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From left to right: Michelle Garrison, BPW Week Chairwoman, Karen Walsh, BPW Woman of the Year, and Mary Ann Doolenbaugh, BPW Vice Chair.

The Centralia Business and Professional Woman's Club Woman of the Year is Karen Walsh.

Walsh was surprised with the honor at the first ever Woman of the Year Tea held Sunday afternoon at the First Christian Church.  She was planning on coming to the event anyway and even baked cookies so she had no idea what was in store for her until her accomplishments were being read.  "When they said the person was on the Illinois Theater Board.  I thought, 'oh, I looked around and I thought there is no one else on the Illinois Theater Board here'", Walsh said.

Walsh says she enjoys her involvement in various organizations.  "I enjoy doing things for St. John's Church, being the clerk and working on the flower garden, being on the Midland Area Agency Board, being in BPW and sorority and being on the Illinois Theater Board," said Walsh.

In presenting the award, the chair of this year's BPW week activities Michelle Garrison noted how the recipient of the award selfishly gives and gives and gives...and always with a smile on her face.  Garrison noted Walsh always greets you with a cheerful word and is someone she has never heard say 'no'.  

Garrison noted Walsh's work in the monthly Friendship Meal at the Calumet Street Christian Church, as a volunteer for the Centralia Cultural Society, and as a volunteer at the recycling center and city wide cleanup day.  She also has helped put up flags in the city for the Fourth of July.  

BPW Week activities continue on Monday evening with the Boss of the Year Award which will be presented at a Centralia Chamber Business After Hours at Centralia Manor and Estates.

The past winners of the award pose on Sunday.

Damage to the floor can be clearly seen in this photo, taken during a recent inspection of the Salem Armory building. Photo by Mark Decker.

The State of Illinois has given the City of Salem an additional 30 days to decide if they want the Armory building on North College.

The Military Affairs Division had been seeking bids for the sale of the building, but at the city's request will take no immediate action. Salem City Manager Bill Gruen is concerned about who may acquire the building and if they realize the amount of repairs needed.  

"I want to make sure that people don't get the impression that this is a good opportunity to take ownership.  I think the city would potentially take ownership of the building if it presented itself as the 'least worst option' for the building and for  the neighborhood," said Gruen.  "If we have someone who is willing to pay the city money to lease it, then we can potentially do something with it."

Gruen says they currently have someone with an interest in a lease if the city acquires ownership.  He also doesn't like the idea of the state maintaining ownership and allowing the building to continue to deteriorate without making any repairs.  

"We want to talk to a contractor and probably someone to do mold and remediation," said Gruen.  "The building inside is pretty moist and the mold is getting worse."

Gruen says most of the deterioration is on the north side of the building.  He plans to talk further with the city council in closed session Monday night about possible acquisition of the property.

Five were charged during a busy day at the Marion County Court.

Bond was set at $25,000 for a 30 year old Salem man who allegedly left the scene of an accident with injuries. Kevin Simon of East Boone Street was charged with failure to report a motor vehicle accident after hitting a vehicle being test-driven by Carol Tate. With a slew of previous traffic convictions, Simon is eligible for an extended term if convicted of the felony charge. Simon indicated he would hire his own attorney.

A 24 year old Salem man has his bond set at $10,000 after being charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance. Charles Casner of East Boone street was discovered with Hydrocodone, a controlled substance, in his possession earlier this month. The public defender was appointed to represent him.

Also charged was an alleged accomplice of Casner's, 22 year old Brittney Altom of North Dawley in Salem. Altom is charged with unlawful delivery of a controlled substance for allegedly providing Casner with the hydrocodone. Bond was set at $20,000 with the public defender appointed to represent her.

Bond was set at $25,000 for a 39 year old Vernon man charged with possession of meth manufacturing waste and possession of meth. Ronald Henderson of Elm Street allegedly had meth and disposed meth waste in his possession when police entered his home over the weekend to check on the well being of a woman who was reported to have been abused. His request for a public defender was denied and he will hire his own attorney. He was ordered to have no contact with the allegedly abused woman, Regina Burks, but was not charged with battery.

A Salem man had bond set at $25,000 following charges of Aggravated Domestic Battery and a second charge of Domestic Battery. Gary Harold of South Marion in Salem allegedly strangled a family member, leading to the first charge, and struck her in the face, leading to the second. The public defender was appointed to represent him.

It's the first day for early voting in the state of Illinois, but voters heading into the polls this week may be caught off guard by the first couple of questions on their ballot.

The first questions you'll be asked on your ballot sheet during this year's general election have nothing to do with which candidate you want in which office. Instead, you'll be presented with five questions: two proposed constitutional amendments, and three non-binding "advisory questions".

The two constitutional amendments on your ballot are indeed legally binding.

"The house and senate have approved these, they've been voted on and passed, and the Governor also moved them forward, so these would actually become law" explained Marion County Clerk Steve Fox.

One amendment, the first on your ballot, amends Article 1, Section 8.1 of the Illinois Constitution to expand the rights of crime victims. The amendment would give victims such protections as freedom from harassment, intimidation, and abuse through the criminal justice system and the right to make statements during any post-arraignment court proceeding. Detractors say the amendment would throw a wrench into the criminal justice process and slow down the work of prosecutors.

The second amendment on your ballot would add an 8th section to the third article of the Illinois Constitution. The amendment would make it illegal for anyone to be denied the right to vote based on race, color, ethnicity, any any other sort of financial or minority status. The amendment is a redundant one: federal law already makes any kind of voter discrimination illegal, leading some to criticize the amendment as a way to boost voter turnout during a close and decisive election.

The other three questions you'll be asked are simple "yes/no" questions that are entirely non-binding, which means no matter which question wins out in the end, nothing will actually change. Fox says that the questions are merely to test the waters and see how the public reacts to certain issues.

"They're a question from the legislature...feeling out what the constituents across the state would like to see them do in the future. Those are things they will probably take up after the election" said Fox.

One question asks if Illinois should raise it's minimum wage to around $10/hour. The others ask Illinoisans if prescription birth control should be mandatory in all health insurance packages, and if Illinois should tax millionaires at a higher rate.

The advisory questions have been heavily criticized, mostly by Illinois Republicans, who call them an attempt to boost Democrat voter turnout by asking questions that appeal to progressives. Other lawmakers say they are a legitimate way to determine what the voters want to see.

Early voting in Illinois is open until November 2nd. November 4th is the official date of the General Election.

ALEDO, Ill. (AP) - The former treasurer of western Illinois' Mercer County has been sentenced to four years in prison for stealing $13,000 from his county's E911 fund.

The Moline Dispatch reports that Mike Bertelsen apologized to Circuit Judge Frank Fuhr before being sentenced Monday.

Bertelsen pleaded guilty July 28 to official misconduct and theft counts and has reimbursed $13,000 he stole from Mercer County's E911 fund and $800 from the county's Republican Central Committee.

Prosecutors dropped various other counts in exchange for Bertelsen's guilty pleas and his restitution.

Bertelsen is to report to begin serving his sentence Oct. 30.

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