Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 06, 2009

Two Hotel Operators Interested in Urbana’s Shuttered Historic Lincoln Hotel

Urbana's economic development manager says two hotel operating groups are interested in the Historic Lincoln Hotel.

Tom Carrino didn't name the two companies during Monday night's Urbana City Council meeting. But he says both are interested in possibly bringing a major hotel brand to the facility --- while preserving the building's architectural integrity.

The Historic Lincoln was designed by local architect Joseph W. Royer. It opened in 1924 and closed last March --- about the same time it was acquired by Marine Bank of Springfield in a foreclosure. Its previous owners had struggled to compete with newer hotels located closer to interstate highways. Carrino says the Historic Lincoln's location in downtown Urbana may be a plus to the two hotel groups now considering the property.

"That means that it's relatively close to the University of Illinois", says Carrino. "It's close to some major employers in downtown Urbana. The fact that it was involved in a foreclosure, the bank is motivated to sell the property. That means that a good hotel group could get the property at a relatively reasonable price.

Carrino says he expects both companies will prepare competing offers to Marine Bank for the Historic Lincoln in the coming weeks. He says both companies have discussed possible tax incentives with city officials --- those incentives would be possible due to the hotel's location in a Tax Increment Finance District and a city Enterprise Zone.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 05, 2009

Short Supplies Cost Vermilion County its Public Health Flu Clinics

Vermilion County's Health Department won't provide seasonal flu clinics for the first time in over 30 years.

Administrator Steven Laker says it's not receiving enough doses of the vaccine from a distributor to even hold one day of the walk-in clinic, despite being told by a distributor two weeks ago that enough would be available. That will force a few thousand people to get their shots from clinics and retail pharmacies.

Laker contends public health departments are being squeezed for vaccines by those pharmacies. And he says it's not a supply problem, but rather one of distributors meeting federal demands for H1N1, or swine flu vaccine:

"So they had a dual production stream going -- H1N1 and seasonal flu," Laker said. "My conjecture is that the vaccine is manufactured -- they just can't get it packaged and distributed while they're settling their federal contracts."

Laker says the department will get 600 doses of seasonal flu vaccine to fulfill contracts for vaccinating state and county workers. An additional 300 doses of children's vaccine will be available by appointment only while supplies last.

Vermilion County's flu clinics have been held each year since 1976. Laker says another concern is they're a revenue stream -- his department stands to lose about 50-thousand dollars. But he says it's too soon to say what other programs might be affected.

Meanwhile, demand for flu vaccine at the U of I's McKinley Health Center has temporarily suspended shots to faculty, staff, retirees, and state workers. Director Dr. Robert Palinkas says some students may even be turned away as it works with a limited supply. He says it's unclear when additional vaccines will become available.

Categories: Health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 05, 2009

Former Gov. Edgar “Pessimistic” about IL Finances

Former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar says calls the state's financial crisis the worst he's ever seen since first being involved in state government.

The Republican says he was optimistic after the ouster of former Governor Rod Blagojevich in February. But Edgar says he's now pessimistic since no one stepped forward to address Illinois' finances, calling last spring's legislative session one of his greatest disappointments.

Edgar says an income tax hike is unavoidable. But he says the proper cuts need to take place first, including those in so-called 'sacred cows' like elementary and secondary education:

"I believe if tell people and you're fair about it and you don't just pick on one segment, one part of the state to make those cuts, I think the public will understand," said Edgar. "It's going to take people with leadership willing to step forward and do what has to be done."

Ethics is also on the table for legislators when they meet in just over a week, but Edgar says Illinois really has a bipartisan leadership problem that exists in both the House and Senate.

Edgar spoke at the Illinois News Broadcasters Association conference over the weekend, where he received the Illinoisan of the Year award.

Categories: Biography, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 05, 2009

U of I Board Focuses on Finding a New Permanent President

With Stanley Ikenberry selected to step in as interim president, the University Of Illinois Board Of Trustees is going ahead with a search for a permanent president to succeed Joseph White.

