Morning headlines: Thursday, July 19, 2012 | St. Louis Public Radio

Morning headlines: Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jul 19, 2012

Building in Midtown fire up to code, fire chief says

City fire officials say a Tuesday night blaze that left an apartment building near Saint Louis University completely uninhabitable does not appear to be suspicious.

St. Louis fire chief Dennis Jenkerson says there was some concern early on that required draft stops were missing from the attic at 3949 Lindell Boulevard. But he says a review of the plans and an inspection by firefighters proved the building was up to code.

"The sprinkler systems that are within each apartment, they all functioned as designed, as did the alarm system. It's just - all this fire was up in the attic above the apartments, which wasn't sprinklered, but it didn't have to be by code,” Jenkerson said.

The Memphis-based owner of the company says as of now, all current and future leases have been canceled, but no decision has been made about the fate of the structure.

No one was injured in the fire, though two firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion.

In addition to the apartments, the building housed a Marine recruiting office, and two restaurants.

Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn demands action on underfunded state pensions

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn says solving Illinois' pension problem is imperative, since state –employee pensions are underfunded by $85 billion. Yesterday, he once again insisted something must be done this summer.

"At the end of this month I think the time for study is complete, and now it'll be time for action. So I don't think any legislators should plan to not be around in the month of August,” Quinn said.

Although the amount continues to grow, attempts to fix the system have been unsuccessful. 

Legislative leaders met last month to find a compromise on who should pay retirement costs for downstate and suburban schools. But talks waded into school funding equality and leaders asked for more time.

Republicans say making school districts pay retirement costs is a separate issue. They'd rather first pass a plan to reduce pension benefits that appears to have wide support. 

But Quinn and House Speaker Michael Madigan want a comprehensive deal that includes schools.

Private donor in Ill. provides grant for drug prevention

Amanda Vinicky contributed reporting from Springfield.

Five years ago, Illinois was spending about $7.5 million to keep young people from trying drugs. This year, the state's spending $1 million, after Governor Pat Quinn attempted to cut all of the funding.

Larry Goodman, of Highland Park, says the cut is unconscionable when teens across Illinois are increasingly using heroin.

He's stepping in to make up much of the difference.

Goodman, who owns a commercial real estate firm, is giving more than $1 million over three years to fund the Teen Institute, a Springfield-based drug prevention program that does outreach statewide.

Goodman says he was compelled to do something in honor of his granddaughter, Cebrin, who grew up in Chicago.

He says Cebrin started taking drugs when she was 14, or 15. She eventually turned to heroin, and overdosed.

Cebrin died about a decade ago, at the age of 22.  The Teen Institute will now be named after her.

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