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City and Village Streamlining Golf Cart, UTV Ordinances

The City of Jacksonville and Village of South Jacksonville are working to make registration and usage of golf carts and UTV’s easier in both municipalities.

The Jacksonville City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance amending the regulation and operation of golf carts and UTV’s on city streets last night. The changes have come after continued conversation between South Jacksonville Police Chief Eric Hansel, and Jacksonville Chief of Police Adam Mefford.

Chief Hansel says he and Jacksonville City Clerk Skip Bradshaw have been working to amend their ordinances to remove differences that caused hardships for both the municipalities and owners of the vehicles.

In the ordinances, Jacksonville did not build in reciprocity to South Jacksonville residents nor did ours build in for Jacksonville residents. Obviously there are not a lot of Jacksonville residents that come over to Nichols Park, go to the golf course, come over for the fourth of July function, or come over for Prairieland and vice versa.

I’m sure there are some of our residents that travel over for ice cream or for concerts up on the plaza, stuff like that. So we started looking at reciprocity and the ordinances were slightly different in some aspects. The permit cost was the same, but the hours of operation and when the permits changed were different. We just wanted to basically get together on the ordinance and make sure they were exactly the same fees, the same time the permit expires, everything.”

Bradshaw says the opportunity posed by Hansel gave the city a chance to correct some issues they had been experiencing with the city ordinance that was needed to be addressed. He says one of the biggest sticking points was when registration stickers with the city were due to be paid, which was forcing some residents to pay the fee twice in a single year.

It used to be May one through April thirty. But it really ended up being an issue with people wanting to get out in February and March during good weather. We thought it would be better if we did January one to December 31st. A lot of our other permits are at the same time.

The other issue that popped up is that people were buying a sticker four, five, or six months into the year. We were having to charge them because of the way the ordinance was written. We’d have to charge them $100 then, and then when May one rolls around charge them another $100. So this way at the end of six months with the July 1 date we would cut it in half 50%, so it would be $50 dollars for the rest of the six months. Those were just a couple of the things we wanted to change. Then we wanted to have something actually in the ordinance to reciprocate with each other that basically was just a handshake prior.”

Hansel says the process began after a resident who was having his vehicle worked on at a local shop, asked about the registration, and he was directed to the city to purchase a sticker.

He says the vehicle owner actually lived outside of the South Jacksonville limits in the county and nether the village or city’s ordinances covered county residents. Hansel says when completed, both ordinances will mirror each other in fee and due dates as well as allowing for county residents to purchase stickers.

Bradshaw says he doesn’t believe that will be a large number of users, with the city averaging roughly 50 permits each year. He says he expects that to possibly be closer to 70 this year, so there are enough instances where the agreement makes sense.

County residents living outside of the Jacksonville city limits to the north, east, and west will purchase their permit stickers from the city. Those living east, west, and south of the village will go there for their stickers.

Both ordinances are subject for review at the next regular meetings of the Village Board and City Council

Council Approves New Roof for Park Pavilion

A can that has been kicked down the road a few times in a Jacksonville park can’t be kicked any further.

The Jacksonville City Council approved an engineering agreement with Benton & Associates of Jacksonville for the replacement of the Nichols Park Pavilion roof during their regular meeting last night. Parks and Lakes Committee Chair Lori Large Oldenettel says the aging roof has put recent interior improvements in jeopardy.

It was brought to our attention there is significant leaking of the park pavilion out at Nichols Park, and so we brought it before the council and it was decided we should move forward to take care of the investment that we have already made in that building with the floor and other infrastructure inside. So we are moving forward with getting the roof replaced.

Costs for the roof replacement are estimated to be approximately $60,000 for the roof and $20,000 in engineering work. Mayor Andy Ezard reiterated during the workshop session that the council was aware a new roof was needed, but it had not been factored into this year’s budget. He says the council was careful during budgeting projections with the uncertainty the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdowns have had and what effect those would have on revenue.

The City Finance Committee met recently to determine where in the budget the funds could be allocated from for both the roof and replacement of steel restroom doors at both lake Jacksonville and Community Park. Jacksonville Parks Manager Adam Fletcher says the Nichols Park Pavilion is an important part of the parks system and needs to be preserved.

