Illinois Public Media News
A Champaign County Board member said he expects the first meeting soon of a board subcommittee assigned with looking at the Olympian Drive extension project.
The panel was put together by Chair Pius Weibel after county board members failed to reach consensus on a project, or different options of that plan. Republican Alan Nudo said he and many of his colleagues were embarrassed by how the board looked after the lengthy discussion at last Tuesday's committee of the whole meeting. The new panel is expected to meet with Urbana and Champaign officials in the next few days.
Meanwhile, Urbana Chief of Staff Mike Monson said the immediate goal will be to extend Olympian Drive to Lincoln Avenue, and then carrying it out to US 45. Nudo said the new subcommittee has the ability to get the Olympian project approved to Lincoln, which he said he has backed all along. However, Nudo added that further road development should head west instead of east.
"All Republicans were taking a look at it very hard to see if it was really necessary financially, if we could afford it, and what (how much money) the feds were going to put in there," said Nudo. "We stayed together on that, but personally I've always felt that Lincoln is the prudent way to go, and quite frankly, I think the next step is to look at Duncan (Duncan Avenue in West Champaign). Nudo Duncan is really the more opportune area to connect before 45, but that's, again, a whole other issue."
Monson said most funding for extending Lincoln to Olympian is in place, and would cost roughly $20-million, but Nudo said he expects the project to run at least $10-million, when considering amenities like larger medians and bike paths. The project would rely on a mix of state, federal, and local matching funds. Monson said large trucks cannot drive on the northernmost part of Lincoln, which he described a narrow, winding road meant only for cars. He said that will require the Champaign County Board to sign off on this first phase of the plan for Olympian, and to determine what amenities the public wants.
"If you do a side path, that's going to cost extra," said Monson. "Wetlands, landscaping, those things can all add to the cost - or not. Actually the roundabout that we're talking about would save a half-million dollars. Those decisions haven't been made, so an exact cost isn't known."
The subcommittee also includes Republican Greg Knott, and Democrat Ralph Langenheim. A fifth member will be chosen soon. That panel is expected to have a concrete recommendation for the county board to vote on by November.
The Champaign County Head Start program kicked off the new school year Thursday with 56 more children.
With the help of $810,000 in federal funding, the program has expanded its early childhood division to serve more infants and toddlers. Enrollment has been added to its existing center in Rantoul, and a new site in Urbana. Kathleen Liffick is the director of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission's Early Childhood Division. Liffick said the expansion only meets about 36 percent of the community's need for Early Head Start services.
"But it is a small step and we're glad to be able to do that," she said. "We will be certainly be looking for additional expansion opportunities should the federal government make those available."
Playground enhancements were also made with a $68,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois grant at sites in Rantoul, Savoy, and Urbana.
The new Urbana center is located at 108 South Webber Street. For questions about enrollment or to complete an enrollment application, call 217-384-1252 to speak with a family advocate.
(Photo courtesy of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission)
Authorities have identified a St. Joseph woman who died in a bizarre accident at Jamaica High School Saturday afternoon.
Vermilion County Coroner Peggy Johnson says an autopsy is scheduled for Monday. She says 36-year old Tammy Walsh was killed and two others were injured when a utility pole snapped in half after a freshman football game. Press reports indicate someone driving away from the event struck a guy wire attached to a utility pole. Tension between a cable connecting that pole to another caused the pole to snap, falling behind a section of bleachers. The pole struck Walsh and two other family members. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Her son, Dalton Walsh, was injured and taken to Carle Foundation Hospital. Another family member was treated and released. The driver of the SUV that hit the wire was not ticketed. Walsh was the cheerleading coach at St. Joseph-Ogden High School, which is expected to provide grief counselors for students at school on Monday.
Saturday's football jamboree at Jamaica High School involved freshman teams from several area schools.
A new daycare and clinic recently opened for the season in Rantoul. It caters mostly to children of migrant workers, but it's open to anyone whose immediate family works in agriculture. The Multicultural Community Center is the largest of its kind in Illinois. As Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports, the staff tries to make the transition of migrating easier for the children of migrant workers.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
The professor at the heart of a controversy over religious studies at the University of Illinois doesn't believe there's a permanent resolution to the dispute.
Kenneth Howell has accepted the U of I's offer to return to teach an introductory course on Catholic teaching, more than two months after he was let go. A student who was not in the class had complained of an email Howell had sent to one of his students defending the church's views on homosexuality and natural moral law.
Howell says the incident will not affect his teaching, except perhaps for a broader scope of issues covered at the end of the course.
