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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.

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.

Johnson praises health care bills

CHAMPAIGN – Three health care bills that recently passed the U.S. House are the most significant health care legislation to be approved in the past 25 years and could help millions gain health insurance and prescription drug coverage, according to U.S. Rep. Timothy Johnson, R-Urbana.

Johnson spoke briefly this morning to a gathering of small business owners and local health care officials at the Champaign County Alliance office in Champaign.

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.

New laws affect Illinois companies

CHARLESTON – The engineering supervisor for one of Mattoon's largest employers says a change in the state's tax laws could hurt his company.

R.R. Donnelley Engineering Supervisor Matt Greuel said his company has depended on its ability to purchase and use the latest printing equipment.

Environmentalists to receive grant

CHARLESTON – Environmentalists will get $400,000 to help improve the Embarras River system, and to educate people about its diversity and fragility.

The grant was given to the Embarras River Management Association as part of the 2003 agriculture appropriations bill, and will be administered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Picket held to protest UI contract proposal

URBANA – More than a dozen people marched in an informational picket in front of McKinley Health Center Monday to protest a contract proposal by the University of Illinois for a newly organized group of employees.

Officials with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees say the UI is not bargaining in good faith with its medical radiographers at McKinley Health Center.

Retiring regional chief's efforts praised

RANTOUL – When Marty Barrett started his job as regional school superintendent, he had to rebuild the Rantoul office's reputation and finances.

Today, when he retires, Barrett looks back at troubled times now past and a promising future for the Champaign-Ford Regional Office of Education, a training and service resource for 17 school districts in a 1,500-square-mile area. Barrett says he's proudest of the partnerships he has formed with other agencies and programs to deliver those services, especially to troubled youngsters at odds with the system.