Metro East Coverage | St. Louis Public Radio

Metro East Coverage

Eastbound Poplar Street Bridge Lane To Be Closed Later This Month For Roadwork

Jul 8, 2019
Work on the eastbound lanes of the Poplar Street Bridge between July 15-29 will cause traffic backups. July 8, 2019
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Drivers who use the Poplar Street Bridge to go from St. Louis to East St. Louis may want to find another way beginning next week as two eastbound lanes will be closed for two weeks in July for roadwork.

The Illinois Department of Transportation announced Monday that the eastbound exit ramp from Interstate 55/64 to southbound Illinois 3 will be closed as workers repair the surface of the ramp. The work begins early morning on July 15 and will last until July 29. A marked detour utilizing Barack Obama Avenue will be in place during the closure period.

Road crews work to clear the remaining sediment and rocks deposited from flood waters on July 2, 2019. Businesses in the area have reopened since the water receded.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

The Fourth of July will be even more of a celebration in Alton and Grafton this year, as the riverfront communities mark the reopening of businesses following major flooding last month.

Eric Schmid is St. Louis Public Radio's Metro East reporter.
St. Louis Public Radio

Eric Schmid joined St. Louis Public Radio’s newsroom a few weeks ago as its Metro East reporter – a new role made possible through the Report for America initiative, which aims to fill important gaps in local journalism.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, Schmid discussed what this means for the station’s news coverage and how he hopes to help boost people’s understanding and knowledge of communities just across the river from St. Louis.

He talked with STLPR editor Maria Altman, who was guest hosting. St. Louis Public Radio executive editor Shula Neuman also joined the conversation.

Andrew Mueth tends to a head of lettuce in VAST Produce's greenhouse in Waterloo on June 26. VAST won the 2018 Metro East Start-Up Challenge.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville's Small Business Development Center wants to grow Metro East startups focused on information technology, health care, manufacturing or sustainable food. Part of their plan includes the Metro East Start-Up Challenge, which is entering its sixth year and now accepting applications.

The major flooding from spring may leave behind pools of water with ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes.
Flickr | wild_turkey5300

The major flooding this spring may bring more mosquitoes in the summer months.

Swollen rivers will leave behind small ponds or pools as they recede back to normal levels. Those bodies of standing water offer ideal breeding grounds for Culex mosquitoes, the ones that predominantly carry the West Nile virus.

The Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City is 10 minutes from downtown St. Louis and is one of the abortion clinics in Illinois that could see more patients if Missouri's last abortion clinic closes. June 3, 2019
Beth Hundsdorfer | St. Louis Public Radio

On the same day last week a Missouri judge issued an order keeping open the state’s only abortion clinic, the Illinois Senate passed the Reproductive Health Act, guaranteeing women have the right to reproductive health, including abortion.

Tuesday, a St. Louis Circuit Court judge will hear arguments about whether the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services may continue to deny a renewed license to Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.

Sister Julia Huiskamp started an afterschool program called the Griffin Center said the availability of guns is a failing of the government.
Derik Holtmann | BND

Editor’s note: There were 341 unsolved murders in East St. Louis between 2000 and 2018. In many of these cases, police had evidence and suspects, but no charges were filed. Here is one of those cases. This article originally appeared in the Belleville News-Democrat.

The darkened streets near St. Clair Avenue in East St. Louis were good places to hunt for women.

Alexis Winston was found shot to death in her apartment in the John Robinson Homes in East St. Louis.
Florince Harlan

Editor’s note: There were 341 unsolved murders in East St. Louis between 2000 and 2018. In many of these cases, police had evidence and suspects, but no charges were filed. Here is one of those cases. This article originally appeared in the Belleville News-Democrat.

An early morning phone call with a frantic woman’s voice is countered by the dispatcher’s measured, calm tone.

“He’s breaking in my house now. Please hurry! Please hurry! Hello?” the woman cries.

17 Years After He Was Attacked Outside A Nightclub, His Family Still Waits For Justice

Apr 26, 2019
John Hill was shot to death on Dec. 9, 2001 in the rear of the Club Casinos in the 6800 block of State Street in East St. Louis
Derik Holtmann | BND

Editor’s note: There were 341 unsolved murders in East St. Louis between 2000 and 2018. In many of these cases, police had evidence and suspects, but no charges were filed. Here is one of those cases. This article originally appeared in the Belleville News-Democrat.

A shotgun blast sent 24-year-old John Hill to a St. Louis hospital, where he died several days later. The cousin of an Illinois police officer was soon arrested.