"I'm going to give a general lecture on natural moral law because that's the essential part of Catholicism," said Howell. "Then I'll ask them (his students) if they want me to deal with the question of capital punishment or just war or homosexuality, and they will choose."
The U of I is now paying Howell for his work as an adjunct professor - until his removal in May, Howell had been paid by the St. John Catholic Newman Center, where he has now been reinstated as the head of the center's Institute for Catholic Thought.
A faculty-student committee on the Urbana campus is looking into the general issue of outside involvement in academics - Howell says he has not been asked to appear before that committee.
A group fighting to preserve an Indiana museum dedicated to World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle says it sees the state's decision to open the site for a local festival as a step in the right direction.
The Ernie Pyle State Historic Site in the Vermillion County town of Dana will be open through Saturday as part of the Ernie Pyle Firemen's Festival.
The state closed the site in December and has sought to have it deeded or sold to community groups or local government.
The nonprofit Friends of Ernie Pyle hopes to vote on a plan to take over the site in September.
President Cynthia Myers says the group plans a national fundraiser to help pay operating costs.
The group also hopes to open the museum during the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival in October.
Danville is going to look a little brighter by the end of the week. Artists from around the world are gathering in the city to paint a collection of murals on downtown buildings that capture the community's history from its famous natives to old businesses. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers recently had a chance to get acquainted with the group of artists known simply as The Walldogs.
A fatal accident inside a grain bin this week in northwest Illinois underlines just how dangerous it can be to work in the agriculture industry.
Firefighters, paramedics and other emergency workers are taking part in a three-day workshop on responding to farm-related emergencies.
Amy Rademaker is a farm safety expert with Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, which is hosting the event. She says this week's incident occurred at a grain elevator that's subject to a number of safety regulations. But individually-owned grain bins present special problems.
"Those safety practices may not be implemented -- they're not required by OSHA standards unless you have so many employees," Rademaker said. "So it's different when you talk about an elevator versus on-farm storage. But we do have a lot of elevators here, and so we hope they're taking precautions."
Rademaker says emergency workers this weekend are learning how to respond to grain-bin incidents as well as tractor rollovers and other accidents specific to farms. She says rural crews are obviously prime targets for training, but even urban fire and ambulance workers can be called out to help in farm-related accidents.
Bobby Seale co-founded the controversial Black Panther Party in 1966. The Panthers preached a doctrine of militant black empowerment to end to all forms of oppression against black people. The Black Panther Party was dismantled after 20 years, and Seale and others have taken on non-violent activism. Seale stopped in Champaign to talk to local teachers. He spoke to Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers about the Party's legacy and how changes in the world have shaped his activism.
The Champaign City Council will discuss a proposal at its Tuesday, July 27th Study Session, to work with a private non-profit group promoting local public sculpture. In doing so, the city may change the policy for public art that it set in 2003.
That policy created the city's Community Arts Group, a mayor-appointed panel that has standing by to consider proposals for sculpture on public land. However, very few applications have come in. Now, the city wants to work directly with the recently formed Public Art League, a private group that's raising money to lease eight pieces of sculpture this summer that would be located at downtown public sites for two year periods.
The Public Art League issued a call to artists earlier this year, and from 42 entries, it's chosen eight sculptures plans to bring to downtown Champaign this year. The group has raised funds from private donors to lease the sculptures from the artists for a two-year period. League Treasurer Eric Robeson says the sculptures will be initially displayed during Champaign's Downtown Festival of the Arts next month. He says they then hope to install the sculptures at various public spaces in and around the downtown area.
Robeson says the goal is to bring art to streets where people regularly walk, drive and work.
"You can interact with them", Robeson says of sculpture located on public sites near city streets. "You just kind of happen upon it as you walk by. Or it becomes part of the backdrop of your day, as you go by these sculptures on a regular basic. It just amplifies more and more that way. And the people that we've brought this up to, most people that we've talked to, just kind of love the idea."
City Economic Development Manager Teri Legner says under their proposal to work with the Public Art League, the Champaign Community Arts Group would disband, leaving decisions and finances about public art acquisitions to the new non-profit group.
"What we're proposing now is something that's more proactive", says Legner, "in working with a third party to basically provide for the art, and then the city just facilitating its siting, basically its location on public property."
The Public Art League's goal is to bring new sculptures to public sites in Champaign every year. But Board president Brian Knox says their longterm goal is to find local buyers for the artwork. "And once somebody likes the sculpture and wants to purchase it", says Knox, "they can move it to their facility or their business, or anyplace in town to be part of the public consciousness."
While the Public Art League could take the place of the Champaign Community Arts Group, the two bodies already have a common link. League Treasurer Eric Robeson is the son of Community Arts Group member Phyllis Robeson.
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