Six years ago, voters in the Rossville-Alvin School District approved the deactivation --- that is the closing --- of their high school. And for the past five years, students from the rural Vermilion County district have attended high school in Hoopeston, to the north, and Bismarck, to the south.
But Rossville-Alvin voters indicated Tuesday that they're ready for a change. They voted 353 to 295 --- or by a 54% majority --- in favor of a referendum to reactivate their high school.
Rossville-Alvin School Superintendent Randy Hird says cost was a major factor. The district pays tuition to send its high school students to the neighboring high schools ...
"The tuition became a little bit more expensive, more expensive that has originally been planned," Hird said. "And there was just some question on the school board's mind what the input of the community would be. So the whole purpose of the vote was to gauge what the community support would be to reactivate the school or not."
Hird says they've been paying about $7,000 per student per year to send the district's high school students to other schools. The total cost to the Rossville-Alvin district has been 700-to-900 thousand dollars annually. Hird says a study prepared for the district by consultants from Eastern Illinois University concluded that the cost of tuition and the cost of hiring staff to reopening the high school was "about the same".
Hird says he expects the Rossville-Alvin school board will seek more detailed information over the next few months about the costs of reopening the high school. But he says if they decide to do so, it would be the fall of 2012 at the earliest before classes could resume.
The Rossville-Alvin high school building is located across the street from Rossville-Alvin Elementary School in Rossville. Hird says the building is still being used, for pre-school and daycare programs, while its cafeteria is used by the elementary school at lunchtime. He says the high school gym is also used for musical programs and graduation ceremonies.
In just a couple of years, Urbana is expected to have a new outdoor aquatic center at Crystal Lake Park.
There's been talk about building a new outdoor pool in Urbana ever since Crystal Lake pool closed in 2008. Voters that year rejected a 25-cent property tax increase that would have helped fund a new outdoor aquatic center. But on Tuesday night, voters backed an 11-cent property tax increase supporting one.
The Urbana Park District's Executive Director Vicki Mayes credits the success of this year's referendum to outreach for the project.
"The money in the taxes that people will pay will be right here in this community, and it will benefit them directly," she said. "So, it's something that they wanted, and it's something that they really would be willing to pay for."
The property tax increase will provide enough funds for the park district to sell and pay back bonds to finance the project's construction and maintenance.
The new aquatic center priced at $7.725 million will include three pools - one that's shallow, one that's deeper, and one reserved for fitness. It will be built where Crystal Lake pool once operated. The design for the center begins this spring, and it is expected to open sometime in 2013.
Mayor Scott Eisenhauer brushed back three challengers to his office on Election Day, winning with 42% of the vote.
Eisenhauer beat Vermilion County Board member James "Mouse" McMahon, who received 34%. Rickey Williams Junior received 13% of the vote, followed by David Quick with 10%.
Eisenhauer says he was overwhelmed to see the support he got in his third bid for mayor. He says it was good to see that "although the community certainly doesn't like everything you do as mayor ,they at least have confidence in our team to appreciate what we've done for eight years, and more importantly the confidence that we've been moving the city in the right direction and will continue to do that over the course of next four years."
new aldermen will join the City Council under Eisenhauer, including longtime State Representative Bill Black, who retired from his post late last year. He soundly defeated incumbent 7th ward alderman Ron Candido. Kevin Davis, Michael O'Kane and Thomas Stone won seats, joining victorious incumbents Rick Strebing and Jon Cooper. City Treasurer Linda Monson defeated challenger Carol Nichols.
University of Illinois employee Don Gerard will become the next mayor of Champaign, defeating three-term incumbent and retired police officer Jerry Schweighart.
Gerard picked up 51% of the vote in a race that at times had turned testy over budget issues and campaign funding.
"It's all been a process of being prepared. To see it to fruition is just remarkable," Gerard said after his win. "I think it's a real testament to our team and to the community. People really got out and supported us and worked really hard. I think we had a lot of numbers pushed up in a lot of different places, and I think we really made a statement."
