A wrap-up of the weekend

[AUG. 28, 2001]  This past weekend’s Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival was a huge success. Despite a dooming weather prediction that threatened the entire weekend, there was very little that was affected.

Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce Director Bobbie Abbott summed up the weekend this way: "We were fortunate in most every aspect except that the Saturday night flight and glow had to be canceled. It was very disappointing because we work all year for this weekend, but you can’t control the weather. All in all, all the events over the whole weekend had great turnouts."

The three-day weekend held a nice diversity of activities at locations all over town. There was something for everyone. Besides the big draws of the art fair and the hot-air balloons, many other supporting activities add dimension to the weekend.

The chamber gets calls about all of the events from people wanting more information or sometimes asking how they can become involved.

Abbott says: "People have their special interests that they come to the festival for. Some will say they liked the car show; some come for the Postville historical craft demonstrations; and the flea market is a growing segment showing increased interest. It will be getting bigger. Each event has its own draw."

Festival planners will soon meet to evaluate this year’s events, and another year’s work will begin.


Three sides of a square

[AUG. 28, 2001]  It was Sunday, Aug. 26, in the year 2001, and the Logan County courthouse square was a peninsula in a sea of old cars. Cool Cruisers sponsored the Classic Car Cruise In, which ranged from Ford Model A's and T's to Checkered Cabs. Restored Mustangs, Camaros, Super Sports and anything else you'd want to see were on display, with their owners only too happy to brag on their pride and joy.

[Click here to see pictures]

Kids find fun and opportunity for
artistic expression in Adventure Zone

[AUG. 27, 2001]  In addition to the balloons and artists visiting our community, numerous other activities filled the streets and parks of Lincoln this weekend. A children’s Adventure Zone offering multiple activities occupied the corner of Pekin and Kickapoo streets. Tickets available for a minimal charge could be redeemed for a wide variety of entertaining distractions. Proceeds went to Main Street Lincoln to fund ongoing economic development and historic preservation efforts.

Included in the children’s area was the children’s art fair tent, sponsored by the Lincoln Area YMCA, offering art and craft activities for the younger art fair attendees. Abe’s Carmelcorn provided a 30-foot inflatable Jelly Belly with discounted candy items available. The Whopper Hopper, an inflatable jumping tent for children, was manned by Lincoln Burger King personnel, and the Lincoln Public Library provided a free reading corner for youngsters.


[Greg Harmon of Lincoln works on a craft at the children's art fair tent, sponsored by the Lincoln Area YMCA.]

A new addition to the children’s activities this year was a community puzzle. Children were given the opportunity to decorate 6-inch-square puzzle pieces that will be assembled to create a giant community puzzle. The puzzle will be permanently mounted and displayed in the Lincoln Public Library. Emily Bakken, a Lincoln High School student who volunteered her services as part of a leadership seminar she attended earlier this summer, manned the community puzzle.


[Ashley Polk (left) and Mallory White, both of Lincoln, lend their talents decorating 6-inch-square puzzle pieces that will be assembled to create a giant community puzzle.]


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An annual favorite for the children’s area was the massive cardboard maze created by volunteers for Main Street Lincoln. Local businesses saved large appliance boxes throughout the year to supply the material necessary for the massive structure, which this year was based on a "2001 Space Odyssey" theme. Children were seen scrambling in and out of the space shuttle’s door throughout the afternoon.

[Judy Rader]


An artist’s story

[AUG. 27, 2001]  One artist at the 2001 art and balloon fest originally traveled to Lincoln as part of a balloon chase crew.

Jim Brooksher’s 23-year love of ballooning has taken him to the Albuquerque Festival eight times. When he relocated to Grayslake in Illinois, he continued his hot-air passion by volunteering with the Windy City Balloon organization. Three years ago, when the Chicago-based California Dreaming balloon participated in the Lincoln festival, Brooksher tagged along as part of the pilot’s chase crew.


[Judy Rader interviews artist Jim Brooksher.]

A pleasant surprise awaited this professional artist when he had the chance to stroll through the art fair in Latham Park. Impressed with the quality and variety of fine art available, he applied for acceptance into the 2000 fair. The judges, obviously also impressed with his selection of oil and watercolor paintings, many of which featured his second passion, hot-air balloons, agreed to accept his entry.


