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A new survey suggests the economy will continue growing at a slow pace in the rural areas of several states, including Illinois.
The overall index in the monthly survey matches the previous index, suggesting the slower growth. A report indicated the Rural Mainstreet Index remained unchanged at 54.3 in November. The information is based on surveys of rural bankers in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
The index ranges from 0 to 100 with 50 representing growth neutral. A score above 50 suggests growth in that factor for the months ahead. The confidence index, which reflects expectations for the economy six months out, rose to a still weak 48.3 from 44.7 in October.
FAIRBURY – The month of November was a wild one for weather here in Central Illinois.
The average high for the month was 46.8 with an average low of 29.7, according to weather records at the Central Illinois Farm Network headquarters in southern Livingston County. The warmest temperature of 71 occurred November 17 with the coldest temperature of 10 occurring November 24.
Well over an inch of rain was measured during the month and we even had around an inch of snow on November 11. Strong storms and tornadoes tore through the state on the 17th, causing widespread damage in places like Washington, East Peoria, Gifford and Coal City.
SPRINGFIELD – Fewer deer were harvested during the recent opening weekend of the firearm hunting season in the state.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources reports a harvest of 55,700 deer which is down from the approximately 77,100 deer taken during the first firearm hunting weekend of 2012.
Officials say weather may have been a factor, although there have been numerous deer deaths reported in the past year from a condition known as EHD or “blue tongue disease.”
The second firearm deer season happens this weekend in the state.
(Above photo, by Rebecca Casson, shows a deer in early morning fog this fall south of Fairbury)
There are several chances for rain and snow in the coming week for Central Illinois.
The National Weather Service predicts partly sunny skies today (Sunday) with a high near 42. Sunday night will be cloudy with a low 31. There is a slight chance of rain and snow early Monday, otherwise skies will be cloudy with a high 41. Rain and snow chances continue Monday night and Tuesday with a better chance for rain Wednesday and Thursday. Highs both days will be in the upper 40s to low 50s.
Rain and snow chances continue Thursday night and there is a slight chance of snow on Friday with a high near 28.
WASHINGTON – The recent tornado which devastated parts of Tazewell and Woodford counties just missed the rural home of Bill Christ, a director of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board.
Christ also works as a Country Financial agent and saw firsthand the devastating losses on farmsteads northeast of Washington toward Metamora.
“Luckily, most of our clients were in church that morning. It is just amazing with the amount of damage you see that the loss of life was not more prevalent,” Christ said.
Two hours after the storm hit, Christ was already filing claims before he even talked to people. The insurance company’s claims department set up a satellite office in Washington to make sure people had money and a place to stay.
“I am still getting claims of vehicles damaged when people were at church or shopping.”
Christ admits most people hesitate when he calls them wanting to look over their insurance policies but he thinks deep down the rural clientele understand the amount of capital they have invested.
Damaging tornadoes are fresh in the minds of Woodford County-area residents since a big one hit Roanoke in 2004.
Christ says hundreds of people from church organizations, FFA chapters and high schools have been walking fields and cleaning up debris for farmers impacted by the storm. Cleanup efforts in the country were well underway before officials from FEMA arrived in the area.
“The debris in these fields is tremendous. If you can imagine a farmstead scattered across 500 acres and you’re picking it up board by board,” Christ added.
These unfortunate situations typically bring out the best in people, according to Christ. Crews have a good start on storm cleanup efforts before debris gets covered up by the first major snowfall or winter storm of the season.
TAYLORVILLE – Representatives Rodney Davis of Taylorville and Cheri Bustos of East Moline will serve on the Water Resources Development Act/Water Resources Reform and Development Act conference committee.
Both are members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee. This enhances the presence of the Midwest on the committee. The two also serve on the House Ag Committee and teamed up for public and private project partnerships in the waterways bill.
According to Davis, it has been six years since Congress last approved a WRDA bill – a process that is supposed to take place every couple of years. Davis hopes the regular two-year schedule can return to develop water resources.
Over 30 organizations have been selected for grants to help rural cooperatives and small businesses expand and strengthen their capacity to serve rural citizens and communities.
According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, rural communities have incredible potential to create new jobs and expand opportunities for rural Americans. Funding is provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Cooperative Development Grant program.
Grants are being awarded to non-profit groups and higher education institutions to create and operate centers that help establish, expand or operate rural businesses, especially cooperatives and mutually-owned businesses.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture proudly presents the 3rd Annual "25 Days of Christmas" promotion featuring Illinois Products. To enter to win, participants must take the Buy Illinois Challenge at: www.buyillinoischallenge.com.
One winner will be selected randomly each day from December 1-25 and each winner will be listed on the agency’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
What is the Buy Illinois Pledge? They are asking Illinois households to pledge to dedicate just $10 of their existing grocery budget towards purchasing Illinois made products. If every household did this over $2.4 billion would be generated annually for our economy!
