Len Wells, News Director


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Headlines for Sunday, August 31, 2014

Area motorists can expect continued stepped-up enforcements from state police on roadways through the remainder of the holiday weekend.  Through Tuesday, troopers are focusing their enforcement efforts on the four most common traffic violations that contribute to accidents, including speeding, DUI, not wearing a seat belt and distracted driving.  State police in District 13, which is headquartered at DuQuoin and includes Jefferson County, will be conducting Alcohol Countermeasure Enforcement patrols and roadside safety checks.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service say the region should stay fairly dry for the remainder of the holiday weekend, with only slight chances of rain through Monday night before more rain is expected late Monday night and Tuesday.  Areas to our west, including the St. Louis region, has a slight chance of some strong or severe thunderstorms today and especially Monday.  Warm and muggy conditions are expected to continue this week, with daily highs in the mid 80s to near 90.

The 6th annual Wayne County Antique Tractor Drive is set for Monday.  Tractors that are 30 years old or older are welcome to participate.  This year’s route is around 35 miles in length, and will begin and end at the Crop Production Services plant  in Johnsonville.  Check-in will begin at 9 a.m. with a planned departure time of 10 a.m.  The participants will have lunch at the Skillet Fork Grill in Orchardville, and later take a tour of Frey Produce before returning to CPS in Johnsonville.  Several awards will be given during Monday’s tractor drive.

The Geff Ruritan Frontier Days will be held this Friday and Saturday, September 5th and 6th at the park in Geff.  Activites Friday include the crowning of the Little Miss Frontier Days at 7 p.m.  Saturday will feature a Car & Truck Show, serving of the famous ham and bean dinner at noon, and a performance by the Toby Daskem Band, featuring modern country music and classic rock starting at 6 p.m.

The 38th annual Cedarhurst Art and Craft Fair is set for Saturday and Sunday, September 6th and 7th in Mt. Vernon, IL.  Organizers are expecting a good turnout for this year’s event, which is a nationally recognized festival and brings in artists from the Midwest and as far away as Georgia, Kansas, and Oregon.  Entertainment will be provided by several local music groups.  Admission is $5.  Hours of operation are 10 a.m. til 5 p.m. both days.  For more information you can call (618) 242-1236.

Headlines for Saturday, August 30, 2014

76-year-old Gary R. Warren of Wayne City was cited for failure to yield the right of way at a stop intersection following a two-vehicle accident Friday morning north of Sims.  Wayne County Sheriff’s police said Warren was stopped at the intersection of Wayne County Road 1100N at County Highway 9 when he pulled away from a stop sign and into the path of a vehicle driven by 28-year-old Stephanie M. Smith of Flora.  Smith was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Mt. Vernon, IL for treatment of her injuries, while Warren was taken to Fairfield Memorial Hospital.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources released its set of proposed rules for the process of oil and gas drilling known as fracking on Friday.  Previous draft versions of the rules have been criticized as being too lenient, while industry groups have criticized the delay of rules that has resulted in no drilling permits being issued for sites in southern Illinois.  The practice of fracking is expected to bring an oil boom to the area once rules are in place and permits are issued.  The IDNR report has been delivered to the Joint Committee on Administration Rules, which has 45 days to act on the rules, or let them take effect as they are presented.

Illinois State Police will be stepping up their patrols on area roadways this Labor Day Weekend.  Through this Tuesday, troopers will be enforcing the four most common traffic violations, which include speeding, DUI, not wearing seat belts and distracted driving.  State police say they will also be on heightened alert monitoring intelligence from the Statewide Terrorism Intelligence Center for suspicious vehicles, special alerts, and any criminal activity crossing state lines.

The annual Elm River Chowder is set for today at the Elm River Chowder Grounds.  Serving of the chowder will begin around 12:30 this afternoon with the cost by donation.  The Elm River Chowder Grounds is located four miles east of Rinard off U.S. Route 45.  Along with the chowder, pulled pork, porkburgers, hot dogs and pies will be available during the event, which has been held for over 100 years.

The Wayne County Golf Course will be hosting Patriot Golf Day this Labor Day weekend, and will be collecting donations for the Folds of Honor, a non-profit organization that provides scholarships to the families of service men and women who have been disabled or killed in service to their country.  WCGC is collecting a minimum $1 donation from each player through Monday, September 1st.

Headlines for Friday, August 29, 2014

tommy kentTommy Kent has been hired as Athletic Director at Frontier Community College. He will oversee the athletic program that started this fall semester and includes Men’s and Women’s golf and cross country teams. Prior to coming to Fairfield, Kent was the Assistant Fitness Coordinator at Shawnee Community College in Ullin. He holds a master’s degree in Sports Management from SIU Carbondale. He is a 1997 graduate of Fairfield Community High School.


