Illinois Public Media News
Decatur's city manager says the new restrictions on water use are the most severe officials can find on record.
Among changes taking effect Thursday morning, Ryan McCrady said for the first time, residents won't be allowed to water their lawns or landscaping. People who maintain vegetable gardens must reduce their watering to three days a week, out of buckets that hold five gallons or less.
The drought has dropped the level of Lake Decatur to 611.51 feet, or three feet below normal. That's just above where it was last fall, but McCrady said getting the word out early has meant few residents fail to comply.
"I think our citizens have been aware that this drought, that's been going on since last July, that they were aware these types of restrictions might come back," he said. "And I think that they've prepared themselves for it."
The restrictions also mean that commercial car washes will have to shut down while the restrictions are in effect. Anyone who violates restrictions can face a fine of up to $250 plus court costs.
McCrady said the city monitors the long-term forecasts up to 90 days for not only rainfall, but temperature, as it impacts evaporation from the lake.
Backers of a pair of referenda on the future of the Champaign County Nursing Home say they're giving up on their proposal, and pulling it from the agenda at Tuesday night's Champaign County Board Committee of the Whole meeting.
One referendum would have authorized the county board to raise property taxes for additional funding for the nursing home. The other ballot question would have authorized the board to consider selling or leasing the facility.
The referenda proposal was sponsored by County Board members Chris Alix and Brendan McGinty (both D-Urbana) and Ron Bensyl (R-Royal). Alix said they wanted the county board to have the authority to take drastic action, if necessary.
"These were intended to be contingency plans," Alix said. "There were no immediate plans to do either, and there still aren't. But as we got further into the discussion, and heard a number of useful comments from other members of the board, it was pretty clear that a majority of the board is satisfied with the way things are going, and doesn't see the need to take action at this point."
Meanwhile, the referenda also failed to win support from the Champaign County Nursing Home Board of Directors. Chair Mary Ellen O'Shaughnessey wrote in a letter to the county board that the nursing home has gone four years without needing extra funds and did not require a tax increase. She added asking voters to consider selling or leasing the home could create uncertainty about the facility's future, making it harder to attract residents.
Alix said despite their decision to drop the referenda, the Champaign County Board needs to remain attentive to the nursing home's finances in the long term, because of its reliance on Medicaid funds for much of its operations.
Meanwhile, voters in neighboring Vermilion County will vote in November on a referendum on whether to sell the county-owned Vermilion Manor Nursing Home.
Penn State Football Player Transfers to Illinois
A Penn State football player has transferred to the University of Illinois. The move comes weeks after the NCAA imposed major sanctions against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
A federal appeals court in Chicago has denied an appeal filed by imprisoned former Illinois Gov. George Ryan.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals released a 16-page ruling on Monday denying the 78-year-old Republican's appeal.
A ruling in his favor could have led to Ryan's release from a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. It was widely seen as his last chance to get out of prison early.
Ryan is nearing the end of a 6 1/2-year sentence. He's due to be released in mid-2013.
The U.S. Supreme Court in April ordered the appeals court to revisit Ryan's arguments to overturn his conviction.
At an unrelated event Monday, Governor Pat Quinn said that the court has spoken and Ryan had his day in court. He says Ryan has to "do the time.
Illinois Gears Up for Start of Video Gambling
Chino's Pizzeria in suburban Chicago is among the first Illinois locations to get video poker machines.
Northern Illinois University officials are investigating reports of an alleged secret bank account channeling thousands of dollars to several university workers.
NIU employees working at a campus physical plant allegedly sold scrap metal to a local company, which would write checks to an account known as the "coffee fund.'' University spokesman Paul Palian said the university's police department is looking into the matter:
"There is currently an investigation underway," Palian said. "It was launched Friday afternoon."
Electronic records show checks from the DeKalb Iron and Metal Company to the fund have totaled more than $13,000 dollars since 2005.
School officials say they have no record of such a fund.
A spokesperson for DeKalb Iron and Metal Company could not be reached.
Gov. Pat Quinn is warning of dire financial consequences for school districts unless lawmakers overhaul Illinois' pension systems.
The Chicago Democrat supports a plan to make suburban and downstate school districts pay their own retirement costs, which the state currently pays.
Republicans have objected and claim it'll burden schools and increase property taxes.
Quinn's office released figures yesterday, claiming Illinois' unfunded liability is increasing so fast that it'll cost school districts more in the long run because lawmakers will have to slash education funding.
Quinn's office estimates that under the shift plan schools would pay $49 million in new pension costs for the 2014 fiscal year. Without reforms, those same districts would see their budgets slashed by $152 million.
He's called an Aug. 17 special session to deal with pensions.
Longtime Indiana Supreme Court Justice Brent Dickson has been formally sworn in as the state's first new chief justice since 1987.
The 71-year-old Dickson is the longest-serving current member of the five-member Supreme Court and became the acting chief justice when Randall Shepard retired in March. He was sworn as chief justice by Gov. Mitch Daniels during a Statehouse ceremony on Monday.
Dickson takes over a court in transition. After 10 years of no changes, the court has its third vacancy in the past two years.
Dickson was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1986 by Republican Gov. Robert Orr. Dickson will reach the court's mandatory retirement age of 75 in July 2016, before his five-year term as chief justice ends.
Sen. Kirk Releases Video on Recovery from Stroke
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk has released a second video message detailing his recovery after a January stroke, saying he's in contact with his office several times a day and has climbed 145 flights of stairs.
The three-minute video was released Sunday. It's his second since he began rehabilitation.
The video shows scenes of the Republican senator walking up stairs with help and speaking from his Fort Sheridan home. His office says he recently completed a 9-week mobility study at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. During the study he walked nearly 15 miles and climbed stairs.
In the video, Kirk says he's in touch with his office several times daily and is helping Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin find a replacement for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald who's announced his resignation.
Illinois Public Media’s Neighbors series is designed to introduce us all to our neighbors here in east central Illinois. If you have an interesting neighbor you think we should know about, tell us – you can e-mail us at email@example.com.
In recent months, you may have heard the name Habeeb Habeeb, in news stories about Illinois’ 13th district congressional race. As the Republican Party Chairman for Champaign County, he had a role in identifying Rodney Davis as the GOP candidate to replace retiring Congressman Tim Johnson. Habeeb is a self-described “average U.S. citizen who’s very passionate and just happens to be involved in politics.” But there’s more to his story, as Illinois Public Media’s Sean Powers reports in the latest installment of our continuing “Neighbors” series profiling your fellow neighbors in east central Illinois.
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