Top stories from 2018

Posted

January

Training for shooters

The Paris Police Department acquired specialized Glock handguns that shoot a liquid chalk round. The noise and heft of the weapon resembles a real firearm and the projectiles leave a mark on clothing and protective gear to confirm hits. Officers can also feel the impact as the chalk bullets have enough power to bruise.

Police chief Mike Henness said the weapons allow officers to train in more realistic ways for a variety of shooting scenarios. Area businesses donated money for the department to acquire the training equipment.

Lady Tigers champs

The Paris Lady Tigers basketball team won the Little Illini Conference Tournament.

Pizza theater opens

Domino’s Pizza chain opened a new store in Paris. It features the ability for customers to watch pizzas being made.

Courthouse needs work

A professional engineering review identified more than $900,000 of exterior repairs needed at the Edgar County Courthouse.

Tri-County wins conference

The Tri-County Lady Titans basketball team won the Little Okaw Valley Conference Tournament.

Crestwood cheer team is state champ

The Crestwood Cheer Team won the 2018 IESA small-team championship.

Blessing Box installed at Paris Police Department

A Blessing Box in front of the Paris Police Department is a place where people can pick up food, personal hygiene items and perhaps clothing. What is available for taking depends on what someone leaves. The premise behind a Blessing Box is to take what is needed and leave what one can.

February

Tri-County Titans are regional champs

The Tri-County Lady Titans basketball team won the regional championship.

Store opens on Paris Square

About Face Furniture Makeovers and Take Me Home Primitives opened on the Paris Square.

Paris Chamber position filled

After a hiatus of several months, the Paris Chamber of Commerce reopened with Linda Lane serving as the part-time executive director.

Man posing as federal agent arrested

Three days after the horrific Valentine’s Day shooting in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 students and staff members dead at a local high school, a man wearing bodyarmor and a pistol in a chest holster entered the Edgar County Jail. He claimed to be a federal agent and asked for deputies to assist him in arresting several local people, including elected officials. Deputies convinced him to disarm and arrested him without a serious incident.

A search of Justin Hefner’s vehicle revealed at AR-15 rifle modified with a bump stock to accelerate the speed of shooting and a quick release lever for the ammunition magazine. The authorities also found a fully-loaded 100-round drum magazine and other high capacity magazines.

Hefner was subsequently found incompetent to stand trial and was remanded to the Department of Human Services for treatment. The case remained unresolved at the end of 2018.

Shiloh wants a school resource officer

Shiloh School Board members reacted to the deadly shooting of students at a Florida high school by instructing the school administration to devise a plan for placing a school resource officer in the building.

Board members saw the move as necessary given the school’s remote location and how long it would take authorities to respond if someone came to the school with a gun. This was a developing story all year long as the administration explored different options. By the end of 2018, an apparent intergovernmental agreement between the school district and the Edgar County Sheriff’s Department appeared ready for final review.

Kansas FFA creates food pantry at school

Concern that some fellow students might not have enough to eat prompted the Kansas High School FFA to build and stock a miniature food pantry near a school entrance. Filled with non-perishable, easy to fix food, students needing a meal or snack at home can access the pantry.

March

NAL expansion

North American Lighting announced a $25 million construction project to add 50 new jobs, increase warehouse space and put three additional multi-colored injection presses into service.

HRC plans new Health Resources Center

Human Resources Center of Edgar and Clark Counties renewed a capital campaign to build a Health Resources Center next to Horizon Health. The proposed 8,717 square foot building has multiple purposes such as senior care, offices for mental health and substance abuse therapists, HRC’s living room counseling program and provide an around the clock mental health crisis center.

Laborers Group to make apartments from old PHS

The City of Paris gave the former Paris High School on Main Street to the Laborers’ Home Development Corporation with a plan to convert the old building into senior citizen apartments. Laborers’ Home Development previously created two affordable housing projects on Court Street that filled before construction of the units was finished.

Smoke Trail gets new owners

Cory Craig and Denise Cravens purchased the Smoke Trail BBQ Restaurant at 2116 South Main and continued the business’ long-standing favorites while incorporating their own touches.

April

Horizon Health takes over

A rebranding effort names lumps Paris Community Hospital, the Family Medical Center and the satellite clinics under a new name of Horizon Health.

Crestwood student is state geography champ

Crestwood student Ty Jones won the Illinois State Geography Bee.

May

Paris wins baseball conference

Paris Tigers won the Little Illini Conference baseball championship.