At their special meeting Saturday in Urbana , the Board approved the structure for a search committee. The panel has seats reserved for every sector of the university community --- faculty, staff, students, alumni and the university's foundation. And interim president designate Stanley Ikenberry says something new has been added that makes this U of I search committee different from ones in the past.

"And that is the recommendation in this case that three trustees join that search committee. I think personally that is a very wise move, given where we are at this point --- and I think will be an important factor in helping us attract first-rate candidates."

The committee will spend the next several months conducting a national search for a new president.

U of I Board Chairman Chris Kennedy says he wasn't worried that October might be a little late in the year to be able to find a strong candidate for the job.

"I don't think in fact that we're behind the eight ball at all. I think that we should have great confidence that we can find the best candidate. I think this university represents the best option for career change for anybody in the educational environment in America today. And I'm confident we'll end up with the best person in American to run the University of Illinois."

That confidence was echoed by the representative of the executive search firm that will help the search committee in its work. Michael Baer of Boston-based Isaacson Miller says the prime season for recruiting university presidents is just beginning. But he notes that other major universities are also conducting presidential searches --- including the University of Virginia, Texas A & M and North Carolina State.

U of I trustees hope to select a permanent president by next May, in order for that person to be on the job in time for the start of the next fall semester.

Categories: Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 03, 2009

Trustees Choose Ikenberry as U of I Interim President

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees Saturday voted to name Stanley Ikenberry the interim president. He'll succeed B. Joseph White, who announced last week he would step down in the wake of the university admissions scandal.

Ikenberry was the U of I's youngest president when he started his 16 year stint in the position in 1979. He later served as president of the American Council on Education, before returning to the U of I as Regent Professor. Now 74, Ikenberry says he's ready to lead the university through what he calls a brief but important transition period.

"I had a love affair with the University of Illinois that started 30 years ago and hasn't abated since that time", says Ikenberry. "I've said all along that if I could help and the university needed my help, I would be happy and actually honored."

Until his term begins January 1st, Ikenberry will be the U of I's interim president-designate --- working alongside President White and other administrators to make an orderly transition.

Ikenberry had been considered as a possible interim president as far back as September 23rd, the day White announced his resignation. But university board chairman Chris Kennedy says they actually considered 30 or 40 possible candidates, and Ikenberry "stood head and shoulders above the rest".

Kennedy had little to say about the future of Richard Herman, except to say that that Urbana Chancellor was a "great leader" and the board needed to discuss his future in executive session. Like White, Herman was criticized by the governor's Admissions Review Commission for his role in the admissions scandal.

Also Saturday, trustees formally approved White's resignation and approved his new position as professor of business administration on the Urbana campus. Trustees also approved a structure for a search committee to find a permanent U of I president to take office in time for the fall semester. They selected the executive search firm of Isaacson Miller to help in the process.

Categories: Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 02, 2009

Area Saturn Dealers Make Alternative Plans After Brand Dropped

At least one Saturn dealer in the area says it's heard nothing official about the end of the car brand and the shutdown of its dealership network.

General Motors says a deal to sell Saturn's distribution system and brand to Penske Automotive Group fell through because Penske wasn't able to find an automaker to make Saturns past 2011. GM now says the dealerships will be phased out.

Bill Lutes manages Saturn of Terre Haute, which has been in business for ten years. He says it's hard to tell his 30 employees what to do next because there's been no word from GM to dealers.

"I've met with everybody and told them Plan A is 'business as usual' and Plan B is to explore other options," Lutes said. "We'll just stay positive and keep smiling."

Lutes says the other options could include finding another new car franchise or selling only used cars. The dealership is owned by Evansville-based Romain Auto Group, which also owns three other Saturn dealers.

Categories: Business, Economics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 01, 2009

ICC Hearing in Champaign for Illinois American Water Rate Hike

Parkland College in Champaign will be the site Thursday evening, October 1st, for the first of three Illinois Commerce Commission hearings on a rate hike request from Illinois American Water. The hearing starts at 7 PM in the 2nd floor Conference Center in Parkland's Building D.

