Material Delays Likely Pushing Back When Students Return to Class at Washington

Students and staff anxiously awaiting to return to a newly renovated Washington Elementary School will likely have to wait a little longer.

The Jacksonville District 117 School Board was given an update on the current progress of the Washington renovations during the regular September meeting last night.

Superintendent Steve Ptacek says the delay in availability for the main electrical panel which has pushed its delivery date out till May, has combined with other factors to push back when classes can resume in the building.

it doesn’t look like we are going to be able to make the end of the calendar year deadline that we were hoping for. Right now with delays we’re still strongly focusing on being able to get done at the end of the school year so that we can have as much time as possible in the summer to get the school ready for the students to come in next fall.

With the delay in the major electrical panels, there could be portions in the new section of the building, the gym floor, and some other sections that might not be done until late in the summer. But that’s not going to impact the main part of the school which would allow students to start next year.”

The possible workaround for the delayed electrical panel by using smaller separate panels would cost the district an estimated $65,000.00 that includes one month’s rent and then an additional $6,500.00 per month rental fee after that, meaning that the total cost could be upwards of $100,000.00.

Compounding the issue is the report that the manufacturer of the flooring set to be installed may not honor the warranty if the design-approved electrical and HVAC systems are not in place and operating when the flooring is installed.

Another issue is that the flooring for the new gymnasium must be delivered days and even weeks in advance of installation to allow for the material to acclimate itself to avoid the risk of warps or bows in the material. And if the climate conditions are not stable, the flooring could be ruined before it is even installed.

Ptacek says due to the continued delays in certain equipment on the Washington project, have led officials to turn some attention to the Eisenhower Elementary School project in an effort to get ahead of delays where they can.

The architect and the engineer on the Washington project are meeting and they are trying to isolate major equipment such as electrical panels or other devices that they know are in delay at this point in time, and are going to try to order those early, even before the bids go out. That’s just if you want to get a school done on time, or a project done on time you’ve got to start thinking outside the box on how to get things to the school as early as possible. And we need to get into that cue, that line for those devices as quickly as possible.”

On the positive side, project manager Bob Roads reported that all of the walls are up on the new Washington School gymnasium and crews are beginning to finish constructing the walls of the new addition that will contain the foyer and offices. He also reported that site work for the new driveway and sidewalks is estimated to begin on October 3rd.

Little Time to Grieve as Dist 117 Forced to Plan to Appoint New Board Member

The District 117 School Board had very little time to grieve before its members had to begin making plans on how to replace a college following the sudden death of a board member this week.

The District 117 School Board met in a regularly scheduled session last night, barely 24 hours after many had heard of the sudden passing of board member Steve Cantrell Tuesday evening.

The school board is required to find a replacement within 60 days. School Board President Noll Beard said following the meeting, as much as no one present wanted to take on the topic so soon, the work of the board had to carry on.

Well, we basically have to start the process as soon as the vacancy occurs. And this is such a tragic event and loss, we really would prefer to push it off if we could but we can’t.

We did discuss tonight that the tentative schedule will be that we will open up for resumes, letters of interest, etc. starting next week. That will come out with a firm schedule at our next meeting next Wednesday. We will probably allow a ten to twelve-day time frame so that we have time to discuss it, review them, potentially bring in candidates to interview, and then with the possibility of even having a decision made by our October meeting.

We will definitely have a decision made before our November meeting so that we can hopefully seat the new person at either of those meetings.”

The board had already scheduled a special meeting next Wednesday, September 28th to hold the public budget hearing before approving the budget for the new fiscal year.

Beard says the board intends to add an action item to the agenda outlining the process and setting the time frame for candidates to apply. He says with this being an election year, the need to find a replacement can become a bit more problematic.

Steve’s seat would have been up and we really kind of anticipated that he would have run for reelection. So the discussion has been to whether we will give preference to someone who’s not running versus someone who may be running.

Some people have that sense that seating someone on the board who is interested in running for the board may have a little conflict or be given a little bit of an edge.”

Tentatively the board has set aside Wednesday, October 12th as the date they will call a special meeting to meet with any candidates and even possibly make a decision.

Because of the close proximity to the election this year and the short length of term left to serve, the board is allowed to appoint someone to fill the position for the remainder of the term.

Discussion on the matter was held during the committee of the whole meeting. The board then opened the regular business meeting with a moment of silence for Steve Cantrell, followed by a few moments of board members sharing their thoughts and memories of Steve before moving on to the stated business.

