Truck collides with railroad track sweeper
PEORIA - A Peoria man was treated and released from a local hospital Tuesday morning after his pickup truck collided with a track sweeper at a railroad crossing on Galena Road.
Jerry Williams, 51, of 7620 N. Galena Road was driving south on Galena in front of his residence about 8:30 a.m. when he failed to yield at the railroad crossing as he turned into his subdivision across from Derby Road.
The track sweeper collided with Williams' Ford Ranger, crushing a portion of the truck directly behind the driver's door and denting the bed.
The truck's topper popped off because of the impact.
The operator of the track sweeper tried to alert the truck's driver by sounding its whistle, police said, but Williams apparently didn't see the southbound sweeper until it was too late.
Williams, who was visibly shaken but uninjured at the scene, was taken to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center as a precaution. No other injuries were reported.
Williams was ticketed for failing to yield at a railroad crossing.
Man faces federal charges in child porn case
PEORIA - A Bloomington man, a former teacher, faces child pornography charges for allegedly having several illicit images on his computer.
Scott W. Southerland, 46, was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury sitting in Peoria on charges of receipt of child porn and for possession. If convicted of both charges, he faces at least five years and possibly up to 20 years behind bars.
Southerland was initially charged in McLean County Circuit Court after his housekeeper found sheets of paper with pornographic images of minors and reported it to police. He has been out on bond for that case and was in Indiana when he was arrested on the new federal charges. It was unclear Tuesday when he would return to the area to answer the charges.
It's likely that the state charges, which carry a lesser sentence, will be dropped now that federal charges have been filed.
Southerland was once a fourth-grade teacher at an Olympia school and served as a substitute in several area schools. He was issued a standard elementary teaching certificate in November 2000, and taught fourth-grade full time for less than one month at Atlanta Elementary School in 2002.
Since 2003, Southerland was a substitute teacher in Bloomington District 87, Normal's Unit 5, Farmer City's Blue Ridge School District, Ridgeview District in Colfax and Pontiac Elementary School District. Since his arrest, his name has been removed from the schools' lists of available substitutes.
DNR: More study needed of Spring Lake project
MANITO — The Illinois Department of Natural Resources says the dredging of Spring Lake will become a priority once all proper analyses are completed and funding is secured.
But those comments didn’t go over well with the more than 100 community members gathered in the Peoria Sportsman’s Club on Tuesday night to voice their concerns over the increasingly shallow 1,200-acre lake.
“The (Tazewell County) Health Department said children and old people shouldn’t drink my (well) water,” one resident, who lives along the lake’s edge, said during the town meeting. The resident said the nitrate level of their water tested above 20 parts per million this year. A safe nitrate level is 10 parts per million or below.
The town meeting, organized by Rep. Mike Smith, D-Canton, was attended by Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, and several members of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Among the most common concerns residents had were ridding the lake of aquatic vegetation, knowing a timeline for a potential dredging project and the safety of the lake’s water as the result of previous vegetation eradication attempts.
Budgetary concerns were foremost on everyone’s mind. Residents wanted to know where their hunting and fishing license monies go, wondering if there was anything they could do to expedite the dredging process.
“We’re trying to spread the money we’ve got pretty thin,” IDNR Parks and Recreation Division Chief Tim Hickman stated. “We might agree with you, but can any of us tell you, with the DNR’s limited resources, that Spring Lake’s on the top (of the dredging priority) list? No.”
A $900,000 dredging initiative signed by state legislators for fiscal year 2007 went to a select group of lakes across the state, many of which had been on a priority list for several years. Spring Lake was not on that list.
Knox College receives multi-year grant
GALESBURG — Knox College has received a multi-year grant for a new campus center that will help students find opportunities and funding sources for research and advanced projects.
The three-year, $228,750 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will support Knox’s new Center for Research and Advanced Studies, which will coordinate the college’s existing programs supporting advanced work in the natural and social sciences, humanities and creative and performing arts.
“Right now, Knox is awarding close to a quarter-million dollars annually to our students, who are conducting some 350 independent study and research projects a year in all disciplines,” said Lawrence B. Breitborde, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college.
“Having a single campus center will make it easier for students to find opportunities for undergraduate and post-graduate research and to line up funding sources for their work.”
Convention center gets new general manager
SPRINGFIELD – Brian Oaks hopes to improve concession areas and customer service ingeneral, plus perhaps bring free wireless Internet service to the the Prairie
Capital Convention Center.
