State Fire Marshal Reminds Illinoisans to Change Your Clock, Change Your Batteries

Spring into Action this Sunday to Change and Test the Batteries in Your Smoke Alarm

CHICAGO – Clocks are springing forward one hour this weekend and the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) is urging Illinoisans to take a few extra minutes to change and test the batteries in their smoke alarms.

“Daylight Savings Time is a great built-in reminder for us all to check that our smoke alarms are working in case of emergency,” said State Fire Marshal Matt Perez.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that between 2009 and 2013 three in five home fire deaths occurred in homes that either did not have smoke alarms or the alarms did not work. More than half of the non-working smoke alarms either had missing or disconnected batteries. Dead batteries caused nearly a quarter of smoke alarm failures.

Illinois law requires every household to have smoke alarms within 15 feet of every bedroom and at least one alarm on each floor of the home.

The NFPA provides the following tips for installation and maintenance of smoke alarms:

• Install alarms close to each sleeping area of the house and on every level of the house. Ensure that the alarms are interconnected so when one sounds, they all do.
• Change alarm batteries at least twice a year. Daylight Savings Time is a reminder to “Change your Clock, Change your Batteries.”
• Test alarms at least once a month.
• Replace all smoke alarms when they are ten years old.
• Closed doors may slow the spread of smoke.
• Smoke alarms should be a part of a larger home escape plan for emergencies. Visit the NFPA website for more information on home escape planning.

Daylight Savings Time is this Sunday, March 11.

For more information on fire safety and prevention, please visit OSFM’s website.

Farmers concerned about possible trade war

Larry Miller – FCN File Photo

THOMPSONVILLE — The possibility of a trade war between the United States and other countries concerns Southern Illinois farmers.

“Well, my first thought is it scares me to death,” said Larry Miller, a Thompsonville farmer.

Increased competition from Argentina and Brazil, rising expenses and lower commodity prices have already made their jobs harder in recent years.

“There’s a lot of challenges out here in agriculture right now and so you really don’t want to see anything else to cause you to stay awake at night,” said Miller.

Click to read the full story from Brandon Richard of WSIL-TV.

2018 Nominations for Old King Coal

By Marcia Raubach 

WEST FRANKFORT –  Steve Sawalich, President of the Southern Illinois Old King Coal festival, announced today that the deadline for nominations for 2018 Old King Coal is Friday, March 30th. The honor is bestowed annually to a deserving coal miner. Old King Coal will be crowned during the Princess Flame Scholarship Pageant on Sasturday, April 21 at the West Frankfort High School Auditorium  and will  reign over this year’s festival to be held May 10th thru the13th in downtown West Frankfort. This year’s festival theme is “Old King Coal Salutes America” .

Old King Coal President Steve Sawalich (left) is shown congratulating 2017 Old King Coal of West Frankfort, Charles A. Bartoni, Jr, in front of the Coal Miners Memorial monument at Coal Miners Memorial Park

All Southern Illinois coal miners are eligible, regardless of age or number of years they have worked in the mines. Nomination forms can be downloaded from the festival website at Forms are also available at the West Frankfort Chamber of Commerce, West Frankfort city hall water office or at Advanced Hearing in the West Frankfort Outlet Mall. Nominations are to be mailed to Old King Coal Festival, P.O. Box 242, West Frankfort, Illinois 62896 by March 30th, 2018.

This year’s festival kicks off Thursday, May 10th with Family Night on the midway and “Cadillac Jones Band” on the main stage beginning at 6PM. Other free entertainment on the main stage each evening include “We Got It Covered” and “Brat Pack” on Friday,  “Jake Hoult Band” and Ronnie McDowell on Saturday and “ Cassie Andrews & Calico Creek” on Sunday afternoon. Other events include the annual Coal Miners Memorial Service at Coal Miners Memorial Park at 10AM Saturday. Grand Parade at 1 PM featuring the patriotic theme, “Wave On Old Glory” and a celebrity auction on Saturday evening on the main stage.

For a complete schedule of events or to download entry forms for Old King Coal nominations, Princess Flame Scholarship Pageant, Old King Coal parade or booth space information go to

Bost, Committee Members Introduce Bill to Prevent VA Purchase Card Misuse

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro), along with a bipartisan group of House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs members introduced legislation to prevent misuse of VA’s purchase cards.

