Metro-East Area News Briefs

Chronicle Media

Solarize Madison County/Glen Carbon logo
(Image courtesy of Madison County)

Solarize Madison County program announced

The Madison County Sustainability Program and  village of Glen Carbon Cool Cities Committee, March 1, officially launched their new Solarize Madison County/Glen Carbon initiative to encourage the installation of solar energy systems by homeowners and businesses across the county.  

Through the cooperative purchasing program, property owners can arrange to purchase solar energy panels at discounted prices, according to the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA), which administers the program. Participating property owners will then have the option to have the systems installed at pre-negotiated rates by the program’s contractor-of-choice, St. Louis-based StraightUp Sola, which was selected for the program through a competitive bidding process.

The new Madison County/Glen Carbon solarization program follows on the heels of last year’s Solarize Godfrey program, organized by the village of Godfrey Climate Protection and Energy Efficiency Committee, MREA, Straight Up Solar, and the Sierra Club, with the support from the Riverbend Growth Association and Lewis and Clark Community College.

MREA has also organized similar group purchasing programs in the Urbana-Champaign and Bloomington-Normal areas.

A series of “Solar Power Hours,” offering information on the program begin at 6 p.m. on March 14 at the Glen Carbon Police Department Community Room

For additional information see the program website,

O’Fallon School District 203 adopts deficit reduction plan

The O’Fallon District 203 School Board, Feb. 28, approved a $1 million deficit reduction plan, including teaching staff cuts at O’Fallon Township High School. Superintendent Darcy Benway told the board that the district could faces a total deficit of up to $2.3 million by the beginning of the next academic year, primarily due to delayed education funding payments from the State of Illinois.

Under the deficit reduction program, which begins with the 2017-18 academic year, the school district will:

  • Reduce certified teaching staff by the equivalent of 8.4 full-time positions, including the equivalent of 6.8 full-time positions in classroom sections.
  • Reduce certified administrative staff by the equivalent of 1 full-time position,
  • Reduce non-certified staff by the equivalent of 5 full-time positions,
  • Increase athletic fees from $100 per participant to $175 per participant,
  • Increase textbook and registration fees from $150 per student to $175 per student,
  • Eliminate the high school’s “Early Bird” and “zero hour” programs, and
  • Implement other reduction in the district’s operating budget totaling of $93,000.

The board opted against plans to eliminate the high school’s swimming and lacrosse programs and eliminate the high school’s social worker.

Effort to save old Alton rail station grows

The City of Alton and the Alton Area Landmarks Association (AALA) are hoping to save the town’s 89-year-old rail station building; following the scheduled opening of the new Alton Regional Multi-modal Transportation Center later this year.

However, the aging station, which serves as the area’s Amtrak stop, is owned not by the city but by the Omaha, Nebraska-based Union Pacific Railroad. That is complicating efforts by the city and AALA to attract a buyer and new tenants for the building. Spokesperson for the city and the Landmarks Association say they are uncertain of Union Pacific’s plans for the structure, but fear the railroad wants to quickly demolish it.

Construction of the new transportation center — serving Amtrak and a new Chicago-to-St. Louis high-speed rail line — is to be completed by June 30, under terms of the $13.85 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant that is funding much of the $25 million project. The new facility is expected to be operational in either June or July.

Union Pacific in January approved a new city-developed, eight-page marketing brochure on the station and its possible uses. However, city officials note the federal grant provides Union Pacific funding to demolish the old station but not for renovation.

The single-story, rectangular brick opened in May 1928 by the Chicago and Alton Railroad and was subsequently owned by Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad.

The city’s brochure on the rail station building can be accessed on the municipal website at

Building trades honor Baricevic

The Southwestern Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council honored former 20th Judicial Circuit Court judge and St. Clair County Board chair John Baricevic at its February meeting.  Baricevic was credited with guiding creation of Illinois’ first substantive project labor agreement (PLA) — under which a government entity agrees to awards contracts for a public construction project exclusively to unionized firms in exchange for pre-negotiated terms.

The council also cited Baricevic’s efforts to spur economic activity across Metro-East through projects such as the development of Mid-America Airport. Baricevic is currently an attorney private practice in Belleville.

Controlled burn scheduled at Palisades Nature Preserve

The National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRREC) plans to conduct a controlled burn of portions of the Palisades Nature Preserve near Grafton in mid-March, weather permitting.  

The burn is being conducted in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Great Rivers Land Trust and The Nature Institute. For the sake of safety, NGRREC officials request that the public stay away from the fire and respect barriers or other implemented security measures.

During the burn, people may see some smoke or fire coming from the Palisades Nature Preserve, NGRREC officials note. Certified burn managers and other trained personnel with proper vehicles and equipment will be working in the area until the burn presents no danger to the public.

A “burn plan” has been developed and approved to appropriately control the fire and to ensure personnel and public safety, the NGRREC says.

The burn is intended to help maintain and enhance the preserve’s natural ecological communities. For additional information call NGRREC℠ at (618) 468-2900.

–Metro-East Area News Briefs–