No progress made on Rantoul High School contract talks

RANTOUL – Rantoul Township High School officials and teachers made no progress on contract talks during a meeting Thursday with a mediator that lasted more than four hours.

Union leaders will meet with members at 11 a.m. Monday – the day before school starts – to talk about their options and find out what actions the teachers support, said Gene Vanderport, Illinois Education Association area representative.

No munitions found at site near Chanute

RANTOUL – The Air Force says that a suspected munitions site on the former Chanute Air Force Base is safe.

Paul Carroll, environmental coordinator for Chanute, told the Chanute Restoration Advisory board Thursday that studies of 1.6 acres of land adjacent to the north-south runway at the Rantoul airport have uncovered no evidence of munitions.

Seven scientists to share in stem cell research funds

SPRINGFIELD –Six University of Illinois scientists, and a seventh from Southern Illinois University, will share $5 million in state funds for cutting-edge stem cell research projects, Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced on Thursday.

Three of the researchers, Lawrence Schook, Matthew Stewart and Fei Wang, are based on the Urbana-Champaign campus.

Culver wants action on seats in north Champaign

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign school district should try again during this school year to get the money to put additional seats in north Champaign, said Superintendent Arthur Culver.

He said although the timing of a spring 2007 referendum is not ideal, the district shouldn't wait because of the deadline imposed by the district's federal consent decree. The district was to have added two strands of elementary seats north of University Avenue by the 2005-06 school year.

Urbana firefighters plan to conduct hydrant checks

URBANA – At the urging of Mayor Laurel Prussing, the city's fire department plans to start twice-a-year inspections of fire hydrants.

The inspections of up to 300 hydrants per year are being ordered due to concern that Illinois American Water Co., which is supposed to maintain the hydrants annually, might be skimping on maintenance, said Urbana Fire Chief Rex Mundt.

All 180 MTD bus drivers getting special training

CHAMPAIGN – MTD bus drivers are getting their largest retraining effort ever.

The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District is having all of its 180 operators spend 16 hours in classes and on the road, aimed partly at teaching them how to drive defensively.

Critical stem cell protein identified

Stem cells, essentially blank cells that can make almost any other kind of cell in some cases, have another trick, as if that weren't enough.

They also can make more stem cells – that is, serve as a self-renewing supply of themselves and likewise a supply of raw material for other types of cells.

Smoking ban idea unpopular at Danville hearing

DANVILLE – Bar owners, residents and a few Westville folks spoke out about a potential citywide smoking ban during Tuesday night's public hearing at the city's ordinance subcommittee meeting.

Most said they opposed a smoking ban in bars and taverns.

Police investigate suspicious purchase of cell phones

TOLONO – Local and state police are investigating a suspicious purchase of cell phones late in July at the Dollar General in Tolono. Last week, two Michigan men were arrested in Ohio on terrorism charges after being found with 12 cell phones, $11,000 in cash and airline passenger lists.

The Tolono incident, according to a police report, occurred July 29 when the store manager called police after finding nine Wal-Mart bags and a Dollar General bag in the store's Dumpster. Each bag contained four or five TracFone packages. The phones had been cut out of the packages, with the chargers and information booklets left behind.

Feinen joins Champaign City Council

CHAMPAIGN – After 14 years on the Champaign County Board, Deborah Frank Feinen has a new political home.

Champaign City Council members voted 5-3 Tuesday night to appoint Feinen to fill the at-large council vacancy that occurred when Kathy Ennen resigned this summer. Feinen will serve the remaining eight-plus months of Ennen's term, and she indicated she will run in the April 17 election for an at-large council seat.