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"It was great for me," stated the artist, "The Lincoln Art Fair was my best show of all 2000!"

Brooksher works at Abbott Laboratories in package design but says that his "love and dream is to be able to paint and make a living selling artwork. Mixing my art and hot-air balloons fits a niche in my life. It’s my midnight oil and therapy."

[Judy Rader]


Sen. Stone invites seniors to visit website

[AUG. 27, 2001]  Senior citizens can access information about laws, programs and services directly affecting them through a new section on the Senate Republican caucus website, according to Sen. Claude Stone. Stone, R-Morton, said the purpose of the site is to make information from a variety of agencies available in one location.

"Over the past few years, the Legislature has passed a lot of laws directly affecting senior citizens, and they should be able to find the information quickly," said Stone. "This new website offers information about these laws, programs and services all in one place, regardless of which state agency offers the program."

The site can be accessed through the caucus home page at www.senategop.state.il.us. It contains information on laws and programs concerning crime prevention, health care, prescription drugs and tax relief.

Among the programs listed on the site are the newly expand Circuit Breaker program through the Department of Revenue, the attorney general’s consumer fraud programs and the Illinois Department on Aging’s Elder Abuse and Neglect Program.

Senior citizens may also download brochures and other information from the site.

[News release]


Forget the major sports:
I vote for hot-air ballooning

By Jeff Mayfield

[AUG. 25, 2001]  Thursday night I had the opportunity to go up in the Sun Kissed balloon piloted by Randy Conklen of New Holland and co-piloted by Jack Holland of McLean. It was an almost perfect night for the flight.

[Click here to view pictures of the balloon fest]

First, all the balloonists, crews, media and chamber members met out at the Holiday Inn Express to receive their assignments and their instructions.

Although no one said this directly to me, it appeared that one of the goals was to take the balloons over or near the Maple Ridge Care Centre and Retirement Village. So I traveled with the Sun Kissed crew out to the old Abe Lincoln School. That’s where we set up shop.

Out of the back end of Randy’s pickup truck came everything but the kitchen sink…at least, everything that you might guess would be important for a successful launch. Things like a big basket to ride in and the balloon or the envelope or whatever you want to call that thing that actually lets you sail in the wind. It looks, acts and smells like a parachute to me.


After we removed all the paraphernalia onto the ground, we stretched out the balloon, hooked up all the lines and cables, and then started up the fan. The fan looks just like the ones you see on the sidelines during National Football League games on Sunday. The difference is we didn’t have any 350-pound linemen sitting next to the fans to help us ready the balloon.

After what seemed like minutes waiting for the balloon to inflate, Randy pumped a few shots of the hot propane right in the center of the balloon, and after a few hits of the gas, it finally seemed to perk up.

"It is…alive!" I said. Then someone told me to cut the commentary and to just get into the balloon.

There were several balloons next to us, so we waited for them to take off; then our turn rolled along. And just like the magic in the Wizard of Oz we began to climb. I resisted the urge to say, "There’s no place like home," or "We’re going back to Kansas, Toto"; but it was hard.

Several Lincoln residents were on hand to witness the liftoff. One of those people, a little 8-month-old lad that I spotted in the crowd, was especially good-looking. Many of them waved hysterically, while others acted like they see this sight every day.

It is an exhilarating feeling to climb those first few hundred feet. You see the majestic beauty of the balloons up above you, and you look down to the ground and watch the crews below feverishly scrambling to get their balloons airborne. You see the beauty of God’s creation everywhere you look.


Randy is an especially skilled pilot considering that he’s in only his third year at the helm. In fact, he’s in his rookie season as an official pilot, having received his pilot’s license last November. He is very conscientious and does not take his attention off what he is doing. He won’t even pause to use the binoculars or to take a picture. He suffers my stories and my constant snapping of pictures and just smiles all the way.

No wonder people love this so much. It is awesome.

We glide almost over the top of Maple Ridge, and I pause for a moment, hoping that at least the residents there have their day brightened a little bit more.


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Then we mosey parallel with old Route 66 over some of the most spectacular checkerboard scenery on God’s green earth. Those who think Illinois is boring and not that beautiful have never seen it from that angle before. It is breathtaking.

