The Pantagraph from Bloomington, Illinois on July 7, 2004 · Page 3
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The Pantagraph from Bloomington, Illinois · Page 3

Bloomington, Illinois
Issue Date:
Wednesday, July 7, 2004
Page 3
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Cancel The Pantagraph Wednesday, July 7, 2004 A3 CENTRAL ILLINOIS Former resident killed in Ga. I r ptii married Jerry Weller Zury Rios Sosa By Kurt Erlckson SPRINGFIELD It's an election year, but an announcement Tuesday evening by U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller of Morris was anything but the usual stump speech. Weller, a Republican who celebrates his 47th birthday today, told a crowd of supporters at Morris Country Club that he's getting married after the November election. And the pending nuptials are anything but the usual fare. Weller, a bachelor who represents the 11th Congressional District, is planning to wed Zury Rios Sosa, a congresswoman from Guatemala with deep family ties to the Latin American country's tumultuous political history. Weller plans to commute between Illinois; Washington, D.C.; and Guatemala to be with his future wife, Weller spokesman Telly Lovelace said. According to Weller's office, congressional historians say the marriage would be the first ever inter-parliamentary marriage between a sitting U.S. congressman and someone currently sitting in national legislative body abroad. "After 46 years of searching, I am thrilled to have found my best friend and soul mate, Zury Rios Sosa," Weller said in a prepared statement. "From the moment I met her, I realized I discovered this most incredible woman. Our love knows no boundaries." Weller has been a member of Congress since 1994. His 11th District comprises parts of Central Illinois, including the western half of Bloomington-Normal. He is up for re-election in November, facing Democratic challenger Tari Ren-ner, an Illinois Wesleyan University political scientist. ' . Weller's fiance comes from a powerful family in Guatemala. In November 2003, Rios Sosa was re-elected to her third, four-year term to that nation's Congress. Her father, former army Gen. Jose Ef-frain Rios Montt, seized power in a 1982 coup, but was deposed in another military uprising the following year. Rios Montt, who was widely criticized for human-rights violations during his regime, most recently lost a bid for the presidency in 2003. Rios Sosa's mother and brother also have served in various roles in the country's government. Weller, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, has traveled extensively in Latin America in connection with trade and polttical issues. Financial disclosure reports show he purchased resort property in Nicaragua in 2003 worth between $50,001 and $100,000. i The two met while Weller was on a trade mission to Central America, Lovelace said. By Sharon K. Wolfe ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. A graduate of Normal's University High School and her airman husband were slain at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., over the Fourth of July weekend, Air Force officials said Tuesday. Senior Airman Andrew Schliepsiek and his wife, Jamie Schliepsiek, were found dead about 5 a.m. Monday in their base residence, said Col. Greg Patterson, 78th Base Wing commander, at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. WEEK-TV reported the woman formerly was Jamie Bielenberg, a 1998 graduate V: .... V Jamie Schliepsiek 1 of U High. Andrew Schliepsiek came from Peoria, WEEK-TV reported. Another airman found hurt in a different location in base housing was taken to Houston County Medical Center, Warner Robins, Ga., where he was in stable condition, Patterson said. An arrest was made Monday evening. Another airman assigned to the base is being held at Houston County jail. Specific information on the man was not available from the military or the jail Tuesday night. "It's a tough grieving time. People are very saddened and very surprised," said Capt. Tisha Wright, the base's public relations officer. Wright added that people don't typically think of military casualties occurring in this manner. Wright said cause of death is being investigated, as is the motive. The couple was found after "there was a 911 call that alerted" authorities, Wright said. The Houston County coroner's office is referring all inquiries to the Air Force base. Wright said 23,000 to 26,000 military personnel and civil ians work at the base. "It is pretty much a self-contained city," Wright said, but the base maintains many ties to the community, which is south of Macon in central Georgia. As for the deaths, Wright said, "It is very atypical." Base personnel have gone back 17 years in the base's records and found no similar incident. Col. John Lent, commander of the 5th Combat Communications Group, of which Andrew Schlipesiek was a member, praised Schliepsiek and the others in the unit at the press conference: "They are dedicated professionals and quality people," he said. "Andrew Schliepsiek was no exception. He was an outstanding troop and a natural leader. "He and his wife, Jamie, will be sadly missed," he said. "Another member of our team was also injured and is currently in stable condition despite his injury." Patterson said the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, along with security forces and the FBI "did a tremendous job (Monday.)" ' He said with a suspect in jail, the focus was shifting to "address the grief throughout our community" with a crisis intervention team. WEEK- TV contributed to this story. Water works i 1 Pi , i . . 