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Early Voting gets started today in McLean, Vermilion County

The election office is open for voting in Vermilion County. Voters in Vermilion County can begin casting ballots today (February 4). It is the first day for early voting and voting by mail.

McLean County election officials also report their early-voting begins today.

The turn-out for early voting could give some indication of what to expect at polling places on Election Day March 15th.

Iroquois County, and others, are yet to officially announce the Early Voting period is beginning.

Objections to presidential candidates petitions delayed the ballot process last month. The early-vote process was expected to be delayed until February 17th at earliest. But the State Board of Elections issued the green light after objections were resolved.

94.1 WGFA

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EIU supporters to rally in face of 200 layoffs

CHARLESTON — Supporters of Eastern Illinois University have planned a rally later this week in support of a state appropriation to sustain the university. Layoff notices are going out to some 200 civil service employees.

What's being billed as a "EIU Support Rally" is scheduled for 4 pm Friday on the university's library Quad.

EIU, and the rest of public higher education in the state, has been operating since July 1 without a state appropriation. Democrats in the Legislature last spring sent Gov. Bruce Rauner an unbalanced state budget that he mostly vetoed, and there has been no action on funding for higher education since.

"EIU is a very important member of our community. A lot of people are directly dependent and indirectly dependent on the health of EIU to sustain the Coles County and regional counties economy," said Jonathan Blitz, president of the University Professionals of Illinois at Eastern. "And so this is an effort to try to get the community and the university community together to support higher ed funding so that EIU can, frankly, survive."

Without state money, Blitz said, "it's only a matter of time until universities start shutting down. Chicago State is talking about shutting down March 1st and other universities can't be far behind. The only university that can sustain this for any reasonable period of time is UIUC (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)."
On Jan. 25, EIU President David Glassman said that state government "is literally starving its public universities."

And he announced a number of budget-trimming efforts at the university, where 7,876 students are enrolled this spring.

"Beginning immediately, we will implement the actions of halting all non-instructional capital equipment purchases; delaying all deferred maintenance and repairs that are either unrelated to safety and security or already paid for; delaying all non-instructional capital projects; halting all non-instructional supply purchases without vice presidential approval; freezing employee-reimbursed travel with minimal exception such as for required federal or governmental purposes; and freezing all hiring that involves FY16 funding," Glassman said in a letter to the campus. "If an appropriation continues to be delayed further into the semester, we will need to temporarily and/or permanently lay off hundreds of non-instructional employees and mandate unpaid furlough days to others beginning in March."

Those 30-day layoff notices started going out this week, Blitz said.

94.1 WGFA

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11 indicted by grand jury in Iroquois County

A rural Hoopeston woman accused of stabbing her boyfriend multiple times is among 11 defendants indicted by an Iroquois County grand jury.

50-year-old Lisa Bitzel is charged with aggravated domestic battery and aggravated battery. It was January 25 when police said Bitzel stabbed her boyfriend about his body. 61-year-old Steve Hofbauer of Rankin was treated for stab wounds at Carle Hospital in Urbana. The injuries were not life-threatening. The incident happened at Bitzel's Iroquois County residence, near Hoopeston.

Also indicted was 31-year-old Michael Shadowen of Crescent City. He faces two-counts of aggravated domestic battery. He allegedly choked two people, including a four-year-old child at the Crescent City residence. Shadowen was arrested after police were called to the Emergency Room at IMH to investigate the alleged choking incidents.

A recent arrest by Watseka Police led to the indictment of 66-year-old Walter Urban of Watseka. He's charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance. Police investigated a questionable online purchase and then executed a search warrant after intercepting a package delivered to a local address. Urban was arrested when police located cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia at Urban's residence.

A KAMEG arrest at a rural Watseka location also led to the indictment of 49-year-old James Ward. The rural Watseka man faces charges of unlawful possession of cocaine with intent to deliver, possession of cocaine, unlawful possession of six firearms by a felon and unlawful possession of ammunition by a felon. On January 26th, agents executed a warrant at Ward's residence. Ward is a felon and cannot own or possess firearms or ammo.

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Aquinas Catholic Academy in Kankakee closing

The Joliet Diocese is closing Kankakee's Aquinas Catholic Academy. Declining enrollment is a factor.

The Daily-Journal reports in its exclusive story, the closing is affective at the end of the current school year. The D-J reports it's a move to keep the Catholic school system viable in Kankakee County. Enrollment is down 27% over the last 10 years, according to the diocese.

The diocese plan also calls for St. Joseph School in Bradley and Maternity BVM in Bourbonnais will offer pre-school thru 6th grade elementary education. Students in 7th and 8th grade will join the high school students at Bishop McNamara.

94.1 WGFA

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Martinton man dies in Iroquois County traffic crash

A single-vehicle crash on Cable Line Road in Iroquois County killed an elderly motorist. The accident scene was discovered about 4 am this (Wednesday) morning.

Iroquois County Coroner Bill Cheatum identified the victim as 89-year-old Romeo Arseneau of Martinton. The southbound vehicle flipped after running off 2200 E Road. The driver was ejected. Cheatum pronounced him dead at the scene.

Sheriff's Police and Martinton Fire responded.

94.1 WGFA