Illinois Public Media News
A five year plan to move the John and Mary E. Kirby Hospital in Monticello to a larger nearby site has entered the final stage in the planning process.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded the hospital with a $31.2 million dollar mortgage loan.
The new hospital will include more surgical space and patient and procedure rooms. Inpatients will also have private suites, with a bathroom, shower and visiting space.
The current 16-bed hospital has undergone a series of renovations in the last several years, but hospital spokeswoman Michelle Rathman said the project will help the hospital address the community's changing health care needs.
"Family members will have accommodations in the rooms for them to stay with their loved ones in the hospital 24 hours," she explained. "Hospitals around the country have moved away from these things like 'visiting hours are over.' That's not the case because families are encouraged to be part of the healing process."
The loan is made possible through the Federal Housing Administration's (FHA) Hospital Mortgage Insurance Program. By insuring the mortgage loan, FHA is enabling the hospital to obtain lower cost financing that is expected to save an estimated $4.6 million in interest expense over the life of the loan.
"FHA is helping to build state-of-the-art health care facilities like this all across the country," said FHA Commissioner David Stevens. "By helping to make these projects possible, FHA also contributes to the financial well-being of communities by creating jobs to stimulate local economies."
Rathman said the replacement hospital is expected to be an economic boom in Piatt County with a combination of construction jobs, more people shopping at local businesses, and new employment.
"Every new full-time employee equates to revenue spent in the community," she said. "Replacement hospital projects make a significant economic impact in so many ways."
Kirby Hospital currently employs about 200 people. Rathman said the new facility is expected to be completed by September 2011, and she projected that it will create up to 15 new full-time jobs over the next five years.
The 71,000-square-foot Kirby Medical Center will be built at the Market Street and I-72 exit northeast of Rick Ridings on a new street called Medical Center Drive. A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for Saturday, Nov. 6 at 1pm.
(Artist rendering courtesy of the Kirby Medical Center courtesy of Kirby Hospital)
The attorney representing the Piatt County Clerk is contesting a claim that the clerk does not intend to live inside the county.
Pat Rhoades' qualification is being challenged by a Monticello attorney who claims Rhoades is living just across the county line in Champaign County. Dan Clifton charges that Rhoades has registered to vote in Champaign County, and that the Piatt County property she said will eventually hold her family's new home has not been developed. Cklifton had earlier alleged that the property is for sale, but he since has backed off that claim.
Rhoades' attorney Deanna Mool says Clifton has not followed the correct legal procedure. "If you want to have an official removed from office, you have to file what's called an in quo warranto action, It's provided in the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure," said Mool. "It lists certain requirements that you have to follow, one being (that) no individual can sue for that unless the state's attorney and the attorney general have declined to do so. So our motion to dismiss is based on those grounds." However, clifton says he studied the situation and concludes that he didn't have to make the filing.
Mool said she will not address Clifton's residency accusations directly until they are presented in court. Rhoades herself has not returned phone calls seeking comment.
On Wednesday, a Piatt County judge removed himself from the case. A judge from Macon County will come to Monticello to hear the complaint, but no date has been set.
There's less than a month to go until Election Day, and one of the more contentious and expensive races is in the 101st District. Adam Brown, a 25-year-old Republican who's on the Decatur City Council, is trying to unseat four-term State Representative Bob Flider of Mount Zion. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports.
A Champaign manufacturer of semiconductors for solar energy has received a more than $2 million grant.
Federal stimulus money will boost production capacity at EpiWorks, and cut down its fossil fuel consumption. The funds will also let the facility add about 30 jobs. Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director Warren Ribley was at the plant Tuesday to announce the $2.5 million Green Business Development Grant. Ribley said manufacturing through green energy has been a priority for some time. He said more than $6 million set aside for East Central Illinois is primarily aimed at renewable sources, and developing companies that support them.
"We have to have a broad energy portfolio that depends on wind, solar, clean coal technology, and energy efficiency," said Ribley. "All of those things combined help reduce our dependence on foreign petroleum."
Joining Ribley Tuesday were a number of area city and school officials who have received stimulus funds to help their facilities become more energy efficient. Recipients include the cities of Tuscola and Arcola - each for building wind turbines. The Prairieview-Ogden school district is also installing a wind turbine, and Champaign's Bottenfield, Westview, and Robeson Elementary schools are getting new boilers and ventilators. Four of the grants are more than $400,000. The Arcola grant was just over $60-thousand.
