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Jacksonville Police Department plans upgrades with major savings

Thomas Clatterbuck



The City of Jacksonville got some good budgetary news at last night’s city council meeting. Police Chief Adam Mefford came to the council to discuss a major grant from the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board. That grant is for $45,000 to upgrade the force’s vehicle cameras. The initial grant alone would be a major boon for the city, but it also leads to other cost savings as well.

Body and vehicle cameras are an important tool for police accountability. Having a video record helps protect both the public and officers. But implementing these systems is expensive. There are obvious upfront costs for the cameras themselves. Yet the real costs come from storing the footage. Every officer has multiple hours of footage per day, every day. This footage must be secure and accessible for years into the future. The storage systems that can handle this are expensive.

This is where the grant really saves the city money. Mefford said that the new grant will allow for the purchase of a new server for these cameras. However, this server is compatible with other planned improvement projects for the interview rooms at the station. By having one server for both jobs, the cost of the second project is tens of thousands of dollars lower. So not only does the grant free up the funds to make the other planned improvement project possible, it also makes the project much cheaper. This translates into thousands of dollars in savings for the taxpayers in Jacksonville.

The one catch is that the deadline for the grant is quickly approaching. Given the obvious benefits to the city, the council had no issue giving Mefford permission to ensure he was able to receive the grant.

In other city business, the Heritage Cultural Center account was closed and the funds were transferred to their new account. The Cultural Center never operated with city funds, but it did use the city’s tax ID code. Now that they have their own code, the city no longer needs to hold their money. There were no substantive changes to the funds or the center.

Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.


11th Street extension finally open

Thomas Clatterbuck



It may have taken decades, but the 11th Street corridor is open for business. Reaching from downtown to the UIS and Lincoln Land campuses, the road is expected to make those schools better connected to the Springfield community. The corridor is much more than just a road. With bike lanes and sidewalks for pedestrians, it is open to various modes of travel.

The project had many supporters over the years. Senator Dick Durbin, State Representative Tim Butler, Mayor Langfelder, and UIS Chancellor Susan Koch were just some of the current leaders who attended today’s ribbon cutting event.

The corridor was initially proposed in the 1970s. Several speakers mentioned that the project took far longer than anyone anticipated, but no one offered a concrete reason as to why. Back then, UIS was still Sangamon State University and was outside of town. As both UIS and Springfield have grown, the perceived need for the corridor only increased. Fortunately, a long timeline did not mean a huge bill for the city. Overall, the city only paid for a small portion of the corridor. The federal government picked up $5.7 million of the seven million dollar price tag.

You can watch the full ceremony in the player below.

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2018 Old Capitol Blues & BBQ

Francisco Saravia



The 2018 Old Capitol Blues & BBQ will be Friday and Saturday, August 24th & 25th! Check back for Updates and the Band Lineup!

Here’s the bands:

Friday, August 24:
Mary Jo Curry,
Brandon Santini,
Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers,

Saturday, August 25:
ICBC ‘Blues Challenge’ Bands,
Jason Elmore,
Jim Suhler and Monkey Beat,
Big Head Todd and the Monsters

Wow, last year the 2017 Old Capitol Blues & BBQ was incredible. Everything came together; a terrific line-up, good weather, a hard-working team of volunteers, great vendors and competitors, and fans that wanted to have fun and listen to great music.

Myself, and the ICBC want to thank the Old Capitol Blues & BBQ owners, Barry Friedman, Bernie Segatto, Kevan Stapleton, and Matt Farrell for allowing us to hold our blues challenge during this great festival and for putting your trust in us to put together your line-up.

We’d like to thank the incredible artists that all put on amazing shows. Kenny Neal, Eric Gales, Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials, Albert Castiglia, James Armstrong, and The Mary Jo Curry Band represent a broad pallet of blues styles, but they all possess the ability to connect with the crowd and put on outstanding performances. And what about Kilborn Alley playing the Alamo after-fest party with special guest Eugene Hideaway Bridges. And then Kenny Neal put on a killer performance with the band. Simply incredible.

