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Archives for March 2013

Pana Blanketed By Snow: Record Breaking Snow For March Dumps 12 to 18 Inches

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A predicted snow storm across the Midwest dumped more snow than expected on the area on Sunday, Mar. 24, and through the early morning hours of today, Monday, Mar. 25.

Officially, as of 7:00 a.m. today, Monday, the Pana Weather Station recorded a record 13.8 inches of snow in the last 24-hour period. This is the largest snow recorded in Pana since the winter of 1982.

Other observers have indicated more or less, from around a foot to 15 inches, recorded in the yard of Shae Cohen,  in the 10 block of South Walnut St., to as much as 18 inches.

Hard to believe Easter is only a week away. Forecasters are predicting the mercury to rise into the upper 50’s with a chance of rain on Sunday, Mar. 31. The Veteran’s Memorial in Kitchell Park – site of the annual Easter Egg Hunt – was shrouded in snow at the height of the storm Sunday afternoon.

At Taylorville, their official total at the Taylorville Airport was 17.7 inches and in Springfield, the total was 17.4.

Because of the weather, Christian County Sheriff Bruce Kettelkamp issued a Level 2 Snow Emergency in the county. This means no one should be out driving in these conditions, unless it is absolutely necessary. A check with the Christian County Sheriff’s Office today indicated the Snow Emergency may be cancelled around noon today.

Chief Deputy Bruce Engeling said they “have had tons of calls” since the storm hit. He said some county roads and most all township roads have not been plowed. He said the main problem is people getting their cars stuck –many of them in the middle of the road – and blocking the plows from doing their job. Engeling said there have been no major accidents or injuries.

Streets in Pana are in relatively good condition. City street crews started Sunday afternoon and worked throughout the night and into the morning clearing streets and alleys. Pana street department personnel is asking the public to be patient as they cannot be everywhere at the same time. They will get to all streets as soon as they can.

The Pana Police Department handled a couple of minor traffic accidents on Sunday. They also dealt with a number of vehicles which were required to be towed as well as a large number of telephone calls about conditions on the roadways.

Some area residents have not only had to battle the elements, but have also been without power during the storm. Power went out in Rosamond, Ohlman, Oconee and Nokomis early in the afternoon on Sunday. Power was restored in Rosamond, Oconee and Ohlman about 9:00 p.m., but the power was off in Nokomis until about 5:00 a.m. today. There was also sporadic outages in Pana.

There has been no word on whether the Pana City Council meeting scheduled for tonight will be held.

The informational meeting for the Sales Tax Referendum has been cancelled. It was scheduled for Tuesday night, Mar. 26, in the Pana Junior High School auditorium. It has been re-scheduled for Tuesday, Apr. 2, still at 6:00 p.m. in the auditorium.

Many activities have been cancelled because of the weather. It is a good idea to call ahead to see if the event is being held or has been postponed.


Informational Meeting on Christian County Schools Sales Tax Referendum on Ballot


IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME? – On a nice spring day Saturday, Mar. 23, a high school baseball game takes place in the shadow of new construction of Macon Meridian High School in Macon.

The construction is being financed through a Macon County 1% sales tax for education. All school districts in Macon County share the revenue.

A similar sales tax proposal is being proposed in Christian County, to be voted on during the Tuesday, Apr. 9, Consolidated Election.

(Tom Latonis Photo)

Residents of Pana are invited to an informational meeting Tuesday night, Apr. 2, in the Pana Junior High School auditorium on the proposed county-wide sales tax referendum which will be voted on in the Tuesday, Apr. 9, Consolidated Election. The meeting starts at 6:00 p.m.

The meeting, originally set for Tuesday, Mar. 26, has been postponed due to the weather.

Voters will decide whether to add 1% to the current sales tax with the proceeds going to the local school districts in the county. For the Pana School District, it could amount to as much as $450,000 per year.

All school districts in the county – Taylorville, Morrisonville, South Fork, Central A & M, Edinburg and Pana – will get a portion of the sales tax collected, based on the number of pupils from the county enrolled in the various school districts.

The revenue can only be used for school facility purposes. It cannot be used for salaries, benefits, insurance, books or any day-to-day operations of the school district.

“It’s a better way to fund schools; it’s a more equitable way to support schools than the property tax,” Dr. David Lett, Pana School Superintendent said. “We get the benefit of people visiting our community helping to support this tax, or even spending their dollars in Taylorville helps support this tax. We derive benefits from outsiders spending money in our county, just we go and do in other counties that have it like Macon County.”

“This is a new avenue for raising the quality of our schools,” said George Heintz, a co-chairman, along with Al Stupek, of the Pana Steering Committee which is hosting Tuesday’s meeting. “Good schools will keep our community strong.”

The Pana Township Board of Trustees went on record endorsing the measure during their March meeting and the Board of Directors of the Pana Chamber of Commerce also endorse the idea. Also endorsing the referendum has been the Rosamond Township Board and the Christian County Farm Bureau.

