Metro East Coverage | St. Louis Public Radio

Metro East Coverage

Spoiled Food And Drug Deals Gone Wrong: SNAP Recipients Want Change At Corner Stores

Nov 16, 2019
Charlie's Convenient Market in Washington Park is known as the "Orange Store" among neighbors. The corner store just outside St. Louis is an authorized SNAP retailer. 11/15/19
Michael B. Thomas | Special to Kaiser Health News

EAST ST. LOUIS — The parking lot was dark when Marie Franklin and her husband, Sam, last stopped at a corner store near their home. The couple didn't want much from the market that night. But they still strategized before Sam, 49, went inside.

"My husband wouldn't let me go in," Marie Franklin, 57, recalled. "About four or five guys were hanging around the door."

For her, the scene felt all too familiar in a city where it's getting harder to find a safe place to buy milk.

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.
File Photo | 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.

Reginald Petty poses for a portrait at his home in East St. Louis on Oct. 14, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

EAST ST. LOUIS — Reginald Petty knows the stereotypes of East St. Louis well. A native of the city, he has heard the way many people talk about it.

“'Oh, it’s a high crime rate,'” he said. “'Don’t go to East St. Louis. Be careful.'”

He admits the city has its issues but said crime rates don’t define the city. Petty prefers to focus on East St. Louis’ positive narratives as a city rich with black cultural heritage. After all, he says, the “City of Champions” produced famous athletes, musicians and other celebrities

The Missouri Department of Transportation says commuters should expect delays along interstates 44, 70 and 270.
FLICKR | ALEXANDER SVENSSON

BELLEVILLE — The Illinois Department of Transportation will completely close a seven-mile stretch of Interstate 255 early next year. 

The major rehabilitation project spans Illinois Route 15 to Collinsville Road and includes resurfacing, significant bridge repairs and other safety improvements.

Edwardsville Approves Shopping Bag Fee. Will Other Metro East Cities Follow Its Lead?

Oct 17, 2019
Mike and Vicki Blunt, of New Douglas, load their vehicle with groceries in single-use plastic bags at Schnucks in Edwardsville in March. The couple usually bring their own reusable bags, but on this day, they bought too many groceries and needed more.
Teri Maddow | Belleville News-Democrat

Edwardsville will become the first city in downstate Illinois to require retailers to charge for single-use plastic and paper shopping bags to help protect the environment.

Edwardsville City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved an ordinance that was first proposed by a grassroots organization called Bring Your Own Bag Glen-Ed. Members argued that single-use bags pollute land and water, harm wildlife and human health and waste resources.

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.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Illinois’ slow but steady population decline could jeopardize the home rule status some Metro East cities enjoy.

Home rule grants cities broad taxing and regulatory powers, making it easier to quickly tackle local issues and fund projects and services. Status is automatically granted to any Illinois city with more than 25,000 residents. Towns can also achieve home rule through a referendum, as Fairview Heights did. 

MidAmerica Airport Director’s Future Unclear As County Posts Job Listing For Position

Oct 15, 2019
Allegiant Airlines is the only passenger carrier at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport.
Belleville News-Democrat

St. Clair County officials are being tight-lipped about a newly posted job listing airport director at the county-owned MidAmerica St. Louis Airport.

MidAmerica’s website reveals a large, front-page call for applications for its director position, but does not give a clue about the future of the current director, Tim Cantwell.

Cantwell, who has served as the airport’s director for 17 years, declined to comment on the job listing Tuesday, forwarding all questions to St. Clair County Board Chairmen Mark Kern.

The Ebbets Field neighborhood in Edwardsville is named after the original home of Major League Baseball's Dodgers.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Imagine living in the heart of Cardinals country and not only being a fan of another legendary Major League Baseball team, but also an owner.

Meet Robert L. Plummer. 

Abortion Opponents Want Fairview Heights To Stop Planned Parenthood From Opening Clinic

Oct 9, 2019
Anti-abortion groups rallied Wednesday outside of the new Planned Parenthood clinic in Fairview Heights. The clinic will offer medicinal and surgical abortions when it opens. This comes as St. Louis' clinic may lose its license. 10/9/19
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Between an iron fence and temporary barricades while holding signs that said “Planned Parenthood hurts women,” “Stop Abortion Now” and “Shut them down,” demonstrators called on Fairview Heights to keep the future Planned Parenthood clinic from opening.

The narrow stretch of public right of away next to a drainage ditch did not deter the crowd of hundreds of people who rallied Wednesday outside the new Planned Parenthood clinic in Fairview Heights that will open later this month.

Workers for the Environmental Protection Agency collect a water sample. SIUE will investigate contaminants in regional water with a grant from the agency.
Environmental Protection Agency

BELLEVILLE — Southern Illinois University Edwardsville will research water quality in the region with a $100,000 educational grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The grant provides funds to train undergraduate students in environmental sampling and analysis over the next two years. The funds will also support teaching the students to communicate the results of their work to the public. Students will be guided by faculty, but they’ll be conducting the day-to-day work, said Kevin Tucker, an assistant professor of chemistry.

