Metro East Area News Briefs

Chronicle Media

O’Fallon Sports Park
(Photo courtesy of City of O’Fallon)

O’ Fallon named best Metro East city to live in

O’Fallon remains Southwestern Illinois’ best place to live, according to the 2018 Best Small Cities in America list compiled by the personal finance website,

The annual rankings examine more than 1,200 cities with populations of more than 25,000 but less than 100,000. Each city is given percentile grades based on five main criteria: affordability; economy; education; safety; and quality of life. The website also ranked O’Fallon the top town in Metro East in 2017.

Drawing particularly high marks for its booming economy, O’Fallon is also the 10th best place to live among. area suburbs, according to the website. (The west St. Louis County suburb of Ballwin ranked first in the bi-state region.)

Collinsville is Southwestern Illinois’ second-best place; drawing mid-range ratings in most categories, according to WalletHub.

O’Fallon and Collinsville are the only two Southwestern Illinois communities ranked by the website among the top half of all small cities nationwide. O’Fallon is scored in the 53rd percentile; Collinsville in the 51st.

Drawing less favorable ratings in the survey:

— Carbondale: Percentile ranking: 23; based on quality of life and some safety concerns.  (In only one percent of U.S small city, do local workers get less hours on the clock each week.)

— Granite City: Percentile ranking: 22; based on a favorable affordability ranking, offset by economic, quality of file and safety ratings.

— Alton: Percentile ranking: 20; due to economic and safety problems that overshadowed good affordability, education and health, and quality of life ratings.

— Belleville: Percentile ranking 19; based on economic and safety conditions that offset good affordability, education and health, and quality of life ratings. (Belleville has second lowest income growth among all U.S. small cities, the survey found.)

East St. Louis was one on 20 towns ranks in the bottom 1 percent of all small cities nationwide; with low marks in all categories. It is tied with Blacksburg, VA and State College, PA for the highest percentage of population in poverty.  

Ranked by the website as the best small city in Illinois is the Chicago suburb of Highland Park — one of 18 communities ranked in the top one percentile of small towns nationwide.

Overall, Westport, Conn., is the best small city in the U.S., according to the survey.

Three Metro East hospitals earn top safety ratings

Three Metro East hospitals – OSF St. Anthony’s in Alton, HSHS St. Joseph’s in Breese and HSHS St. Elizabeth’s in O’Fallon — received “A” ratings, Nov. 14, in the latest round of-semi-annual patient safety reports from the not-for-profit medical watchdog nonprofit, the Leapfrog Group.

Only two other acute-care hospitals, among the 27 in the St. Louis region, received the group’s top-level safety ranking.

Rating for other Metro East hospitals:

  • Alton Memorial Hospital – “C”;
  • Anderson Hospital in Maryville – “B”;
  • Gateway Regional Medical Center Granite City – “B”;
  • Memorial Hospital in Belleville – “B”; and
  • Memorial Hospital East in Shiloh – “C”.

The nationally recognized healthcare advocacy group rates 2,600 U.S. twice each year on factors such as hospital-acquired infections, physician and nurse training and surgical complications.

Also receiving top level rankings in the St. Louis region were the Mercy hospitals in Festus and St. Louis.

Two hospitals in the region – the St. Alexius Hospital-Broadway Campus in St. Louis and Christian Hospital Northeast in St. Louis County received “D” grades.

No hospitals in St. Louis received an “F,”

New six story building to be Edwardsville’s tallest

Swansea -based Holland Construction and Edwardsville-based Fireside Financial broke ground, Nov. 6 for their Whispering Heights development in Edwardsville. The mixed-use structure will include 153 apartment homes and over 18,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

Apartments will offer upscale, modern interior finishes, private garage parking, a state-of-the-art fitness facility, and rooftop terraces. Located off Route 157, minutes from downtown Edwardsville and immediately adjacent to the Madison County Transit Bike Trail.  The complex is expected to open in fall of 2019.

Union okays U.S. Steel contract

United Steelworkers union members voted Nov. 13 to ratify a new four-year master agreement with United States Steel Corp. covering 16,000 workers at 14 facilities nationwide.

Pittsburg-based United States Steel Corporation, Nov. 13, announced that the United Steelworkers (USW) have ratified a package of new four-year collective bargaining agreements with the company.

The agreements cover approximately 14,000 USW-represented employees, and all the company’s domestic flat-rolled steel, iron ore mining, and tubular steel facilities —  including its Granite City Works.

The package includes higher wages for steel workers, who had been working under terms of a wage-freeze for the past three years.

The steelmaker and the union announced a tentative labor pact on Oct. 15.  A few weeks early, on Sept. 6, union members in Granite City and elsewhere, in September, voted to strike if an agreement could not be reached.

‘Jingle Hike Challenge’ participants
(Image courtesy of HeartLands Conservancy)

Holiday ‘Jingle Hike Challenge’ returns to 12 local parks

The Mascoutah-based HeartLands Conservancy is again partnering with the Alpine Shop and Davey Resource Group to challenge people to get outdoors this holiday season. Their third annual Jingle Hike Challenge  — designed to increase awareness of Metro East parks and nature areas – begins on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 22) and runs through New Year’s Day (Tuesday, January 1). 

Jingle bells are tied to trees in twelve parks across the Metro East. Challenge participants have six weeks to visit the parks, find each tree, take a selfie with the bell, and post the photo to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using #jinglehike. Participants can also email photos to

For each photo submission, participants will be entered to win prizes. If a person finds six or more of the trees, he or she will be entered to win the grand prize — a $325 gift card to the Alpine Shop. Bonus entries will be awarded for correctly identifying the tree species. Other prizes include gear from the Alpine Shop and Toolen’s Running Start.

This year’s park locations include Piasa Park, Chouteau Island, Malcolm W. Memorial Park, Watershed Nature Center, Signal Hill Outdoor Classroom, Rock Springs Park, Trenton Community Park, Silver Creek Nature Preserve, Washington County State Conservation Area, Konarcik Park, Miner Park, and Fort de Chartres.

There is no fee for participating in the challenge, but participants must be at least 14 years old to win prizes. A map of all twelve parks and instructions will be available at HeartLands Conservancy offices, the Alpine Shop, Toolen’s Running Start, and several other locations in the region. More information and a printable map can also be found online at

Winners will be drawn Jan. 3 and announced on HeartLands Conservancy’s website and social media. Follow HeartLands Conservancy on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for hints on bell locations and other challenge information.

Valmeyer reboots development bid

The Valmeyer Village Board has approved an incentive package designed to spur development of a key parcel in the center of town – and with it, hopefully, redevelopment of the surrounding area.

Currently co-owned by the village and a private investment group, the tract runs along both sides Knobloch Boulevard, the village’s central corridor, from the Village Hall on the east to the State Bank of Waterloo; on the west; encompassing land adjacent to the Valmeyer U.S. Post Office.

A previous effort to develop the parcel failed, village officials admit.

The village and the new investor group — headed by prominent semi-retired businessman and Illinois Finance Authority board member George Obernagel of Waterloo — purchased the property last December after the previous development group acknowledged their project was dead.



–Metro East Area News Briefs–