Hospital starts new ambulance service

Horizon Health introduces ambulance service with two ambulances available for around the clock services.

Northern Edgar County Ambulance identifies operating problems

Volunteer-operated Northern Edgar County Ambulance (NECAS) service was challenged by a lack of volunteers and rising expenses. NECAS board looked at many options including petitioning into the Edgar County Special Service Area Ambulance that provides tax assisted ambulance service to Hunter, Stratton, Elbridge, Symmes, Grandview, Buck and Paris townships. Options were still being weighed at the end of the year and no final decision was made.

Another new business

The Tingley Reception Center opened in what was the sales and office space of the former Art Reese Lumber Company. The large space lends itself to family reunions, bridal receptions and other activities involving large crowds.

House fire claims a life

Firefighters managed to get an unresponsive Karen S. Devers, 66, out of a burning building at 331 E. Union Street. She was transported to the Horizon Health emergency room and subsequently declared dead. The preliminary cause of death was listed as cardiac arrest.

St. Mary’s School closes

St. Mary’s Elementary School closed after serving Paris, and broader area, for 120 years. The Diocese of Springfield closed the school after several years of St. Mary’s enrollment declining by approximately 25 percent annually.

June

Lot 50 opens

Paris joined the growing number of communities with a micro-brewery offering craft beer. Lot 50 Brewing Company, a partnership between Steve Coombes, Doug Smittkamp and Bruce Young opened with not only quality beer but also an emphasis on having a fun and family-friendly environment.

Airport improvements back in pipeline

The use of federal funds to improve the fuel storage and sale system at the Edgar County Airport as well as expanding the apron and resurfacing of the parallel taxiway received final authorization. The projects were significantly delayed after a local resident filed protests claiming the airport is not entitled to the use of federal funds. The Illinois Department of Transportation, Division of Aeronautics and the Federal Aviation Administration reviewed and rejected the claim.

Feutz Contractors won the bid to relocate the fuel tanks and do part of the apron expansion. The other work has not yet been to bid, but all work is expected to start during the 2019 construction season

State orders more staff at Edgar County Jail

The patience of jail inspectors from the Illinois Department of Corrections wore thin after repeated warnings the Edgar County Jail is out of compliance with regulations for the number of correctional officers needed. Sheriff Jeff Wood tells the county board he was told to either spend the money hiring officers or spend it on lawyers in a legal action. More correctional officers were added to the sheriff’s budget for fiscal year 2019.

Sunday alcohol sales permitted in Paris

A long-standing blue law fell by the wayside when the Paris City Council approved the Sunday package sale of alcohol at retail businesses. The move was seen as a way to keep Paris’ businesses competitive since other nearby communities already allowed Sunday sales.

July

Paris community theater launches

The newly organized Paris Community Theater Company had a successful first production with “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at the Paris Center of Fine Arts.

Salamanders thwart bridge project

Plans to build a bridge over Sugar Creek on Staley Road came to an abrupt stop after an environmental review of the site confirmed the presence of species of salamander that is rare in Illinois. The Edgar County Highway Department and the Illinois Department of Transportation spent the better part of the remaining year negotiating with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to create a remediation plan that still allows the building of the bridge while making every effort to minimize the danger to the salamander population during construction.

EZ Care moves into new home

Horizon Health continues expanding services and opens a new walk-in clinic that includes weekend hours and a clinic for North American Lighting employees and their families.

August

Long-time Paris bank bought

First Bank and Trust closed its doors and reopensed as First Mid Bank and Trust after a buyout by First Mid.

Church celebrates anniversary

The small congregation of the Scottland United Methodist Church celebrated the church reaching its 135th anniversary.

Equity Feed Mill starts operation

The Equity Feed Mill at Horace finished construction and started operation. When it reaches full capacity the state-of-the-art mill will grind 6.4 million bushels of corn and 2.7 million bushels of soybeans each year into hog feed.

Restaurant adopts 1950s theme

Sisters Natasha Halimi and Tabbatha Madden converted the former Dog ‘n Suds Restaurant at the corner of Central and Jasper into Parker’s Car Hop, featuring an extended menu of sandwiches and full meals. The new owners reintroduced car hop service in a nod to the past.

September

Chrisman approves bond sale

The Chrisman City Council approved the sale of $995,000 worth of bonds to fix the aging wastewater treatment plant and bring it within Illinois Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

PERK expands

The PERK mentoring program pairing students from Paris 95 and Crestwood Unit 4 expanded to include the Kansas School District.