The special meeting to approve the budget and officially set guidelines for filling the open seat will be held in the Central Office Meeting Room on West State Street beginning at 5:00 pm next Wednesday.

Early Morning Blaze Marks 10th Suspicious Vacant Structure Fire Since 2021

No one was injured when a vacant house on Jacksonville’s northeast side caught fire early this morning.

The Jacksonville Fire Department was called to the scene of a structure fire at 408 North Fayette Street at 5:00 am today.

According to a report, firefighters witnessed a large amount of fire at the rear of the structure on arrival and were able to quickly bring the fire under control containing the blaze to the rear of the structure.

Fire Chief Doug Sills says the fire is being deemed as suspicious as no utilities were active at the home which had been unoccupied at the time.

We’re still trying to make contact with the owner to try and determine if there was insurance on the property or not. There was evidence on the second floor of the residence of some active squatting going on. Some information received from a neighbor that he had seen some people coming and going but not here recently.”

No estimate of losses was available as of press time. A cause of the fire has not been determined yet and investigators from the Office of the State Fire Marshall have been called in.

The fire is now the 10th in a long string of suspicious fires in the northeastern part of the city dating back to last year when a pair of neighboring vacant houses on North Main Street burned in separate incidents in May and November.

Suspicious fires have occurred on West Lafayette, and North East Street, with two separate fires on Farrell Street, and today’s fire is within eyesight of a home that was burned at 603 North Fayette in March of this year.

In each case, no electricity, gas, or water was hooked up to structures and each had been unoccupied for an extended period of time.

Sills continues to ask the public to be vigilant and if you have vacant or unoccupied houses in your area to keep an eye on them and notify authorities if you see people coming and going that shouldn’t be there.

Anyone with any information on any of these fires is urged to leave an anonymous tip with Morgan, Scott, Cass County Crime Stoppers at 217-243-7300.

Chandlerville, Virginia Among Departments Called to Rural Structure Fire Tuesday Night

Multiple fire departments responded to a structure fire in Mason County last night.

According to a report from Chandlerville Fire Department Assistant Chief Cory Simpson this afternoon, they received a call of a structure fire at 8:18 pm Tuesday at a rural residence on county road 300 North in Mason County.

Simpson says the Bath Fire Department was paged out at the same time for mutual aid and upon arrival, the multilevel residence was already engulfed in flames.

Mutual aid for manpower and water was requested from the Havana Rural, Kilbourne, and Virginia fire departments, and suppression activities began and a water shuttle operation was established. 

Simpson says in spite of temperatures in the mid-’90s and a rural setting the blaze was quickly brought under control that was then followed by an extensive overhaul operation.

No one was injured in the incident and the cause of the fire remains under investigation. Simpson says the mutual aid partners were invaluable for operating in the rural environment and they feel fortunate to be surrounded by so many amazing fire departments.

Jacksonville to Benefit from ARPA Funds Sent to Two Rivers Land Bank

The Two Rivers Land Bank got a boost from the City of Jacksonville last week that will help to mitigate vacant and blighted properties.

The Jacksonville City Council approved a request by the city’s Director of Community Development Brian Nyberg for $200,000.00 in funds to be put into the land bank.

The money going into the land bank is a portion of the more than $2 million in American Rescue Plan Funding that was awarded to the city by the federal government last summer.

Nyberg says the increased funding heading into the Two Rivers land bank is a big win for both the city and Morgan County. “The purpose of the land bank is to help cities and municipalities and counties deal with the vacant and abandoned properties that we have. And we all have them, it’s not just Jacksonville, I mean it’s everywhere.

In Jacksonville that has been my top priority to help clean up and do something with these vacant and abandoned properties, and the main goal is to get with them before they need to be demolished and back on the tax rolls. Which would be good for the city for the county.

The payments that go for your property taxes, that umbrella, goes for schools, it goes for the police department, fire department, all of the things under that property tax umbrella. So this is a win for the city and the county.”

Nyberg says that even though the land bank is shared between Jacksonville, Quincy, Morgan, and Adams Counties, any money put into the land bank by the city, stays in Jacksonville. “That will go into the land bank and pay for the method to get clear title from these properties that have delinquent taxes. They have liens on them. There has actually been a few properties we’ve had gifted so that makes that process even better and that money from those properties will go back into the land bank.

It starts with attorney fees and it goes to clearing out the liens and settling any judgments, any delinquent property taxes. A lot of the properties we look at are already going through the tax abatement process, and that’s actually this month. So we do have a few properties that we have interceded with the property tax redemption.”

