Peoria Public Radio News

Local news stories and features from Peoria Public Radio.

Muffet / Flickr/Creative Commons

An effort to revitalize vacant properties into community assets might get some extra love and recognition in Peoria this Valentine’s Day.

The City is asking residents to participate by using the hashtags #LoveThatLot and #GrowPeoria with photos of revitalization efforts in their neighborhoods.

The effort coincides with the national #LoveThatLot campaign sponsored by the Center for Community Progress.

A newspaper report says a man who's serving 15 years in prison for running an underage prostitution operation did so out of an apartment obtained with the help of the Peoria Police Department.

Environmental contractor still not getting paid

Feb 8, 2016
Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

Illinois’ ongoing budget impasse has forced many nonprofits and state agencies to lay off workers, trim services or even shut down. That vulnerability is also impacting state environmental contractors, and that could pose a public health concern.

Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

The University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria hosted a simulation day for local public school students on Saturday. 

The program run by medical students is called GUIDES. The acronym stands for Guide, Understand, Inform, Drive, Educate and Serve. It started in 2011, but this is the first year the initiative included kids from local high schools. 

The goal is to provide mentoring and hands-on medical learning to low income and minority students. 

Cass Herrington

A former assistant for President Ronald Reagan says none of the current GOP presidential candidates can be likened to “The Great Communicator.” 

Some good news broke for local non-profits broke last night, in a year marred by a lack of state funding and layoffs in the local manufacturing sector. 

The Heart of Illinois United Way's annual campaign broke the previous year's record by two percent. 

The local United Way chapter announced its 2015 total of $11,631,648, compared to around $10.8 million in 2014. 

The annual year-long fundraising campaign provides funding for non-profits that help the poor in Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Marshall, Stark and Putnam Counties.

sierraromeo [sarah-ji] / Flickr/Creative Commons

A McLean County School is receiving national recognition for closing in the achievement gap, despite seeing its low-income student population double in recent years.

Parkside Elementary in Normal has a poverty rate of more than 52 percent.

The Illinois State Board of Education announced Thurs. that Parkside received a distinction from the National Title I Association for lowering its achievement gap among minority and low income students to 24 percent in 2014. That figure is down 11 percent from 2011.  

Chick-fil-A Opens in East Peoria

Feb 3, 2016
Tanya Koonce / Peoria Public Radio

  It’s hard to miss all the tents set up in the parking lot at the new Chick-fil-A restaurant in the East Peoria’s Levee District. The restaurant opens at 6:00a.m. Thursday.

The state of the City of Peoria remains in balance, according to Mayor Jim Ardis. 

justgrimes / Flickr/Creative Commons

Objections to several presidential candidates that stalled Illinois’ primary election have been resolved. 

Peoria County Election Commission Executive Director Thomas Bride announced Wed. the department and the State Board of Elections are finalizing the ballot. 

Bride says voting is set to take place Tuesday, Feb. 9. 

Voting was originally scheduled to begin Feb. 4, but objections to candidate placement on the ballot put the date on hold.

Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

A new retailer is setting up shop in Peoria’s warehouse district, and it’s bringing a new business model along with it. 

Banu and Mike Hatfield, who are married, own Zion Coffee. Last month, they announced plans to bring their coffee business to the historic Union Depot Hotel building on SW Adams St. 

  Those arrested for certain offenses in the City of Pekin can expect to have their car towed and impounded, needing to pay a $500 fee to get it back.

The Pekin Police Department started impounding vehicles again Monday with the start of the new month. The move comes after the city council reinstated the city’s auto impound ordinance. The city’s last impound policy was enforced from 2008 to 2011.

Pekin Taps HR Director to be Interim Manager

Feb 1, 2016

The City of Pekin has a new interim city manager. Sarah Newcomb is the city’s director of human resources. But starting Tuesday she’s wrapping city manager duties into her responsibilities. The office has been unmanned since last month.


“Yes, there is a pile, I already have ready to go. So we’ll get started on that  and  there’s usually a staff meeting on Tuesday. So those will be the first order of business.”

LIVE: Iowa Caucus Coverage Tonight at 8

Feb 1, 2016

NPR’s Ari Shapiro and Audie Cornish will host our live coverage of the Iowa Caucuses begin at 8 p.m. and continue until results are in. The special will feature candidate speeches, interviews, and analysis from NPR's National Political Correspondent Mara Liasson, Senior Washington Editor and Correspondent Ron Elving and Political Director Domenico Montanaro, along with polling insights from Democratic Pollster Anna Greenberg of Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research and Republican Pollster Patrick Ruffini of Echelon Insights.

Faith leaders unite in billboard campaign for peace

Feb 1, 2016
Kamil Mufti

The Islamic Foundation of Peoria is hoping that a new billboard campaign will spur conversations with non-Muslims about their faith. 

The Foundation’s Imam Kamil Mufti says the initiative is an effort to alleviate fears about Muslims in the months after events, like the mass shootings in San Bernadino and Paris.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us," Mufti said. "I just hope we can build more trust and more relationships, meaningful relationships, where people are open.”

