ISP search for suspect in rest area death of Monticello woman

Illinois State Police (ISP) investigators are seeking the assistance of the public for any information into a death investigation that occurred on Tuesday, July 1, 2014 at the Willow Creek Rest stop on Interstate 39 southbound at the 84 mile marker.

A rest stop attendant discovered an unresponsive female at approximately 8:30 p.m. at the Willow Creek location. Investigators reviewed surveillance video from the rest stop and determined that a female exited the rest room and was attacked by a male subject.

The victim was later identified as Tonya D. Bargman, age 44, of Monticello. Illinois State Police have named Terence Doddy, 36, of Rockford, as a person of interest in this investigation. Doddy is currently wanted by Rockford Police Department for a murder that occurred on June 30 in Rockford. Doddy was observed leaving the scene in the victim’s vehicle, a Gray 2013 Nissan Altima, bearing Illinois license plates BARGMN 2. Investigators have issued law enforcement alerts nationwide.

Anyone with any information is urged to contact 911 or the ISP Zone 2 office at 815-632-4010. Law enforcement officials are also urging the public to take the necessary safety precautions when visiting rest stop areas.

Webber sworn in as associate circuit judge

By Colleen Lehmann
Judicial swearings-in are getting to be as frequent a Douglas County Courthouse event as some of the legal proceedings on the docket.

While that might be a bit of an exaggeration, the recent ceremony officially placing Roger Webber on the bench as associate judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit was the second such event in as many weeks. Webber, age 55, of Savoy, was sworn in by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman on Wed., June 25, 2014. He takes the place of Judge Richard “Rick” Broch, who on June 16, 2014 was sworn in as resident judge of said sixth circuit.

Webber, a longtime associate and partner in the Beckett & Webber law firm—with offices in Urbana and Tuscola—was chosen for the judicial position from what Justice Garman characterized as “a very strong field” of 15 candidates.

Webber graduated from DePaul University College of Law in 1983, and was admitted to the bar the following year. He served as assistant public defender in Champaign County from 1984 to 1986, and from 1986 to 1990 was first assistant state’s attorney in Douglas County. He joined what would become Beckett & Webber Law Firm in 1990, becoming a principal in the firm five years later.

Garman reiterated the importance of treating all who come before the court in a fair and impartial manner, and dispensing justice with humility, adding, “Respect is owed to the function of the position, not to you personally.” That said, she noted, “Having seen Roger conduct himself in the courtroom, I have no doubt he will have great success and is an excellent choice for the job. I am confident he will rise to the occasion.”

For his part, Judge Webber offered thanks to a number of people, most of whom were in the courtroom to witness the ceremony. He noted his parents, wife Jane, his son, former law partner Steven Beckett, and his former as well as most recent colleagues, all of whom he said played a crucial role in helping him to this day.

While a full courtroom of friends, family, and fellow attorneys were in attendance, there was very little time to offer good wishes to the newest associate circuit judge, as Chief Judge Dan Flannell had scheduled Webber for court duties in Clinton at 10 a.m., leaving him little time after the 8:30 a.m. ceremony.

Mo-Do Fair offers full week of family entertainment

By Doris Elmore
The sweat is dripping down your back, you wonder if your all day deodorant will hold out until noon, but if you are showing livestock at the Moultrie-Douglas County Fair, the show must go on. Find your coolest clothes and don’t forget to pack an umbrella because it’s time for the 84th annual Moultrie-Douglas County Fair July 6-12, 2014 in Arthur. Fairgrounds are located just behind Arthur High School on Route 133, and there will be no main gate admission this year.

Anticipation is in the air with Grand Ole Opry star Lorrie Morgan highlighting the entertainment at the fair this year. Her appearance is sponsored by C.H.I. Overhead Doors and Lift Master of Arthur. Lorrie will perform on Saturday night, July 12 on the Main Stage, beginning at 7 p.m. General public admission will be $5.

