Tuscola theater group's fee waived; show safety questioned

TUSCOLA – The city council voted 7-1 Monday to waive the fee for a local theater group to use the Tuscola Community Building, but officials voiced concern about the safety of the July production.

City Administrator Drew Hoel said organizers of Actors Rural Theatre Company are cooperative about working with the city, but he would like to see limitations to make sure plays are safe.

County, city unemployment rates both jump

DANVILLE – Unemployment rates shot up in December, with some East Central Illinois counties seeing an increase of more than a percentage point from November.

Vermilion County's rate jumped to 7.1 percent in December, up from 6.1 percent in November, according to statistics released last week by the Illinois Department of Employment Security. In December 2006, the county's unemployment rate was only 4.6 percent.

Body found in 2007 ID'd as area teen

WESTVILLE – The police came to Stefani's Cut Rate Drive In on Thursday to tell DeAnne Tuggle that her only child was dead.

The body of Marlaina Nicole Reed, 17, was found strangled in a cardboard box on the northwest side of Chicago on Jan. 21, 2007, according to the Chicago Tribune. It took police more than a year to identify her remains because her body had been badly beaten and left in the cold for so long, the paper reported.

Middle school revamp on agenda

DANVILLE – South View Middle School officials are doing something different this year to gear students up for the high-stakes standardized testing in March.

They modified the daily schedule to eliminate a 20-minute homeroom period at the start of the day, shortened passing time between classes and added a 30-minute "homeroom-flex" period at the end of the day. During that period, teachers review deficient areas in reading and math. They also go over strategies aimed at improving students' test-taking skills and confidence, and ultimately, their scores.

Vermilion County assessments spur record complaints

DANVILLE – The Vermilion County Board of Review is plodding through more than 100 hearings this week with taxpayers who filed property assessment complaints.

"I don't blame people for being upset," said Don Crist, Vermilion County supervisor of assessments. "I understand their frustration."

UI athlete charged in shooting outside Champaign bar

URBANA – A suspended football player at the University of Illinois pleaded innocent Monday to weapons charges stemming from an incident outside a Champaign bar over the weekend.

Erique D. Robertson, 19, who listed an address in the 1700 block of Village Park, Savoy, entered the plea through his attorney, Mark Lipton, at arraignment Monday. Robertson also waived a preliminary hearing.

Champaign seafood business to close at end of February

CHAMPAIGN – The Great American Seafood store at Old Farm Shops in Champaign will close at the end of February.

Owner of the fresh seafood store Mike Utterback said he has a good customer base, but he's uncomfortable about the business climate ahead.

Officials not optimistic about Olympian funds

CHAMPAIGN – Getting state funding to connect Olympian Drive between Champaign and Urbana is the city's top legislative goal this session.

But obtaining $7.2 million in state funding for the overall $12 million road project doesn't appear likely, according to Champaign City Attorney Fred Stavins.

Savoy seeks sales tax hike

SAVOY – Come Feb. 5, Savoy voters will decide if the village's retail sales tax rate should be increased by 0.5 percent.

If approved, the sales tax will go from 6.5 to 7 percent, which is less than Champaign and Urbana's sales tax rate of 7.75 percent.

Public safety proposal on ballot

TUSCOLA – The cost of shopping in Douglas County could soon increase.

County residents will vote on Feb. 5 to increase the sales tax by a half cent.