Illinois Public Media News
Archer Daniels Midland's plan to buy a downtown building is one in a series of moves to spur economic growth in the area, according to a Decatur city official.
The agricultural processor has entered into an agreement with Reynolds Development to purchase the building adjacent to ADM's Global Technology Center on North Water Street. Moving 350 employees there from other parts of the city will boost the company's downtown workforce to about 700 people, about 17-percent of ADM's local workforce. The company will decide which employees move to the Reynolds building by the end of the year.
Decatur Assistant City Manager Billy Tyus said ADM's agreement is moving forward as soon as possible, and helping to complete a longtime vision.
"These are folks who will shop in downtown stores, who will eat in downtown restaurants, and will hopefully visit downtown entertainment venues," Tyus said. "We think it's just one more step in our producing a downtown that will be a 24-hour living environment, which is what we've been working towards for some time now."
The new ADM facility will still house a Regions Bank branch currently in the building. Meanwhile, Reynolds Development is planning another downtown development for luring in restaurants, office, and retail development. That facility will also house an insurance company that Reynolds operates. To add to the development, the city of Decatur has been negotiating with the state to take over jurisdiction of US Route 51, and move it out of the downtown area. Tyus said that will allow for the re-routing of truck traffic.
On Thursday night, Decatur's city council will be asked to approve an agreement with ADM to allow downtown additional parking for employees that will be moving into that area.
Customers in two of the three zip codes covered by the Champaign Post Office may not notice when their service switches to a different postal station this weekend.
On Saturday, delivery to the 61821 zip code serving the west side of Champaign will move from the main station on Mattis Avenue to the Neil Street station downtown. Delivery of mail to the 61622 zip code in the rural outskirts of Champaign will change from the Neil Street station to Mattis Avenue.
Jason Stalter of the Champaign Post Office said the only difference postal customers should see is when they have to go to a post office about their mail.
The Neil Street post office will continue to handle mail to the 61820 zip code --- Champaign's busiest. Post Office box service and the Campustown postal station will not be affected by the switch.
Champaign's school board is scheduled to vote next week on the design of a new grade school in Savoy.
A Unit 4 board member who is an architect said the key to the new Carrie Busey Elementary building will be flexibility in educational space. Christine Chalifoux said older school facilities have a hard time helping some students, since many kids develop at a different pace while they are still in the same classroom.
The Savoy grade school will feature collaboration spaces that teachers can adjust based on different teaching styles. Chalifoux said Unit 4 is taking the right approach with this building.
"We try to teach the way the kids learn," Chalifoux said. "We need flexibility in spaces. We need places we can have break-outs so we can have large groups. We can have special projects and things like that, and that's really been important in all three of these new schools: BTW (Booker T. Washington), Garden Hills, and the new Carrie Busey."
Champaign School Board member Greg Novak said the collaborative space concept is already in place at Stratton and Barkstall elementary schools.
Savoy Village Trustee Joan Dykstra said the configuration of classroom space and open areas will pay dividends for the school district and neighborhood, but she said the school will get its share of use in evening and weekend hours as well.
"There's agreements too that the building will be able to be used for multiple events," Dykstra said.
Dykstra explained that the plans for the new grade school have also been well thought out for special education needs, adding that she appreciates the traffic pattern for buses and parents to pick up and drop off students.
The preliminary design of the Savoy school also allows the library to serve as the anchor, with classrooms grouped around it. A second story will be built to allow for additional outdoor play space. The new Carrie Busey school is scheduled to open in 2012.
The city of Decatur will lose about 80 jobs at one of its biggest employers, but a city official said it is better than losing the entire facility.
Reports of Tate and Lyle looking for a new headquarters site near Chicago stirred worries that the firm with deep roots in Decatur was going to relocate its U.S. headquarters, but on Tuesday the British-based food ingredients processor announced plans to build a "Commercial and Food Innovation Center" in Hoffman Estates. The new operation will house the majority of research and development now being done in Decatur. About 160 positions will be based in the new Center, but the firm said only about 80 will be relocated from Decatur.
"We're excited about this investment that we're making, and it's really helping to transform the company into the world leading specialty food and ingredients business," said company spokesman Chris Olsen.