The 2014 Moultrie-Douglas Fair Book is dedicated to Ernest (Ernie) Bartholomew Jr. of Arthur, in honor of the numerous years of service he has given to the fair. Bartholomew started as a fair board director in 1984, resigning from the board in 2000. However, he has helped with the tractor pull almost every year since he left the board. Bartholomew’s accomplishments can be found in this year’s fair book.

A county fair would not exist without the fine arts, textiles, and hobby items. Entries will be from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday at the Merchant’s Building. The Arthur Ministerial Association will sponsor a church service and gospel music on Sunday from 6 to 8 p.m. Partners In Praise will provide the music.

Entries for culinary, horticulture, floriculture, and agriculture will be accepted between 8 and 10 a.m. on Monday. Judging will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The concessions and Merchants Building will open at 5 p.m. The all-breed market barrow and market gilt show will begin at 5 p.m. on Monday.

Get ready for fun, because the carnival rides will be in full swing from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday; and 6 to 11 p.m. on Friday. POP (Pay One Price) nIghts will be Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. On Wednesday and Thursday you can pay $14 and ride until they close, or until your stomach says whoa! Price for POP on Friday will be $15. What a good deal … riding as much as you can.

The dairy show will begin at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, followed by the beef show. Then the breeding gilt and breed barrow swine show will begin at 5 p.m. on the same day.

Fair queens put the beauty and “sparkle” into fair activities. The 2013 Jr. Miss Moultrie-Douglas, Amaya Abernathy, will relinquish her crown during the pageant on Monday, July 7, at 7 p.m. Admission will be $7 per person. There will be 12 Jr. Miss contestants vying for the title this year.

Miss Moultrie-Douglas 2013 Christine Fortney and Little Miss Addi Erwin will crown their successors at the Miss & Little Miss Pageant on Tuesday, July 8, at 7 p.m. Admission will also be $7 per person. There will be 18 Little Miss contestants and 14 beautiful girls competing for Miss Mo-Do. The winner of Miss Moultrie-Douglas continues on to compete in the Illinois County Fair Queen pageant in Springfield in January 2015.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal July 2, 2014 edition

EPA Cronus permit hearing draws positive responses

By Colleen Lehmann
Folks of all walks of life filed into Tuscola High School gymnasium last Thursday evening—farmers, business owners, educators, laborers, politicians, retirees. The draw for sitting in bleachers on a muggy summer evening was to witness, and perhaps participate in, a public hearing concerning the proposed issuance of permits for construction and air pollution control for Cronus Chemicals.

Officials from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency conducted the June 26, 2014 hearing, noting Cronus Chemicals LLC—based out of Chicago—has applied for an air pollution control permit to construct a fertilizer manufacturing facility at 785 E Highway 36, a few miles west of Tuscola.

IEPA official Bob Smith said, “The facility would make nitrogen-based fertilizers, specifically urea and ammonia, from gas feedstock. The principle emissions units at the facility would be an ammonia plant, reformer furnace, a boiler, and a urea plant.”

According to Smith, “The proposed facility is considered a major new source of emissions for nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and greenhouse gases as defined under federal rules for Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD). The application requests approval to construct the facility under PSD rules, and based on review of the application, the IEPA has made a preliminary determination that the application for the proposed facility meets applicable requirements. Therefore, the IEPA has prepared a draft construction permit for public review and comment.”

While a formal announcement has yet to be made as to whether the $1.2 billion fertilizer plant will be sited in the Tuscola, Ill. area, as opposed to a site in Iowa, there was a spirit of hopefulness in comments offered by several individuals, as well as gratitude for being considered a contender.

Probably few have higher hopes for a forthcoming site decision than the first commenter, Erzin Atac, CEO of Cronus Chemicals who has 30 years experience in the fertilizer industry. Atac reiterated the company’s willingness to make the $1.2 billion investment in the plant, and said Cronus “is proud to offer the opportunity to produce a high-quality local product that can also be utilized by farmers in the local community as well as worldwide.

Atac noted that construction of the facility would mean creation of 1,500 to 2,000 jobs during the 32-month construction phase. Once operational, the plant would employ 200 full-time workers, with a number of other spin-off industries and job opportunities likely to be created as well.