SPRINGFIELD – Reducing nitrate levels in Lake Springfield is the idea behind a partnership of those involved in agriculture, city government and the environment.
As part of the effort, local agricultural retailers are encouraging farmers to use a systems approach to nitrogen management. The director of nutrient stewardship for the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices says on-farm research shows that managing nitrogen with split applications can minimize the impact on the environment.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is providing matching funds for the initiative. For more information, log on to the website: www.illinoiscbmp.org.
Washington, IL – Parts of Tazewell County look like a war zone after a series of tornadoes tore through Central Illinois on Sunday.
Large wagons and grain bins on rural farmsteads were tossed around like toys and power lines were down as far as the eye could see. Traffic on U.S. Route 24 into Washington slowed to a crawl on Monday morning as motorists tried to enter the town to either help out or observe the damage. Police weren’t allowing anyone into town unless they lived there.
Storm cleanup efforts have begun and people are trying to put pieces of their lives back together. Washington’s Crossroads United Methodist Church is being used as a Red Cross shelter. Hundreds of people have walked through the church doors for a hot meal, coffee and clean restrooms.
As long as there is a need, the church will provide shelter, according to directing Pastor Tom Goodell.
“We are just trying to do everything we can to help in every way.”
In the Crossroads United Methodist Church alone, 35 member families lost everything in Sunday’s storm.
Officials say the best way to help storm victims is to send a donation to the Red Cross. Call 1-800-RED CROSS or visit redcross.org to make a donation. Tell them you want your donation to go to the central Illinois tornado response. Those in areas affected by the severe weather can let family and friends know they are safe by visiting redcross.org.
As of Monday morning, people offering to help cleanup storm debris were not being allowed in the town. Goodell said FEMA needs to give clearance first and that had not happened yet.
“There is really no reason to come over to Washington unless you live in town,” he said.
Volunteers stationed at the church have been busy giving away clothing to those in need and handing out Teddy Bears to children.
“We’ve had kids come in upset and crying – it is just heartbreaking,” added Goodell.
MINONK - It wasn't a typical Sunday for residents of Central Illinois, as strong midday storms toppled trees, power lines and knocked over semi-trailers.
The National Weather Service reported strong rotation in some of the storm cells while baseball-sized hail was observed in some locations.
At a truck stop in Minonk, several semis were blown over by wind with drivers trapped inside with possible injuries. A shed was scattered throughout a field in northwestern Livingston County and some roofs were damaged and trees were down in the Bloomington-Normal area, as well. Officials also responded to a possible gas leak in Lexington with a propane odor in the air.
Emergency personnel were called to I-55 near Dwight for a jack-knifed semi causing lane blockage. Officials in Fairbury reported trees down throughout town with a downed power line across from Monical's Pizza along Route 24.
The towns of East Peoria, Washington and Pekin also suffered extensive damage from what was believed to be a tornado on the ground. According to officials with the Champaign Emergency Management Agency, the towns of Gifford and Flatville were damaged by tornadoes, as well. There were initial reports of people trapped in debris.
MCDOWELL – A shed full of baled corn stalks was destroyed by fire early Friday afternoon, between Pontiac and Fairbury.
“We don’t have any idea what started it,” said Martin Steidinger of the Fairbury Fire Department.
According to Steidinger, the blaze was contained to the one building and a tractor and wagon parked inside were lost. There were no reports of injuries and some nearby cows were okay.
Tankers were called in from the Pontiac and Forrest-Strawn fire departments to help Fairbury firefighters battle the fire. The property owner's name is not known although sources say Matt Schaffer has cows there.
EL PASO – Monday night’s snowy weather is being blamed for a fatal accident near El Paso.
State Police say the driver of a GMC SUV lost control while crossing the overpass of U.S. Route 24 at I-39 northbound mile post 14 in Woodford County and was struck by a truck tractor semi-trailer, driven by Abidir O. Hashi of Minneapolis, MN.
Both vehicles traveled off the roadway and down an embankment during the incident. The SUV driver was pronounced dead on the scene while Hashi was not injured. The investigation into the accident continues.
Veterans Day observances were held throughout Central Illinois on Monday, as the blustery, rainy weather held off until the afternoon in most areas. A small flag decorated the scales at the Prairie Central Co-op McDowell grain elevator on Monday (in Livingston County).
At the annual Pontiac Veterans Day service near the Livingston County Courthouse, World War II veteran Bill Hall gave the address. Hall was a Marine who served from 1942-1946 and was engaged in the battle of Paleilu and the Occupation of Japan. He enlisted at the age of 17 in Denver, Colorado and now resides in Pontiac with his wife, Karol. Hall is a volunteer at the Livingston County War Museum and a member of the VFW. At the age of 89, he still has the desire to speak and tell stories to others.