A child attends a rally in East St. Louis, a city that averages 24 murders a year, nearly five times the national average.
Zia Nizami | BND

This article originally appeared in the Belleville News-Democrat.

The boy was inches from his mother when she took her final breaths.

The man who shot her ran away, leaving the 3-year-old strapped in a car seat, a vulnerable witness to a horror that still haunts him.

Three years later, the boy’s father was shot to death during a neighborhood barbecue. The boy heard gunshots and saw his dying father lying in the grass, unable to move.

This child was barely old enough to attend school when he saw his father killed.

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.

Karen Lee died in an Oct. 29 fire at former East St. Louis Township Supervisor Oliver Hamilton's home, pictured here.
Beth Hundsdorfer | St. Louis Public Radio

Her lungs were filled with carbon monoxide and her body covered with burns when firefighters pulled Karen Lee’s body from former East St. Louis Township Supervisor Oliver Hamilton’s burning home.

The deadly fire is just the latest problem for Hamilton.

From 2012 to July 2016, Hamilton spent more than $280,000 using a taxpayer supported credit card issued to the township. He is currently serving a five-year prison sentence in federal prison for wire fraud. Federal prosecutors recently seized Hamilton’s retirement to pay $40,000 in restitution.

Evelyn Fluellen, manager of Neighbors' Market, helps Chestina Taylor, left, pick out meat at the East St. Louis grocery store on Dec. 18, 2018.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The Neighbors' Market grocery store opened its doors in October, filling an unmet need in East St. Louis.

The full-service grocery store has fresh produce, healthy food options and ready-to-go, prepared meals like sandwiches, soups and salads. The market has even partnered with local businesses to sell their products.

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.

Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee will be at the East St. Louis Heritage Festival on Sunday. Aug. 26, 2018
Provided by lllinois Bicentennial Commission

East St. Louis will celebrate its own rich history on Sunday as it joins about a dozen Illinois cities holding celebrations to mark the state’s bicentennial.

The East St. Louis Heritage Festival at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center will note the 200th anniversary of the state’s first constitution, signed in Kaskaskia on Aug. 26, 1818. The festival also will celebrate remarkable East St. Louisans, like iconic jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, Olympic gold medalist Joyner-Kersee, and others.

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.

The John Robinson Homes opened in 1943 as a segregated apartment complex for black families in East St. Louis.
William Widmer | Special to ProPublica

The door is off its hinges in Farlon Wilson’s bathroom. Wilson said that’s an improvement from when she first moved in, when there was no bathroom door at all. She said she’s putting in work orders to fix the problems nearly every week.

“The tub won’t stop leaking and the floor is about to fall,” Wilson said while demonstrating how the floor bends under the pressure of her foot. “I have no access to my bathroom water, period. I’ve had to turn it off because it’s leaking in my kitchen.”

Downstairs in the kitchen, she motioned to a patch in the ceiling where water once leaked through and later talked about how she and her family’s breathing has been affected by mold. She pays less than $100 a month in rent.

Florince Harlan stands in the courtyard of the John Robinson Houses, the public housing complex where her daughter Alexis Winston was killed on Aug. 8, 2017
William Widmer | Special to ProPublica

This article was produced in partnership with The Southern Illinoisan, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.

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. 

The Rev. Starsky Wilson spoke at the Parents United for Change meeting Wednesday March 14, 2018.
Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Low-income families who live in public housing in East St. Louis are burdened by hidden fees that keep them trapped in debt, according to a survey conducted by the Stepping Out of Poverty campaign.

To help families escape the escalating debts, a group of East St. Louis parents is fighting the housing authority fees they say prevent families from moving and keep people impoverished. Parents United for Change have met with the East St. Louis Housing Authority to negotiate new policies that would limit the fees.

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.

St. Clair County state's attorney Brendan Kelly holds a photo of Quiantez Fair, who was killed in East St. Louis in October. Kelly and law enforcement officials are asking people to help them solve the murder of Fair and 25 other people in the city.
File photo I Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Law enforcement officials in East St. Louis are making a year-end push for witnesses to come forward in unsolved homicides.

Thirty-four people have been killed in East St. Louis so far this year. But police have been able to solve just eight of those cases. That clearance rate of 24 percent is well below the national average, which was about 60 percent in 2016.

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.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson
Gage Skidmore | Flickr

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is urging people in the St. Louis region to make sure protests do not disintegrate into violence.

During a stop Thursday in East St. Louis, Carson said he hoped the protests would generate a broader understanding of the challenges facing the St. Louis region.

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