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Metro East

The Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church in Brooklyn, Illinois, on Feb. 26, 2020. The church is one of two verified Underground Railroad locations in the Metro East. 02 26 2020
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

BROOKLYN — On the outskirts of this St. Clair County village, a small green sign reveals how many people live there — about 750. The small community is about five square blocks and sits a few thousand feet from the Mississippi River. 

Yet for a village with less than 1,000 residents, there are 12 churches. The oldest, the Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church, was established in 1825 as a Methodist church. It stands apart for its role in the Underground Railroad, helping slaves in Missouri escape to freedom.

MidAmerica St. Louis Airport Is Getting New Leadership

Feb 24, 2020
Bryan Johnson replaces Tim Cantwell as director of MidAmerica St. Louis Airport.
Provided

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

MASCOUTAH — A new director has been named to lead MidAmerica St. Louis Airport ahead of current director Tim Cantwell’s retirement.

Bryan Johnson’s starting date is April 3. His appointment was announced Monday by the St. Clair County Public Building Commission, which oversees MidAmerica’s operations. 

7 Questions About Cancer-Causing Chemicals From Scott AFB Answered

Feb 21, 2020
Airman First Class Anthony Uelk, on the ladder, along with fellow 932nd Airlift Wing flight line crew chiefs, refuel a C-40 in preparation for a launch at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
Christopher Parr | U.S. Air Force

This article was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Officials have just begun contacting people potentially affected by contamination from Scott Air Force Base after news broke last week that dangerous chemicals may have tainted drinking water.

Last week, the base joined a growing list of military installations where cancer-causing chemicals from firefighting materials have leaked into the ground and nearby water supplies. 

The census will only ask if respondents are 'male' or 'female.' That leaves out a growing number of people who identify outside of that gender binary.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — The success of the 2020 census will largely depend on people answering the survey themselves, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That way, the bureau can dedicate fewer resources to finding and counting people.

Bureau officials have identified a number of factors that result in low self-response rates. These include areas with more minority residents, low-income households, frequent movers, renters and many other factors.

Scott Air Force Base Is Testing Surrounding Water Sources For Chemical Contamination

Feb 18, 2020
Airman First Class Anthony Uelk, on the ladder, along with fellow 932nd Airlift Wing flight line crew chiefs, refuel a C-40 in preparation for a launch at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
Christopher Parr | U.S. Air Force

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Chemicals known to cause serious health problems, including cancer and birth defects, may be contaminating water sources near Scott Air Force Base.

Studies commissioned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers revealed that a toxic class of chemicals, known as PFAS, have saturated the ground at seven sites on base. Those chemicals may have leached into local water supplies, according to an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency report obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

The census will only ask if respondents are 'male' or 'female.' That leaves out a growing number of people who identify outside of that gender binary.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Communities across the Metro East are ramping up their efforts to get an accurate count when the U.S. Census Bureau begins collecting responses in less than two months. 

The once-a-decade headcount determines congressional representation and how billions of dollars in federal and state funding is distributed. Locally, critical revenue for cities and some communities' home rule status are at stake.

Illinois Supply and Provisions in Collinsville sold $5 million of recreational marijuana in January. The dispensary accounted for 13.6% of sales in Illinois.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 3:10 p.m., Feb. 12, with comments from Collinsville's mayor

COLLINSVILLE — Illinois Supply and Provisions recorded $5 million in sales of recreational marijuana in the first month of the year, city officials announced Tuesday. 

The preliminary figures come after a strong month of sales across the whole state. Illinois sold nearly $40 million of legal marijuana in January alone. 

Hundreds of people line up outside of Illinois Supply and Provisions in Collinsville on January 1, 2020 to legally buy recreational marijuana for the first time in Illinois.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

COLLINSVILLE — The first month of recreational marijuana sales at Illinois Supply and Provisions brought hordes of people and their vehicles to a store that didn’t have enough parking for them. 

The dispensary reserved its 45-space parking lot for medical patients and handicapped recreational customers. A maze of metal barriers occupied the spaces directly in front of the store to contain crowds of people wanting to buy recreational cannabis. 

Fairview Heights Mayor Mark Kupsky addresses 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 nine to one on Tuesday to approve regulations for recreational marijuana businesses that want to open in the community. 

The ordinance specifies which kind of businesses can open in Fairview Heights — whether that be a dispensary, cultivator, craft grower or other facility. 

