Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 24, 2012

Photo Shows US Sen. Kirk Looking Alert Months After Stroke

The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago has released a photo of Sen. Mark Kirk that is the first public image of the Illinois Republican since his January stroke.

The photo shows Kirk with closely trimmed hair, looking alert and sitting up as he rests his right arm on a table.

The director of the institute's Center for Stroke Rehabilitation, Dr. Richard Harvey, also gave an update Tuesday on Kirk's progress with recovery.

Harvey says the senator has walked more than 10 miles in total since he arrived at the center in February. He's also able to climb stairs and get in and out of vehicles.

Doctors have said the 52-year-old Kirk should make a full mental recovery, although they expect the stroke will limit movement on his left side.

(Photo courtesy of The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago)

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 24, 2012

Report: State Fails to Inspect Day Care

A published report says more than half of Illinois day cares haven't been inspected by the state.

The Chicago Tribune reported in its Sunday edition that 55 percent of the approximately 12,300 day care operations haven't had visits from state inspectors during their current three-year license period.

The Tribune reports that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has nearly 3,000 employees, but only 123 are assigned to licensing.

The newspaper reports that caseloads for licensing workers often are double what they should be. The Tribune cites agency figures that it analyzed in its investigation.

State officials blame budget cuts and staffing shortages for their inspection failures.

Agency officials say that department is hiring four workers to reduce its background-check backlog and plans to hire more licensing workers.

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Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 24, 2012

Unit 4 School Board Member Changes Position on Bonds

A Champaign Unit 4 school board member has changed his mind about issuing up to $14.5 million in working cash bonds.

But procedural language kept the full board Monday night from voting to reverse the action it took in late February. Board member Dave Tomlinson said Jamar Brown could change his vote to a no, but the board couldn't initiate a vote of its own to abandon the bonds.

Since Unit 4 has already started discussions with the firm CTS for building upgrades, Tomlinson said such a move would violate Robert's Rules of Order.

Brown said he is still supportive of what the bonds would pay to support, but he believes better options to pay for that work should be sought out.

"I just wanted to change my vote from a yes to a no," Brown said. "But I do still support the work being done. So I will still continue to move forward to get the work done in the district, because I don't want to stop it."

Brown said he was concerned that none of the work the bonds were going for, including geothermal systems at Unit 4's middle schools, would be completed this summer. But District Chief Financial Officer Gene Logas said the timeline for some of that work has changed.

Meanwhile, Board President Sue Grey said the amount of the bonds isn't set in stone.

"The other piece of this is really looking at what it most urgent," Grey said. "Again, remember that working cash bonds were to be issued up to $14.5 million. Everybody keeps saying 'they're issuing working cash bonds for $14.5 million. No we're not. We're issued up to $14.5 million."

The working cash bonds have prompted complaints from the public, who believe a tax hike should have gone before voters.

A special Unit 4 board meeting could be held next Monday, where it could approve contracts for air conditioning and geothermal wells at its two middle schools. Quick action is required to complete the work over the summer.

Grey said she is not concerned Brown changed his vote, saying nothing has changed for the rest of the board when the bonds were unanimously approved in February.

The Unit 4 board also swore in its newest member Monday night. Illeana Saveley is filling the unexpired term of Greg Novak, who passed away in March.

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WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 23, 2012

Prep Work for Crystal Lake Pool Demolition Underway

Four years after the closing of Urbana's Crystal Lake Pool, workers are preparing to demolish it to make way for its replacement.

The Urbana Park District's Tim Bartlett said demolition of the pool and related buildings will begin as soon as site preparation is completed. He added that he hopes that construction of the new Crystal Lake aquatic center can follow this summer, on the heels of the demolition. Bartlett said the construction plans have been sent to the Illinois Department of Public Health, and they are waiting for the agency's approval.

"They'll do a thorough review of what's being proposed," Bartlett said. "It's not uncommon for a number of a number of things to get listed or questioned. Those will get kicked back to the park district and our architects. And then we'll refine and revise as we need to."

The old Crystal Lake pool closed in 2008, and Urbana voters approved a property tax increase in 2010 to help pay for its replacement. The new aquatic center will cost an estimated $6.1 million. But Bartlett said it could cost more --- and include more features --- if a $400,000 state grant is approved.

