Mattoon-based company reports drop in net income

MATTOON – Consolidated Communications Holdings had a 20 percent drop in net income and 27 percent drop in earnings for the first quarter of this year, compared with the same quarter a year ago.

The Mattoon-based telecommunications company on Thursday reported first-quarter net income of $3.7 million, compared with $4.6 million a year ago. Earnings amounted to 13 cents per share, compared with 18 cents per share a year ago. Revenues were up a healthy 27 percent, and after operating expenses were deducted, the company enjoyed an 11 percent increase in income from operations.

Paxton city employees to receive raise

PAXTON – Employees will receive a raise this fiscal year but much of the new money the city will spend will go to paying for the increased cost of employee health insurance.

Monday night the Paxton City Council voted unanimously to increase every employee's base pay by 1.5 percent. The exception is Comptroller Julie Burgess, who will receive a salary increase of $4,900 to bring her pay in line with the three other department heads.

Ex-football player gets jail, probation

URBANA – Former University of Illinois football player Joseph "Jody" Ellis, 21, will spend his summer in the Champaign County Jail serving a sentence for theft.

Ellis, formerly of Savoy and now of Baltimore, Md., pleaded guilty this morning to felony theft, admitting that on March 2, 2007, he stole a laptop computer from an apartment in the 300 block of East Armory Avenue, Champaign.

Tax gains to help Urbana budget weather economy

URBANA – Projected healthy gains in sales and property tax income will help the city weather the current difficult economic climate, city officials say.

Mayor Laurel Prussing and City Comptroller Ron Eldridge released Urbana's tentative annual budget Monday morning. It shows overall spending of nearly $46 million and income of $42.6 million. Capital improvements that the city has saved for in the past account for the excess of spending over revenues, according to Eldridge.

Fisher man accused in sex abuse case

URBANA – A Fisher man is accused of having sex with a teenage girl.

Dale Sommer, 25, who listed an address in the 200 block of North Broadway Avenue, Fisher, was arraigned and pleaded innocent in Champaign County Circuit Court in Urbana on Monday to a charge of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

Hearing in robbery case set for May 27

URBANA – A Chicago man is due to return to court next week with a private attorney to proceed with an armed-robbery charge stemming from an incident that led police to block off parts of a neighborhood near the University of Illinois campus Friday.

Terrance Gowder, 18, who listed a Chicago address, was arrested about 8:45 p.m. Friday after police surrounded and searched an apartment complex at 512 S. Third St., C.

Tuscola pool hour reduction made for parties

TUSCOLA – With summer coming soon, the city of Tuscola has decided to close its swimming pool a little early two nights a week to make time for more pool parties.

City Administrator Drew Hoel told the city council Monday that in the past, pool hours allowed for rental parties from 8 to 10 p.m.

Police dispatching agreements reached

PAXTON – The final step in formalizing police coverage throughout the county occurred with the adoption of two agreements by the Ford County Board on Monday.

The process began just over a year ago when Gibson City aldermen voted to move the city's police dispatching to the county.

Rantoul board vows to lower taxes if measure OK'd

RANTOUL – Rantoul Township High School board members pledged Monday night to eliminate a portion of the high school's property tax if voters approve a proposed countywide sales tax for education.

The school board directed Superintendent David Requa to draft a letter to the Champaign County Board pledging to abate 18.12 cents per $100 equalized assessed valuation in bond property tax money if the sales tax goes into effect.

Cell phone ban is out, but interim steps are ahead

URBANA – A ban on using cell phones while driving isn't in the works in Urbana.

But drivers who like to chatter on their cell phone had better be careful to avoid a traffic accident, or they could eventually face a $750 fine.