To save the building, you’ve got to save the structure. To save the structure you’ve got to start with the roof, so we are going to take care of this to make sure that building lasts as long as it can. It’s lasted over one hundred years so far, so we are going to try to keep it going as long as we can.”

In other action taken by the council last night, long-time reporter and Jacksonville historian Greg Olson was appointed to the Heritage Cultural Center Board for a two-year term. Ezard said when it became know that Olson moved back to Jacksonville, it was a no-brainer for the Board to want his extensive knowledge of the history of Jacksonville included on the Board.

An amendment to the ordinance governing liquor licenses was approved granting a license to Shiraz on the downtown square which is in the process of reopening after a lengthy shut down due to the pandemic.

A resolution approving the quote for a replacement pump control panel at the Johnson Street lift station also passed. Jamie Headen with Benton and Associates said the project will hopefully begin later this summer and be finished by October if all goes according to plan.

Due to some scheduling conflicts, the next Jacksonville City Council meeting has been moved back a day, and will now be held on Tuesday, April 27th.

Prarieland United Way Annual Meeting Goes Virtual Hybrid This Week

he Prairieland United Way’s Annual Meeting will have a bit of a different look this year.

On Wednesday, April 14th at 7:30 am, the meeting will be presented by both the Board of Directors and 2020 Campaign Co-Chairs as an in-person/virtual hybrid due to the current public meeting restrictions.

The public will be able to view the meeting via Facebook Live on the Prairieland United Way Facebook page and will include presentation of the Helen Baldwin Award, as well as recognition of the Top 20 Most Generous Workplace Awards.

Remarks on the campaign will be heard from 2020 Campaign Co-Chairs, Reg & Cynthia Benton, 2020 -21 Board President, Barb Davenport, and 2021-2022 Board President, Lisa Stambaugh.

Karen Walker, Executive Director says in the announcement, the 2020 Prairieland United Way campaign ended at 97% to goal, with a total of $451,287 raised. She says funds will be used for programs provided by 28 agencies in the four-county service area of Cass, Morgan, Scott, and northern Greene counties.

For more information, contact Karen Walker at Prairieland United Way at 217-245-4557 or by email at info@prairielandunitedway.org

Verizon Looks to Boost Area Service With New Tower Near Bluffs

Cellular service in the area looks to be getting a boost.

Verizon is currently installing a new tower in a field near the corner of Oxville Lane and Route 100 near Bluffs. South Jacksonville Public Works Superintendent John Green says the tower is on private farm ground, and the Village completed quite a bit of locate work as underground lines for the tower crosses the area where the village’s water service line runs from the river.

Chirs Serico, a spokesman for the company confirmed with the Journal-Courier that the tower is for Verizon, which has had limited to no coverage in West Central Illinois, including Jacksonville and South Jacksonville.

Serico says Verizon has been working to expand its coverage area for some time, and the new tower will improve its 4G LTE service.

Green says fiber optic cable was in process of being run to the tower sometime last week so he thinks it should be getting closer to operation. Serico told the Journal-Courier no specific timeline of when it will go into service has been set at this time. He anticipates the new town will come online before the year’s end.

Jacksonville Business Sustains Damage in Sunday Evening Fire

The timely dropping off of trash likely saved a Jacksonville business from extensive fire damage.

The Jacksonville Fire Department responded to a call of a fire in the 1000 block of North Main Street at approximately 6:15 yesterday evening. Smoke could be seen coming out the gable portion of the roofline of W.L. Powersports located at 1010 North Main Street when crews arrived.

Fire Department Captain Matt Summers says the owner of the business arrived to drop off some trash just after 6:00 pm and noticed soot marks on the overhead door and light smoke coming from the building.

Firefighters gained access to the building and extinguished the fire which was contained to a piece of equipment in the rear shop area. The owner said an Arctic Cat side by side had been worked on earlier in the day.

At around 3:00 pm the unit had been power washed due to the smell of mice nesting in it and returned to the building for repair work. Investigators determined the fire started in the side by side, which according to the fire department’s report, would not start due to a low battery, but did indeed have power.

