Illinois Public Media News
The city of Champaign's recycling drop off site on Kenyon Road is scheduled to shut down for good on Thursday, Dec. 30, at 2:30 PM. That's bad news for residents from outside the city who have been using the facility for years.
Champaign is closing the recycling drop off site because a new program for apartment buildings means recycling pickup is now available to all residents. Landlord pay a per-unit user fee for the recycling collection program that's been dubbed "Feed the Thing". Another program requiring garbage haulers to include curbside recycling pickup for single-family homes and smaller apartment buildings has been in place in Champaign for years.
Landlords and/or residents pay for recycling pickup in Champaign, but the city's recycling drop off facility has always been offered to the public free of charge. Champaign operations manager Tom Schuh said the site was costing the city $12,500 a month in recent years.
"It's never been free," Schuh said. "Unfortunately, recycling materials, the value of those materials just doesn't cover the cost of operating either a drop-off site or any other recycling program."
Whatever the cost, the city recycling drop off facility was popular with many out-of-town residents. And with its closing, Champaign County Regional Planning Commission recycling coordinator, Susan Monte, said those users will be at a disadvantage.
"It will be a very missed drop-off site," Monte said. "Lots of people that lived in rural areas did use that site, and they are now searching for an alternative."
One alternative could be a new drop-off facility that a Champaign-based startup company hopes to open, not far from the city drop off site. If the city approves a zoning change, CEO Steven Rosenberg of Green Purpose LLC said users would pay a $5 monthly fee to drop off recyclables, and he said the facility would also promote the company's strategy of re-purposing
"You'll be able to drop off things that maybe aren't recyclable at all," Rosenberg said. "Lightly used materials that are able to be reused, and even though specific people don't have a use for them anymore, other people might."
According to Monte, most Champaign County residents have access to recycling services. Curbside pickup is available in Champaign, Urbana, Rantoul, Savoy, Mahomet, St. Joseph and Tolono. In addition, Tolono, Homer, Philo and Ogden will continue to operate their own drop off facilities for their local residents. But Monte said 14 rural communities in Champaign County have no recycling service at all. She said some counties, including Macon County, rely on tipping fees from their landfill to fund county-wide recycling programs. Champaign County no longer has an active landfill.
Within the span of the next couple of weeks, Illinois' 105th House District will have had three lawmakers.
State Rep. Shane Cultra (R-Onarga) will continue serving until Jan. 9 when he resigns to become the state senator of the 53rd district. He is replacing State Treasurer-elect Dan Rutherford. Cultra's permanent replacement in the House is Champaign County GOP Chair Jason Barickman. Barickman will be sworn in on Jan. 10, the day after Cultra gives up the seat.
As a way to show his appreciation to his longtime aide Russell Geisler, Cultra pushed to have Geisler appointed to his House seat for one day before Barickman takes offices.
A group of Republican Party leaders in the district from Champaign, Ford, Livingston, Iroquois, Vermilion, and McLean counties voted unanimously to approve the temporary appointment earlier this month, but not without some hesitation from its members. Gordy Hulten, the outgoing vice-chairman of the Champaign County Republican Party and soon-to-be county clerk, said he is concerned about Geisler's ability to cast votes when the General Assembly's in session.
"They make vote on worker's compensation, or teacher tenure reform, or a $15 billion borrowing plan, and we may have an honorary state representative for a day casting votes or being instructed on how to vote for us, which is even worse," Hulten said. "I live in this district, so I'm not excited about that."
Geisler contended that he has plenty of experience working with Rep. Cultra in Springfield and added that he is well informed about pending legislative measures that may come up for a vote.
"I've been there, down there, and listened to the debates on the floor," Geisler said. "You know, that's why you got the House staff, and if I didn't understand something, I can call them over and say, 'Hey, explain this to me before I do cast a vote.'"
During Geisler's short time in the General Assembly, he will not receive salary or pension benefits, and he has already signed a letter pledging to resign after one day in office.
The Springfield City Council chose Alderman Frank Edwards on Tuesday evening as the city's interim mayor.
Immediately after the vote, Edwards was sworn in by Springfield City Clerk Cecilia Tumulty.
Edwards, who is the city's former fire chief, was chosen on a 6-4 vote to serve until April as a replacement for Mayor Tim Davlin, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Dec. 14.
Under the law, the council had 60 days to select an interim mayor. The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports that a number of aldermen said they need someone in place sooner because of the serious budget issues the city is facing.
Edwards, who was running for re-election as alderman, was one of those calling for a quick replacement for Davlin.
