Support staff to receive raises next year

RANTOUL – Board members Monday voted to give Rantoul Township High School support staff members 4 percent pay raises for the 2006-07 school year.

But they tabled action on administrators' salaries, adjourning their regular meeting until 6:15 p.m. June 26 when they will take up that issue again.

Area bomb squad called to dispose of fireworks materials

WESTVILLE – Four members of a local bomb squad are returning to a home in Westville to finish disposing of explosives and chemicals found in a garage.

The University of Illinois-Champaign Explosive Ordnance Disposal team was called Saturday afternoon by the Vermilion County Sheriff's Office after deputies responding to a domestic incident in Westville found chemicals and suspected explosive materials in the garage, according to UI police Lt. Skip Frost, leader of the bomb squad.

Village board will consider new sign rules

RANTOUL – Store signs in Rantoul could enter the computer age.

The Rantoul Village Board is expected to vote Tuesday on an amendment to its zoning ordinance to allow stores to have changing or moving electronic message boards on exterior signs.

River Bend Forest Preserve planting seeds of conservation

MAHOMET – Jim Gallivan looked across the larger of two lakes at the River Bend Forest Preserve on Saturday and could see the piles of sand and gravel that were his livelihood for decades.

"It's really a good day," said the 81-year-old Champaign man, who along with the family of his late business partner, Harold O'Neil of Danville, donated the land for the first forest preserve to be opened in Champaign County in more than 20 years.

Champaign-based company busy brokering deals in crop genetics

CHAMPAIGN – Seed companies have become a hot commodity as biotechnology giants seek more ways to get their crop-genetics technology to market.

During the last decade, Monsanto Co. acquired Asgrow and DeKalb Genetics. DuPont absorbed Pioneer Hi-Bred. And Syngenta acquired NK, Garst and Golden Harvest seeds.

Rantoul school officials hope building shuffle helps students achieve

RANTOUL – When Rantoul school board members tabled a proposal four years ago to make sweeping changes in their elementary schools, Superintendent Bill Trankina thought briefly about retiring.

"In 23 years, that was the only time the board chose to go in a different direction," Trankina said. "There's a saying that inaction is a form of action. I felt like the proposal was a valid approach to meeting students' needs. Those were dark days."

Urbana man sentenced to 12 years in prison

URBANA – An Urbana man with a history of mental health problems and violent crimes was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison for his latest.

Victor Smith, 37, whose last known address was in the 1500 block of East Washington Street, pleaded guilty in May to robbery, admitting that he took cash from a register at the McDonald's, 1705 Philo Road, U, on Nov. 21.

26-year-old sentenced to 40 years in prison for rapes

URBANA – A Champaign man who pleaded guilty Friday to two violent sexual assaults on women in their homes told a Champaign County judge through a translator that he "just wanted to sign the papers" and get on with his sentence.

Jesus Cervantes Martinez, 26, whose last known address was in the 1600 block of Kiler Drive, also asked Judge Tom Difanis, through the translator, if he would have to serve 85 percent of his sentence, which Difanis assured him he would.

Champaign board may hire firm to help with building plan

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign school district is considering hiring a St. Louis communications firm to help gauge the community's feelings about the district and its building needs.

A representative of Unicom-ARC will make a presentation to the school board Monday on how it could help the district with public input. The school board meets at 7 p.m. at the Mellon building, 703 S. New St., C.

Truck, trailer to aid responders at disaster scenes

CHAMPAIGN – Local officials displayed a new, state-of-the-art communications tool Friday as fire departments from throughout the state gathered in Champaign.

The Champaign Fire Department will be the host for the new mobile center to allow radio, phone, satellite and Internet communications for police, fire and public works departments, along with utility companies and other organizations responding to disaster scenes.

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