“Having Cronus here would give Midwest farmers access to local fertilizer products, which we think is a great thing. We look forward to being good neighbors and great corporate citizens,” Atac added.

Public commentary, in written form, will continue to be accepted through July 25, 2014. Those should be addressed to Illinois EPA hearing officer Dean Studer, 1021 N. Grand Avenue E., P.O. Box 19276, Springfield, IL 62794. Indicate on the envelope “Re: Cronus Chemicals.”

IEPA media spokesman Bob Frost said there is no pre-ordained timeframe for a final permit decision, as the amount of public commentary and other factors determines when that announcement is made.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal July 2, 2014 edition

Lorrie Morgan heads entertainment at Mo-Do Fair

Lorrie Morgan bio-1webBy Doris Elmore
Grand Ole Opry star Lorrie Morgan will highlight the entertainment at the 84th annual Moultrie-Douglas County Fair July 6-12, 2014 at the fairgrounds in Arthur. Lorrie’s appearance is sponsored by C.H.I. Overhead Doors and LiftMaster of Arthur. She will perform on Sat., July 12 on the Main Stage, beginning at 7 p.m. Admission will be $5.

Lorrie was barely a teenager when she made her first major appearance in 1975 singing “Paper Roses” with her dad, country star George Morgan, on the Grand Ole Opry stage. Since that fateful night, Lorrie has never looked back. Her whirlwind life and career has engrained in her a confident sense of self that shines through on her latest recordings like the late afternoon sun glows through the stained-glass windows of the Ryman Auditorium.

Lorrie’s dad passed away in 1975, and she didn’t miss a beat in carrying on his legacy. She took to the road with her dad’s band and toured the country, keeping his memory alive and winning countless fans along the way.

In 1984 Lorrie made history when, at the age of 25, she was the youngest person ever to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry. She was offered a recording contract with RCA and later with sister label BNA, and a string of hits began. Timeless country standards like “Five Minutes,” “Something in Red,” “Watch Me” and “What Part of No” established Lorrie as a bona fide country star.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal June 25, 2014 edition

New city street construction nearly completed

By Craig Hastings
It took just 20 minutes to wrap up city business Monday night, June 23, 2014. Council learned the new street construction running through the old Dixie Truck Stop property is nearly complete. The electronic traffic signal work that will control the intersection of South Prairie Street and Route 36 East should get underway within the week. Lambo’s Travel Center, also located at this intersection, is expected to be stocked and ready for business around mid-July.

The council voted to dispose of the two oldest police cars that were damaged by hail recently. One of those cars is a 2008 Chevrolet Impala and the other a 2009 Ford Crown Victoria, both with well over 100,000 miles logged on them. Repairing the vehicles balanced with what they are actually worth made repairing them cost prohibitive. One other police car that was damaged has been repaired and is back in service.

On another matter of police business, Lieutenant Richard Lamb’s letter of resignation was formally accepted. The council then voted unanimously to rehire Lamb as a part-time patrolman. Lamb will end his 35-year, full-time tour of duty with the City of Tuscola on Friday, June 27.

City Administrator Drew Hoel reported that 29 roofs of 34 belonging to the city were damaged by hail. Replacement details are currently being discussed. City Foreman Dennis Cruzan briefed the council on a water leak at the swimming pool. Cruzan stated the pool is currently losing nearly 600 gallons per minute. On a large scale this leak isn’t as bad as the number portrays. City crews will tackle the job within the next 10 days.

The council was presented with a number of minor changes in the city’s personnel policies to review over the coming weeks for their action on a later date. Jamaica Pyrotechnics will be issued a permit to control the fireworks display once again for this year’s Sparks in the Park event, to be held Sat., July 5.

Council members voted to pay bills in the amount of $407,088.23. The next council meeting will be held on Monday, July 14, 2014 beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Tuscola City Hall.