I’m reminded of one of the many reasons I choose to live in Illinois. From up in the air you realize that we truly are the heartland and the heart of the country, if not the world.

The serenity that you experience while you drift wherever His winds take you reminds me that I need more times of quiet reflection in my life. I am reminded to be grateful for everything I have.

I see the Stars and Stripes flying from flagpoles all over town, and I am reminded of how wonderful it is to live in a free country. I thank every veteran and every veteran-to-be for all the sacrifices made on our behalf.

I see what looks like some bumper crops, and I see some that remind me of the grass in my yard that has serious heat fatigue. At any rate, I am grateful for central Illinois farmers who against all odds struggle to keep going.

I see balloons headed for the water just shy of I-55, and then I see what I think is Jim Ireland’s balloon make a "splash and dash" run just before they hover over the interstate.


Then it happens. Northbound and southbound truckers start to see the balloons and go bananas! They’re just like a bunch of little kids. They start honking and waving and slowing down and pulling over. It is a sight to behold.

Finally, we see a good landing area just north of the highway. Randy radios his partner, and the next thing I know, we’re doing a splash and dash in a soybean field! Then suddenly we come to a farm road and run head-on into our crew.

Nobody told me that we didn’t have any brakes! Does my insurance man know this, I wonder.

Once the eagle, I mean the Sun Kissed, had landed, our crew walked us into the short grass, which is a place I seldom find myself during the golfing season.

But, the flight is far from over. They kicked me out of the balloon, and we began the tear-down assembly. It seems to be the reverse of putting the balloon up, but it seems to go a lot faster. This crew is tremendous and so is this sport.

Yes, I love basketball, football and baseball, but I’m rapidly becoming a balloon enthusiast. If you’re as interested in this sport as I have always been, I suggest that you seek out one of this year’s sponsors and ask to crew for them. I think I have crewed every year that this event has been in Lincoln, and it is the highlight of the year for me!

Also, if anyone has a few thousand bucks that they want to get rid of and would like to train and hire a new rookie pilot, please call 732-7443 and leave a message for yours truly. I promise to call you back within minutes.

Hope to see you and yours this weekend out at the fairgrounds or in the air…

[Jeff Mayfield]


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Lincoln balloon fest off to a great start
Glorious mass ascension followed by
a charmed evening glow

[AUG. 25, 2001]  The first official day of the Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival was deemed a success by event organizers.

[Click here to view pictures of the balloon fest]

 Inclement weather with gusty winds had been hinted by earlier weather reports, but at zero hour for the first official balloon launch, the skies cleared and the green flag was given for a mass ascension. Gusty breezes created minor problems with shifting balloon envelopes during inflation, and a few landings were slightly rougher than usual.

Three sites were laid with targets for balloonists to drop beanbags onto and attempt to score competition points. The target sites were chosen for their accessibility to the fast moving balloons and were located beside Big R, Hicks Gas and on the Schwartz Family Farm.

Balloons returned to the fairgrounds at dusk and delighted the crowd with a traditional balloon glow which included the specialty balloons, Mr. Potato Head, Rubber Duckie, a large goldfish named Sushi and the Lady Jester 


A highlight of the evening was the surprise appearance of bride and groom Sara and Shawn Lockard.  After the couple’s 6 p.m. wedding service at St. John United Church of Christ in Lincoln, the wedding party detoured through the fairgrounds en route to the reception to allow the couple to take pictures at an unusual picture site, their favorite french fry tent.

According to bridesmaid Carrie Fletcher, Sara, the daughter of Marilyn and David Armbrust of Lincoln, met her future husband at the Logan County Fairgrounds, where her parents have regularly manned the grandstand ticket booth for the Logan County Fair. Shawn came to the Logan County Fair as a summer employee of Culler’s French Fries Stand, which had returned to the grounds this weekend to accommodate the balloon festivities.

After a picture session at the fry stand, a crew member from Dean Carlton’s balloon, Ca-Zoo, invited the couple to join them in the infield during the balloon glow.



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Friday evening’s festival crowd also enjoyed the carnival, a petting zoo, craft booths and the free grandstand show featuring Sister Groove and the Cross Town Jam.  Lincoln Junior High student Rachel Kasa stated, “I love the balloon glow, the funnel cakes and the rides. The Scrambler is my favorite!” 

