Downtown Champaign parking rates triple on Monday

CHAMPAIGN – Kenny Bonnell is self-employed, and he comes to downtown Champaign regularly to clean Boltini Lounge, 211 N. Neil St.

So he was a little dismayed Wednesday to learn that the increase in most downtown parking meter rates – from 25 cents to 75 cents an hour – will take effect Monday.

Federal budget cuts could gut rural drug efforts

A two-thirds cut in federal funding for a drug enforcement program could wipe out rural task force groups in Danville and Mattoon.

In December, Congress approved cuts of 67 percent for a program included under the Omnibus Appropriations Bill for the federal fiscal year beginning in October. The Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program cut was $350 million or 67 percent nationwide, said Lori Levin, director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

For fans, Jordan's visit a slam dunk

CHAMPAIGN – The Assembly Hall entertained its most famous guest – ever? – on Saturday.

You could make a case that title goes to Elvis, who rocked the joint in 1976. But the King probably did not sit on aluminum bleachers like Michael Jordan did on Saturday. And don't forget Bill Clinton's visit in 1998, though the prez wasn't there to watch his son play in a Big Ten basketball game.

UI police officer accused of domestic violence

ST. JOSEPH – A University of Illinois police officer accused of battering his wife Thursday has been placed on leave following his arrest.

Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh said Curtis Bolding, 49, of the 1400 block of East Grand, St. Joseph, was arrested by deputies Thursday night. Walsh refused to release any details of the incident but in bond court Friday, Assistant State's Attorney Chris Kanis said police were called to the home after 5 p.m.

Police hand out 24 tickets at three taverns

CHAMPAIGN – Police handed out 24 citations at three campus area bars last weekend as part of an ongoing program to deter underage drinking.

The Illinois State Police and Champaign police did checks on Friday, Jan. 25, at 11 Champaign bars and found minors in possession of alcohol at three of them.

$3 million would expand Heritage district schools

HOMER – Students at both schools in the Heritage school district will have a new combination auxiliary gymnasium and cafeteria by the end of 2009 under a proposal before the Heritage school board.

Superintendent Andrew Larson said the school board is considering a plan to sell $3 million in bonds to pay for expansion projects at Heritage High School in Broadlands and Heritage Junior High and Elementary School in Homer.

Illinois hasn't entered recession, expert says

URBANA – The University of Illinois flash economic index increased to 103.8 in January, up from 103.6 in December, indicating the Illinois economy has not entered a recession.

The uptick in January came after six months of decline that indicated the state's economy was growing at a slower rate, according to a UI news release. In June, the index stood at 106.8.

Beautification project in Rantoul planned for spring

RANTOUL – Sonna Iorio of Rantoul took her daily walk for exercise one day last summer and ventured downtown, where she saw a great deal of litter and weeds.

The sight disturbed her enough to ask Joe Bolser, Rantoul Chamber of Commerce executive director, if something could be done. There could, he said, and the result was the formation of Clean-Up Rantoul, an organization aimed at cleaning up the litter.

UI, grade-school theater students team up

CHAMPAIGN – The plays to be performed on the University of Illinois campus are short, but packed with imagination, emotion, humor and a reminder of how good the simplest things can be.

The authors are fourth- and fifth-grade students from Washington Elementary School in Champaign.

UI prof gets a $9.1 million commitment for solar cell process

URBANA – It's not every day you get a call offering you $100,000 – much less a commitment for $9.1 million – but Munir Nayfeh got such a call in August.

The University of Illinois physics professor had just published a paper in the journal Applied Physics Letters. The paper explained how an ultrathin layer of nanomaterials could improve the efficiency of solar cells.