Metro East Area News Briefs

Chronicle Media

St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern (at podium) addresses crowd at ribbon cutting ceremony for the East St. Louis River Bridge District project. Shown just to the right in photo: U.S. Sen. Dick Durban (D-Ill.); just to the left: State Rep. LaToya Greenwood (D-East St. Louis, in sunglasses) and East St. Louis Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks. (Photo courtesy of St. Clair Transit District)

City marks River Bridge District project completion

East St. Louis, Aug. 20, officially marked completion its River Bridge District project — a key step, city officials believe, in spurring new development along the town’s Mississippi Riverfront.

The project involved a comprehensive overhaul of Front Street from Trendley Avenue in East St. Louis to the termination of the street in Fairmont City, as well as improvements to connecting roadways.  

The initial phase of the project, for which ground was broken in November 2016, included the rebuilding and upgrading of a mile-long stretch of Front Street to accommodate growing commercial traffic to riverfront grant terminals operated by Cargill and Bunge-SCF.

The firms say the road upgrade was necessary, given the steadily increasing volume of commodities being shipped through St. Louis-area ports.

The Front Street upgrade will also help open to commercial development a large tract of riverfront land, totaling several hundred acres, on the north end of the street – sometimes referred to as the Lincoln Business Park.

City officials say the undeveloped land is already sparking interest from other agribusiness and distribution companies. They decline to name them specifically.

The second phase of the project included a new roundabout near the Casino Queen and improvements to B Street and parts of River Park Drive. Those improvements will not only provide better access to the Casino Queen for patrons, but generally enhance traffic flow through the area by effectively separating heavy commercial traffic from other vehicular traffic.

River Park Drive runs east-and-west providing not only the most commonly used entrance to the casino but the main route between the riverfront and downtown East St. Louis.

The $7 million road improvement project was completed on-time and $1 million under-budget, according to the St. Clair County Transit District, which was charged with overseeing the project. It was originally budgeted at $8.1 million.

Funding was arranged through a public-private partnership with federal, state, county, locally based special project authorities covering the bulk of the cost. Cargill and Bunge-SCF contributed more than $1.5 million to the project.

Local officials say the River Bridge District project represents final component in a package of substantial highway infrastructure improvements implemented in the vicinity over recent years. They include the relocation of Illinois Route 3 and the opening of the new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge.

Madison County Community Development has scheduled an unusual, two-day “solution-creating” workshop in Alton, Sept. 11-12.

Madison Co. calls ‘crisis’ meeting for social service strategy

Faced with an array of social issues from opioid addiction to unemployment, Madison County Community Development has scheduled an unusual, two-day “solution-creating” workshop in Alton, Sept. 11-12, to quickly develop and implement targeted, grassroots initiatives with county residents.

This workshop will focus on creation of a network and formal framework to efficiently help troubled Madison County residents achieve stability and self-sufficiency, the department says.

“This is not a conference, a summit or a “talkshop” … this is a WORKshop with a heavy emphasis on the work,” the department emphasized in an unusually blunt announcement last month. “It will be two intense days of collaboration and work to build a strategy, a network, work plans and work teams that are committed to an ongoing effort.”

The meeting will also focus on creating greater awareness of the full range of services available to assist troubled individuals.

“Whether it’s homelessness, domestic violence, single parents, grandparents raising grandchildren, opioids & other addictions, unemployment or underemployment, returning citizens, public assistance recipients, or people with disabilities …. many of our friends and neighbors throughout Madison County are struggling,” the statement continues.

The Madison County Board approved funding for the meeting last month.

The workshop is set for the Alton Community Christian Church, 2345 Union School Road, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  

Due to the format and nature of the workshop, participants will be required to attend both full- day sessions, the department adds.

The admission is free, but seating is limited, and registration is required.

Lunch and a continental breakfast will be provided on both days.

Participants can register for the workshop at

Red Cross marks Sept. 5 National Blood Donation Day

The American Red Cross invites the community to help save lives at blood drives planned the week of National Blood Donation Day, Wednesday, Sept. 5.

For the third consecutive year, media personality Dr. Daliah Wachs has worked to enlist all 50 states in promoting blood donation.

After hearing about an emergency need for more donors, she decided to establish a National Blood Donation Day and ask each state governor to join her by proclaiming the service day in their home state. 

“Giving blood is a wonderful way to serve your community and help patients at the same time,” said Laura McGuire, external communications manager for the Red Cross Heart of America Blood Services Region. “With the Red Cross recovering from a critically low blood supply during much of the summer, now is the perfect time to give.”    

Blood and platelet donations are needed every day for patients with many serious medical conditions.

Accident and burn victims, heart surgery patients, organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease may all need blood.

To learn more about blood donation, including eligibility information, visit or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Two Metro East educators among Teacher of Year nominees

The Illinois State Board of Education, Aug. 21, named Susan Converse of Edwardsville High School and Stephanie Lerch of Red Bud Elementary School among the 10 finalists for its 2019 Illinois Teacher of the Year nominees.

Susan Converse is a special education teacher at Edwardsville High School, located in Edwardsville, in Edwardsville Community Unit School District 7.

Converse established and oversees the Tiger Den campus coffee and snack shop, through which special education students develop practical job skills while raising money for various organizations.

Lerch, a fifth-grade math and science teacher is credited with raising student PARCC scores by 30 points, through her “growth mindset and student ownership” approach to education.

The ISBE will announce the 2019 Illinois Teacher of the Year during the Those Who Excel banquet on Saturday, Oct. 20, at the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Normal. The Teacher of the Year will represent Illinois at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., and in the Council of Chief State School Officers’ National Teacher of the Year Program.

Madison County employment picks up

The number of people employed in Madison County increased 2.6 percent, year-over-year, during the first quarter of 2018 — the 59th best county employment growth rate in American, according to a new County Employment and Wages Summary issued Aug. 22 by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  Year over year increased

Some 100,600 people were employed in the county during the first quarter of the year; earning an average weekly salary of $837.  

That represents a wage increase of 1.3 percent over the same quarter last year; ranking the county 310th among the 350 large American counties for which data is reported by the BLS.

The employment rolls in St. Clair County, conversely, shrank 0.7 percent during the first quarter — ranking the county 340th employment strength among the 350 counties in the BLS survey.

Ninety-three thousand workers were employed in St. Clair County at an average weekly wage of $809.  That was up 0.9 percent year-over-year, but still ranks the county only 321th nationwide in wage growth.

Statewide Illinois had 5,909,300 workers employed in the public and private sectors during the first quarter of this year — a one percent increase from the same period last year.

The average Illinois earned $1,241 per week during the reporting period; 3.9 percent more than during the same quarter last year, according the BLS.

Midland, Tex., had the largest percentage increase in the nation with a gain of 12.6 percent year over year.

The national job growth rate was 1.6 percent during the first quarter.

The U.S. average weekly wage increased 3.7 percent year over year, growing to $1,152 in the first quarter of 2018.

Peoria posted the nation’s largest over-the-year percentage increase in average weekly wages, with a gain of 23.8 percent.



–Metro East Area News Briefs–