Local News

Strong Winter Weather Expected To Start Friday Afternoon

Area residents are bracing for a storm featuring a wintery mix of precipitation that is expected to roll into Central Illinois Friday afternoon.


The National Weather Service reports the precipitation will begin as light snow and later in the afternoon transition to freezing rain and sleet. The freezing rain is expected to continue into Friday evening, but then around midnight, the precipitation will likely change to rain.


Total snow accumulations of 3 to 5 inches are possible with ice accumulations of around one tenth of an inch.  Winds will gust as high as 45 miles-per-hour.


Motorists are urged to slow down and use caution during the storm, paying particular attention during their evening commutes.  You should plan on slippery road conditions and patchy blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility.


For road conditions, go to www.gettingaroundillinois.com.


A Winter Weather Advisory has been issued from noon Friday to 6 p.m. Saturday.

Search Continues For Missing Ottawa Woman at Starved Rock State Park

The search continues at Starved Rock State Park for a missing Ottawa woman.  Tina Donovan was reported missing by a family member late Tuesday afternoon.
A ground search of the park was being done on Thursday after a vehicle belonging to Donovan was found in the lodge's parking area.  Ottawa Police were being joined in the search by Utica and Oglesby firefighters and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police.

Lawmakers Propose To Pay For First Two Years Of College For State Residents

Illinois’ community colleges could be free for residents if Illinois lawmakers move forward with new legislation. 


The proposal from state Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant would create the Illinois College Promise, which would use tax dollars to pay tuition and fees for residents who are attending a community college or similarly priced school for two years. 


It’s part of a national movement called College Promise. Director Martha Kanter says there’s a number of different situations where a free certificate or associate’s degree would be life-changing.



When implemented at a state level, the programs cost millions of dollars. California spent more than $40 million to pay for 30,000 students. Kanter says the organization keeps watch over states with the program to ensure they don’t go back on their promise.

Chamber Board Plans Open House To Honor Kim Frey

An open house and reception to honor Kim Frey, outgoing executive director of the Princeton Chamber of Commerce, has been announced.


The Princeton Chamber Board of Directors will host the event on Friday, January 24th from 2 to 4 pm at the Prouty Building at 435 South Main Street.


Frey, who has been executive director since September 2010, will be moving with her family to central Iowa, where her husband has taken a job in the telecommunications industry.


Her last day at the Chamber will be Friday, February 14th.


Frey recently visited the WZOE studios and sat down for an interview on "Wake Up Princeton".  You can hear that interview online at princetonnewsnow.com.

Illinois Bill Would Prohibit First Responders From Losing Life Insurance Coverage Over Narcan

After hearing reports of first responders losing life insurance coverage for having been prescribed anti-overdose drugs, an Illinois lawmaker is looking to prohibit such cancellations. 


State Representative Margo McDermed says she didn’t know that it was an issue until a first responder approached her. 



The state of Massachusetts reported a number of cancellations for the same reason and banned the practice. McDermed’s bill, which she filed last week, mirrors a law in Texas banning insurers from dropping life insurance coverage for a nurse, EMT, or other first responder based solely on obtaining an opioid inhibitor, the most common being Narcan.


Associations representing insurance companies have said that the cancellations are happening, but say the sheer number of customers served makes it hard to catch all of the situations where people are wrongfully denied coverage.

New Report Says Illinois Has Sixth Highest Sales Tax

Illinois has the sixth highest state and local sales tax in the country, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. That’s up from seventh highest last year.


The Tax Foundation report said that’s because of cities like Evanston and Marion increasing their local sales taxes.


The average sales tax in Illinois, when adding state and local sales taxes, is 9.08 percent.

Princeton Names New Executive Director of Chamber and Tourism

The Princeton Area Chamber of Commerce Board has chosen a successor to Kim Frey as Chamber and Tourism Executive Director.


Autumn Kirk, 42, a native to the central Illinois area, lives in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and works for Ethan Allen as a design center director.


Kirk earned a degree in political science from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.  After college, she went to work as a project manager for a wind turbine company.  She has also spent time in Texas working for a global publishing company.


Kirk has spent the past 11 years in South Carolina, where she started an interior design company.  She’s also volunteered for many organizations, including Girl Scouts and her local food pantry and humane society.


Kirk will be relocating to Princeton and expects to begin her new role on Monday, February 3rd.  She replaces Kim Frey, whose last day on the job will be Friday, February 14th.

IVCC Offers Nursing Information Session

An Illinois Valley Community College nursing admission information session will be held from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, February 12th in Room CTC124.


Sponsored by the nursing department, counseling center and admissions and records, the session will cover admission requirements and courses students should take before applying to either the associate degree (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) programs.


Due to space limitations, students are encouraged to RSVP through the web form at https://www.ivcc.edu/admissions/nursingadmissions.php or contact Kathy Sramek at (815) 224-0439 or by email at kathy_sramek@ivcc.edu.

Report Finds 1 Percent Of Illinois Schools Started After Labor Day In 2019

Labor Day used to be the one last hurrah of summer before school started for the year, but in 2019 just a handful of Illinois schools started after the holiday weekend. 


