Illinois Public Media News
After mold and ventilation problems delayed the completion of the new Champaign County nursing home, the county board went after the nursing home's builders to collect damages. Now the last of those efforts is completed.
Arbitrators have ruled that Otto Baum Company, one of the prime contractors on the project, must pay Champaign County $405,000 for problems caused by mold found on wood during nursing home construction. After outstanding bills owed to Otto Baum are paid, the county will be ahead by nearly $150,000. Rantoul Township Republican Stan James serves on the county board's facilities committee. He says the settlement of the mold issue frees the county board up to focus on other concerns.
"That's one less thing on our plate, and now we can move on. We've got bigger budget issues to tackle and a host of issues due the economy that we need to be focusing on," James said.
While Champaign County is receiving some money in the binding decision, the arbitrators say the county also shares in the responsibility. The arbitrators' report say that the county, Otto Baum Company and construction manager PKD all should have known that unvented heaters were not adequate to keep mold away from wood used in nursing home construction.
Damages from Otto Baum, plus previous awards from other firms involved in nursing home construction are providing Champaign County with about $1.3 million in payments to help make up for extra costs and delays in nursing home construction. Facilities Committee Chairman Steve Beckett estimates that the payments fall $300,000 to $500,000 short of the county's expenses.
A section of Bunge North America's massive downtown Danville facility will close in two months.
About 100 employees will face layoffs when the plant's soybean processing operation comes to an end. Bunge spokeswoman Deb Seidell says the Danville site doesn't have the soy-oil refining facility that newer plants have.
"When you crush the soybeans and you get the protein meal and you get the oil, generally that oil needs to be further processed before it can go into the food stream," Seidell said. "From Danville it has to be trucked or sent by rail somewhere else to be refined because there's not a refinery attached to Danville."
But Seidell says there are no plans to build that refinery because the capacity for processing soybeans is outstripping demand. She says management and staff employees will receive outplacement assistance and severance while Bunge will negotiate with unions over the impact on other employees.
Bunge plans to keep its soy and corn elevators and dry corn mill open - they employ about 185 workers.
Groups representing Illinois hospitals and doctors are disappointed by an Illinois Supreme Court ruling involving caps on some medical malpractice lawsuit awards, but trial lawyers are hailing the decision.
A divided court ruled Thursday that limiting non-economic damages in malpractice cases violates the principle of separation of powers in the state's Constitution. The court says limits the Legislature adopted in 2005 would infringe on the judicial branch's power. In a partial dissent, Justice Lloyd Karmeier says it's the court that is violating separation of powers by second-guessing the Legislature's attempts to reduce health care costs.
Illinois State Medical Society President James Milam says he fears doctors in high-risk specialties will leave the state if their medical liability insurance rates go up as a result of the ruling.
Maryjane Wurth is president of the Illinois Hospital Association. She says the court's decision highlights the need for President Barack Obama and Congress to embrace meaningful medical liability reform as part of health care legislation.
Illinois Trial Lawyers Association President Peter Flowers applauds the decision and says it's time to focus on meaningful insurance reform.
Two area Toyota dealerships expect to start lining up service calls to repair recalled models by the start of next week.
Jim Turner is the President of O'Brien Auto Park in Urbana. He says parts should be delivered in the next couple of days, and technicians are currently being trained on how to repair gas pedals that could stick on rare occasions.
Repairs are expected to take half an hour, but with thousands of customers to serve, Turner says handling all its recalled vehicles could take a few weeks:
"We don't have a lot of details about how many parts we can get all at once," Turner said. "There's a few open-ended questions about exactly how many parts we can get. So this will probably take a month at least to get everybody taken care of."
Meanwhile, the service manager of Toyota of Danville says they're holding off on making appointments, but they're making sure the parts for the eight recalled models are in place first. Kyle Vogel says he expects their technicians will handle about 500 repairs.
Vogel says he also wants to stress that this recall applied only to certain models, and that Japanese-made and some US-manufactured Camry models weren't impacted. But he says any Toyota driver is welcome to bring their car by for peace of mind's sake.
Both Toyota dealers plan on extending their service hours to handle the recall repairs.
The Urbana City Council approved a ten-thousand-dollar option last (Monday) night to buy the Goodyear Tire Center property on Vine Street downtown. Buying the property would be another step toward the city's acquisition of the entire block for future redevelopment.
The 200 block of South Vine Street lies just north of the Urbana City Building --- the city already owns a parking lot on the block. And Mayor Laurel Prussing says the owners of the Goodyear property approached the city about a possible sale. The mayor says the city's long-term goal is to buy the entire block, and then find a developer for it. Prussing hopes for a mixed-used building on the site, with space for both commercial and residential tenants.
"We should just think about something that's a really green development", says Prussing, "and that fits in with our overall city plan. I think we have to think about what would be the idea height of this project, if we're talking about infill."
