Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is warning customers to be wary of services that provide money in the form of loans in anticipation of an income tax refund.
Madigan says these tax-anticipation loans are in essence short-term, high-cost loans the burden consumers with high interest rates and fees that are deducted from their tax refund. Madigan says in many cases, the refund doesn't get to the consumer any faster because the tax service still has to wait for the IRS to process the return and deposit the funds.
Madigan also cautions consumers to be aware of the possibility of identity theft through phone calls claiming to be from IRS agents.
Normal Fire Department reminds you that when it’s time to "spring forward" the clocks on Sunday, March 9, make sure to change the batteries in all of your smoke alarms. If batteries were recently changed, it's still very important to test every smoke alarm in your home. It could save your life!
In 2013 in the United States alone, 2,392 citizens were killed in house fires. 323 of those lives lost were children. While this number shows a slight overall decrease from years past, many of these fire deaths occurred in homes without working smoke detectors -- largely because of removed or dead batteries.
Fire Chief Mick Humer urges everyone to make sure they have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms in their homes.
“A fire doubles in size every thirty to sixty seconds. A working smoke alarm will give you and your family those few extra seconds to get out and stay out of your home,” said Humer. “Checking your smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarm and changing the batteries is one of the simplest things you can do to protect your family.”
Public Education Officer Matt Swaney added that very few deaths in a house fire are actually caused by the flames themselves.
“Smoke is usually what kills fire victims, not the fire. You will not wake up to the smell of smoke! The chemicals in the smoke actually put you in a deeper sleep. Without the sound of the smoke alarm to wake you up, you inhale these chemicals and they can kill you in a matter of a few breaths.”
In a fire, you have less than three minutes to escape. If you don’t have a working smoke alarm, your chances of surviving until firefighters arrive are slim.
Firefighters say fresh batteries make all the difference and that you should replace smoke alarm batteries at least once a year. Even if the batteries seem fine, you should still do it anyway.
If you have smoke alarms with a long-life lithium battery, it is still important to check them monthly and make sure to replace them when they start to chirp. Even if your smoke alarms are hardwired into your home, you still need to replace the batteries so the alarms continue to function in case of a power outage.
When you’re checking the detectors, it is also a good time to check to make sure you have the adequate number of detectors for your home. At a bare minimum, you should have a smoke alarm on each floor of your home, as well as in the common area and in each bedroom. Interconnected smoke detectors provide the best protection by sounding all alarms in the home simultaneously when smoke is detected.
Smoke alarms do not last forever. The maximum life span is 8-10 years. After that time, the entire unit should be replaced. If the unit does not respond properly when tested, it should be replaced immediately.
PONTIAC – A Pontiac woman was pronounced dead at the scene of a crash south of town Wednesday evening.
Shandell F. Knittle, 32, reportedly crossed the median of Interstate 55 and collided with a semi tractor trailer. Staff from Duffy Ambulance and the Pontiac Fire Department initially responded to the scene and found Knittle without signs of life.
A District Six State Police crash reconstructionist is investigating the incident and an autopsy has been ordered by the Livingston County Coroner’s Office.
BLOOMINGTON – McLean County Coroner Beth Kimmerling has released more details in the death of a 22-year-old Bloomington man who was struck by a pickup truck near Arrowsmith earlier this week.
Curt S. Mocilan’s autopsy revealed multiple blunt force injuries to the chest and lower extremities as the immediate cause of death. Forensic toxicology tests will be ordered. Kimmerling says Mocilan was dressed in a dark hooded jacket and jeans and was facing the pickup when he was struck.
The circumstances surrounding why he was on the road and his possible direction of travel continue to be investigated by the McLean County Sheriff’s Department and Coroner’s Office.
PONTIAC – The four men hoping to be the next Livingston County sheriff did more than just outline plans for the department during a candidate forum in Pontiac Tuesday night.
All four distanced themselves from former sheriff Marty Meredith, who resigned following an investigation into alleged misconduct.
“Mr. Meredith will not be a part of my administration, period,” said Jack Wiser.
“I can’t believe anybody has taken funds from Mr. Meredith possibly. But, there’s no way I would even consider him in any position at the sheriff’s department,” added Mark Scott.
“First of all, I’ve received nothing – zero – from Mr. Meredith nor would he be in my administration,” replied Marvin Rutledge.
“Mr. Meredith would have no place in my administration,” stated Tony Childress.
