• Centralia High School will be introducing their new Student and Family Education Court in the fall. It's a program that the Centralia Junior High has seen work successfully since introducing the program there 4 years ago. Judge Erica Sanders who sits on the Court at the junior high addressed the board at Thursday's meeting to introduce them to her passion project.

    Sanders said she started to see a re-occuring theme when kids would come before her on the bench. She started asking more and more questions before accepting negotiated pleas describing it as a cookie-cutter agreement based on the offense not the individuals circumstances.

    "The kids that I see that aren't going to school all have significant histories of child hood abuse and neglect. That's what truancy is a red flag for. So many people think that truancy is just a kid who doesn't want to go to school. I'm sure there are some like that, it's just not who I'm used to dealing with. The kids that miss school I'm used to seeing is missing school because dad's in prison and mom is high on heroin. Or they have to stay home with their younger siblings to keep them out of some sort of domestic violence situation."

    Sanders explains that the program is based upon the Drug Court model. Sanders herself sits on the Effingham County drug court serving 4 area counties and says its the most effective thing they do, bar none, in the criminal justice system. Sitting on the Education Court is a judge, mental health counselor, social workers and school representatives who all sit down and come up with a plan.

    Sanders also explained that there are important reasons why they have programs like these at a young age.

    "There's important reasons why we have programs like these at adolescence. That is because its the second most prolific time in the development of the brain. Age 0-5 80% of the brain develops. Then when you're in adolescence it develops equally as fast."

    Sanders summed up the success of the Student and Family Education Court at the Centralia Junior High.

    "Each year school attendance for kids in our program has dramatically increased. Specifically with unexcused absences. Grade point average have increased, disciplinary referrals decreased. Our goal is to get them into some extra curricular activities so we had kids in band, and dance and some sports."

    Sanders concluded with telling the board that "if we save these kids, we save our town."

  • Centralia Tom Ashby delivering the State of the City Address

    Centralia Mayor Tom Ashby sited an improving financial condition and business investment in the community during his annual State of the City Message on Wednesday. He added like all cities there are areas of concern that need to be addressed.

    Ashby noted the city has shaved $8.8-million dollars from its budget and held the general fund that pays for most city services flat during the past seven years. At the same time, he reports the city has lowered its tax levy each year, has increased its cash on hand, and has paid down its debt by more than $7-million.

    Ashby says the city welcomed a new Best Western Motel, Crooked Creek Crossing Mall, Dollar Tree, and Goodwill store while St. Mary's Hospital has continued it's $20-million renovation. He feels Centralia has some of the best healthcare available. Ashby noted the expansion of the animal control facility that now adopts out 99-percent of the animals brought in.

    Ashby said other projects are on the way in 2018, including the opening of a new city hall in May, a new splash pool at the Fairview Park Pool, and a continued program of road improvements.

    He admitted like other cities, there are problems that need to be addressed, including opiods, crime, decreasing revenue from the state, and the need for trained workers.

    "Lack of trained individuals to fill jobs, not lack of jobs, lack of people to fill jobs. This is the problem, because people turn to crime if they don't have a job, a career."

    Ashby says a number of key projects have been identified.

    "New City Hall, attract new industry and retail businesses, retain jobs, create new jobs, building/occupancy standards, and the new U.S. 51 expansion. We have to have the new Route 51 for the future of Centralia."

    Ashby, like last year, told those in the audience the negative attitude about the community has to be addressed.

    "The City is moving in the right direction and has so much to offer, now I'm calling on our citizens to step up and help maintain this positive approach to your community"

    Ashby made his state of the city address before the Centralia Chamber of Commerce monthly meeting at the Centralia Elks Lodge.

    Click here to see the powerpoint of the State of the City address.

  • SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - It just got easier for Illinois residents to search for tax liens.

    In a news release, the state's Department of Revenue says it now has a searchable database where people can go to locate all active liens and releases filed by the department.

    The department filed more than 39,000 liens in every Illinois county last year at a cost of about $700,000. IDOR Director Connie Beard says the electronic registry will reduce costs as well as speed up tax receipts going to state and local tax funds.

    The Lien Registry is free and can be accessed through the "Quick Links" tab on the IDOR webpage and at tax.illinois.gov. Questions about the registry can be emailed to rev.lien@illinois.gov.

  • SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Advocates for gun control have renewed their push to require Illinois firearm stores to get state licenses, saying federal regulations don't go far enough to ensure sales are handled properly.

    The Chicago Tribune reports that the state Senate last year advanced legislation to license gun dealers, but it stalled in the House due to opposition from gun rights groups.

    The groups argued that licensing would increase the price of purchasing a firearm by as much as $300. To calm those fears, Democrats in the Senate advanced companion legislation on Wednesday to limit the cost of licensing fees to $1,000 for a five-year period.

    Lawmakers are revisiting the measure in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed and others were wounded.

  • SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois Democrats running for governor attacked Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and President Donald Trump but largely avoided jabs at one another during a debate in Springfield.

    Presumed front-runner J.B. Pritzker and Daniel Biss traded barbs over familiar issues such as each one's record on attacking a yawning pension debt in the state. But the five candidates who appeared at the University of Illinois at Springfield Wednesday night mostly stuck to stump speeches on guns, the budget, relations with the contentious Trump and the fate of state party chairman Michael Madigan.

    Candidate Chris Kennedy was a late scratch. His campaign said he injured his back Wednesday and his physician advised against traveling to the capital. Bob Daiber, Tio Hardiman, and Dr. Robert Marshall are the other three candidates.

    They face voters March 20 in a primary election to decide who among them gets a chance to replace Rauner in the November election.

    Rauner is facing legislator Jeanne Ives in the GOP primary.