Marijuana Shortages Aren’t A Coincidence: Why Illinois Kept The Market Small On Purpose

Feb 4, 2020
A Wellness Group Pharms employee prepares pre-rolls, cones filled with a premium ground flower. The cultivation center in the rural southern Illinois town of Anna, plans to expand its cultivation facility.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Long lines, closures and shortages of product have frustrated consumers of legal weed in Illinois since the first of the year.

But state officials said the slow start to the sale of recreational marijuana was intentional and one that cultivators also wanted. Both, however, say the eventual goal is a market where supply and demand are in balance.

A worker trims marijuana plants in Ascend Illinois' growing facility in Barry, IL.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Illinois’ recreational cannabis industry is off to a strong start. 

Sales of recreational marijuana totaled $39.2 million in January, the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced Monday. 

In the 31 days after recreational marijuana became legal in the state, consumers bought almost one million individual cannabis products. Illinois residents accounted for the majority of transactions, buying $30.6 million of legal marijuana. Out-of-state residents bought $8.6 million.

Metro East Residents In Alorton, Centreville Will Vote On Proposal To Merge

Jan 30, 2020
Residents in Centreville and Alorton will vote on March 17 whether to merge the two small Metro East municipalities.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Citzens of two shrinking Metro East municipalities will be asked on the March 17 primary ballot if they should be merged.

The boards of both the city of Centreville and village of Alorton each approved a referendum that, if approved, would join the municipalities in an aldermanic style of government. The city, according to the referendum, would be called Alcentra.

Not Just Granite City: There’s Statewide Scrutiny Of Crime-Free Housing Rules In Illinois

Jan 30, 2020
From 2014 to 2018, 46.8% of the tenants who were forced out of their homes under Granite City's crime-free housing rules weren't accused of wrongdoing.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Groups across Illinois, from nonprofits to real estate associations, have been calling for changes to cities’ policies for renters because they say the rules that are meant to prevent crime violate tenants’ and landlords’ rights.

Some civil rights advocates spoke out against crime-free housing ordinances years before Granite City’s was the subject of federal lawsuits.

Granite City Renters Face Eviction Over Drug Overdose 911 Calls During Opioid Epidemic

Jan 29, 2020
On State Street in Granite City, there have been 11 crime-free housing violations for different tenants at the apartment complex over five years, from 2014 to 2018, more repeats than any other rental property. Eight of the violations requiring an eviction
File photo | Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

GRANITE CITY — A 27-year-old man called 911 to send an ambulance to his home when his girlfriend passed out.

He didn’t know what was wrong but told the dispatcher it could be an overdose.

About a month later, he received a letter saying the city wanted his landlord to evict him.

In Granite City, renters can be kicked out after calling for help for someone overdosing on drugs because of the city’s crime-free housing ordinance. Even if no one is arrested or charged with a crime, the drug use breaks Granite City’s rules for renters.

5 Things To Know Before Work Closes Down Parts Of I-255

Jan 28, 2020
Officials lay out the plans for work on I-255 at a press conference in Madison County on Jan. 28, 2020.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Starting Saturday, a portion of Interstate 255 will be shut down in both directions for five months, kicking off a 10-month project to renovate what the state considers one of its worst roads.

The Illinois Department of Transportation’s first phase of repairs to a crumbling section of I-255, one of many projects under the Rebuild Illinois capital plan, begins by closing down all lanes of a roughly 4-mile stretch between I-55/70 at Exit 25 in Collinsville and Exit 20 at I-64 west of Fairview Heights.

From 2014 to 2018, 25.6 percent of the people who Granite City said violated its crime-free housing rules were accused of offenses that didn't happen at the home of the renters facing eviction for it.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

GRANITE CITY — An 83-year-old man was in the hospital with lung cancer when he learned he could be kicked out of his apartment.

It was early 2017, a few days after Laurence Madden’s 19-year-old grandson was arrested for disorderly conduct at Madden’s Granite City apartment. He received a letter from the police officer who enforces the crime-free housing policy, the city’s rules for renters.

The message said the apartment complex’s owner had to evict Madden over his grandson’s criminal charge or else the city could revoke the business license the owner needed to rent out apartments in the future.

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

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 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. 

Illinois Supply and Provisions in Collinsville sold $5 million of recreational marijuana in January. The dispensary accounted for 13.6% of sales in Illinois.
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.

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