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Rural transit ridership surges

By Dave Hinton/Rantoul Press -- When CRIS Rural Mass Transit District began serving residents of northern Champaign County, officials figured it would take two years to reach the ridership levels of 1,000 passengers a month. It didn’t take nearly that long – only a few months.

“I guess the need has been far greater than we predicted,” CEO Amy Marchant said.

There was a definite need for a rural public transportation system, said the woman who serves as CEO of CRIS Healthy Aging Center of Danville, which operates the service.

Total ridership has skyrocketed from 514 in May to 1,178 in August, the latest figures available.

File Photo/CU-CitizenAccess -- CRIS Rural Transit driver Bob Dunagan prepares to make the rounds to Rantoul to pick up three riders headed to Champaign-Urbana. CRIS recently began providing transportation to rural residents through an agreement with Champaign County.

Cars, tenants still observed at Cherry Orchard

By Pam G. Dempsey/CU-CitizenAccess / It’s been six weeks since a Champaign County judge ordered the closure of an apartment complex between Rantoul and Thomasboro.

But public health officials say people continue to live there. Indeed, as of Thursday, there were several cars parked in front of a far east building, which had a new dumpster nearby and kids playing in the yard.

The first collection buildings in the complex, known as Cherry Orchard, looks empty from the main highway – County Road 1500 East. There appears to be no cars and no people.

A.H. Gorton

Cherry Orchard still open for business despite health and safety problems

By Pam G. Dempsey,, and Sean Powers, Illinois Public Media - An apartment complex south of Rantoul continues to be open for business despite numerous health and safety issues, a pending public health case and county nuisance violations.

Though occupancy at the property, known as Cherry Orchard, is unknown, public health officials estimated at least eight single men continue to live there and have noted several cars parked outside apartment buildings. 

Acton Gorton/The entrance to Cherry Orchard apartment complex. The landlords of the property are scheduled to stand a bench trial today in a three-and-a-half year old civil case filed by the Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department. The landlords are accused of failing to repair an illegal septic system on the property.

Trial delayed in Rantoul-area apartment sewer case

By Pam G. Dempsey/CHAMPAIGN –  The trial of a Champaign father-son landlord team scheduled for Monday has been continued to Feb. 28.

The pair, Bernard Ramos and his father, Eduardo, have yet to comply with an agreement they made with the Champaign County Public Health Department in December to vacate five of the eight buildings at Cherry Orchard Apartments, a complex south of Rantoul.

Rantoul Press/ A sign at Cherry Orchard apartments, south of Rantoul.

Food mobile helps fill holiday hunger gap

By Landon Cassman/CU-CitizenAccess — Dozens of shivering men and women lined up Saturday at 6 a.m. outside First United Methodist Church, waiting in the season’s first snow for the doors to open so they could get food from the Eastern Illinois Foodbank Foodmobile.

The food pantry wasn’t scheduled to open until 10, but volunteers from the Foodbank and United Way decided that they’d get an early start distributing more than 8,000 pounds of food, enough to feed 150 families.

Eric Westerlund, AFL-CIO Community Services Liaison for the United Way, said the East Central Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council paid the $2,000 fee to bring the Foodmobile to Rantoul.

Courtesy photo/Rantoul-area residents pick up food recently at First United Methodist Church of Rantoul as part of the Eastern Illinois Foodbank Foodmobile. The food bank brought more than 8,000 pounds of food - enough to feed 150 families.

New study takes first-time look at Champaign County's housing needs

by Dan Petrella/CU-CitizenAccess — The dream of owning an affordable home is out of reach for one out of three Champaign County residents, according to a new regional housing study commissioned by local government agencies and cities.

The housing study, prepared by Columbus, Ohio-based consultants Vogt Santer Insights, estimates that the median home value for the county this year is $139,419.

The News-Gazette/ A house in the 200 block of Green Street. A new regional housing study shows that owning a house is out of reach for one in three Champaign County residents.

Senior citizens find respite in area-wide food programs

By Susan Kantor—Betty, a 73-year-old Champaign resident, receives a check from Social Security the third Wednesday of every month. She worked all her life, but without one steady job, she does not receive a pension in retirement.

CU Citizen Access/ A worker prepares sack meals for senior citizens as part of the Peace Meal Senior Nutrition Program

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