‘This is why we Relay’ … Douglas County contributes over $48K in fight against cancer

2014 Douglas County Relay For Life

The Douglas County Relay For Life cancer survivor dinner was held Fri., June 20 at Tuscola United Methodist Church, a kickoff to the 2014 event. Survivors and their caregivers were special guests at the dinner.

By Colleen Lehmann
There are thousands of reasons why area folks embrace the spirit and mission of Relay For Life. They are the women, men, and children whose lives are touched—sometimes taken—by the scourge that is cancer.

And so, every year, committees plan and teams gather for fundraising and fellowship in the celebration that is Relay For Life. Douglas County was at it again this past weekend, setting up shop on the south side of Tuscola High School Saturday afternoon, June 22, 2014. Rather than going from the traditional 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. timeframe, organizers opted to have a 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. schedule.

“This year was a new location and new timeframe. With those factors and the weather–hot and a little stormy at night–we are very pleased with the results and can’t thank everyone enough for their support and participation. Every dollar counts in the fight against cancer, and this event makes a huge impact in the lives of so many. We look forward to making the 2015 event bigger and better,” said Carly McCrory, who partnered with Susan Hall to head up efforts for this year’s Douglas County Relay.

Thus far, $48,000 has been tallied to benefit American Cancer Society, with monies still coming in. In addition to the Relay-related events and activities, another $810 was raised from a fundraiser held at Memphis on Main in Urbana over the weekend. General manager Shane Wasiloski, a Tuscola native, organized the event in which all bartender tips were collected and donated to RFL of Douglas County. He also had a very public haircut at Memphis to add to the proceeds.

Despite the very serious nature of the “fight,” there was plenty of frivolity to be found at Relay. Theme laps—in addition to the Survivor, Caregiver, and Team rounds—included Party, Red/White/Blue, Valentine’s, Scary Mask, Ugly Christmas Sweater, and Purple. Team activities in which anyone could participate included a frozen t-shirt contest, kids games, water balloon toss, photo booths, piñatas, and scavenger hunt.

There were some unique additions to the Relay this year. The Pink Jell-O Posse team was offering for sale a Relay coloring book written and illustrated by team members. The charming book depicted the process of planning for and hosting a Relay For Life event. And the Newmanites team included live birds as part of its silent auction offerings, proving no idea is too bird-brained when it comes to having fun while raising funds for the American Cancer Society.

The Tuscola Rotary Revolutionaries were planning to offer a sampling of the theatrical performance of Lincoln’s Trial & Tribulations from Oakland, featuring actor/interpreters recounting the story of the local 1847 Matson Slave Trial in which Lincoln represented the slave owner for the only time in his career. However, a severe weather front that came through the area right about performance time resulted in cancellation of the event.

And despite the bout of inclement weather, which forced all campsites to temporarily shut down and bring their goods inside the high school, once it passed, all headed back outdoors again for the remainder of the evening—continuing with dancing, merriment, and other scheduled activities. This included the luminaria ceremony, featuring a bagpipe player, and the reading of names of loved ones who lost the battle against cancer.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal June 25, 2014 edition

School district benefits from countywide sales tax

By Colleen Lehmann
Wondering how the change in the “education” sales tax—from Tuscola to a countywide one—has affected the Tuscola School District? That question was answered at the June 23, 2014 school board meeting, with a report on the first three months’ distributions showing an overall difference of over 13 percent, as in more dollars are going into the district’s coffers because of the change.

According to a report compiled by district officials, in April, May and June of 2013, when it was still a city tax, the district received $111,197. Those same three months in 2014, as a countywide sales tax, put $126,553 in the Tuscola School District’s hands, a difference of $15,356 or 13.8 percent.

School districts currently benefiting from the countywide sales tax include Arcola, Arthur, Atwood-Hammond, Heritage, Oakland, Shiloh, Tuscola, and Villa Grove. A distribution report from the Regional Office of Education showed that dollars collected in March 2014 and distributed in June 2014 included $40,303.84 to Arcola; $18,846.74 to Arthur; $9,553.89 to A-H; $104.41 to Heritage; $3,550.08 to Oakland; $8,300.92 to Shiloh; $52,415.87 to Tuscola; and $31,376.43 to Villa Grove.

