Pom, cheer accolades at winter sports awards night

Student-athletes involved in winter sports were the guests of honor at the annual winter sports awards night held Tuesday evening, March 4, 2014 at Tuscola High School. Coaches recapped the 2013-14 season and handed out individual awards as well as passing out varsity letters to those team members who earned them.

For the Warriorettes dance team, which capped its season with a fourth-place finish at state, those receiving individual accolades were Kirstin Kern—Most Outstanding, Shelby North—Most Improved, Rachel Pflum—Most Creative, and Morgan Day—Warrior Spirit. Head Coach Dee Lenzi and assistant Coach Katrina Hanners noted participation letters went to Morgan Day, Calleigh Miller, Cassie Westjohn, Andrea Murphy, Shelby North, Ryce Ward, Mackenzie Burgess, Wendy Guo, Sarah Lemke, Glenda Wold, Taylor Grace, Kirstin Kern, Lauren Moss, Laura Murphy, and Rachel Pflum

Cheer Coach Deanna Woodard had a bit of hardware to award as well last Tuesday evening. Taking home individual plaques were Anna Martinez—co-Leadership Award and Warrior Spirit Award, Allison Hemmer—co-Leadership Award, and Madeline Clabaugh, Most Improved. Varsity letter winners included Olivia Christy, Allison Hemmer, Anna Martinez, Allison Murawski, Hannah Scribner, Lily Hale, Sidney Stuart, Madeline Clabaugh, Mariah Lemay, Cece Rexroad, Jordan Ochs, Caylen Moyer, Sophia Christy, Baylee Tackitt, Miah Holmes, and Peyton Kresin.

Walker, Jacobs to lead the way for Warrior softball

By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola High School waved goodbye to three seniors last spring who were all starters as freshmen. Despite the leadership at the top, Tuscola’s softball team sported an extremely young squad following their march to fourth place in state in 2012. The 2013 season welcomed an entirely new infield and growing pains were evident.

This year, the Lady Warriors have eight returning starters and nine that played extensive roles last season. Leading the way this year will be a pair of seniors that started every game a year ago and a three-time All-State honoree.

Erin Walker and Jenna Jacobs have been part of over 65 wins, and will be looking to eclipse the 80-win mark and beyond this spring. The duo will lead Tuscola’s girls softball team to a successful 2014 campaign. Both girls have spent their fair share of time on the diamond since last spring, They competed in summer tournaments, fall ball, and winter league, logging well over a combined 1,000 innings.

Walker has led the Warriors on the mound for the past three seasons, delivering a 16-8 record a year ago. She led the Warriors to 10 wins in their last 11 games last season, earning her team MVP, Second Team All Okaw Valley Conference, and Second Team All-State. She was also strong at the plate, hitting .351 on the year delivering three home runs, and 20 RBI.

Jacobs started all but three games a year ago, and was one of the Warriors’ top outfielders. Twice last year, against Meridian and Sullivan, the senior kickstarted offensive rallies that led to big wins for the Warriors. Jacobs homered in the first round of regionals against Sullivan.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal March 12, 2014 edition

Tuscola man hit, killed by train

Matthew Wilke, age 26, of Tuscola, was killed after being struck by a train while walking with his dog along the railroad tracks sometime late Saturday night or early Sunday morning.

The accident was reported to Tuscola Police Department around 7:30 a.m. Sunday, March 9, 2014 by passersby, who came upon the bodies of Wilke and his dog along the railroad tracks at Ohio Street and East North Central Avenue. Wilke was pronounced dead at the scene by the Douglas County coroner’s office.

According to a press release from the coroner’s office, an autopsy was performed in Urbana, and cause of death was listed as multiple blunt force trauma injuries from the pedestrian-train impact. Additional results are still pending, and the case remains under investigation. Wilke was a 2005 graduate of Tuscola High School.

Rotary annual auction slated for March 25

By Colleen Lehmann
Tuscola Rotary Club members are sold on the idea of raising money for scholarships awarded annually to Tuscola High School graduating seniors. Once again, the club will be conducting its annual auction for the scholarship fund and other club philanthropies, and you are invited to attend this entertaining evening.

The 2014 auction will take place Tuesday, March 25 at Ironhorse Golf Club. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., with a complimentary buffet with soft drinks, tea, and coffee to begin at 6 p.m. A cash bar will also be available. The auction portion of the evening will get underway around 6:30 p.m.

Tuscola native Rudy Huber—now living in Sullivan–will return to his hometown to handle auctioneering and humor duties on the evening. There’s a sentimental tie for Rudy to Tuscola’s Rotary auction, as its birth was thanks to his dad, Bill Huber, many decades prior. On that particular Rotary day Bill was responsible for providing the program speaker, but for reasons long forgotten, did not have a speaker at the ready on the appointed date.