“This vitally important legislation not only punishes bad actors at the VA who misuse funds, but also will prevent future misuse of taxpayer dollars,” said Bost. “We can’t always predict bad behavior, but we can put in place systems that lessen taxpayer exposure to it.”

The Veterans Affairs Purchase Card Misuse Mitigation Act

The Veterans Affairs Purchase Card Misuse Mitigation Act would prevent misuse of purchase card spending by requiring the VA Secretary to revoke the purchase card from any employee who is found to have knowingly misused their card or approval authority. This safeguard would prevent further misuse of government funds while existing penalties, ranging from suspension to demotion to removal, are considered for the wrongdoer. Click here for more information. Read the bill here.

Cold with intermittent flurries tonight

A cold air mass will lock into the Heartland, and produce Highs in the 40s, and Lows in the 20s, for the next couple days. Don’t be surprised if you see an occasional light snow flurry, especially during the late night or early morning hours. (NWS Paducah)

A chance of flurries. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 26. West northwest wind 6 to 8 mph.
Mostly sunny, with a high near 42. West northwest wind 7 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph.
Thursday Night
Increasing clouds, with a low around 25. West northwest wind around 6 mph becoming calm in the evening.
Mostly cloudy, with a high near 49. South southeast wind 3 to 7 mph.
Friday Night
A 50 percent chance of rain. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 36. East wind around 7 mph.
Mostly cloudy, with a high near 54. East wind around 8 mph.
Saturday Night
A chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 37. Northeast wind 7 to 10 mph.
A chance of showers, mainly before noon. Partly sunny, with a high near 49. North wind around 11 mph.
Sunday Night
Mostly cloudy, with a low around 32. North wind around 10 mph.
Mostly sunny, with a high near 47. North northwest wind 9 to 13 mph, with gusts as high as 21 mph.
Monday Night
Mostly clear, with a low around 30. North northwest wind 7 to 10 mph.
Sunny, with a high near 47. North northwest wind 7 to 9 mph.

Cedarhurst hosting 2018 SIU photography exhibition

By Pete Rosenbery, SIU News Service 

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The photographic works of Southern Illinois University Carbondale students and faculty are on display at the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Mount Vernon.

The 2018 exhibition “The Influence of Tradition in Contemporary Photography,” features work from undergraduate and graduate students and faculty within the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts. The exhibition, which dates back to 1993, runs through April 29 in the center’s Beal Grand Corridor Gallery.

Admission to the exhibition is free, but admission to the main gallery is $5, except on Thursdays, which are free.

Exhibition presents ‘unique opportunity for students’

The works on display include photographs by students across a varying range of experience levels — from graduate-level students to those who are taking their first photography class — according to Daniel Overturf, professor in the Department of Cinema and Photography.

The exhibition is also special in that it allows students to show their images in a regional arts center with an international reputation for its galleries and sculpture park, he noted.

“In many cases, the exhibit will be the student’s first gallery exhibit. While some students may eventually enter the professional, commercial photography field, many might also enjoy long careers in galleries and other public art events,” Overturf said. “The relationship that has been fostered with Cedarhurst over the years has resulted in many wonderful examples of creative interrelationships between students, faculty and staff in our college.”

Wanted to show ‘hard-working Americans’

John Penkala by Louis Washkowiak

Louis Washkowiak, a senior photography major from Spring Valley, chose a photo from his Applied II Photography class. It’s the last photo class students typically take, and one that helps them find their career paths once they graduate.

Washkowiak said he drew much of the inspiration for his photograph, “John Penkala,” from early 20th century street and documentary-style photographers, such as Walker Evans and Robert Frank. Penkala, Washkowiak said, is a miner for a sand company.

Evans and Frank “had a lot of images showing hard-working Americans, which is something I think is important to preserve,” Washkowiak said. “I simply wanted to create this visual still documentary of John Penkala while he was hard at work.”

