9-year prison term for fatal drunk driving accident

By Colleen Lehmann
Judge Dan Flannell sentenced 29-year-old Edgar M. Maza of Decatur to nine years in the Illinois Dept. of Corrections and two years mandatory supervised release on Aug. 18, 2014 in a Douglas County courtroom.

Maza was convicted of aggravated driving under the influence, a Class 2 felony, after an Oct. 10, 2013 accident that resulted in the death of 47-year-old Harold Anthony Adamson of Atwood. Adamson was on a scooter less than a mile from his home, returning from work, when Maza’s SUV hit him from behind, causing numerous, massive, fatal injuries.

Marina Fleener, the victim’s sister, read her victim impact statement at the sentencing. She noted, “Mr. Maza was speeding down a highway at more than 100 miles an hour. What he did was so reckless, with no regard to others who were on that highway. Minutes prior to striking my brother, he passed a car with a mother and her two children. This letter could easily have been written by their family as well.”

Fleener said Adamson was her parents’ only son, and helped her in taking care of and providing transportation for their mother. “He was a good, kind man who was a hard worker and loved by those who knew him. He had a fantastic, boisterous laugh that everyone loved.”

Maza will have to serve at least 85 percent of his prison sentence, and was given credit for 311 days spent in county jail.

Downtown businesses marking milestones

By Colleen Lehmann
It takes a lot of guts, in this day and age, to become a small business owner. Following your passion, stepping away from the steady paycheck and saner hours for the uncertainty of being your own boss is not for the faint of heart.

But while the risks and sweat equity are undeniable, the rewards can be so very sweet, as at least two downtown Tuscola businesses have found, and they are each about to mark milestones in their respective journeys. It’s been a decade since Flesor’s Candy Kitchen put a new twist on their family’s historic business at the corner of Main and Sale, and just down the block off Main Street The Vault Arts Collective will be celebrating the one-year mark since it brought all things artistic to a former bank building.

•10 years and counting for Flesor’s Candy Kitchen
It all started with a sign and a bottle of wine. A little more than a decade ago, Ann Flesor Beck noticed the building formerly housing the Flesor family’s candymaking operations was for sale, and brought a bottle of wine to younger sister Devon Flesor Story to talk over the possibility of re-establishing the family business that first began with their grandfather Gus, a Greek immigrant.

The story is an irresistible one … replete with nostalgia, family drama, good old-fashioned hard work, and of course, chocolate. And that allure is evidenced by the wide variety of media attention over the years … stories in Candy Industry Magazine, Chicago Tribune, and American Profile magazine among others; as well as segments on local and national news, including the CBS Evening News.

“But the really amazing thing is, even though we have watched our kids and the kids who’ve come here and worked for us grow up, we haven’t aged a bit ourselves,” says Devon, who counts having a sense of humor as a key ingredient to the staying power of the business.

“That and we don’t know the definition of ‘quit.’ We are bull-headed, determined people, sometimes beyond sanity,” she confessed. “And of course, without our wonderful bankers, and our loyal customers, and our fabulous employees it would also not be possible. Ann and I are so very appreciative of all of them. We love being ‘that place’ that brings people back to Tuscola to reminisce, a place for far-flung friends to meet up year after year.”

The sisters, who recall long days working in the business when their parents were the proprietors, get tickled by youngsters who now come in and are thrilled with the power of sitting at the soda fountain concocting their own soda flavors.

But while much is the same—candy recipes, dipping techniques, even much of the original fixtures in the shop—just as much has changed this time around.

“Ingredients and groceries are so expensive now. We employ more people so we have a higher payroll. One thing that is different that you might not think about—when my grandfather and father were doing this, air conditioning wasn’t the norm, so you didn’t make and sell candy in the summer, because it would melt. Now, of course, we do so year-round. Another difference making an impact is technology—with the advancement of smartphones and the Internet, folks can use those search engines to help find us.”

Stepping back into the candy-making business, a career choice for a number of Greek immigrants at the turn of the last century, proved to have rewards beyond the culinary for one of the sisters.

“Ann began to do research on the history of Greeks coming to America and becoming candymakers. She ultimately turned it into a dissertation topic for her Ph.D., which she earned this past spring. Now we have this historic tome connecting us to a larger piece of history,” said Devon.