At the request of State Representative Mike Murphy of Springfield, the Illinois State Board of Education published a report analyzing school start dates across the state and what other states mandate as well.  Only 8 of the 852 schools started after the Labor Day holiday. 


Murphy says August events such as the Illinois State Fair have been affected because kids are already in school.



He does understand the point of starting early to finish the first half of the year before the holidays.



Illinois has no law mandating any specific time to start school.

Quilts of Valor At The Princeton Public Library

The Princeton Public Library is hosting a special event Wednesday evening.


Terry Johnson and the Illinois Quilts of Valor will be presenting about 16 quilts to service men and women who have been touched by war.  In 2019, the local Illinois Quilts of Valor group made 130 quilts which is double the amount that they made the previous year.


The National Quilts of Valor Foundation distributed 33,375 quilts to veterans in 2019 and a total of 242,485 since the national group was founded in 2005. 


The event gets underway at 5:30 pm.  You're urged to attend and show your appreciation for the men and women who have served our country when they receive their quilt and also to show your appreciation to those who make the beautiful quilts.  This program is free and all are welcome to attend.

New Report Shows Illinois Ranks High In DUI Arrest Rates

A new report by U.S. Drug Test Centers shows Illinois is behind only Delaware in the number of arrests for driving under the influence while the state’s DUI arrest records have decreased both short-term and long-term.


Illinois State Police Sergeant Delila Garcia says the results are largely due to a two-pronged approach of strict enforcement and ramped up education efforts by numerous law enforcement agencies.



She says the state police’s safety education unit conducts “hands-on” programs for all ages – from children to seniors. But, if officers observe erratic driving, they will make stops and there will be consequences for impaired drivers.



In Illinois, a first-time DUI offender can face up to a year of jail and fines of up to $2,500. If a person was harmed, the offense becomes a felony.

Report Says Illinois Residents Pay The Most Cell Phone Taxes

A yearly measurement of cell phone taxes and fees shows Illinoisans pay more than residents in any other state and the costs are increasing. 


In 2018, the nonprofit Tax Foundation’s annual estimation of state and local taxes found that Illinois’ state rate combined with an average of Chicago's and Springfield’s local taxes and the federal tax, amounted to a 28 percent tax on cell charges.


In 2019, research analyst Ulrik Boesen says it’s higher.



In Chicago, the annual bill for a family of four will include more than $500 in state and local taxes, accounting for nearly half of the total. 


Boesen says much of that is due to the city’s high 911 fee. 



The lowest cell tax state was Oregon, which charges about three percent.

Princeton Chamber Director Visits Wake Up Princeton

Kim Frey, the outgoing Executive Director of the Princeton Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, visited the WZOE studios recently.  She was on air with morning host Paul Bomleny...


State Senator Chuck Weaver Not Seeking Re-Election

State Senator Chuck Weaver has announced he is retiring from the Illinois State Senate at the end of his term and will not seek re-election in 2020.


The Peoria Republican, who had filed to run in the March 17th primary for the 37th Senate District, withdrew his candidacy last week, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections website.


Win Stoller, an East Peoria Republican, is the only candidate remaining on the primary ballot for either party.  He will be the GOP nominee in November's election to succeed Weaver.  There currently are no Democrats on the ballot.


Weaver was appointed to the Senate in 2015 and ran unopposed for election to a four-year term in November 2016.


The 37th District includes all or parts of Bureau, Lee, Henry, Stark, Marshall, Mercer, Peoria, Woodford and Knox counties

Illinois BBB Says More Millennials Getting Scammed

It may be more than 100 years old, but the Better Business Bureau is keeping up with the times. 


It began as a place to lodge, investigate and try to settle consumer complaints, and it still performs those functions. Northern Illinois Bureau president Steve Bernas says the organization does far more than that, including research. It also maintains a huge database of known frauds. 


And in an era of digital commerce, consumer caution is more important than ever. 



Bernas says Millennials have replaced the elderly as the largest victim group.



A first step in learning whether you might be giving your money to a scammer is to check out the data at www.bbb.org

Illinois Flyers Warned To Leave Marijuana At The Airport

Illinois may have legalized marijuana, but the feds control the skies, so you still can’t possess it and fly. Chicago’s Midway and O’Hare airports have so-called “amnesty boxes” for people to dispose of any pot they have in their possession before completing the security screening process to board a plane. Police say any cannabis left in the boxes will be disposed of as officials would with any narcotics.  As of January 1st, adults 21 or older in Illinois can possess up to 30 grams of cannabis flower, 500 mg of THC in a cannabis-infused product and 5 grams of cannabis concentrate.  Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and it’s illegal to carry across state lines, but authorities are not arresting people caught with the drug at Chicago airports.

57th annual PIT Wrestling Tourney This Weekend

This weekend is the 57th annual Princeton Invitational Wrestling Tournament.  The PIT is one of the largest wrestling tournaments in the state of Illinois and it draws in up to 40 teams every year.  The tournament is also an annual boon to the city.  There will be a large number of people visiting stores and restaurants, buying gas and staying at hotels in Princeton.  The 2-day event gets underway Friday afternoon and runs through Saturday evening at Princeton High School's Prouty Gymnasium.