Superintendent Michael Smith reported that the process continues in determining the extent of hail damage to school district property. Estimates include $23,000 damage to the maintenance shed at East Prairie, $32,000 to skylights at TCHS, and anywhere from $1,450 to $4,000 to the electronic sign outside East Prairie.

The biggest question relates to the roof of East Prairie Middle School, which is in the midst of a $667,000 two-phase replacement project. The hailstorm hit a few weeks before work was scheduled to begin on Phase 1, and Smith said it appears insurance officials are leaning toward covering only minimal costs rather than the reroofing of that section. However, he feels “pretty confident” the reroofing costs of Phase 2, which wasn’t scheduled to happen until Summer 2015, will be covered.

“If we hear that happy news, then we will probably just go ahead and have Top Quality Roofing complete the entire project in one fell swoop, which would likely put the entire roof being completed by Thanksgiving,” said Smith.

Should the Phase 2 roofing project be covered by insurance, there are plenty of facility improvements to which the money set aside for roofing could be applied. Among the numerous possibilities on a list compiled by district officials were $4,400 for new garage doors at TCHS to $8,239 for AV equipment at East Prairie, to an ambitious $150,000 tuckpointing project at TCHS.

Smith is hopeful a final determination from the insurance company on the East Prairie roof will be forthcoming within the next two weeks.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal June 25, 2014 edition

Squeaky clean … Courthouse facade to get wash and waterproofing

By Colleen Lehmann
The Douglas County Board meeting held Wed., June 18, 2014 was conducted under the category of short but sweet, the mostly-mundane orders of business taking a mere 18 minutes to address.

One of the non-routine matters taken care of was a last-minute bid tendered by Midwest Restoration out of Paris. The company has been at the Douglas County Courthouse for the past few weeks, having been hired to reseal windows on the historic three-story structure. The company suggested the county might want to consider having it also clean and then waterproof the entire masonry surface.

The total cost to do so would be $21,800–$8,600 for cleaning the masonry and $13,200 for the waterproofing. The entire bid would also include washing all windows after the cleaning and waterproofing was completed.

Board members—all of whom were in attendance—voted unanimously to accept the bid, and board Chairman Chuck Knox indicated the funds would be taken out of the Unspecified Fund to pay for the job.

Road signage and signposts in three local townships that were damaged in the Nov. 17, 2013 tornadoes that swept through Douglas County will now be getting repaired, thanks to approval of local agency agreements between the county and Ill. Dept. of Transportation. At Wednesday’s meeting, approval was given for repairs not to exceed $380 in Arcola Township, not to exceed $425 in Murdock Township, and not to exceed $568 in Tuscola Township.

One of the annual housekeeping items was passage of the prevailing wage ordinance, long considered a necessary evil by most board members, and this year was no exception. Board member Randy Bergeson “reluctantly brought forward” a motion for adoption of the ordinance. Fellow board member Don Munson noted, as he typically does every year, “the only reason I am going to vote ‘yes’ on this is that I was sworn in to uphold the constitution; otherwise I would vote no.”

When the matter came to a vote, board member Tom Glenn did in fact cast a dissenting reply, saying having to agree to the prevailing wage “feels like extortion,” but with the other six members responding with ‘yes’ the motion passed.

In other business the board:
•Approved a $90,797.67 contract bond from Motor-Fuel Tax funds for general maintenance work to be done in Murdock Township.

•Approved payment of county financial obligations, reports of fees of county offices, and board minutes from the May 21, 2014 meeting.

•Approved the appointment of Connie M. Hoel as Hindsboro Community Fire Protection District trustee for a term running through May 2016.

•Learned through Animal Control subcommittee report that Tiffani Endres was no longer employed and Chad Daugherty has been hired as a full-time employee at the Douglas County Animal Shelter.

