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SPRINGFIELD – Legislation recently introduced in the General Assembly aims to make dormitory dwellers safer by requiring the state's private and public colleges and universities to put sprinklers in all campus residential buildings.
"Student housing on campus is not as safe as parents think it is," said state Rep. Danny Burke, D-Chicago, the sponsor of HB 4361. "Only 35 percent of dormitories have a fire sprinkler system, and anyone who has ever visited a dormitory knows how these buildings breed fire hazards. Hundreds of young adults are crammed together, sometimes three or four people to one room. Students are burning candles and have a computer, TV, VCR, DVD, stereo, phone and toaster oven all plugged into one outlet. This is an accident waiting to happen."
URBANA – The Urbana Park District board has hired a Lafayette, Ind., woman as its new executive director.
The park board voted unanimously Tuesday night to hire Vicki Mayes as the district's new executive director. Mayes, who said she was "a little bit over 50" years of age, will start March 15 at a salary of $76,000 annually, including a $4,000 car allowance.
SPRINGFIELD – Back in November, the city of Champaign learned that a Japanese auto parts plant it had hoped would locate there had opted instead for Indiana because that state had offered better incentives.
The plant, NTK Precision Axle Corp., was expected to generate 83 jobs with a payroll of $3.3 million by 2007.
SPRINGFIELD – Recalling the brutal 2001 rape and murder of 21-year-old Eastern Illinois University student Shannon McNamara, state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, on Monday moved to expedite the final steps toward execution of her convicted killer and others sent to death row.
Anthony Mertz, 27, formerly of Rossville, who was sentenced to death last February for McNamara's murder in Coles County, is one of only two inmates on death row. He was sentenced a month after former Gov. George Ryan commuted the sentences of all prisoners awaiting execution.
CHAMPAIGN – Several years ago at a flea market in New Mexico, the wind kept stealing Phyllis Bodnar's hat. Ben Yellowhorse, a Navajo silversmith, kept retrieving it for her.
As a result, he met Bodnar's husband, Peter, now a retired professor of art at the University of Illinois. The two hit it off. A couple of weeks later, after returning to Urbana, Bodnar called Yellowhorse and asked him to make jewelry for him.
URBANA – Decades before the martial art aikido was created, an opera house was created above a harness shop in the Busey Block of West Main Street.
Now aikido practitioners have restored the opera hall into a dojo, or practice room, above the Cinema Art Gallery. Even before it was fully restored in November, the Central Illinois Aikikai began offering classes on practice mats beneath the immaculately restored tin ceiling, now a flawless white.
CHAMPAIGN – Firefighters, community members and teachers packed the Champaign schools' boardroom Monday to confront administrators about the firing of a popular Franklin Middle School coach.
But they got little satisfaction. After listening impassively to comments about the firing last week of part-time coach Todd Anderson, who was reinstated last weekend for the remainder of the season, board members adjourned into an executive session, with attorneys, that lasted for about 80 minutes.
LOS ANGELES – Alison Krauss may need more shelf space.
Krauss, a Champaign native, won three Grammy awards on Sunday night, one for singing with James Taylor and the other two for recordings of her live performances.
Tony Grift is developing a tractor that stops itself from rolling over, a sensor-festooned spray rig that "sees" where fertilizer is needed and a variety of other types of robotic equipment aimed at farming.
"Nobody really likes this whole automated farm idea," the University of Illinois agricultural and biological engineering professor said recently. "But I think it's going to happen. Robots are the future of agriculture."
MATTOON – Imagine no health insurance deductibles on your paycheck, no co-pays, no premiums, no doctor bills at all.
David Gill can. That's why he's running for Congress.