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Greene County Man Facing Charges in Brown for Sending Unwanted Pics

A Green County man faces charges in Brown County after he sent pictures of himself via social media.

According to a report by the Journal-Courier, 30-year-old William W. Carey of Eldred is being held on a felony charge of cyberstalking, after he allegedly sent photos of his genitalia to a woman via Facebook Messenger twice.

Brown County State’s Attorney Michael Hill told the Courier that “while the charge is fairly uncommon in the region”, he feels there will be more of these types of cases due to the wide availability of social media.

Carey is currently being lodged in the Schuyler County Jail on a $15,000 bond. He is due in Brown County Court for a preliminary hearing on September 27th. If found guilty Carey could face probation, up to three years in prison.

Crime Stoppers Seeking Info on Recent Woodson Vehicle Break-ins

Crime Stoppers of Morgan, Scott & Cass Counties are requesting information to assist the Murrayville-Woodson Police Department in their continued investigation of several vehicle break-ins that occurred during the overnight hours last weekend.

Police reported that between the hours of 11 PM and 4 AM Friday and Saturday, 8 unlocked vehicles at various locations throughout Woodson were reported to have been rummaged through.

A white 2006 Chevrolet Equinox was stolen, while another vehicle had $2,500 in cash stolen from inside. Various amounts of cash were taken from the remaining vehicles. In all, approximately $3,000 was stolen.

The police are asking that anyone who has information concerning this incident or any other crimes within the three-county area submit a tip online by going to

morganscottcrimestoppers.webs.com and clicking the leave a tip button on the home page or by calling Crime Stoppers at 243-7300.

Crime Stoppers reminds that if your tip leads to an arrest, you are eligible for a cash payout. Tips may also be submitted by texting 274637 (CRIMES). The first word of the text tip must be “payout”.

Ptacek: Dist 117 Has No Other Option Than to Follow Mandate

Jacksonville School District 117’s only option is to comply with the state’s testing mandate.

That was the core response by District Superintendent Steve Ptacek to a recent letter sent to the school board stating that the state’s mandating of weekly testing of unvaccinated staff is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The letter was signed by 29 staff and more than 60 concerned citizens who asked for their voices to be heard for a possible solution to the matter.

Several members of the small crowd gathered at the meeting voiced those concerns after Ptacek read his written response to the letter. Ptacek says the district respects individuals on both sides of the issue.

He says he personally as well as the district as a whole regularly receives communications saying that the district is not doing enough and should force vaccinations, all the way to any mitigation efforts are a violation of civil rights.

Ptacek says after speaking with legal counsel and insurance representatives, the district has no other option than to follow the mandates laid out by the state.

The point I was trying to make tonight is that this is an executive order that is carrying the weight of the removal of our recognition status behind it. We are not taking a political stance, we will remain politically neutral. But at this point in time, we have no option other than to follow that executive order.

Very different from the mask mandate which based upon last year’s success with masks and social distancing, we made a decision to mandate masks before the executive order. This current executive order about vaccination and testing, I can guarantee I would not have brought that to our school board as an option. We didn’t need it last year and we were successful.

But at this point in time after spending the last couple of weeks in in-depth meetings and discussions with multiple attorneys and multiple groups, and how the legislature is actually empowering ISBE to make even more decisions currently in the last couple days, we don’t have an option.”

Ptacek says the district will follow the mandates because that is the way the district honors its fiduciary responsibility to its taxpayers.

Ptacek says currently the executive order by Governor J.B. Pritzker, and the F.A.Q. of that order states clearly there are no religious exemptions for testing, however, there still are exemptions for vaccination. He says from the state’s position they are not honoring religious exemptions on testing nor would they honor any if District 117 allowed the exemptions.

He says he is frustrated that the mandates have put school districts on the front line of the legal arguments when the State of Illinois and public officials should be the ones facing and answering those questions.

I do think that the Governor’s Office, IDPH, ISBE have placed school districts in an absolutely horrible position by being the ones that are shouldering the legal burden of many of these questions such as can a county health department quarantine beyond forty-eight hours, as was done in Adams County and Macoupin County.

And now this issue of what does exclusion mean under the executive order, when quite honestly those issues could be solved at the governor level or the legislature level, and they’re in session.

So I am pleading our governor, our legislature to do some small changes that clarify those issues and put the districts in a much more defensible position in following mandates that we did not create.”

