Metro East News Briefs

Chronicle Media

The Bi-State Development Agency, which runs the MetroLink and MetroBus transit systems, could be getting new CEO soon. (Photo courtesy of Bi-State Development Agency)

St. Clair official could be Bi-State/Metro’s new CEO  

The chief financial officer of the St. Clair County Transit District (SCTD) is in contract negotiations to become the new president and CEO of the Bi-State Development Agency.

A special Bi-State Executive Selection Committee believes SCTD CFO and longtime St. Louis-area transportation consultant Taulby Roach — who was brought in to clean up financial issues in the St. Clair County public transit district six years ago — can now successfully address longstanding financial issues facing Bi-State and safety concerns surrounding its MetroLink light rail system.

The Bi-State Board of Commissioners voted to hire Roach during a closed-door session at their Nov. 16 meeting. The action came after the executive selection committee formally recommended Roach during its final scheduled meeting on Nov. 8.

Roach and his consultancy, Development Programming Associates, were retained by the SCTD board in 2002 to complete filing of critical, but often tardy, federal funding applications and regulatory documents, according to board minutes.  The following year, SCTD created the position of CFO specifically for Roach.

Over the past year. Roach has drawn praise for overseeing the recently $7 million East St. Louis Riverbridge District Front Street development protect; funded with an innovative combination of public and private dollars.

A 51-year-old resident of St. Louis’ politically influential Central West End neighborhood, Roach has long been involved in local government across the St. Louis area.

Roach’s consulting firm was originally established as partnership with his now-retired father, former St. Louis alderman and community development director John Roach, who helped lead the drive the area’s first MetroLink line, which opened in 1993.

If contract negotiations are successful, Roach would replace outgoing Bi-State President and CEO John Nations, who announced his resignation last June but has agreed to stay on until a successor is hired.

Formal contract approval for Roach could come at the Bi-State Board’s next scheduled meeting on Feb. 22.

To offset some budget shortfalls, the East St. Louis Police Department is getting some assistance from local animal groups in the care of its K-9 units. (Photo courtesy of ESL Police Dept.)

County Board OKs reduced $140M budget

The Madison County Board, Nov. 21, approved a budget of $139,854,047 for the county’s new fiscal year, which began Dec. 1. That represents a reduction from the $145 million budget for the county’s just closed fiscal year.

The board also approved a county tax property levy of $30,766,421 to fund county operations during the new fiscal year — the same approved during the last budget cycle. The levy sets the maximum amount of property tax revenue the county can receive during a fiscal year.

The board also approved the setting of the county’s business net income tax to raise approximately $2.8 million during the new budget year. Sometimes referred to as the “replacement tax,” the business income tax is used to replace revenues that had been raised through the county’s now-repealed tangible personal property taxes.

County general fund expenditures in the new budget total $48.27 million. Expenditures from the county’s various special revenue funds total approximately $64 million.

Cut under the new budget is funding to the Madison County History Museum and Archival Library and Madison County Animal Control Services.

The reduction in the county’s total budget for the new fiscal year were possible in part to unspent balances in some county funds.

Some board members, during the budget meeting, suggested restoring some funding to the museum — which lost $80,000 or 30 percent of its budget — by reallocating the unspent balances in some funds after the start of the start of the new budget year.

Metro East region unemployment up slightly

The unemployment rate increased year-over-year in most of Illinois’ metropolitan areas — including Metro East — during October, according to preliminary data released Nov. 21 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES).

However, the total number of non-farm employment positions, at the same time, increased, the data shows.

“The (unemployment rate) increases were mostly due to more people reentering the job market and not immediately securing a job,” explained IDES Director Jeff Mays.

The unemployment rate in the Illinois section of St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical area stood at 4.4 percent during October of this years; up 0.3 percentage points from 4.1 percent in the same month of 2017.

Metro East employers added 1,800 jobs— for a total of 244,000 — in October; up from 242,200 during the same month last year.  

Statewide, the employment rate decreased to 4.2% during October; down 0.3 percentage points from 4.5 percent in the same month in 2017. Employers added 59,100 across the state, for a total of 6,207,000 statewide; up from 6,147,900 a year earlier.