Nyberg says the land bank is also getting a boost from state funding as well. “The Illinois Housing Development Authority has already paid for a lot of what attorneys are doing for land banks. And they just signed on for another two years to pay for a lot of the stuff we are doing through the land bank.

So good things are happening. Look for multiple properties to be on the land bank website. That should be happening very quickly. There’s already a couple of properties on there from Quincy that were donated to the City of Quincy, and we will have the same thing coming up very shortly.”

More information about the Two Rivers Land Bank including properties available for sale can be found at

Morgan County Man Injured in Single Vehicle Crash in Missouri Sunday

A Morgan County man was injured in a single-vehicle crash in Missouri over the weekend.

According to a report by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, 58-year-old Paul W. Curtis was traveling westbound on Missouri State Highway 154 just south of Pike County Road in Pike County, Missouri at approximately 9:15 Sunday morning.

The report indicates that for an unknown reason, Curtis’ vehicle traveled off of the right side of the roadway, and began to skid after returning to the roadway which caused the vehicle to cross the center line and travel off the left side of the road where the front of the vehicle struck the ground causing it to overturn.

Curtis was transported by ambulance to Hannibal Regional Hospital with moderate injuries. The report indicates Curtis’ truck was totaled in the crash. No information on his current status or any possible citation was included in the report.

Longest Tenured Dist 117 School Board Member Passes

Jacksonville School District 117 is mourning the loss of a school board member.

According to an announcement by Morgan County Coroner Marcy Patterson this morning, her office regrets to announce the passing of Jacksonville School District Board Member Steven Cantrell.

Patterson says Steve Cantrell died suddenly of natural causes Tuesday evening. She says thoughts and prayers from everyone in her office go out to his friends, family, and the entire community.

In a statement released this morning, District 117 Superintendent Steve Ptacek said he has trouble finding the right words to accurately convey how heartbroken and saddened he and the members of the school board are by the tremendous loss.

Steve Cantrell was the longest-tenured member of the current District 117 school board having served continuously since 2007.

Steve was also a keystone leader for the Dreams Center Foundation and its fundraising food truck, which could always be found at many events such as the downtown concert series, Morgan County Fair, and more.

Steve could also be found leading the charge in preparing concessions for Jacksonville High School games at both The Bowl and Kraushaar-Rosenberger Football Field.

Ptacek says those that were fortunate to know Steve Cantrell are going to miss his wit, charm, dedication, and positive spirit. Services for Steve Cantrell have not yet been announced at this time.

Mr. Ptacek’s full comments can be found below:

Good morning, 

I am having trouble finding the right words to accurately convey how heartbroken and saddened the JSD117 school board members and I are with the loss of our beloved colleague, partner, and friend, Steve Cantrell.   

Steve served this community in many, many different ways, including serving as a caring, student-focused board member since 2007.  Steve always put service to others first; he had a powerful, positive impact on so many people throughout this entire region.  

Those that were fortunate to know him are going to miss his wit, charm, dedication, and positive spirit. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this tough time.

Steve Ptacek

V.R. Escape Room and Ax Throwing Range Just Some of the Plans for “The Plaza” Marketplace Opening Soon in Former Elliot Bank Building

A Jacksonville couple is breathing new life into a long-forgotten bank building in downtown Jacksonville.

John and Rachel Rohn, owners of both the Fitness World Health Club & Sports Complex and K’s Creek Golf Club & Kitchen 63 have purchased the former Elliot State Bank building located at 73 East Central Park Plaza.

John Rohn says what will soon be known as “The Plaza” will bring a new indoor marketplace setting into all areas of the former bank.

So our vision for the property is kind of a mixed-use development, really kind of playing off what others have been doing successfully downtown over the last decade or so. Which is taking new storefronts and breathing new life into them. Obviously, this is a big, big, BIG new storefront.

But we are looking to develop some retail space on the main floor, some office and professional space on the second floor of the building. All told there will be several suites available to rent in about 30,000 square feet of space, sometime over the next 60 to 90 days if construction timelines and city approvals go okay.”

Rohn says visitors to The Plaza will enter from the Central Park side and into a shopping area that looks like a walk down Main Street with shop facades that look like individual store buildings. He says it is he and Rachel’s hope that bringing new life to the long-shuttered building will help not just their tenants, but all of the businesses in the downtown area.

We have so many great places down there whether it be to eat or to shop, so we want to bring in complementary storefronts into this place that can all help play off of each other. And like I said in my Facebook post, a phrase I use all the time is that the rising tide lifts all boats.

