YMCA seeks help with Dump and Run sale

CHAMPAIGN – The University YMCA is looking for help with the collection for its annual Dump and Run sale.

Volunteers are needed for the next two weeks, but especially today, Saturday and Monday.

New Census figures: Population mostly white in East Central Illinois

Although new Census Bureau estimates say that nearly half of the children under 5 in the United States are minorities, that's far from the case in East Central Illinois.

Even in ethnically diverse Champaign County, about 67 percent of the under-5 population is white. Blacks make up 16.17 percent of the county's population under 5, with Hispanics at 8.8 percent and Asians at 8.1 percent.

Vermilion County officials keeping eye on river levels

DANVILLE - Local officials were closely watching rising river levels throughout Vermilion County for signs of flash flooding.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources restricted boating on the Middle Fork River, which was rising rapidly, said Ted Fisher, director of the Vermilion County Emergency Management Agency.

Blackhawk Biofuels to merge with Renewable Energy Group

DANVILLE – The company that was managing Danville's biodiesel plant now has an even bigger stake in its success, as Renewable Energy Group is now part-owner of the production facility.

On Tuesday, Blackhawk Biofuels, the group of more than 500 investors that owns the plant, announced that a merger was finalized with Renewable Energy Group, which has been managing the facility and marketing the biodiesel for Blackhawk.

Arthur's Progress Tank closing; 96 people expected to lose jobs

ARTHUR – Sometimes a downturn in one part of the economy can have consequences on another.

That's what led to the scheduled closing of Progress Tank, a manufacturer of truck-mounted tanks that is Arthur's third-largest employer.

Zoning ruling won't affect couple's plans for orchard

DANVILLE – Lindsay and Marie Varner are forging ahead with their plans for an organic apple orchard on West Lake Boulevard on Danville's north side, despite the Danville planning and zoning commission's recommendation against changing the property's zoning from residential to agriculture.

Champaign panel seeks to increase wind-farm buffer zone

CHAMPAIGN – City planning officials like the idea of using wind farms to generate electricity. They really do.

But not in the city's backyard.

At the city's plan commission meeting this week, members voted 5-0 to not protest a proposed county zoning ordinance text amendment that would allow wind farms in the county Agriculture 1 zoning district with approval of a special-use permit by the Champaign County Board.

UI Extension's Web site lending hand with perennials

URBANA – Home gardeners now have a starting point for perennials, thanks to University of Illinois Extension's new "Gardening with Perennials" (http://urbanext.illinois.edu/perennials/) Web site.

"Perennials can be the backbone of a garden," said Greg Stack, UI Extension horticulture educator who helped develop the site. "Once you have the perennials, you can add small shrubs and annuals to complete the garden.

Gardeners set aside space in plots to grow food for those in need

CHAMPAIGN – Young tomato plants peek out of the ground at the TIMES Center garden, destined to become sauce or salad at the shelter's soup kitchen.

Longtime volunteer Frank Ford Jr. tends the garden, which he planted in 2000 when the center moved from McKinley Presbyterian Church to downtown Champaign.

Environmental education center's future brightens

DANVILLE – The Vermilion County Conservation District was $400,000 closer on Wednesday to building a 32,000-square-foot environmental education center at Kennekuk County Park, after the state announced $21.2 million in grants for 59 park and land acquisition projects across the state.