During Ribley's visit to Champaign Tuesday, he also said the former Meadowbrook Farms site in Rantoul could one day soon resemble its old self. Earlier this week, Trim-Rite announced it was leasing and reopening the 2,000 acre site that closed earlier this year, and hiring 100 people when it starts operations next spring. Ribley said the newness of Trim-Rite's facilities, its size, and the state of the industry should mean more jobs soon after its spring 2011 opening.
"We are seeing a lot of interest in the food processing area, particularly in animal processing," he said. "That tells us that demand is growing, not only domestically, but internationally. So we think it's just the beginning. Illinois is a terrific workforce, it's a terrific location to move its product anywhere in the world."
Ribley added that several companies looked at the former Meadowbrook site before Trim-Rite committed to it. The company's president pledges the facility will use state-of-the-art equipment and be "the most modern hog processing facility'' in the country.
(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)
Two environmental experts will continue to keep tabs on Ameren's efforts to clean up the site of a former manufactured gas plant in Champaign.
About 60 residents from the 5th and Hill Street neighborhood shared their concerns with Bob Bowcock and Mark Zeko in a community forum Monday night. The experts were brought in by New York-based law firms to address long-standing concerns of illness and contaminated soil. Much of the discussion focused on Ameren's efforts to clean the site, and whether the EPA will respond to resident's calls for soil tests at resident's homes. Ameren started its remediation of the site last year, with completion slated for 2015.
Both the experts say the biggest immediate concern is for Champaign's city council to repeal its groundwater ordinance. Zeko, who's a hydrogeologist, said reworking it would allow more flexibility for residents to pursue legal action.
"If there was no ordinance in place, they could leave it like it is," said Zeko. "Right now, basically Ameren can say 'we're complying with the ordinance - leave us alone. If you appeal the ordinance, they can say 'well, our health-based effects show that this is a problem, you need to clean it up.'"
Zeko said Illinois' EPA should require Ameren to do additional testing. Zeko also said new studies are coming out on vapor intrusions of substances like benzine, and their possible health effects. Environmental Investigator Bob Bowcock said Ameren was irresponsible for doing a slow to moderate cleanup after 20 years of the site going unnoticed. He said the groundwater ordinance needs more teeth.
"It's a very generic ordinance, as was stated by the Illinois EPA," said Bowcock. "It's very general. It's been used in 200 jurisdictions throughout the state of Illinois. So it's not site specific, and as technology and science evolves, it's being misapplied."
Champaign City council member Tom Bruno, who spoke at an earlier forum Monday, said repealing the groundwater ordinance might be the only way that Ameren will properly re-mediate the 5th and Hill area.
"It acknowledges the reality that the danger from contaminated groundwater isn't just when you drink the groundwater, but it's dangerous also when you merely breathe the vapors that are coming from that groundwater" said Bruno. "And we need to get rid of that contaminated groundwater whether people are drinking it or not."
Magnolia Cook lives in the 5th and Hill neighborhood. Cook said she has dealt with strange smells and nagging health concerns for about 50 years, so much so that it seems natural.
Ameren spokesman Leigh Morris said the utility company considered all aspects of the environmental impacts at the site of every former manufactured gas plant. He said everything at 5th and Hill is being done within strict accordance of the Illinois EPA, and he added groundwater at the site does not pose a human health or environmental risk. He said the company was not invited to Monday's forums.
(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)
An attorney in Piatt County has filed a lawsuit to remove the current county clerk one month before Election Day.
Dan Clifton is an assistant deputy state's attorney in Champaign County - he contends that Republican Piatt County Clerk Pat Rhoades doesn't qualify to serve because her family moved to a house just over the Piatt County line last year. Clifton says a Piatt County judge is scheduled to hear his complaint Wednesday morning.
"What I'm hoping the court will be able to do is look at the facts of the situation, which are fairly simple, and look at the law, and declare whether or not she is still an inhabitant or whether she ceased to be an inhabitant.," Clifton said. "If she ceased to be an inhabitant, then I'm asking the court to declare the office vacant." If that happens, Rhoades' chief deputy would step in until the county board appoints a replacement to fill out the term.
Rhodes has not returned a phone call seeking comment. She has told the county board that she has been living in Champaign County temporarily while she and her family build a house in Piatt County. But in his suit Clifton claims that Rhoades has a registered as a voter - and voted - in Champaign County, and the property where the house was to be built is now for sale.
A Champaign political activist said he supports the idea of allowing voters to recall state elected officials. However, he said he is not backing the particular recall amendment on the Illinois November ballot.
John Bambenek said there are several things he dislikes about the governor recall amendment, but he added that the fatal flaw is the requirement that at least 30 lawmakers sign on to any recall proposal before any voter petitions can be circulated. That is 20 from the Illinois House and ten from the Senate, with at least 16 members of the general assembly coming from the sitting governor's party. Bambanek said if such a recall law was in place when Rod Blagojevich was governor, it would not have made any difference.
