Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 30, 2010

Macon County Prepares Crack Down on NYE Drunken Driving

Police departments in nine states - Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Texas and Utah - have adopted an initiative to crack down on drunken driving.

The "No Refusal" program gives law enforcement officials the right to obtain a warrant from a judge to test someone's blood if the driver refuses a breathalyzer test. Macon County has used the program for the last couple of years on nights when there is expected to be an uptick in DUI cases, like on New Year's Eve.

Macon County sheriff's lieutenant Jonathan Butts said he hopes the increased enforcement will convince some people Friday night to think twice before getting behind the wheel.

"You could refuse, but if you're caught and we have reason to believe that you are under the influence and you refuse," Butts explained. "We're going to have a judge give us the paperwork to take your blood from you."

Duane Deters, an assistant state's attorney with the Macon County State's Attorney's office, said agreeing to the test will not prevent someone from being prosecuted, but he said it can help people avoid a steeper punishment.

"It's something that we'd certainly take into consideration in any offer that we would extend to them as far as to try to work the case out short of a trial," Deters said.

Deters said the policy's been in effect since 2009, and he said in that time only one search warrant has been issued for someone who did not agree to a breath test.

Other counties in Illinois using the program include Peoria, Sangamon, and Adams. The Illinois Department of Transportation declined to comment on whether the state should push to make the "No Refusal" program a statewide policy.

There will be other efforts to limit drunken driving in Macon County on New Year's Eve. The Decatur Police Department and the country's Sheriff's Office will beef up traffic enforcement, and AOK Taxi service will provide free rides from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. taking people from local bars to homes and motels. The taxi service can be reached at 217-330-7771 or 217-330-8331 for scheduled pickups.

Categories: Criminal Justice, Health
Tags: crime, health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 29, 2010

Leshoure’s 3 TDs Send Illinois Past Baylor 38-14

Mikel Leshoure ran for 184 yards and three touchdowns as Illinois earned its first bowl victory since 1999, beating Baylor 38-14 Wednesday night in the Texas Bowl.

The Illini spoiled the Bears' first bowl appearance in 16 seasons. Both teams finished at 7-6.

Leshoure had a 5-yard TD run in the second quarter, a 13-yard score in the third quarter and another 5-yard touchdown run in the fourth period. The performance gave him the school single-season rushing record with 1,697 yards.

The Illini built a 24-0 lead and Leshoure's last touchdown put the game out of reach.

Baylor's Robert Griffin III threw for 306 yards and a touchdown, but his two fumbles in the first half put the Bears behind.

Leshoure was chosen the most valuable player and wore a cowboy hat as he hoisted the trophy above his head after the game while the small but vocal group of Illinois fans cheered.

The Bears cut the lead to 24-14 when Griffin found a diving Kendall Wright on a 39-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-14 early in the fourth quarter. But Illinois continued its dominance in the rushing game after that and extended its lead to 31-14 on Leshoure's last touchdown.

Illinois finished with 291 yards rushing and 533 yards of total offense to give coach Ron Zook his first bowl win as a head coach in his fourth try.

Freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase got off to a sensational start, completing all of his 13 passes in the first half, and finished 18 of 23 for 242 yards. He scored on a 55-yard touchdown run with 41 seconds to play to make it 38-14.

Illinois opened the second half with an 87-yard drive capped by a 13-yard touchdown run by Leshoure. Leshoure also scored the 2-point conversion to extend the lead to 24-0 and set the Illinois single-season scoring record.

Baylor finally found its offensive touch on its first possession of the second half. Griffin completed five of seven passes on that drive, which ended with a 4-yard touchdown run by Jay Finley to get the Bears within 24-7 with about eight minutes remaining in the third quarter.

The Illini held Finley in check for most of the night and Baylor's 1,000-yard rusher finished with 12 carries for 63 yards.

Illinois led 9-0 before a 5-yard touchdown run by Leshoure about 10 minutes before halftime stretched the lead to 16-0. That score was set up by a 52-yard reception by Ryan Lankford a play earlier.

Baylor was driving with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the first half when a pass by Griffin was intercepted by Terry Hawthorne. But the Bears got a second chance when Corey Liuget was penalized for roughing the passer, giving Baylor the ball back.

The Bears still came away empty though when Griffin fumbled a few plays later to give Illinois the ball back on its own 32.

Baylor's problems started early with Griffin fumbling on the first possession. Travon Bellamy recovered that fumble and returned it 46 yards. The Illini couldn't get anything going on that drive and settled for a 38-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead.

Illinois added a second field goal on their next drive to push the lead to 6-0 and a third field goal early in the second quarter made it 9-0.

Categories: Education, Sports

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 29, 2010

Virginia Theatre’s Next Renovations Likely to be Put Off Until 2012

Champaign's Virginia Theatre re-opens this week after six months of privately funded work to the lobby and concession stand.

The downtown facility has yet to use $500,000 in state grant dollars for plaster work and theater lighting. But Champaign Park District spokeswoman Laura Auteberry said that work is expected to take longer, likely about eight months. With movie showings and concerts now scheduled into May, Auteberry said the park district will likely postpone closing the Virginia again until 2012. The schedule includes Roger Ebert's 13th Annual Film Festival.

Auteberry said lots of changes have already taken place since July, including paint and plaster work, a new concession stand, lighting, and carpeting extending into the upper lobby. The decision to move the state grant-funded work to will officially be made at the next park district board meeting Jan. 12. Auteberry said that is also when the board hopes to approve the design for a new marquee on the theater, after reviewing options from a sign company.

"They're going to be looking at redesigned designs, that Wagner (Electric Sign Company) has prepared, and hopefully deciding on a final design," Auteberry said. "Once we get a final design done, I don't think it will take them long to put it up."

The Virginia has been without a marquee the last several weeks. The park district board voted last summer to replace the sign with one resembling the 1921 original, despite complaints from local preservationists. The old vaudeville house re-opens Friday night for the annual Chorale concert. The park district also hopes to schedule an open house in February to show off recent upgrades.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 29, 2010

Shutdown of Champaign Recycling Site Puts Some Out-of-Towners in a Bind

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.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 29, 2010

Legislative Aide to Join Il. General Assembly for One Day

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.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 29, 2010

Ald. Frank Edwards Named Interim Springfield Mayor

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.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 28, 2010

Dynegy to Shut Down Oakwood Power Generation Facility

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.

Categories: Economics, Energy, Technology

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 28, 2010

Beatles Course Popular on iTunes U

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)

Download mp3 file
Categories: Music, Technology

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 28, 2010

Urbana Farm Issues Sprout Recall After FDA Health Warning

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.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - December 25, 2010

Champaign Sidewalk Snow Removal Ordinance Goes Into Effect December 26th

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.

Categories: Government, Politics

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