“We have also become a repository for town memorabilia … and people’s extra veggies from their gardens. We welcome both in equal measure,” she added.

And a fourth generation of Flesors has dipped its fingers into the family business, something mom Devon says has been a good thing for them.

“I think my own kids, by coming in here and working alongside us, have learned skills they might not otherwise. It is nothing for them to easily talk to and interact with adults of any age. They’re proud of our family’s history. I don’t necessarily expect them to take over the store, but we certainly wanted them capable of doing so if, someday, they ever chose to.”

As for Devon and Ann, they plan to keep doing what they’ve been doing for the last 10 years, at least as long as they are able to, as the job is pretty physically demanding.

•Happy birthday The Vault Arts Collective
–Anniversary celebration taking place Sept. 6
John McDevitt says he was comfortable with, and confident about, his decision to relocate to Tuscola the arts collective studio he had established in his hometown of Sullivan. A year later, he remains regret-free.

“It feels comfortable here, like we’re really settled. Sometimes it’s like we’ve been around forever, and other times I feel like I blinked and here we are.”

“Here” is the former First Mid-Illinois Bank building at 100 North Main Street. McDevitt loved the space the minute he pulled up in front of it while on the hunt for a new home for his Yellow Dog woodworking studio and arts collective.

“It is kind of the complete opposite of what we had going in Sullivan, in the old Brown Shoe Factory building. There, it was all about the creation of art, with 90 percent of the spaces being utilized as working studios, and 10 percent as retail space. Here in Tuscola it’s flipped—90 percent retail display space and maybe 10 percent used as artist working space.”

And reality has exceeded expectations, says McDevitt. “We started with our original seven artists who made the move here, and now we have twice as many as at our peak in Sullivan. We have about 60 artists currently involved, and could probably accommodate about 10 more, depending on their medium.”

The Tuscola location appealed to McDevitt for two reasons—a more centralized location to take advantage of proximity to Decatur, Champaign-Urbana, and Mattoon-Charleston; and a more accessible location to encourage foot traffic.

“That proved to be the case right from the start. I was here the first day we were open, sitting at the counter, and I saw a young mother pushing a stroller go by. She stopped and looked in the door, saw we were open, turned around and came in. That couldn’t have happened in Sullivan with the building we were in and being on an upper floor.”

The first anniversary celebration will take place Saturday, Sept. 6 from 6 to 10 p.m. As with all the Vault’s gatherings, there will be food, drinks, music and (duh) art.

“Typically, many of our artists will be in attendance, and we will be featuring Karl Jendry, a speed painter who will be doing live demonstrations of his craft. We have a very talented guest artist coming in—Darin Doty, who is a Millikin grad and does a really wide and interesting variety of paintings. Our musical guests are Them Gringos, which includes some of the folks that were kind of our ‘house band’ from our Sullivan studios mixed in with some other musicians,” says McDevitt.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal Aug. 27, 2014 edition

Fourth kindergarten section added at North Ward

By Colleen Lehmann
Trying to deal with 82 kindergarten students in three classrooms for the 2013-14 year was a challenge district officials hoped was a one-time-only occurrence. When that many little ones showed up again this year, a special board meeting was called for Saturday morning, Aug. 17, 2014 to consider adding a fourth section.

“When this was the case last year, we looked at it and said let’s do what we can to get by with aides in the classroom. Here we are with Year 2 of the same situation and maybe it’s time to look at doing something different as opposed to just getting by,” explained Supt. of Schools Michael Smith.

The economics of the situation were such that hiring a fourth kindergarten teacher for this year, instead of three classroom aides, seems to make more sense.

“We could go with having an aide in each of the overpopulated classrooms, but the salary cost for that would be about $66,526, and the way aide positions are structured that amount does not include benefit costs. And will that really be what’s best for the kids—to have 26 and 28 students in the classrooms? To hire a teacher, the cost including salary and benefits will be about $39,000,” explained Supt. Smith.

While there would seem to be little debate as to what decision to make, Smith said several non-financial considerations were also in play.

