Plenty of change in 2018

Change was an underlying theme for many of the top stories of 2018 — from construction of a new auto dealership facility to a new village administrator, a change to how Rantoul village trustees are elected to a long-time leader of Lincoln’s Challenge Academy retiring and a new superintendent-principal being hired at Gifford Grade School.

Here is a look at the top stories in the second half of the year.

Air Force plane salvager charged
The Indiana man who was contracted to dismantle a number of vintage Air Force planes on the former Chanute Air Force Base was charged with theft and money laundering for selling two ejection seats from a fighter plane.

Ken Morrison, 68, of Whiting, Ind., said in late August that he was charged for selling the seats to a man who approached him on the former base about buying them.

It was just the latest misstep for the owner of T&K Metals who earlier in the year was ordered to stop dismantling the planes because the work caused several airplane fires, one of which destroyed a plane.

Morrison said he didn’t see any harm in selling the ejection seats. The action, however, prompted officials with Liquidity Services (the company that had awarded him the contract) and the Department of Defense to order him to cease operations.

Tragic Thomasboro-area accidents
The rural Thomasboro area was the scene of three tragic wrecks that took the lives of four victims within a couple months.

Rantoul resident Shana Outlaw was killed Sept. 13 and her three children injured when a truck struck Outlaw’s vehicle, which was stopped on U.S. 45 just south of Leverett Road on U.S. 45 after her car experienced mechanical trouble. Coroner Duane Northrup said Ms. Outlaw died from multiple traumatic injuries. The children were not seriously injured.

Her 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix was struck from behind by a 2008 Dodge Ram truck driven by an East Lynn man.

In November, family and friends of Ms. Outlaw picketed outside the Champaign County Courthouse, saying they wanted prosecutors to file more serious charges against the man who hit her. He was charged with failure to reduce speed.

State’s Attorney Julia Reitz said based on the reports her office had received, there was not enough evidence to file more serious charges against the man.

In early November, a Thomasboro-area intersection claimed another life. Kalyn D. Porter, 31, also of Rantoul, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash at County Road 2400 North and 1200 East.

Northrup said Ms. Porter was northbound on 1200E when her vehicle traveled through the T-intersection at 2400N and came to rest in a drainage ditch.

Thomasboro Fire Chief Paul Cundiff said since he has been with the fire department, at least four deaths have occurred at the intersection.

A few weeks later, two other people were killed in a two-vehicle wreck on U.S. 45 south of Thomasboro when a southbound auto crossed the median and collided head on with a northbound garbage truck.

The driver of the auto — Johnterrieon Carter, 23, of Champaign — died from injuries the same day as the crash, while one of three passengers — Brandon Bush, 33, also of Champaign — died a few days later.

Northrup said all of those in the auto were ejected. The garbage truck driver survived.

The accident happened about 2 miles south of Thomasboro. A portion of U.S. 45 was closed and traffic rerouted for several hours.

Fisher grocery store reopens
In early October, a Fisher institution was brought back to life.

Owners Brandon and Carissa Chandler of rural Fisher reopened Ingold’s Meat and Deli a few months after the 92-year-old business had closed. Originally opened in 1926 by brothers-in-law Harve Ingold and Jesse Heiser, who ran it until the mid-’80s, Ingold’s had been operated by the same family for nearly a century.

Family members took over its operation. They wanted to retire but couldn’t find a buyer. Later, the Chandlers stepped in to help the community.

Several familiar faces returned to Ingold’s, including local resident Levi Horsch, who has more than 10 years experience managing meat and deli shops and who serves as manager; Bas Campos, who is the store’s main cutter and has worked there, as well as the other meat cutter, Doug Brever, who worked there until the day it closed.

New Shields facility going up
For several years, Shields Auto Center had periodically moved its vehicle inventory to its property in west Rantoul next to Walmart — a strategy that boosted sales.

Company officials decided to make the move permanent. A new Shields facility is going up at the site and is expected to open this year. All Rantoul operations will be moved from the company’s location at 225 S. Meyers St.

The first dirt was peeled back in early October.

General Manager Rick Shields  said the 27,800-square-foot facility will offer more room and will be more efficient than its current facility.

New village administrator hired
Scott Eisenhauer, who had served as Danville’s mayor for more than 15 years, was approved in October as Rantoul’s new village administrator, succeeding Rick Snider.
Eisenhauer’s first day on the job was Nov. 5.

“I had made up my mind that I had to put myself in a position of what other opportunities might exist” during the summer after a question was put to voters of whether Danville’s form of government should be changed from a mayor/alderman format to one with a city manager in charge.

The 53-year-old Eisenhauer said he doesn’t see the Rantoul job as a stepping stone.

“My interest is to finish my career in Rantoul,” he said. “I certainly recognize things may change both on the board’s behalf as well as my own. I would like to be in Rantoul for the next 10 years.”