The local unemployment rate increased in 12 of Illinois’s metropolitan areas and decreased in two: Bloomington (4.1 percent), Carbondale-Marion (4.6 percent), Champaign-Urbana (4.3 percent), Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights (3.9 percent), Danville (5.5 percent), Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, Iowa-Ill. (3.9 percent), Decatur (5.3 percent), Elgin (4.4 percent) Kankakee (4.6 percent), Lake-Kenosha, Ill.-Wis. (3.90.percent), Peoria (4.8 percent), Rockford (5.2 percent), Springfield (4.1 percent).  

Illinois businesses added jobs in 10 metro areas, with the largest increases in: Kankakee (+5.7 percent, +2,700), the Quad Cities (+2.0 percent, + 3,700), and Lake (+1.8 percent, +7,400). Total nonfarm jobs in the Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights Metro Division increased (+0.8 percent or +29,400).

Illinois businesses lost jobs in three metro areas: Carbondale-Marion (-0.7 percent, -400), Springfield (-0.4 percent, -400), and Peoria (-0.1 percent, -100). Bloomington was unchanged.

Data in the report is not seasonally adjusted.

The Illinois statewide unemployment rate stood at 12.2 percent at its peak in this economic cycle in January 2010.

Nationally, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent in October 2018 and 10.6 percent in January 2010 at its peak.

The unemployment rate identifies those who are out of work and looking for work and is not tied to collecting unemployment insurance benefits.

MidAmerica Airport unveils expansion plans

The MidAmerica St. Louis Airport terminal would nearly double in size under preliminary expansion plans released for public at a Nov. 29 Public Information Open House and Workshop at the airport.

Tentative plans call for extending both the extending both the east and west sides of the building to provide expanded outgoing and incoming baggage handling areas, as well as an expanded TSA security checkpoint on the first floor.

Expansion of the second floor would provide additional “hold room” for boarding passengers — complete with a children’s play area — as well as expanded open seating, for those awaiting flights, and additional concession space. Separate incoming baggage handling would be provided for domestic and international fights, as well as expanded baggage carousel capacity.

Prepared as an update the existing MidAmerica Airport Master Plan, the proposed expansion is needed to accommodate significant growth in passenger traffic at the airport over recent years – and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) projections of more, administrators say.

In the past three years alone, total annual air passengers at BLV have increased from 65,000 in 2015 to over 244,000 in 2017, making MidAmerica St. Louis one of the fastest growing passenger airports in the United States, they say.

Allegiant Airlines now serves a total of nine destinations from MidAmerica.

Total cost for the project — including improvements to other facilities at the airport — is estimated at $24 million to $28 million.

Critics of the expansion say St. Clair County has already the airport with a total of $81 million since 2002.

The preliminary expansion plan can be accessed at

Animal rescue groups to support ESL Police dogs

In what is perhaps the first arrangements of its type, the international animal welfare organization Pet Rescue Bank, in cooperation with the St. Louis-area animal rescue organization Emily’s Animal Welfare, has agreed to provide food for East St. Louis Police Department K-9 units, according to a Nov. 28 announcement from the city.

Originally established in 2006 to support animal rescue organizations responding to Hurricane Katrina, Pet Rescue Bank currently provides surplus pet food from St. Louis-based Nestlé Purina Pet Care and major manufacturers to at least 25 local animal care organizations across the U.S. Rock Hill, MO-based Emily’s Animal Welfare similarly provides food grants for pet rescue groups around the Midwest.

The East St. Louis Police Department currently has three police dogs – “Tyson,” handled by Sgt. Kendal Perry; “Chucks,” handled by Caine Officer Cantrell Patterson; and “Rambo,” handled by Canine Officer Felix Arnold).

“Police dogs can be expensive to buy, train, and feed,” East St. Louis communication liaison Stephanie Anthony Miles notes.

The town is currently facing a multi-million-dollar annual operating deficit, according to Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks 2018 State of the City Message.

As part of an ongoing effort to improve operations at the police department, Latoya Clemons, Administrative Assistant to the Chief of Police Jerry Simon, solicited a food grant from Purina Pet Care. The company referred Clemons to Pet Rescue Bank.

Facilitating the new arraignment is Chris Clark, a member of both the Pet Rescue Bank and the St. Louis-area police support organization Backstoppers.

“We are grateful to Mr. Clark and Emily’s Animal Welfare for the contribution to the K-9 Units and the City of East St. Louis Police Department,” said Chief Simon.



–Metro East News Briefs–