Speaking by phone after the vote count, Schweighart blamed lack of union support and very low turnout in Champaign, which he called "pathetic."
When asked if he had any words of advice for the new mayor, Schweighart responded, "He's smarter than I am. I'll let him figure it out."
There was also one Champaign City Council seat left open by resignation -- state economic development official Paul Faraci has won that seat, defeating two other write-in candidates. Faraci received 787 votes to Cathy Emanuel's 518 and James McGuire's 415.
(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)
A signed photo of notorious Missouri outlaw Jesse James sold at auction Tuesday for $51,240.
Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago had estimated the photograph would sell for between $20,000 and $30,000.
The photo shows James with his hair slicked back and looking away from the camera at an angle.
Underneath it's signed J.W. James.
The auction house has said it's the only known signed photo of the outlaw, but not everyone was sold on its authenticity.
Gary Chilcote, the director of the Jesse James Home Museum in St. Joseph, says the outlaw rarely signed anything.
Jesse James was shot and killed in his home in St. Joseph, Missouri in 1882 at the age of 34.
(Photo courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers)
University of Illinois freshman guard/forward Jereme Richmond will enter the 2011 NBA draft, and he says he doesn't plan on returning to school
Richmond earned Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors after averaging 7.6 points and 5.0 rebounds in 31 games for the Illini during the 2010-11 season. Richmond is working out in Chicago and will weigh his options regarding signing with an agent.
"I enjoyed my time at the University of Illinois and would like to thank the coaching staff and my teammates for everything they've done for me," Richmond said. "At this time, I'm ready to follow my dreams and achieve my life-long goal of playing in the NBA."
Richmond earned Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors after averaging 7.6 points and 5.0 rebounds in 31 games for the Illini during the 2010-11 season. He shot 52.8 percent from the field and ranked third in the Big Ten in field goal shooting during conference play at 60.4 percent. Richmond scored in double figures 10 times, led by a career-high 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting against Ohio State on Jan. 22. The team's third-leading rebounder on the season, Richmond led the Illini in rebounding in six games, highlighted by a career-best 12 boards versus UIC on Dec. 18.
"Jereme is an extremely talented player who helped us at nearly every position," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "His versatility and ability to impact the game in a number of different areas are skills that will help him greatly as he pursues his dream of playing professional basketball."
The only thing that could stop Kemba Walker and Connecticut's amazing run was the final buzzer.
On a night when the massive arena felt like a dusty old gym, UConn made Butler look like the underdog it really was, winning the national championship Monday night with an old-fashioned, grinding 53-41 beatdown of the Bulldogs.
Walker finished with 16 points for the Huskies (32-9), who won their 11th straight game since closing the regular season with a 9-9 Big East record that foreshadowed none of this.
They closed it out with a defensive showing for the ages, holding Butler to a 12-for-64 shooting. That's 18.8 percent, the worst ever in a title game.
It was one of the ugliest games anyone can remember on the sport's biggest stage. But definitely the kind of game a grizzled old coach like Jim Calhoun could love.
At age 68, he became the oldest coach to win the NCAA championship and joined John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight as only the fifth coach to win three NCAA titles.
"It may be the happiest moment of my life," Calhoun said.
Calhoun coaxed this win out of his team by accepting the reality that the rim looked about as wide as a pancake on a cold-shooting, defensive-minded night in Houston. He did it by making his players pound the ball inside and insisting on the kind of defense that UConn played during this remarkable run, but which often got overshadowed by Walker's theatrics.
UConn trailed 22-19 after a first half that came straight out of the '40s.
"The halftime speech was rather interesting," Calhoun said. "The adjustment was, we were going to out-will them and outwork them." And so they did.
Connecticut outscored Butler by an unthinkable 26-2 in the paint. The Bulldogs (28-10), in their second straight title game and hoping to put the closing chapter on the ultimate "Hoosiers" story, went a mind-numbing 13 minutes, 26 seconds in the second half making only one field goal.