“Hiring another kindergarten teacher would, understandably, create an expectation with parents that a fourth section will follow this class through fifth grade. Should that be the case, that calculates out to a total cost commitment of $270,000 to $300,000. It might also be reasonably expected that, should our financial position after next year worsen and a teacher needs to be let go, since the recently hired kindergarten teacher was the last hired she or he would be the first to go. But with our new evaluation system, that might not necessarily be the case. It could potentially be a teacher with more time on, so that’s something to consider.

“And finally, there are certain financial levels that the general public doesn’t necessarily know about but that in my line of work have to be paid attention to in order to keep things as fiscally sound as possible. Because of upcoming retirements, the North Ward payroll is going to be out of whack.”

Even with those caveats, Smith noted he was wholeheartedly in favor of and would recommend hiring a fourth kindergarten teacher for the 2014-15 school year, with the understanding the situation would be re-evaluated next year for first grade. It was a sentiment the five board members in attendance (Khristi Boyer, Craig Romine, Kay Kleiss, Linda Scribner, Darold Spillman) agreed with as well. A motion was made and approved to do so.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal Aug. 20, 2014 edition


Tuscola welcomes 8 (and counting!) new teachers

By Colleen Lehmann
The 2014-15 school year has just barely gotten underway, and kindergarteners/fifth graders/freshmen aren’t the only ones traversing new ground. Tuscola Community Unit School District 301 is, as of this writing, welcoming eight new teachers to the fold, with another position yet to be filled.

“July and August can sometimes be a scramble for school districts, trying to fill positions, but this year has been unusual in that there were this many openings. In talking with area colleagues, it seems to be happening all around us as well,” said Supt. of Schools Michael Smith, just before conducting new teacher orientation Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014 at East Prairie Middle School.

Two of the eight new instructors are no strangers to town—as Emily Groves and Megan (Watts) Price both graduated from TCHS. Another new instructor, Lydia Benson, has served as TCHS volleyball coach before accepting the high school P.E. job. Below is a brief introduction to the new-to-Tuscola educators.

•Emily Groves—North Ward kindergarten teacher
Emily Groves, age 22, of Tuscola, is a 2010 Tuscola High School graduate, and earned a B.S. in elementary education from Eastern Illinois University in May 2014. The first-year teacher is the daughter of Fred (Hank) and Denise Groves of Tuscola.

Groves gave the following reasons for her interest in applying for a job in Tuscola School District.

“As someone who was born and raised in Tuscola, I love this community with my whole heart. As a student, this district made learning such a joy, and I am truly blessed to be able to give back to such an amazing school district by coming back as a teacher.”

Asked to describe her teaching philosophy, she responded, “I believe that each child is a special and unique individual. My goal is to support each child to reach their fullest potential while providing them with an environment that is safe, invites sharing of ideas, and promotes curiosity.”

Groves is a member of Kappa Delta Pi, an international education honors society. She is a co-director of the Miss Tuscola pageant, and directs the AWANA children’s program at First Christian Church of Tuscola.

Regarding interests and hobbies, Groves said she loves hunting and fishing with her parents, organizing everything, and cheering on the Tuscola Warriors.

•Megan Price—North Ward/TCHS special education teacher
Megan Price, 28, of Tuscola, is a 2004 Tuscola High School graduate, and earned a B.S. in special education from Eastern Illinois University in 2009. She and husband Brandon Price have a son, Grayson. Her parents are Darren and Jackie Stenger, and siblings include Kyle and Logan Stenger, and Melissa Sanders.

Price brings five years’ teaching experience to her new position. She worked at TCHS during the 2009-10 school year, at Hope Academy in Decatur the following year, Monticello High School in 2011-12, and the past two years she was employed at Thomas Paine Elementary in Urbana.

Price approaches her career with the belief that “every student deserves a quality education that best fits their needs and ambitions,” and was excited to apply for and be offered the Tuscola position because “there is something special about teaching where you grew up and graduated from.”

Outside the classroom, Price enjoys reading, scrapbooking, spending time with her son, and shopping.

•Lydia Benson—Tuscola High School P.E., TCHS/EP volleyball coach
Lydia Benson, 34, of Charleston, is an Arthur High School graduate, Class of 1998. She went on to earn both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Eastern Illinois University.

Before her recent hiring at Tuscola, Benson taught for three years at Plano High School, and seven years at Arcola High School. The teaching philosophy she embraced at each assignment was to “keep students physically active and teach them how to have a healthy lifestyle.”

