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Friday, April 7, 2017 03:44 pm

Living here

A guide to get you started living in the capital city

Union Station is a former train station and now part of the complex of buildings that together form the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

 

Springfield and Sangamon County aren’t just ideal places to visit; they’re also great places to live. The capital city of Illinois and the two dozen smaller villages and townships around it offer several intriguing reasons why you should call the Prairie State home.

In addition to being the center of state government, the area has a rich and diverse business market, lower-than-average cost-of-living index and outstanding community-oriented neighborhoods. Citizens of Springfield and Sangamon County know that this area promises prospective residents a quality of life that caters to the best of urban and rural environments.

With a population of over 117,000, the city of Springfield comprises more than half of the 211,752 people living in the Springfield metro area, which includes both Sangamon and Menard counties. A huge part of the identity of Springfield is the legacy of its most famous resident, the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. That said, the capital city has made it its mission to maintain the memory and reputation of Lincoln’s time in Springfield. Through preserving places including the Lincoln home and his law office, the capital city gives tourists a chance to learn the legacy of the Great Emancipator. Additionally, Springfield is home to annual events, such as the Route 66 Mother Road Festival, Illinois State Fair and the International Carillon Festival.

Springfield is located in the central part of the state, at the intersection of Interstates 55 and 72. Its closeness to other large cities in the state and neighboring states makes it an attractive location. St. Louis is 100 miles to the southwest of Springfield, Chicago is 200 miles northeast and Indianapolis is 195 miles east.


Cost of living

For those who want to live the American dream of buying a nice home at a reasonable price, Springfield consistently rates as one of the most affordable and stable housing markets in America and ranks as one of the most affordable places to live in the country. Although the cost of living here is lower than the national average, housing is relatively inexpensive, and many options – such as renovated downtown apartment spaces, new construction in thriving neighborhoods and majestic homes in historic neighborhoods – are available.

The estimated per capita income in Springfield was $29,621 in 2016. The estimated median household income was $48,848. As one of the most inexpensive metro areas in the United States, Springfield is an ideal place in which to enjoy a comfortable life and raise a family.


Job market

Springfield has a varied economic base, balanced between the public and private sectors. Government is the area’s largest employer, with nearly 26,000 public sector employees in the Greater Springfield area. Although Springfield’s focus has long been as the center for state government, the capital city has developed into a hotspot for lucrative business, with an assortment of large and small companies making a global impact on the world market. The area is also regarded as a leader in the health care industry, as Springfield is home to two major hospitals, a large medical group, the Southern Illinois School of Medicine and a world-class heart-surgery institute.

The top five employers in Sangamon County are the state of Illinois, Memorial Health System, St. John’s Hospital, Illinois National Guard and the Springfield Public School District. Other major employers include the City of Springfield, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, University of Illinois Springfield, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Horace Mann Companies and AT&T.


Weather

The climate in Springfield is a microcosm of the weather in the Midwest – it changes regularly. Average temperatures vary from 75 to 80 degrees during the summer months, and 20 to 40 degrees in the winter months. The overall average annual temperature is 53 degrees. The average high is 63 degrees and the average low is 43 degrees. You can enjoy each of the four seasons in Springfield without experiencing prolonged periods of extreme cold or heat. Sangamon County is located between the Continental Divide and the Atlantic Ocean. This ensures a typical continental climate with cold, dry winters and warm, humid summers.


Local government

The city of Springfield is governed by Mayor James O. Langfelder and a 10-member city council. The mayor and the city aldermen serve four-year terms. Unlike county elections, city elections are nonpartisan. Sangamon County is governed by representatives elected from 29 single-member districts. Each county board member serves a four-year term, with approximately half of the board elected in alternating two-year periods. County board members can be contacted by fax via the County Board Office at 217-753-6651.

The county additionally has nine elected offices and several departments, agencies and offices related to the county board. Most Sangamon County government offices can be found in the Sangamon County Building, located at 200 S. Ninth St. The sheriff’s department is located at No. 1 Sheriff’s Plaza, behind the County Building, connected by a walk-through. The main entrance is on Adams between Ninth and 10th streets.


Voter eligibility

 In order to vote, you must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years of age and reside in the precinct for 30 days before the next election. Seventeen-year-olds in Illinois are eligible to register to vote for the primary election if his or her 18th birthday is before the general election in November. You can register in several places, such as the state Department of Rehabilitation Services, the Illinois Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, driver’s license facilities, the state Department of Public Health, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services or in person at the Sangamon County Election Office, at 200 S. Ninth St., Room 105 of the County Building. Office hours are 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri. Two forms of identification are required, and you must show proof of your name and current address. For further information on approaching elections and mail-in registration forms, contact the election office at 217-753-8683. You can also contact your local political party headquarters to attain the name of a deputy registrar in your community.

The Democratic county headquarters is at 413 E. Adams St. (217-544-0808), while the Republican county headquarters is at 1132 Sangamon Ave. (217-528-6267). For more information or assistance, contact the Illinois State Board of Elections (ISBE), located at 2329 S. MacArthur (217-782-4141). Additional information can be found on the ISBE website at elections.il.gov.


Area communities

Springfield,with a population over 117,000, is the largest city in Sangamon County. However, there are over two-dozen distinct communities in Sangamon County as well. These areas includee towns such as Auburn and Virden, to villages such as Pawnee, New Berlin, Divernon, Chatham, Clear Lake, Grandview and Sherman. Several communities, such as Southern View and Jerome, even appear to be in the middle of Springfield, but each has a unique personality and fascinating reasons for you to call it home.