The 1% increase would apply to the same items which are currently subject to sales tax.  “If it is not currently taxed, it will not be taxed,” is the adage.

Specifically, those projects for which the money can be used are new facilities, additions and renovations, land acquisition, on-going maintenance, architectural planning, durable equipment (non-moveable items), fire prevention and life safety, disabled access and security, energy efficiency, parking lots, demolition and roof repairs.

And roof repairs are at the top of the list of Pana priorities.

“Our immediate needs are two roofs for Washington and Lincoln elementary schools, estimated at a quarter million dollars apiece,” Lett said.

Anyone who commutes to Decatur, traveling up Route 51 have been witness, first-hand, to the benefits of the 1%  Macon County tax when they go through Macon. The new educational wing of the school which can be seen going up from the highway is being funded by the sales tax.

In addition to the construction and maintenance projects the money can be used for, it can also be used to abate property taxes levied to pay bonds issued for capital purposes.


Newspapers To Hold Mayoral Forum in Pana

The Taylorville Breeze-Courier and the Pana News-Palladium will team up to host a Mayoral Forum among the three candidates for Pana Mayor in the Tuesday, Apr. 9, Consolidated Election.

The event will be held on Monday, Apr. 1, at 7:00 p.m. in the Auditorium of Pana Junior High School.

Candidates Steve Sipes, Earl Baker and Bill Pierce have all been invited to participate.

Questions from reporters representing the newspapers will be asked of the candidates, and there will be a time for some audience questions selected randomly.

More information on the forum will appear in Thursday’s, Mar. 28, newspaper.

Baseball Panthers Hold Off Sullivan, 10-8


GETTING HIS FIRST save of the season was Pana pitcher Rhett Zahradka, a freshman.

He pitched 1 1/3 innings and didn’t give up a hit or run at Sullivan on Saturday, Mar. 23.

(Mary Cothern Photo)

The Pana Panthers baseball team ran its record to 2-0 with a 10-8 victory over Sullivan at Sullivan on Saturday, Mar. 23.

Raustin Zahradka picked up the win for Pana and Rhett Zahradka got the save. Raustin went 5 and a third allowing 7 hits and 4 earned runs. He struck out 5 and walked 8. Rhett didn’t allow a hit or run in his inning and two-thirds and whiffed a pair of batters.

Today’s, Monday, Mar. 25, game at Ramsey is cancelled. No games for the Panthers are scheduled until Tuesday, Apr. 2, when they are scheduled to go to Staunton.


Sullivan Roughs Up Pana Softball Team, 14-3

The softball team of Pana High School fell victim to the home team Sullivan Redskins on Friday, Mar. 22, 14-3. Sullivan was powered to the win by scoring 6 runs in the bottom of the first.

Pana scored all 3 of their runs in the top of the fourth, which made it a 10-3 score in favor of Sullivan. The Panthers are 0-2 this season.

Unless there is a record warming trend over the next few days, games scheduled are probably cancelled. Pana was scheduled to host Warrensburg-Latham today, Monday, Mar. 25; at Auburn on Tuesday, Mar. 26; and at Central A & M on Thursday, Mar. 28.


Girls Soccer Team Beat Gillespie

The girls soccer team of Pana High School got its second win of the season on on Thursday, Mar. 28, with a 3-1 win at Gillespie. The team is 2-0 on the young season.

Weather (and field conditions) permitting, Pana is scheduled to host Mt. Zion at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Mar. 26 at Tanner Park for their first home match.

Fact, Fun & Fillips: March 25, 2013


Sitting here at the front desk of the N-P on downtown Locust Street in Pana and hearing a motorcyclist leaving the center intersection of Locust and Third streets, we are reminded of . . . . .

A story told by someone we’ve forgotten, but about a guy everyone loves who knows him and is the classiest machinist and best humored guy we know, down south around the Oconee hills.

Of course that would be our old friend whose always keeping us out of mechanical trouble and down time here at the N-P.

Who would that be?

Why – Royal Weber of course. He never fails us.

But one of the most local and humorist stories we’ve ever heard about Royal concerns – the winter time, Royal faithfully garbed in his long winter fur coat he wore while attending Pana High School way back when.

And it goes something like this. Going back to when Royal came to town daily from Oconee and the Weber home.

He would ride to classes at Pana High School in those days and we can imagine, possibly his coattails flying behind him! Ha!

But once arriving at PTHS (then), he would park it, so the story goes, right behind the old “slide down” metal enclosed tube fire escape attached by tube to the PHS 2nd or then almost 3-story height.

And on dismounting, so the story goes, with the rear end of his machine close enough to entertain all above, back pilled up close enough for satisfactory sound effect to reach the second story or so, study hall, where the entrance of the escape was, he would give the machine power enough for one more big . . . . Vroommm!

As close to the escape as he could manage, so we were also told that!!

