Fatal Accidents Claim Two Lives in Jefferson County

November 20, 2014 Comments off

State Police say Neff’s car had stalled while travelling eastbound on I-64.  He exited his vehicle and started to walk towards Mt. Vernon.  The truck tractor driven by a 52-year-old Tell City, Indiana man was moving to the left lane when it came upon the stalled vehicle and struck Neff who was in the roadway.  The accident occurred at 4:02 Thursday morning.  

Centralia and Vandalia Men Make First Appearances on Child Pornography Charges

November 20, 2014 Comments off

Two area residents have been arrested for allegedly possessing, reproducing, and disseminating child pornography as part of the Illinois Attorney General’s ‘Operation Glass House’.  

26-year-old Christopher Cook of the 600 block of North Walnut in Centralia had bond set at $150,000 by Judge Robin Todd in Marion County Court Wednesday afternoon after being charged with 14 counts of child pornography.  In Fayette County Court, bond was set at $300,000 for 34-year-old Ryan Koontz of South Cypress Street in Vandalia on ten counts of child pornography.  

The arrests bring to a total of 73 for Operation Glass House, which Attorney General Lisa Madigan launched in 2010 to investigate and arrest offenders trading child pornography online.   

Cook was charged in Marion County Court with five counts of distribution of child pornography, a Class X felony punishable by six to 30 years in prison, and nine counts of possession of child pornography, a Class 2 felony punishable by three to seven years in prison.  

Marion County State’s Attorney Matt Wilzbach says under the state’s child pornography law, all sentences must run consecutively.  He says as a result, Cook faces between 57 and 213 years in prison if convicted on all 14 counts.  Cook is currently free on bond in a Richland County pornography case.  

Wilzbach told the court that Cook acknowledged to the investigators that the films and still pictures he had were child pornography. He reportedly told investigators the pornography allowed him to handle his sexual desires without acting on them.  The charges indicate the children involved in the sex acts were as young as three years old.  

Wilzbach says he has not been through all of the films and photos that were seized following separate search warrants issued for the file server that was allowing the child pornography to be shared and for Cook’s phone where a number of the images were stored.  He said there were dozens of films and photos that were seized.  

Cook told the judge he expects to be able to make bond.  If released on bond, Cook was ordered to not be in the presence of any child under the age of 18. He was ordered to provide the court with information at a hearing set for Friday to determine if he is eligible for a public defender.  

Meanwhile, Koonz was charged in Fayette County Court with two counts of distribution of child pornography and eight counts of possession of child pornography.  His arrest came after a search warrant was executed on his home.  

The attorney general’s office thanked the Centralia and Vandalia Police for their assistance in handling the cases.  

South Central Schools Approve Tax Levy

November 20, 2014 Comments off

The South Central School Board Approved a tax levy of just below 5% during their Wednesday night board meeting. Superintendent Rick Batchelor says that the 4.98% tax levy translates to $98,600 in new money for the district.

The levy is below the 5% that would require a truth in taxation hearing.

The board expressed some frustration with the construction manager for its upcoming $10-million renovation and expansion of the high school in Farina and grade school in Kinmundy. Disparities between construction drawings and a constantly-moving bid date from Poettker Construction have plagued the board for weeks. The project is now expected to go out for bid in January, after the company promised just weeks ago that the project would be opened for bids this month. 

An Poettker Construction representative reportedly told Batchelor that the date was moved back in order to allow for potential bidders to evaluate the project more thoroughly outside of the holiday season.

Mt. Vernon To Demolish Problematic Apartments

November 19, 2014 Comments off

MT.VERON — Mt. Vernon city leaders are cleaning up by tearing down. Their plan involves getting rid of some apartments on the city’s southside.   

Nine separate buildings, all part of the Mt. Vernon Townhome apartments, are set to be torn down later this year. 

“There’s been a lot of violence and drug activity in the area,” said Mt. Vernon city manager Ron Neibert. “People have been living in there without leases.” 