An estimate of the damage had not been determined. Summers says the fire was contained to the side by side. Some adjacent vehicles suffered heat damage from being in close proximity to the fire.

No Injuries Reported in South Jacksonville Hotel Fire

The South Jacksonville Fire Department responded to a call of an automatic fire alarm at the Holiday Inn Express located at 2501 Holiday Lane in South Jacksonville at approximately 1:47 pm.

According to a report by South Jacksonville Fire Chief Richard Evans, while en-route dispatch advised that a smoke detector and water flow alarm was coming from room 218. On arrival, South Jacksonville Police advised there was smoke on the 2nd floor and all occupants had safely been evacuated.

According to Evans, fire crews encountered heavy smoke in the 2nd-floor hallway. SJFD crews entered room 218 to find the fire was kept in check by the sprinklers being activated. Crews searched room 218 and the adjoining rooms 216 and 220 with no occupants found.

The fire was contained to room 218 and the entire 2nd floor had to be ventilated due to the amount of smoke. Evans says smoke damage occurred on all 3 floors of the hotel as well as significant water damage to the 1st and 2nd floors.

An initial investigation of a cause points in the direction of an air conditioner unit in room 218 that malfunctioned. The hotel is currently closed until repairs and cleanup are performed.

Approximately 6-7 rooms were occupied for the evening and night. Occupants were assisted with gathering their belongings and Holiday Inn Express Manager was making arrangements for them at another hotel.

It is unknown at this time what the dollar amount of loss is from the incident. The Jacksonville Fire Department responded to assist automatic mutual aid and the Woodson Fire Department was put on standby if further assistance was needed.

IDOC Resuming Visitations

IDOC is allowing prisoner visitations in all of its facilities with restrictions in a staggered opening beginning on Monday.

In March of last year, IDOC shut down visitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many facilities were hit hard last year with outbreaks of the virus during the shutdown, including the Jacksonville Correctional Center.

The plan is multi-tiered with Phase 1 limiting the number of visitors per a two-hour time slot to ensure social distancing measures are closely followed. Officials say at this time, each incarcerated person is permitted two visits per month.

The Jacksonville Correctional Center and Taylorville center will open for visitations on April 19th. The Western Illinois Correctional Center in Mt Sterling will open on May 3rd.

A complete list of when centers will open and how to schedule visitations can be found online at https://www2.illinois.gov/idoc/facilities/Pages/VisitationRules.aspx

Annual Mother’s Day Geranium Sale Announced

Jacksonville area residents can give flowers for Mother’s Day while supporting local service projects soon.

The Jacksonville Sunrise Rotary Club has announced its annual Mother’s Day Geranium Sale, which will run through April 19. The sale items are four-inch potted red geraniums and are being sold for $5 each.

Sunrise Rotary Club President Jay Jamison says the Mother’s Day Geranium Sale was first conceived by former club member Dr. Don Snider in 2010, as a way to introduce himself to his neighbors.

Jamison says when Don Snider passed away in 2013 the club made the geranium sale an official Sunrise Rotary fundraiser.

He says the club has become acquainted with many area neighbors through the geranium sale, both as a fundraiser for their various community service projects and as a quiet tribute to Dr. Don.”

Those interested in purchasing red geraniums may contact any member of the club to place an order. Club members will deliver purchased geraniums on or after May 7th. The sale items are four-inch potted red geraniums and are being sold for $5 each.

Sunrise Rotary meets every Tuesday morning at the Holiday Inn Express in South Jacksonville at 7 a.m.

TEOSA Celebrates Successful Winter Warming Season, Donation Only Garage Sale to be Held Saturday

The Jacksonville TEOSA wound down the winter season of providing shelter for the area needy at the end of March. Organizers are now looking to share some of that success back into the community.

The Jacksonville Temporary Emergency Overnight Shelter Accommodations located in the former America Ambulance Company building on North Main Street closed down operations now that spring temperatures seem here to stay.

Jacksonville Police Chaplain Allan Braddish says the TEOSA had great success in helping several members of the community, and not only on an overnight basis.