Mike Coffey Jr., chairman of the center's elected board, said Tuesday a committee
voted 6-0 to name Oaks, currently the convention center's operations manager, as
general manager. The post is being vacated at the end of the year by Tom Margedant.
"Brian Oaks ... wants the job badly," Coffey said. "He presented some good ideas. We
want him to do it for six months and then evaluate him."
Margedant, who has worked at the center for nearly three decades, said last week
that he is retiring for health reasons.
Oaks, 31, has been with the center for five years.
Judge refuses to let accused business manager leave Sangamon County
SPRINGFIELD – A federal judge on Tuesday denied Rickey Weir's request that he be
allowed to leave Sangamon County so he can consult with his Chicago
U.S. Judge Jeanne Scott said the conduct that led to Weir's arrest Sept. 19
justifies strict control over his travels.
"His behavior raised a lot of questions as to his intent to leave," she said.
Prosecutors said Weir was preparing to flee the country for Nigeria before his arrest.
A federal grand jury charged Weir - the former business manager for his estranged
wife's medical practice - with 16 felony counts of mail fraud and health-care fraud
on Sept. 11. If convicted, he could be sent to prison for more than a decade.
One of Weir's lawyers, Ralph Meczyk, said it would be a bother, and more expensive
for Weir, if Weir's legal team had to travel from Chicago to Springfield to meet
with him. Weir's trial is scheduled for May.
Meczyk said Weir wouldn't flee. He doesn't want to lose the $1 million he posted,
and Weir wouldn't want to leave his three young children, who are living with
Despot, Meczyk said.
And despite the statements of assistant U.S. attorney Patrick Hansen, Meczyk said
Weir never prepared to leave the country for Nigeria.
Weir's dealings with Nigerians were "part of a scam that was run out of Nigeria," he
Hansen said Weir disregarded a court order in a related federal civil case.
"Mr. Weir has had the government chasing his tail for the past year and a half,"
Hansen said. "He makes his own rules."
ComEd unveils energy plan
Commonwealth Edison will roll out an energy initiative plan it promises will save
northern Illinois energy consumers $155 million.
The electric utility's executives will detail the plan, mandated by a recently
enacted state law, during a special meeting of the Illinois Commerce Commission in
The cornerstone of ComEd's plan: Electric consumers must use more efficient light
bulbs and appliances.
"The light bulb is big," said Anne Pramaggiore, a ComEd executive vice president.
"Lighting is one of the big target areas if you want to reduce electric usage and
reduce your bill."
State police reaccredited
SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Police has once again been named an "accredited"
police agency, a national recognition earned through a variety of tests and audits.
The title is regarded in the law enforcement community as a recognition of
The State Police had to meet 368 internationally accepted standards for the
operation of police agencies to receive reaccredited status from The Commission on
Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. A team of assessors from the commission
in April examined the State Police's policy and procedures, management, operations,
and support services.
Just two municipal Winnebago County departments - South Beloit and Cherry Valley -
are accredited. The Winnebago County Sheriff's Department is also accredited.
The county's largest municipal department, Rockford, is still working toward getting
its accreditation from the same organization. Because of its size, Rockford must
meet 459 standards. It began its move toward accreditation in late 2003.
"High School Musical" on ice coming to MetroCentre
ROCKFORD – A second performance of "Disney's High School Musical: The Ice Tour" has been added
at the Rockford MetroCentre, and the rodeo returns to the arena in January.
Tickets were selling so well for the ice show on Jan. 30 that a second show has been
added for Tuesday, Jan. 29. Both shows start at 7 p.m.
Dodge World's Toughest Bulls & Broncs shows will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and
Saturday, Jan. 18 and 19. Kids 12 and younger get a free cowboy hat Saturday night.
Tickets for the added ice show and the rodeo go on sale 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 3, at
centreevents.com, the Centre Events box office at 300 Elm St., and 815-968-5222.
Arthur coming to Rockford
A live version of the award-winning book and TV series "Arthur" is coming to Rockford.
"Arthur Live! Arthur Tricks the Tooth Fairy" will be Tuesday, Feb. 5, at the
Coronado Performing Arts Center. The 90-minute show, which includes a 20-minute
intermission, will start at 7 p.m.
The production features a dozen original songs and the usual cast of "Arthur"
More than 60 million "Arthur" books have been sold in the U.S. in the past 30 years,
and PBS began airing the show just more than a decade ago.
Buy tickets at coronadopac.org or by calling the Coronado box office at 815-968-0595.
Contributing: Rockford Register Star, Springfield State Journal Star and Peoria Journal Star.
State Briefs: 11/29/07
Truck collides with railroad track sweeper