Ray Owens of the First United Methodist Church gave the invocation and blessing, while Lindsey Studnicki sang the National Anthem and Ann Finnigan performed Sleep Soldier Boy. The Pontiac High School band provided a selection of music for the Navy, Army, Airforce, Marines and Coast Guard.
The combined color guards of the local VFW, American Legion and AMVETS performed the 21-gun salute followed by Taps performed by a Pontiac High School bugler.
Pesotum, IL -- A pilot is being fined 750-dollars for accidentally spraying fungicide on a group of workers.
Eighty teenagers were de-tasseling corn in a southern Champaign County field when Josh Pavia flew over and sprayed the pesticide. The “News-Gazette” says an investigation determined the pilot was acting in a faulty and careless manner for the incident in July.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture announced the fine this weekend.
PONTIAC – The life of Pontiac Police Officer Casey Kohlmeier was described as “full and well-lived” during a memorial service at Pontiac Township High School Saturday afternoon.
Kohlmeier and his K-9 partner, Draco, died after the police vehicle they were in was struck by another vehicle north of Pontiac Wednesday night.
“I know you are numb and grief stricken, but know these words are living and have the power to sustain you in the days to come,” Pastor Jane Bradford told an overflow crowd in the PTHS auditorium.
Bradford said God was with Kohlmeier, giving him hope that night and that God works through our sorrows to draw us closer.
Pontiac Police Chief Jim Woolford discussed Kohlmeier’s work life, calling him a disciplined young man who began his law enforcement career at a young age.
“He knew all of his tasks, he knew officer safety and he knew how to speak to people,” explained Woolford.
According to Woolford, Kohlmeier and Draco made the community a safer place due to rescues, arrests and various community contacts. Woolford said Draco did what he was told and liked to spend a lot of time in cars.
Following the visitation and memorial service, bag pipers led a procession outside to the school parking lot, where a hearse was waiting. Police officers lined the sidewalk to salute the flag-draped casket as it passed by.
A procession of numerous emergency vehicles from departments all over the state then made its way through town prior to Kohlmeier’s burial at Southside Cemetery. Several onlookers gathered at the corner of Mill and Howard streets to watch the parade of cars drive by.
Kohlmeier was a six-year veteran of the Pontiac Police Department and veteran of the United States Air Force. He had been assigned to the Livingston County Pro-Active Unit, which is comprised of officers from different agencies in the county.
Jason Collins, 33, of South Carolina, faces a count of reckless homicide, two counts of aggravated driving under the influence and two counts of driving under the influence following Wednesday’s crash. Authorities say Collins was driving a white pickup truck north on Interstate 55 when it went off the road, striking Kohlmeier’s vehicle.
PONTIAC – An officer with the Pontiac Police Department was described as “one of the best human beings around” by the department’s chief on Thursday morning.
Officer Casey J. Kohlmeier and his K-9 partner Draco died after the marked K-9 police vehicle they were in was struck by another vehicle shortly after 9:30 p.m. Wednesday just north of Pontiac. Authorities say Kohlmeier’s police vehicle was stopped in the I-55 median turnaround just north of Route 23 when it was struck by the other vehicle which had been northbound on I-55.
The driver of the other vehicle was hospitalized, but the person’s name and condition have not been released. An Illinois State Police crash reconstruction team is investigating the fatal accident and the agency is working with the Livingston County State’s Attorney’s Office.
During a press conference at Pontiac City Hall Thursday, Illinois State Police Lt. Steven Riesenberg called the investigation “highly serious” and said should an arrest be made in the case, details will be made available.
When asked what Kohlmeier’s loss means to the department, Pontiac Police Chief Jim Woolford said it is a hole that the agency is not prepared to fill right now.
“We are deeply wounded,” said Woolford while fighting back tears. “I would describe (Kohlmeier) as one of the best human beings around who would go the extra mile for anyone.”
Woolford did confirm that the other vehicle involved was not a semi-truck and said it had been about 19 years since the police department’s last loss. He said Kohlmeier and the Draco had been together five years.
Kohlmeier was 29 years old and a six-year veteran with the Pontiac Police Department. He was also a veteran of the United States Air Force. He leaves behind his parents, several family members and countless friends, according to Woolford.
Kohlmeier had been assigned to the Livingston County Pro-Active Unit and was regarded as one of the best pro-active officers around. The unit is comprised of officers from the Livingston County Sheriff’s Department, the Dwight Police Department, the Fairbury Police Department and the Pontiac Police Department.
“Casey was a dedicated, honorable employee who was deeply committed to law enforcement and to the community. He will be greatly missed,” the Pontiac Police Department said in a statement released Thursday morning.