The company, which makes products such as high fructose corn syrup, will keep its American headquarters and leadership team in place - and for that, Decatur city manager Ryan McCrady credited the persuasive powers of area leaders.
"At the end of the day we don't exactly know why they make their decisions," McCrady said. "Obviously Decatur is a much lower-cost alternative as far as operating when you compare it to Chicago. Low water and sewer rates and our inexpensive housing for their employees we feel are all a factor."
Tate and Lyle will get a $15 million package of incentives from the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for the new Chicago-area facility, but McCrady said the state has to walk a fine line between helping one location and helping the entire state retain jobs.
With about 500 jobs remaining in Decatur, Olson said the company will continue to be a significant part of the community.
A leading University of Illinois faculty member said it is good to see the Urbana campus initiating a process by which the contracts of faculty will be looked at before being renewed.
The review process concerns adjunct faculty member Kenneth Howell, who was told at the end of the academic year he would no longer teach courses on Catholicism. A student complained about an e-mail Howell sent to all his students regarding homosexual acts. Howell was later re-instated to the position after the Alliance Defense Fund threatened to sue the university.
The U of I's Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure completed the review of Howell, which was released Monday by the online journal, 'Inside Higher Ed'. Urbana Faculty Senate Executive Committee Chair Joyce Tolliver said this report is important for all academics. "That is, I think the primary and most important recommendation of this report," Tolliver said. "That we get something in writing that would be a campus-level procedure to avoid this sort of ad-hoc decision making that we've had to make from department to department in the absence of any procedure to follow."
Tolliver has already met with Interim Chancellor Robert Easter to talk about setting up such a process for reviewing academic contracts. She would not give specifics of the panel's review of Howell. The Alliance Defense Fund threatened to sue the U of I when Howell was dismissed. An ADF attorney, Jordan Lorence, said the U of I Committee's report was correct in that all faculty, including adjunct professors, should be afforded academic freedoms to express opinions and given their due process rights.
"This faculty committee says 'look, we have to have some procedures in place to make sure that no one is just dismissed," Lorence said. "Not because they're a bad teacher, but because some people don't agree with what he's asserting in the classroom, and that would be a step forward for everybody."
It is not known how 'Inside Higher Ed' obtained the report. U of I Law Professor Matthew Finkin, who chairs the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, declined to comment, saying these are 'personal issues.' U of I spokeswoman Robin Kaler issued a statement, stating 'the university appreciates the work of the committee, and agrees "with their assessment that teaching about religion versus advocating a religious belief or doctrine is a complex issue.
A central Illinois high school has agreed to phase out its cardinal logo after Illinois State University complained that it looked too much like ISU's Reggie Redbird mascot.
ISU's Director of Licensing Jerry Abner said the university has an obligation to protect its intellectual property, saying the Sangamon County school district needs to start scrubbing its website and printed materials of the logo right away.
Pleasant Plains Superintendent Maureen Talbert said that the school district will stop using the logo.
"They have a redbird mascot and apparently our redbird on our equipment and shirts and things is very similar," Talbert said. "They're very kind in understanding we'll work with them to make sure future products or things we sell won't have the same redbird image."
Talbert added that the district did not intentionally copy the image, and at least one parent, Laura Salvacion, in the Pleasant Plains district said the university is being too heavy handed.
"We're a little school," Salvacion said. "We send a lot of kids up there to college. You would think they'd just get a clue."
According to a letter sent to the school, ISU will allow current uses of the mascot image to continue on equipment and clothing until they are due for replacement.
The Danville City Council plans to vote on a proposal Tuesday night to raise the salaries of the city's mayor and treasurer.
The council's public works committee last week shot down a measure to boost the mayor's salary from $73,000 to $77,000 and the treasurer's salary from $43,500 to $48,000. These pay increase would be coupled with wage freezes over a four year period. Instead, the committee voted to support a four-year wage freeze with no pay hike. The measure is now headed to the full council.
According to Illinois law, the salaries of elected officials must be set before an election takes place. Alderman Rickie Williams Jr., Ward 1, is running for mayor. He said pay raises to the city's top administrators cannot be justified as the city deals with crippling budget problems and double-digit unemployment.