Ptacek says the district’s legal counsel has advised that if the district were to allow an exemption for testing, mask-wearing, and the like that went against the mandates, someone suing the district due to the spread of the virus would have a much greater chance in court than someone suing over personal rights.

He says their insurance company advisers have also stated since the beginning of the pandemic that if the district does not follow the recommendations outlined by the State of Illinois, the district’s insurance would not cover any claims or legal filings brought against the district.

He says regardless of what the personal beliefs of any member of the district is, District 117 has no other choice than to follow the mandates, and he hopes the state will clarify these issues for everyone involved as soon as possible.

Below is the full statement from Steve Ptacek:

Good afternoon,


This week we received a letter from a group of staff and community members concerned with the implementation of the Governor’s Executive Order 2021-20 mandating that all district staff provide proof of vaccination or are weekly tested for the virus.

A number of those concerned individuals attended last night’s Board of Education meeting. At the meeting I read a written response to that letter. I want to thank those that attended for bringing their concerns to the Board, for their willingness to listen to my response, for asking poignant questions in a respectful manner, and for allowing me to respond to those questions.

Based on the conversations we had last night, I have added some further information into this response that I am sharing with the entire community.

You can find the letter on our public board book page linked below. If you scroll to the “State Update” section of the agenda, it is listed as “Employee Statement on Testing”.

Before I begin my response to this communication, I want to note that as of our last tally, 83.6% of our staff is vaccinated. That is an incredibly high percentage compared to other employers, school districts throughout the state, and most communities.

https://meetings.boardbook.org/Public/Agenda/1241?meeting=494421

This letter was signed by 26 of the over 630 full time or year-round contractual employees the district hires. Given that this is less than 4% of our staff, and that over 83% of our staff are vaccinated, this letter does not represent the “voice” of our staff. Also, the Governor’s Executive Order has the support of both the IEA and IFT teachers’ unions. Many, if not most, teachers see this as an way to make their work environment safer.

I need to clarify several issues that were mentioned in this letter for both the Board and the community.

First, there isn’t any “wiggle room” on this issue as argued in the letter. The reality is that if we do not follow this Executive Order we risk the very real possibility of having our recognition status removed by the ISBE. Public school districts that defied the previous Executive Order on mask mandates were placed on probation.

Forty-two of those districts changed their stance and are now requiring masks; four public schools are currently still on probation and will very likely lose their recognition status when the probation period elapses. Private schools do not need any probation period and the ISBE has removed the recognition status of nine private schools.

Losing recognition status has adverse implications for all districts including the loss of accredited diplomas and the loss of athletics, but public schools face other severe consequences including the loss of funding, both state and local.

This week, there is proposed legislation to expand the authority of the ISBE to enforce public health guidelines in schools. This will make it easier for the ISBE to revoke recognition status. It also allows other sanctions such as mandating a move to full remote instruction until a district can prove it will follow health mandates.

At the meeting last night, I stated that I don’t think our entire community will support a move to full remote in defiance of this Executive Order. In serving the interest of the entire community, we must follow the Order.

Here is a link to an article on this issue:

https://newschannel20.com/news/local/new-bill-would-solidify-isbes-authority-to-revoke-recognition

Let me restate that there is not any “wiggle room” on this issue.

While we did make the decision on masks, this new mandate is not our decision. Based on the success of our mask and social distancing protocols from last year, the JSD117 Board of Education and I were prepared to replicate our procedures this year in order to keep our students in school. The Board passed our mask mandate prior to the Governor issuing his Executive Order mandating masks.
 

However, the mask issue is very different from this new of vaccination or testing issue. We were successful last year without any vaccination or testing mandate; therefore, I would not have initiated this mandate.

Second, the letter argues that “… JSD117 has the moral obligation to protect the rights of its colleagues.” Others would argue that we have a moral obligation to keep our staff and students safe. This is not a clearly defined moral issue. It is entirely clouded in shades of gray because, on this issue, moral obligation is an abstract term that alters based on each individual’s beliefs and perceptions.

This summer, we issued a survey to all staff, students, and parents asking for their thoughts on mandating masks in our schools. The results from the survey reinforce the uncertainty of this moral debate. This community is split on the issue. The results were exactly 50/50.

We best serve our entire community by continuing to “stay in our lane” and not becoming involved in the larger political context. JSD117 will remain politically neutral. We do that by continuing to follow expected guidelines and protocols regardless of our personal opinions.

