Illinois Public Media News
Bicyclists in Champaign will get their own lanes on two major north-south arteries if city council members approve.
The city is proposing adding a bike-only lane to State and Randolph streets, from their north ends at Bradley Avenue south to Hessel Boulevard. City planners are holding an open house Monday afternoon at the Champaign Public Library to discuss the plan for the two one-way streets.
Planner Mishauno Woggon is aware of the grumbling that came from some motorists after one of the first high-profile bike lanes was developed along Urbana's Philo Road commercial area. She says the new lane configuration restricted vehicle traffic through what planners call a "road diet."
"With the State and Randolph project there is no lane reduction so there is no road diet as part of this project," Woggon said. "So for drivers they're really not going to notice a difference in terms lof less lanes to drive in or congestion or things like that."
Woggon says in some narrower parts of State and Randolph streets, the bike lanes will be marked as so-called "sharrows," meaning bike and vehicle traffic will share them. The open house at the Champaign Library runs from 4:30 to 6:30.
The University of Illinois plans to send out emails to its Urbana campus employees on Tuesday, providing details about its voluntary separation incentive program. The U of I is offering incentives for faculty and staff who retire or resign --- but only if the conditions are right.
The cash-strapped U of I is looking to save money by shedding some of its faculty and staff --- and it will pay a half-year's salary up to 75 thousand dollars for faculty and staff who resign or retire. But university spokeswoman Robin Kaler says campus units will only offer the incentives in cases where the employee's departure would provide a real savings --- because that person would not be replaced, or would be replaced at a lower cost.
"So for example, if you had someone who made $70,000 a year and you determined maybe that you could not replace that person if they went, spending $35,000 to recoup another $35,000 could be a savings for the university," Kaler said.
The incentive programs target civil service and academic professional staff who agree to resign or retire before next fall semester --- and faculty eligible for retirement who agree to retire before fall semester 2011. A two-month application window begins on Wednesday. The incentive program only covers the U of I Urbana campus, not the Chicago or Springfield campuses, or university administration.
University of Illinois employees planning to retire this academic year don't have to worry about unpaid furlough days affecting their retirement benefits --- if they act in the next few days.
The university says that employees who sign a retirement agreement by Tuesday, February 2nd, don't have to take furlough days --- or a voluntary pay reduction.
U of I spokesperson Robin Kaler says the furlough waivers are being offered to employees considering retirement, who may be concerned by how furlough days will affect their final year's salary --- and consequently their pension levels.
"We did not want that furlough program to doubly hit people, just because of that window within which they those to retire", says Kaler.
The furlough waiver offer is for employees on all three U of I campuses who plan to retire by the start of the next fall semester. Employees on the Urbana campus may still be eligible for cash benefits to be offered in a voluntary separation and retirement program to be unveiled next week.
Eastern Illinois University now has a furlough policy to deal with the financial crunch facing higher education. But unlike the University of Illinois, there are no current plans to implement furloughs at EIU.
And if administrators make that decision, President Bill Perry says most collective bargaining agreements on the campus at Charleston currently don't include furlough language, including those for faculty. As things stand, he says about a fourth of employees at Eastern would be impacted. Some contracts call for layoffs instead of furloughs. Perry says there are those who feel that's the best option since layoffs been part of those contracts for a long time. "Other people are of the opinion with furloughs no one loses their job entirely," says Perry. "Everyone in the group shares a little bit of the pain. So you can see the arguments on both sides as to the right way to proceed. Rarely in a university do you have unanimty on any issue, right?"
The furlough policy released by Perry Thursday afternoon calls for an employee to take up to 24 furlough days over a 12-month span. He says EIU would try to provide 30 days notice before the implantation of furloughs. Eastern raised its housing costs last week, and implemented a hiring freeze. EIU is still owed about $33 million from the state. Perry says a tuition hike could happen, but no figure has been discussed.
The University of Illinois will unveil incentive programs next week for faculty and staff on the Urbana campus considering resignation or retirement.
The programs have been in the works for several weeks. Deans, directors and department heads on the Urbana campus were given advance notice of the incentive programs Thursday in an email from Associate Provost for Human Resources Elyne Cole.
The programs offer a lump sum cash incentive for voluntary retirements and resignations --- equal to 50 percent of current annual salary, or 75-thousand dollars, whichever is less.
Civil service and academic professional employees working on the Urbana campus for at least four years in a row may apply for incentives covering resignations and retirements. Another incentive program covering retirements only is open to faculty and academic staff who are already eligible for retirement under SURS, the State University Retirement System. A two-month window for applications begins Wednesday.
In her email, Cole stresses that the incentive programs are voluntary, and that no one should be encouraged to participate, or discouraged from doing so. She describes the incentives as one way to address "challenging financial times" at the U of I.
After following hundreds of leads the past two years... Illinois State Police say they still don't have evidence that would make Mark Prasse and Ryan Riddell targets for murder.