"If we were to authorize these salary increases, it makes it difficult for us to then go and tell workers that they won't receive salary increases if we provide them to the administration," Williams said.
Alderman William Gilbert, Ward 7, said he understands why members of the council would be apprehensive about giving more money to city officials given the current economic situation, but Gilbert said he would support one.
"I think there's areas in our budget that still need to be trimmed," Gilbert said. "A $4,000 increase over the matter of four years, I don't really see that as breaking our budget."
Gilbert said the city should align itself in a position where it can attract qualified leaders by offering competitive salaries.
The city council will also consider paying alderman based on the number of council meetings they attend, rather than a flat monthly $225 stipend.
Champaign department heads are developing a contingency plan, in case $2-million in cuts are needed.
Those reductions are in addition to the $9-million in reductions the city has already made the last few years. Several pages of suggested cuts will be discussed late next month by the city council. Assistant City Manager Dorothy David said cuts could include customer service jobs in the city building and police department's front desk, and reduced service hours in public works. She said it is getting to the point where snow removal could be impacted, and the city may need to make adjustments in routes and how quickly snow is removed. David said Champaign's resources to run city government are at 2006 levels.
"Even though we are seeing very slow revenue growth, our revenues are not growing as fast as our costs," said David. "When your costs grow faster than the amount of money that you're bringing in, you have to make adjustments. So the economy has really impacted us in that way."
David said if the state takes further action to reduce revenues that it shares with the city, like income tax, that would mean additional cuts. The city council will discuss these proposals in a study session November 23rd, and could develop a plan to implement them in January.
It is likely that the upcoming election will be overseen by the sitting Piatt County Clerk. A challenge to Piatt County Clerk Pat Rhoades has been thrown out of a county court.
Attorney Dan Clifton argued that Rhoades moved out of the county and thus should not be able to serve the last two months of her term. Rhoades is retiring at the end of the year, and her successor will be determined in the next election. Attorney Dan Clifton had charged that Rhoades and her family had permanently moved to Champaign County - Rhoades had said the move was temporary while they built a new home.
Judge John Shonkwiler dismissed Clifton's complaint.
Deanna Mool, who represented Rhoades, argued that Clifton did not allow a state's attorney or the attorney general to file or deny the challenge first.
"In order to get a declaratory judgment, you have to have some right that's going to be irrevocably harmed," Mool said. "This is just not that kind of controversy."
Clifton said he will not be able to file a new complaint until after Election Day, and he said he is not sure if he will try to challenge Rhodes in the last month of her term.
If no other challenges are filed, Rhoades will oversee the November 2nd election in Piatt County. Clifton stressed that the judge dismissed the case on a legal technicality and did not rule on whether Rhoades is eligible to serve.
University of Illinois students are going ahead with plans to hold a performance during Homecoming celebrating the school's former mascot, Chief Illiniwek.
Honor the Chief Society founder Roger Huddleston had said Thursday that the event featuring the retired U of I symbol would be postponed after the University gave supporters a cease-and-desist order over the use of the "Chief Illiniwek" name and the "ILLINI" trademark on pins, posters, and other merchandise.
However, by Friday U of I student Ivan Dozier, who is known as the "current chief," said that although the Students for Chief Illiniwek society could not afford both a legal fight and the dance, the organization decided late Thursday to ago ahead with the dance.
Huddleston said his group will not be obliged to back the students in case of any legal action, but he said he appreciates their enthusiasm for the Chief, which the U of I discontinued as an official symbol three years ago. Opponents called the Chief racially divisive.
Huddleston said not only can his group not afford the legal fight, and he said moving forward with the performance would jeopardize Students for Chief Illiniwek as a registered group on campus. He said he wants both groups associated with Chief Illiniwek to meet with U of I President Michael Hogan.
"I love my university," he said. "We're not trying to hurt them in any way, and I certainly don't want to hurt the students here. Hopefully we can come to an amicable understanding somewhere down the road here, and we can go on with our lives."
The Honor the Chief Society has held the event the past two years, renting out the Assembly Hall.
(Photo courtesy of the Chief Illiniwek Facebook page)
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