Illinois Public Media News
A Central Illinois program that helps ex-felons transition into jobs and homes lost its funding this summer. Now its executive director wants to know how a number of new parolees returning to the Decatur area will seek out such services.
Decatur's Promise Community Center used to receive a 100-thousand grant to help those getting out of prison. But most of those funds helped those leaving a prison in East St. Louis, and few of them relocating in Decatur. So the grant ended June 30th, and will be shifted to East St. Louis at a later date. Promise Center Executive Director Reverend Leroy Smith says that makes sense, but he's concerned about the additional 1000 parolees that Governor Pat Quinn plans to release within a month. Smith says the Promise Center is basically a one-man operation, in which he takes a handful of referrals.
"I'm a person who, if I'm making a commitment, I will follow through," Smith said. "And our organization is known to do that."
Department of Corrections spokeswoman Januari Smith says there's been no breakdown as to where the 1000 non-violent early-released prisoners will come from, but she assures there won't be a logjam of parolees in programs like the Promise Center.
"With that early release of inmates, Governor Quinn has allocated us two million dollars to help with that, which will help us electronically monitor those parolees as well as set up an increase support services that they may need," the spokeswoman said.
Reverend Smith says he still plans to advocate for ex-felons when possible. He still serves on an executive committee for prisoner re-entry under Governor Quinn.
Residents of the tiny Illinois town where five family members were slain in their home are anxiously awaiting any word to settle their nerves after authorities warned them to lock their doors at night.
Investigators are following leads but no arrests have been made or suspects identified in the killings in Beason in Logan County, near Lincoln.
Logan County Sheriff Steven Nichols calls the killings "brutal homicide.'' But he's not providing details about how the family died.
Autopsies were to be conducted Tuesday, but no results have been released.
The victims include a couple and their children ages 16, 14 and 11. A 3-year-old girl also survived the attack. The girl's grandmother identified her as another of the couple's daughters.
Champaign city officials are preparing a zoning change on Green Street meant to encourage continued development in Campustown.
Green Street in Campustown has changed in the past decade. Flood control measures on Boneyard Creek have encouraged construction of tall buildings, and new street and sidewalk design encourages walking over driving. Architect Joshua Daley of Campus Property Management complimented the change during Tuesday night's Champaign City Council study session: "I think the incredible transformation of Green Street over the last ten years from Fourth to Wright is an example of a central Illinois city coming back to life."
Now, city planners want to create a zoning overlay on Green Street from 3rd Street west to the railroad tracks, to steer development in the same direction as the blocks to the east. The change would allow for taller buildings, require them to be placed closer to the sidewalk, and reduce commercial parking requirements. City Planner TJ Blakeman says they want the strip malls and other buildings with big parking lots on that part of Green Street to eventually disappear.
"Any time you scoot the building 30 feet back", says Blakeman, "you no longer invite pedestrians as easily into the space. You're inviting a car to park in front of it. So, long term, we don't want to see the parking in the front."
The concept won the endorsement of city council members Tuesday night. Mayor Jerry Schweighart gave his endorsement with the understanding that current buildings on Green Street would not be forced to change.
UI Professor's Innovations Make Him a MacArthur "Genius
If you hear about someone pursuing their wildest dreams with a monetary windfall, the first thing to come to mind might be a lottery winner. But as AM 580's Tom Rogers reports, the latest half-millionaire in Illinois has worked hard for the reward.
The soybean aphid was first discovered in Illinois just nine years ago, but an expert says this growing season was the first time the insect has made its presence known downstate.
University of Illinois crop sciences professor Mike Gray says this year's cooler weather lured aphids to Central and Southern Illinois - and that many people confuse the tiny insects with gnats. They use their needle-like mouths to remove fluids from the soybean plant early in the growing season.
Gray says the aphids will seek out two different plants to survive. He says they must feed on soybeans during much of their life cycle... but they will also seek out buckthorn, or woody perennials found along fence rows to exist and reproduce during the next few months:
"Next year after winter, a soybean plants begin to emerge in farmers' fields, we'll get the formation of winged aphids again", says Gray. "And they will fly from buckthorn into these emerging soybean fields. And they'll spend the summer and the growing season out there."
A single soybean plant can contain hundreds of aphids, or thousands if they go untreated by insecticide. Gray says farmers need to address the problem by July or early August.
The mayor of Urbana says the best way to provide Big Broadband service in Champaign-Urbana is to have city government run the system.