Having the opportunity to teach and coach in the same district was the primary reason for Benson applying to Tuscola. For the last two years she has taught in Arcola and coached in Tuscola.

Asked about hobbies and interests, Benson responded, “I like playing and watching sports. I love to run, play basketball, and I love the St. Louis Cardinals.”

•Alicia Mullen—North Ward music teacher
Alicia Mullen, 24, of Tuscola, who grew up in Toluca, is the daughter of Pattie Peterson and Glenn Mullen. She is a Class of 2008 graduate of Fieldcrest High School in Minonk, and earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Greenville College, first attending Northern Illinois University for two years.

This is Mullen’s first year of teaching, but other work experience has included employment with Love’s Travel Stops in Greenville, Mona’s Italian Restaurant in Toluca, and Limited Brands in Bloomington.

She saw the Tuscola job posting online, noting, “As soon as I started researching the school I knew it would be a great place to work.”

Mullen says her teaching philosophy embraces the saying that “People may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel,” and added, “I would like to give the gift of music to each child that I can. It helps people in ways other academics do not.”

Mullen’s time outside the classroom is spent playing in bands of all types—worship, jazz, and rock—enjoying time with her family, and watching movies.

•Sarah Pfleging—District speech-language pathologist
Sarah Pfleging, 25, of Charleston, grew up in West Terre Haute, Ind., and graduated in 2007 from West Vigo High School. She earned two degrees from Eastern Illinois University, a B.S. in 2011 and an M.S. in 2013.

Pfleging is engaged to Shaun Vester, and other family includes mom MaryAnn Pfleging, sister Katie, brother Jay, brother-in-law Travis, nieces Renee and Gracie, and nephew Levi.

She previously worked as a SLP for Westville CUSD #2, and is a member of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.

Pfleging’s teaching philosophy includes “treating each child as an individual and developing my therapy to their needs. I try to bring in a lot of visual cues and movement into my therapy sessions to help my students attach the information I am teaching and for them to have fun.”

Pfleging and her fiancée recently moved to Charleston for his job at Coles County Regional Planning and Development Commission. Teaching in Tuscola is an ideal situation, she says, because “we both love this area and I wanted to work closer to home. I am so excited to get the opportunity to work with the student and staff at Tuscola CUSD #301.”

Pfleging describes herself as an animal person, and when not working she loves being outside, riding horses, walking her dogs, and camping and hiking with her family.

•Doug Robinson—TCHS business teacher/FBLA advisor/TCHS cross country coach
Doug Robinson, 31, of Urbana, is a Taylorville native who graduated from Taylorville High School in 2001. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business marketing and business education from Eastern Illinois University.

Asked to characterize his teaching philosophy, Robinson said he “believes in an organized and focused classroom. Students will be well prepared for all assessments.”

He spent the last five years applying those principles at Oakwood High School, where he taught business and computer education. He also coached the boys basketball team and boys and girls cross country squads.

Robinson was interested in the Tuscola teaching job because “I have heard great things about this district. It is great to see how the community supports the local schools. I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Robinson’s non-work hours are spent with his wife, Brandy, and they are looking forward to the birth of their son Dax in September. He also enjoys playing guitar, fishing, and playing basketball, and is very involved with his church in Urbana.

Megan Peters—North Ward special education teacher (K-2)
Megan Peters, 26, lives in Atwood with her husband, Mike, 9-month-old daughter Harper, and two dogs. She is the daughter of Allen and Lynnette Reeder of Atwood.

Peters graduated from Atwood Hammond High School in 2006. She went to Eastern Illinois University, graduating in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and also earned a teacher’s certification in special education from Eastern in 2012. For the past two years she worked as a special education teacher at Stratton Elementary in Champaign, and has also worked as an aide and substituted at Unity East in Philo.

“I wanted to become a teacher to have the opportunity to have a positive impact on students’ lives. I want to help them achieve their potential and have a positive learning experience. I chose special education because I really enjoyed being able to incorporate all the different therapies into one setting. I love working with kids and helping them be successful,” says Peters.

She applied to Tuscola School District because, “I was looking for a school that was closer to my home. I want to be involved in the community and after-school activities. I didn’t feel like I could do that living so far from my previous teaching position. I also really wanted to be in a smaller district with more community involvement. I am really excited to be in this setting.”

