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Metro East

Students walk through the campus of Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville in the Spring of 2017.

EDWARDSVILLE — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker released the first 10% of $105 million in funding for a new health sciences building on the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) campus Thursday.

The initial $10.5 million pays for the planning and design of the new building, which will house nursing, pharmacy, public health, social work and the many other health science programs at the university. 

The Illinois Housing Development Authority funded 172 supportive housing units for vulnerable populations. 22 of them are in Collinsville and will serve veterans in the area.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

COLLINSVILLE — The Illinois Housing Development Authority has dedicated nearly $43 million to create permanent supportive housing for vulnerable populations in the state. It’s the sixth time the state has funded such projects. 

The money will help create, rehab or restore 172 affordable housing units for low-income individuals or families and other groups, said Christine Moran, IDHA’s director of multifamily financing.

I-255 Closures Begin Next Week: IDOT Warns To Find Alternate Routes, Plan For Extra Time

Jan 21, 2020
Starting Feb. 1, Illinois' major, 10-month rehabilitation project to "one of Illinois' worst roads" begins with a five-month closure of a portion of Interstate 255.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Starting Feb. 1, Illinois’ major, 10-month rehabilitation project on “one of Illinois’ worst roads” begins with a five-month closure of a portion of Interstate 255.

The Illinois Department of Transportation announced the first phase of repairs to a crumbling section of I-255, one of many projects under the Rebuild Illinois capital plan, will begin by closing down all lanes between I-55/70 and I-64 for five months.

Steven King, owner of Metro Shooting Supplies, inspects one of the firearms in his store. Illinois State Police put new regulations for gun stores in effect this month.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — New rules from the Illinois State Police expand regulations on how firearms dealers must run their businesses. 

They directly impact how gun stores keep records, store weapons and ammunition and maintain surveillance and security systems.

Licensed dealers have to keep electronic records of their inventory and sales that can be easily searched by a firearm serial number, name of purchaser and other defining aspects of the gun or sale. 

The Green Solution in Sauget will now be able to sell marijuana to recreational users. The dispensary has not said when it will start recreational sales.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

SAUGET — There are now two places in the Metro East where people can legally purchase recreational marijuana.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation awarded the Green Solution in Sauget a “same-site” license Wednesday, which allows the dispensary to open its doors to recreational users in addition to the medical marijuana patients it already serves. The department also awarded a license for a recreational-only site in Quincy.  

Officials from the Green Solution did not respond to requests for comment before our deadline.

Siteman Cancer Center

Siteman Cancer Center’s newest location will bring access to new treatments and clinical trials to the Metro East.

The cancer center's Shiloh, Illinois, location began accepting patients this week. As a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, Siteman’s facility will go beyond traditional treatment and allow patients to receive experimental procedures such as immunotherapy and genomics, Siteman Cancer Center Director Tim Eberlein said.

Mondays Are For Medical: Collinsville Dispensary Cuts Back On Recreational Sales

Jan 15, 2020
A long line formed early New Year's Day at Illinois Supply & Provisions in Collinsville, the only legal place to purchase recreational marijuana in the St. Louis region. The company has announced that only medical marijuana will be sold on Mondays.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

The Metro East’s sole recreational cannabis dispensary has announced it will only sell products to medical marijuana customers on Mondays.

Starting Monday, Jan. 20, Illinois Supply & Provisions will only sell cannabis to medical marijuana customers on Mondays for the remainder of 2020 in an effort to better serve its medical customer base and help preserve its inventory.

Allegiant Air Adds $55 Flights To Hilton Head Out Of MidAmerica Airport In Metro East

Jan 14, 2020
Allegiant Airlines is the only passenger carrier at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport.
Belleville News-Democrat

MidAmerica Airport will offer an additional passenger route starting this June as part of an Allegiant Air expansion plan.

Allegiant announced Tuesday a new nonstop route to Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport will begin June 6. The service between MidAmerica and the airport in Savannah, Georgia, is part of an expansion the company is calling its largest yet, adding three cities and 44 new nonstop routes.