Lowery, PSpecial Prosecutor Michael Valentine has decided to re-try a former White County jailer accused of sexually abusing a 4-year-old girl. The aggravated criminal sexual abuse trial of 40-year-old Phillip Lowery ended in a mistrial last April after the jury was deadlocked with a 6-6 vote. A pretrial hearing in the case has been set for Sept. 25 in White County Circuit Court at Carmi.


Mugshot_costonDanny Coston is appealing his conviction in the August, 2012 slaying of a young White County couple. Coston, now 38 is serving a 53 year prison sentence for the shooting deaths of Jacob Wheeler, 22 of Centerville and his girlfriend, Jessi Evans, 17 of Norris City.  Oral arguments in the appeal were completed on Tuesday in the Fifth District Illinois Court of Appeals in Mt. Vernon.  A ruling is not expected for at least 90 days.



Frontier Community College recently recognized staff and faculty for Years of Service to the College and the Illinois Eastern Community Colleges (IECC) District.  Pictured left to right: Mary Morris, English Faculty – 5 years; FCC President Dr. Jay Edgren; Tara Farleigh, Administrative Assistant to the President – 15 years;  Jan Wiles, Assistant Dean of Student Services – 15 years; Tina Nation, Accounts Receivable Clerk – 5 years; Veronica Cox, Custodian – 5 years; Linda Monge, Interim Dean of Instruction – 5 years; Jervaise McDaniel, Associate Dean of Adult and Continuing Education – 30 years with IECC.

19-year-old Levi D. Sork of Norris City has been sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty Thursday to a Class-2 felony charge of burglary. He broke into a number of vehicles in the Norris City area earlier this year. The state has recommended Sork serve his time in the Department of Corrections’ Boot Camp program.

$9.4 million has been released for several airport improvement projects around the state. The runways at Fairfield’s airport will be re-marked at a cost of $57,465.  Hi-Lite Markings, Inc. of Adams Center, N.Y. will do the work.

Headlines for Thursday, August 25, 2014

The theft of wiring from utility poles has now spread into three counties.  Thieves have been using a chain saw to cut down power poles to steal the wiring contained within meter loops that serve grain bins. As many as 20 poles have been targeted in White County. Another six have been reported in Edwards County, and one pole was cut down in Wayne County. $6,500 in reward money has been established for the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for the thefts. Wayne-White officials say their losses are somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000.

Highly anticipated rules to regulate high pressure, high volume, hydraulic fracturing are set to be unveiled on Friday.  Once those rules go into effect, Illinois hopes to become the center of a long-anticipated oil boom.  Thousands of acres of Southern Illinois are under lease for the development of oil-rich shale formations using horizontal drilling and fracking technology.

54-year-old Timothy Coleman of Louisville, a registered sex offender, has been arrested after he was spotted in a public park.  Coleman was spotted at Forbes State Park in Marion County – a violation of his sex offender registration status.

In honor of the Volley for the Cure game, Fairfield Community High School will be hosting a “Pink Out” day next Tuesday, Sept. 2. Spirit beads and ribbons are also being sold to help raise funds for Volley for the Cure.  Those attending should wear pink to support the cause.

Seniors and people with disabilities will be eligible to apply for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program beginning next Tuesday, Sept. 2.  More information is available from your local WADI office.

Fairfield Fall Fun Fest Buttons are on sale now at many participating local merchants. The cost of $2 and puts you in the drawing for daily cash prizes during the Fun Fest.

Headlines for Wednesday, August 27, 2014

More than 20 Wayne-White Electric power poles have been cut down by thieves recently. The thieves are primarily targeting meter loops that serve grain bins on area farms.  Wayne-White is now offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those involved.  White County Sheriff Doug Maier says the local Crimestoppers organization is offering a $500 cash reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. The Illinois Farm Bureau has added another $1,000 reward for information in the case. Thieves are using a chain saw to cut down the poles.  Area farmers are being urged to watch their property closely.

The Fairfield City Council has approved selling two lots in the Fairfield Industrial Park to Elastec American/Marine.  Elastec paid $31,950 for the property.  The Council also approved the sale of 10.3 acres of Industrial Park land to Jeremy and Nikki Carter of Carter Trucking of Fairfield. The cost was $51,500.

The Fairfield City Council has approved the purchase of furniture and other amenities for the Fairfield Municipal Airport. The upgrades will be paid for out of funds budgeted for the airport and will be for improvements in the office and pilot’s lounge.

The Bedford Township Fire Department in Cisne is among eight departments in Illinois being honored for their fire prevention efforts. The Office of the State Fire Marshal made the announcement on Tuesday.

