VILLA GROVE – An early evening blaze destroyed the Shangrila Veterans Hotel in downtown Villa Grove on Friday, forcing the evacuation of its elderly residents, who were later taken to a Danville Veterans Affairs hospital.
As of Friday evening, the cause of the fire was undetermined and there was also no estimate of the value of the loss. The Villa Grove police department closed a block on Illinois 130 to allow firefighters to draw water from the nearby reservoir, according to Illinois State Police. Villa Grove council member Phillip Jones said the fire was contained inside the Shangrila, but had not lost its ferocity.
URBANA – The city of Champaign administration is recommending that the city give up on efforts to purchase the former Robeson parking deck at Church and Randolph streets.
Staff is also recommending the city proceed with legal action to force the parking deck's owner to bring the structure up to safety standards.
URBANA – Migrant workers are grateful enough for the clothes they get from area churches through El Centro Por Los Trabajadores.
Getting a clothes washer and dryer was a big bonus for Alberto Juarez, Rafael Gonzalez and their four brothers from the Mexican cities of Puebla and Toluca.
SPRINGFIELD – Under the proposed budget before the General Assembly, higher education funding would be held at last year's levels, but representatives of several universities are concerned they may be asked not to spend their full appropriations.
Last July, universities were asked to hold back 2 percent of their state funding, and about 11 months later were told to return that cash to state coffers to help close a gap in the budget.
What kind of crime trends residents of East Central Illinois are seeing depends on where they live.
Fewer serious crimes were reported in Champaign, Rantoul, Charleston, Danville and Vermilion County as a whole, but increases in serious crimes were reported in Urbana and Champaign County as a whole, Tuscola and Douglas County as a whole, Monticello and Piatt County as a whole, and Mattoon and Coles County as a whole, according to a 2003 crime report by the Illinois State Police.
CHAMPAIGN – The redevelopment of Burch Village into mixed-income housing is set to move forward, now that a private developer has been awarded low-income housing tax credits expected to generate $5.3 million.
Housing Authority of Champaign County officials said the tax credits, the key component in the $7.6 million project, were awarded recently by the Illinois Housing Development Authority to Douglass Park LP, a limited partnership.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a bill this month raising the maximum income allowed for Illinois senior citizens to freeze their property's assessment.
The Senior Citizens Assessment Freeze Homestead Exemption allows senior citizens to freeze their property's assessment if their annual gross household income is $45,000 a year or lower. Previously, the maximum allowable amount per household was $40,000.
URBANA – Assuming no appeal, the much-disputed Salt Fork River dredging project will go forth in September, but with some more twists as serpentine as the course of the little river that winds through eastern Champaign County.
Wednesday, Circuit Judge Michael Jones approved an amended assessment roll that will tax some 400 properties for the $335,000 first phase of the project. That phase covers a stretch of 14 miles from just north of St. Joseph to near Rantoul.
URBANA – There's an impasse in school contract talks, Urbana Superintendent Gene Amberg says, and a federal mediator has been called to help bring the sides together.
Amberg said the school board and Urbana Education Association members met briefly Wednesday and could not come to agreement on salary and other issues.
SPRINGFIELD – Statewide testing in Illinois public schools would be dramatically scaled back under the budget agreement reached this week by Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the four legislative leaders.
A $6.3 million reduction in funding for statewide student assessments is among the cuts slated for the State Board of Education's budget, requiring it to drop testing in some subject areas, said board spokeswoman Karen Craven.