Fisher solar project withdrawn
The company that had hoped to build a solar facility in Fisher withdrew consideration of the project in late October.

Novel Energy Solutions had requested a special-use permit for the solar farm, but the company felt government restrictions, including requested setbacks, were too stringent.

Several residents had spoken out against the project being in the village limits.

Allie Loschen of Novel Energy Solutions said with the requested setbacks being considered by the village, she saw no way to make a project that could deliver the 2 megawatts of electricity promised.

Voters approve local village board districts
Rantoul voters approved a proposal to divide the village into six village board districts by a 1,723-1,450 count in the November election.

Voters currently elect trustees on an at-large basis, with the highest vote-getters elected regardless of where they reside in the community. That will change. A candidate will run in the district in which he or she resides.

It won’t happen until April 2021, when all of the trustee seats will be up for election, with three of the seats elected for two years and the other three for four years as decided by the village board. Afterward, the trustees will have staggered terms.

The board will have to divide the village into six districts of approximately equal population on or before Sept. 1, 2020.

The election also saw voters sweep Democrats into county office, including for the newly created county executive position, county clerk, sheriff and auditor.

Action urged for stormwater-affected properties
The Rantoul storm drainage committee voted in late November to recommend the village of Rantoul undertake negotiations with the owners of three stormwater-affected homes on the community’s northeast side to possibly clear the way for creation of a retention pond.

The panel encouraged the village board to take action to alleviate the flooding problem that has plagued Illinois Drive for decades. The solution could mean the purchase of three houses by the village to create the retention pond.

Much of the stormwater comes from neighboring Northview School. Village officials are hoping the Rantoul City schools district will help with the cost of remedying the problem.

Long-time academy director retires
Peter Thomas, who helmed Rantoul’s Lincoln’s Challenge Academy for many years, retired at the end of the year.

Thomas, a native of New Jersey, spent many of his formative years in South Carolina under the watchful eye of his grandparents.

He entered the U.S. Army soon after graduation from high school, served three years in Vietnam and later was assigned to the National Guard. Thomas helped implement start-up of the academy in 1993 but initially resisted serving as director.

Thomas will now be devoting his time to his first vocational love — the funeral home industry. He will manage a funeral home and has business interests in several others.

Deaville part of Bush honor guard
Rantoul resident Chris Deaville was part of the Coast Guard ceremonial honor guard contingent that stood watch over the casket of the late President George H.W. Bush in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C.

The 24-year-old Deaville spent 4 1/2 hours standing near the late president’s casket.

The honor guard was present throughout the night, standing watch during 30-minute segments.

A Rantoul Township High School graduate, Deaville volunteered to be on the Coast Guard drill team, which helped him to earn honor guard status.

The honor guard is a two-year commitment. Deaville and his fellow honor guard members have stood guard at several notable occasions.

Candidates file for April 2 election
There was no shortage of candidates filing nominating petitions in mid-December to seek village and school board seats.

Four candidates filed to seek two open four-year terms on the Rantoul Village Board — incumbents Henry Gamel and Chad Smith as well as former trustee Gary Wilson and appointee Sherry Johnson. Newcomers Jasmyne Boyce and the Rev. Mark Wilkerson filed for an unexpired two-year term on the village board.

Other contested positions include incumbent Steve Thomas versus current trustee Ross Radke for mayor of Ludlow; incumbents Tony Grilo and Dustin Rhodes and newcomers John M. Curry and Justin Chaney for three seats on the Thomasboro Village Board; incumbents Joan Fitzgarrald, Andy Graham and John Brotherton and newcomers Jack Anderson, Joe Robinson, Nelson Cuevas, William Wilken and Edwin Everly for three seats on the Rantoul City Schools board; incumbents Jeremy Larson, Janet Brotherton and Roger Quinlan and newcomers Monica Hall and Matthew Walters for three seats on the Rantoul Township High School board; newcomers Caroline Franzen, Alyson Suits and Traci Harris and incumbent Michael Schluter on the Gifford Grade School board; newcomer Bradley Zwilling and incumbents Janice Douglas, Tiffany Rushing and Leonard Delaney on the Fisher school board; and Thomas Fultz, Geraldine Roberts, Mary Nuku, Rhonda Moore and Erin Brucker on the Ludlow Grade School board.

New Gifford Grade School superintendent-principal
Effective July 1, Jay Smith will helm Gifford Grade School. The school board approved a four-year contract with Smith in December. He succeeds Rod Grimsley, who is retiring from the post after eight years.

The new principal-superintendent will receive an annual salary of $107,500 with a 3 percent pay increase each year of the contract that ends June 20, 2023.

Smith had been hired as principal to serve one year under Grimsley for the current school year.

A native of Ramsey in downstate Illinois, Smith was a special education teacher for the Eastern Illinois Special Education coop in Kansas, Ill., when he was hired to the Gifford principal’s position. He earned a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from McKendree University.


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