Illinois American is seeking a 30 percent rate increase for water customers in an area that includes Champaign-Urbana, Pontiac, Streator, Alton and Peoria.

The company says the increase will help pay for their new water treatment plant west of Champaign, along with other improvements. Illinois-American won a 47 percent rate increase last year, and the company said that was also needed to pay for the new plant.

Comments from the public at the s hearing will be submitted to the I-C-C for consideration as they study the rate hike request. Public hearings are also scheduled for October 8th in Mount Prospect and October 19th in Homer Glen.

Written comments on the Illinois American rate increase request can be submitted through the "File a Comment" option on the ICC website at http://www.icc.illinois.gov/docket/comment/ , or by calling 1-800-524-0795.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 01, 2009

U of I Board Sets Saturday Meeting to Appoint Interim President

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees plans to appoint an interim president at a special meeting it's called for this Saturday on the Urbana campus. The meeting begins at 9 AM at the Illini Union.

The interim president would take over from B. Joseph White, who announced his resignation last week, in the wake of the U of I admissions scandal. The agenda doesn't give a name for the proposed interim president.

Former U of I president Stanley Ikenberry says he's been approached by some trustees about serving as interim president. He says he would accept the position if it were offered formally.

Trustees also plan to appoint an interim president designate. U of I spokesman Tom Hardy says that position would help ease the transition over to the interim president, before White's resignation takes effect, January 1st.

"It's likely that it would be the same person as the interim president", says Hardy.

The agenda for Saturday's board of trustees meeting also includes a motion to form a search committee to help find a permanent president. Trustees could also approve a revised employment agreement for President White, who plans to continue teaching and fundraising work at the Urbana campus.

Hardy calls the items on the quickly put-together agenda "probable". He says while trustees may choose not to act on some of them at that particular meeting, putting all of them on the agenda gives them some flexibility.

Categories: Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 30, 2009

Champaign Unit 4 School Board Passes Deficit Budget

The Champaign School Board passed a deficit budget Tuesday night for the current school year. And while Unit Four officials say their cash reserves are enough to cover the loss, they warn of more serious deficits next year, unless some difficult cuts are made.

The 153 million dollar budget includes a nearly 3-point-9 million dollar deficit. Unit Four Chief Financial Officer Gene Logas says the district was the victim of unexpected cuts in state funding, changing rules for the use of federal stimulus funds, and tax revenues dampened by the recession.

"This is the most difficult budget I've had to put together in 22 years of public service", said Logas.

Still, Logas says the budget is not a total disaster. He says Unit 4 is avoiding large scale cuts, and should end the fiscal year with over 16 million dollars in its fund balance. Logas says that's still a healthy level for Unit 4. But he warns says the school district's finances will be even tighter next year, and planning must start soon for more cuts and the possible issuing of more working cash bonds.

The 153 million dollar budget includes a nearly 3-point-9 million dollar deficit. Unit Four Chief Financial Officer Gene Logas says the district was the victim of unexpected cuts in state funding, changing rules for the use of federal stimulus funds, and tax revenues dampened by the recession. The Champaign School Board is expected to start studying those options at its October 26th meeting.

The Unit 4 school board also approved a 3 percent raise for its administrative staff --- not including Superintendent Arthur Culver. Assistant Superintendent Beth Shepperd says the increase is lower than usual, because of the tight budget, and may have to go even lower next year.

Categories: Education

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 29, 2009

UI History Professor Recalls 1950’s Ouster of University President

Joseph White's announcement last week that he would resign as President of the University of Illinois is not the only time a president at the university was forced out of office. 56 years ago... the Board of Trustees pressured George Stoddard into stepping down as President after a 7-year tenure marked by controversy. AM 580's Jeff Bossert spoke with Professor Emeritus of History Winton Solberg on both the good and bad of Stoddard's tenure:

Download mp3 file
Categories: Education, Government, Politics

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