Tanya Koonce / Peoria Public Radio

Judge Alicia Washington was sworn in this afternoon at the Peoria County Courthouse. Washington is the first African-American Woman to take the bench in the 10th Judicial Circuit.

Caterpillar has finalized plans to consolidate and close much of its production in East Peoria.

The company announced Fri. that it will lay off 350 employees in office and production roles on the East Peoria campus. Cat says it also plans to close its HH Building in East Peoria, which affects 230 current employees.

The reductions in East Peoria will take place over time beginning February 8. 

Caterpillar announced today its sales and revenues in 2015 came in 15 percent lower than 2014. 

The company reported 2015 sales of $47 billion dollars. That’s a more than $8 billion drop year-over-year. 

2015 profit per share came in at at $4.64, compared to $6.38 in 2014.

Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman points to low commodity prices and sluggish economic growth in developing countries for the decline.

Peoria County Jail Records

A Peoria man charged with distributing child pornography faces a 30-year sentence in federal prison.

On Monday, 24-year-old Jacob Timothy Burmood plead guilty to a single count of distributing child pornography in a plea deal before US District Michael M. Mihm. 

Burmood, a registered sex offender, has been held in the custody of the US Marshals Service since his arrest in October 2015.

Peoria County jail records show Burmood had previous arrests related to sexual abuse dating back to 2010.

Kherat named District 150 superintendent

Jan 27, 2016
Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

Peoria Public Schools selected a new superintendent, but the board didn’t have to look far for a candidate.

The now former interim superintendent Sharon Kherat will take the permanent position, effective immediately.

District 150 board members voted 6-0 to approve the appointment of Kherat as superintendent during a special meeting Tuesday, following an executive session. Board member Linda Butler wasn’t present for the meeting.

cafemama / Flickr/Creative Commons

Peoria Public Schools and Illinois State University are partnering in an effort to attract and retain dedicated, culturally competent teachers.

The District 150 board approved to participate in the US Department of Education Urban Center Grant that would create a pipeline for ISU education students to complete their student teaching in District 150 schools.

Interim Superintendent Sharon Kherat says the hope is they’ll continue to teach in the district long after graduation.

Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

Peoria Public Schools’ leadership is “frustrated” by the prospect of paying for the City’s combined sewer overflow problems.

That was the sentiment expressed by several board members Monday in response to a CSO presentation by the City Engineer.

Under the proposed plan, the school district would have to pay an estimated $25,000 a month. 

Board Vice President Rick Cloyd implored the city to consider support in the form of TIF funds, credits or a tax pass-through.

Illinois' Primary Election Early Voting Delayed

Jan 25, 2016
Peoria Public Radio

The start day for Early Voting and Vote by Mail in the Illinois Primary Election will be delayed. It was scheduled to start February 4th, but the executive director of the Peoria County Election 

'Real Men' share stories at Franklin Primary School

Jan 25, 2016
Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

Franklin Primary School launched a new reading initiative that it hopes will catch on at other District 150 schools. The program "Real Men Read" aims to inspire literacy and leadership. 

About 30 volunteers, including parents, community leaders and high school seniors, visited the school last week to read to K-5 classrooms. One of the readers was former Peoria County Circuit Judge Glenn Collier.

As Collier read, he asked his audience questions -- it helps holds their attention.



UPDATE: Missing Aurora Couple Found Safe in Indiana

Jan 22, 2016
Illinois State Police

A missing Aurora couple have been found safely in Indiana, according to multiple Chicago media outlets. George and Marilyn Spieler went missing on Jan. 21, and suffer from health conditions that caused authorities to issue a LEAP Alert on Friday. The details of where they were found were not made public.


Bradley University

The Alumni Center on the campus of Bradley University was standing room only last night. That was the community turnout welcoming the university’s 11th president, Gary Roberts, who is also a 1970 Bradley graduate.

Roberts says he looks forward to working with the local community and calls it essential.

“Bradley and the Peoria and central Illinois communities are integrally linked and we are dependent on one and other," Roberts said. "When one succeeds, the other benefits, and if one has a failure, the other suffers.”  

Images_of_Money / Flickr/Creative Commons

The Peoria Area Association of Realtors is reporting its most successful year since 2007.  Home sales for the tri-county area increased more than six and half percent year to year. 5,479 homes sold last year.

The average home sale price was more than $145,000. Becky Peterson is the President of the Peoria Area Association of Realtor. She says the housing inventory is also well positioned for buyers and sellers.

Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

The Peoria Public Library, like many agencies, businesses and nonprofits, is looking for ways to extend its reach to the Hispanic Community.  

This weekend, the library is hosting its first event specifically aimed at bringing more Latino visitors through its doors. The event will have live music, food and library card registration. 

A Peoria County judge has ruled that he didn't err when he found a man accused of murder fit for trial four years ago.

Health Department selects public health administrator

Jan 21, 2016
Peoria City/County Health Department

The Peoria City/County Health Department has selected a new public health administrator. 

The County Board of Health announced Gene Huber will take the post effective immediately. 

Huber has been serving in the interim post since July, department spokesperson Diana Scott said.

The position was vacated when the former public health administrator Greg Chance took a job at Advanced Medical Transport.

Previously, Huber served as the department’s finance director for 12 years.