Dwight Hopes for Large Crowd for COGFA Prison Hearing
Today’s the day opponents of the proposed closing of the Dwight Women’s Correctional Center get a chance to voice their say to state officials.
And Dwight Mayor Bill Wilkey and others hope that crowd is a big one. Some project 1,000 people may attend today’s public hearing where opponents of the proposed Dwight Correctional Center closing will testify on its financial impact.
The hearing, before the Commission of Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA), is set for 4 pm at the Dwight Township High School.
In an attempt to save Dwight's second largest employer, state lawmakers, Dwight village officials and community members, along with the union that represents prison employees, are expected to attend the hearing.
The COGFA commission is a group of 12 Illinois lawmakers that monitor the state's debt.
It will hear official testimony on how the closure would impact businesses, health care services and the housing market in central Illinois. The commission then will prepare a report on how the closure would impact the local economy and send its recommendation to Gov. Pat Quinn.
Mayor Wilkey has said the impact is obvious. He told WGFA News closing the prison “ would devastate the village of Dwight and many of the communities around us, including Streator, Pontiac and Kankakee, where employees reside." Wilkey said Dwight’s loss would affect several counties, including Iroquois, Ford, LaSalle and Will.
Quinn has proposed the closure by August to trim an estimated $48 million from the state's budget. That savings would come at the cost of 460 jobs, according to the release, though other figures have pointed to 359 jobs. Dwight is Illinois' only maximum security women's prison.
Area lawmakers, Senator Shane Cultra and Rep. Jason Barickman, have vowed to stay involved as long as the fight continues.
State Senator Toi Hutchinson and Rep Lisa Dugan have also heard from citizens about the concerns of losing the economic benefits the prison provides.
Iroquois Management Committee Moves Forward on Phone System Upgrade
It’s labeled a $70,000 cost, but could lead to a savings of $1,300 a month. Iroquois County appears to be geared for a county-wide telephone system upgrade.
The County Board’s Management committee (Tues) OK’d Ruder Communication Technologies to work up specs for a project that’ll call for re-wiring and equipment. Consolidating equipment data is expected to eliminate an archaic phone system that’s led to mis-labeled phone lines and billing problems.
Ford-Iroquois Public Health Administrator Doug Corbett has identified mislabeled connections have resulted in about $19,000 in overbilling.
The phone upgrade would provide for a single county phone bill instead of individual department vouchers. An inter-office system would also link courthouse, administrative center office and other county offices in separate buildings.
Specs for the work may be ready by mid-April. Bids would be due April 30th.
Ag Reports: Farmers Intend to Plant More Corn, Less Beans in 2012
American farmers intend to plant nearly 96 million acres of corn this year, according to the USDA Prospective Plantings report released Friday morning.
If realized, it would be the highest acreage planted to corn since 1937. That number is up four percent from 2011. Last year not all of the intended acres were planted because of weather challenges and delays.
Illinois is the only major corn producing state where farmers intend to plant fewer corn acres than they did in 2011. The National Agriculture Statistics Service shows intentions for planting corn in Illinois down 100,000 acres from last year.
Acres planted to wheat are also projected to be higher by three percent over last year at nearly 56 million acres. Soybean numbers came in lower by one percent, with farmer planning to seed just under 74 million acres to soybeans.
The USDA also released its quarterly grain stocks report, which held few surprises.
As of March 1, corn stocks stood at around 6 billion bushels, which is eight percent less than this time last year. That shows the largest ever use of corn during the December-February quarter.
Soybean numbers were in line with expectations at 1.37 billion bushels, up 10 percent over 2011.
Wheat stocks are down 16 percent from 2011 at 1.2 billion bushels.
Markets for corn, soybeans and wheat opened stronger on Friday based on the report.
Ford and Vermilion counties in Illinois show marked improvement when it comes to the health of the people living there. The counties rank among the top 20 of Illinois’ 102 counties in a third annual measurement of the health of residents.
Ford county placed 11th, McLean was 18th. But Iroquois County actually went from 28th place in 2011 to 43rd this year. .
County Health Rankings is a nationwide report released Tuesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin. It ranks counties using a formula measuring the health of residents and how long they live.
Among factors measured were: the rate of people dying before age 75; the percent of people who report being in fair or poor health; physical inactivity; the rate of low-birthrate infants; smoking and obesity rates; excessive drinking; and teenage births.
Also measured were: the number of uninsured residents; availability of primary care doctors; preventable hospital stays; levels of education; children in poverty; community safety; access to healthful foods; and air pollution levels.
“One thing I like about this is it doesn’t look strictly at medical factors,” said Walt Howe, director of the McLean County Health Department. Socio-economic factors impact health and the rankings consider that.
“The underlying message is ‘Health is everyone’s responsibility,’” Howe said.
McLean County slipped slightly from its ranking of No. 13 last year. But Howe said McLean County was consistent with last year while some other counties improved.
Lowest among area counties in central-Illinois was Livingston at No. 84. But Linda Rhodes, Livingston County Health Department health education and marketing director, noted that unemployment, poverty and education rates were better in some other counties compared to Livingston. But smoking rates and people reporting being in poor health declined in her county.
A report of the overall health of residents of Illinois’ 102 counties was released Tuesday. Here’s how area counties rank compared with last year: