Drainage, and Farmland, and Zoning, Oh My!

March 4, 2015

County will have to amend ordinance before zoo can apply

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

The three-member county planning and zoning committee met Friday afternoon and unanimously approved amending the zoning ordinance to allow for zoo operations in the county.
The amendment comes after the county received a permit application for a zoo from the State Bank of Arthur on January 16. After issues were raised about the permit not including the names of those with the actual vested interest, an amended application was then filed by James Aikman, a loan officer with the bank on February 13, requesting the same permit, but the application could not be processed because the county zoning ordinance does not contain any language or permissions allowing for a zoo.
Aikman’s proposal is for an initial 45-acre wildlife park that would 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.
But according to a formal protest letter filed with the county clerk’s office last Wednesday by Urbana attorney Kent Follmer representing 17 nearby landowners, 66 percent of those who own land adjacent to the proposed zoo oppose both the application for the special use permit as well as the current amendment that planning and zoning officer Jan Haegan has developed. Of the 17 clients Follmer is representing, seven do not own land adjacent to the proposed zoo site. Read More

A Zoo In Moultrie County?

Photo by Keith Stewart A small boy eyes a 1:220th scale of the proposed Aikman Wildlife Park at the Arthur Outdoor Expo last month. There, Arthur resident James Aikman and his staff presented his proposed zoo to the public.

Photo by Keith Stewart
A small boy eyes a 1:220th scale of the proposed Aikman Wildlife Park at the Arthur Outdoor Expo last month. There, Arthur resident James Aikman and his staff presented his proposed zoo to the public.

March 4, 2015

Arthur loan officer pursues dream from God

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

After the first dream about owning his own wildlife park, James Aikman, an Arthur resident, woke up and told his wife Kelsey.
“On the night of October 21, 2013, I had a dream of my wife and I basically owning and running this wildlife drive-through park, so that next morning I told my wife about it, and she looked at me like I was crazy,” recalled Aikman to a full room during an economic luncheon at TnT Pizzeria February 19. “Our first son was going to be born in less than a month. She said, ‘We’ve got that coming up; this is not the time to be talking about this at all.’”
Listening to what has often been described as the wiser sex, Aikman let the notion go.
That is, until that night.
Aikman then says he had the exact same dream, a sign that this was not something to be taken lightly.
“I completely agreed with her and thought it was the end of it. That night I had the exact same dream again, and so I told my wife about it and said, ‘I don’t know why, but I really feel like this is from God.’ And she said, ‘If it’s really from God, he’ll find a way to make it happen.’” Read More

Lovington Revitalization Discussed

March 4, 2015

by Florence Hallford
Lovington Reporter

A small group of Lovington residents gathered in the basement of the First Christian Church February 24 to discuss the possibility of introducing new programs and activities for the children of Lovington.
The group included Pastor Al Rennert, Roger Walker, Norma Woolridge, and Nicole Brodnansky. Resident Victoria Goacher presented information to the group along with community organizer Mike Crews with the Illinois Coalition for Community Services (ICCS). Goacher then presented the information to the board at the Lovington Village Board meeting Monday night.
ICCS began in 1985 in underserved and low-income communities in Illinois. Since its inception, ICCS has helped more than 1,000 communities with a mission to empower people to change their communities with education, advocacy and grassroots organizing. It is a private non-profit grassroots organization with the goal of breaking the cycle of poverty through community based programs. Goacher called Crews after seeing the success of a food program through friend Sandra Hiser in Niantic and seeing a need to pull the community together to bring a better future to the children of Lovington.
Crews recommended beginning with a summer food program. Read More

Bethany Village Council Again Pushes Video Gaming Vote Back

March 4, 2015

Final approval of ordinance tabled for at least a year
by Derek Pope
Bethany Reporter

Last month, and without much fanfare, Bethany’s village council came to the consensus that they would not vote one way or another on the legalization of video gambling in Bethany for at least another year.
The decision was executed by legislatively “tabling” the vote or, in other words, taking no action on the issue and placing it on the council’s agenda at a later date. The decision, though not opposed by some members of the council, would effectively block video gaming machines from showing up in Bethany for the foreseeable future despite the passage of an ordinance last year aimed at doing the opposite.
It was in January of 2014 that the board approved by a 3-2 vote a motion amending the section of the liquor ordinance that then prohibited gambling and gaming terminals to instead, in the future, allow them.
The legislative move was possible because all ordinances must receive legal review of their wording, and a final approval of that wording, before going into effect, which the amendment to the liquor ordinance has yet to receive. If the amendment were to fail at this point, it would simply go back to the village’s legal council for rewording—a process that board members clarified would be superfluous to their final decision. Read More

Electric Customers Awarded $200 Credit On Bill

March 4, 2015

Settlement refunds Sullivan more than $150,000
by Ariana Cherry
Sullivan/Arthur Reporter

Commissioner Mike Kirk announced at the city council’s last regular meeting that all electric customers who were billable on December 31 of last year will be receiving a $200 credit on their next utility bill.
The $200 credit is a result from an appeal that IMEA (Illinois Municipal Electric Agency) had filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, in which they had protested a rate hike. Ameren had increased the wholesale distribution in 2011, which had been passed onto Sullivan and its customers.
Customers saw this rate increase because the city of Sullivan electric department purchases its power from the IMEA (which represents 33 communities that purchase blocks of electricity through a long term power supply agreement with Ameren/Dynegy).The appeal was settled in favor of the IMEA, and a refund was issued by Ameren to the IMEA in October 2014. Read More

BREAKING: Female Found Dead in Sullivan Wednesday Morning

Photo by Keith Stewart Moultrie County deputy Gary Eller tapes off an area around an apartment in Sullivan Wednesday morning after law enforcement discovered what they are calling an apparent homicide.

Photo by Keith Stewart
Moultrie County deputy Gary Eller tapes off an area around an apartment in Sullivan Wednesday morning after law enforcement discovered what they are calling an apparent homicide.

March 4, 2015• Updated at 5:40 p.m.

Coroner says homicide investigation is ongoing

by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com
A female was found dead this morning at an apartment complex in Sullivan.
According to an Illinois State Police press release Wednesday evening, Sheri Randall, 43, of Sullivan, was pronounced dead by Moultrie County Coroner Lynn Reed at 11:50 a.m.
Randall along with a 40-year old male subject who remains to be named publicly by authorities, were found at the Graham Street apartments near the elementary school by a female subject, who then called Sullivan PD at 11:30 a.m. Once on scene, Sullivan paramedics located both individuals who were suffering from apparent stab wounds and were unresponsive. The male subject was transported by ambulance to St. Mary's Hospital. His condition, according to the press release, is unknown. Read More

Charleston Woman Involved in Fatal Wreck Friday Morning Between Bethany and Sullivan

Photo by RR Best Emergency personnel are seen next to a 2015 Mazda passenger car  belonging to Amanda Kent of Charleston, who was pronounced dead at the scene after her vehicle was struck while parked on the shoulder of Illinois Route 121 Friday morning. In the background is the 2006 Cadillac SUV that was driven by Ame Shelton of Decatur that collided with Kent.

Photo by RR Best
Emergency personnel are seen next to a 2015 Mazda passenger car belonging to Amanda Kent of Charleston, who was pronounced dead at the scene after her vehicle was struck while parked on the shoulder of Illinois Route 121 Friday morning. In the background is the 2006 Cadillac SUV that was driven by Ame Shelton of Decatur that collided with Kent.

February 27, 2015

Vehicle struck after pulling over onto shoulder
by Keith Stewart
keith@newsprogress.com

 

According to the Moultrie County Sheriff and Coroner's Offices, a 26 year-old Charleston woman was killed after her vehicle was struck between Sullivan and Bethany Friday morning.
At 7 a.m. Friday the Moultrie County Sheriff’s Office received a phone report of a two vehicle crash on Illinois Route 121 approximately two miles west of Sullivan. Read More

Local Libraries Named Grant Awardees

February 25, 2015

More than $10,000 awarded in the county

By Ariana Cherry
Sullivan/Arthur Reporter

A library’s greatest reward is knowing it has made a difference in its community by educating the youth, promoting reading, and being able to act as a reliable resource for the public to get useful information. Although, in order to achieve such, a library does need sufficient funding. A grant to purchase the items that it needs is another reward for which a library can only hope.
And recently, Secretary of State Jesse White, has awarded FY15 Illinois Public Library Per Capita and Equalization Aid Grants that total $15.2 million to 635 public libraries three of which reside here in Moultrie County.
“I am extremely proud of the outstanding service Illinois’ public libraries provide to our communities,” White said in a press release. “Our libraries are the best and most reliable information resource available to citizens, and I am pleased to be able to provide these grants each year.” Read More

Celebrating Guy

Photo by David Mobley/Courtesy of Booth Library Special Collections, Eastern Illinois University. Pictured is Guy Little, Jr. in costume as Scrooge’s nephew in “A Christmas Carol” from 1968.

Photo by David Mobley/Courtesy of Booth Library Special Collections, Eastern Illinois University.
Pictured is Guy Little, Jr. in costume as Scrooge’s nephew in “A Christmas Carol” from 1968.

Sullivan icon turns 80

 

by Joash Tiarks
Reporting in Sullivan

 

“Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Tho’ your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone,
You’ll never walk alone.”

- Carousel, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’

 

A successful Broadway musical production and its poetic lyrics may not relate all that easily to the daily life of your average central Illinois resident, being far removed from the lights
and bustle of New York.
However, your average resident of Sullivan, Ill. could likely recall fun times with friends over food and drinks at Jibby’s restaurant, formerly just off the square from the county courthouse. At first glance a connection between Broadway productions in New York and Jibby’s in Sullivan might be hard to make. But that is before taking into account the life and work of Guy S. Little, who turned 80 this month, and his love for the theater.
Born in 1935 to a local farm manager and a former high school English teacher, Guy attended his first stage performance at age five when his mother Inis who herself directed high school plays out of a love for the theater, took him to the Lincoln Theatre in Decatur to see ‘The Merry Widow.’
“I was hooked, enthralled,” declared Little. “From that moment I knew what I wanted to do.”
This turned out to be no passing infatuation.
Guy would wholeheartedly pursue his passion for the stage from Sullivan to New York and New Jersey, to Miami, back across the midwest and out to Arizona, eventually owning a theater and a playhouse here in central Illinois. In addition he produced shows and managed theaters in Milwaukee and Phoenix and in numerous theatrical tours across the country, hosting hundreds of Broadway and Hollywood stars along the way.
Family legend tells of of how he produced his first play, ‘Hansel and Gretel’, at the age of nine with a set of marionette puppets in the backyard; of his wild night ride from New York to New Jersey with James Dean and the few days they roomed together while working in summer stock shows on the east coast as a teen on summer break from high school. Read More

Biking About Bullying

Photo by Keith Stewart Biking About Bullying Pro-BMX biker Matt Wilhelm visited Arthur Grade School and Atwood-Hammond Grade School on Thursday, February 12.  Wilhelm, known as the world’s fastest spinner on a bike, spoke to the assemblies about his career, hard work and first-hand experience with bullying. Wilhelm has appeared in the semifinals of America’s Got Talent, won 30 Seconds to Fame, and was featured with President Obama in “Stop Bullying: Speak Up” on Cartoon Network. Wilhelm is a Chicago native and Millikin graduate.

Photo by Keith Stewart
Biking About Bullying
Pro-BMX biker Matt Wilhelm visited Arthur Grade School and Atwood-Hammond Grade School on Thursday, February 12. Wilhelm, known as the world’s fastest spinner on a bike, spoke to the assemblies about his career, hard work and first-hand experience with bullying. Wilhelm has appeared in the semifinals of America’s Got Talent, won 30 Seconds to Fame, and was featured with President Obama in “Stop Bullying: Speak Up” on Cartoon Network. Wilhelm is a Chicago native and Millikin graduate.