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More, smaller grants planned

SPRINGFIELD – More of Illinois' neediest college students will receive grants through the state's Monetary Award Program this school year, but the grants will be smaller than in years past, according to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

MAP grant amounts were cut by 5 percent last year, and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission recently decided to cut them again this year by 10 percent.

Flooding precautions pay off

The last time this much water fell this fast on Champaign-Urbana, it was free-swim time in Campustown.

Two days of storms on Aug. 11-12, 1993, dumped 6.88 inches of rain on parts of the city, sending the Boneyard Creek out of its banks, flooding basements across the city and creating the usual "lake" at Fourth and Green streets.

Banks still busy despite increase in mortgage rates

CHAMPAIGN – Local lenders say the upward bounce in mortgage rates caught some customers holding out for lower rates by surprise, but it hasn't slowed down the new home loan and refinancing business much.

"I don't think it's slowed things down at all," said Jan Buerkett, vice president of Busey Bank's mortgage department, on Thursday.

UI official: Budget cuts affecting tuition

URBANA – The University of Illinois has seen the effects of the poor economy in cuts to its state budget for the last two years.

The UI had a mid-year rescission in fiscal year 2002, a $74 million budget cut in fiscal year 2003 and another rescission that year. And its budget for the current fiscal year was cut by $58 million.

Meeting addresses problems at Franklin

CHAMPAIGN – Franklin Magnet Middle School parents met Thursday to discuss problems at the middle school, ask what the new administration is going to do about them, and find out how they can help.

Sandy Powell took over the principal's job last month from Mel Crafter, who resigned after a year. She told parents that high expectations, extensive communications, physical changes in the school itself and other factors will contribute to turning around the climate there.

Greek event takes on new name this year

CHAMPAIGN – Some changes are planned for an annual informal summer gathering of University of Illinois fraternity and sorority alumni.

The "Greek Reunion," which has occurred each year for at least 20 years, drew up to 10,000 people at its peak, but attendance has declined in recent years.

Wiccans get out of building contract

HOOPESTON – When Hoopeston resident Faye Troxel went to Bible study Wednesday morning, the conversation drifted to a topic that has captured people's attention the last few weeks: whether a Wiccan school is coming to town.

"It's my understanding that it's still coming," Troxel said. "I feel that they just said they're not coming to calm the storms, and they intend to come anyway. ... We're just praying for God to intervene. I don't want it to come to Hoopeston. I don't know of any Christian churches that want it to come."

Champaign explosion injures 2

CHAMPAIGN – Investigators are theorizing that magnesium dust may have played a role in the explosion that injured two people in Interstate Research Park on Wednesday afternoon.

The explosion occurred shortly before 3:30 p.m. at the Wayne H. Choe Technology Center, 1401 Interstate Drive. Two construction workers doing cleanup work there were taken by ambulance to Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana for treatment. Their identities were not disclosed.

Yellow to orange: What changes?

SPRINGFIELD – The federal homeland security advisory alert level was raised from yellow to orange three times in the last year, but there is still frustration among some local governments as to how to respond to those changes.

A recent study by the National League of Cities found that nearly a third of cities weren't sure what to do when the threat level increased to orange on Feb. 3 and wanted more guidance from the federal government. In a conference call with the Council of State Governments Wednesday, Matt Bettenhausen, director for state coordination at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said the threat system is meant only to provide broad guidelines. Local governments and private industries can adapt those based on their own needs and infrastructure, he said.

Pharmacy fire under review

URBANA – A fire at a pharmacy and medical supply business on North Cunningham Avenue appears to be arson.

"I believe it was intentionally set," said Urbana Fire Division Chief Richard Rotramel, who is investigating the fire at the Carle Rx Express pharmacy and Carle Medical Supply, both at 1208 N. Cunningham Ave., U. "We took some evidence to be analyzed."