Finding a home

Springfield is regarded by real estate professionals as a buyer’s market.The Capital Area Association of Realtors does not recommend particular neighborhoods. To find information on prospective homes, visit the association’s website, www.seehouses.com,

Several neighborhood associations also have websites for you to visit to get a feel for the houses and people in specific parts of the city. Visit http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-search/Springfield_IL to find the latest market prices.

To pick up a free relocation packet, complete with a map of Springfield, list of quick facts and an events calendar, stop by the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, located at 1011 S. Second St., and find names of area businesses on the Chamber’s website at gscc.org.


Getting utility service

The task of getting your local utilities in order can be daunting. With the right resources however, it is a relatively painless procedure. All you need are a few forms of identification, the right contact information and a little patience.

• For water and electric: To facilitate service, you must appear in person at the customer service office of City Water, Light and Power (CWLP), located in Room 101 of the Municipal Center West, 300 S. 7th St. (at the corner of Seventh and Monroe streets). CWLP is Springfield’s municipally owned and operated utility company, supplying the urban area, nine surrounding communities and public water districts with water from Lake Springfield, a 6.6-square-mile manmade lake. Springfield’s water rates are among the lowest in Illinois.

When you go to the office, you must provide two forms of identification, including a state-issued photo ID such as a driver’s license. A $50 service deposit may be required of residential and business applicants who are renting property and have not had at least 12 consecutive months of CWLP service. If you are renting, a signed copy of your lease is required. If you have proof that you own the home, or if you are renting and have a letter of credit from another utility company showing that you’ve been a good customer for at least a year, CWLP will waive the $50 deposit. The office is open from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 217-789-2030 or visit the utility company’s website, cwlp.com. To save time when you come to the customer service office to apply for new service, download and print a copy of an application for new service, fill it out and bring it with you.

• For natural gas: If your new residence is inside Springfield city limits, the application process begins with a call to Ameren at 888-672-5252 (toll-free) or a visit to the company’s website, ameren.com. In many cases, after providing relevant information including your Social Security number, service may be started as early as the next day. If your credit with the company is bad, you may need to provide a deposit. In some parts of this region, Ameren may also be your electric provider.

• For telecommunications services, including telephone, Internet and television: Local residential phone service in Springfield is provided by AT&T and Comcast, two companies that also provide Internet and cable or digital television options, separate or in a bundle. Although in many cases you can establish service with a single phone call, it may take more time than you would expect. First check the companies’ websites so you’ll know which packages and options you want. Call AT&T (800-288-2020) or Comcast (888-736-6705) to learn your options. For more details, visit their websites at att.com and comcast.com.

• For trash pickup and curbside recycling: Springfield city ordinance requires every household to sign up for weekly trash pickup. Effective Sept. 1, 2016, garbage rates for city residents are no more than $15 per month for one can of garbage per week and a maximum $18 for two cans. The Waste and Recycling fee is $3 per month and is added to your CWLP bill. All residents may recycle as a part of their regular service. Residential waste and recycling is a subscription service with a choice among the main private residential waste haulers in Springfield: Allied Waste, Waste Management and Lake Area Disposal. You should ask your real estate agent, neighbors or friends for information to help you determine which haulers serve your neighborhood.


Education

About 15,000 children attend Springfield School District 186. The district has 22 elementary schools, seven middle schools, three high schools, one early learning center, one adult education center and two alternative programs. Springfield is also home to 21 private schools. In addition, over a dozen colleges and universities are located within a 45-mile radius of the capital city. The list includes Lincoln Land Community College, Illinois College, MacMurray College, Blackburn College, Lincoln Christian College, Lincoln College, Millikin University, Robert Morris University, St. John’s College of Nursing, Richland Community College, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and University of Illinois Springfield.


Library

Lincoln Library is the city’s public library, located on 326 S 7th St. In addition to reading favorite literary works or discovering new books, Lincoln Library is also a place to research genealogical or local history in the Sangamon Valley Collection, to use electronic resources, to borrow an audio book or compact disc for your next car trip, to pick up a movie for the weekend, to hear your favorite story, to check your email, to photocopy important papers, to hop on the library’s wireless network with your laptop, to attend a meeting of a local civic group, and to share your thoughts about that great book you just finished reading. Lincoln Library is a 21st century facility designed for a 21st century community, committed to meeting customers’ needs for information, lifelong learning and the simple pleasure of reading. For more information, visit the library’s website at lincolnlibrary.info.


Transportation

Springfield is home to The Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport, served by the commercial carriers United and American Airlines, which make daily commercial flights to and from Chicago’s O’Hare airport and Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. Additionally, Allegiant Air provides flights to Fort Myers and Orlando in Florida. Sun Country Airlines makes charter flights to Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort Hotel and Casino in Laughlin, Nevada. For flight information call 788-1060 or check out the airport’s website at www.flyspi.com.

Amtrak, located at 100 N. 3rd Street, also services the capital city, with daily trains providing service from Springfield to Chicago, and to St. Louis, Missouri. In addition to air and rail, Greyhound Bus Lines, located at 2815 N. Dirksen Parkway, also serves the city.

For local travel, the Springfield Mass Transit District operates public bus transportation throughout the city on regularly scheduled routes. Buses operate Monday through Saturday. For bus schedules call 522-5531.

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