Metro East Area News Briefs

Chronicle Media

The Student Success Center on Southern Illinois University Edwardsville campus.

Trustees OK plan for SIUE Student Success Center renovation

The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees, at its regularly scheduled meeting on the Carbondale campus today, approved SIUE to move forward in developing plans and cost estimates for renovations to the Student Success Center on the Edwardsville campus. The board also approved a $1.3-million budget to replace the Prairie Hall roof.

The Student Success Center renovation will focus on expanding the Disability Support Services (DSS) office to accommodate the approximately 700 students that require assistance for testing services, and relocating the smart seminar room and computer lab space to service that growing population. The design and construction will be funded through the Student Success Center Repair and Replacement Reserve funds.

The project will be done in phases to assist the DSS office in continuing operations during construction. SIUE consultants AAIC, a St. Louis architectural firm, and BRiC Partnership, an engineering firm in Belleville, will determine the scope of the project and provide a comprehensive cost estimate.

Final project and budget approval, and awarding of contracts will require further board consideration.

Prairie Hall’s roof is approximately 20 years old and is nearing the end of its life expectancy and warranty. Project improvements include replacing approximately 40,500 square feet of roofing, replacing existing drains and adding secondary overflow drains, replacing roof and ductwork insulation, and installing taller equipment curbs for the air conditioning units.

The work will be done during the summer months to minimize disruptions to the students. It will be funded from the Housing Repair and Replacement Reserve (RRR) fund.

Six Metro East lawmakers endorse Pritzker

Six Democratic members of the Metro East delegation to the Illinois General Assembly formally endorsed gubernatorial candidate JB Pritzker and running mate Juliana Stratton during a Dec. 17 event at the IBEW Local 309 hall in Collinsville.

On hand to express support for the Pritzker-Stratton campaign were Democrat Senate Majority Leader James Clayborne, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Bill Haine, Representative Jay Hoffman, Representative Katie Stuart, and Representative LaToya Greenwood, as well as Dan Beiser, who retired that day as the state representative from the Alton area (see related article).

Pritzker, a Chicago-based financier, is generally considered the leader among a half-dozen Democrats who would like to take on Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in next year’s November 6 general election.

The endorsements from local lawmakers came on the heels of endorsement for Pritzker over recent weeks by Democratic U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.

Attorney fee limits sought for opioid suit

A Madison County Board member wants to limit the fees attorneys could charge for representing the county in a proposed suit against the opioid industry and select the attorneys retained for any such suit through competitive bidding.

The proposal comes as the county is marking the second highest overdose count in its history.

Amid a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-declared national “epidemic” of opioid abuse, political subdivisions across the U.S. have begun suing manufacturers and marketers of the prescription pain killers for the costs associated with treatment and law enforcement action related to overdose cases.

Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons, in October, proposed joining the trend; noting “extraordinary expenses” incurred over recent years by the county and its municipalities for the handling of overdose and addition cases.

Madison County saw a record 91 people die from drug overdoses during 201,  giving the county a reputation as an epicenter of the opioid epidemic in Illinois.

During an Dec. 11 meeting of the Madison County Public Safety Committee, County Coroner Stephen P. Nonn predicted the county will see a total of 87 overdose deaths this year – the second highest total in county history.

The county had already recorded some 80 overdose deaths at the time of the committee meeting. During 2016, the county saw a total of 77 overdose deaths.

Jackson and St. Clair counties have already filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical firms, claiming the companies actively promoted the drugs while failing to warn patients or prescribers of their potentially addictive nature.

However, such opioid suits have come under scrutiny from critics who say they are often filed with the assistance of specialized law firms, which may claim substantial portions of judgements as legal fees.   

In an e-newsletter to constituents last month, Madison County Board Judiciary Committee member Philip W. Chapman called for the county to pursue its proposed opioid suit under terms of disclosure and oversight principles, recommended by the Manhattan Institute Center for Legal Policy. The institute recommends:

— A competitive bidding process for legal services — with law firms and individual attorneys ruled ineligible if they have made political contributions to county officials;

— Legislative oversight of legal action; in Madison County’s case through monitoring by the county board and its judiciary committee; and

—Fee standards limiting the overall hourly rate charged by attorneys for representation.

In opioid cases, some law firms may end up effectively being paid up to $10,000 an hour, Board Member Chapman contends.

Real estate sales see year-end surge

Home sales remained strong across Metro East throughout October, according to data from area real estate trade associations, according to the Realtor Association of Southwestern Illinois (RASI).

Year-to-date home sales in St. Clair, Macoupin, and Madison counties increased by 2.6 percent, 18 percent, and 0.1 percent, respectively, according to then association.

“The Metro East market is continuing to be strong with home sales increasing in St. Clair County and Madison County,” said Angie Zahn, president of the Realtor Association of Southwestern Illinois.

Some outlying counties appear to be experiencing a year-end real estate sale surge, with the volume of Randolph County residential real estate transactions increasing 12.5 percent from September to October and home sale prices in Montgomery County rose 9.5 percent during in the same period.

All five of the Metro-East counties served by RASI-member realtors saw home prices rise in October, with Jersey County experiencing a 16.9 percent year-over-year increase in residential real estate prices during the month and Clinton County home prices increasing 29.7 percent year-over-year.

Monroe, Madison, and Macoupin counties home prices, respectively, rose 8.2 percent, 4.2 percent, and 6.7 percent during October, compared with the same month last year.

Moreover, homes in many areas of Metro East are selling faster than last year.

In Clinton County, homes sold after an average of just 25 days on the market — some 80 percent faster than during October of last year. In Monroe County, homes sold on average just 22 days after listing, some 46 percent faster. In St. Clair County homes sold 15 percent faster this October than October 2016.

Nativity scene collection graces cathedral

About 60 “Nativities from Around the World” were again on display at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Belleville this Christmas season. Most came from the University of Dayton’s Marian Library, which curates a collection of more than 3,500 Nativities from more than 100 countries.

However, some were assembled by students at Belleville’s Notre Dame Academy. Handcrafted works included a Turkish Nativity rug, soapstone carving from Kenya and a wooden nativity carved by Swiss nuns.

This year’s display marked the fifth time over the past 15 years that the university’s collection has been displayed in the Belleville cathedral.


–Metro East Area News Briefs–