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Environmental groups sue over Illiana Expressway approval

Illinois environmental groups have filed a lawsuit over the proposed Illiana Expressway. The claim is that federal approval relied on faulty information and didn't adequately consider environmental impacts.

The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago on behalf of Openlands, the Midewin Heritage Association and the Sierra Club.

It claims the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration and Illinois and Indiana officials relied on inflated population, job and traffic forecasts to justify the $1.5 billion, 47-mile link between northern Illinois and Indiana.

It also says reviewers failed to adequately consider potential harm to the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.
Critics say the public-private partnership will leave taxpayers on the hook if toll revenue falls short.

Illinois and Indiana have suspended work on the project pending a cost-benefit review.

94.1 WGFA

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Senator Barickman votes against unbalanced “shameful” budget

SPRINGFIELD – Senate Democrats rammed nine bills through the Senate appropriations committee as part of an unbalanced budget plan pushed forward after Democrat leaders walked away from negotiations with Governor Bruce Rauner. The bills passed the committee on a party line vote, without a single Republican voting yes.

"Anything less than a balanced budget is a shameful disregard to the taxpayers of this state," said Senator Barickman. "This is just more of the failed status quo, which undermines the very programs that the sponsors are pretending to protect."

Estimates place the unbalanced Democrat budget as spending around $4 billion more than the state is expected to take in.

Senator Barickman pointed to the Illinois Constitution which states that Appropriations for a fiscal year shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be available during that year.

"This unbalanced budget is a clear violation of the Illinois Constitution and the oath every lawmaker took to uphold that document," said Sen. Barickman. "Anyone voting for this has done a disservice to the residents of this state."

Barickman noted the aftermath of the underfunded Fiscal Year 2015 budget, which left lawmakers and the Governor scrambling to fill a $1.6 billion budget hole Democrats knowingly advanced in their previous budget, which left many state programs facing devastating shortfalls.

"Last year they rammed through a 12 month budget with 9 months of funding and it was an unmitigated disaster," said Sen. Barickman. "Instead of learning from the mistakes of the past, Democrat leadership has seen fit to come up with something even worse."

Governor Rauner has been attempting to strike a balance with Democrat leaders on major reforms that can repair the state's broken fiscal condition. However, those same leaders turned their backs on the good-faith negotiations and decided to pass their own budget instead.

"The residents of this state made it clear in November that they were tired of the failed status quo and they voted for change," said Senator Barickman. "This shameful budget ignores the clear mandate from the people of Illinois to reform our state before asking them for another dime in taxes." {info submitted}

94.1 WGFA

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Four aldermen seated in Watseka

Three new aldermen joined one incumbent in taking theor respective oaths of office Tuesday night.  The elected office-holder were all winners in the April 7th Consolidated Election. 

John Allhands, Mark Garfield, and Charlie DeWitt are newcomers on the Watseka City Council. Incumbenr Dennis Cahoe was re-elected.  A vacancy in Ward 3 is yet to be filled.

94.1 WGFA

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Memorial Day Services rally the cause for patriotism

Rain forced some services indoors, but Memorial Day events Monday stirred emotions, as they should, Americans gathering to pay respect for the freedom we enjoy.

Several area communities hosted services, either at cemeteries or at American Legion Homes. Churches also spent a few moments to pray for the veterans and their families.

In Watseka, VFW Post $7450 Commander Oscar Martin welcomed guests at the American Legion home. A morning shower moved the service indoors.

Veteran and former Watseka resident John Swan Jr. addressed visitors, talking about three personal friends he lost in war.

"The message here, Swan said, is we must never forget." The men and women who have given their lives must be remembered, always."

Other community services were held Monday and on Sunday.

94.1 WGFA

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Roller coaster malfunction at Indiana Beach

MONTICELLO, Ind – A mechanical problem at Indiana Beach caused four people to be stuck on a roller coaster about 70 feet in the air Monday evening.

Monticello firefighters report the fire department got the call shortly before 7:30 pm. It involved the Steel Hawg roller coaster.

Crews say two adults, along with a 15-year-old girl and 10-year-old boy were upright, but on a curve when the coaster got stuck for an unknown reason.

Firefighters secured the car, then used a full body harness to move each person to a man-lift and down to the ground.
The last person was on the ground a little after 9 p.m.
Everyone was okay and released.

Firefighters say the car was left on the track so that personnel could figure out what caused the malfunction.

94.1 WGFA