Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 11, 2011

Vermilion, Champaign Counties Near Wind Farm Agreements

It will likely be at least next week before the Champaign County Zoning Board of Appeals signs off on plans for a wind farm, and forwarding the proposal to the County Board.

The ZBA is scheduled to meet Thursday night, and Planning and Zoning Director John Hall says two of three agreements - a county road agreement and one for reclamation - have been reached.

But he says they haven't been sent to the board, and Hall says a state law requires no more than a 30-day window between the ZBA and county board meetings to discuss wind farm proposals. Hall says having another week to meet would work to the zoning board's advantage.

"Given that there are two large documents that still need to be considered, I think it would be difficult to take final action this Thursday," he said. "So, final action probably would be possible, but we need to continue anyhow, and frankly, we haven't yet got a copy of the township road agreement."

Hall says the zoning board will likely schedule another hearing for next Thursday, October 20th, prior to the 7 p.m. Champaign County Board meeting. He says that would meet the state's demands for the county board to take up the wind farm proposal by its November 17 meeting. The ZBA has been meeting on the plan since late August.

If the Vermilion County Board signs off on a road agreement with Chicago-based Invenergy this week, County Board Chair Jim McMahon says the company could begin the initial work on the county's 104 turbines as soon as Monday, starting just northeast of Kickapoo State Park. Thirty of the turbines are targeted for Champaign County.

McMahon says the lack of zoning in his county has allowed authorities to avoid other agreements that Champaign County is dealing with now.

"154 people have signed up and said 'we want wind turbines. 104 of them did get wind turbines," he said. "And without zoning, the county board has no input and should have no input without zoning on what they do with their land, unless it was an illegal action."

McMahon says the disadvantage of having no zoning is that Vermilion County can't increase setbacks on the property of anyone concerned about the noise or shadows caused by wind turbines. The Vermilion County Board meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Invenergy's wind farm is expected to start operations by early 2013.

UPDATE: Vermilion County Board Chairman Jim McMahon says the board unanimously approved the road agreement Tuesday night, and county officials plan to meet with Invenergy later this week with hopes of starting wind farm construction by Monday.

Categories: Energy, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 11, 2011

Two Suspects Sought in Campustown Robbery

Champaign Police are investing a robbery outside a Campustown coffee shop Monday afternoon.

Officers say the victim was sitting outside Espresso Royale on East Daniel Street when a man came out the east door, and grabbed his IPad off a table before running away. Another man came out the same door, and displayed a handgun in the waistband of his shorts before walking away.

The first man is described as a 21-year old black male, 5 foot 10, and weighing 180 pounds, wearing a white baseball cap, black short sleeved shirt, black shorts, and white tennis shoes. The other man is described as a 23 to 24-year old black male, 5 foot 8, weighing 180 pounds, wearing a Milwaukee Brewers ball cap, black long sleeve shirt, khaki shorts and red tennis shoes.

Witnesses of the incident are encouraged to call Champaign Police.

Watch video of Monday's incident:


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 10, 2011

Champaign City Council Prepares to Consider Redistricting Plans

Champaign City Council members will be given a set of proposals for new city council districts at their study session on Tuesday night.

The proposals come from members of the public, who used special software on the Champaign city website to design their own map proposals.

City Planning Director Bruce Knight said the council will be drawing up a new council district map for a city population that grew 22 percent over the last decade --- to 81,050 people. A special census in 2007 confirmed the growth in new territory on the edges of Champaign. But Knight said the full census in 2010 showed that growth occurred throughout the city.

"Probably the most interesting thing, especially working from the changes we made from the special census just a few years ago --- what we have seen is more population growth in the core of the city than we'd seen previously," Knight said.

Knight says the number of council redistricting proposals from the public has been small --- just four, as of Monday morning. But the city planned to take proposals through its website until midnight Monday night.

Assistance Information Technology Director Mark Toalson says users may find the special redistricting software slow to load. But once it's in place, he says it's pretty easy to design your own map of Champaign city council districts.

"It's pretty straightforward," Toalson said. " You just pick, essentially the pieces of the puzzle that you want in a new district. And the program will recalculate population and demographic statistics for you. So it kind of keeps a running total on the populations of your proposed districts."

There's a link to the mapping software on the city council page of the Champaign website. The Champaign City Council is scheduled to discuss designs for a new council district map at its Oct. 25 study session.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 10, 2011

Kansas Man Held for Allegedly Kiling Cousin near Champaign

A man from the state of Kansas accused of fatally shooting his cousin near Mahomet on Friday is expected to make his first court appearance Tuesday.

News reports indicate 68-year old Gerard James allegedly killed Harlan James of Champaign after a dispute in a field northwest of Mahomet around 3 p.m. Friday. He's lodged in the Champaign County Jail.

Deputy Charles Glass with the County Sheriff's Department confirms Gerard James is scheduled for arraignment at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. The court appearance was postponed from Monday, due to the Columbus Day holiday.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 09, 2011

Fighting Illini 6-0 After Win at Indiana

(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media)

Nathan Scheelhaase and A.J. Jenkins hooked up on two long TD passes to lead No. 19 Illinois to a 41-20 victory Saturday at Indiana.

Illinois (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) is bowl eligible, and is off to its best start since the 1951 team was 7-0. Indiana (1-5, 0-2) lost its third in a row, still has not beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision team this season and has lost 13 consecutive games against Top 25 teams since a 31-28 victory over then No. 13 Iowa on Oct. 14, 2006.

Sparked by Shane Wynn's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the Hoosiers took a 10-0 lead early.

