In Brief

Legionella Bacteria Found in Illinois State Capitol Complex

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — State officials say preliminary test results show legionella bacteria have been found in the Illinois State Capitol complex.

The (Springfield) State Journal-Register says the Illinois Secretary of State’s office sent a memo Feb. 7 saying there were four positive readings for the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease out of more than 300 water tests done throughout the 14-building complex.

Legionnaires’ is a severe form of pneumonia caused by water-borne bacteria. State officials say they’re draining and disinfecting areas with positive test results and they’ve instituted a water-flushing program to get fresh water running through pipes and fixtures.

State officials say they’re not aware of any Legionnaires’ disease reports among state employees or the public. The Illinois Department of Public Health says the complex is safe for employees to go to work.


May Completion Expected for Illinois Executive Mansion Work

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Officials are expecting renovation work on the Illinois Executive Mansion in Springfield should be completed in plenty of time for the state’s August bicentennial celebration.

Work began last June on the privately funded $15 million restoration of the house that’s been the governor’s residence since 1855.

General contractor R.D. Lawrence president John Goetz says crews should wrap up by mid-May. The State Journal-Register reports contractors reinstalled the second-floor ballroom’s original chandeliers in December, while many rooms are waiting for new hardwood floors or carpeting.

The project includes the addition of a first-floor visitors center, providing space for orientations for large student groups and to show an informational video before tours.


Snyder Wants More Recycling at Michigan Government Sites

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder is ordering all state government facilities to provide recycling services within a year.

An order signed Feb. 2 instructs the Department of Technology, Management and Budget to provide all state departments with information about recycling.

Snyder also announced an initiative called Re:Source, which will promote use of recycled materials, partly by helping businesses connect with companies that buy and sell recycled paper, metal, glass and plastic.

The initiative will include a public education campaign and a push to update Michigan’s solid waste laws to discourage wasteful practices such as building landfills instead of increasing recycling.

It also calls for the state to set an example by boosting recycling opportunities at state parks, rest areas and other sites.


University of Illinois Launches Bioenergy Research Center

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — The University of Illinois is launching a new bioenergy research center that will be used to generate new fuel products directly from plants.

The new Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation is a collaboration with the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, where it will be housed, and the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment.

Biology professor Evan DeLucia will direct the center. He told The News-Gazette that scientists from the university’s multiple disciplines will partner with 17 institutions on the project, aiming to reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels. Thirty of the 60 researchers involved in the project will be based at the university.

“We’re really hoping to open the door to a whole bio-economy where we’re using plants as factories,” DeLucia said.

Some of the partners include Iowa State, Princeton, Mississippi State, West Virginia and Boston University.

DeLucia said a five-year, $115 million grant from the state Department of Energy will help the center pay for its research. It’s one of largest grants ever received by the university.

“This is a very important grant for the university. This prestigious award builds on our record of multidisciplinary innovation as a campus, and in particular campus excellence in agricultural research,” IGB Director Gene Robinson said.


New Indiana Gas Power Plant Set to Operate by March

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — A $500 million natural gas power plant in Indiana is expected to begin operating soon after more than two years of construction.

The South Bend Tribune reports that the St. Joseph Energy Center is set to begin operating by the end of March. The plant will create 21 full-time jobs and has been praised by St. Joseph County officials for generating property taxes.

A proposed second phase for the plant remains undetermined, but would double the plant’s size and require an additional $500 million investment. The proposed phase also would double the plant’s electricity output and add 20 more jobs.

The St. Joseph County Council granted a 15-year, $60 million tax abatement for the first phase. Project officials are expected to ask for a similar tax break for phase two.


Plans Move Forward on Tunnel to Ann Arbor’s Riverfront

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Plans are moving forward on a tunnel in Ann Arbor to improve access to riverfront recreation areas and curb flooding.

The Ann Arbor City Council voted last month to take a step forward on the project that will go under railroad tracks between Depot Street and the Huron River.

The Ann Arbor News reports the tunnel will accommodate pedestrians as well as a stormwater sewer. Construction is expected to start this year.

City officials estimate that the flood-control portion of the project totals $5.1 million, with $3.7 million covered by Federal Emergency Management Agency grant funding. The pedestrian trail elements total $2.3 million, including grant money.


Governor Wants to Boost Funding for Water Infrastructure

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder wants to improve the state’s water infrastructure by investing $110 million annually to help ensure access to safe drinking water.

Snyder’s office said last month that the money would come from a new state fee on water customers. It would be used for priority projects such as water main and lead service line replacement, upgrades for failing infrastructure and collection of information on water infrastructure.

Lead-contaminated drinking water in Flint has been blamed primarily on his administration’s failures in 2014 and 2015.

The proposal would implement a $1 annual fee per person starting in 2020 and increase by $1 per person to $5 annually per person in 2024. The proposal would expire in 2040. Customers of public water supply systems serving 1,000 people or more would be charged.


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