Never one to let a situation get the better of him, Bill called upon his considerable oratorical skills to conduct an impromptu auction of items at hand—using the cash garnered for club philanthropies. From those humble beginnings was born the Tuscola club’s main fundraising event, and now proceeds from the annual auction have been known to top $10,000.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal March 12 , 2014 edition

Candidate profiles for contested county races

By Colleen Lehmann
Douglas County voters have but a few days before the March 18, 2014 primary election is held—and on this year’s ballot are two contested local races for GOP candidacy to move on to the November general election. Candidates Richard Broch and Lorna Geiler are seeking the nomination for judge of the Sixth Circuit Court, while Peter Buckley and Fred Galey are vying for the Douglas County sheriff GOP nomination.

Printed below are responses from the four candidates to a questionnaire sent to them by The Tuscola Journal. We hope it might prove useful to you in making your decision in the voting booth. Polls will be open in Douglas County on Election Day March 18 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Candidate Broch currently is serving as associate judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit. He and Nancy, his wife of 33 years, live in rural Tuscola. They have a son, Jeff, who is in his sophomore year at Millikin University in Decatur.

Broch is a member of the Illinois Judges Association, State of Illinois Bar Association, and is a board member of Scouting in Tuscola.

Candidate Geiler is an attorney with Meyer Capel, P.C. in Urbana. She and husband Mark live in Tuscola with their daughter Samantha, a student at East Prairie Middle School.

Geiler also teaches part-time at the University of Illinois College of Law. Her civic affiliations include membership in and past secretary for the Tuscola Community Foundation, Tuscola United Methodist Church, past board member of Tuscola School District, and volunteering with Illinois Public Media’s Book Mentor Project.

Buckley_colorwebPETER BUCKLEY
Candidate Buckley currently serves as chief deputy for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. He lives in Tuscola and has been married to his college sweetheart, Cathy, for 35 years. They have three adult children: Colleen, Kurt, and Caitlin; and also are the proud grandparents of three granddaughters.

Buckley is a member of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI. He belongs to the Tuscola Kiwanis Club, the Loyal Order of Moose, and is a member of Forty Martyrs Catholic Church in Tuscola.

Candidate Galey is a retired police detective. He and his wife, Jeanette, live in Tuscola and are parents of son Joseph and daughter Michelle. They also have three grandchildren.

Galey is a member of Tuscola Moose Lodge 729 and Douglas County chapter of Pheasants Forever.
–Complete profiles in The Tuscola Journal March 12, 2014 edition

U-C Sanitary District OKs water contract for Cronus project

By Colleen Lehmann
Another major milestone was reached recently in Tuscola/Douglas County’s pitch to have the proposed $1.4 billion Cronus fertilizer plant sited just west of Tuscola along Route 36.

On Thursday, March 6, 2014 officials of the Urbana-Champaign Sanitary District signed off on a contract that would provide up to 6.3 million gallons of effluent (treated wastewater) necessary for plant operations. Compensation to the U-CSD by Cronus Chemicals would be a minimum of $2 million per year.

Brian Moody, TEDI executive director who has been working with Cronus officials on the project, responded, “I was very pleased to see the U-CSD approve the reclaimed water contract after over a year of working with Executive Director Rick Manner and the district staff. The U-CSD board and staff put a tremendous amount of effort into thoroughly evaluating this project and carefully considering the impacts of the sale of this water.

Moody lauded Manner for his job of “engaging the Urbana-Champaign community and answering the many questions and comments the district received. While there was some community opposition to the sale consistently over this past year, there have also been consistent vocal supporters of the project.

“Mr. Manner has been very balanced and easy for all parties to work with on this issue. He was incredibly thorough as he provided his final completed report to the district board yesterday, detailing the entire process from our first meetings with Cronus up to yesterday.

“This is a major milestone for our work with Cronus. A few more boxes remain to confirm our site is completely viable. My next step is to continue to work with landowners between the U-CSD’s southwest plant in Champaign and the proposed plant site in Tuscola,” said Moody, who noted there have been at least four informational meetings for property owners—two by TEDI and one each by the Champaign and Douglas County Farm Bureaus.

He continued, “Some of the landowners along the corridor have begun forming a group with the intention to hire one attorney to represent the group and therefore simplify the negotiation process and minimize any legal expenses. I am hopeful we can conclude the negotiation of easements in short order, but have no desire to predict any dates. Our discussions with the landowners have gone well, and I look forward to continue to engage those along the corridor.”

