Former County Board chair begins serving federal prison sentence
Matt Sorensen, former chair of the McLean County Board, began serving a one-year federal prison sentence Nov. 27, after being convicted of defrauding State Farm through his private consultancy business. At press deadline, officials had not revealed which prison Sorensen would report to, though it must be at a Bureau of Prisons-designated institution. As part of his plea deal, Sorensen will serve one-year probation, after being released in November 2018, and must pay $490,975 in restitution. Sorensen, a Republican, relinquished his leadership post on the County Board in January 2016 when he was indicted. County officials subsequently conducted an internal investigation of Sorensen’s activities in public office, but never found any evidence of wrongdoing.
County’s October jobless rate declined for fifth straight month
McLean County’s jobless rate continues to inch downward, according to the most recent data from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The number of unemployed persons seeking work in the Bloomington-Normal statistical area stood at 3.8 percent at the end of October. At the same point a year ago, joblessness locally was at 4.8 percent. McLean County’s most recent jobless statistics are 0.9 percent better than the state jobless average, which stood at 4.7 percent at the end of October.
McLean County shedding staff amid budget deficit forecast
After contending with a $1.5 million deficit in the budget this year, McLean County officials are moving forward with a plan to undergo a number of cost-cutting efforts in next year’s spending plan. One of the most pronounced efforts will come by way of staff cuts. At a County Board meeting Nov. 21, County Administrator Bill Wasson announced 21 county employees are taking an early retirement. Six additional workers will assume lower job classifications, Wasson said, because their current positions are being eliminated.
Health department recognizes advocate for suicide prevention efforts
Colleen O’Connor, who works with the nonprofit Project Oz organization, was recognized recently for establishing a year-old, school-based prevention program that has reached about 2,000 students across nine schools. The McLean County Health Department honored O’Connor with its annual public health award. As part of its recognition, board members serving on the health department lauded O’Connor and others associated with Project Oz for taking steps toward removing the stigmas associated with mental illness.
CDC names Bloomington Illinois’ drunkest city in recent study
An estimated 21.5 percent of Bloomington’s adult population engages in excessive alcohol consumption, leading officials from a federal agency to label the city as the drunkest in the state. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently conducted a study of adults who binge drink across the county. In its study, the CDC concluded excessive drinking has brought with it a high cost in healthcare — to the tune of $250 billion since 2010. Excessive drinking, according to the CDC, is defined as five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women.
City alderman leads effort to change how items placed on meeting agendas
A contingent of the City Council is exploring a possible change in the municipal code, concerning how specific items are placed on meeting agendas. Alderman David Sage, who represents Ward 2, has proposed a new policy that would change how Mayor Tari Renner and other leaders within city hall are able to have specific items taken up. Under current city code, the mayor, city manager and majority of the council can have items placed on meeting agendas. Sage’s proposal would require majority approval from the council for items the mayor or city manager are seeking to have placed on the agenda. Sage discussed his proposal at a City Council committee of the whole meeting Monday, Nov. 20, but no formal action was taken.
ISU officials consider adding engineering program in the future
Illinois State University officials are in the early stages of exploring the possibility of adding a full-fledged engineering department. Such an offering, according to leaders within the university, could potentially attract more high-achieving students and add curriculum linked to employment sectors that are expected to employ a growing number of persons in the future. A steering committee was assembled recently in the first of multiple steps in exploring the benefits of adding such a program to the campus. In this early stage, the committee is looking at such logistics as staffing and space needs for an engineering program.
Normal’s 2040 comprehensive planning review in final stages
Town of Normal’s roadmap for the next two-plus decades will soon be minted as the Town Council gives the extensive document one last comb-through and takes decisive action. Town officials have been refreshing Normal’s prior comprehensive plan in an effort to update it and set guidelines for such issues as economic development, housing stock, infrastructure needs and public safety priorities. The full document can be viewed on the town’s website, www.normal.org.
–McLean County News Briefs–