Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - February 29, 2012

Champaign Council Backs Stormwater Fee in Study Session

After two years of discussion, the Champaign City Council is poised to start up a stormwater utility fee. Final action is expected in April following approval in a study session Tuesday night.

The 7 -2 vote followed nearly two hours of comments, most of them backing something that all homeowners and businesses would pay into.

The measure has been proposed as far back as 1996, and studied for the past two years as a means for developing plans to upgrade the city's storm sewer system, impacting neighborhoods that that flood regularly. Jim Creighton is with the West Washington Street steering committee, a neighborhood that has regularly suffered during heavy rains.

"If you've ever had a flat tire you know the sinking feeling in your stomach when it happens," he said. "Multiply that by 100 times. And that's what your first flood feels like. Now live in the neighborhood for 40 years, and have it happen 10, 20, 30 times."

The upgraded storm sewer system would cost owners of single-family homes and duplexes about $5 a month, but higher amounts would depend on the impervious area of property owners. Paul Orama with the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce suggested a fee of its own that could cut the amounts businesses pay by 50-percent.

Council member Deb Frank Feinen, a small business owner herself, says she understands the reasoning.

"But I also think that this is a fair way to provide needed infrastructure that is a citywide responsibility," she said. "And basing it on impervious area in my opinion makes it fair."

But council members Paul Faraci and Kyle Harrison voted against the fee, saying current language offering incentives and credits for non-residential properties aren't enough, and could force small businesses into leaving town.

"We can ill afford to lose if they (businesses) are so negatively impacted that we lose sales tax, we lose jobs, because they have to close, God forbid," Faraci said, a former small business owner.

Champaign Public Works Director Dennis Schmidt says if the council approves the rate ordinance in about a month in a half, then some tweaking can happen with those credits and incentives such as rain barrels and detention basins.

But the fee wouldn't kick in until April 2013.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - February 29, 2012

Champaign Area Police Agencies Have Strategy for ‘Unofficial

The University of Illinois' Campustown area is days away from the weekend bar promotion known as Unofficial St. Patrick's Day.

Champaign Police Lieutenant Brad Yohnka says public safety remains the top priority, with more focus now on private parties, as many off-campus visitors come to the area. He says the U of I has done a great job stepping up security in buildings, and bars have been less of a concern since the entry age was raised to 21 over the weekend.

Yohnka says the nuisance parties are the biggest problem, with officers focused on those who invite underage drinking.

"If you're going to host a party, keep it small, keep it legal, and only alllow invited guests in," Yohnka said. "We're trying to get them to think more like a Super Bowl event. There are a lot of Super Bowl parties, and we don't add one additional officer. But this event is become people come from out of town who have no relationship with the community. They're the ones coming into town causing the problems and all the damage."

Yohnka says anyone caught hosting a party with underage drinkers will face state charges as well as a city ordinance violation. While celebrations in other cities are tied to sports or a charity, Champaign Mayor Don Gerard notes this one is based on binge drinking, and it's up to students if they want to make it something responsible.

But Gerard says the focus should be on such behavior, and not temporarily shutting down the businesses responsible for the 'Unofficial' promotion.

"To those who have come swooping in, saying we should just close down all the bars, I am a fantastic advocate of not having big goverment control our lives," he said. "And I think that would be absolutely the most egregiously irresponsible thing we could do to our local businesses."

Yohnka says police agencies will also place new signage in Campustown this weekend, alerting motorists to slow down or avoid the area altogether. Police will also use additional foot patrols, with about 100 officers in the area from Champaign, Urbana, the U of I, Illinois State Police, and Parkland College.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - February 28, 2012

Union Seeks Restraining Order on Right-to-Work Law

A union seeking to block Indiana's new right-to-work law is asking a federal judge to issue an emergency temporary restraining order to keep the state from enforcing the law.

Marc Poulos, an attorney for the Foundation of Fair Contracting, said Tuesday that U.S. District Judge Philip Simon will hold a hearing Monday in Hammond on the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150's motion for a temporary restraining order.

The legislation signed into law last month by Gov. Mitch Daniels bans labor contracts that require workers to pay union representation fees.

The union motion filed Monday asks Simon to find that the law will cause irreparable harm and to enter a temporary restraining order preventing enforcement of its prohibitions. It also seeks a preliminary injunction hearing as soon as possible.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - February 28, 2012

Health Alliance, Humana Given 2nd Chance on State Employee Plans

Health Alliance, Humana Given 2nd Chance on State Employee Plans

(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)

Action by a state legislative panel Tuesday will give two health insurance providers the chance to submit new proposals for healthcare packages for state employees.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - February 28, 2012

Man Gets 16 Months for SIU-Carbondale Bomb Threat

A Chicago man has been ordered to spend a year and four months in federal prison for threatening to bomb Southern Illinois University's Carbondale campus and kill 4,000 students and staff.

Twenty-three-year-old Maurice Wiggins was sentenced Monday in East St. Louis on a felony charge of making a bomb threat. He pleaded guilty in November.

Authorities contend Wiggins was upset about the break-up with his SIU-student girlfriend last August when he made the threat via a message from his cell phone to the 20,000-student university's crime-watch website.