People line up at Illinois Supply and Provisions in Collinsville on Jan. 2, 2020 to purchase recreational cannabis products.
Lexi Cortes | Belleville News-Democrat

The biggest party in town on New Year’s Day may well have been outside Illinois Supply & Provisions. Metro area residents stood in line for hours outside the Collinsville shop with the goal of purchasing legal marijuana products. Illinois just became the 11th state to legalize cannabis for recreational use. 

St. Louis Public Radio reporter Eric Schmid was at the shop on New Year's Day, and on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, he joined host Sarah Fenske to discuss what people should know about buying and consuming Illinois’ recreational marijuana in 2020 and beyond.

Legal Marijuana Sales Start In Collinsville And Across Illinois

Jan 1, 2020
Long lines at the Collinsville dispensary greeted the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in Illinois.
Belleville News-Democrat

COLLINSVILLE — The first day of 2020 has been highly anticipated for many — from baby boomers who remember smoking pot before the government declared the drug wasn’t safe to Medicaid patients who have waited to use cannabis for pain management in place of pills.

It is the first time anyone 21 years old or older can legally buy marijuana in Illinois, the 11th state to legalize weed for people other than medical cannabis patients.

Cannabis flower grows at a recreational grow facility in Illinois. Sales of recreational marijuana started Illinois Jan 1.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

COLLINSVILLE — Legal recreational cannabis in Illinois goes on sale on Jan. 1, with at least one dispensary in the Metro East set to offer the product to both medical patients and recreational users.

Here are a few things you should know about buying and consuming Illinois’ recreational marijuana in 2020 and beyond.

East Main Street in Belleville. The city has created a committee to ensure a complete count of its residents in the 2020 census.
Paul Sableman | Flickr

BELLEVILLE — The city government has established a 22-person “Complete Count Committee” to increase the likelihood of an accurate headcount in the 2020 census.

The group isn’t formally affiliated with the official headcount, but it will work to engage and educate Belleville residents about the census and how to get counted, said Jennifer Ferguson, one of the 2020 census coordinators for the city.

Cannabis plants grow inside Ascend Illinois indoor facility in Barry, IL. Ascend owns two existing medical dispensaries and plans to open two additional recreational dispensaries early next year.
File Photo | Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Supplies of recreational marijuana in Illinois will likely be tight when the drug is fully legalized on Jan 1. A group of state lawmakers wrote a joint letter this month expressing their concerns.

“Each state that has implemented an adult-use cannabis program has had issues related to supply shortages,” wrote the group, including state Sens. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, and Laura Fine, D-Glenview, and state Reps. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago; Bob Morgan, D-Highwood; Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria; Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, and David Welter, R-Morris.

Lawyer Benjamin Wesselschmidt explains the new recreational cannabis law at the St. Clair County Country Club on Nov. 21. Many employers are re-thinking their drug testing policies since recreational marijuana will be legal on Jan. 1, 2020.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Ahead of the new year, local businesses and employers across Illinois are trying to determine how legal recreational marijuana will impact them. 

The law change, which came only six months ago, is forcing many employers to rethink how their workplaces handle drug policy and testing.

Fairview Heights Mayor Mark Kupsky adresses the council on Dec. 17, before they vote to allow cannabis sales in the community. The council voted 7-3 to allow cannabis related businesses to open in the community.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS — The city council voted 7-3 Tuesday night to allow cannabis-related businesses to come to the city. Aldermen made the decision quickly with almost no debate on the issue.

Fairview Heights joins five other Metro East communities that will allow cannabis sales next year when recreational marijuana use for adults is legal.

