Illinois Public Media News
A section of Bunge North America's massive downtown Danville facility will close in two months.
About 100 employees will face layoffs when the plant's soybean processing operation comes to an end. Bunge spokeswoman Deb Seidell says the Danville site doesn't have the soy-oil refining facility that newer plants have.
"When you crush the soybeans and you get the protein meal and you get the oil, generally that oil needs to be further processed before it can go into the food stream," Seidell said. "From Danville it has to be trucked or sent by rail somewhere else to be refined because there's not a refinery attached to Danville."
But Seidell says there are no plans to build that refinery because the capacity for processing soybeans is outstripping demand. She says management and staff employees will receive outplacement assistance and severance while Bunge will negotiate with unions over the impact on other employees.
Bunge plans to keep its soy and corn elevators and dry corn mill open - they employ about 185 workers.
While one area county has gotten out of nursing home operations, the Champaign County Nursing Home appears to have turned a corner after a number of financial problems.
A week from today, Livingston Manor in Pontiac will have a new operator. Livingston County Board Chairman Bill Fairfield says while the level of care there is good, he says the facilities are nearly 50 years old, with one bathroom per wing. As a result, Fairfield says it's hard to find new patients. Livingston Manor has about 35 residents now, with 122 beds.
County officials have spent the last couple of years working with the non-profit Good Samaritan Home of Flanagan to assume operations at the Pontiac home. And by September 2011, Fairfield says Good Samaritan will have a new facility built, with the help of an economic development grant from the county.
"They have a couple of ideas on property, which would be somewhere in the vicinity of St. James Hospital in Pontiac, to build a new facility," said Fairfield. "And I believe that once they have a facility that is modern, with a private bath and all, that you will see the census rise."
Census has not been a problem of late at Champaign County's nursing home. Mike Scavatto is president of Management Performance Associates, the St. Louis based group that's helping with management of home. He's aiming for an average census of about 195 patients, and they're close to it now. But there's also been an increase in private pay residents, a lower percentage of them on Medicaid, and less contract nursing. But Scavatto says there are other goals in mind.
"We're very interested in expanding our services in dementia and doing more with rehabilitation. And I think those are the two key services that will help us out," said Scavotto.
The Champaign County Nursing Home closed out 2008 with a one-point-8 million dollar loss. Scavatto expects losses from 2009 to show a figure closer to 150-thousand dollars.
The first of four sculptures is on display in downtown Urbana as part of an initiative to generate more local interest in public art. 'Fanfare' was installed Friday in the courtyard of the Iron Post at Race and Elm streets. One of 98 images considered for placement in the city by two juries, it's a granite art piece conceived by Shawn Morin, the head of the sculpting program at Ohio's Bowling Green University. Urbana Public Arts Coordinator Anna Hochhalter says the sculpture meshes well in its location, a live music venue.
"It has kind of a flair granite at the top and different kinds and colors of granite, and lots of different textures and stone," says Hochhalter. "So the jury thought that it would work really well against the brick background and also really compliment the native plantings that are in the courtyard."
The sculptures are being provided on two-year loans. The other three will be installed in May; one on Green Street by the Urbana Free Library, with two others to be placed along Philo Road. The city has option of obtaining additional art for a temporary exhibit, and even purchasing some later.
The Illinois Supreme Court says former Governor George Ryan must forfeit all of his state pension for crimes he committed as secretary of state and governor.
Ryan is currently serving a 6 1/2-year racketeering and fraud sentence. He had been hoping to salvage a $60,000-a-year pension, based on his years as a state lawmaker and lieutenant governor.
Ryan wasn't convicted of committing any crimes when he held those offices. But the high court ruled 6-1 on Friday that he's ineligible for any state pension. Before his conviction, Ryan had been due to draw a pension of more than $197,000.
A Champaign County Coroner's Jury has ruled that the October police shooting death of Kiwane Carrington was an accident.
Coroner Duane Northrup says he would hope that this information would help provide some closure for the Champaign teen's family. After a task force investigation led by state police, Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Reitz ruled last year that Champaign police officer Daniel Norbits would not face criminal charges. He and Police Chief RT Finney confronted Carrington and another teen following a report of a break-in. Northrup says while some may disagree with the decision of authorities, a coroner's inquest provides an independent review of the death. "And then we can say it's not just a biased opinion by the coroner's office or the police department or the state's attorney," says Northrup. "These jurors were picked randomly from the community. They came in, the same information was given to them, and they made the determination that it was accidental. And I think that has the bigger impact on the familes."