But investigators also say they don't believe the shooting deaths of the two friends in Edgar County were a random act. Investigators say through their interviews, Prasse and Riddell were good people with nothing sinister in their past. "One of the first things we looked at was if it was anything job related or friend related or activity related," says ISP Investigations Commander Jill Rizzs. "These two victims, by all accounts, were good guys. The 'why' is the part that we need help on."
Their bodies were found in Prasse's rural Chrisman home two years ago Thursday. Both had been shot multiple times. State Police Master Sergeant Mike Atkinson says a lot of information on the ongoing investigation can't be released, including whether they're seeking one or more suspects. "I don't want people to think that we're looking for one person, and someone might have information thinking, gosh I sure thought it was somebody else, or, that we're looking for multiple folks, and then somebody says, well, they must already know that,' says Atkinson.
Investigators say they're dealing with a short time frame from January 28th, 2008. The few hours included Riddell picking up Prasse from his job in Paris at 4 p.m., stopping by Riddell's Villa Grove home, and stopping for gas in Newman just before 7:30. Edgar County deputies were called when Riddell didn't return home for dinner that night after he was to have dropped Prasse off at his home. Their bodies were found shortly before 11 that evening.
Illinois State Police have established a tip line for this case. It's (217) 278-5004. The FBI phone number for tips is (217) 522-9675. Tips can be anonymous.
Attorneys for Alan Beaman say their federal civil rights suit against McLean County, the Town of Normal, prosecutors and police will hold those public officials accountable for misconduct. The Illinois Supreme court overturned Beaman's murder conviction a year ago in the 1993 death of Jennifer Lockmiller.
Locke Bowman of the MacArthur Justice Center says Normal Police Detective Tim Freesemeyer and Assistant States Attorney Jim Souk conspired against Beaman in knowingly not sharing evidence of another suspect and verification of Beaman's alibi....
"They hid that information from Mr. Beaman and his defense lawyers", says Bowman. "That was intentional, it was deliberate, it was knowing"
Jeff Urdangen of Northwestern University Law School says it has always troubled him that as a prosecutor, Souk used the Beaman case to further his career....
"Laminated copies of news clippings, boasting of his success in convicting Alan Beaman, was a part of his most aggressive campaign to gain a judgeship," says Urdangen.
Souk is a circuit judge in McLean County.
Alan Beaman says he wants to make McLean County a more just place. Beaman says he is still processing things and trying to re-create his life, after serving 13 years of a 50 year prison sentence.
"There's a lot from my previous 13 years that don't apply to life now", says Beaman. "And I have to kind of sort through and figure out again who I am. It's a process I enjoy going through. And I'm looking forward to growing as a person."
Beaman, now 37, lives in Rockford. He says he works part time at a theater, about five odd jobs, and does snow removal.
Town of Normal and McLean County officials have declined comment about the federal suit which seeks unspecified damages. Two other pending cases including a petition for clemency and a ruling of wrongful conviction have a damage cap of 200-thousand dollars. The new case has no such limit.
A Springfield family has donated a rare bronze cast of Abraham Lincoln to the University of Illinois-Springfield.
The family of Rick and Dona McGraw donated one of only 15 bronze casts of an original Abraham Lincoln life mask to the University of Illinois Springfield. The original plaster mold was taken of Lincoln's face by sculptor Clark Mills in 1865... just two months before Lincoln's assassination. The mask shows Lincoln's tired eyes and face full of wrinkles from the toll of the Civil War.
The McGraw family got the mask when they bought the McDonald's restaurant in downtown Springfield. It was the only item the family saved from the restaurant when they remodeled the building.
The university plans to display the mask at Brookens Library.
Health care reform has been a dominant issue when candidates for Illinois' US Senate race talk about the country's older Americans... but it's not the only issue. Seniors voting next week in the primary (including Rantoul's Cheryl Melchi, left) are not only questioning the future of issues like Medicare and Social Security but their candidates' ability to address them. AM 580's Jeff Bossert surveyed some East Central Illinois residents for their thoughts.
University of Illinois Interim President Stanley Ikenberry says administrators and faculty should be more aggressive to communicate to the public what's at stake if state funding remains at a standstill. Speaking to the Urbana Campus Academic Senate Monday, Ikenberry said he and all other public university presidents in Illinois will soon be sending a letter to Governor Pat Quinn and legislative leaders.
He says it will contain two messages. The first is to urge all involved to quickly find a solution towards fixing Illinois' fundamental financial problems. Ikenberry says the second is that public institutions like the U of I have a reliable schedule of state payments. "It is possible for us to imagine drifiting on now for several months with no material change in the rate of reimbursement from the state," says Ikenberry. "That just begins to create a nightmare of a situation that I don't think we can tolerate without a much more aggressive public position to alert the public of what the dangers really are." The Academic Senate passed a resolution yesterday urging its members to address these problems before state officials and the public. It was written in response to the U of I furlough policy impacting 11,000 employees. Some are considering taking common furlough days as a means for educating their students on Illinois' financial crisis through campus rallies or even trips to Springfield to address the legislature.
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