Scott pointed to his years serving on the Livingston County Emergency Response Unit and the Livingston County Pro-Active Unit. He also said he is not a politician and tells the truth.
“There’ll be no political favors repaid. I won’t sell my soul to this or any position.”
Rutledge touted his many years in law enforcement, eight of which he served as Livingston County sheriff. He believes the officers of the department need leadership and ability. Rutledge also revealed plans to submit a carefully-crafted budget to the county board.
“I will lead by example,” he said.
Childress said his service to the county has been ongoing, seamless and continuous. He believes being the current chief deputy is the ultimate preparation to be the next sheriff.
“I’ve been considered tough but fair. I will maintain an up-to-date social media presence. Our effort to combat illegal drugs will continue.”
Wiser pointed to his knowledge of the county by working for the Livingston County Sheriff’s Department and Fairbury Police over the years. He thinks K-9 units are an excellent tool and wants to develop a resource officer to work with the schools in the county.
“I have zero tolerance for drugs. I always have, I always will,” stated Wiser.
A tense moment came during the closing comments when Scott tried to distance himself from the other candidates on stage.
“I’ve played by the rules folks. I’ve never filed bankruptcy. I’ve never walked out of prison for refusing to submit to a search for a drug test. I’ve never been arrested on a Livingston County warrant,” Scott said.
“I’ve never got the endorsement of (former sheriff) Marty Meredith. All of the candidates here cannot say those things.”
Tuesday’s candidate forum at Pontiac Township High School was sponsored by the Livingston County Farm Bureau’s Legislative Committee and The Central Illinois Farm Network daily ag news website.
Listen to highlights from the sheriff forum in the WEDNESDAY NEWSCAST.
PONTIAC – The four candidates for Livingston County sheriff revealed plans for keeping rural areas safe during a candidate forum at Pontiac Township High School Tuesday night, sponsored by the Livingston County Farm Bureau and The Central Illinois Farm Network.
Mark Scott said he would try to keep deputies out on the streets the best he can and utilize the proper personnel.
“It’s a huge county. We just have to do the best we can.”
Marvin Rutledge would look to see if there is a way to get more patrols throughout the rural areas while Tony Childress proposed in-car computers to increase patrol times in the county.
“My plan will be to bring new technology to Livingston County,” Childress said.
Jack Wiser proposed sheriff’s police sub-stations in areas such as Dwight, Fairbury and South Streator. He expressed cost concerns over computers in squad cars.
“You’re keeping your cars in patrol areas at a fraction of the cost.”
FAIRBURY – Central Illinois saw more weather extremes during the month of February, according to weather records from the Central Illinois Farm Network headquarters in southern Livingston County.
Several weather systems brought rain, freezing rain and snow to the region – something we’re getting quite used to around here. Snowfall totaled 19 inches for the month, with three inches of snow on Feb. 1 followed by a six-inch snowfall on Feb. 4. Also, a four-inch snow was measured on Feb. 17. A two-inch rainfall on Feb. 20 resulted in localized flooding and there were even reports of dense fog.
The average high for the month was 23.6 with an average low of just 7.5 degrees. The highest temperature of 43 on Feb. 20 felt like a heat wave and the coldest temperature of -22 was measured on Feb. 11.
This was a much different weather scenario compared to Feb. 2013 when the average high was 34 and the average low was a mild 25 with only four inches of snow falling.
ARROWSMITH – A 22-year-old Bloomington resident is dead after being struck by a pickup truck near McLean County roads 1300 North and 3300 East near Arrowsmith.
McLean County Coroner Beth Kimmerling says dispatchers received a call shortly after 5 a.m. Sunday in reference to a pedestrian struck by a pickup. Upon their arrival, rescue personnel observed that the pedestrian, Curt S. Mocilan, had no obvious signs of life. The pickup driver was not injured and preliminary evidence indicates the driver was traveling north on 3300 East when he struck Mocilan.
The McLean County Sheriff’s Department and Coroner’s Office continue to investigate why Mocilan was on the roadway at the time. Kimmerling says Mocilan was married and the father of two small children. Poor visibility at the time of the incident and the color of clothing may have played a factor in the death. More information is expected to be released Monday afternoon.
PONTIAC – The Pontiac Area Chamber of Commerce has named the Business Person of the Year, Volunteer of the Year and Agri-business Person of the Year.
The agri-business award went to Kurt Lauritzen, while Marlon Eilts was named Volunteer of the Year and Bill Kauffman was named Business Person of the Year.