Fairfield Fall Fun Fest Buttons are now on sale at many participating merchants.  The buttons sell for $2 each, with the money going to support the activities of the Fun Fest.  Button holders will be eligible for two drawings worth $25 each day of the Fun Fest. A number drawn Saturday night of the Fun Fest will be worth $100.

Headlines for Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Results are in from both the Wayne and White County crop tours. The projected corn yield for Wayne County is a record-setting 167 bushels per acre. The projected soybean yield has been pegged at 44 bushels per acre.  The corn yield in White County has been estimated to be 161.3 bushels per acre.  Both tours were conducted Monday through the efforts of local Farm Bureau volunteers.

Two people were injured Monday afternoon when the semi they were in ran off of Interstate 64 in western Wayne County and overturned. The driver, 48-year-old Lisa Gail Franklin of Evansville told police she swerved her truck to miss a deer in the roadway. A passenger, 53-year-old Claimale D. Franklin of Chicago was also injured. Both were taken to a hospital in Mt. Vernon following the 2:25 p.m. accident.

Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel says the latest long-range forecast shows that a repeat of last winter’s snowy conditions is unlikely.  Angel says there is nothing in the forecast to indicate unusual temperatures or precipitation patterns. He says there is an increased risk of a dryer than average winter.

A $500 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of thieves in White County that have been cutting down utility poles to steal the copper wires from meter loops.  Sheriff Doug Maier says four cases of utility poles being cut down with chain saws have been reported in the past few days. In each case, the poles were property of Wayne-White Electric.

Wayne County Mobile Home Tax Bills will be mailed out by next Tuesday, Sept. 2.  The single due date has been set for Friday, Nov. 7.  This year’s Mobile Home Tax extension amounts to $170,247.  There were 1,505 mobile homes located in Wayne County last year.

Headlines for Monday, August 25, 2014

Headlines for Monday, August 25, 2014

Record forecast yields were noted during the annual Wayne County corn and soybean yield tour conducted today.  Corn Growers President Gregg Barnard says the average corn yield has been pegged at 167 bushels per acre, beating the old record of 164 set in 2004.  The forecast soybean yield was pegged at 44 bushels per acre – nearly three bushels higher than the actual yield of 41.4 bushels per acre in 2004.  The highest corn yield was noted in the southeast corner of the county at 190 bushels per acre.

Members of United Auto Workers Local 543 have approved a new three-year contract with Airtex Products in Fairfield.  The new agreement was approved by a margin of 60% to 40%. The vote was taken Sunday afternoon at the Center Street Gym.  The union rejected the company’s first contract offer last week, but agreed to remain on the job as talks continued. There are currently about 240 rank and file members represented by Local 543.

48-year-old Michael Owen of Fairfield was arrested early this morning after he allegedly brandished a knife during an altercation on Johnson Street.  Owen allegedly pulled the knife on 38-year-old Bryan Lynch.  After Owen allegedly tried to head butt a police officer, he was taken to Fairfield Memorial Hospital for a mental evaluation. He was eventually taken to the Touchette Regional Hospital near East St. Louis for treatment of a mental illness.

Friends and family members of a missing Evansville woman searched an area of southern White County over the weekend for the missing 30-year-old woman. Joelle Lockwood has been missing since July 9.  The area searched is owned by a relative of an individual that Evansville City Police have identified as a person of interest in Lockwood’s disappearance. The search turned up no evidence.

The 32nd annual Wayne County Corn and Soybean Yield Tour will be conducted today.  Because of timely rains and a relatively cool summer, area crop yields are expected to be excellent.

The 18th annual White County Crop Tour is also set for today. The survey was rescheduled from last Wednesday due to heavy rainfall.

This Labor Day Weekend, Wayne County Golf Course will host Patriot Golf Day and will collect donations for Folds of Honor, a non-profit organization that provides educational scholarships to the families of service men and women who have been disabled or killed in service to their country. The Golf Course will collect a minimum of $1 donation from each player from Aug. 29 – Sept. 1 for Folds of Honor.


Headlines for Sunday, August 24, 2014

For the second straight weekend, strong and severe thunderstorms moved through Wayne and surrounding counties, dumping heavy rainfall in much of the area and leading to some brief flash flooding.  The storms hit around 8 p.m. Saturday and were accompanied by strong winds and intense lightning.  The National Weather Service issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Clay County shortly before 7:30 last night as the storms moved through.  Here at the studios of WFIW/WOKZ,  1.49 inches of rain was recorded.

The 32nd annual Wayne County Corn/Soybean Yield Tour is set for Monday morning.  Eight teams will leave from JT’s at 7 a.m. Monday and check at least ten soybean and ten corn fields to determine this year’s yield.  The teams will meet back at JT’s at noon to compile the results.  Yields are expected to be good this year due to adequate rainfall and an overall mild summer.  Anyone interested in participating in the tour needs to contact Ron Loker at Consolidated Grain and Barge in Wayne City at 895-2181.  Fairfield National Bank and Bean Capital Banking Center will provide lunch for the team members on Monday.