"Our budget process ends Feb. 28. We really need to have someone in place (now) so we can start working on the budget and find out exactly where we are. We have people's livelihood in the balance," Edwards said Monday.
Others who had expressed an interest in the interim job or who had been mentioned by City Council members included Alderman Mark Mahoney, Alderman Debbie Cimarossa, and Jim Donelan, who served as Davlin's executive assistant. The council is officially non-partisan.
Last week, Alderman Frank Kunz, the mayor pro tem, withdrew from the running to be interim mayor and endorsed Mahoney, who is not running for re-election as alderman.
Mahoney and Cimarossa voted against naming Edwards, as did Alderman Gail Simpson and Alderman Sam Cahnman.
Sangamon County Coroner Susan Boone said Davlin, a two-term Democrat, died of a close-range gunshot wound to his chest. The 53-year-old mayor was found dead after he failed to show up for a court appearance to address questions about his handling of the estate of one of his cousins, who died in 2003.
Energy company Dynegy will be closing its Vermilion Power facility near Oakwood by the end of March.
Company spokesman David Byford said mothballing the more than 50-year old facility largely comes down to economics.
"We have higher fuel costs at Vermilion because the plant is not located on a rail line," Byford said. "And that would be coupled with market conditions that would include reduced power demand and lower power prices that don't favor continued operations."
During a year-long review, Byford said company heads looked at options for the plant, including alternative fuel supply arrangements. But he said the price of fuel for supplying the plant with its coal also proved to be too much.
"We took a year exploring numerous options for the plant that included looking at alternative fuel supply arrangements," Byford said. "But in the end, we're still faced with poor plant economics."
Byford said the plant is no longer being used all the time, and he said a regional power grid ensures a reliable power supply to the area. The precise closure date for the plant is not known, but it is expected near the end of the first quarter of 2011. The company said the next step is for Dynegy to develop plans for suspending operations in a safe and reliable manner. The plant has about 50 employees, and Byford said it is not yet known whether they will be offered jobs elsewhere in the company.
A longtime instructor of a course on The Beatles has greatly boosted his student base... and popularity... via the web. University of Illinois at Springfield Communication and Liberal Studies professor Michael Cheney has taken his love for the Fab Four and condensed it into a series of on-line lectures. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talked with Cheney about his Beatles course, and a podcast that's drawing fans worldwide.
(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)
The owner of Tiny Greens Organic Farm in Urbana is recalling alfalfa sprouts that are suspected of being tainted with salmonella after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning Monday advising the public to stay away from the sprouts.
"If I have a problem, I want to fix it," Tiny Greens' CEO Bill Bagby said. "If it's not, I want it to be known."
Bagby alerted his customers about the recall early Tuesday morning. His client list includes grocery stores and restaurants across the Midwest.
The FDA warning came a week after one of the company's clients, the Jimmy John's restaurant chain, stopped serving the sprouts in Illinois. The sprouts are linked to dozens of salmonella outbreaks in 12 counties, including Champaign, McLean, and Cook. Bagby said if his farm is the source of the outbreak, he questioned why there were no other reported cases of people becoming ill after eating food with salmonella from other companies that also get sprouts from the Urbana farm.
Efforts by the FDA and the Illinois Department of Public Health to identify contaminated sprouts at the farm have led to no positive results of salmonella. But Don Kraemer, the acting deputy director with the FDA's Center for Food Safety, said a preliminary review shows there was enough evidence to issue the warning.
"We traced back from the patients to the restaurants that they ate at and determined who supplied them with the sprouts, and virtually all of them were supplied by Tiny Greens," Kraemer said.
The sprouts in question were distributed to farmers' markets, restaurants and grocery stores in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and possibly other Midwestern states. Bagby said it was premature for the FDA to issue the warning based on statistical evidence.
"They've got nothing," Bagby said. "And now they're swabbing the terrarium in the office. They found a bird's nest outside of the facility, and found bird droppings. I mean they're doing everything. They're going to for sure find salmonella this time. It's not going to be related to this."
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that from Nov. 1 to Dec. 21, around 90 people across the country became sick with a matching strain of salmonella. More than half of those cases were in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Public Health's Kelly Jakubek said the last case of someone in Illinois getting sick with salmonella after eating a sprout was on Dec. 7, but she said an investigation is ongoing.
"We'll continue to look at sprout producers and distributors," Jakubek said. "It's very important that anyone who becomes ill after eating alfalfa sprouts, it's very important that they contact their health provider."
Bagby said he will cooperate with the investigation. He said his mandatory recall has had a significant impact on his business going from distributing around 10,000 pounds of alfalfa sprouts a week to a thousand pounds.
"It's already hurt my business," he said.
