Municipal government

At The News-Gazette, my main job was to provide the definitive coverage of the city governments in Champaign and Urbana. That coverage ranges from disputes between cities and state funding issues to neighborhoods being upset about new development and employees being fired for an unknown reason.

Urbana neighborhood: Preservation vs. development

As high-rises spring up in Champaign, development has been spotty on the other side of Wright Street for all sorts of reasons — higher property taxes, more stringent rental requirements, the presence of historic homes. But the biggest obstacle to development has been the work to preserve the west Urbana neighborhood, a unique mixture of single-family homes, rentals and everything in between. Shortly after, the project was canceled, and neighbors were overjoyed.

Windsor: A bumpy road

The $4 million construction project came in over budget and behind schedule because of an unusual amount of cracks in the newly poured pavement that engineers were baffled by. The construction was slowly killing area businesses, frustrating taxpayers and disrupting commutes.

Cities argue over campus fire response

A turf war — over which city’s trucks should be first on call for putting out fires and responding to medical emergencies in parts of Campustown — broke out between leaders in Champaign and Urbana. And, depending on which side you believe, the outcome could have life-or-death consequences.

Late fees in six figures helping libraries stay afloat

The quarters are adding up and both of their libraries are benefiting from people turning in books, DVDs and other materials late. The Champaign Public Library received around $180,000 each of the past two years in overdue fees and is on pace for near that number again this year, according to records obtained by The News-Gazette via the Freedom of Information Act. The total makes up just around 3 percent of the library’s total revenue, but with the library having to cut hours and staff, every quarter counts.

‘It’s necessary to spend’

Despite financial problems that have led to reduced hours and fewer staff at the Champaign Public Library, its board has spared no expense in the quest to find an able director to lead it into the future, racking up more than $100,000 in the transition process.

City official says he signed severance agreement ‘under duress’

The city of Champaign’s community relations manager signed a severance agreement for $11,905.86, less than one year after starting, and city council members couldn’t get an answer as to why he was let go.

Housing board to redo appointment

A member of the Housing Authority of Champaign County board of commissioners has been removed, just one month after being seated, because of an error in the way she was appointed, and the appointment process has restarted. A week later, the county board chairwoman started changes into how the process works.

The ultimate price

Without a state budget, Champaign’s poorest can’t pay for funerals for their loved ones.

Talking trash (haulers)

Communities across Central Illinois are debating whether to consolidate to single-hauler garbage systems, citing the environmental benefits and expressing concerns about the lack of competitiveness.

Landlord feels city doesn’t value his investments

A local landlord tried, without city support, to rebuild a troubled neighborhood. After the city decided to redevelop the troubled area through eminent domain, the landlord lost out.

Neighbors’ complaints heard, sale scrapped

After protesting the pending sale of a house in their affluent Mahomet subdivision to a registered sex offender, residents of Thornewood North got their wish: The deal is off.

Urbana coming up $95,000 short on its METCAD payment

Just one quarter into the fiscal year, Urbana is $23,000 past due on its METCAD bill — and the emergency dispatcher fears that could climb.

Nuisance houses on city’s radar

The city of Champaign has started taking a more aggressive approach toward vacant nuisance houses, agreeing to demolish five of the worst in the city.

Gambling’s growth has some leery

Seven years after video gaming was legalized in Illinois — bringing the same machines you’ll find in Las Vegas to Champaign-Urbana bars, Vermilion County truck stops and seemingly everywhere in between — some area communities are beginning to ask when enough is enough.

Champaign council: Turnover puts pressure on new members to learn fast

For the third time in less than a year, the nine-person Champaign City Council had to appoint a new member.

A $7,681.82 problem

When a sinkhole that grew to be 3 feet wide formed in the brick street outside Leann Wilder’s home, she had a friend call the city to check on its status. The answer came in the form of a letter notifying the 70-year-old Champaign woman of a city code violation, charging her $7,681.82. The problem ended up being paid for by a local businessman.