Hofbräuhaus Owes Bank $21.7 Million, And Its Fall Closure Was Due To Unpaid Sales Tax

Dec 17, 2019
Royal Banks of Missouri is seeking a $21.7 million judgment against the developers of the Hofbräuhaus German restaurant and brewery in Belleville.
Belleville News-Democrat

BELLEVILLE — On the same September day the Hofbräuhaus in Belleville said on Facebook that it was closing temporarily because it was under new management, the Illinois Department of Revenue posted a warning sign on its door saying that the business’ certificate of registration was revoked for non-compliance with tax laws.

A Department of Revenue spokesman said the bright-green sign posted on Sept. 27 means a business can’t be in operation. Due to taxpayer confidentiality laws, state officials could not disclose details of why the Hofbräuhaus’ certificate of registration was revoked. The restaurant reopened less than a week later.

Cannabis plants grow inside Ascend Illinois indoor facility in Barry, IL. Ascend owns two existing medical dispensaries and plans to open two additional recreational dispensaries early next year.
File Photo | Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

Updated at 8:15 p.m., Dec. 17:

By a vote of 7-3, the Fairview Heights City Council voted to allow and tax recreational cannabis sales in the city.

Original story from 8:30 a.m., Dec. 17:

FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS — The city council will decide if it wants to allow and tax recreational cannabis sales in the community at its meeting on Tuesday night. 

Fairview Heights finds itself facing a decision similar to the one other Metro East communities did after Illinois state legislators voted to allow recreational marijuana use for people 21 and older starting Jan. 1.

The House Of Miles East St. Louis is the focal point of a new tour of some of the city's cultural landmarks. It's listed as an Airbnb "Experience." Organizers hope the tour brings in outside money to the city.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

EAST ST. LOUIS — A new weekly tour in the city aims to bring its cultural and historical ties to the fine arts to life. 

Starting Friday, up to 10 participants move through three well-known establishments in East St. Louis, with Miles Davis’ childhood home as the focal point. The Historic Jazz and Poetry Excursion starts at the Culture Cafe restaurant, then heads to House of Miles East St. Louis and finishes at the Local Legends Listening Lounge.  

According to Washington University's Center for Social Development's latest study, predominantly black residents and low-income communities in the region face barriers in casting their ballots.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — People who want to run as a Democrat or Republican in the November 2020 elections had until the end of the day Monday to file their paperwork with the Illinois State Board of Elections. 

The filing deadline is for seats in the Illinois General Assembly and Congress and only applies to people who want to represent one of the two leading parties. Independent and third-party candidates have until June 22, 2020, to file their paperwork.  

Households put up signs to encourage Census participation in 2010. The 2020 census will differ from ones in the past because it will be conducted almost entirely online.
U.S. Census Bureau

BELLEVILLE — The outcome of the 2020 census will have lasting implications for people and communities in Illinois and across the U.S. 

Mainly, the once-a-decade headcount provides a framework for how more than $1.5 trillion in federal money is distributed to states every year. The census begins on April 1.

CDC To Investigate Whether Sauget Incinerator Is Poisoning Air With Heavy Metal Emissions

Nov 20, 2019
The Center for Disease Control will conduct an investigation into pollution from the Veolia North American-Trade Waste Incineration facility in Sauget.
Joseph Bustos | Belleville News-Democrat

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will investigate whether a waste incinerator is poisoning people in Sauget.

A federal agency within the CDC is expected to announce Wednesday it will conduct a preliminary investigation into “potential health hazards” from pollution near the Veolia North America-Trade Waste Incineration facility.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry plans to determine if the Sauget incinerator is causing heavy metal poisoning.

The Green Solution in Sauget will now be able to sell marijuana to recreational users. The dispensary has not said when it will start recreational sales.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

EDWARDSVILLE — Metro East cities that want to allow cannabis-related businesses are starting to decide where these establishments can set up shop in their communities.

The Edwardsville City Council made its decision Tuesday night when it voted 7-0 to establish new zoning rules and other restrictions for cannabis businesses that may come to the city. 

A portion of the Goshen Trail expansion during construction in May 2019. The new trail opens Nov 15.
MCT Trails via Facebook

O’FALLON, Ill. — Madison County Transit will unveil the newest addition to its vast 130-mile trail network on Saturday. 