Third, the author of the letter doesn’t grasp that the school district does not determine the guidelines on quarantines and testing. As confirmed in both the recent Macoupin and Adams County Court rulings, school districts do not have the authority to quarantine students or staff. Quarantines are issued by the local health department. Testing requirements to stay or return to work are also determined by the local health department.

The author quotes the times that I have communicated to the staff or the community that individuals that are vaccinated do not need to be quarantined unless they start showing symptoms. The author includes the CDC guidelines and argues that I am not fully following the CDC guidelines in an attempt to show our practices have the “wiggle room” that would allow us to not follow the Executive Order. This is an attempt to argue that I am basically “picking and choosing” what CDC guidelines to follow.

What the author fails to realize is that our current protocols on who gets quarantined, when people can return from quarantine, and other factors such as testing requirements following exposure are all determined by the Morgan County Health Department. The MCHD has been amazing in developing protocols that have allowed JSD117 to stay in school. For the most part, we have agreed on how the State guidelines have been implemented, but when we have had any disagreement, Morgan County Health has made the final call.

We have consistently followed the guidelines as developed by our local health department.

Fourth, the author states that my comments are “coercive in nature”. Here are my statements from emails and Facebook posts quoted in the letter:

“Vaccinated individuals do not need to be quarantined if they are in close contact with a positive case. I feel this is extremely important information that everyone should know.”

“I need to add to the legend that if someone is vaccinated they do not need to quarantine if they are in close contact to a positive case or someone that has symptoms.”

“… We are working with Morgan County Health Department to offer vaccinations for our eligible students. This will be completely voluntary and will require parent permission. Doing this helps fulfill our goal of keeping students in school. The more students and staff vaccinated means a smaller number of quarantines.”

“Once again, fully vaccinated individuals will not need to be quarantined if they are in close contact with a positive case.”

I want to highlight that my comments are facts. They also directly relate to helping reduce our quarantines and keeping students and staff in school which has been our top priority since COVID began.

Also, the author chose to not include wording from each communication that demonstrates the intent to issue information and not coerce. The full paragraph from one of the above quotes is “I am not sending this to argue for vaccinations, I am simply informing the community on this important topic. We are working with Morgan County Health Department to offer vaccinations for our eligible students. This will be completely voluntary and will require parent permission.”

I work closely with several people that have chosen to not be vaccinated. I have demonstrated my respect and support for their decision on a routine basis.

The author of this letter has carefully “picked and chosen” the language to make a coercive but inaccurate argument.

Lastly, the author spends substantial time presenting their view on the science and legal ramifications behind this Executive Order. I have spent a tremendous amount of time in the last month discussing these issues with multiple attorneys. At this time, it is in our best legal interest to follow the Executive Order.

Regarding the science discussion, that isn’t in our lane. I will leave that discussion to the actual experts and to all of the other experts Facebook and Google have created.

Steve Ptacek

Suspect in Quincy Kidnapping Taken into Custody

The suspect in the kidnapping of a Quincy woman in July has been apprehended.

40-year-old Mario A. Mason of Memphis, Tennessee was located in Marshall County, Kentucky according to a report by WGEM.

Mason has been wanted by authorities since July 19th when the investigation began into the disappearance and alleged kidnapping of 36-year-old Tabitha Campbell of Quincy.

Campbell was located alive in Marked Tree, Arkansas on July 22nd, was evaluated by medical personnel, and returned to the Quincy area.

Mason was wanted on charges of kidnapping and domestic battery after he allegedly took Campbell by force from the Welcome Inn in the 200 block of Maine Street in Quincy.

According to the report, detectives located a stolen vehicle Mason had been driving was in Marshall County. Mason was taken into custody after an extensive search in a wooded area near where the vehicle was found in an adjacent subdivision.

Mason faces numerous charges in Kentucky and is also wanted for unspecified reasons in the state of Arkansas.

Authorities say though Mason will eventually be brought back to Adams County on the outstanding kidnapping warrant.

Mammogram Mondays to Help Under and Uninsured with Cancer Screenings in October

October is breast cancer awareness month and Passavant Area Hospital is making it easier for women to access screenings aimed at early detection.

Uninsured and underinsured women are encouraged to participate in Mammogram Mondays. During the month of October, screenings will be offered every Monday afternoon through the program.

Director of Community Health for Passavant, Lori Hartz says financial assistance is available and the program can even help those who do not have a primary care provider with making sure they have access to an annual screening.

