E5. The wreath was placed on the Veterans Monument in front of the high school after the Veterans Day assembly Tuesday afternoon.

Photo by Keith Stewart
Sullivan high school students Cody Kay (left) and Tristin Minard (middle), who are both currently enlisted in the Army, march with a ceremonial wreath under the guidance of Steve Jenne (right), a retired Army E5. The wreath was placed on the Veterans Monument in front of the high school after the Veterans Day assembly Tuesday afternoon.

Bragg reflects on service to country

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

Dallas Bragg doesn’t recall ever finishing one book in high school. Well, that is with the exception of one.

As a sophomore in Rebecca Lawson’s Career English Class, Bragg along with his late friend Brian VandenBrink, set out to finish the novel “Fallen Angels” before their instructor could.

They won. Read More

School Facility Sales Tax Fails

November 5, 2014

57 % of voters say “no”

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

The voters of Moultrie County voted down a referendum proposing to increase the local sales tax by 1 percent Tuesday.

The county school facility occupation tax measure, which would have raised funds for Moultrie County school districts to use towards building upgrades and other school facility related expenses, failed with 2563 voters saying “no” while 1947 voted in favor.

Superintendent of Sullivan schools Brad Tuttle had previously cited particular building needs such as a new HVAC system and roof in certain areas of buildings. It was estimated that up to $800,000 would be generated annually from the 1 percent increase in sales tax, which would have applied to prepared food at restaurants, soft drinks and candy, and other tangible property. Okaw Valley and Arthur-Lovington/Atwood-Hammond would have also seen influxes of money. Read More

Clerk Warns of Absentee Ballot Confusion

October 29, 2014

Voters say they’re not receiving ballot after several weeks

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

Moultrie County Clerk Georgia England is urging those who have submitted for an absentee ballot through the mail and have not yet received one to call her office before the end of the day Thursday, October 30.

According to England, last week her office was contacted by four members of the public, a wife and husband and a father and his son, all asking why they had not received their absentee ballots in the mail after sending in a form they received in the mail several weeks ago. Read More

Robinson Street Deemed Unfit for Farm Traffic

Photo by Keith Stewart A grain semi-truck enters the queue line at the Heritage Grain Co-op elevator in Bethany Tuesday morning. Earlier this month an engineer explained to the Bethany village board that Robinson Street was not meant to handle such traffic.

Photo by Keith Stewart
A grain semi-truck enters the queue line at the Heritage Grain Co-op elevator in Bethany Tuesday morning. Earlier this month an engineer explained to the Bethany village board that Robinson Street was not meant to handle such traffic.

October 22, 2014

Engineer cites nearly $1 million estimate for roadwork

by Joash Tiarks
& Keith Stewart

keith@newsprogress.com

The Village of Bethany is once again dealing with the wear and tear of farm equipment.

As the main access route to the Heritage Grain Co-op elevator, the resurfacing of Robinson Street has cropped up again this year. Matt Foster, of the engineering firm Bainbridge, Gee, Milanski & Associates(BGM) out of Decatur, presented his findings to the board earlier this month on the possibility of a grant from the Truck Access Route Program(TARP) to more permanently deal with this perennial challenge. Read More

Record Crop on the Back Burner as Farmers Wait

Photo by Keith Stewart Muddy tire tracks from a combine are seen Monday in a field east of Allenville that J.C. Doty began harvesting just prior to the rains that moved into the area later that afternoon.

Photo by Keith Stewart
Muddy tire tracks from a combine are seen Monday in a field east of Allenville that J.C. Doty began harvesting just prior to the rains that moved into the area later that afternoon.

October 15, 2014

Corn and soy harvests at standstill with recent rains

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

John Doty and his son J.C. were two of few farmers out in the fields Monday afternoon.

“I’ve ordered three weeks of nice weather, but I’m not in charge of that,” said John. “But I guarantee you, we’ll finish.”

The father/son duo who were harvesting corn just east of Allenville couldn’t beat the rain that eventually moved in later that afternoon. So now they join the rest of their colleagues in checking weather forecasts, waiting, and looking out the window. And what most farmers see out that window are potential record yields barred from being harvested due to the recent wet weather. Read More