Products subject to this recall include: 4 oz. Spicy Sprouts and our 4oz., 1lb., 2lb., & 5lb., Alfalfa Sprouts (all package sizes) with lot codes 348, 350, or 354 or having a "sell by" date of 12/29/10, 12/31/10 and 1/04/11. Additionally, any product containing alfalfa sprouts that remain on the market with the following lot numbers 305 thru 348 or "sell by" dates from 12/16/10 thru 12/29/10 will also be recalled.
The warning issued Monday includes a mix called Spicy Sprouts, which contain radish and clover sprouts.
Most persons infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection, according to the CDC. Young children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised are the most likely to have severe infections. Illness usually wears off after three to seven days.
Once again, the city of Champaign has declared its sidewalk snow and ice removal requirement will be in effect as of Sunday, December 26th at 8 AM.
With the National Weather Service reporting 4-point-4 inches of snow accumulation in Champaign-Urbana over the Christmas weekend, the city of Champaign is giving property owners in its downtown and Campustown areas 48 hours to clear all ice and snow from their sidewalks. Sidewalks that are not cleared by Tuesday, December 28th at 8 AM, could be cleared by the City as the owner's expense.
Champaign's city code allows for the implementation of the sidewalk snow and ice removal requirement whenever accumulated snowfall reaches two inches or more.
The race for a Champaign city council seat next spring will include at least three write-in campaigns.
Jim McGuire, Paul Faraci, and Catherine Emanuel have all filed to run for the District 5 seat being vacated by Gordy Hulten, who has been appointed as the next Champaign County Clerk. By time he was chosen by local Republicans for the office, it was too late for the three candidates' names to appear on the ballot.
McGuire, the president of the U of I's AFSCME local 698, said he is running since he has had a long family history in the community, and has been part of many Republican campaigns. Now, he said he wants to serve in a 'bigger capacity' in rough economic times.
"We have problems with our budget," McGuire said. "I think I can help have an impact. I've been dealing with the budget at the university, and I received the layoff notices myself. I'm trying to work through those issues."
McGuire manages stores and receiving at the U of I. He has twice lost bids for the Champaign school board, in 2001 and 2003. If elected, McGuire said he would resign his position with AFSCME to avoid any conflict of interest.
This is Catherine Emanuel's first bid for public office. She said newcomers and outsiders can have a unique appeal to voters. The health care consultant said she will bring a moderate business perspective to the city council.
"I haven't been involved in politics heavily," Emanuel said. "I see this as an opportunity for people like me who are moderate and not on one side of the extreme or other."
Paul Faraci with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity said his job experience would bode well on the city council. Faraci was a Democratic Champaign County Board member from 2000 to 2002. His family has a long involvement in downtown business in Champaign.
"Between the three of us, I've had almost 50 years of experience," Faraci said. "That experience will place nicely in this."
Mayor Jerry Schweighart is expected to appoint an interim city council member to the district 5 seat by late next month.
The West African nation of Ivory Coast recently took a step towards democracy with a historic election, but with the sitting president disqualifying the results, Ivory Coast is now on the brink of Civil War. University of Illinois instructor Carol Spindel visited the Ivory Coast as the momentous vote took place.
The Nixon White House was so worried about Daniel Schorr's reporting that it ordered an investigation into the veteran network correspondent whose tough stories landed him on the president's infamous enemies list, according to newly released FBI files.
The administration had the bureau conduct a background investigation in 1971, according to one section from among hundreds of pages released Thursday from Schorr's FBI file.
The White House said it was considering Schorr for a public affairs job in the environmental area. A day later, the investigation was canceled but the White House still wanted to see anything the FBI had managed to discover about Schorr.
Schorr asked the FBI to discontinue the investigation.The long-time newsman later said he had never applied for such a position.
The 93-year-old Schorr died in July after a six-decade career with CBS, NPR and other news media outlets. He believed the White House had tried to intimidate him for his hard-hitting coverage of the administration.
The first reference to Schorr in FBI files dates from July 31, 1942, when FBI Director J Edgar Hoover asked the chief of the Special War Policies Unit for more information on Schorr's status as a "representative of a foreign principal'' in his employment with the Netherland Indies News Agency.
Eight years later, at the height of the post-war "Red Scare,'' Hoover told the CIA director that the bureau had looked over Schorr's background and had kept information on his travels to "Iron Curtain countries.''
The files mainly deal with the fallout from the FBI's investigation into Schorr and include dozens of newspaper articles and interviews with people who knew the famous reporter.
Some of the files document Schorr's attempts to pry information from the FBI about the investigation by filing a Freedom of Information Act request for information.
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