Jessica Kopecky primes one portion of a wall before adding color to it on Sept. 28, 2019. This is the fourth outdoor mural the Wisconsin native will complete.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Paint-splashed walls of four downtown buildings are bringing the first elements of a mural project in the city closer to fruition.

Over the next few weeks, artists from around the country will arrive in Belleville and complete large and colorful paintings around the community.

“It’s taking Belleville from a bedroom community, sleepy suburb and making it its own destination,” said Emily Smith, a Belleville Mural Project committee member. 

Members of the Scott Air Force Base Key Spouse Group at a luncheon on the military base on June 10, 2019. A new law in Illinois will make transfering professional licenses to Illinois easier for military spouses.
Solomon Cook | Scott Air Force Base

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE — A new law in Illinois aims to help members of the military and their spouses find solid employment faster.

The bill, signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in early August, offers service members and their partners reciprocity for professional licenses obtained in other states or jurisdictions, essentially letting them transfer an existing license to the state.

Fairmount Park Will Have More Racing Days In 2020, But Has Not Yet Hit Its Minimum

Sep 27, 2019
In March 2019, a trainer works out a horse at Fairmount Park racetrack in Collinsville. The Illinois Racing Board recently approved the track's plan for 60 live racing days in 2020.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Fairmount Park in Collinsville has scheduled 60 racing days in 2020 — up from 40 this year.

But that schedule will require Fairmount to spend more money upfront to help pay race purses for the extra days. To do that, the track will allow its purse account to run a deficit next year, said Brian Zander, president of Fairmount Park.

“We’re going to pay it forward,” Zander said. “The purse is going to go into a deficit situation. On the basis, the management knows at some point that money will be coming in. There will be at some point, we don’t know when, there will be some casino and sports betting revenue coming into the track.”

East St. Louis Asked For $2.5 Million To Fix Flood Damages. It May Get Far Less.

Sep 27, 2019
The Illinois River as it crested in the flooded town of Grafton, just north of the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers in June 2019..
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

East St. Louis has asked the federal government for $2.5 million to repair damage from this spring’s floods, but could wind up getting only a fraction of what it wants.

The city is among two dozen local governments that have applied for $33 million in assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Five months after this spring’s historic flooding, they’re beginning to get an idea of how much they will receive as FEMA teams investigate their requests.

Land of Lincoln Legal Aid Staff Attorney Nicole Massey (right) assists a volunteer at an Expungement Day event in Champaign County in 2018. Land of Lincoln will run a similar even in Woodriver on Sept. 27.
Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation

WOOD RIVER — More than 7 million people in Illinois have a criminal record, according to the 2016 Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems. And 100 of them in Madison County will take the first step to sealing or expunging their criminal histories on Friday. 

It’s part of the Ready to Work: Madison County Expungement Day event hosted by Land of Lincoln Legal Aid Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation that provides free civil legal services to seniors and low-income residents in central and southern Illinois.

Owners Of Revoked Illinois FOID Cards Must Give Up Their Guns. Fewer Than Half Do.

Sep 21, 2019
When a prospective gun buyer comes to Ron and Jo's Firearms and Sporting Supplies in O'Fallon, he or she has to show a FOID card to handle the weapon.
Joseph Bustos | Belleville News-Democrat

BELLEVILLE — In Illinois, when people have their firearms owners identification (FOID) cards revoked, they’re supposed to turn them in to law enforcement and surrender their guns. But that only happened less than half of the time in the Metro East and statewide during the last four years.

In St. Clair County, FOID cards were returned just under 36% of the time after they were revoked from 2015-18, according to Illinois State Police data obtained by the Belleville News-Democrat.

Illinois REAL IDs have a gold star in the top right corner.
Illinois Secretary of State Office

Like the rest of the country, Illinois residents will need to get Real IDs if they want to continue to use their licenses or other state identification cards to board domestic flights and enter federal buildings starting late next year.

In March, the state started issuing Real IDs in compliance with the security standards set by the 2005 Real ID act. Compliant licenses are marked by a gold star in the top right corner of the card. 

Edwardsville High School students observe labor apprentices pour concrete on Sept. 10. The high schoolers are part of a two year program where they learn aspects of the construction trade.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

EDWARDSVILLE — A new program that gives high school students hands-on experience with the construction trades kicked off this year. 

Over two years, juniors and seniors from local high schools will learn to pour concrete, install pipes, construct scaffolding and other aspects of the trades from certified labor instructors through the Illinois Laborers' and Contractors Joint Apprenticeship and Training Program.

Tanker In Dupo Train Derailment Fire Apparently Was Carrying A Solvent, Railroad Says

Sep 10, 2019
Onlookers stop in a parking lot across the from the fire in the Dupo train yard. Sept. 10, 2019
Derik Holtzmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Fire erupted in a train derailment Tuesday afternoon in Dupo, where schools and some residents were evacuated but no injuries were reported.

Initial information indicates that a tank car containing a flammable liquid called “methyl isobutyl ketone” was involved in the fire, according to Union Pacific spokeswoman Kristen South.

“It is typically used as a solvent,” South said in an email.

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