2 area soldiers die in Afghanistan

CHAMPAIGN – A Champaign soldier, Staff Sgt. Jason Burkholder, 27, and an Oakland native, 1st Lt. Jared Southworth, 26, were the two Army National Guard soldiers killed Sunday in an explosion in Afghanistan.

They were near a roadside bomb when it exploded, also killing a member of the Afghan National Civil Order Police and one civilian, said Staff Sgt. Stephanie McCurry in Springfield.

Paxton hires firm to develop sewer plan

PAXTON – The city council will pay the Foth engineering firm up to $35,000 to prepare a facility plan for the city's sewer system.

Officials need to know what capacity the plant has and what more might be needed to accommodate future growth.

Work on new Mahomet library expected to start in May

MAHOMET – The dream of a new library in Mahomet is becoming a reality.

Library trustees and staff have been working with Mark Misselhorn, architect from Apace Design, and Scott Davis, from All Your Needs Consulting, to put the finishing touches on the library plans.

Champaign to seek public input on spending cuts

CHAMPAIGN – City department heads have been told to develop proposals to cut general-fund spending by 4 percent for next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The public will get a chance to comment on some of those cost-saving ideas at three public hearings scheduled for mid-March.

The hearings are scheduled for March 14, 16 and 17 and will precede a 7 p.m. March 17 city council study session on the budget.

Tuscola pool leaking water, money

TUSCOLA – Water at Tuscola's aging city swimming pool is causing leaks to the pool and to the city's budget.

The pool at Ervin Park, which was built in 1957, has been leaking on and off since 2006.

Two from Champaign face drug charges

URBANA – A Champaign man and woman are accused of growing illegal mushrooms and having other drugs in their home in Champaign.

Arraigned Monday on Class 1 felony charges of possession with intent to deliver cocaine were Beth A. Follett, 27, and David Winkler-Groschen, 36, who both listed an address in the 1600 block of West Park Street, Champaign. Both also were arraigned on Class 3 felony charges for possession of psilocybin, also known as "magic mushrooms," and for possession with intent to deliver marijuana.

Program cites 52 for underage drinking in UI campus area

CHAMPAIGN – Police issued another 52 citations for underage drinking and one each for possession of cannabis and drug paraphernalia in the University of Illinois campus area Saturday.

The Operation Campus/Tap program is a joint enforcement effort by Illinois State Police and Champaign police aimed at deterring alcohol consumption by college-age people.

Danville school board to hear more about two new 'houses'

DANVILLE – Earlier this month, Danville school board members learned more about the Danville "New Technology High upper house."

On Wednesday, they will hear more about the other two small learning communities that will launch in August – tentatively named the Academy of Creative Experiences house and the Global Leadership Outlooks through Business, Action and Learning house.

Third person charged with murder in Haigh couple's slaying

URBANA – A third person has been formally charged with murder in the slayings of a Champaign couple in their home more than two years ago.

Champaign County Assistant State's Attorney Troy Lozar said he's waiting to hear whether Russell Lee Pitcher, 51, who is currently in prison in Iowa, will voluntarily return to Illinois to face six counts of first-degree murder for the July 4, 2006, deaths of Jeremiah and Sue Haigh.

Champaign schools to cut $500,000 in staff costs next year

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign school district is starting to see the effects of the recession, and to avoid increasing budget deficits over the next few years, it will cut $500,000 in staff costs next year.

Chief Financial Officer Gene Logas reviewed the district's finances at a school board meeting Monday night. He said the district was in the best financial shape ever at the end of the last fiscal year, June 30, 2008. It has about $23 million in fund balances, including working cash it issued to cover expected budget deficits, and it has run a surplus each of the last two years.