Wiggins allegedly said he planned to bomb three dormitories and a student center.

Authorities say Wiggins also left a message with campus police, threatening to rape and kill 30 female students.

Categories: Criminal Justice
Tags: crime

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - February 28, 2012

Robberies at Two Adjacent Champaign Businesses

Champaign Police say two robberies that occurred on West Bloomington Road last week share a lot of similarities.

The first one occurred Friday, Feb. 24, at the Security Finance office at 823 West Bloomington Rd. Police say a man entered, demanded money from a female employee, and then knocked her down and took her to the rear of the business. He fled with a undisclosed amount of cash.

Then on Saturday, Feb. 25, police say a man entered the America's Financial Choice office next door at 821 W. Bloomington Rd., and attacked a female employee, taking her to the rear of the business. In this case, the victim said she was stunned or Tasered by the man. Again, police say the man left with an undisclosed amount of money. A security camera captured images of the suspect --- one of which is shown above.

Champaign Police that in both robberies, the victims gave similar descriptions of their attackers --- but with specific differences.

The attacker in the Security Finance first robbery is described as a black male, between 40-50 years old, weighing 180 pounds, approximately 5'5" tall and waring a black Carhart-like hooded coat, dark pants and dark-colored shoes. Police say the suspect also had a thin mustache and wore gloves during the robbery.

In the America's Financial Choice robbery, the suspect is described as a black male, with a height of 5'11", weighing approximately 200 pounds, and in his 40's. He was wearing a red "hoodie", black sunglasses and lighter colored blue jeans.

Champaign Police is asking anyone with information on these robberies to contact the department at 217-351-4545, or contact Champaign Crime Stoppers anonymously at 217-373-8477 or by texting keyword "CCTIP" plus the information to 274637 (CRIMES).

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - February 28, 2012

UI BOT Chair Responds to Calls for UI President to Resign

The chair of the University of Illinois' Board of Trustees is defending University President Michael Hogan, who has been asked to resign by 130 professors on the Urbana campus.

In a letter, Chairman Chris Kennedy addresses the points raised by faculty who called on President Hogan to step down.

Regarding allegations that Hogan interfered with discussions by the Faculty Senates Conference concerning his enrollment management plan, Kennedy says information Hogan received from those deliberations was obtained in a lawful manner.

Faculty also criticize the President for allowing his former chief of staff to stay with the U of I as a full-time tenured professor, after she resigned amid an investigation into emails sent to the Senates Conference concerning Hogan's enrollment policy. Kennedy said details about the employment agreement were hashed out a year and a half ago.

Professors also accuse Hogan of bullying Urbana's chancellor to quell faculty opposition to the enrollment policy.

While Kennedy doesn't address that allegation directly, he does say there is a need for mutual respect and dialogue regarding shared governance.

Meanwhile, University spokesman Tom Hardy said President Hogan will likely accept an invitation from faculty leaders to address their concerns.

The Board of Trustees is slated to meet on the Urbana campus on March 15.

Categories: Biography, Education

AP - Illinois Public Media News - February 28, 2012

US Supreme Court Stays Out of Carp Fight - Again

The U.S. Supreme Court is once again deciding to stay out of the fight over invasive Asian carp.

The high court on Monday shot down an appeal from Michigan and four other Great Lakes states. The states are suing the Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Chicago.

The states had wanted the court to order that fish nets be laid out to prevent Asian carp from swimming into Lake Michigan. They also wanted an order saying the Army Corps of Engineers has to hurry up with a plan to isolate carp-infested waterways.

John Sellek, with the Michigan Attorney General's office, said Monday's denial from the justices is disappointing.

"Asian carp are, essentially, right at downtown Chicago," Sellek said. "They are lurking about and about to go into the Great Lakes. And that's something that would be detriment to - not just the other states, but to Illinois, as well."

Sellek says Michigan will now try other legal methods meant to prevent the hungry fish from devouring the Great Lakes ecosystem.

The Army Corps and the state of Illinois have maintained the threat posed by carp is not as drastic as the other states would argue.

Monday's ruling marks the third time Supreme Court justices have opted to stay out of the fight over the spread of Asian carp. The high court had earlier denied emergency requests to close down some Chicago-area waterways that link Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River.

Categories: Environment

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - February 27, 2012

Wind Energy Makes its Mark on the Region

Wind turbines operate on rural road near Paxton

East central Illinois has become a popular location for wind farms, with several facilities up and running and more being proposed. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert visited wind farms in Ford and Iroquois Counties. He spoke with residents, officials and experts to learn why the region is such a draw for wind energy, and if the benefits outweigh the concerns.

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Categories: Energy
Tags: energy

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - February 14, 2012

Champaign, Urbana Consider Stormwater Utility Fee

Sewers are among the basic of city services --- and one of the least exciting, until something goes wrong. City officials in Champaign and Urbana have seen enough flooding over the years, that they're proposing a new fee to pay for maintaining and improving the storm sewer system --- a fee already used by about a dozen Illinois cities. Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows has more on the storm water utility fee.

(Photo courtesy of Nancy Taylor)

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