1 "V '""wr " . .j"'".. t 1 V v I P-" " ' f j'r; r" r. it 1 1, ci- ss ti. - AS.l . fit. . 4 mka. 4Vi 1ST The PantagraphSTEVESMEDLEY A crew from Isler Demolition of Romeo, Mich., used cutting torches on the roof of the 50,000 gallon water tower being dismantled alongside Old Peoria State Road in Mackinaw on Tuesday. The crew also is dismantling a 75,000 gallon water tower in downtown Mackinaw. A new 400,000 gallon water tower built by CBI Constructors Inc. of Plainfield, replaced the two older towers. Grants goto local sheriffs By Kurt Erickson SPRINGFIELD Local cops will reap the dividends of a federal grant worth more than $340,000 to help put gun-toting criminals behind bars. In an announcement Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Jan Paul Miller of the Central District of Illinois said the grant pushes the total amount of money that has gone to the effort in recent years over $1 million. He said the money, which is part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods program, has helped finance more than 2,000 felony arrests. Under the program, some of the cash will help local sheriff's departments and city police offset the cost of providing manpower to the U.S. Marshals Service Great Lakes Regional i j ) Roger Aikin Task Force, which goes after fugitives involved in gun violence. The money also will help pay for local officers to be part of teams targeting drug and gun crimes. McLean County Sheriff Dave Owens, who attended the announcement, said he was "ecstatic" with the re sults of the program. "My motivation to get involved in this is we're taking violent people off the street and making our communities safer," said Owens. Bloomington Police Chief Roger Aikin said one key to the success of the program is that federal sentencing guidelines for career criminals caught with firearms are generally stiffer than what is seen in the state court system. Bloomington has one member of its department serving on the task force on a full-time basis. DeWitt County Sheriff Roger Massey said he has two members of his force assigned to the task force part- time. The money helps pay for overtime, mileage and equipment costs that otherwise would have to be paid out of local funds. Nearly $25,000 of the amount will go toward Illinois Crime Stoppers to continue a media campaign focusing on gun crimes. A portion of the funds will go to enhanced rewards for tips from the public leading to arrests for gun offenses. "Ultimately the success of this collective effort to reduce gun violence depends largely on residents and their willingness to report felons or other prohibited persons carrying firearms," said Miller. Changes to design delay arena construction By M.K. Guetersloh BLOOMINGTON Revisions to the Bloomington arena's designs pushed back the start of construction for the $35 million downtown sports complex. Members of the Bloomington City Council learned Tuesday at a work session that groundbreaking is expected in mid-August at the arena site on Front and Lee streets. The project's general contractor, Bill Johnston, said questions from potential bidders on the project led to improvements on the design, but that also means . the arena will not be ready by the fall of 2005. "We try to be as accurate as possible and that means time is spent getting answers," Johnston said. "It was my call to delay the bids." t The 7,000-seat arena and public skating rink now is slated for completion in March 2006. Hockey will start later Mike Nelson said Bloomington Partners, the management firm hired by the city to operate the arena, will start its hockey team for the 2006 season instead of 2005. "Of course we would love to have the hockey team start a year earlier, but there are a lot of positives for waiting another year," Nelson said. For example, there will be ample opportunity to finish the arena and work out some problems before the start of the season, Nelson said. The team also will not have to juggle its financial operations to play on the road for two to three months at the start of the season. Nelson said the 2006 comple tion date also would easily coincide with the start of the arena football league season. Budget questions Council members discussed whether the delay in construction would mean a higher pre-opening budget for Bloomington Partners. Bloomington Partners proposed a $1.3 million budget for the promotion and event-planning work it will do during the 18-month construction season. City Manager Tom Hamilton said new hires for the Bloom ington Partners' staff could be delayed for certain positions to adjust