But development won't happen right away. The Goodyear Tire Center's lease runs until 2013. And some of the residential properties on the block are also occupied by tenants. Prussing says the city has contracts to eventually buy those properties as well --- but she says she doesn't want to displace any current tenants. The mayor says the city will first do its due diligence on the Goodyear property, including an environmental audit, before the Goodyear purchase is finalized.
Work could begin this spring on a new Christie Clinic facility in southwest Champaign. The Champaign City Council endorsed the project at its study session Tuesday night. It will be the first development to go up at the I-57 Curtis Road interchange.
Champaign Council members are welcoming the Christie Clinic project, even though it doesn't quite fit the zoning guidelines being developed for the Curtis Road Interchange area --- guidelines meant to avoid the strip-mall look of the North Prospect shopping district. Despite the discrepancy, council members decided that the Christie project is an important one that will get development started in the area.
But Councilman Tom Bruno says he expects the proposed zoning guidelines to still apply to all future development at the Curtis Road Interchange.
"Because a catalyist is a good idea for the area", says Bruno, "I'm willing to go along with these exceptions. But a future developer would be sorely mistaken if he thought my acquiescence to the Christie project would indicate that this is a starting point for somehow chipping away at the concept we have in mind out here."
Another reason the council supports the project --- Christie officials say that once it's built, they can start work on a major renovation to their downtown Champaign clinic.
The new clinic at the Curtis Road Interchange takes the place of Christie's ill-fated Clearview project, which was planned but never built at I-57 and I-74. Phase One will have 60-thousand square feet of floor space --- with future expansions planned up to 200-thousand square feet.
The Champaign City Council will take a final vote on an annexation agreement for the new Christie Clinic site next month.
A chain of chicken restaurants that became noted due to the 1993 slayings of seven employees at one of its suburban Chicago stores has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Brown's Chicken & Pasta filed on Tuesday ... two months after a DuPage County judge ordered the company to pay more than $800,000 to a former employee and minority shareholder. An attorney for the company says the company could not afford to pay the judgment.
Brown's has 39 stores in the Chicago area. The company once had as many as 150 stores, but the numbers have been dwindling since the slayings of the workers in Palatine.
The restaurants will remain open during the reorganization.
Christmas is often a paid holiday for many workers. But not all holidays are treated the same.
The Illinois Chamber of Commerce surveyed businesses and found a majority of employees are getting paid holidays on Christmas. The same goes for Thanksgiving and New year's. But when it comes to Jewish holidays... or ethnic ones... only a small fraction of businesses pay workers to take those days off.
Liz Kern with the state's Chamber says it's difficult for employers to maneuver myriad religious and secular holidays...
"As ethnicities, religion and even the calendar changes on an annual basis" says Kern, "Illinois employers have had a hard time keeping up with what holidays they should be observing and what trends are other employers seeing."
The Chamber's survey found New Year's Day is when most workers get a paid day off... followed closely by Memorial Day and Labor Day. Christmas is still near the top of the list but as for other religious holidays.. more workers get paid to take their birthdays off.
Many women are charged more for their health insurance than men, and a health care advocacy group says that's unfair discrimination.
The head of the Champaign County Health Care Consumers says her own experience with group health insurance for the six employees in her not-for-profit group revealed big differences in premium between male and female employees. Claudia Lennhoff says their provider, Personal Care, charges more than double for women in one certain age group than for similarly-aged men.
Lennhoff says ten other states have banned so-called gender rating for health insurance, but not Illinois. However, she says national health care legislation now in Congress could very well address the issue.
"Now if we can get it passed as a national law, as a part of national health reform, UI think that would obviously help everybody all over the country," Lennhoff said. "But if that doesn't happen I think we'll be among the first to champion such an effort in the state of Illinois."
Lennhoff acknowledges that insurers consider the health demands of female policyholders - including childbirth - in figuring their rates. But she claims profits are the main reason behind the different premiums. We've not been able to contact a representative of Personal Care for comment.
The Champaign City Council voted last night to extend the life of its East University Avenue Tax Increment Financing District for another year. That will give the city time to seek a 12-year extension from the state.
Enacted in the 1980s, the East University Avenue TIF District covers the commercial area east of the Canadian National tracks, including University Avenue and nearby sections of First and Second Streets. City officials say the TIF district has helped spur development --- but not as much as in downtown and Campustown. As the city makes plans to seek a long-term extension of the TIF district, City Councilwoman Marcie Dodds says she thinks flood control and beautification work done on the 2nd Street reach of the Boneyard Creek will spur development that can link downtown and Campustown together.
"It'll do it not only geographically and physically, but also psychologically", says Dodds. "For years, it was campus over here and Champaign over there and downtown far away. The two never met. It was even sometimes difficult to get to one from the other. And I hope that this changes that."
Property tax revenue above a certain level in a TIF District is spent within the district, focusing on building renovations, streetscape work and infrastructure improvements.
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