Innovative flood control plan named outstanding government achievement
Madison County and the HeartLands Conservancy received an Outstanding Local Government Achievement (OLGA) award for their Upper Silver Creek Watershed Plan during the annual East-West Gateway Council of Governments (EWGCG) Awards Luncheon, Nov. 17.
The watershed plan is designed to provide a comprehensive strategy that communities, government agencies, and landowners can follow to improve water quality, reduce flooding, and support wildlife habitats.
“We are delighted to have this planning effort recognized,” said Steve Brendel, Madison County Stormwater Coordinator. “The county is committed to addressing stormwater and flooding issues, and we worked hard with this plan to identify where and what the issues were, with lots of assistance from county residents and experts.”
The Silver Creek plan has become a flagship for countywide stormwater planning across Metro East; spurring development of three more watershed plans in Madison County and a fourth in St. Clair County.
Data, strategies, and findings in the plan have already resulted in action to address storm water problems, Brendel notes.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the HeartLands Conservancy more than $570,000 to implement the plan’s recommendations.
The conservancy is now working with landowners and municipalities in the watershed to implement recommended storm-water control projects, using the grant funds as a cost share.
In developing the plan, Madison County and the HeartLands Conservancy employed innovative data-collection and stakeholder-engagement methods, the EWGCG notes.
Those included an extensive survey of residents in the watershed to identify flood prone areas and flooding impacts, delineation of even the smallest sub-watershed units (a first for Illinois watersheds), use of advanced GIS tools, and targeted outreach to owners of large parcels of land.
The 120,000-acre Silver Creek watershed is one of 10 in Madison County; covering 13 municipalities, including Troy and Hamel, and thousands of acres of prime farmland. The area is 75 rural and 25 percent urban. Also participating in the development of the plan were Midwest Streams, the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGGREC).
The annual EWGCG presents awards each year to recognize exemplary accomplishments in local government, intergovernmental collaboration, public/non-profit collaboration, and leadership in planning and design innovation.
More than 300 regional government and business leaders attended the awards ceremony.
For additional information on the Upper Silver Creek Watershed Plan and implementation efforts, contact Janet Buchanan at HeartLands Conservancy at (618) 566-4451, Ext. 25 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Updates on the Silver Creek plan and other watershed plans can be found at www.facebook.com/HeartLandsConservancy.
Committee wants drug industry input before suing
The Madison County Board Judicial Committee is delaying action on a proposed opioid lawsuit, until committee members can get input from the pharmaceutical industry.
Citing a substantial increase in opioid overdose cases, Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons has proposed suing manufacturers and marketers of the drugs to recover increased emergency treatment, court, and law enforcement costs incurred by the county and local municipalities.
Similar suits have already been filed by government entities across the nation, including neighboring St. Clair and Jersey counties. The actions generally allege that manufacturers and marketers of opioid pain relievers actively promoted the drugs to physicians and the public, without adequately warning about the potentially addictive nature of the pharmaceuticals.
Drug companies generally counter that they have followed U.S. Food and Drug Administration marketing guidance.
The lawsuit would be the first of its type filed by a governmental entity in Madison County; widely considered a haven for product liability suits with a national reputation for large judgements.
Opioid suits in many cases are being filed by government entities with the assistance of specialized law firms with expertise in such case.
However, critics – including Madison County Board Member Phil Chapman of Highland – say such law firms generally take up to one third of judgements as their legal fee, leaving claimants with much smaller awards than anticipated.
Madison County would be assisted in its lawsuit by the Alton law firm of Simmons Hanly Conroy and the Edwardsville firm of Goldenberg Heller and Antognoli.
The Chicago-based Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL) has urged Madison County to reject the use of contingency fee arrangements with outside counsel if the county decides to pursue opioid litigation. However, that organization has drawn criticism as a front for the pharmaceutical industry.
Madison County Public Defender John Rekowski was among several speakers who encouraged the county to pursue an opioid lawsuit during a Nov. 17 judicial committee hearing.
However, the committee put off action the proposed suit after Chairman Mike Walters of Godfrey suggested input should first be sought from pharmaceutical industry representatives.
No firm date for a pharmaceutical industry presentation to the committee has yet been set.
SWIC president plans retirement next year
Southwestern Illinois College (SWIC) President Georgia Costello announced plans to retire next year, in a Nov. 27 memo to members of the college’s board of trustees. The board is to consider accepting her retirement at its Dec. 20 meeting.
Costello, 68, has been president of the college since 2008. She has previously served as assistant St. Clair County regional superintendent of schools, principal of Belleville Central Junior High School, and a public-school teacher in Belleville.
Costello’s current contract with the community college district ends on June 30, 2018.
Commemorative stones available at Edwardsville park
The City of Edwardsville is offering engraved, commemorative paver stones at its Leon Corlew Park and Splash Pad.
Proceeds from sales of the commemorative stones will go to support operations at the park, 333 S. Main St., and other Edwardsville parks and recreation activities.
The 12-inch-by-12-inch paver stones can be engraved with a message, a loved one’s name, or a company logo for permanent display in the park. Standard-sized bricks are also available, accommodating messages of up to three-lines, with a 14-character limit per line.
The paver stones are being offered through Edwardsville’s A Better Place to Play program in conjunction with the Edwardsville Community Foundation. Pricing varies based on the size of stone selected. All donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
Engraved stones and bricks can be ordered by visiting www.betterplacetoplay.com or calling Katie Grable of the Edwardsville Parks and Recreation Department at (618) 692-7538.
–Metro East Area News Briefs–