Illinois flourishing in previously untapped wine industry

CHAMPAIGN – If you think Illinois is all about corn and soybeans, you haven't heard the latest on the grapevine.

Vineyards and wineries across the state have flourished in recent years, blossoming into a $20 million annual industry.

Grain business seeks zoning for ethanol plant

CHAMPAIGN – The Andersons, a grain storage, marketing and farm fertilizer business in northwest Champaign, is considering building an ethanol plant there.

In response to interest expressed by The Andersons and the possibility of other plant proposals coming down the pipeline, the Champaign County Department of Planning and Zoning has suggested amending the county zoning ordinance.

Champaign school board's decision upsets crowd

CHAMPAIGN – In a stunning about-face Friday that infuriated an already angry black community, Champaign school officials advised board members to stick with the Boulder Ridge site they picked Monday for a new northwest Champaign school.

Backlash was immediate. Activist Imani Bazzell said the black community will almost certainly turn to its attorneys and a court monitor to ask for legal sanctions, including an extension of the costly consent decree that's due to expire in the 2008-09 school year.

Some seek to save oldest sections of Dr. Howard School

CHAMPAIGN – The original Dr. Howard School sits on Park Avenue, a brick street lined with stately trees and century-old homes.

Circa 1910, it blends nicely with the old neighborhood. But some of the school's later additions aren't nearly so picturesque – notably an ill-conceived walkway connecting a 1950s-era addition to the east.

Gibson City students' campaign stresses dangers of unsafe driving

GIBSON CITY – Bonnie Arends says her whole world came crashing down on her on Jan. 17, 2003.

That's the morning when her twin sons, Greg and Steve, both seniors at Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School, were riding a silver Oldsmobile on Illinois 54 outside of town when the car suddenly left the road and struck a utility pole.

Villa Grove teen gets 17 years in prison for sex crimes

TUSCOLA – A Villa Grove teen convicted of sexually molesting two young girls was sentenced Thursday to 17 years in prison.

Judge Frank Lincoln imposed the sentence on Brett Gaston, 17, who pleaded guilty in January to molesting sisters between November 2003 and June 2004. The girls, ages 6 and 4 at the time, were clients in his mother's home day care in Villa Grove.

Female student accused of setting Centennial fire

CHAMPAIGN – A 16-year-old female student at Centennial High School was arrested Thursday for setting a fire that caused the school to be evacuated last week.

Champaign police spokeswoman Joan Walls said detectives arrested the girl about 1 p.m. Thursday on a juvenile charge of aggravated arson and that she was taken to the Champaign County Youth Detention Center.

Philo bank robbery investigated

PHILO – Champaign County sheriff's deputies are continuing to investigate a bank robbery in Philo.

Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh said this morning his office and the FBI were jointly investigating the robbery Thursday at the Philo Exchange Bank branch facility at 401 N. Lincoln.

Champaign board plans special meeting to consider school options

CHAMPAIGN – School officials have proposed a compromise to address concerns of the black community – replacing and enlarging Washington School instead of building in Boulder Ridge.

The board will hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Friday at district headquarters, 703 S. New St., to consider that and any other options that might emerge.

Bill would change domestic-violence bail rules

DANVILLE – Kenneth and Kathy Divan were prepared to take their grandchildren and leave the state when they heard that their son-in-law, who was accused of murdering their daughter, could get out of jail.

"We were concerned about him getting out," said Kathy Divan, whose son-in-law, Kenneth Gray, 34, of Newtown, faces first-degree murder charges in the shooting death of their daughter, Kimberly Gray, 34. "We were concerned for our grandchildren and our own safety."

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