Peters’ hobbies and interests, aside from watching her daughter grow and develop, include reading, traveling, cake decorating, and photography.

•Hayley Adams—EP and TCHS art teacher
Hayley Adams, age 25, a soon-to-be Tuscola resident, is a 2007 Harrisburg High School graduate. She earned an associate’s degree in arts from Southeastern Illinois Community College in 2009, and in 2012 earned a BFA in art education from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Her parents, brother and his family live in southern Illinois.

“This is my first year teaching, and I am so happy to be given this opportunity at Tuscola,” says Adams. “I see that this is a community that values the arts, and I love that I will get to share my passion for art with such a wide range of kids.”

Adams keeps busy outside the classroom by painting, reading, watching movies and anime, cooking, hiking, kayaking, swimming, and having adventures.

Pilgrim Harris hailed for hard work, leadership

By Colleen Lehmann
Varying shades of yellow are a customary sight in Tuscola, but there was a whole lot of the sunny shade inside Tuscola Moose Lodge Sunday afternoon, as approximately 30 gentlemen wearing bright gold jackets–signifying having earned the Pilgrim Degree of Merit, the highest honor awarded by the Loyal Order of Moose—converged from across the state to welcome Tuscola Moose Lodge member Joe Harris into the exclusive fold.

Harris received the coveted gold jacket in formal ceremonies held Aug. 17, 2014. Making the event even more poignant was that it fell on what would have been his 57th wedding anniversary. His wife, Norma, was to have been there by his side, but she passed away unexpectedly Aug. 14.

Pilgrim degree candidates, and the 77-year-old Harris is no exception, display unselfishness of purpose to the founding principles of the Loyal Order of Moose, which is in large part to care for children and senior members, and typically dedicate many years of service to the organization. Harris joined the Moose in 1971, initially in Mattoon and then transferring his membership to Tuscola about eight years later.

“I worked with a guy in Mattoon who asked me to join. When I heard about Mooseheart that sealed the deal in my mind; if something ever happened to Norma and me, our kids could be taken care of at Mooseheart,” said Harris of the “city for children in need” that is one of Moose’s main philanthropies.

Harris’s oldest son, Chris, was among many relatives in attendance, and spoke of his father’s devotion to Moose activities, noting his father held numerous positions at the local, district, and state levels. In fact, in just a few days, Joe Harris is set to become the 83rd president of the Illinois Moose Association, a goal he set for himself several years ago.

Chris Harris noted his father spent his life serving as a leader and giver, not only to the Moose organization and to his family, but to the Tuscola community and youth sports programs in particular. He was one of the founders of and for years coached in Tuscom Little League; coached girls travel softball teams; served as a baseball umpire for 50 years; and in 1982 became a member of the Tuscola football chain gang, a labor of love he continues to this day.

Joe Harris takes great pride in noting that Tuscola, with 825 people on its membership rolls, is the second largest Illinois lodge south of I-80, with Pekin taking top honors.

Governor Gary Doud of Tuscola, also a Pilgrim, noted he and Harris “have traveled a lot of miles together. You have never been afraid to tell me if you think I’m doing something wrong, and maybe have had too much practice doing so. You’re a dear friend, and I am proud to call you a Moose brother.”
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal Aug. 20, 2014 edition

Butlers make trek to Japan for Kiwanis International convention

By Colleen Lehmann
Tuscola Kiwanis Club members David and Janet Butler are unquestionably a loyal and hard-working core of the service organization, but it certainly could be classified as above-and-beyond the call of duty when the couple traveled to Japan last month for the 2014 Kiwanis International convention.

David is an assistant to the Kiwanis state governor, while Janet serves as district treasurer. Said Janet, “We felt some obligation to go, since the Kiwanis governor was unable to do so. And with it being such a long trip to get there–12 1/2-hour nonstop flight from Chicago to Tokyo—we thought it would be foolish not to spend extra time outside the four days of the convention. So we tacked on 10 days for sightseeing.”

One of the most impressive aspects of the KI convention, said the Butlers, was the appearance of the Imperial Prince and Princess for welcoming ceremonies. Convention attendees were briefed on protocol pertaining to being in close proximity to the royals.