But Illinois came back with a 77-yard scoring pass to Jenkins, took the lead on Tavon Wilson's 66-yard fumble return for a TD and made it 27-13 at the half on Nathan Scheelhaase's 67-yard TD pass to Jenkins. Defensive end Whitney Merciless now leads the nation in sacks after dropping Hoosier quarterbacks three times.

"I was notified about two weeks back that I as starting to lead," he said. "It's a challenge to stay up there. Each week, when I go into it, I'm just thinking I want to keep contending to be in the lead with everybody else. Definitely I want to bring something to this program."

Merciless also forced a fumble which Tavon Wilson scooped from the turf and returned 66 yards to give Illinois its first lead.

"I feel like that was the momentum changer of the game," said Wilson. "Coach (Ron) Zook is always talking about turnovers, and helping the offense out with points."

The 6-0 Illini return to Champaign next Saturday afternoon against Ohio State.

Categories: Education, Sports

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 09, 2011

Anti-Wall Street Rallies in Chicago, Champaign

(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media)

Chanting protesters from two different groups have filled portions of downtown Chicago. The groups eventually joined forces Saturday afternoon.

Occupy Chicago is a spinoff of anti-wall Street protests in New York. They held signs and chanted slogans including "This is what democracy looks like'' before joining the Midwest Anti-War Mobilization rally.

That group gathered on the 10th anniversary of the start of the Afghanistan War to call for an end to U.S. military action there. Protesters planned to march past President Barack Obama's re-election headquarters and a military recruiting station.

Chicago police reported no arrests. A similar anti-war event was held at the University of Illinois' Urbana campus on Friday.

Meanwhile, downtown Champaign was the site of a noon-hour rally on Saturday, held by Central Illinois Jobs with Justice, along with members of the Illinois Education Association, the Channing-Murray Foundation, and the Service Employees International Union.

SEIU field organizer Ricky Baldwin says the march is meant to send a strong message to lawmakers that large corporate layoffs are not acceptable, especially after the federal bailout.

"We want action to create jobs, not to destroy them," said Baldwin. "The bailout recipients - if they're not going to use the money - to help with the economic problems that regular people are having, then they should pay the money back.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 09, 2011

Catholic Charities Seeks Stay of Judge’s Ruling

Attorneys for Catholic Charities are asking an appellate court to stay a ruling that allows Illinois to stop working with the groups on adoptions and foster-care placements.

An emergency motion filed Friday asks for a stay of an August ruling by a Sangamon County judge.

That ruling sides with the state, which severed work with Catholic Charities after the agency refused to recognize Illinois' civil union law.

Catholic Charities says it developed a "property interest'' in the work after 40 years of state contracts. The agency says it should be able to object to state action. The judge ruled no one has a legal right to a state contract.

The Catholic Charities are affiliated with the Joliet, Springfield and Belleville dioceses.

A response from the state is due Wednesday.

Categories: Government, Politics, Religion

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 07, 2011

Quinn Says Increased Revenues Could Bring Debt Relief

Governor Pat Quinn says the state could be re-structuring some of its debt in light of a report showing improved revenues from Illinois' income tax hike.

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability says that growth is exceeding the rate of the hike, bringing in $1-point-4 billion last month. COGFA also showed a steady growth in income tax and sales tax revenues during the summer months.

With the legislature's fall veto session approaching, Quinn says the state is at a spending limit of just over $32-billion. But he says spending could be re-allocated within that limit, and help some of those anxiously waiting state funds.

"We can use that to pay bills that we owe, and we'd like to use some of the revenue to restructure debt we have so that those who are owed money, like the University of Illinois, get paid right away," said Quinn. "And I think that's something that needs to be addressed."

Governor Quinn was at the U of I Friday morning for the groundbreaking of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering's new facility.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 07, 2011

Ind. Court Clears Teacher Who OK’d Restraints

The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled a teacher can't be prosecuted for giving a classroom aide permission to strap a disruptive autistic student into a chair.

The Indianapolis Star reports the court this week dismissed charges of confinement, battery and neglect of a dependent against Indianapolis Perry Township teacher Catherine Littleton.

Court documents indicate the aide restrained the 12-year-old Perry Meridian Middle School student to keep him from harming himself in February 2010. The three-judge panel ruled that Littleton was immune to prosecution because she acted in good faith.

The judges wrote that the child wasn't harmed and laughed while being restrained.

Littleton remains on administrative leave without pay from the school.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 07, 2011

U of I, Quinn Break Ground on New ECE Building

The University of Illinois has broken ground on a $95-million facility that will one day encompass all the work for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The state will foot half of the expense, through the capital bill Governor Quinn signed in 2009. The other half is coming from private donations to the university, although $10-million still remains to be raised. U of I President Michael Hogan told the gathering at Friday morning's groundbreaking that financial collaboration is making possible construction of a building that the university has sought since the 1970's.

"The state couldn't afford to foot the bill alone, nor could we, but working together, we've ensured that this great university will remain a world leader in high tech innovation and education for generations to come," said Hogan.

Gov. Pat Quinn said the building is a sharing opportunity, putting people who may be working alone into the same facility. ECE is currently split among six buildings.

"That kind of sharing of talented people can result in great things," Quinn said.

Quinn brought up the accomplishments of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

"He understood that technology is not a goal in and of itself," Quinn said. "The purpose is to communicate and bring people together. And I really see this building as doing exactly that in a living memory of what he accomplished on his days on earth."

The building will pull together electrical and computer engineering facilities currently spread throughout the U of I Urbana campus. A 400 seat auditorium in the new building will become one of the largest gathering spots on campus.

The project will create about 620 construction jobs, with completion scheduled for spring of 2014.


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