Morning round-up
9:24 am
Mon November 21, 2011

Morning headlines: Monday, November 21, 2011

Committee to meet today to review St. Louis County's controversial proposed budget

County Executive Charlie Dooley wants to cut $10 million in spending in part by closing 23 parks and laying off 175 employees. During a public hearing last week on the budget the council chambers was filled with residents, mostly opposed to closing parks. Several of the council members, including Mike O'Mara, the chairman of the special budget committee, suggested the cuts can be avoided.

"We've worked through some tough times, and the county executive has had to make some tough decisions, but we've worked through them and we made them work," said O'Mara. "And I know we can make this work and keep our parks open and keep our people working."

Council chairman Steve Stenger, who is opposed to the proposed budget, formed the special committee and is a member. Executive Dooley has defended his position, saying the county's finances are in crisis.

Rebuilding continues in earnest in Joplin

The city has issued an average of $35.4 million in permits per month since the May 22 tornado. Before the tornado, the city averaged just over $2.1 million a month in building permits.

The Joplin Globe reports that the city was on track for one of the worst years for construction in decades. For the fiscal year that ended Oct. 31, the city issued nearly $192.5 million in permits, a record.

Steve Cope, supervisor for building codes and inspections, says he expects the record pace to continue. And he predicts the city could issue another $200 million in permits next fiscal year. The permits include everything from demolition to homes to commercial buildings.

Rain and firefighters douse Pere Marquette State Park wildfire

The wildfire damaged nearly 1,500 acres in and near Pere Marquette State Park in southwestern Illinois. Officials still haven't pinpointed what sparked the fire that burned for nearly four days before being extinguished Sunday.

A fire official says it might have burned for days if it hadn't rained.

There are no reports of injuries or damage to structures. Some 100 firefighters from area departments battled the blaze, coming from Greene, Jersey, Macoupin, Madison and Pike counties. The state park has about 8,000 acres near Grafton, about 25 miles north of St. Louis.