A physician’s order is required for a mammogram, but one of the special programs that we are providing during the month of October is we can provide physician’s order by a physician at Passavant if the patient doesn’t have a primary care provider. So if that’s the case we would have them call our mammography department and they can help the patient make the arrangements to get that physician order.”

Hartz says new technology is allowing for increased comfort during screenings. She says Passavant is urging women to not put off getting a mammogram each year as early detection is key.

Breast cancer is one of the curable cancers that when detected early can be cured and that is the reason why the annual mammogram is so important. Because the technology today is so advanced it can detect markers of concern and follow-up measures can be made to detect any early signs of breast cancer. And when that happens the breast cancer is curable and people can lead normal productive lives.”

Mammogram Monday Screenings will be offered every Monday from 4 to 6 pm during the month of October. To find out more information or to schedule a screening, contact the Passavant Area Hospital Imaging Department via the switchboard at 217-245-9541.

Jacksonville Main Street in Running for $25,000 Prize in National Contest

Jacksonville Main Street is again asking for your vote, and hoping this time they can make it over the finish line.

Jacksonville Main Street is again in the running for the “Independent We Stand America’s Main Street Contest.” The national contest is sponsored by Stihl Inc., makers of outdoor power tools, as well as several other home improvement and construction material companies.

Executive Director of Jacksonville Main Street, Judy Tighe says the non-profit organization has entered the contest for approximately six years and always makes it to the finals but has yet to bring home the big prize.

The winner will receive $25,000 in cash and related prizes. Tighe says Jacksonville Main Street has several ideas for projects and winning the top prize would help to see those come to fruition as well as help with current projects already in place.

One of which being continuing to add to our mural collection. We already have concepts and artists lined up and ready to paint. I think this would make sure that those get done quickly, and then maybe we can move on and do another. It would also give us some good seed money for the concerts next year. And we also have some other beautification ideas and some business development ideas that we would like to put into place.”

From now until November 7th, online voting for the quarterfinals is underway. Voters can vote each day up to 25 times per 24 hour period from any one IP address.

Semi-final voting runs from November 15th to December 12th with the winning Main Street being announced on December 20th.

Tighe says the organization holding the contest is a movement made up of independently owned businesses across the country that is dedicated to educating their communities about the importance of local support.

Independent We Stand is actually in an organization that advocates for and provides a lot of resources actually for small businesses. They are big proponents of shop local, and really supportive of small business entrepreneurship.”

According to the announcement, the grand prize winner is selected from the top 10 vote-getters in the semi-final round by a panel of judges. Tighe says she hopes Jacksonville Main Street continues to make it to the finals and the judges get tired of seeing the name and will eventually honor Jacksonville with the prize.

To vote for Jacksonville Main Street in the Independent We Stand America’s Main Street Contest, go to www.mainstreetcontest.com/profile/24

Information will also be available on the Jacksonville Main Street website and Facebook page.

North Diamond Project Moves Forward

A section of road near Jacksonville High School will soon receive some much-needed improvements.

The Jacksonville City Council approved a bid for improvements to North Diamond Street last night. The work will focus along the area from West Walnut to the back entrance of the high school

Ward 4 Alderman Aaron Scott says the project has been in the works for some time and will add greater accessibility for the high school.

The project is going to involve resurfacing the road and then it will be stripped with bike lanes and such. They will redo the sidewalks, and actually, on the west side, it will end up with a new seven-foot-wide sidewalk that will go from Walnut all the way down past the high school, and there will be accessible ramps instead of curbs.”

Scott says thanks to grant funding, the project will come hopefully at little or no cost to the city.

Originally the city applied for one million dollars for this project and was awarded five hundred thousand in a D.C.E.O. Grant. It’s anticipated that the five hundred thousand will cover construction and engineering on the project. Unless there are some unforeseen circumstances that come up.”

K. E. Vas of Jacksonville was awarded the bid to complete the work. Scott says the plan is for the area to be accessible by both traffic and pedestrians during construction. Work is set to begin soon with the intent of having it completed by fall.

Portion of Walnut Street to Close Due to Sinking Pavement

Traffic along a section of West Walnut will be detoured soon in order to correct a sinking problem.

A portion of the street along West Walnut at the intersection of Prairie Street has been settling and needs to be corrected before the problem gets any worse.

During regular session last night, the Jacksonville City Council approved a bid of $127,127.27 from Rouland Construction and Trucking for the work to be completed.