•Adjourned at 9:18 a.m. until the next regularly scheduled board meeting on Wed., July 16, 2014 at 9 a.m. in the boardroom of Douglas County Courthouse.

On the ‘Lamb’…Lieutenant retiring from TPD

By Colleen Lehmann
Make it home safely every night, and while on the job do your best to treat people the way you would want to be treated … these are two of the goals Lt. Rich Lamb has held close during a 35-year career with Tuscola Police Department. Now, with just nine days left before his recently announced retirement, it would appear he’s going to be able to successfully check those off the list.

Lamb, a Tuscola native, was 25 years old when he hired on at TPD in 1979. While his employer prior to that was DeKalb Seeds, Lamb had been doing occasional ride-alongs with part-time county deputy Bill Rogers Sr., and fellow DeKalb employee and city alderman Ray Carlson suggested Lamb apply for an opening on the force. Then-Chief Tom Harriss hired Lamb, sent him off to the Police Training Institute in Springfield, and Lamb has never looked back. He started out as a patrol officer, working under Harriss, his successor Ronnie Earl, and finally for current chief Craig Hastings, with whom he’s been on the job for 34 years. It was under Hastings’ helm that Lamb was made sergeant (around 1988) and 14 years ago earned lieutenant status.

Not surprisingly, Lamb said he’s seen many changes take place in the field of law enforcement over his three-plus decades. Keeping abreast of ever-changing laws—“something that’s legal one year may not be the following year and vice versa’’—and equipment and technology advances is always challenging. Handling domestic calls is Lamb’s (and many officers) least favorite task.

“Not only do you have a husband and wife at odds, there’s so often young children involved. It breaks your heart when you go in somewhere that, in some instances, you’ve been to on more than one occasion for this type of thing, and the young son says ‘Are you here to arrest my daddy again?’”

A legal statute enacted more than a decade ago, allowing police officers to make a DV arrest without a victim’s formal complaint if they observe signs of abuse having taken place, has made that particular type of call a bit easier, and he thinks it may have helped slightly in cutting down on the number of incidents that take place.

“With a few offenders, it may have helped them think twice about doing something, knowing they can’t just further bully the victim into not signing a complaint,” he said.

For those who think Tuscola is “just a sleepy little town where nothing too bad happens,” Lamb says he can attest there is plenty to deal with from a law enforcement perspective.

“I’ve testified in court on cases involving everything from a barking dog to a homicide. Of course there are the little, minor things, but this area sees its fair share of the serious stuff as well,” says Lamb.

One particular case in which Lamb played a part was a very high-profile kidnapping. Lamb had stopped Jerry Lee Oates for a broken headlight, and when running the plates learned he was wanted for kidnapping his young son from his estranged wife.

“He was very polite and non-combative during the traffic stop, but the case itself and resulting court appearances turned into quite a media frenzy. You just never know what’s going to happen when you make what you think is a routine traffic stop.”

The decision to take his leave from TPD was not an easy one for Lamb. He confessed to spending many sleepless nights weighing the pros and cons, but ultimately decided that, for financial and personal reasons, this was the appropriate time to go.

“I thought about it a lot, did some checking into the business side of things, and also thought about where I was at right now in terms of health. This past week and I turned 60 and marked my 35th year with the department. I’m still in relatively good health and have some things I want to do, and decided now is the time to go, when I am still physically able to do those things,” said Lamb.

So, what does a longtime policeman do once he goes the retirement route? In Lamb’s case, plenty. He will still be available, part-time, for patrol shifts but there are other plans outside the purview of the PD.

“My son Jason lives out in Rochester, New York and he is in the process of remodeling his home, so I’m planning to go out there to help him with that whenever I can. I’ll continue to help haul corn during harvest season, and Cindy and I like to take weekend trips here and there. I also have a pretty big garden I like to tinker around in so I won’t just be sitting around,” says Lamb.

Another plus of a little more free time on Lamb’s hands … this could give him more time to work on his legendary arsenal of practical jokes to play on Hastings. That might end up being the most time-consuming task of all.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal June 18, 2014 edition