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Blaze leaves town 'a war zone'

ROSSVILLE – As construction crews began pulling down the charred remains of historic buildings in the heart of downtown Rossville Saturday, Ralph Larkin tried to salvage what remained of the barber shop he ran for nearly 15 years.

"There isn't much left," Larkin said, as he and others loaded some chairs, a cabinet, a set of clippers and a few other items into the back of a truck.

Urbana schools considering possible cuts

URBANA – School district board members Saturday sat down to do some serious calculations about budget cuts that must be made to put the district back in the black.

Now on the table: the possibility that two or even three teachers' positions might be cut. Those teachers' jobs would be eliminated at Yankee Ridge, Prairie and Wiley schools, saving up to about $105,000, said Superintendent Gene Amberg, who outlined options for board members, who all attended the three-hour session, and for about 25 people in the audience.

Downtown chief has full plate

CHAMPAIGN – When the Champaign Downtown Association formed in 1995, parking – specifically the fastidious enforcement of it – was the unifying and motivating theme.

Among the early successes of the organization was getting the city to agree to stop enforcing parking meters during the holiday season.

Officers teach farmers on load limits, safety

ARTHUR – Not many doctors make house calls anymore, but some state troopers do.

The next time a farmer hauls thousands of pounds of grain to the elevator and is unsure how much he can legally carry, he can call Illinois State Police commercial vehicle enforcement officers, and if they can't answer questions over the phone, they can go take a look.

Locals look on in shock as fire ruins downtown

ROSSVILLE – Hundreds of Rossville residents watched in equal measures of grief and awe Friday night as fire roared through several businesses in this northern Vermilion County village's quaint downtown.

The blaze, which began shortly after 7 p.m. Friday, engulfed the entire block of buildings on the west side of the town's main thoroughfare, Chicago Street, along Illinois 1. Flames shot high above the historic, two-story buildings as giant clouds of billowing smoke rolled into the night sky.

Demolition kickoff nears for old hospital

CHAMPAIGN – Tuesday will mark the beginning of the end for the old Burnham City Hospital, with Brandenburg Industrial Service Co. of Chicago beginning work as part of a nearly $3 million city contract for environmental remediation and demolition.

City officials say they are confident Brandenburg will do the job well, despite records showing the firm reached a consent agreement with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality last year concerning inadequate asbestos removal from a Michigan bridge.

Rossville in flames

ROSSVILLE – A fire broke out in Rossville's downtown business district on Friday night, destroying several historic buildings and many of the antique galleries and gift boutiques for which the village is known.

"It's heartbreaking," Rossville resident Natalie Potter said as she, her mother – with tears in her eyes – and scores of onlookers watched the blaze rip through the buildings and light up the night sky. "There goes a fourth of our town."

Panel discusses corporate diversity

CHAMPAIGN – Being a minority employee is about more than just skin color. That was the general consensus of a five-person panel that talked to business administration graduate students from various universities Friday afternoon.

The program is part of the first ever Minority Case Competition and Career Forum, held in Wohlers Hall, 1206 S. 6th St., C. The event includes a team competition today in which MBA students will compete for cash prizes.

Helicopter now carries children, pregnant women

URBANA – Pregnant women going into early labor and premature babies in distress are now being rushed to specialists at Carle Foundation Hospital a lot faster, via helicopter.

AirLife, the flying ambulance operated by Carle and ARCH Air Medical Service, has added a pediatric and obstetric transport service for expectant mothers and sick children of all ages. And hospital officials say it's making the critical difference in getting the patients to treatment in time.

Urbana schools prepare for cuts

URBANA – School board members are again tackling a familiar job – deciding where to cut programs and services. This year, cuts could add up to $1 million.

Board members will draw up a list divided into three zones – yellow, orange and red, taking their cue from the country's national alert system – and Superintendent Gene Amberg said the "red" zone is somewhere no one wants to go.