Church celebrates sesquicentennial

The Horace Baptist Church celebrated 150 years of existence with a special musical service.

October

Tri-County LOVC champs

The Tri-County volleyball team won the Little Okaw Valley championship.

Last pumpkin picked

Paul and Sherry Staley end the popular Pumpkin Works attraction featuring pumpkin picking, mazes and hay rides at the end of the 2018 Halloween season. Their decision was prompted by a desire to retire because they were finding the labor involved with the operation was becoming harder each year.

Sweet Vintage opens on the square

A new business providing an outlet to three area businesses opened on the Paris Square. Sweet Vintage carries inventory from Becky Rich’s We Lik It Farmstand ice cream, locally produced Circle H Honey from Jacob and Betsy Higginbotham and the eclectic antiques and collectibles of Hilary Walker’s Cherry Tree.

Landowners lose to Ameren

A group of local landowners trying to prevent Ameren Illinois from building a high-voltage electric line across their properties suffered a serious setback from the Illinois Supreme Court. The high court ruled the local trial court exceeded it authority in declare the Illinois Public Utilities Act Unconstitutional when the issue before the court was Ameren seeking eminent domain to access the ground. In returning the case to Edgar County, the supreme court prohibited any additional consideration of the constitutionality issue. The land owners have asked the court to reconsider and are preparing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tigers go undefeated

The Paris High School Football team had an undefeated season for the first time in school history and captured the LIC championship.

November

New railroad in town

The short-line Decatur & Eastern Illinois Railroad bought the CSX rail line through Paris and Edgar County and immediately set out to improve rail service in the area.

Kansas grandfathers chickens

Feathers flew in Kansas for a little while after the village board considered banning the practice of keeping chickens in town. The village ordinances permitted residents to have hens but when somebody requested adding geese to the ordinance the trustees decided to get rid of all birds. A complaint by Amber Slaymaker that her small coop of hens were beneficial for teaching her autistic son about the responsibility of caring for the animals resulted in a classic American compromise. The village still bans chickens but grandfathered Slaymaker’s birds for their natural life.

Election keeps status quo

Most aspects of the November election were a foregone conclusion since all of the local candidates were running unopposed for re-election. The single exception was the sheriff’s race between incumbent Jeff Wood and challenger Tom Dolan. Wood won.

Effingham halts Tiger’s winning streak

The historic Paris Tigers football season ended during the playoffs with a 30-14 loss to Effingham.

Church members get certified to serve in disaster areas

Some members of the Grace Lutheran Church completed courses certifying them as members of the Lutheran Early Response Team, and allowing them to go and assist in disaster areas controlled by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency or the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

New boutique opens in Paris

Stephanie McKenna fulfilled a life-long dream of owning her own business with Bee Sweet Boutique on the Paris square. The inventory features clothing for women of all ages.

New Christmas tree business

Stephanie and Joe Schmitt opened Schmitt Family Tree Farm as a seasonal business at their rural home. Customers can buy a cut Christmas tree, greenery and other Christmas related items. The long-range goal is to have growing trees that can be harvested on site.

School shooting rumors create concern

Paris High School officials and local law enforcement reacted quickly to two separate issues where there was a perceived threat of a school shooting by some some students. No shootings occurred but four students were removed from school in connection with the threat.

December

Chrisman-Paris work on water deal

The cities of Chrisman and Paris entered into a deal to build a pipeline north from Paris to the intersection of state Route 1 and U.S. 36 to carry water to Chrisman. The proposal fell into place when efforts to resolve problems with Chrisman’s water well were not productive and new issues developed. Construction is expected to start after the 2019 harvest.

Prospect Bank reveals downtown beautification project

Prospect Bank is working with Edgar County and the City of Paris to improve parking areas with plantings and improved green space that will change the look of the downtown area.

State celebrates bicentennial

The Illinois Bicentennial was a low-key affair in Edgar County although some activities took place. Shiloh’s fifth grade students organized a birthday party with games for the elementary wing of the building. The Edgar County Historical Society did a special program featuring local speaker Roger Stanley and historic re-enactors from the George Rogers Clark Memorial at Vincennes, Ind.

Crestwood state champs, again

The Crestwood eighth grade girls basketball team achieved a 25-0 season and won the state championship. It was the 50th consecutive win for the girls dating back to 2016.

Dixon retires

Michael Dixon retires from the ministry after a career spent mostly at First Christian Church – Disciples of Christ.