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Metro East

More Than 3 Years Later, Fairview Heights Still Hasn’t Filled Its City Administrator Job

Feb 11, 2019
Fairview Heights Mayor Mark T. Kupsky
Belleville News-Democrat file photo

In October 2015, about six months after Mark Kupsky was elected Fairview Heights mayor, the city agreed to part ways with its then-city administrator, Jim Snider.

At the time, Kupsky said he looked to possibly restructure the position and search for a replacement within the next three to four weeks for a home-rule community.

However, more than three years later, there is no formal replacement for Snider, even though the city’s online city ordinances say the mayor “shall” appoint a city administrator with the consent of the council.

A levee near Wood River in November 2015.
Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

State and federal officials in Illinois will use a $95.2 million grant to stabilize levees that protect Metro East communities.

The St. Louis Army Corps of Engineers and local levee districts have been trying over the last decade to prevent water from seeping under and behind the five levees that protect Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties in Illinois. Scientists expect flood risks along the Mississippi River to rise due to climate change and hard structures, such as levees, that push water to surrounding communities.

The Corps of Engineers and local levee district officials recently restored the levees’ ability to protect against 100-year floods, which have a 1 percent chance of happening in any given year. The latest federal investment through the Water Resources Development Act will strengthen the levee system to the 500-year level, which protects against floods that have a 0.2 percent chance of happening in any given year.

Illinois 12th District Green Party candidate Randy Auxier Oct. 4, 2018
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Randy Auxier, the Green Party nominee in Illinois’ 12th Congressional District, is the latest guest on the Politically Speaking podcast.

Auxier is running against incumbent Republican Congressman Mike Bost and Democratic nominee Brendan Kelly. Both Kelly and Bost recorded episodes of Politically Speaking previously.

An illustration of pollution, 2017
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Environmental and faith groups are calling for the Environmental Protection Agency to increase air monitoring around a hazardous waste incinerator in East St. Louis.

John Hope Bryant 072618 Operation Hope Finacial literacy offices in Regions Bank
Melody Walker|St. Louis Public Radio

Regions Bank and Operation HOPE on Thursday opened a HOPE Inside financial empowerment office in Belleville.

The office staffed by an Operation Hope financial counselor is located inside the Regions Bank branch at 4800 W. Main St.

A map that indicates the location of the Old American Zinc Plant Superfund site in Fairmont City, Ill.
Mapbox, OpenStreetMap

The Environmental Protection Agency plans this month to start removing toxic waste from 50 residential yards near a Metro East Superfund site.

The Old American Zinc Plant, which discontinued operations in 1967, contaminated hundreds of properties with high levels of lead, arsenic, zinc and other heavy metals that are known to cause cancer and a variety of diseases. The site is located in Fairmont City, next to Cahokia Mounds.

Belleville West High School is about 10 miles west of East St. Louis Senior High.
File | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Belleville police arrested a male student Wednesday morning they considered a threat to other Belleville East High School students.

Belleville Township High School Superintendent Jeff Dosier canceled what was supposed to be the last day of school at both East and West campuses around 6:30 a.m. Police notified the district of the threat, which Dosier said police considered to be “credible.”

Sterling Moody re-arranges shelves at Neighbors' Market, his new East St. Louis grocery store. April 6, 2018.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Neighbors’ Market, which promises to focus on healthy food options, is expected to open its doors in East St. Louis this month.

The market will be a full-service grocery store with a dairy and frozen food section, a robust produce aisle, and a butcher’s area for cutting fresh meats daily. The store has already employed its own chef, who will prepare soups, salads and sandwiches. 

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner met with business owners in Edwardsville, Illinois on January 16.
Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio / St. Louis Public Radio

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner pledged Tuesday to help small business owners by addressing “punishing” high property taxes and “too many” regulations.

Calling taxes and regulations burdens that drive small businesses to the neighboring states of Missouri and Indiana, Rauner said he wants to curtail them to bring businesses back.

“Every challenge we face in Illinois could be overcome if we have faster economic growth,” Rauner said after speaking to business owners in Edwardsville.

Granite City resident Jennifer Kostoff and her daughter. Kostoff was addicted to heroin when she was pregnant and was able to give birth to a healthy baby with help from the SSM Wish Center.
Chestnut Health Systems

Several St. Louis health centers will begin working next month to provide long-term residential treatment for expectant mothers in the Metro East who are addicted to opioids.

Many pregnant women who need treatment for substance abuse rely on Medicaid, a federal- and state-funded health insurance program for people who are low-income, disabled or elderly. But women in the Metro East aren't eligible to be treated at facilities in St. Louis that only accept Missouri Medicaid.

School Illustration
File | Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Third-grader students who live in low-income homes  underperformed their more well-off classmates by 50 percentage points in seven Illinois school districts in 2016, according to the advocacy organization Voices for Illinois Children. 

In its annual Kids Count report released last week, the group also noted that only 22 percent of Metro East third-grade students met expectations on the most recent state English test.

Sparta Public Schools Superintendent Gabe Schwemmer said her district doesn't have bonding authority, so it's borrowing from banks in order to open this year. Aug. 11, 2017
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Dozens of Metro East school superintendents made one thing clear Friday: They need state money, and they need it now.

Illinois’ new school funding formula is tied up in another political battle, one that could end next week when lawmakers have a chance to override Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s partial veto.

An illustration of pollution, 2017
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

For years, Granite City had some of the worst air quality in Illinois. But a new effort to track greenhouse gases could help reduce the city’s air pollution and improve public health.

For 18 months, Washington University researchers tracked levels of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide from Granite City municipal operations. The area has historically dealt with high levels of particulate matter pollution, largely from the local U.S. Steel plant. The plant idled temporarily at the end of 2015 but began operating again this year.

Collinsville pitcher Ryan Siverly tries to apply a tag on O'Fallon's Jacob Dryer in a high school baseball game Tuesday, April 25, 2017 in Collinsville, Illinois. Players at both schools have to pay a fee to play sports.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Several Metro East school superintendents are among the 413 public school leaders who are calling on Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrat-majority legislature to pass a budget after nearly two years of disagreements, and fully fund public education.

Moyan Brenn | Flickr

The concept of a library is over 5,000 years old, but that doesn’t mean these community institutions are stuck in the Stone Age. On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, we heard from librarians from two different communities in the region, in Ferguson, Mo., and Fairmont City, Ill., and how they are innovating exactly what the concept of a library is.

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth I St. Louis Public Radio
Illustration by Rici Hoffarth I St. Louis Public Radio

In a region as fragmented as St. Louis, there’s one commonality uniting scores of towns and cities: high sales taxes.

Metro East schools sue Illinois over inadequate funding

Apr 5, 2017
Flickr | alkruse24

Hours after measures to increase the sales tax for schools failed in both Madison and St. Clair counties, two school districts from each county sued the state.

Bethalto, Cahokia, Grant and Wood River-Hartford schools joined more than a dozen other southern Illinois districts in the suit. They want the state to provide enough funding so districts can meet the state's new learning standards.

Lebanese photographer Fadi BouKaram is traveling across the U.S. visiting every town that shares the name of homeland. Here he is pictured in front of his 21-foot RV.
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

Fadi BouKaram, a photographer from the Middle Eastern country of Lebanon, is on a mission in the United States. He’s attempting to visit all of the 40-plus communities in the U.S. that share the name of his homeland.

He acquired an RV and began the five-month trip on Oct. 15, 2016. The first Lebanon he visited in the United States was in Oregon.

The industrial park in Illinois covers 2,300 acres. Developers say it is within 1,500 miles of 90 percent of the people in North America.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Leaders in a Metro East County are taking a proactive approach to anticipated changes by the new administration in Washington, D.C. Massive infrastructure investments and re-working international trade deals are key parts of President Donald Trump’s blueprint and Madison County officials are trying position the area for growth under the potential new economic realities.

