Illinois Public Media News
The Champaign City Council hopes to vote again next week on an agreement on what to do with Burnham 310 project. The high-rise and condo project is behind schedule, and council members are divided on whether to let other builders submit bids to complete it.
The Pickus Companies has missed construction deadlines and had trouble paying bills on the Burnham 310 building. Only 6 of its 18 floors are cleared for occupancy. And work hasn't even begun on condos and townhomes just west of the high-rise. Company principal Jeff Pickus says the upper floors will get a permit for occupancy this week, and other fixes are underway. But Councilman Tom Bruno says the city should open up the rest of the project to other bidders. "I don't think we have a valid agreement with Pickus, said Bruno. "I think they've breached the contract with the city".
But Mayor Jerry Schweighart says Pickus made a strong proposal for the Burnham site when other developers let the city down, and he wants to stand by them. "I think PIckus stuck with us," the mayor said. "That project, as far as I'm concerned, is going great on the 310. Give them a chance to show us what they can do on the rest of the project.
City council members deadlocked Tuesday night on proposals to amend the Burnham project schedule --- one with Pickus only , the other allowing bids from other builders. Councilwoman Gina Jackson was absent, so under council rules, the vote will be re-taken the next time the council meets with full attendance.
Meanwhile, council members endorsed letting Niemann Foods, owner of the County Market supermarket at the Burnham 310 site, buy the store property, as well as a lot across the street it uses for parking. The County Market will be allowed to expand its parking at the site --- crowding out a condominium that was part of the Burnham project. Those units could move to another site just west of the Burnham 310 building. But Jeff Pickus said he hoped the city would allow a revised project at the site with fewer units.
Illinois's governor has appointed a longtime advocate of universal health care to a troubled state board. The move comes amid questions about whether the board should even exist.
Quentin Young will chair the state's Health Facilities Planning Board. The board regulates where the facilities can be built or taken away. Critics say the board stifles competition ... but Young says a little planning will lead to a fairer system.
"There's no perfect way, obviously, to have balance between regulation and competition. But this planning agency is an attempt to control the devastating cost of health care," Young said.
The board has been a venue for graft and kickbacks, involving close associates of former Governor Rod Blagojevich. Congressman Mark Kirk suggests abolishing the board, calling it, quote: "an opportunity for total corruption." Kirk is thought to be mulling a run for governor.
Incumbent Pat Quinn says the key is appointing trustworthy people. Quentin Young has been a civil rights activist, Pat Quinn's personal physician.
People in Champaign-Urbana get their chance over the next week to offer opinions about downtown Champaign's cultural offerings and how they can improve.
The cultural group known as 40 North 88 West is wants to form a cultural arts district. Its director of operations, Steven Bentz, says downtown Champaign already has lots of cultural offerings - the goal is to make downtown a destination for families, day or night. He says the public has a big say in how that arts district would look.
"Is it arts facilities? Is it more classes? Is it happenings on the street? Are people wanting to see a greater involvement from multiple groups from around Champaign County -- educational groups, cultural groups, churches? What kinds of buy-in would people like to see happen through a cultural arts district in downtown Champaign?" asked Bentz. "We're encouraging people to really dream big."
After the public comment sessions, 40 North would hire a consultant to help come up with a definitive plan for an arts district.
The public sessions began Thursday night -- others will be held next Wednesday night at at 7:00 at City Hall and Thursday at noon at the Springer Cultural Center.
Bill Hammack has been doing a lot of thinking about east-central Illinois' water supply. You may know him as WILL's "Engineer Guy," bringing complex scientific issues closer to home. All this week, Bill is taking a look at how we use water, how much we have and how we manage it for the future. The different ways we use water at home may seem obvious - but in Part 4, Bill finds some ways we may never have suspected.
In small towns across the country, many people have decided that a cheaper way to get around is to leave the car in the garage and pile into the golf cart. Golf carts and other small slow-speed vehicles are becoming more appealing to people living in areas where traffic is low, but gas prices are high. In Illinois, several small towns are allowing golf carts on their streets --- while others are holding back. AM 580's Jim Meadows reports.
Experts predict that in the next 20 to 30 years, a growing United States will need 30 to 60 percent more water. Growth will be even more explosive in other parts of the world, and the need for clean, usable water may someday be a staggering political issue. AM 580's Tom Rogers spoke with University of Illinois professor Mark Shannon, who's watching that potential crisis unfold.
In most Illinois counties, it's possible for a town to impose its own rules on zoning and new construction on land that's miles outside of the city limits. It happened last year in Champaign County. Such practices worry many rural residents and county officials. But efforts to limit such agreements through legislation are underway in Springfield. AM 580's Jim Meadows reports.
Six proposals for new health care facilities have been laid out in east-central Illinois in the past year - and a state board has turned down five - the sixth has yet to be heard. Anyone who wants to build a hospital, dialysis facility, nursing home or outpatient surgery center has to get permission from the state Health Facilities Planning Board, through what's known as a Certificate of Need. AM 580's Tom Rogers tells us that the process generates controversy elsewhere, though many here in Illinois still want to see it work.
The recent decision to ban smoking in Champaign bars and restaurants could play the most publicized role in who wins in next week's city council election. But there are other issues that could influence Tuesday's vote for three at-large council members. AM 580's Jeff Bossert looks at the issue of growth in southwest Champaign (left: Curtis Road interchange, with Barkstall School in the background) and the approach each candidate wants to take.
For the last year and a half, a planning process called "big.small.all" has been bringing Champaign County residents together to talk about their dreams and goals for the county's future. Those dreams and goals have been presented back to the county in the form of a report called "our future.here." Now, organizers say the next step is to turn some of those dreams into reality. AM 580's Jim Meadows reports.
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