And also told, and we can just in our mind see that gentleman who headed up our school, Principal R.D. Brummett, finger hooked on the corner of his vest, glasses off and held between his first finger pointing upward and  asking . . . . . but always did in his quiet, but questioning manor, and in a possibly disgusted manor:

“Royal, do you have to do that?”

And we can just picture that in our mind and wish we could have witnessed it.

Knowing now the basic goodness of both people.


We pause here a moment to offer Mrs. Ken (Eleanor) Cherry a “Happy Birthday” on Sunday, Apr. 7. She’ll be 90 then!

And many more . . . . .


And now we move back with what we consider a poignant tale of FFF’s own considering “Mr. Brummett” and the fine man he was as the principal of then Pana Township High School before consolidation.

A call came through the intercom of PTHS our junior year asking “Tom Phillips, please report to Mr. Brummett’s office.”

After the “shock and awe” of that communication  wore off, we wondered, “what did I do now?” And then we did report.

Those years, (Korean War 1947-51 etc.) and if in the 1A bracket, were hard ones to find full time jobs in high school. And other than our shoe shining business at the Jack Galston barber shop, they were almost impossible to find!

Going to Mr. Brummett’s office, he told us of an inquiry, anonymous, who was looking for someone and asked if we would be interested?

We said we surely would. He said he would give us more details after he talked to the person that weekend.

And we were pleased, appreciative and excited about it.

But our “after the weekend meeting” never came to pass, and we never found out.

He died on that weekend.

A good, good man, was Mr. R.D. Brummett, who above all cared for his students, first and foremost!

But, Royal, bless him too, FFF still gets to see occasionally!


So Long.

Out in Left Field: March 25, 2013

OILF-294x300So close. . . . . !

As the saying goes, “Don’t think the Illini lost; they just ran out of time!”

I don’t think there was a lot of daylight between the Illini and Miami, but it was just enough to sneak by the U of I.

Won’t have to go to an amusement park this summer – have been on a roller coaster ride with Illinois since November.

Overall, a good first season for Coach John Groce. Happy to have him aboard. . . .


If you’re one of those folks who fill out NCAA brackets, you have: a. Torn them up; b. flushed them; c. burned them; d. maybe all of the above.

Have never been one of those folks, but it’s sure fun to watch the rest of you who do – especially Jacob.

He’s been following the tournament very closely and some of the sounds being emitted from his room when another one of his picks have been eliminated is entertaining to say the least.


Needless to say, but high school sports at Pana have come to a complete stand-still.

All contests between now and Wednesday have been cancelled, and its hard to say, with all of this snow, when teams will be able to get back out there.

Need a big warm-up, that’s for sure –and fast.


Speaking of high school sports, we will feature photos from the high school basketball banquet in the next issue or two – barring anymore snow storms.


See you next week!


Obituaries: March 25, 2013

Muriel E. Cook

Muriel E. Cook, 80, of Royalton, a former Pana elementary school teacher, died Thursday, Mar. 21, 2013, in her home. Riggin-Pillatsch & Burke Funeral Home, Carterville, in charge of arrangements. Condolences may be sent to


Thomas Hebenstreit

Thomas J. “Tom” Hebenstreit, 56, of Ramsey, died Thursday, Mar. 21, 2013, in his home. Miller Funeral Home, Ramsey, in charge of arrangements. He was preceded in death by his mother, June and a son, Joshua Hebenstreit.


Lula Messina

Lula R. “Babe” Messina, 93, of Ramsey, died Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2013, in Prairie Rose Health Care Center in Pana. Miller Funeral Home, Ramsey, is in charge of the arrangements. Condolences may be sent to


David Rochkes

David S. Rochkes, 96,  of  Vandalia, died on Saturday, Mar. 23, 2013 in Palm Terrace, Mattoon. Miller Funeral Home, Ramsey, in charge of arrangements. Condloences may be sent to


Jason Grotts Selected FNB Senior Of Month at Pana High School


JASON GROTTS, RIGHT, has been selected the Pana High School Senior of the Month, sponsored by First National Bank of Pana. He is the son of Robert and Tammy Grotts of Pana.

Making the presentation is Vicky Gullion of First National Bank.

The Pana High School Senior of the Month for March is Jason Grotts. He is the son of Robert “Rob” and Tammy Grotts of Pana.

Jason has a 3.755 grade point average on a 4.0 scale. He is a member of the National Honor Society and president of the Student Council. He is treasurer of the senior class. He was captain of the boys soccer team this past fall and a member of the track and golf squads. Jason is a section leader in the high school band and a member of the Honor Band. He played intramural basketball and is a member of the Foreign Language Club and the Prom Committee. He was also named a Scholar-Athlete.

He is a member of Pana Boy Scout Troop 99 and enjoys scuba diving, sports, swimming, boating, fishing, camping, music, snowboarding and politics. Jason has worked as a life guard, in landscaping and construction. He built a batting cage in Kitchell Park and volunteers at the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry and with the Hospital Bazaar.

He plans to attend Illinois State University and major in Sports Medicine.