[Judy Rader]

An Adventure-some view

Weekend festivities begin

[AUG. 24, 2001]  The Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival kicked off Thursday evening when visiting balloon pilots treated the local media to a pre-festival launch.

[Click here to view pictures of Bob's balloon flight]

Over a dozen balloons carrying local reporters, photographers and other lucky passengers floated across the city during the early evening hours, luring city residents out into their yards and neighborhoods to catch the first glimpse of this year’s variety of inflated colors, shapes and sizes.

Maple Ridge Care Centre invited the entire community to a free kickoff party in its parking lot and, as promised by Georgina Viner, Maple Ridge marketing director, most balloons obliged the center by floating directly overhead during the festivities.

Lincoln Daily News photographer Bob Frank was treated to his first view from aloft by Mary and Don Bragg of Albuquerque, N.M., in their balloon, Mad Adventure. The Braggs’ balloon, locally sponsored by Key Printing, is participating in its second Lincoln balloon fest.

Mary, a college administrator, and Don, a computer manager, have enjoyed ballooning for over 10 years and were drawn to the Lincoln festival by other pilots who told them about "this great little festival where the whole town comes out."


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Don stated, "It is amazing that a town of this size can pull together and show so much community pride. Not to mention, we are treated like kings!"

Tom Seggelke of Key Printing recruited the crew for Mad Adventure, calling on family and friends. Even the most inexperienced volunteers quickly found themselves drawn into the hands-on experience of setup, inflation and "the chase."

Scheduled festival flights for the weekend, weather permitting, include mass ascensions from the Logan County Fairgrounds Friday at 6 p.m., as well as Saturday at 6:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. A balloon launch with balloons inflating at remote locations and attempting to navigate over the fairgrounds is scheduled for Sunday at 6:45 a.m.

Balloon competitions will be conducted throughout the weekend. According to the festival scoring coordinator, Beth Green of Lincoln, cash prizes of $10,000 will be awarded to competing balloonists.

[Judy Rader]


Casey’s stalled by setback requirement

[AUG. 24, 2001]  The off-again, on-again status of the Casey General Store’s plan to put a facility on the lot at 314 S. Jefferson St., across from the Postville Courthouse, is off again, at least for the time being.

Representatives of the national chain of convenience stores and the owner of the Jefferson Street property hit another stumbling block when they appeared before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals Aug. 22 to ask for a 16-foot variance from the rear setback line.

According to members of the zoning appeals board, Casey’s must provide evidence that they meet the exact specifications for approving a variation, specifically that the hardship they face under the present setback requirement is not "self-created."

A decision on the final status will now wait for a survey of the alley behind the lot to determine who owns it, the city or Walter Goodman. If the alley is private property, and if Casey’s can buy it, they will not need a setback and can go ahead with the construction of the store.

However, if the alley belongs to the city, Casey’s will be back before the appeals board, possibly as early as Sept. 19. This time, they will be asking for a variation of only 8 feet because they can use half the 16-foot city alley to meet the setback requirements. They will then still have to prove they meet the specifics of the city zoning code.

"I was hoping you had read our zoning code before you came here," City Attorney Bill Bates told Diane Ahern, Casey representative. He said the board, under the city code, has to determine there are "practical difficulties or unnecessary hardships" before granting a variance.

He also said the zoning board had had an "unfortunate" experience in the Appellate Court, which emphasized to them that they must meet these specific requirements. The incident occurred before he was city attorney, Bates said, and neither he nor zoning board chairman John Sutton would comment on it.

The code says the Zoning Board of Appeals must determine three things:

"1. The plight of the owners is due to special and unique circumstances in determining the hardship, and the hardship cannot be self-created by the petitioning party.

"2. The variation, if granted, will not alter the essential character of the locality.

"3. That after balancing the interests of the surrounding property owners, the benefits of granting the variance outweigh the depreciation of neighbors properties, if any."

The major sticking point for zoning board members was the issue of "self-created" hardship.

According to Ahern, Casey’s needs the setback to allow adequate room between the store itself and the gasoline pumps. "The distance between the pump and the buildings is as short as we can go," she said. "The lot is smaller than we usually use."