Kenesha Williams, Carrington's sister and legal guardian, says testimony at the coroner's inquest provided conflicting information about what occurred on the afternoon of October 9th, but didn't elaborate. But Williams says she expected the death to be ruled accidental. A state police investigator noted Thursday that marijuana was found in Carrington's blood, but Nortrup noted it's hard to say whether that played a role in the teen's behavior when confronted by police. Based on an interview with Officer Norbits, State Police investigator Lisa Crouder testified that Carrington kept putting his hands in his pockets and failed to comply with orders.
One immediate change following former Governor Rod Blagojevich's removal from office last year was the overhaul of four state pension boards. Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation last spring that not only changed the membership of those boards, but moved the chair of Illinois' Board of Higher Education into the same role with the State Universities Retirement System. Carrie Hightman has served in both capacities since July.
AM 580's Jeff Bossert spoke with her about the dual role, and the funding challenges faced by colleges and universities:
The Champaign Police Department has become the second in the state to follow the requirements of a new state accreditation program.
The Illinois Law Enforcement Accreditation program makes sure that police agencies follow common standards. Champaign chief R. T. Finney says the department will now undergo regular reviews to make sure its standards are well-explained and followed. He says the designation is more than just a new level of bureaucracy.
"While it seems like it's paper, much of what the officer on the street does is contained in policy -- how they act, what they should do," Finney said. "So the officers have the ability to go back to the policy when they have a question, be able to read the policy and have some confidence that this policy is within standards for the state of Illinois."
Those standards got an especially close review late last year as Champaign police were dealing with the aftermath of the Kiwane Carrington shooting. The case drew attention to a change in the policy regarding use of lethal force - the city council ordered clarification on when officers are able to use their weapons.
Imprisoned former Gov. George Ryan's wife and lawyer say they are seeking clemency from President Barack Obama, citing health reasons for seeking Ryan's early release.
Ryan's 75-year-old wife, Lura Lynn, has a terminal lung disease and says she now is on oxygen 24 hours a day.
And Ryan's attorney, former Gov. Jim Thompson, says Ryan himself has health problems, including kidney disease and infected teeth.
Ryan, who was sent to a federal prison in Indiana after his 2006 conviction on corruption charges, turns 76 next Wednesday.
In a telephone interview Wednesday with the Chicago Tribune, Lura Lynn Ryan confirmed she had made a previous plea for clemency for her imprisoned husband in 2008 by calling then-President George W. Bush's mother, former first lady Barbara Bush. She said she was unsuccessful.
Authorities say a Champaign teenager charged with resisting arrest will return to court in two months, with hopes that alternative education programs will steer him on the right path.
16-year old Jeshaun Manning-Carter was arrested last October 9th, the same night that Kiwane Carrington was fatally shot in a scuffle with a Champaign police officer following a report of a break-in at a residence. Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Reitz says Manning-Carter has missed some days at the Ready Alternative School, but he's recently been placed in a County program called Parenting with Love and Limits that works to improve lines of communication with adults. Before Manning-Carter's apperance in court Wednesday, activists with the group Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice held a press conference outside Reitz' office. They submitted a petition with 1,700 signatures, demanding that the charges against the teen be dropped.
The group's Carol Ammons says the charge of resisting a peace officer against Manning-Carter has essentially silenced him. "And to date this community doesn't have a true sense of what happened on that day," says Ammons. "We only have the testimony of one side, and are lacking a lot of of testimony that could shed more light on this case, and Jeshaun is critical to that." Champaign Officer Daniel Norbits was not charged in the October fatal shooting of Carrington following an investigation of a multi-agency task force led by Illinois State Police.
Reitz says she won't consider the petition, saying she's simply following the law, but suggests groups like C-U Citizens for Peace and Justice exert their energies in other ways. "They could be down at the Ready School encouraging them to go to class, or offering them tutoring opportunties or mentoring them," says Reitz. "But instead what they do, is they spend their time door to door in the dorms and collecting signatures. That's not helping any." Manning-Carter will be back in court April 13th. Reitz says he's her hope the 16-year old will stick with school in the coming weeks, and stay out of trouble.
The last of three people convicted in the beating and stabbing deaths of a Champaign couple four years ago faces a 30 year prison sentence for the crimes.
Russell Pitcher will first serve out a prison term in Iowa before coming to Illinois to start serving the sentence for helping murder Jerry and Sue Haigh in the couple's home.
Pitcher pleaded guilty Wednesday morning - he had testified in the trials of his niece and accomplice, Crystal Myrick, that he had helped kill Mr. Haigh as the three broke into the home to rob it.
The third participant, Myrick's ex-boyfriend Kenneth Sean Kelly, had pleaded guilty and was given a 50 year sentence. Myrick was convicted and is serving a natural life sentence. Prosecutors say Pitcher will not be eligible for early release.
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