We’d like to thank Mark Tate owner of the Luthier Shoppe, for doing an outstanding job managing the stage and providing technical support both nights. On Friday night, he worked with David Lumsden to work out a plan to keep the operation moving efficiently, and it worked well. Thanks to the backstage crew, Bill Davison, Bill Castor, Greg Hackett, Rusty Gentry, Dennis McGrath for doing what was needed to make the transitions between acts move like clockwork. These guys handled everything from unloading and loading equipment, making stage transitions, keeping parking areas clear for artists vehicles, being gate keepers, and any number of small details that were needed.

Many thanks to Doug Antonacci and The Music Shoppe on Stevenson for providing the drums and bass rig used by the main stage acts throughout the festival. This certainly helped make for a smooth operating stage.

Thank you to Cindi Goza, Lori Ann McCabe, and Gale for taking care of the artists lounge. It takes effort to keep things clean, stocked and readily available, while allowing the artists their space and privacy. Great job.

Thanks to Kathy Dauksza, Kathy Cooke, Janet Kennedy, John and Maryann Cartwright for handling merchandise for the Club and artist, and to Don Hudson for doing a great job with the 50/50.

We had a great solo/duo Blues Challenge. Michael Goza coordinated the event and MC’d the Challenge. He put together a team of 4 top notch judges: Charlie Bower from Jazz and Blues Florida, David Lumsden, Billinda Devillez, Alex Borisov, with scorekeeper, Bill Castor. Our competitors were all terrific this year: Susan Williams and Daryl Wright, King Neptune, Carl Long and Frank Trompeter, Tony Young and J Cole, Robert Sampson, and Marty Morris. They did a great job.

Lastly, we must thank Mary Jo Curry. Mary Jo performed on Friday night, sang the National Anthem both nights, and MC’d the entire event.


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Budget Director McCarty delivers good news to city council

Thomas Clatterbuck



Springfield got two good pieces of news from Office of Budget and Management Director Bill McCarty at last night’s city council meeting. The first was that a pension spiking loophole had been closed, and the second was the restoration of the Endowed Care fund at Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Pension Reform

McCarty also announced that another form of pension spiking had been eliminated. Under previous administrations, workers could cash in their unused vacation time more than a year before they retired. This “spike” in income boosted their final compensation, and set an artificially high baseline for pension payouts.

Pension spiking is a huge problem for pensions because it disrupts the normal calculations of how pensions are balanced. A worker’s contributions are set based on salary. These contributions create the fund that will support the pension over time. With normal pay scales, it should be easy to predict how much a worker will be making at the end of his or her career, and the contributions can be set accordingly. But if their final pay is inflated, the pension fund will be under funded and the city will have to make more contributions to keep the fund solvent. McCarty also noted that if workers cashed out more than a year in advance, they could draw another year of vacation time to cash out again.

This issue was brought to during the previous administration when the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) began billing the city up front for the increased pension costs. Before, the added costs of the spike were spread out over time, and were difficult to detect. Once the payments were spotted, McCarty and several aldermen pushed to have the rules changed to close the spiking loophole. McCarty blamed the problem on the law as written, and noted that this form of spiking was perfectly within the rules.

Now that the rules have been changed, the city is seeing significant savings on its pension costs. On average the city is saving over $1.3 million per year. This is the third spiking method that McCarty has worked to eliminate. You can see McCarty explain the loophole in the player.

Endowed Care Fund made whole

Oak Ridge Cemetery’s Endowed Care Fund has finally been restored. In the past, cemetery officials had borrowed from that fund to pay for expenses outside the fund’s intended target. Even after practice was stopped, the city still needed years to repay the borrowed funds. McCarty said that the fund has been made whole again, and can start contributing nearly $125,000 in dividends back to its intended use.

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