Sutton suggested that Casey’s was trying to put too much on the lot. "You’re trying to put 10 pounds of potatoes into a 5-pound bag," he said. "It’s your choice to go with this configuration for safety reasons, and you also chose a lot you knew to be short."

Ahern said the company has several other stores on lots the same size, and noted it was hard to get a lot 150 feet deep. The Jefferson Street lot is 125.71 feet deep, according to Les Last, zoning officer.

"You knew you were going to have to ask for a variance," zoning board member R. James Johnson said.

Ahern said it was not unusual for Casey’s to ask for a variance, and they usually get it. She said she believed the safety factor of having adequate space between the gas pumps and the building should meet the code specifications.


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"It’s standard for us to put a store on this size lot," Ahern said.

She also said the original owner of the lot and the alley, Walter Goodman, had agreed to give Casey’s enough room for a setback. The surveyor Casey hired, however, said there was no record that Goodman owned the alley and that it probably belongs to the city.

"If that was a city alley, they could use half the 16 1/2 foot alley as part of their setback requirements. That would give them 8 1/4 feet and they would only need 7 3/4 feet," Last told the board.

Sutton, however, said as far as he knew it was not a dedicated alley. "The street department said, ‘We don’t take care of it, it’s not ours.’"

Bates said there was no way to know who owned the alley without a title search, and he could assure Casey’s that the city would not go to the expense of a title search.

Bates also asked if the Casey layout could be reconfigured by moving it forward.

Gus Otto, who attended the meeting with Jefferson Street property owner Larry Riva, said one reason for the setback was so Casey’s would not obstruct the view of the Postville Courthouse.

After a brief conference with Riva, Otto, and several others who attended to support the Casey project, Ahern asked for a continuance of the meeting. She said the company would pay for the title search of the alley.

Only four members of the seven-member board attended the meeting: Sutton, Johnson, Mannie Gaston and Tom Culnan.

The appeals board meeting was the third hurdle Casey’s has had to jump to get permission to build on the Jefferson Street property. At a meeting Aug. 16, the Lincoln Planning Commission voted 6-3 against rezoning the property from residential to commercial, but at the Aug. 20 city council meeting, that decision was overturned by a vote of 8-2.

Arguments on both sides were presented at both meetings. Main Street Lincoln coordinator Wendy Bell and Looking for Lincoln steering committee member Jan Schumacher opposed the rezoning because they support a plan for a historic preservation district along the Fifth Street corridor from Postville Courthouse to Postville Drive. They believe the Casey store does not conform to the use in such a district.


Riva and Perry Harris, who owns property across the street, spoke in favor of the rezoning, as did Larry Goodman, Walter Goodman’s son and owner of a nearby business, V. Goodman Excavating and Transfer.

Cliff McCumber, owner of the Fifth Street Food Mart, and a group of neighbors appeared at both meetings to oppose the rezoning. McCumber said that a national chain like Casey’s could lower its prices until it drove out competition, then would raise them. Neighbors said they did not want the noise, traffic and lights that a convenience store would bring to the area.

City council members, in overriding the planning commission’s decision, spoke in favor of bringing more business, jobs and sales tax revenue to the city and getting productive use out of the vacant lot.

[Joan Crabb]


Board authorizes airport golf course feasibility study

[AUG. 22, 2001]  The Logan County Board in its meeting Tuesday night voted to spend up to $9,500 to determine the economic feasibility of a golf course at the airport. THK Associates was hired to investigate whether the community can support a nine-hole public golf course built on the grounds of Logan County Airport.

Airport Committee chairman Roger Bock said the study could be completed in 30 to 45 days. After that, if the projection is favorable, a developer would have to be found and a layout planned. Bock acknowledged that some holes might have to be short to work around airport facilities.

Jim Griffin, Dick Logan and Dale Voyles voted against the resolution, which passed 8-3 with the full board present. Clarence Barney, representing the Lincoln Park District, said that once the course is built the park district would probably be interested in running it and hiring the firm that maintains it.