During that time, a 25-19 lead turned into a 41-28 deficit. This for a team that never trailed Duke by more than six during last year's epic final.
That time, Gordon Hayward's desperation halfcourt heave bounced off the backboard and rim, barely missing. This time, UConn was celebrating before the buzzer sounded, Calhoun pumping his fists and hugging an assistant while the Huskies ran to the sideline and soaked in the confetti.
The version of "Hoosiers" with the happy ending is still available on DVD.
UConn, meanwhile, gets the real celebration.
"You see the tears on my face," Walker said. "I have so much joy in me, it's unreal. It's surreal. I'm so happy right now."
Joining Walker, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, in double figures were Jeremy Lamb with 12 points, including six during UConn's pullaway run, and Alex Oriakhi with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Just as impressive were the stats UConn piled up on defense. Four steals and 10 blocks, including four each by Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith, and a total clampdown of Butler's biggest stars, Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack. Howard went 1 for 13 and Mack went 4 for 15.
"You just hope the shots go in," Butler guard Zach Hahn said. "That's how it's been all tournament. Whenever we needed a big shot, somebody came up with it. I guess we just ran out of steam. Nobody could make 'em."
Butler's 41 points were 10 points fewer than the worst showing in the shot-clock era in a championship game. (Michigan scored 51 in a loss to Duke in 1992), and the 18.8 percent shooting broke a record that had stood since 1941.
"Without question, 41 points and 12 of 64 is not good enough to win any game, let alone the national championship," Butler coach Brad Stevens said.
While Stevens made history by doing it "The Butler Way" and bringing this school with 4,500 students within a win of the championship for two straight years, UConn played big-boy basketball in a big-boy league and suffered through some big-time problems.
Aside from the .500 Big East record, it was a rough year off the court for the Huskies and their coaching lifer, whose season was tarnished by an NCAA investigation that found Calhoun failed to create an atmosphere of compliance in the program. He admitted he wasn't perfect and has begrudgingly accepted the three-game suspension he'll have to serve when the conference season starts next year.
Then again, given this performance, it's clear UConn does its best work when it's all-or-nothing, one-and-done.
Counting three wins at the Maui Invitational, Connecticut finished 14-0 in tournament games this year - including an unprecedented five-wins-in-five-nights success at the Big East tournament, then six games - two each week - in the one that really counts, one of the most unpredictable versions of March Madness ever.
It closed with 11th-seeded VCU in the Final Four and with eighth-seeded Butler joining the 1985 Villanova team as the highest seed to play in a championship game.
Villanova won that game by taking the air out of the ball and upsetting Georgetown.
Butler tried to do it in a most un-Butler way - by running a little and jacking up 3s.
Didn't work, and when the Bulldogs tried later to make baskets in the paint, it really looked like there was a lid there. During their dry spell, Howard, Garrett Butcher and Andrew Smith all missed open shots from under the bucket. It just wasn't their day.
Wasn't perfect for Connecticut, either.
The Huskies only made 19 of 55 shots, and Walker's 16 points came on 5-for-19 shooting. But through the ups and downs of the junior's college career, he has shown there are lots of way to lead - with words in the locker room, by example in the weight room and by doing the little things like playing defense and grabbing rebounds. He had nine on this night and finished with 15 in two games, including the 56-55 win over Kentucky in the semifinals.
His biggest offensive highlight: Probably the twisting, scooping layup he made with 10:15 left that put UConn ahead 39-28 - a double-digit lead that was essentially insurmountable in this kind of contest.
"It was tough shooting in the first half, but in the second half, we stuck with each other," Walker said. "We told each other we were going to make shots, and that's what we did."
It was the final, successful chapter in a season defined by believing even when things weren't going so great. This team lost its last two regular-season games and looked like it would spend a short time in the March Madness bracket. Instead, the Huskies were the team cutting down the last set of nets.
"We've been down that road before throughout the whole tournament," Oriakhi said. "We just keep playing basketball and we stick together, and I think that's what's most important."
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)