We trained about 100 people, about 50 of them got actively involved. Then friends and family members supported our efforts. It just went really well. We served about 30 people this winter that were needing shelter at various times. We were able to relocate three to four of those outside of the area and also find some permanent housing for five, that was a real plus on top of everything else.”

Braddish says the TEOSA would not have been the success that it was, were it not for the tremendous support both with in-house volunteers and outside support from the entire community.

I can’t say enough about how this community, the city of Jacksonville, the agency churches, and individuals here in our community have risen to the call and met the needs at least in our community. During the cold winter months, December through March it was just incredible. Really did a fantastic job of providing volunteer service, meals, and donations. They made it work, it reminds me of the old saying many hands make the work light so they did and we are grateful.”

Braddish says a special event is planned for this weekend to help give a little something back to the community while looking ahead to next winter.

This coming Saturday we’re going to have a garage sale, donation only. For the Items that we will not be storing, so if anyone is needing bedding or clothing they would be encouraged to come by from 8 am to 12 pm at TEOSA. In the morning, leave a donation, and take items that would be helpful to their household.”

Braddish says it is their hope that the New Directions Center will again take on the area’s needy for both cooling and warming needs post-pandemic.

He says though that if the need is still there, funds from the free-will donation garage sale will go toward providing shelter next winter, one way or the other.

Manker Holds onto Lead, Jacksonville Ward Three Now a Tie

The Morgan County consolidated election came down to the wire in one race, while the outcome of another is still unsettled.

Write-in, absentee, and nursing home ballots were verified today at the Morgan County Courthouse. A group of three election judges verified the results. Morgan County Clerk Jill Waggoner says all but one absentee, or mail-in ballot have been returned to her office. Results remain unofficial until the entire election can be certified pending the arrival of the single vote.

Write-in candidate for Village President Tyson Manker held on to his election night edge over Dick Samples, although after all ballots were counted, Manker won the seat by just eight votes. Manker won with a total of 289 votes to Samples’ 281.

Four write-in votes for Village President were spoiled due to the voter not filling in the oval next to the name. Illinois State election law states for a write-in ballot to be counted, it must have the candidate’s name, and the voter must “make their mark” on the ballot to be accepted.

The closest race coming out of Tuesday’s election was in Jacksonville Ward three where challenger W. Kent Hannant held a one-vote lead on incumbent Brandon Adams. That race is now tied with 169 votes apiece cast.

Waggener says the tie may hinge on the lone absentee ballot remaining unaccounted for in Morgan County. “That ballot is actually from Ward Three. They actually told us this morning, we called them to verify they had indeed mailed the ballot back. They assured us that they had, so I have until the 20th to wait for the ballot before I can officially close the election and declare the official winner.”

Waggener has 14 days by law to certify the election. For the mail-in ballot to count as the tiebreaker, it must be into the County Clerk’s Office by Tuesday, April 20th, and also must have been postmarked by no later than election day, Tuesday, April 6th.

In the event of a tie, Illinois election code says a tiebreaker is determined “by lot” or random methods of selection such as a coin flip. Waggener says if this happens with the Ward Three race, she will follow a process used in other such ties.

What I’m looking to do now is, follow suit of several other county clerks and how they have broken ties. It sounds really silly. The way that we will do it is I will have the two candidates come in I will pick the suit of hearts from a deck of cards. Two through ten will be shuffled and laid on the counter and both candidates will draw a card. Whoever picks the highest number will be declared the winner.”

Results in the Ward 1 race were unchanged from Tuesday with Darcella Speed wining over Robert Thomas by 25 votes.

A correction to our reporting from the race in Murrayville, where only one candidate was registered as a write-in for Village President, Jay Lewis, who technically ran unopposed for the seat.

The two other write-in candidates in Murrayville were for Village Trustee. Cheyenne Marie Watts was the lone candidate on the ballot in that race with F. Fitzgerald and Brian Saxer both write-ins. The race was for three seats so all three have been elected to the board.

Waggener says she is available if anyone has any questions or concerns. “If anybody has any questions about any of the voting process. Either on election day or what took place today, please call my office or come in and talk to me. I’ll be more than happy to explain anything that I can.”

To contact the Morgan County Clerk’s Office, dial 217-243-8581