A collection of historical documents no longer in use by the county clerk’s office will be loaned to the Lincoln College Museum for archival preparation and cataloging. Paul Gleason explained that he and museum curator Ron Keller will open the documents, some of which have been folded since the 1860s, place them in acid-free folders, catalog and return them.

County Clerk Sally Letterly said the collection contains no Lincoln documents but some materials from his era, including warrants for payments to Civil War volunteers. Cataloging will make access to these materials much easier. Gleason estimated that the project will take two years.

In other business the board voted to:

•  Accept the $10,000 bid of Mark Gates to complete sidewalk repair at the courthouse.

•  Hire Industrial Appraisal Co. to reappraise all county equipment and buildings at a cost of $6,375.

•  Authorize a $40 fee to be applied to each tax sale. The fee is to pay interest and costs when the price paid in a tax sale must be refunded. County Treasurer Mary Bruns said at Thursday’s committee of the whole meeting that state law authorizes counties to charge up to $60 as a tax-sale-in-error fee. Jim Griffin was the lone dissenting vote.

•  Approve a holiday schedule of 12 days off for county employees. Dick Logan voted no.

•  Approve 12 fund-raising raffles for county organizations.


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Board chairman Dick Logan appointed a committee to negotiate a salary agreement with sheriff’s deputies. Members of the committee are Doug Dutz as chairman, Lloyd Hellman and Dale Voyles, with Logan as the alternate.

Logan called a special meeting of the board for Monday, July 27, to interview candidates for the unexpired board term of Phil Mahler and to select a replacement.

Finance chairman Rod White reported that in budget hearings the combined total of requests for senior citizen funds exceeds the maximum levy by 17 percent. The maximum is $93,000, with $67,500 being allotted in 2001. The Oasis has requested $53,300, CIEDC $46,900 and Rural Health Partnership $10,000.

Other requests so far include $35,000 for economic development and $385,900 for State’s Attorney Tim Huyett. Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce and Explore Logan County, neither of which received funds in 2001, have asked for $1,500 and $1,000 respectively. Budget hearings will continue on Wednesday and Thursday.

White said that the predicted decline of 10 percent in assessed valuation of county farmland in each of the next two years is expected to be offset by a slight rise in non-farm values. Non-farm assessed valuations have risen an average of 5 percent for the past few years, and that pattern is expected to continue.

Insurance chairman Dale Voyles said insurance carrier Roger Garrett verbally assured him that workers appointed or approved through the board will receive health insurance coverage like other county employees. In particular, Garrett affirmed that the Regional Planning Commission director, though appointed by the commission rather than the county board, is included. In response to a question from White, Voyles quoted Garrett, "The county board determines who is covered," and therefore should vote to approve employees hired by other agencies if it wants them included in the insurance plan.

[Lynn Spellman]

Click here for information on the Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival
Aug. 24, 25, 26.

Real estate taxes come due

The Logan County treasurer’s office announces the following dates:

Sept. 5 — Final day to pay the second installment of real estate taxes without a penalty.

Sept. 6 — A penalty of 1½ percent will be charged on any unpaid second installment of taxes. A penalty of 4½ percent will be charged on any unpaid first installment of taxes.

Sept. 20 — Warning letters for any unpaid taxes will be mailed.

Oct. 4 — Certified letters will be mailed.

Oct. 15 — Listings of any unpaid tax will be published.

The Logan County treasurer’s office has been notified that E-Pay, the credit card option established by the state treasurer’s office for public fund treasurers, will not be available until Jan. 1, 2002. The local office had hoped this option would be available in time for the second installment; however, due to legislative action, the effective date was changed. The Logan County treasurer’s office has, however, installed a debit card scanner for all debit cards and ATM cards.


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Effective Aug. 17, the county treasurer’s office will be able to accept the Discover card. The Discover card company has a program for county treasurers that has been in place in larger counties for some time. County treasurers collect a user free from taxpayers who use the Discover card to pay their taxes, thereby creating no additional expense for the county.

As in the past, the county treasurer’s office is asking that banks do not collect any real estate tax after their close of business on Sept. 5. The banks will again collect taxes for the 2002 fiscal year tax cycle as they have every year.

Taxpayers are reminded of the drop box in the city parking lot on North Kickapoo Street.

Taxpayers having any questions are asked to call 732-3761 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

[News release]


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