The Milburn campus of O'Fallon Township High School, where the district's ninth-graders attend class.
O'Fallon Township High School via Facebook

Updated March 3, 2017 with results of an emergency meeting — A Metro East high school has reversed the severity of its planned teacher cuts for next school year.

At an emergency meeting Thursday, the O’Fallon Township High School board of education unanimously approved a new budget deficit reduction plan. The new plan eliminates four classroom teaching positions instead of six full-time and one part-time teacher.  Guidance counseling and library services are no longer impacted by the cuts.

Much of Monroe County bordering the Mississippi River is in a flood plain. This view of the plain is from the bluffs near Valmeyer in 2013.
File Photo | Mary Leonard | St. Louis Beacon

Only 14 counties nationwide have a lower poverty rate than Monroe County, Illinois, located directly south of St. Louis, according to a new census report.

The mostly agricultural area located across the Mississippi River from Jefferson County had a median household income of just under $80,000 in 2015, and about 5 percent of the population was considered low-income.

Hannah Westerman | St. Louis Public Radio

Nine people were arrested Monday in the Metro East as part of a state and federal public corruption task force operation.

Known as Operation Watchtower, the joint task force began this spring.

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly announced the arrests at a press conference at the Illinois State Police Headquarters in Collinsville.

Kelly says his office has prosecuted a large number of public integrity cases but they still present a unique challenge.

Cahokia Power Plant from The American Bottom
Provided by Jennifer Colton

Driving down Interstate 70, headed west toward St. Louis, Jesse Vogler looked out the window and was shocked to see a giant mound rising from the earth. Excited, he mistook a large landfill for The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, which preserves the remains of a prehistoric civilization.

A jockey rides a horse back past the finish line after a race on opening day at Fairmount Park.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

There were 30 minutes until the first race of the day and the locker room at Fairmount Park Racetrack buzzed with activity. Jockeys flipped through race programs and flicked their whips through the air. Television sets perched on cluttered shelves flashed scenes of the track outside, where fans filled the stands for opening day of the Collinsville racetrack's 91st season.

As announcers counted down in anticipation, the jockeys helped each other tape up aching joints and teased each other playfully. Some said a quick prayer.

A view of the outside of the United Steelworkers office in Granite City.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 12:30 p.m., April 27,  with CEO comments — There is still no firm timeline for production to resume at the U.S. Steel plant in Granite City.  The company continues to describe the shutdown as temporary and operations will not start again until demand picks up. 

U.S. Steel continues to ramp up production at Granite City Works following an idling that lasted for a couple of years.
File photo | Davd Schaper|NPR

Stakeholders on both sides of the Mississippi River are ramping up recruitment efforts due to a shortage of workers pursuing careers in construction. In the Metro East, those recruitment efforts also include manufacturing.

Flickr | Taber Andrew Bain

July 1 marked the official start of a new fiscal year, and the state of Illinois is without a working budget for most state services.

For now things seem to be in a holding pattern in the Metro East. Illinois State Troopers based in Collinsville are reporting to work and expect to get paid as normal. Cahokia Mounds remains open on its reduced Wednesday through Sunday schedule.

But many area service providers are on pins and needles as they wait to see if and when they’ll get reimbursed.

Worker at one of Community Link's workshops for adults with developmental disabilities.
courtesy Community Link

Social service agencies that provide support to thousands of people in the Metro East will be operating without state funding starting Wednesday if Illinois lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner can’t reach a budget compromise before the start of the new fiscal year.

Funding for most state programs, including child care subsidies and early intervention for children with developmental disabilities, have yet to be approved.

(Courtesy of the City of Belleville)

The board of Belleville Township could soon be voting to dissolve itself.

Currently an Illinois township can only be dissolved by a referendum of the people and approval from surrounding townships, but a bill awaiting consideration by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner would allow the Metro East township’s elected officials to vote for dissolution instead.

Alex Heuer

Representative John Shimkus, a Republican who represents Illinois' 15th Congressional District, joined “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh to discuss some of the issues he’s dealing with as a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and other matters in Washington. Shimkus represents a large portion of the Metro East as well as parts of eastern and southeastern Illinois.

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