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Tuesday, March 29, 2016 12:01 am

Living here

A guide to get you started living in the capital city

A wax rendition of the Lincoln family at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.
Photo by Kerri Westenberg/ Tribune News Service

 

Springfield and Sangamon County aren’t just great places to visit; they’re also great places to live. The capital city and the nearly two dozen smaller communities around it offer many attractive reasons for you to make the Land of Lincoln your 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 excellent community-oriented neighborhoods. People who live here know Springfield and Sangamon County offer a quality of life that blends the best of urban and rural environments.

With a population of approximately 115,000, the city of Springfield comprises more than half of the more than 210,202 people living in the Springfield metro area, which includes both Sangamon and Menard counties. More than 1 million visitors and tourists come to Springfield each year.

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


The Illinois State Capitol houses the Illinois General Assembly and the official office of the governor.
Photo by Judy Hevrdejs/Tribune News Service
Cost of living

There’s good news 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 least expensive places to live in the country. Despite the fact that the cost of living here is lower than the national average, and housing is relatively inexpensive, many options – including new construction in flourishing subdivisions, renovated downtown apartment spaces and majestic and charming homes in historic neighborhoods – are available.

The estimated per capita income in Springfield was $30,937 in 2014. The estimated median household income was $55,049. Although the income is not as high as that of larger metro areas, the cost of living is moderate. As one of the most affordable 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 diversified economic base, balanced between the public and private sectors. Although government is the area’s largest employer, with nearly 26,000 public sector employees in the Greater Springfield area, it’s not the only game in town. Springfield’s focus has long been viewed solely as the center for state government, but the capital city has developed into a profitable business arena, with a variety of small and large companies making an international impact on the global market. Home to three major hospitals and a renowned heart-surgery institute, the community is also recognized as a leader in the health care industry.

The top five employers in Sangamon County are the state of Illinois, Memorial Health System, St. John’s Hospital, Springfield Public Schools and Springfield Clinic, LLP. Other major employers include the Illinois National Guard, 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 weather in Springfield is like that in much of the Midwest – it changes frequently. Average temperatures range from 75 to 80 degrees in 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 four distinct seasons in Springfield without extended periods of extreme cold or heat. The location of Sangamon County, midway between the Continental Divide and the Atlantic Ocean, offers a typical continental climate with cold, rather dry winters and warm, humid summers. The dog days of summer and cold winter days are offset by mild temperatures and beautiful conditions in the spring and fall.


Local government

Sangamon County is governed by a 29-member board whose members are elected from single-member districts. Each county board member serves a four-year term, with approximately half of the board elected in alternating two-year periods.

The county also has nine elected offices and several departments, agencies and offices related to the county by special county tax levy or budgeting through the county board. Most Sangamon County government offices are located in the Sangamon County Building, 200 S. Ninth St. The sheriff’s department is located at No. 1 Sheriff’s Plaza, behind the County Building, linked by a walk-through. The entrance is on Adams between Ninth and 10th streets.

The city of Springfield is governed by a mayor and a 10-member city council, chosen by wards. The mayor and members of the council serve four-year terms. Unlike county elections, city elections are nonpartisan.

The Springfield Mass Transit District (SMTD) is the mass transit district serving Springfield
Photo by David Hine

Voter eligibility

To register to vote, you must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years of age and a resident of the precinct for 30 days before the next election. A 17-year-old in Illinois is eligible to register to vote for the primary election if his or her 18th birthday is before the November general election. You may register in various places, including driver’s license facilities, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, the state Department of Rehabilitation Services, the state Department of Public Health, the Illinois Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities or in person at the Sangamon County Election Office, 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. More information on upcoming elections and mail-in registration forms is available at the election office or by calling 217-753-8683. You may also contact your county political party headquarters to obtain the name of a deputy registrar in your community.

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


Area communities

Springfield may be the largest, but it certainly isn’t the only city in Sangamon County. About two-dozen distinct communities are located here, ranging from tiny towns, such as New Berlin and Cantrall, to growing towns, such as Chatham, Rochester, Riverton and Sherman. Several communities, such as Leland Grove and Jerome, even appear to be in the middle of Springfield, but each has a unique personality and appealing reasons for you to call it home.


Finding a home

Real estate professionals consider Springfield a buyer’s market.

The Capital Area Association of Realtors does not recommend particular neighborhoods. Visit the association’s website, www.seehouses.com, to find everything you want to know about buying or building a house.

Many neighborhood associations have websites you may want to visit to get a feel for the houses and people in specific parts of the city. Visit tinyurl.com/n6xgsxd to learn more.

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.


At the Lincoln Tomb visitors rub the nose of a sculpture of Abraham Lincoln for luck.
Photo by Phil Marty / Tribune News Service
Getting utility service


The task of setting up local utilities 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 initiate service, you must appear in person at the customer-service office of City Water, Light and Power, located in Room 101 of the Municipal Center West, 300 S. 7th St. (at the corner of Seventh and Monroe streets). Known locally as CWLP, Springfield’s municipally owned and operated utility company supplies the urban area and 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 located 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. Prices for city residents are $11.25 per month for one can of garbage per week and $13.75 for two cans. The Waste & Recycling fee is $1.50 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, Illini Disposal and Lake Area Disposal. You may want to 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 23 elementary schools, five middle schools and four high schools. The city is also home to 22 private schools. In addition, more than a dozen public and private colleges and universities are located within a 45-mile radius of the capital city. The list includes Blackburn College, Illinois College, Lincoln Christian College, Lincoln College, Lincoln Land Community College, MacMurray College, Millikin University, Richland Community College, Robert Morris University, St. John’s School of Nursing, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and University of Illinois Springfield.


Library

Lincoln Library, Springfield’s public library, is a place to find more than just books and information. It’s the place to do genealogical or local history research in the Sangamon Valley Collection, to use unique 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. Make it your destination for reference, research, reading and relaxing. Visit lincolnlibrary.info.


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


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 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. Amtrak 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 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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SPRINGFIELD EVENTS

LIVE MUSIC

Friday Sept. 20th