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Dwight pot operation leads to arrest

An aerial surveillance team uncovered a marijuana-growing operation in Grundy County. A Dwight man is now charged with illegal manufacturing of the cannabis substance.

43-year-old Charles Johnson Jr. is accused of cultivating an estimated 200 cannabis plants. Johnson's bond was set at $100,000.

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  • Parent Category: News

Trial of man accused in Pontiac officer’s death will stay in Livingston County

A judge has ruled the trial of a South Carolina man accused of reckless homicide in the death of a Pontiac police officer will not be moved outside Livingston County.

Jason Collins' trial will be held in Livingston County. It's a decision that rejects a defense argument that an unbiased jury cannot be seated in Pontiac.

Collins is charged with reckless homicide and aggravated driving under the influence in the October 2013 crash that killed Pontiac officer Casey Kohlmeier and his K-9 partner, Draco.
Authorities say Collins was drunk when his pickup truck struck a marked squad car parked in the median of Interstate 55 near Pontiac.

The defense motion argument two weeks ago pointed to extensive media accounts of the accident may have tainted the jury pool.

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St. Anne man convicted in U-S Federal Court

A 37-year-old St. Anne man faces anywhere from 10 years to life in prison after he was convicted of drug and weapons charges. Sentencing is set for December in District Court in Urbana for J.B.Brown Jr.

Prosecutors said Coco Brown was dealing in heroin when arrested. Authorities found well over 100 grams at his St. Anne residence. A semi-automatic handgun was also seized. Brown is a convicted felon.

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  • Parent Category: News

Kankakee County Industries Optimistic on Local Business Climate, Growth

                  New expansions and hiring anticipated, according to recent Alliance survey.

KANKAKEE, IL –July 31, 2014 – Kankakee's County largest employers are reporting a stable to improving local business climate that is increasing the likelihood of new expansions and hiring through the end of 2014 and into 2015.

A full 95% of those responding to a survey of Kankakee County's top 64 industries and institutions in terms of staff count are optimistic about the opportunity for growth of all types over the next 6 to 12 months.

Feedback was collected though an electronic survey conducted by the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County's Business Retention & Expansion team in July. A 30% response rate was achieved during the 1 week survey period.

Other survey highlights:
• Employment is expected to be stable or increase, according to 100% of survey respondents.
• 76% of respondents reported stable or increasing company sales.
• 71% of respondents anticipate new capital investment through the end of 2014.
• 71% of respondents anticipate or are considering expansion over the next 3 years.
• 80% of respondents report that new products or services are anticipated in the next 3 years.

"We know that our area is highly advantageous for business," explains Economic Alliance President/CEO Mike Van Mill, "but it's definitely great to see that validated in hard numbers.

"This exercise is also instructive in that it identifies key areas where our office and our partners can add value to our businesses and accelerate development."

To support anticipated growth, survey respondents identified several core needs. Skilled operators, for instance, are required by 43% of major employers surveyed. Also, 67% requested information on and support in pursuing workforce training grants; 50%, for financial growth incentives. Several also requested that the Alliance advocate for control of local and state utility and regulatory costs.

In its Business Retention & Expansion efforts, the Economic Alliance keeps its finger on the pulse of the Kankakee County business climate through regular and varied interaction with existing industrial and institutional businesses. This communication allows the organization to set and meet its strategic retention goals, remain responsive to local marketplace needs, and identify patters of opportunity for new business attraction.

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  • Parent Category: News

Watseka’s Helen Todd coming home to perform

           Saturday performance at Harold & Jean Miner Auditorium

WATSEKA — Former local resident Helen Todd is back home this weekend. The Sugar Creek Opera makes another Iroquois County presentation Saturday. And the former Watsekan, Helen Todd, has a lead role again.

Sugar Creek's production of "Die Fledermaus" by Johann Strauss II is Saturday at the Harold and Jean Miner Auditorium at Central High School in Clifton.

Todd, a co-founder and general and artistic director of Sugar Creek Opera, describes "Die Fledermaus" as a light, fluffy comedy. And though she's coming off heavier dramatic roles — she recently sang the title role in Giacomo Puccini's "Turandot" in Hong Kong — she's picking up Rosalinde fast.

That's partly because she and the rest of the cast are singing the German operetta in English.
"The comedy part of operetta is one of its most important elements," Todd said. "You want American audiences to get all the jokes. You don't want them to have to read subtitles.

"The operetta also lends itself easier to translation. It's easier singing and then speaking dialogue. It's not just straight opera all the way."

Todd has been singing the role of Norma Desmond in the musical "Sunset Boulevard" in Cleveland, soprano Helen Todd will switch gears.

She's driving eight hours from her now-hometown of Cleveland, Ohio to her girlhood hometown of Watseka to sing the role of Rosalinde in the Sugar Creek Opera production of "Die Fledermaus."

This is the 12th annual season for Sugar Creek Opera, formerly called Sugar Creek Symphony and Song. This year there is no singer apprentice program; it's on hiatus. Sugar Creek also dropped other programs it had offered. There will be no Cherry Street Art Fair, church tours or other concerts; just the one performance of "Die Fledermaus."

"We talked about our mission, about going forward into the next stage of life for the company, from Sugar Creek Symphony and Song to Sugar Creek Opera," Todd said. "That was purposeful because we want to concentrate on what we do best, which is professional opera.

"We rewrote our mission statement to be specific about that, to bring it back to our roots of showcasing classic and American opera. We're trying not to tire our workforce by doing extraneous events not related directly to opera."

Sugar Creek also hopes to extend its operatic reach to other communities like Peoria, Cleveland and Indianapolis — all cities where opera companies have struggled or disbanded in recent years due to the economy.

"We want to raise funds to perform opera in these other communities as well, and still have our summer festival and apprentice program," said Todd, who also serves on Sugar Creek's board of directors.

Todd, who lives in Cleveland, said she will return each year to Watseka to sing if donors and the community raise the money to produce an opera, though she no longer has family living in Watseka, in Iroquois County.

She feels Iroquois County and other areas of the state are underserved culturally, particularly in the area of live opera.

To survive, opera companies need to rethink the financial strategies they followed during boom times, Todd said.
"They have to think more community-based, more community-oriented so they're invested in the community a little deeper so they can get those donor dollars. It's taking a long time because they contract out three or four years. It's taking a long time for the business model to change."

Tickets are available for the Sugar Creek Opera. For reservations sugarcreekopera.ticketleap.com or call 815-432-3830

94.1 WGFA