"If you recall back to Blagojevich, the Senate Democrats were unanimous behind him, and many of the House Democrats were overwhelmingly behind him," said Bambenek. "You wouldn't have gotten those 16 Democrats, even with Rod Blagojevich, until the day he was arrested."
Bambanek said such a requirement guarantees the recall process will never be used, and he said no other states with a recall process require prior permission from lawmakers. He added that other states that permit recalling governors also allow recall of all statewide elected officials.
Bambenek is launching a campaign to to defeat the Illinois proposal. While other opponents argue that giving voters any recall authority beyond regular elections would be bad government, Bambenek said defeating this particular recall amendment is the only way to give a stronger recall proposal a chance for approval in Illinois.
The Democratic and Republican candidates for Illinois treasurer are sparring over campaign contributions.
During a stop in Bloomington, Il. on Saturday, Republican State Senator Dan Rutherford of Pontiac accused his Democratic opponent, Robin Kelly, of accepting campaign contributions from banks, and he cautioned her to follow the state's campaign finance laws.
Kelly, who is the chief of staff for current treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, said Rutherford has violated campaign finance laws, and she added that there is no reason for him to be concerned because she has taken an ethics pledge to not take any money from banks or bank executives.
"I have not taken any money from any bank owners or any banks, whether we have contracts with them or not," said Kelly, who admitted that she has taken campaign contributions from banks during her time in the Illinois legislature. "I take money from bank PACS, but we don't do business with bank PACS. I think they've given me $500 hundred dollars."
Kelly accused Rutherford in September of violating pay-to-play laws by accepting $3,500 in contributions from several banks that do business with the treasurer's office. Rutherford later returned about $900 in contributions from Pan American Bank, which bid on a contract worth more than $50,000.
State law forbids candidates from accepting contributions from businesses bidding that much money. Rutherford said at the time he accepted the contribution, information about the contract was not made public by Kelly's office, but the treasurer's office maintains that it was public information with the Office of the Comptroller and the State Board of Elections.
With a month to go until election day, both candidates say they need to cover more ground before November 2nd. Rutherford said he plans on focusing his campaign in the Chicago region counties of Cook, Lake, Will, Kane, McHenry, and Dupage. Kelly said she plans to continue targeting the entire state. The third party candidates in the race include Libertarian James Pauly and Green Party candidate Scott Summers.
(Photos by Sean Powers/WILL)
Governor Pat Quinn's running mate said Illinois fiscal crisis will require more and "progressively harder" budget cuts in the year ahead.
Democratic Lieutenant Governor candidate Sheila Simon said Quinn has proven he has the political courage to balance the budget --- because of his record of support cutting spending, while proposing a controversial hike in the state income tax.
Speaking to reporters at the Illinois News Broadcasters' Association convention in Bloomington over the weekend, Simon said the voters she has been meeting around the state are ready for the difficult choices ahead.
"I think most folks know that what's coming up ahead of us is not Easy Street," said Simon. "There's going to be some sacrifice involved, in places where probably everyone can say, 'wow, I wish you didn't have to cut there.'"
Simon chided Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady for refusing to propose specific budget cuts until he was elected and had made a thorough audit of state spending.
When reminded that Governor Quinn had not yet released full details of the spending cuts he has made so far, Simon said that those cuts were plainly visible to the people around the state directly affected by them. Simon noted the governor's cuts in state leasing and travel by government employees.
Sheila Simon is the daughter of the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon. Her opponents for lieutenant governor are Republican businessman Jason Plummer, the Green Party's Don W. Crawford, Libertarian Ed Rutledge, and independent Baxter Swilley - who is the running mate of Scott Lee Cohen.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) knows the new White House chief of staff well.
Pete Rouse served in a similar role under Durbin as chief of staff when he was in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1980's. Durbin calls him intelligent, more low profile than Rahm Emanuel, and "extremely talented."
"He is not the kind of person you are going to like as a newsman," said Durbin. "He just wants to go to work and do his job."
The Democrat Durbin said whether or not Rouse can advance the Obama Administration's agenda in the coming months depends on many factors, including the opposite party.
"The reality is there are likely to be fewer Democrats in Congress after this election," he said. "That's what happens in every off year election, and it means the President will have to carefully choose his agenda."
Durbin said Rouse as Chief of Staff will need a period of adjustment.
Emanuel left the post to run for Chicago Mayor. As Emanuel tries to garner support for a possible run, Durbin said he has no plans to endorse a candidate in what could be a crowded primary.
(Photo courtesy of the White House)
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