NASA is preparing for a phase-out of its space shuttle program. The shuttle will be replaced by the Orion space capsule. But there will be a 4 to 5 year gap in between the last shuttle launch and the first voyage of the Orion. AM 580's Jeff Bossert talked with the commander of the most recent shuttle mission, University of Illinois graduate Lee Archambault, for his thoughts on the future of the US space program:
Illinois Public Media News
A proposal to annex land along Curtis Road to for road improvements passed the Champaign Plan Commission Wednesday. It goes to the city council on May 19th. City officials want the annexation, because Champaign Township is refusing to let the road project continue.
A crew is already at work on Curtis Road, which is being improved for the increase in traffic that's expected from the new Curtis Road interchange at I-57. But there's no work being done along a three-quarter mile stretch of road controlled by Champaign Township. The township is holding up the work, until the city of Champaign agrees to concessions in a long-running dispute over tax revenue from past city annexations. In response, the city of Champaign and neighboring Savoy are talking to landowners about annexing property along that stretch of road, which would move jurisdiction over to them. Savoy's negotiations have been going slowly. But Champaign Planning Director Bruce Knight says the city has an annexation agreement with the owners of property at the northwest corner of Curtis and Mattis. He says that should allow work on the project to continue without a hitch.
"If necessary", Knight says, "the contractor could move to Mattis Avenue as a next step, while Savoy completes their effort to get control."
The Savoy Village Board last night put off discussion on annexation of another property along Curtis Road until next week. But village manager Dick Helten says he expects they'll eventually reach an agreement with the owners. He disputed a News-Gazette report that suggested the negotiations were not going well.
The University of Illinois and the union for graduate student workers on its Urbana campus have agreed to call in a federal mediator to help them reach a contract agreement.
The decision came Tuesday in the second bargaining session between the U of I and the Graduate Employees Organization. Administration spokeswoman Robin Kaler says they hope to eventually reach an agreement that the U of I can afford.
"We're looking to achieve a fair and equitable contract within the budgetary constraints that we face," Kaler said.
Meanwhile, G-E-O spokeswoman Peter Campbell accuses the administration of failing to reply to the contract proposal they offered at last month's bargaining meeting. Instead, he says the U of I negotiators only wanted discuss what he calls extraneous issues.
The current contract for graduate employees runs out August 15th. Campbell says they hope to keep the advances made by that contract and improve wages and benefits, especially health care.
A 3-and-a-quarter mile stretch of Staley Road that had been under state control will now be the city of Champaign's responsibility.
Champaign didn't necessarily WANT the responsibility of caring for Staley Road from Springfield north to Bloomington Road. But Public Works Director Dennis Schmidt says IDOT had wanted to give the city the unmarked state route for years, and they finally made a deal: take over the job of maintaining that stretch of Staley Road, and IDOT would approve and help pay for new entrance points along Staley for the Sawgrass and Boulder Ridge subdivisions. The subdivision entrances have been completed --- and on Tuesday night, the Champaign City Council approved an agreement with IDOT to take over that section of Staley Road.
Councilwoman Marcie Dodds cast the only "no" vote. When asked why, the District 4 councilwoman replied, "because I think we need more arterial roads that need upkeep and maintenance like we need a hole in the head.
IDOT will give the city of Champaign 2-point-9 million dollars for future maintenance and upgrade costs. Champaign Public Works Director Schmidt says the money will go for repaving the road in the next couple of years, especially along the I-72 overpass.
Three recent traffic stops on Interstate 57 in east-central Illinois have yielded significant amounts of cash and drugs, but it's only part of the flow of drug traffic along the highway.
So says an Illinois State Police spokesman, who says part of the purpose of an ongoing patrol team of troopers is to watch out for illegal cargoes in cars and trucks. Sergeant Bill Emery says just last week officers pulled over a vehicle with more than 100 pounds of marijuana in a luggage carrier. An earlier stop on 57 turned up 2.7 million dollars in hidden cash, with another finding nearly 600 thousand dollars.
Emery says police have to have probable cause to search a vehicle, but in these cases the drivers and passengers tipped themselves off. He says those who act unnecessarily nervous or contradict their stated travel plans raise police suspicions, and all three drivers signed consent-to-search forms.
Emery says the Strategic Enforcement Team has four troopers and a police dog working out of the Pesotum post - they vary their schedules to patrol problem areas on state roads, including I-57.
The Urbana City Council will not join Newcomb Township in trying to block passage of a county zoning ordinance for wind turbine farms. Council members voted unanimously Monday night not to file a protest against the county board zoning proposal.
The proposal would allow the construction of large wind turbine farms on land zoned agricultural, under a special use permit. Mayor Laurel Prussing says council members support wind farms. She says wind turbines can provide an alternative energy source that dovetails with the city's support for conservation and sustainable energy. "The city will do what it can in terms of energy conservation and sustainability,"says Prussing. "But we see the production of energy as a key ingredient in solving this whole problem, and that's why we are in favor of wind energy being used."
The Champaign County Board could vote on the wind farm zoning ordinance at its May 21st meeting. The proposal is currently in committee.
The Newcomb Township Board voted last month to protest the proposal. Their protest means it will take a super-majority --- or 21 votes --- for the measure to pass the Champaign County Board. In Champaign, the city's Plan Commission will discuss the proposal at its meeting on Wednesday.
The Illinois Department of Public Health says the state now has three confirmed cases of H1N1 (swine) flu and 51 probable cases of the new virus.
Illinois health officials call a case "confirmed'' when additional testing by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention backs up the state's results. Kendall County has joined the list of northern Illinois counties with probable cases. The state says Kendall has one case. No cases have been reported yet in downstate Illinois, but Indiana health officials say three cases have been found there.
Illinois has tested more than 500 specimens from patients with flu symptoms and continue to receive more samples from doctors every day.
Health officials in Illinois say the state has enough flu drugs to treat more than one million people. And Illinois can raise that to a recommended level of stockpiled flu drugs within 12 hours with a request to the federal government.
An Associated Press survey finds that more than half the states have yet to stockpile the number of flu-treatment drugs recommended.
Chicago has its own stockpile of the drugs and earlier this week received an allotment from the federal emergency stockpile. Those drugs were delivered to 40 hospitals.
A Chicago Department of Public Health spokesman says the city won't discuss specific numbers "for security purposes.'' Chamapign-Urbana Public Health District administrator Julie Pryde says supplies of medication and protective equipment are being transported to a storage area in the county that she would not name.
The government recommends that each state have enough antiviral medicine on hand to treat 25 percent of its population.
(additional information from AM 580 News)
A recount of some precincts in the Champaign school district has found no change in the results of a tight school board race. County clerk's officials pored over ballots from 13 out of 52 precincts, and clerk Mark Shelden says in his blog that the results are no different than the Election Night count last month. That means Stig Lanesskog remains the winner by two votes over Lynn Stuckey. Stuckey has the ability to challenge the results in court - she's not immediately available for comment.
The confusion in the wake of Hurricane Katrina four years ago included serious problems evacuating and caring for society's most vulnerable people.
Hospitals and nursing homes were thrown into chaos, and in some cases patients died for reasons that could have been avoided. The Illinois College of Emergency Physicians held a seminar Friday in Urbana to address the problem of moving people in health care facilities, psychiatric hospitals or group homes. Doctor Moses Lee, the medical director for the Illinois Medical Emergency Response Team, said "I think many people have seen from Katrina all the difficulties of transporting patients out of a hospital and stabilizing them and figuring out how to place them. So there have been a lot of requests from our audiences over the years that they want to learn more about this dilemma and this challenge. There are not a lot of answers out there, but there are a lot of great people thinking about it."
Lee says many Illinois responders went to Louisiana to help care for Katrina patients in 2005 - but he says Illinois has also seen the potential for such emergencies with special needs populations, such as during last spring's Mississippi River flooding.
A hand recount of ballots Thursday confirmed Dale Munds' one-vote re-election as mayor of Bondville.
The losing candidate, former mayor Karl Kennicker, had requested the recount. "I was worried about the three under-votes," said Kennicker. "There was three people who didn't vote for either one of us for mayor. I wanted to see if by mistake, someone had circled it or put an X through the box, instead of filling in the oval."
But the Champaign County Clerk's blog reported Thursday that the hand recount of ballots showed the same result as the April 7th county by computer --- 47 votes for Munds, 46 votes for Kennicker and three ballots with no votes for mayor.
Kennicker served as mayor of Bondville for 12 years before losing to Munds in 2003. He says he now considers the election settled ... and hasn't decided if he'll seek office again in the future.
Meanwhile, the county clerk's office scheduled another discovery recount for Friday morning, May 1st, at 8:30. Lynn Stuckey requested a recount in the Champaign School Board election, after losing by two votes to Stig Lanesskog.