East St. Louis edges back toward full police staffing
Four new East St. Louis Police officers were sworn in during City Hall ceremonies, Oct. 16. With that, the city now has some 41 officers on the beat, according to Mayor Emeka Jackson. More proof, city officials say, that the economically downtrodden and often crime-ridden city continues to progress.
Under U.S. Department of Justice guidelines, East St. Louis should have at least 62 sworn police officers. Counting an officer hired in April of this year, the city has now increased its police force by five officers in 2018; marking the first increase in police department staffing in five years.
“The addition of four more police officers on the street is definitely encouraging. In the midst of working to improve our infrastructure and creating a climate of development within our City, the addition of new officers is a sign that we are moving in the right direction. We are doing all we can to serve and protect our citizens,” said Mayor Jackson-Hicks.
East St. Louis laid off about one-third of its police officers in July 2010; as part of an overall staff reduction. City officials at that time laid off 19 officers from a force of 62, as well as 11 firefighters, four public works employees and three administrators. Officials cited recession-related declines in city revenues, including a $900,000 decrease in revenue from the Casino Queen.
U.S. Steel, workers reach tentative labor deal
A bargaining committee for Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp. and The United Steelworkers union, Oct. 15, announced a tentative contract agreement covering 16,000 workers at facilities across the country, including the company’s Granite City Works.
Union locals are to schedule worker meetings to explain the tentative contract, and potentially hold ratification votes, over the coming weeks.
Previous collective bargaining agreements between the company and the union expired Sept. 1, but employees have continued working under a contract extension.
Contract negotiations have been underway since July but had reportedly stalled over recent weeks. Talks focused on several issues including company plans to cut health benefits for active and retired works, and union demands for higher wages.
The union’s previous contract with U.S. Steel included a three-year wage freeze.
U.S. Steel union workers in Granite City and across the country voted unanimously on Sept. 6 to authorize a strike if negotiations continued to stalemate.
The tentative agreement would provide workers a cumulative wage increase of 14 percent over a four-year contract period, according to Reuters.
The union’s 2012-15 labor agreement with U.S. Steel raised wages by an average of about 1.5 percent per year over three years.
However, wages were frozen under their most recent contract, covering 2015-18, due to declining production and revenues, according to the steelmaker.
The proposed new contract would also provide workers a lump sum bonus and company profit-sharing. Healthcare benefits would be identical to those the last contract, according to published reports. U.S. Steel employees currently are not required to pay a health insurance premium.
The company said additional details about the tentative agreement will be made available following the completion of the ratification process.
More than 2,000 workers were laid off at the Granite City Works in 2015, with the company citing decreased demand of its steel products due to foreign competition.
About 500 laid-off employees returned to work at the Granite City mill earlier this spring, after U.S. Steel restarted one of the mill’s two blast furnaces and its steelmaking operations. The company credited steel tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump, who visited the plant in July.
The second of the plant’s two blast furnaces was scheduled to be re-fired on Oct. 1.
U.S. Steel reported a nearly 60 percent increase in pretax profits for the June quarter.
Argosy owner buys St. Louis casino
Wyomissing, PA-based Penn National Gaming Inc. — the parent company of the Argosy Casino in Alton — announced Oct. 15 that it has purchased Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. which operates the River City Casino in south St. Louis.
With the acquisition, Penn National will control three of the six casinos in the St. Louis area. The deal will “reshape the St. Louis casino market,” the company assessed in press release.
Penn, the largest operator of regional casinos in the nation, already operates the Hollywood Casino in the St. Louis County suburb of Maryland Heights, Mo.
Under the purchase agreement, Penn National acquired all outstanding shares of Pinnacle through a public company merger for consideration of $20.00 in cash and 0.42 shares of Penn National common stock for each Pinnacle share. The total dollar value of the transaction was not announced.
To address regulatory concerns, Penn sold off its Ameristar St. Charles casino in Missouri, as well as three other Midwest casinos, to Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming Corporation. That transaction totaled approximately $563.5 million in cash, subject to certain customary closing adjustments.
Wyomissing-based Gaming and Leisure Properties, Inc. will continue to own the buildings and land used by all the casinos in the transaction.
Gaming and Leisure is a specialized real estate investment trust (REIT) centered on casino properties, which was formed in November 2013 as a corporate spin-off from Penn National Gaming. It owns the properties occupied by four of the six casinos in the St. Louis area, including the Casino Queen in St. Louis.
Alton tourism bureau changes names, expands efforts
The Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau (ARCVB) has officially become The Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau (GRRTB).
The new name is intended to emphasize the unique potential of the bureau’s four-county service area as a tourism destination, according to Brett Stawar, president and CEO of the organization.
“We are the only spot in the U.S. where the Mother Road of Route 66 meets the Great River Road,” said Stawar. It is also the confluence of three major rivers: the Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi.
The region is now included in five regional tourism development districts and initiatives: Route 66, the Looking for Lincoln National Heritage Area, the Great River Road in Illinois, The National Road, and the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway.
The bureau represents Madison, Jersey, Calhoun and Macoupin counties.
In conjunction with the name change, the organization last week launched its new RiversandRoutes.com regional tourism portal; offering news and event listings, as well as seasonal trip ideas, and special deals on food, lodging or event admission, for 50 communities throughout the area.
The GRRTB and is certified as a tourism bureau by the Illinois Office of Tourism and accredited as by Destinations International.
The group will continue to maintain its existing websites, including VisitAlton.com, EnjoyGrafton.com and EnjoyCalhounCounty.com.
In addition to the new website, Great Rivers and Routes is now on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RiversAndRoutes; Twitter at www.twitter.com/RiversAndRoutes; and Instagram at: www.instagram.com/riversandroutes.
Meet the Candidates event set for Oct. 25
The Edwardsville-Glen Carbon Chamber of Commerce’s government affairs committee will host its annual Meet the Candidates & Elected Officials event Thursday, Oct. 25, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., at the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities in Edwardsville.
The event is an opportunity for business leaders to engage with local, state and federal elected officials in a casual environment, according to a chamber press release.
Admission is $39 per person for the public and $29 for chamber members.
Candidates on the Nov. 4 election ballot and incumbent elected officials are invited to attend at no cost. Their guests and staff will be admitted at the chamber member charge.
The Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities is located at 1210 N. Main St. in Edwardsville.
–Metro East Area News Briefs–