The expansion takes the existing Goshen Trail and extends it seven miles, from Troy to O’Fallon. It’s the first time the Madison County Transit, or MCT, trail system extends into St. Clair County.

The intersection of Collinsville and St. Louis Avenues in East St. Louis is where a mob of white rioters first gathered before they rampaged through the city, seeking out and killing black residents.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — The 2020 census headcount will have wide-ranging implications for the state of Illinois and communities in the Metro East. The state could lose congressional seats and federal money, and some downstate cities could lose their home-rule status after the decennial headcount, which begins in April.

These high stakes spurred Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritkzer and the state Legislature to dedicate $29 million to counting hard-to-reach communities; $20 million is for grants that go to 30 local community organizations across the state tasked with ensuring accurate counts. 

An airforce member recieves instructions on a drug test. After January 1st, Illinois employers cannot simply rely on a drug test to ensure drug free work environments.
Ashley Gardner | Shaw Air Force Base

BELLEVILLE — Recreational cannabis will be legal in Illinois in less than two months, and some employers are scrambling to understand what legalization will mean for their drug-free policies. 

Specifically, the new law pits an employee’s right to use marijuana recreationally on their own time against an employer’s ability to enforce drug-free policies under Illinois’ Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act

Paula and Tom Haniszewski's house on South Charles Street in Belleville on Oct 30. Their home was built in 1880.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Emily Smith is fascinated by older homes. It’s an interest she’s had since she was a child. As an 8-year-old, she carried around a disposable camera in her backpack just to snap pictures of buildings she liked.

“I’ve always had a fascination with old homes and their character, and the craftsmanship and how it’s like basically living in a piece of art,” she said. 

Henry Ballerd, 70, tries on a jacket at a veterans stand down in East St. Louis on Oct. 29. The East St. Louisan served in Vietnam in the Navy.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

EAST ST. LOUIS — The Clyde C. Jordan Senior Center buzzed with activity as nearly 100 veterans bounced between tables offering free goods and services such as clothes, legal and medical advice and even haircuts.

The event is called a stand down — wartime terminology for when troops on the front line are moved back to rest and recharge, said event organizer Moses Holman. 

A pile of toxic materials from a previous EPA collection event. Illinois EPA will collect these kinds of items from Metro East residents in Edwardsville on Oct. 26.
Environmental Protection Agency

EDWARDSVILLE — The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency will collect toxic and hazardous waste from Metro East residents this weekend. The agency, along with Madison County Planning and Development, will host a cleanup event at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on Saturday. 

Residents can dispose of any toxic chemicals they may have in a safe and environmentally friendly way, said David Saladino, Illinois EPA environmental protection specialist.

How Planned Parenthood Kept Its New Fairview Heights Clinic A Secret For So Long

Oct 24, 2019
Pro-abortion activists gather in front of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Fairview Heights on Oct. 21. The clinic opened its doors to the region on Oct 23.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS — If the city of Fairview Heights wanted to send the owners of property at 317 Salem Place a copy of the building permit while work was going on the past year, the Land Use and Development Department would have had to send it to a mailbox inside a UPS Store in Dallas.

The permit for the work at what would become a state-of-the-art Planned Parenthood Health Center in Fairview Heights would have gone to Raider Ventures LLC, the company name Planned Parenthood used to keep its identity secret.

Flanked by Illinois Department of Transportation officials and state lawmakers, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces details of statewide road and bridge construction at IDOT Headquarters in Springfield on Monday. 10/21/19
Sam Dunklau | NPR Illinois

The Illinois Department of Transportation on Monday released details for how it plans to spend billions of dollars on road construction in the coming years.

State lawmakers have given the department $23.5 billion dollars to fix up and add to Illinois’ network of highways and bridges, many of which are in bad shape. A majority of that money is coming directly from the state — from things like the gas tax, which doubled earlier this year — and will help pay off loans to finance many of the major projects.