Illinois Public Media News
The recent announcement of a proposed merger between Carle Foundation Hospital and Carle Clinic has generated a lot of response.
But little of that was negative in a 2-hour state hearing in Urbana Wednesday morning. Support for the plan came from not only Carle administrators and physicians, but those who partner with the Clinic and hospital, like the United Way and Francis Nelson Health Center.
The $250 million merger would create a single not-for-profit organization with the intent of expanding charity care and more efficient operation. Claudia Lenhoff, the executive director of Champaign County Health Care Consumers, says the change in ownership could be one of the best things for the community. "Having Carle Clinic become a non-profit provider that abides by Carle Hospital's financial assistance policies as proposed in the application to the state will result in tremendous access for thousands of community members who are currently locked out of health care." said Lenhoff. Lenhoff's group is requesting some changes with the merger, including acceptance of all forms of health insurance, and for Carle to keep supporting its taxing districts that would lose revenue under the non-profit structure.
Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing says she can't endorse the merger unless the new organization can shift those funds onto other taxing bodies. "They account for almost 10% of our total assessed valuation," said Prussing. "The loss of Carle's payment of its fair share of the cost of fire, police, and public works would be devastating, and would place an unfair burden on all other Urbana taxpayers." Prussing says an agreement is being discussed with Carle officials in which payments would be made to the city in lieu of property taxes for clinic properties, and to let the courts decide whether hospital-owned properties would be taxable. Illinois' Health Facilities and Services Review Board will rule on the merger in March.
An accreditation team is coming to Champaign Thursday to review policies and procedures at the city's police department. But the police department's critics are questioning the accreditation program --- and the timing of its visit.
Champaign Police Chief R-T Finney serves on the board of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, which sponsors the Illinois Law Enforcement Accreditation Program or ILEAP. The year-old program is billed as a lower-cost alternative to a more rigorous national accreditation program, known as CALEA, for the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies..
The Reverend Evelyn Underwood of the Champaign-Urbana Ministerial Alliance questioned the city's use of a less rigorous program from a group tied to Finney, just weeks after the death of 15 year old Kiwane Carrington during a police confrontation. She told the city council Tuesday night that ILEAP has accredited only one police department so far, in Kankakee.
"Apparently, police departments are not lining up to get in on this opportunity", said Underwood. "So perhaps Champaign is doing the Illinois Law Enforcement Accreditation Program a favor more than the other way around."
City Manager Steve Carter says the Champaign Police Department sees ILEAP accreditation as a stepping stone for eventual accreditation by CALEA. He says the timing of the accreditation team's visit is unfortunate, but that the visit was scheduled before Carrington's death.
The ILEAP accreditation team will take public comment by phone during its visit to Champaign --- Thursday, November 5th from 4 to 6 PM. The number to call is 217-403-7015. Comment can also be emailed to Accreditation team member Pat Solar of the Genoa Police Department, at firstname.lastname@example.org. ILEAP's accreditation standards are available online at www.ilchiefs.org. A city news release says comments must address the Champaign Police Department's ability to comply with ILEAP standards.
Army Major David Audo is being remembered as a well-liked person who never changed his outlook on life.
Hundreds lined the streets of St. Joseph to honor the memory of the 35-year old native of the village who died in Baghdad a week ago. His body arrived at Willard Airport Tuesday afternoon, then a procession of police and fire personnel accompanied Audo's body from the airport to a St. Joseph funeral home.
Amy McElroy was a classmate of Audo's from Kindergarten through his graduation from St. Joseph-Ogden High School in 1992. She says he made the world a better place. "Even when he got deployed this time, he was joking about his spa treatments in Iraq, about the exfoliation and the sauna," McElroy said. "He was that kind of guy, he was always in good spirits, always wanting to make everybody else feel better. We would say 'thank you for being over there,' and he would say 'this is what I want to do with my life.'"
In high school, Audo was an honors student, and was active in track as well as drama. St. Joseph-Odgen English teacher Larry Williams knew Audo both as a student and neighbor, and he says he was full of life, even as a young child.
Funeral services for Major David Audo will be at 1 Thursday at Living Word Fellowship Church in St. Joseph, with burial in Danville National Cemetery. Visitation is from 4-30 to 8 Wednesday at the Freese Funeral Home in St. Joseph.
The outgoing and incoming leaders at the University of Illinois are asking units to set aside six percent of their current budgets.
President Joseph White and his interim successor, Stanley Ikenberry, say the university is dealing with serious cash flow problems because the state isn't keeping up with billings. The state is giving the U of I 719 million dollars this fiscal year, but White and Ikenberry say the U of I has seen little of that so far.
So chief financial officer Walter Knorr says campuses will have to hold back about 45 million dollars in this year's proposed spending, or about 45 million dollars. Knorr says the university has gotten used to holdbacks and recissions, such as last year when ten percent was set aside.
"In 2009 all we ended up with was a 2 1/2% recission. It ended up only being a slow cash payment cycle from the state," Knorr said.
Knorr says the university believes it can hold off any employee furloughs through the end of the calendar year and will try to avoid them next year as well. But the presidents' letter to campus officials still asks that hiring be limited to critical needs.
The union representing workers at the Champaign County Nursing Home says the county board needs to take account for the behavior of management at the facility.
Nurses and other home staff represented by AFSCME Local 900 have submitted a petition with the signatures of nearly 100 employees. They allege areas like nursing, dietary, and housekeeping are often short-staffed and reprimanded for not finishing work on time. The union also says managers have failed to honor a 2-year contract that the County and union agreed to in July to cut down on the number of agency nurses.