Adam Fox with the engineering firm of Benton and Associates in Jacksonville says the section of road will have to be shut down completely due to what lays below the street.

We worked with IDOT over the last couple of months for permitting and preparing detour plans because the street will have to be closed down for a period of time. We are anticipating about a month of closure through there.

We will be excavating down through the existing subsurface materials down to the existing sixty-inch sanitary sewer there and determining if there is an issue there to take care of, or if not we will be backfilling back up with IDOT approved back fill materials and then doing a pavement patch on that street.”

The 60” sanitary sewer line is the main trunk that feeds to the Jacksonville Wastewater Treatment Plant just north of the location. Fox says the top of the pipe is 17 feet below the street making the process that much more difficult.

He says this project is similar in nature to work that was completed roughly a block east on Walnut when a similar issue happened near the JHS football field. He says in that instance, the problem was with the soil and not the sewer line.

We didn’t find anything wrong with that section of the sixty-inch sanitary that runs through there at that time, so that’s one of the things we are kind of watching for here is to determine is there an issue, is there not. Is it just that there was some inferior subsurface there that over time has settled. Is there something pulling it away that’s making it settle? A portion of the project is exploratory and to get then get the pavement surface back up to being smooth again.”

Fox says the contractor has estimated the project will take two weeks to complete, however a full month of shut down has been planned for the stretch of road. The total time will depend on what is found once the road is opened and the area inspected.

In other business last night, the council approved Petefish, Skiles, and Co. Bank as a depositor for the city. The bank based in Virginia, Illinois is opening a branch at the former PNC Bank building next to Dairy Queen on South Main Street. City Treasurer Ron Smiljanich made the request as well as for the former Jacksonville Savings Bank to be removed from the list.

Smiljanich says Jacksonville Savings Bank was still transitioning to CNB Bank the last time the list was updated.

The sale of certain surplus equipment was also approved, including a brush drop-off trailer, and two vesicles belonging to the police department.

Three resolutions involving TIF grant funding requests were pulled from the agenda and will be considered at the next City Council Meeting in two weeks.

South Jacksonville Reminding Residents of New Lawn Waste Ordinance, Park Closing This Week

With summer fading into fall, the Village of South Jacksonville is reminding residents of some upcoming changes in regard to outdoor maintenance.

The Village Board of Trustees passed a new ordinance last week that prohibits residents from disbursing lawn clippings and other yard waste into the street in South Jacksonville.

Public Works Superintendent John Green says the ordinance was put in place to help keep the village’s storm sewers from plugging up which has become an increasing problem over the years. He says the ordinance will also help to keep streets safer in the village for those traveling on motorcycles.

Green says it is his hope that the fall leaf pick-up program will be offered this year, however, nothing is set in stone just yet.

Last year the program was not able to be offered as the Illinois Department of Corrections continued prohibiting inmates from performing work crew duties due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Green also wants the public to know that Godfrey Park will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday this week. He says his department will be spraying inside the park so it will be off-limits those two days to help keep children from getting into those areas.

The park will reopen Friday. He also reminds that although temperatures have climbed over the last week, the Splash Pad closed for the season following Labor Day.

Morgan County Closes FY 2020

The Morgan County Commissioners met in regular sessions this morning, bringing an end to FY 2021.

Final payables for FY 2021 totaling $48,149.56 were approved during a brief Commissioners meeting this morning. Chairwoman Ginny Fanning said during the meeting, a portion of those funds are going back into the community.

Part of that for the fiscal year includes our general assistance, they have yearly donations. So they give $10,000 budgeted each year for MCS, $5,000 for the Prairie Council on Aging, and $5,000 to West Central Mass Transit. Those were all included at the close of the fiscal year 2021.”

FY 2022 beginning bills were also approved paid for the amount of $30,554.86. Included in the amount was an annual general assistance contribution to the Jacksonville Food Center of $12,000.

Commissioner Brad Zeller thanked the efforts made by the Morgan County Clerk’s and Treasurer’s Offices to close out bills for the previous year and getting the new cycle started in a quick fashion.

In other business, the commissioners approved a resolution to purchase a new tractor and boom mower for the Morgan County Highway Department. Director Matt Coultas says the new unit will replace a 2011 tractor that has over 6,000 hours on it.

He says the brush tractor gets some of the most use of any of the highway department’s equipment. Coultas also informed the Commissioners that the county’s oil and chip program has been completed for the season, and he expects final pavement marker placement will be completed by mid-week.