“Apparently someone within Kiwanis has some major connections, because all the Japanese contingent were quite thrilled that they would be there. We were also amazed by the performance of a huge high school orchestra that played as part of the ceremony. It was Andrew Lloyd Webber songs and they were absolutely awesome.”

Following the convention’s conclusion, the Butlers took a bullet train to Kyoto, located southwest of Tokyo, where they stayed for five nights. Japan’s oldest and third-largest city, Kyoto’s nickname is City of Ten Thousand Shrines, and one of those visited by the Butlers was Sanjusangendo—a temple that features 1,001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy.

Overall impressions of Japan, say Butlers, “It is such a clean country, most places we went were absolutely immaculate. In fact, in Tokyo we witnessed a worker sweeping the creek beds to prevent algae from forming. And they are a very spiritual and superstitious people. Many of their main tourist attractions are shrines, temples, and statues. We heard one story of a guide having spent $5,000 to arrange for a special blessing for his granddaughter’s birthday.

And we always felt very welcomed wherever we went, and very safe. People were unfailingly polite, always willing to help us out in the train stations if they saw us looking confused. They were very accommodating to your needs. It was a fascinating, once-in-a-lifetime trip and we’re so glad we made the decision to go.”
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal Aug. 20, 2014 edition

‘Been a great ride’ says ISP retiree Rogers

1A-Kirk RogerswebBy Colleen Lehmann
One of Kirk Rogers’ favorite things to do, as a boy, was occasionally ride along with dad Bill Rogers on quiet Sunday evenings when Bill was a Douglas County deputy in the mid-1970s. That first taste of law enforcement was, apparently, savory enough that Kirk decided then and there it was what he wanted to do for a career.

And that script he wrote in his youth is in fact how life played out, as Rogers would go on to earn an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Parkland College, hire on with Tuscola Police Dept. as a patrolman in 1985 at age 20, and move on to the Illinois State Police a year later.

Rogers reflected on his police beginnings while facing impending retirement marking the end of a 29-year career. Come Aug. 15, 2014 Rogers will no longer be an Illinois State policeman, but instead, a private citizen.

“I’m moving out of the glass house,” he quipped of his retirement from the high-profile position.

“I grew up around police work all my life, with my dad being an auxiliary policemen in the late ‘60s and with the sheriff’s office in 1974. That was an influential time in my life; it was my first taste of the law enforcement bug, and I knew right then it was what I wanted to do. So I really have my dad to thank for helping put me on this path,” said Rogers.

That path has included two promotions within the ISP—to sergeant in 1997 and master sergeant in 2004. In 1997 Rogers was also named ISP Officer of the Year, a designation that included the use of a special car for 12 months. While all those were very gratifying and welcomed milestones, Rogers says it was the Medal of Valor he was awarded in 2011 that stays in his heart as the most meaningful.

“The 2011 Medal of Valor was connected to the Tommy Martin incident, and that meant a whole lot to me. I was involved in the arrest of the guys that did that to Tommy,” said Rogers, referring to former ISP officer T.K. “Tommy” Martin, who was working as a Douglas County deputy June 21, 1997 when he was shot by two assailants fleeing from a crime spree. Weeks later, on July 17, Martin would succumb to his injuries.

*When it all began …
Rogers was a 20-year-old graduate of Parkland College, with a freshly minted associate’s degree, when TPD Chief Ronnie Earl “took a chance on him” as he puts it.

“I started with TPD on June 10, 1985 and at the same time tested for and started the process for getting on with the Illinois State Police. Being with TPD was a great experience; that is where I really learned how to become a policeman, and it was just a great environment to work. Being there helped make the transition to ISP seamless.”

TPD employment was relatively short-lived, as ISP came calling in April 1986. After attending 16 months of cadet training, Rogers was assigned to District 13 in DuQuoin, where he would stay for 14 months until a transfer came up back “home” to District 10 in Pesotum. That gig started Nov. 1, 1987, and ends this month. He started, and has stayed, within the patrol division, including 17 years of supervisory roles.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal Aug. 13, 2014 edition

Big push for big project … Museum pledge drive close to goal for full-time director

1A-DC Museumweb

Douglas County Museum trustees Sherrie Hoel, Danny Matthews, Bill Hill, and Judy Landeck push a “floater” ball welded and fabricated at Progress Industries in Arthur during World War II. The steel balls were used to hold nets to keep submarines and torpedoes from entering bays where military vessels may have been located. It and many other items are being moved from the warehouse to the museum for permanent display.

