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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.


Champaign police consider Tasers

CHAMPAIGN – At The Whip Hair Designs, a popular barbershop at 904 N. Fourth St., C, a petition on a stand is prompting plenty of barbershop debate.

"Citizens Against the Use of Stun Guns," reads the document, which was signed by about 16 people as of Thursday afternoon.


Ex-boyfriend's murder trial will be first

CLINTON – Prosecutors have decided to try Maurice Lagrone Jr. first in the deaths of three children who drowned in Clinton Lake. The children's mother will be tried after Lagrone.

Judge Stephen Peters, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed on Thursday to a schedule calling for Lagrone's trial to begin in late October.


Right to quick trial waived

CLINTON– It could be late summer or early fall before Amanda Hamm is tried for the murder of her three children.

Hamm, 27, Wednesday waived her right to a speedy trial in connection with the drownings of Christopher Hamm, 6, Austin Brown, 3, and Kyleigh Hamm, 23 months, on Sept. 2 in a submerged car at Clinton Lake.


New Prospect Wal-Mart planned

CHAMPAIGN – The nation's No. 1 retailer is on its way to making it a big three – as in three big supercenters – in Champaign-Urbana and Savoy.

Wal-Mart Stores is making plans to break ground this spring on a new 204,000-square-foot supercenter with general merchandise and a full-service grocery on North Prospect Avenue, across the road from the Beverly Cinema.


UI trustee delays motion on Chief

CHICAGO – University of Illinois Trustee Frances Carroll released a statement Wednesday saying she will not be reintroducing her motion to retire Chief Illiniwek when the Board of Trustees meets in Urbana on March 11.

"I am a consensus builder, and it is important to me that consensus be reached on this topic before I bring it back to the board. Therefore, I am withholding the resolution," she said.


Budget plan may cause pension problems

SPRINGFIELD – The heads of the state retirement systems testified Wednesday that they are already being forced to sell off investment assets to cover the pension checks they owe this year, and that the situation would worsen dramatically under Gov. Rod Blagojevich's proposed budget.

The governor seeks to reduce the state's contribution to the systems by $860 million over the next four years.


Edison band gives Capitol performance

SPRINGFIELD – Heads were bobbing and toes were tapping around the Capitol on Wednesday as the Edison Middle School Jazz Band 1 from Champaign entertained everyone from lawmakers and lobbyists to security guards and even protesters fighting the closure of Vandalia prison.

The band was invited to play in the Capitol rotunda by state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, who passed a House resolution honoring the middle school musicians.


Morning-after pill measure advances

SPRINGFIELD – Women would be able to obtain the morning-after pill in Illinois without a prescription, under legislation advanced by a House committee Tuesday.

The pill, which is essentially a double dose of birth control pills, reduces the chance of pregnancy by up to 89 percent if taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, so quick access is crucial, said state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago.


Champaign won't back tram

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign City Council members said Tuesday night they've been listening to their constituents, and that those constituents want no part of a proposed $178 million fixed guideway or tram system.

So council members voted 7-2 to ignore the recommendation of city staff and to reject a proposal to endorse a fixed guideway system as the locally preferred alternative for improving the local mass transit system.