He says the units have been poorly maintained and neglected by ownership.   

“There was actually a fire in one of the buildings here in the last couple of weeks,” said Neibert. “They just chose that they weren’t going to properly manage and maintain them.” 

The apartments have been an eyesore for years. Managers at local businesses in the area are happy the buidlings are coming down.  

“Lately we’ve been noticing some squatters,” said Justen Stack with Audio Visionz. “We have seen more patrol cars in the area. Making sure everything is staying on an even keel over there.” 

Stack says the project has been a long time coming and believes it will improve sales.  

“I think it will bring business up a little bit,” explained Stack.  

It will cost the city about $200,000 to tear down the buildings.

“We gave proper notification to those individuals residing in there, both legally and illegally, and the properties have been vacated,” said Neibert.  

Salem School Bus Accident Hurts Student

November 19, 2014 Comments off

A student sustained a minor injury when an SUV slid on the ice at the Schwartz and North Jefferson Street intersection in Salem and struck the right rear of a Salem grade School Bus. 

Salem Police say an 11 year old girl hit her head after the impact. She was examined on scene and her parents refused hospital treatment.

The Durham Bus Company bus, driven by 56-year old Cherylon Bouras of East Olive in Salem was traveling southbound on North Jefferson when an SUV driven by 34 year old Timony Minch of Fair Avenue in Flora slid on the ice while traveling eastbound on Schwartz.

Borth drivers and the other 12 students on the bus escaped injury. The crash occured around 8:09 Tuesday Morning.

Central City Approves Enterprise Zone Renewal

November 19, 2014 Comments off

Central City is the latest municipality to approve the renewal of the Centralia Area Enterprise Zone after their village board meeting on Tuesday. 

The Enterprise Zone spans nine square miles, crosses the boundaries of Marion, Clinton, Washington, and Jefferson Counties, and contains all or parts of Wamac, Centralia, and Central City. Enterprise Zones are a way to incentivize commercial growth within an area, bringing lower tax rates, sales tax exemptions and economic incentives to businesses within them. 

In it’s only other action of the evening, the board purchased tires for one of the Village Vehicles from South Central Transit.

Friendship House Project Hopes to Get Homeless Shelter Operational Before Year-End

November 19, 2014 Comments off

When Lavonda Henry arrived in Centralia, she sought purpose. Purpose she said she found after seeing a need in the community while volunteering for the Salvation Army. Now, less than a year later, the Friendship House Project Homeless Shelter is mere weeks away from opening it’s first wing.

Henry spoke on Wednesday in front of the Centralia Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon, and described the unique mission that the faith-based Friendship Project has set out to achieve.

“Our goal is to move individuals to self sufficiency. If we weren’t [doing that], we would just be opening up another hotel in town” said Henry.

The Friendship House Project Shelter is located in the old Friendship House Nursing Home, which was shuttered in 2013 after census data showed the facility was no longer viable. A 54-room facility, Henry recently secured the donation of the building from it’s previous owner.

Four wings are planned in the building, each serving a different purpose. One wing will service single men, another single women. One wing is specifically designed for to accomodate families, and a fourth wing will be used to serve transient people for short periods of time. Henry stresses that the rooms are not temporary social aid or a simple handout.

“To be in a sleep room, it’s $24 a day. If you’re in a family room, it’s $40 a day. It’s not a handout, it’s a hand up.” Henry explained, “They can pay that in US Currency, or they can pay that in sweat equity [through work]. We’re not going to push them into a job to pay for that room, but we are going to expect them to work…eight hours a day.”

Long-term residents can stay for a maximum of two years while enrolled in social programs designed to move residents towards self-sufficiency.

Henry hopes to have at least one of the wings up and running by the first of December. 

There is plenty of work still left to do, and the project is looking for donations of cash, supplies, clothing, and other items. Donations can be dropped off or mailed to 1000 Martin Luther King Drive, Centralia, IL, 62801. For more information on the program, call 618-335-7452

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