Moody said his best guess is that the draft IEPA permit would be released within the next two weeks, with the final permit by the end of April.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal March 12, 2014 edition

Council in process of drafting FY 2015 budget

By Colleen Lehmann
Perhaps it was the relatively balmy weather outside, or precious few items on the agenda, but the Tuscola City Council meeting on Monday, March 10, 2014 was decidedly brief … just 20 minutes from the Pledge of Allegiance to close of session.

Garnering a small bit of discussion was the budget process currently underway. City Administrator Drew Hoel reported that committee meetings will be wrapping up this week, after which he and treasurer Alta Long will prepare a draft budget for review and discussion.

“We will hold a study session prior to our next council meeting (Monday, March 24) to review that draft budget in greater detail. Please feel free to stop in prior to that time and talk to us if you have further ideas or questions,” Hoel said.

Alderman Tim Hoey noted that at a recent budget committee meeting, Tuscola Police Chief Craig Hastings had mentioned additional storage space for TPD was needed, to house cars and other equipment. Asked to offer more detail at Monday night’s meeting, Hastings responded, “Space concerns have been raised for the TPD, and I suggested that if the Robinson building (Hog Wrench) is ever empty and unused, that might work out well for us. (City foreman) Denny Cruzan is also sorely in need of additional storage space, so if we could move some things in, the city could use our Quonset hut for their purposes.”

Hastings was quick to add that his suggestion should not be considered “if that building or any other one could be utilized for or by some other business and kept on the tax rolls; that would be great. I only thought of the possibility if there was a time when a city-owned building was sitting empty and possibly falling into disrepair.”

Both Hoel and Mayor Dan Kleiss suggested that doing some long-range planning with regard to public services facilities might be in order, to determine what exact square footage needs were there and how and when to best address them for a more long-term solution.

In a final word on the budget, Kleiss told council members, “Bring your wish lists to the table, but just remember there aren’t unlimited amounts of money to grant them all. I have great faith in this council, you’ve always had great ideas along with the sense of knowing we can’t do everything at once. So we bring the ideas, hear the plans, set goals, and move forward.”

Two other points of business were voted on prior to disbanding for the evening. Council members once again agreed to cede its private activity bonding authority to Eastern Illinois Economic Development Authority.

As Hoel explained, “As a home-rule community, each year we receive a portion of the state’s overall private activity bonding authority that we could assign to a potential business expansion or development. However, we have never in all those years had a project that would qualify, so rather than let that bonding authority revert back to the state, we have historically allowed EIEDA utilize it.”

The second action was voting to enter into an agreement with Central Illinois Public Transit Program for non-financial support of its program. CIPT was asking only that the City of Tuscola make referrals, share marketing information, and participate in planning discussions.

In other business the council:
•Approved payment of bills totaling $109,148.97.

•Approved a Community Building lease with alcohol request from Becky’s Buddies for a Trivia Night fundraiser on April 5.

•Approved a request for use of Ervin Park for Cub Scout day camp June 16-20.

•Learned that PMG Tuscola and Bruce and Andrea Robinson were on the TIF delinquency list.

•Adjourned at 7:50 p.m. until the next regularly scheduled meeting on Mon., March 24, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. A study session at 7 p.m. will be held to discuss the FY 2015 budget.

Wilke awarded military achievement medal

Corp. Jerry Wilke, a 2003 TCHS graduate, has been awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for outstanding service and performance of his duties while serving as utilities quality control NCO, Combat Logistics, Battalion 13, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Wilke has been a member of the Marine Corps since March 2011, and is stationed at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, Cal. Corp. He is the husband of Danielle Wilke, father of Avery Wilke, and son of Leo and Diane Wilke, all of Tuscola.

TCHS student killed in Champaign County accident

A former Centennial High School student who had transferred recently to Tuscola High School was killed in a single-vehicle accident in Champaign County on Thursday night, March 6, 2014.

Kenneth “Mario” McNeill II, who would have turned 17 on March 7, 2014, was pronounced dead at 8:35 p.m. March 6 by Champaign County coroner’s office staff. McNeill’s body was found inside the PT Cruiser he was driving at the time of the accident, which occurred along Rising Road west of Champaign, near Cardinal Road.

It is believed McNeill was headed north on Rising Road around 7:20 p.m., on his way to lacrosse practice in Mahomet, when he lost control of his vehicle, went into the ditch, hit an Ameren power pole, and ultimately came to rest in a nearby cornfield. Ameren workers responding to a power outage call discovered McNeill’s wrecked vehicle around 7:50 p.m.

An autopsy was performed Friday, March 7, 2014, and the accident remains under investigation.

According to Tuscola Superintendent Michael Smith, McNeill, who went by the name “Mario,” was a junior at Tuscola High School, where he had been enrolled for approximately three weeks.