The Big Broadband project's application for federal stimulus money envisions a system where any and all service providers can share the infrastructure and compete against each other. But Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing says city government is best suited to provide Big Broadband --- Internet, TV and phone service --- to homes and businesses.
"Other cities have done this successfully", says Prussing, "and they're able to offer the customers a lower price --- and make money for the city, which benefits the customers as taxpayers."
Prussing says city government could get an exclusive lock on operating Big Broadband service by building and owning the final leg of optic fiber to homes and businesses. Except for about 46-hundred homes in underserved areas, that infrastructure won't be included in the first phase of Big Broadband now waiting for federal funding.
The idea was discussed at Monday night's Urbana City Council meeting. Prussing says her city --- with possibly Champaign joining them --- may hire a consultant to study the matter.
If natural gas prices are stable this winter, central and southern Illinois homeowners will pay less to heat their homes.
Ameren predicts the price it will pay for natural gas will average 26 percent less than last year's heating season. The utility passes along the price it pays for gas directly to billpayers - and this fall, spokesman Leigh Morris says it's considerably less than the price spike we saw last year with gas and other types of fuel.
"Just going back one year, it was $1.32 a therm, and right now the October price is $0.56 a therm. That's the average for all three utilities," Morris said, citing the three divisions of Ameren's Illinois utilities. "That's about a 58 percent movement from a year ago."
The recession may be to blame for the worldwide drop in demand for natural gas - and thus the drop in prices. Morris is quick to point out that Ameren's pending request for a gas rate increase involves the fee the utility charges to deliver that gas.
A two year old girl who came down with a suspected case of bacterial meningitis has died, two days after first displaying symptoms.
Carle Foundation Hospital confirms the death of Kyla Kinney. Health officials in Vermilion County say she was brought to the hospital in Hoopeston Tuesday with symptoms of the contagious disease, which inflames the membranes around the brain and spinal cord and can be fatal.
Vermilion County Public Health Administrator Steve Laker says the toddler's family has been given prophylaxis, or an oral medication against bacterial meningitis - so have people involved in the toddler's day care. He says it will take time to see if anything else needs to be done.
"It is a disease that can be sporadic, so it is hard to prevent", says Laker. "When you do have a case occur, one of the first considerations --- is there a necessity of doing prophylaxis?"
Laker says the particular bacteria suspected in this case can harbor themselves in some people without causing symptoms, only to infect someone else with the disease.
The former chairman of the Illinois Republican Party intends to join the crowded field of people running for governor. The Associated Press and Illinois Public Radio both quote sources close to the campaign as saying Andy McKenna will run for governor in 2010.
McKenna stepped down as Republican chairman a month ago. Now he wants to win the party's nomination for governor.
In addition, those same sources say state Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine will abandon his bid for governor and instead run for lieutenant governor as McKenna's unofficial running mate. It's unofficial because candidates for governor and lieutenant governor in Illinois run separately in the primary election.
McKenna unsuccessfully sought a U.S. Senate nomination in 2004. He considered running again for the Senate in 2010 but stepped aside for Rep. Mark Kirk to seek the office.
Republicans already running for governor include Kirk Dillard, Bill Brady, Dan Proft and Robert Schillerstrom.
(Additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)
Two Carle Clinic psychiatrists are now seeing patients at Provena Covenant Medical Center, in a collaboration that the two health care providers say marks an expansion of adult psychiatric services in Champaign-Urbana.
Carle Clinic spokesman Sean Williams says Drs. Timothy Roberts and James Whisenand are moving to Provena Covenant from the Pavilion psychiatric hospital in Champaign.
"Provena did have psychiatric services", explains Williams. "They only had one full-time doctor, Dr. (Feiteng) Su, who oversaw the care plans for patients. So, adding Drs. Roberts and Whisenand to the Provena staff will help them be able to expand supervision of care of patients."
Provena Covenant Vice-President Bob Sarkar says there are certain advantages to receiving psychiatric treatment in a full-service hospital.
"We have a comprehensive program with ready access to clinical support services", says Sarkar, "like dietitians, physical therapists, etc. So, when a patient needs to be admitted to any acute care setting --- if there is a complication --- we do not have to transfer the patients across town, but transfer the patient to another floor."
Williams says the Pavilion can afford to lose Roberts and Whisenand, because it now has its own in-house psychiatrist, who works alongside four other Carle Clinic psychiatrists.
Now that they're at Provena Covenant, Doctors Roberts and Whisenhand will continue to accept all insurance plans currently accepted by Carle Clinic. And they can also be covered by Medicaid, which was not possible at the Pavilion.
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