costs. "That could save you some money because some positions are not going to be hired right away," Hamilton said. "It also could cost you more money because the budget was designed to run out in December (2005)." The citizens advisory committee recommended the budget start Sept. 1, 2004, when construction likely would be under way The council is expected to vote on the pre-opening budget at its meeting July 26. Gridley doubles police hours By Phyllis Coulter GRIDLEY The village of Gridley will double police protection hours with the help of the city of Chenoa to combat a rash of vandalism. Chenoa Police Chief Ron Corrie said vandals in June broke into the high school, shot out windows with BB guns, discharged fire extinguishers on school buses, spray-painted and bent street signs, broke lights in both parks, and painted graffiti on grain bins. The week before GridleyFest late last month was particularly bad, police said. "We've had brashness," said Jack Hoobler, village trustee and member of the police committee. Youths believed to be culprits Village President Brent Kirkton said he believes only five or six youths are causing the problems. He said things would improve quickly if they are caught. The vandals seem to have figured out when Gridley Police Chief Robert Downen was not on duty and caused the trouble when they were less likely to be caught, Kirkton said. They apparently check to see if his car is out on patrol. 1 After discussion Monday night, Gridley trustees voted unanimously to double the hours of police protection from 20 to 40 hours a week. Chenoa police contracted Chenoa police have been under contract with Gridley for six months to help the village with its police protection. Grid-ley pays $17 per hour for the coverage, so the additional police time will cost a total of $340 a week. Corrie said his staff is ready to help. "It won't be a hardship," he said. Gridley's full-time police chief also will continue his efforts. Trustees discussed enforcing an 11 p.m. curfew, trying a mix of patrols by car and on foot, varying patrol hours and using . unmarked patrol cars and plainclothes officers. They agreed to let Chenoa work out the details. "Just an officer present on the street is a big deterrence," said Corrie. City trustees said neighbors watching out for each other can also help. They encouraged people to call (309) 747-3700 if they see anything suspicious. Developer says high-end hotel needed, will lure visitors to Normal By Mary Ann Ford NORMAL Hotel developer John Q. Hammons says the upscale Marriott Hotel and conference center planned in downtown Normal will fill a void in the Twin City hotel market. "You've needed a good hotel for a long time," Hammons said during a media conference Tuesday at Normal City Hall. "Bringing a hotel "and convention center will allow you to be competitive with other cities," he said. "YQu've got a strong community here." Hammons plans to begin building the $30 million, nine- or 10-story hotel with 220 to 230 rooms and accompany- " 1 ."j ' .MWM mFmP- jfl-l&&,lyrtiaCJIWttlhJT' HiifrfiTffl"ri'lMmMiaMJ'h' John 0. Hammons ing 40,000-square-foot conference center in May and have a grand opening in the fall of 2006. The size will depend on the footprint of the property. "It will have a nice ballroom with a lot of opportunities to have meetings," Hammons said of the $8 million conference center that will be financed by the town. "Industry and the university (Illinois State University) will use it." Hammons, who likes to build hotels near universities and state capitals, said universities are growing but don't always have the money needed to build meeting facilities. That's where the hotelconference center comes in. The project is planned at the edge of the ISU campus on land bordered by Fell Avenue on the west, Beaufort Street on the south, Broadway on the east and North Street on the north. He said the facility will meet the needs of people looking for an upscale hotel while also bringing others into the Twin City hotel market dispelling the contention that the hotel will take business away from existing hotels. However, Hammons cautioned, hotels that haven't kept up with the times could suffer. "Hotels developed in the 1950s don't fit needs today," he said. "We're meeting the needs of people today and tomorrow." Hammons also addressed local critics' claim that the $30 million price tag for the hotel is too high. He said the presence of strong labor unions in the community increase the cost about $3 million. "I'm not criticizing," he said. "You do business where you go. It's not too high; the cost (of business) is going up every day" Downtown Normal is the second site Hammons has looked at in the Twin Cities. He said Twin City developer J.C. Ebach tried for four years to convince him to build a hotel by the Interstate Center, which Ebach used to own. Normal Mayor Chris Koos credited Ebach for bringing the Bloomington-Normal community to Hammons' attention. Ebach also was "instrumental" in helping move the Normal project along, Koos said.

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