ISP Facing Backlog of Tens of Thousands of FOID Card Requests

Facing tens of thousands of FOID card requests, the Illinois State Police is giving residents a handful of options to help.


The agency has 62,000 pending Firearm Owners' Identification, or FOID, card applications or renewals. 


Sergeant Jacqueline Cepeda says the state is working on a new automated program.



She says the new program will cost more than three quarter million dollars to implement, but will handle many of the most common issues.



In the meantime, ISP has a phone number, email, web page, and YouTube video tutorial to help cardholders get what they need.

Bureau County Farm Bureau Foundation Offers Scholarships

The Bureau County Farm Bureau Foundation has announced it will offer scholarships to area students majoring in agriculture.


Over the past 24 years, the Foundation has awarded $98,750 to deserving college students. Last year alone, the Foundation distributed $7,000 to area students.


To be eligible for the scholarships, students must be a Bureau County Farm Bureau member or a dependent of a Bureau County Farm Bureau member, and must be pursuing a degree in an agricultural-related field.


Applications are available by contacting the guidance counselors at school systems in Bureau County, the ag adviser at the school, advisers at state colleges and universities, or by contacting the Bureau County Farm Bureau office.


Applications are also available by email if you contact the Farm Bureau office or on their website at www.bureaucountyfarmbureau.org under the Foundation tab.


Applications can be emailed. If they are mailed, they need to be postmarked by Feb. 28, 2020. If the application will be hand delivered to the office, it must be in the office by 4 p.m. Feb. 28.


For more information, contact the Bureau County Farm Bureau at 815-875-6468.

Route 251 Crash Victim Identified As Hennepin Man

The driver in Friday's fatal Route 251 crash has been identified.  According to the La Salle County Coroner's Office, the victim is 61 year old Steven Siemers of Hennepin.  Peru Police Chief Doug Bernabei says drugs and alcohol have been ruled out as factors in Friday afternoon's crash at the Route 6 overpass.  Siemers' truck reportedly struck the bridge with the hoist upright and extended.  The accident was reported just before 4:30 pm and Siemers was pronounced dead in the emergency room at Illinois Valley Community Hospital in Peru about a half-hour later.  The coroner’s office said the crash remains under investigation with the Peru Police Department.

Evangelical Covenant Church To Host GriefShare Support Group

GriefShare, a support group for those who have lost a spouse, child, family member or friend, will be starting a new meeting session from 6 to 8 p.m. beginning Tuesday, January 14th, at the Evangelical Covenant Church, 24 N. Main St. in Princeton.  Meetings will be every Tuesday evening through March 31st.  


GriefShare is a video seminar series that features some of the nation’s foremost Christian experts on grief and recovery topics as seen from a biblical perspective.  Each GriefShare session has three distinct elements – video seminar with experts, support group discussion with focus, and personal study and reflection. The group will meet weekly to help face challenges and move toward rebuilding your life.  There is a cost of $15 for the workbook.


For more information, call the church office at 815-875-2124.

Minimum Wage Workers in Illinois Reminded to Inspect Their Paychecks

As of the first of the year, workers in Illinois who make the state’s minimum wage should have seen a pay increase. State officials are reminding workers to check their paycheck.


The state’s minimum wage is now $9.25 an hour. Illinois Department of Labor Director Michael Kleinik says workers should check their pay stubs.



The last minimum wage increase in Illinois was 10 years ago when the rate was increased to eight dollars and 25 cents per hour. Eventually, the state’s minimum wage will reach $15 an hour, by 2025.


Last week’s wage increase only affects hours worked in the new year.



There are provisions in the minimum wage law that allow for lower wages, including employees whose hourly wage is supplemented by tips. There is also a youth minimum wage for workers younger than 18 who work fewer than 650 hours a year.

Princeton Mayor Visits Wake Up Princeton

Princeton Mayor Joel Quiram visited the WZOE studios recently.  He was on air with morning host Paul Bomleny...



Library Offers Program On Working In The Park & Recreation Field

The Princeton Public Library will host the program “Life Working in the Parks & Recreation Field” Thursday evening.  Ed Melendez has worked for over 30 years in Parks & Recreation in four States.  He will share about his work at the Peoria Park District in Illinois, Beloit Parks & Recreation in Wisconsin, Adrian Parks & Recreation in Michigan, and Porter County Parks & Recreation in Indiana.  He has also worked with State Parks and the National Lake Shore National Park in Indiana.  The free program begins at 6:30 pm Thursday and all are welcome to attend.

Unseasonably Warm Holiday Season In Illinois Breaks Records

Grilling and golfing aren’t normal holiday traditions for residents across the state, but the spike in temperatures late last month made outdoor conditions unusually hospitable. 


State Climatologist Trent Ford says the preliminary statewide December average temperature was 35.2 degrees, good for the 18th warmest on record.



He says many areas of the state remained uncharacteristically dry as well.



Ford says December was the 50th driest on record in the state, marking the second straight month of below-average statewide precipitation.