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County board to consider offering early retirement

URBANA – Champaign County Board members will consider whether to offer early retirement to county employees at the board's July 24 meeting, a decision that could possibly lead to a slimming of the county work force and have long-term ramifications for the county's budget picture.

At a county board study session in mid-June, 10 board members said they would support offering early retirement, six were opposed and the remainder were undecided, abstained or were absent.

Come Fourth to events

   The nation's independence will be celebrated this weekend in a host of fashions and locations across East Central Illinois. Residents can choose from among the most modern of coordinated fireworks and music shows to nonamplified, electricity-free historical presentations.

   The most elaborate celebration will be Friday's Champaign County Freedom Celebration.

Assistance for students gets smaller

CHAMPAIGN – Parkland College's burgeoning student population will get a little less help from the state this year.

But Jack Lyons, Parkland's director of financial aid, said the college is using creative funding alternatives to help cover the shortfall in Illinois Monetary Award Program grants to help cover students' expenses.

Resentencing hearing to be continued later

URBANA – The resentencing hearing for a former Champaign middle school dean convicted of indecent solicitation of a child was unable to be completed Wednesday because he was hospitalized.

Brady Smith, 47, of Urbana, however, authorized his attorney by phone to go ahead with the prosecution's witnesses against him.

Candidates for Senate seat share backgrounds

CHAMPAIGN – As a young boy on the South Side of Chicago, John Cox used to dress up like the president at the time, John F. Kennedy.

But in his run for a primary win in the Senate, Cox has left JFK far behind, and wants to be known as the conservative Republican in the field.

Willard lands money for improvements

SAVOY – Willard Airport will see improvements to its taxiways and an access road when two rehabilitation projects get under way.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently released money for a $1.65 million maintenance project for resurfacing taxiways and the main commercial runway. The airport also will be improving an access road used for general aviation traffic.

Wiccan group halts plans after Hoopeston meeting

HOOPESTON – Citing an atmosphere of intolerance, and fear for their safety, Wiccan leaders said they are abandoning their dream of opening a school that teaches the alternative religion in Hoopeston.

"I basically felt this was the Salem trials of the 21st century," Ed Hubbard said, referring to Tuesday's Hoopeston City Council meeting.

Hospital reviewing late accounts

URBANA – Provena Covenant Medical Center says it is reviewing all its overdue patient accounts that are coming up for legal action, to see if the patients involved ever applied for the hospital's charity care program.

Hospital officials say Provena Covenant has also changed its policy, so that a charity care application can now be made and considered after an account is sent to a collection agency. The review of all accounts with the potential for legal action was ordered by the hospital's new chief executive officer, Mark Wiener, after it was discovered that a Provena Covenant patient taken to court over delinquent bills would have qualified for charity care, the hospital announced this morning.

Crane Alley to offer 'upscale casual' dining

URBANA – The canopy above the door still says "Cuisine francaise," but soon the former site of Chef Jean-Louis will have a new name: Crane Alley.

By summer's end, Scott Glassman hopes to bring "upscale casual" dining to the restaurant at 115 W. Main St. Under his formula, folks will be able to play pool and eat steak and swordfish under the same roof.

County clerk will bypass board on personnel issue

URBANA – Thwarted last month by a Champaign County Board committee in his efforts to reclassify a job position, Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden has decided to go around the county board.

He's creating an entirely new position, technology specialist, and he has invited the employee whose job would have been reclassified to apply for the new position.