These houses at 206 and 208 S.  Prospect Ave. were among dozens listed on the City of Champaign's vacant housing list as of Aug. 30. Photos taken on Sept. 20, 2016.

Despite influx of funds, vacant housing increases in county

CHAMPAIGN-URBANA: Since the housing market crashed in 2007, the cities of Champaign and Urbana have received more than $2 million in state and federal dollars to combat vacant and nuisance housing. Yet the number of empty houses is still climbing. As of 2014, one in every 10 housing units in Champaign County sat vacant, according to the most recent U.S. census data available. That total number, 8,700, was nearly double the number of vacant housing units in the year 2000. Each year, Champaign puts at least $20,000 into demolishing homes across the city.

University of Illinois professors Don Fullerton (left) and Julian Reif with a map used in their climate change research in November 2015.

Illinois could see effects of climate change as soon as 2020

July was the hottest month in recorded history. And continued increases in temperature and a shift in rain patterns could mean a 15 percent yield loss in the next five to 25 years and up to a 73 average yield loss by the end of the next century if farming patterns don’t change significantly, University of Illinois finance professors Don Fullerton and Julian Reif laid out in a report released from the Institute of Government and Public Affairs last year.

The site of a new nitrogen fertilizer plant in Tuscola, Ill. The plant is slated to be built on 240-acres of farmland and bring 2,000 construction jobs and 175 permanent jobs to the area.

Construction of Cronus fertilizer plant delayed as costs soar

A new fertilizer plant slated for Tuscola is further delayed and projected to be more costly than originally touted. This spring Cronus Chemicals quietly announced on its website that the estimated cost is now $1.9 billion – more than 30 percent above the original estimate. The website also says the plant will not be finished until the last quarter of 2019 – or at least 30 months later than the initial completion date.

B. Won restaurant in Champaign on  Feb. 24, 2016. Public health inspectors failed more than 40 restaurants over the past 10 months, including B. Won.

39 restaurants fail inspections over 10 month period; 11 establishments closed for violations

Ants on the wall, a live cockroach next to a meat grinder, fruit flies “too numerous to count” and a bucket of bloody juice were some of the worst violations over a ten-month period in Champaign County restaurants.

In total, 39 restaurants in Champaign County failed health inspections – several more than once – from June 2015 to April 2016, according to a review of inspection records. An additional 7 restaurants failed and were temporarily closed.

Four others were closed because of non-payment of annual fees or missing paperwork

The board listens to a report during a meeting of the Housing Authority of Champaign County board at their Champaign, IL offices on Thursday, December 18, 2014.

Despite yearly purge, “no-trespass” list remains long

Since the beginning of the year, the Housing Authority of Champaign County removed nearly 190 names from their “no-trespass” list — the largest mass purging of the list in the past five years.

Still, about 540 names remain on the list, which is posted on the housing authority’s website.

Matt Crosby, manager of Neutral Cycles, works on a bike by the map of bike thefts in the shop on campus in Champaign on Monday, March 28, 2016.

Bikes stolen on campus seldom recovered

If a bike is stolen from a University of Illinois student on the Urbana-Champaign campus, there is little chance the bike will be recovered.

In fact, 95 bikes worth about $27,000 in total were reported stolen in 2015 and only 16 — about $3,600 worth — were recovered, according to university police.

Jonathan Ashbrook, left, on his property with Sue and Tom Smith near the proposed site of the Sunrise coal mine outside Homer, Ill. The three are members of a grassroots organization, Stand Up To Coal, opposing the mine. Ashbrook's family has owned land near the seasonal creek known as The Olive Branch for the past 140  years. The original mine permit stated it would use local field drainage tiles for mine discharge, which empties in the Olive Branch about a mile from the mine site.

A new coal mine in town: environmental, economic questions still linger

Keith Rohl remembers the day he was asked to lease the coal rights to his farmland in Homer, Illinois.

It was 2009, a wet year for the crops, when he was lined up at the grain elevator with his neighbors hearing about the proposed Bulldog Mine for the first time.

“The neighbors were all talking about, ‘You sell your coal rights, and you get to farm your land on top. You’re going to have all kinds of money and everything.’ And I thought ‘Boy, that sounds great to me, and I was ready to sign up,’ ” he said.