In addition, the Urbana Park District is accepting private donations that could pay for other additions to the project.

But even without the grant and the donations, Bartlett said the new pool complex will be built.

"But the donations will allow us to add a few extra things, and make it extra special," he said.

The new Crystal Lake aquatic center is scheduled to open in May 2013.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 23, 2012

Illinois Backlog of Bills Tops $5.5 Billion

A huge backlog of unpaid bills continues to plague Illinois state government.

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka reported Monday that her office ended March with more than $5.5 billion in bills the state couldn't afford to pay. State agencies had their own stacks of bills, so Topinka believes the total backlog was more than $9 billion.

She says Illinois is basically treading water financially. The state is taking in more money from a recent income tax increase, but that is offset by less federal aid and increased pension costs.

The backlog represents money Illinois owes to schools and local governments, businesses that do work for the state and hospitals that care for the poor.

Topinka's office says some of the unpaid bills date back to before Christmas.

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Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 23, 2012

Illinois Backlog of Bills Tops $5.5 Billion

A huge backlog of unpaid bills continues to plague Illinois state government.

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka reported Monday that her office ended March with more than $5.5 billion in bills the state couldn't afford to pay. State agencies had their own stacks of bills, so Topinka believes the total backlog was more than $9 billion.

She says Illinois is basically treading water financially. The state is taking in more money from a recent income tax increase, but that is offset by less federal aid and increased pension costs.

The backlog represents money Illinois owes to schools and local governments, businesses that do work for the state and hospitals that care for the poor.

Topinka's office says some of the unpaid bills date back to before Christmas.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 23, 2012

Hospital Offers Employees Incentives to Stay Healthy

Carle Spokesman Sean Williams works out on the treadmill in his department.

A growing number of companies across the country have started encouraging employees to stay healthy by offering financial incentives. Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, which is one of the largest employers in the area, is pushing for a healthier workforce through its Charge Rewards Program. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports on how it works.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

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Categories: Business, Health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 23, 2012

PCB Concerns Prompt Special Protection for Mahomet Aquifer

PCB Concerns Prompt Special Protection for Mahomet Aquifer

Worries about the Clinton Landfill's proposal to store hazardous PCB's are fueling a quest for a special federal designation for areas that get drinking water from the Mahomet Aquifer.

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WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 23, 2012

Prep Work for Crystal Lake Pool Demolition Underway

Four years after the closing of Urbana's Crystal Lake Pool, workers are preparing to demolish it, to make way for its replacement.

The Urbana Park district's Tim Bartlett says demolition of the pool and related buildings will begin as soon as site preparation is completed. And he hopes that construction of the new Crystal Lake aquatic center can follow this summer, on the heels of the demolition. He says the construction plans have been sent to the Illinois Department of Public Health, and they're waiting for the agency's approval.

"They'll do a thorough review of what's being proposed", says Bartlett. "It's not uncommon for a number of a number of things to get listed or questioned. Those will get kicked back to the park district and our architects. And then we'll refine and revise as we need to.

The old Crystal Lake pool closed in 2008, and Urbana voters approved a property tax increase in 2010 to help pay for its replacement. The new aquatic center will cost an estimated $6.1 million. But Bartlett says it could cost more --- and include more features --- if a $400,000 state grant is approved. In addition, the Urbana Park District is accepting private donations that could pay for other additions to the project.

But even without the grant and the donations, Bartlett says the new pool complex will be built. "But the donations will allow us to add a few extra things, and make it extra special", he says.

The new Crystal Lake aquatic center is scheduled to open in May of 2013.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 23, 2012

Former President Carter Speaks at Nobel Laureate Conference

Former President Jimmy Carter says the United States needs to find a way to be a leader in global peace.

Carter spoke Monday in Chicago at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. The Nobel summit has taken place for a dozen years, but this is the first time it's been held on this continent. Mikhail Gorbachev, the Dalai Lama and Carter are just a few of the Nobel Peace Prize winners expected at the conference.

Carter says that the United States has a responsibility to promote the values of the Nobel Peace Prize winners because the U.S. is the only global superpower. Carter also spoke about economic embargos.

The conference comes just weeks before Chicago hosts President Barack Obama and foreign leaders for the NATO summit.

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Categories: Government, History, Politics

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