All three men will be honored during the upcoming Pontiac Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet this month. The three were surprised with the award announcements recently at Elliott’s Corner Junction in Pontiac.
CHICAGO – Illinois State Police announced Friday that 5,000 Concealed Carry License (CCL) applications have been approved and are ready to be printed and mailed. The department will begin mailing the licenses and will continue to issue licenses as they are approved. Concealed Carry Licenses will be printed and mailed on a daily basis.
“This collaborative process offers the multiple layers of scrutiny envisioned by the legislature, and we believe that the law enforcement objections provide for enhanced public safety,” State Police Colonel Marc Maton said.
Illinois State Police representatives were joined today by Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg), Sen. Gary Forby (D-Benton), Illinois Association Chiefs of Police Executive Director John Kennedy, and Concealed Carry License Review Board (CCLRB) Chair Robinzina Bryant.
Officials provided the first glimpse of the actual license, which is approximately three by two inches and is centered with an ISP security hologram.
Each Concealed Carry License application requires the applicant to possess a valid Firearms Owner’s Identification card (FOID), or to apply for a FOID in conjunction with the CCL, to begin the application process. Background checks are simultaneously conducted by State Police while local law enforcement agencies review the applications for objections.
Once objections are compiled, the CCLRB has 30 days to review the information regarding any application that has not been statutorily denied by the ISP. If the ISP determines there is a statutory reason to deny or the CCLRB determines that the applicant poses a danger to him/herself or threat to public safety, State Police must notify the applicant in writing of the denial. All final administrative decisions are subject to judicial review under the provisions of the Administrative Review law.
Since the process began, State Police have received more than 50,000 applications and objected to more than 800. To date, no objection has been appealed.
“Our diverse investigative, legal, and mental health experience provides this important process and applicants with a fair path to obtaining a concealed carry license,” CCLRB Chair Robinzina Bryant said. “The board will use every resource and necessary time extension to ensure that the reviews have been conducted fairly and thoroughly.”
Visit the State Police Concealed Carry website http://www.isp.state.il.us/ for the latest updates on the Illinois Concealed Carry program.
Prairie Central Junior High School could soon be harvesting the wind.
Science teacher Scott Saffer and his wife Carolyn appeared before members of the Prairie Central Board of Education Thursday night (Feb. 20) to announce that a grant application has been submitted for a wind turbine.
The educational, small scale turbine would be partially funded through a grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation worth approximately $40,000 which would cover the turbine cost. Saffer said he is working closely with Kankakee Community College on the initiative, since one of his friends is a professor there.
The partnership gives students at the college the chance to do something that is an actual application.
“They get their certifications and they’ll do it for us at cost because he runs his own business. That saves us a fortune,” said Saffer.
According to a wind turbine site assessment report prepared for PCJHS, the school will also seek funding through other grants and in-kind donations of labor and materials. The school would like to install as large a turbine as possible given the budget of $40,000.
Under Saffer’s guidance, the school has implemented several other environmental projects, including a plot of native prairie grass and a community garden. Plans are also in the works for a wetland area with native species.
The turbine would be used together with a small solar array to generate a database for the study of renewable energy and energy cycles as part of the STEM curriculum.
“This has been several months in the works,” explained PCJHS principal Tonya Dieken.
“This sounds to me minimally risky,” added Superintendent Dr. John Capasso.
The grant application was just submitted and it could be three months before the status is known.
Also at the Prairie Central school board meeting, the group decided to apply for an “Act of God” designation so additional school days would not be required beyond the five emergency days figured into the current school year. This puts the last day of student attendance at June 4 with the final day for teachers June 5.
As of Thursday’s meeting, the district has used seven emergency days this winter.
“In 20 years as a superintendent, I’ve never had this happen before,” said Capasso.
Capasso finds it hard to believe that the “Act of God” designation could be refused since most area districts are in the same boat as Prairie Central. He estimates 80-90 percent of the schools have used over five emergency days.
In other business, the board:
-Was reminded of the McLean County sales tax question on the March ballot. Several informational presentations are planned in the Chenoa area.
-Learned that the district has collected about 48 percent of categorical payments as of January, but has lost $1.7 million over three years.
-Approved a bus fuel bid for Evergreen FS at $3.36 per gallon for 46,000 gallons.
PONTIAC – Last week’s death at the Limestone Rest Area near Pontiac is being called an isolated matter with no foul play suspected by the Livingston County Coroner’s office.
William S. Leavitt, 61, of Glencoe reportedly died from a self-inflicted gunshot.