By Colleen Lehmann
So close they can taste it, yet just far enough away they can’t declare victory.

That’s where the board of trustees for the Douglas County Museum is in its efforts to secure $80,000 in pledges to cover the hiring of and other employment-related costs for a full-time director for at least two years.

Keeping the doors open to the museum—which depends largely on volunteer labor and fluctuating funding sources—is an ongoing struggle, even with a highly committed and active board of trustees. The value of having a full-time director on staff would be increased hours of operation; development of exhibits, programs, and events; greater opportunity to qualify for grants; opportunity to do more marketing and promotion, membership building, and recruitment and management of volunteers; and to help build a more solid financial base for the museum.

Board members have been making the rounds of county governments, agencies, and organizations over the last few months, speaking to boards, groups, and assemblies about the museum’s intentions and goals. And it is paying off, as they currently have $69,400 in pledges. Especially gratifying, say Judy Landeck and Danny Matthews, is that entities and individuals in every Douglas County community have contributed to the cause.

“We have been very happy to see that each community, in some form or fashion, has pledged donations—be it municipalities, businesses, clubs, or individuals. We would like to think that speaks to the value they see the museum having, which is something you can’t necessarily put a price tag on,” says Landeck.

For anyone interested in helping push the Museum Association to (even beyond!) its fundraising goal of $80,000 … you can download a pledge form from the museum’s Web site at www.douglascountymuseum.org, get more information on Facebook at docomuseum, or email douglascountymuseum@hotmail.com, or call 253-2535.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal Aug. 13, 2014 edition

City puts out nuisance fires with ordinance revision

By Colleen Lehmann
Where there’s smoke there’s fire—and sometimes a nuisance to nearby people and places—and that was the reason for Tuscola City Council members to consider an amendment to the ordinance pertaining to regulation of recreational fires within the city limits.

It was with little fanfare that the new language was passed at the Aug. 11, 2014 meeting, after having had considerable discussion during the meeting two weeks prior. For anyone wondering what is considered a recreational fire, the new ordinance definition is “fires for the express purpose to cook food for human consumption, such fires shall be contained in grills, charcoal burners, or the like” and “fires within a dry stacked stone, masonry, or metal fire pit or ring, or within commercially manufactured portable fireplaces,” with the following caveats:

•Location be at a “safe and reasonable” distance from any building, structure, or vehicle and from any source of flammable liquids or vapors.

•Fuels must be dry, seasoned wood or equal; no garbage, household, landscape or hazardous waste; and no leaves shall be burned.

•No burning on private property without the presence and oversight of an adult, and fire must be attended until entirely extinguished.

Should a fire be deemed of unreasonable size and/or safety, or emit “dense, pervasive, hazardous, dangerous, odorous, bothersome, or troubling” smoke it will be considered a nuisance fire. In that case, fire and/or police officials have the right to notify the person and ask for the fire to be extinguished. In cases of non-compliance, those officials have the authority to extinguish it themselves.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal Aug. 13, 2014 edition

Community to rescue as American Legion roof replaced

Douglas County Post 27 of The American Legion Department of Illinois has been plagued with a leaking roof for years. The solution was simple, a new roof, but funding stood in the way. On Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014 all that changed. Thanks to the City of Tuscola providing a grant to cover the cost of materials and Adkisson Construction donating expertise and labor, the Post now has a new roof!

The 95-year-old Post has occupied the building at 209 North Parke Street since 1953, and over the last several years has patched and sealed the roof numerous times, but the leaks prevailed. Because of that, the building was quickly becoming unusable, with ceiling tiles falling and buckets being placed around to contain the water.

With the grant from the city and money from fundraisers, Adkisson Construction was able to repair the interior damage, and the Post can concentrate on the good works of the American Legion, which include Boys State, Gifts for Yanks, Special Olympics, Veteran Appreciation Day picnics at the Danville VA Hospital among others. Thanks to the support of the community, Tuscola Post 27 will continue to grow and looks forward to its 100th anniversary.