Started her shoot with just a location

Delphian by Haley Powell

Powell’s photograph, “Delphian,” projects a deadpan style of photography which is generally described as a deliberate display of no emotion. The photograph is channeling the documentary portrait style of Alec Soth, as well as painting like the Mona Lisa and American Gothic, she said.

Powell, from Savannah, Ga., said she usually starts with a concept or subject.

“But after I found the location I knew I wanted to make a photo of a person in front of the beautiful landscape and somehow I got to this final image,” she said.

‘Personal achievement’ to have photos in exhibit

Washkowiak and Powell each appreciate the chance for others to see their work. Washkowiak would like to have a photo on permanent display in an institution or gallery.

“To me, having an image up at Cedarhurst feels like the first step to achieving my goals,” he said.

The experience is “extremely valuable,” Powell agreed. “This is the only time my work has been exhibited outside of the classroom or the school’s hallways.

“It’s also a safe introduction to the process because there are consistent reminders of deadlines and it’s a student show, which I think makes people respond differently to the work.”

Faculty also contribute work

The 34-piece exhibition is comprised of work from 31 students and three faculty: Overturf, Antonio Martinez, associate professor, and Alison Smith, a visiting lecturer in the department.

‘Visually exciting show with lots of good ideas and execution’

The exhibition is also important for people from the community as it enables them to observe the students’ current ideas and techniques as well as their abilities, Rusty Freeman, Cedarhurst’s director of visual arts, said. He said it is Cedarhurst’s honor to bring awareness of the “teaching and student work being offered” at SIU Carbondale.

“The exhibit is a way of keeping our finger on the pulse of what is happening in today’s world from the students’ unique perspective,” Freeman said.

Exhibit part of larger Paul Strand photography exhibition

Main Gallery admission, which features “Paul Strand and the Masters of American Photography,” is $5 per person; Cedarhurst members, and children 10 and under are free.

Admission is free on Thursday.

Cedarhurst Center for the Arts is at 2600 Richview Road, Mount Vernon.  The facility is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday.  There are extended hours until 8 p.m. on Thursdays. The facility is closed on Mondays and national holidays.

Bost Announces $7.6 Million Federal Grant to Widen I-57

CARBONDALE – U.S. Representative Mike Bost and the Illinois Department of Transportation today announced a $7.6 million federal TIGER grant awarded to add lanes and help ease the flow of traffic in an often-congested, 5-mile stretch of Interstate 57 between Johnston City and Pond Creek. The project will greatly enhance safety while improving the flow of commerce in an important part of Illinois.

“This grant is truly a win-win,” said Bost. “It not only will improve safety along a dangerous stretch of highway between Marion and Mt. Vernon, but also has the potential to lead to economic development around Benton and other points in between.”

“These improvements will have a huge impact on the safety, reliability and efficiency on a key segment of I-57,” said Gov. Bruce Rauner. “Working with our federal and local partners, we are making travel safer and creating economic development in southern Illinois.”

“Interstate 57 is critical to the economy of our state and a major reason why Illinois is the freight capital of the Midwest,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn. “We are pleased that this overdue project can proceed.”

The funds will be used to add a new lane in each direction, resurface existing lanes and install new pavement markings, rumble strips, guardrails and median barriers to prevent crossover crashes.

The interstate is vital to the nation’s freight network. Approximately 39,300 vehicles travel I-57 through Williamson and Franklin counties each day, nearly a third of which is truck traffic. That number can surge to more than 65,000 vehicles a day during high-travel periods in the summer, causing traffic backups that spill onto surrounding local roads and creating gridlock throughout the region.

Improving this stretch of I-57 will greatly boost safety while enhancing the flow of commerce.

The grant is being funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. The total estimated cost of construction is $12.7 million. Construction is to begin in Spring 2019 and end in late 2020.

Bost Statement on Bringing 500 Jobs Back to Granite City Works

Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Mike Bost (R-Muprhysboro), Co-Chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus, released the following statement after U.S. Steel announced it will restart one of two blast furnaces (“B” blast furnace) and the steelmaking facilities at its Granite City Works plant. The company anticipates calling back approximately 500 employees beginning this month.  The restart process could take up to four months.