Wayne County’s unemployment for the month of July was 7.4 percent, according to the latest numbers from the Illinois Department of Employment Security.  Edwards County’s jobless rate for July was 7.5 percent.  The IDES said all southern Illinois counties had lower unemployment rates for July compared to a year ago, with Clinton County reporting the lowest rate in the region, at 5.5 percent.  Employment gains were noted in July in construction, retail trade and recreation.

The Fairfield City Council meets Tuesday night at 6 p.m.  The council is expected to award bids for the sale of municipal property and seek bids for a new mower for the city’s Cemetery Department.  Also on the agenda is an engineering estimate on the cost of restoring the bridge on Andrews Drive.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn participated in a parade Friday which opened this year’s DuQuoin State Fair.  The fair runs through Labor Day, September 1st, and will feature entertainment each day.  The theme for this year’s fair is “Love A Fair”.  Today’s entertainment includes harness racing and a performance by country music star Kenny Rogers.

Headlines for Saturday, August 23, 2014

Members of the union representing Airtex Products workers in Fairfield will gather Sunday afternoon to vote on another contract offer.  The ratification meeting has been set for 2 p.m. Sunday in the Center Street Gym.  Last weekend, members voted down the company’s first contract offer, but agreed to continue working as negotiations moved forward.  The number of union employees at Airtex has dropped sharply over the past few years, with the UAW Local 543 currently representing about 240 rank and file members.

The personal belongings of former Mt. Carmel, IL businessman Kevin C. Williams will be put up for auction next Saturday, August 30th to help satisfy a $1.8 million federal court judgment.  Williams is currently serving a ten-year federal prison sentence for stealing over $2 million from an elderly Wabash County woman’s trust account.  The auction will be held at the Mabel H. Courter 4-H Center at the north edge of Mt. Carmel, IL starting at 9 a.m.

The Fairfield City Council is set to meet in regular session this Tuesday night at 6 p.m.  During the meeting, the council is expected to seek bids for a new mower for the Cemetery Department, and award bids for a trailer for the Water Distribution Department.  Also on Tuesday’s agenda is an airport proposal for the purchase of office furniture and supplies, and an engineering estimate for the restoration of a bridge on Andrews Drive.

Wayne County’s unemployment rate for July was 7.4 percent, while Edwards County’s rate was 7.5 percent.  The Illinois Department of Employment Security said Friday that all southern Illinois counties reported lower unemployment compared to a year ago, and that all but Franklin, Alexander, Pulaski, Hardin and Pope counties had July unemployment rates below ten percent.

Toyota announced Friday it plans to hire 300 new workers and invest $100 million over the next two years to increase production of its Highlander sport utility vehicle at its Princeton, IN facility.  Production is expected to increase by 30,000 vehicles per year with the additions.  Reports say the news comes following Toyota’s 2012 announcement that it would increase Highlander production by 50,000 annually, bringing production to 180,000 a year.  A report said that Toyota sold about 90,000 Highlanders between January and July of this year, an increase of 16 percent from the same period last year.

Headlines for Friday, August 22, 2014

Members of United Auto Workers Local 543 will gather Sunday to consider ratification of a new contract with Airtex Products in Fairfield. The ratification meeting has been set for 2 p.m. Sunday in the Center Street Gym.  Last weekend, members voted down the company’s first contract offer but agreed to stay on the job as contract negotiations continued.

The Edwards County corn yield survey has been completed. The average yield has been put at 157.42 bushels per acre. The highest yield was noted in French Creek Twp. At 168.77 bushels per acre.

Gov. Pat Quinn has announced a $3.2 million highway paving project for White County.  Nearly 15 miles of Ill. Rt. 1 between Grayville and Carmi will be resurfaced and patched.  Howell Paving, Inc. of Mattoon was the low bidder for the project.

Illinois State Police Trooper Jason Blessing, a Fairfield native is being hailed as a hero for his efforts in rescuing a motorist from floodwaters in Hamilton County last Sunday.  Without regard for his own safety, Trooper Blessing tied a rope around his waist and swam out to the submerged vehicle and rescued 54-year-old Allen L. Klein of McLeansboro.  Trooper Blessing also pulled a passerby to safety that had stopped to help in the rescue, but experienced difficulty swimming.  Mr. Klein is expected to make a full recovery.

At this month’s meeting of the Jasper School Board, members hired Riann Zurliene as a Paraprofessional.  The board also named Aaron Basnett as the school’s Pee Wee Basketball Coach.  The annual Jasper School Open House has been set for Tuesday, Sept. 2 from 6 – 7 p.m.

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