And we just want to be one more boat that goes up when the tide goes up, and hopefully, if we do good then everyone else around us has more good come to them because of it. That’s what really gives us the satisfaction behind wanting to take on another crazy project.”

A new coat of paint started going onto the exterior of the building this week. Rohn says overall the building is in great shape with several of the big problem projects already completed.

He says their number one goal when they first looked at the building though was to find out if there was any way possible to restore the exterior back to its former glory.

That exostructure that was placed on the building back in the ’80s, unfortunately, destroyed the facade underneath. In fact, in some places, the old storefronts are just gone in general. So while we can’t remove that or do anything with that, that does provide a superstructure as far as the structural integrity of the building that is there now.

The other great thing is that when Mike Hayes saved it from being demolished two years ago, he went ahead and put a roof on the building. So with those two things intact and the bank abated the asbestos in the building, so there’s really no more big scary things left to tackle.

It’s a lot of cleanout, it’s a lot of carpet, walls, paint, ceilings and such. And then restoring some of the integrity of what was there from days gone by, if nothing else, on the interior.”

Rohn says once renovations are complete, he and Rachel will be opening the first business inside The Plaza as a way to break the seal and show other business owners there will be traffic coming through the area.

He says the space allows for one of Rachel’s longstanding ideas to become a reality, so along with their new manager Brian Davenport, The Plaza will be home to the V.R. Escape Room, and The Vault Ax Throwing Center.

He says it’s their hope that the new venture will be up and running in the next 60 to 90 days.

Youth Football Coach Charged with Theft of Funds from Team Account, Defrauding Local Family

A Pike County youth football coach was arrested on theft charges this week.

According to a press release this afternoon from the Pittsfield Police Department, on Tuesday officers arrested 25-year-old Matthew J. Robinson of Pittsfield.

According to the report, the arrest is the result of an investigation into suspicious purchases made from a checking account belonging to the Pittsfield Saukee Youth Football Club.

Robinson was the head football coach for the team and according to the report, allegedly used the club’s checking account to make unauthorized purchases.

The investigation revealed that over $3,000.00 in personal purchases and checks were written to family members on the youth football account. Robinson allegedly endorsed and cashed the checks, then kept the cash.

The Pittsfield Police Department also alleges that Robinson was employed by a local business that donated services to a family in rural Pittsfield that suffered a house fire. Robinson is accused of defrauding the family after he allegedly collected money from them for the services provided when the business had donated them to the family.

Robinson was arrested for one count of felony theft and one count of misdemeanor theft in connection to the two incidents. He was booked into the Pike County Jail and has since posted bond and been released.

A preliminary hearing has been set for September 27th at 1:00 pm in Pike County Court.

Griggsville Man Arrested for String of Fires at Pike County Livestock Business

A Pike County man is being held on charges related to a string of recent arson indents.

According to a press release by Pike County Sheriff David Greenwood this afternoon, his office along with the Office of the State Fire Marshal executed a court-authorized search warrant yesterday at a residence located in the 700 block of North Chandler Street in Griggsville and arrested 37-year-old Travis T. McDonald on charges of arson and criminal damage to property over $100,000.00.

The charges against McDonald stem from a continued investigation into a string of fires at Lynch’s Livestock located 2 ½ miles north of Griggsville on State Highway 107. The main building of the business was completely destroyed by an early morning fire this past Monday, September 12th.

Multiple Fire Departments responded to the fire and according to a report, a small building at the back of the hog buying station was able to be saved from the blaze.

Greenwood says at approximately 6:00 am Wednesday, Pike County Dispatch received a call of another structure fire at Lynch’s Livestock. This time the west building of Lynch’s Livestock was on fire.

Firefighters were called back to the property again Thursday at 5:00 pm after Pike County Dispatch received a call of a truck tractor semi-trailer that was fully engulfed in flames while parked at Lynch’s Livestock.

Greenwood says in the press release that the Office of the State Fire Marshal was called to the scene of each fire, and after continued investigation this week, detectives believe that McDonald was not only responsible for the fires at Lynch’s Livestock, but “for setting other fires in prior months in the same area.”

A criminal complaint was filed in Pike County Court today on McDonald who now faces three class 2 felony counts of arson, two class two felony counts of criminal damage to property less than $100,000.00 in value, and one class 4 felony charge of criminal damage to property valued between $500 and $10,000.00.

Court records do not indicate as of press time when McDonald will next appear in court. He is being held at the Pike County Jail. Sheriff Greenwood says an investigation remains underway and additional charges against McDonald are pending.