“This is a big victory for the hardworking steel families in Granite City and the entire Metro East economy,” said Bost. “I was heartbroken by the plant’s idling. Not only did I hear you, I took your fight to the Halls of Congress to combat unfair and illegal trade practices that have hurt American steelworkers. Through bipartisan legislation, we empowered the Department of Commerce to help American companies and workers respond rapidly to illegally-traded imports, but more needed to be done. That’s why I helped advance efforts for the Section 232 investigation and took the case of Southern Illinois’ steelworkers directly to President Trump as he was deliberating its findings and recommendations. But we’re not done. We still have more work to do, because I have no doubt in my mind that the American steelworker is second to none when competing on equal footing.”

“Congressman Bost has been a champion for battling unfair trade and reviving steelmaking at Granite City,” said U. S. Steel President and Chief Executive Officer David B. Burritt. “He’s been a vocal, aggressive leader for America’s steel industry. We appreciate his advocacy throughout the Trump Administration’s Section 232 national security investigation of steel imports.”

In its announcement, U.S. Steel specifically cited trade remedies resulting from findings in a Department of Commerce Section 232 investigation. The purpose of the Section 232 investigation is to determine whether imports are harmful to national security and whether measures should be taken to protect domestic industries critical to national security.  The Commerce Department report summarizing findings from the Section 232 investigation was delivered to the President on January 11, 2018. The Administration had 90 days following the delivery of the report to decide on any potential action.

Recent actions taken by Rep. Bost on American Steel:

 March 1, 2018: Bost Applauds Steel Tariff Announcement

February 16, 2018: Bost Statement on Commerce Department’s Steel Report

February 13, 2018: Bost Takes Plight of Southern Illinois’ Steelworkers to White House

December 5, 2017: Bost, Steel Caucus Leaders Meet with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross

October 27, 2017: Congressional Steel Caucus Urges President to Complete Steel Imports Investigation

Corps to Drop Christmas Trees In Rend Lake for Fish Habitat

From Keep America

Benton, IL – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Rend Lake has scheduled the annual Christmas tree drop for Wednesday, March 14, 2018.  On this day, Corps of Engineers employees, Illinois Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologists, and volunteers will place bundled and weighted Christmas trees into Rend Lake for the purpose of creating fish habitat.  The tree drop will begin at the South Sandusky Boat Ramp at 8:00 am.   Due to changing weather conditions, this launch location is subject to change, depending upon wind and weather conditions the morning of the drop. For confirmation of the drop location, volunteers may call the Rend Lake Project Office at 618-724-2493, the morning of the drop.

More than 400 Christmas trees were collected from the local community, Marion Menards, Marion home Depot, Mt. Vernon and Carbondale Lowes, The Patch (Pittsburg), Marion Parks Department, and the Mt. Vernon Parks and Recreation Department. Placing bundled trees in the lake creates underwater structure for fish.  This structure serves a variety of purposes such as providing feeding areas for fish of all sizes; provides a hiding place for small fish; and provides excellent fishing spots for anglers.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Rend Lake would like to remind the public that, according to Title 36 Section 327.20, Unauthorized Structures, placement of any unauthorized structure or stake-beds into Rend Lake is prohibited. Persons wishing to volunteer or searching for more information can contact Mark Cazier at the Rend Lake Project Office at 618-724-2493.

SIU will host Regional College Fair March 15

By Christi Mathis – SIU News Service 

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale is hosting the Southern Illinois Regional College Fair, bringing together prospective students with representatives from numerous institutions of higher learning.

The Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling event will be from 10:30 a.m. until noon on March 15 at the SIU Arena. The college fair is free and open to the public.

Representatives from SIU’s Undergraduate Admissions and other units around campus, including the academic colleges, will be on hand along with representatives of about 60 other public and private universities, colleges and community colleges. They will provide informational materials to participating students and answer questions.

SIU has invited students from high schools and community colleges in a wide region to participate and more than 20 high schools already have committed to bring student groups. Walk-in participants are welcome; enter through the east lobby entrance of the arena.

The event is one of several regional college fairs taking place throughout the state. SIU is hosting the March 15 event as a community service.

For more information, contact Michelle Rust, SIU senior admissions coordinator, at or by calling 618/453-2184.


Benton, West Frankfort, Illinois News | Franklin County News