Tara McAuley, a staff representative with AFSCME, said,"Something needs to be done, and if nothing else maybe the voters need to understand that the county board which has overseen this nursing home has sat on its hands and not done enough to improve this situation. And if that's what it takes, to appeal to the voters and get a new county board, then that's what we're going to do."
AFSCME members are also calling for the removal of Nursing Home Administrator Andrew Buffenbarger. The union says grievances against nursing home management are being filed almost daily, many over nurses and other staff who have lost their jobs. AFSCME says many nurses and Certified Nurse Assistants have quit out of fear of being fired.
Champaign County Board member and Nursing Home Board member Alan Nudo says he can't comment until he studies the charges further.
A substance abuse treatment facility in Urbana is about to take clients for the first time in four years.
A federal grant will enable Prairie Center Health Systems to open the doors to its renovated Day Treatment Program, which had been closed in 2005 through cuts in state funds. CEO Bruce Suardini says the $476,000 will provide a year of therapy and related services to 100 clients. He says the money is not only for helping addicts recover but to help them rebuild lives and relationships:
"It affects the whole family. It affects the whole psyche of a person," Suardini said. "So part of the things we try to do is wrap around the other services because it might be finding a job for a person that really starts the catalyst of changing the alcohol abuse or the drug abuse. We look at education, getting people some credentials. We look at employment. We might be looking at housing."
Prairie Center Clinical director Mary Evans says without day treatment, clients for what services the facility could provide wound up on its waiting lists, in the court system, or hospitals.
The Day Treatment Program will open next month when staff has completed its training. Prairie Center will treat its clients five days a week and provide transportation.
A key government watchdog groups says it has agreed to a compromise on limiting the size of campaign donations in Illinois.
The announcement Thursday sets the stage for lawmakers to vote on the first campaign-donation caps in Illinois history.
The plan described by the group CHANGE Illinois would limit how much money individuals, businesses and political committees can give to candidates. The limit for individuals would be $5,000.
It would also cap donations from political parties and legislative leaders during a primary election but not during the general election.
Republican lawmakers oppose that exception. They wanted strict limits on donations by powerful parties and legislative leaders.
The Champaign County Zoning Board of Appeals is in favor of hiring a consultant to help the county consider claims about noise made by applicants from wind farm operators.
The Zoning Board endorsed the proposal from County Zoning Administrator John Hall Thursday night. Hall expects Champaign County will receive its first application for a wind turbine farm next month, from Chicago-based Invenergy. And when such applications come in, he wants the expert opinion of an outside consultant to check claims about potential turbine noise and the impact on nearby residents.
"We would be in sort of a predicament", Hall told AM 580 News, "if the neighbors raised valid questions about what the wind farm developer says, because we would have no way to respond to either party". Hall says the county doesn't have expertise about wind turbine noise issues on its own staff.
ZBA Board member Paul Palmgren agreed during Thursday night's meeting, saying he wanted the county to be on firm ground, to avoid possible legal action from wind farm opponents.
"I don't want to be in a court of law some place, trying to defend what we maybe should have done", said Palmgren..
A memo from ZBA Chair Doug Bluhm "strongly supporting" Hall's request for a noise consultant will go to the Champaign County Board's Environmental and Land Use Committee. That committee will consider the request November 9th. Hall says some members of the committee have questioned the need for a consultant --- they note that most Illinois counties with wind farm ordinances haven't hired them. The cost of a consultant is low enough that Hall doesn't need county board approval to hire one --- but he says he prefers to have county board support.
we would be in sort of a predictament if the neighbors raised valid questions about what the wind farm developer says, because we would have no way to respond to either party. So having a consultant who could advise the ZBA on whether what the neighbors raise are valid concerns are not, I think that would be good to have.
In three weeks, a key vote takes place as a site that once contained much of the Army's chemical weapons supply reverts to civilian use.
An agency has put together a plan to reuse the Newport Chemical Depot as the Army lets go of the one-time nerve agent plant and storage site. It sits on 11 square miles in Vermillion County Indiana, just across the Illinois border.
Bill Laubrends is with the Newport Chemical Depot Reuse Authority. He says the plan is the end product of public meetings and input from a wide range of community leaders.
"We've had stakeholder interviews, which include local residents,property owners, business owners, elected officials, representatives of major employers, local and state economic development groups, representation of conservation groups, soil conservation districts, local civic organizations, school districts, et cetera," Laubrends said.
A five member board will vote on the plan November 19th. It recommends the Army set aside nearly 35-hundred acres for industrial or commercial redevelopment. Another 12-hundred acres would remain farmland, and 24-hundred acres would be left as natural areas and parkland.
The war in Iraq has claimed another US solder from east central Illinois. The Defense Department says 35 year old Army Major David Audo of Saint Joseph was killed Tuesday in Baghdad in a non-combat related incident. A press release only says that the incident remains under investigation. Audo was a 1992 graduate of Saint Joseph Ogden High School.
Meanwhile, a soldier from western Indiana is among more than a dozen Americans killed in action this week in Afghanistan, with President Barack Obama taking part in the arrival transfer of his body at Dover Air Force Base.
Army Sgt. Dale R. Griffin was a 1999 graduate of Terre Haute South High School. His mother says he joined the Army soon after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Griffin was a state runner-up in wrestling as a high school senior. Griffin was among 18 U.S. military personnel and drug agents whose bodies arrived early Thursday at the Air Force base in Delaware. The flag-draped remains of Griffin were carried off a plane by six soldiers as Obama and others in a line of honor saluted.
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