Mt. Vernon to Consider Repeal of Utility Capital Improvement Fee

Press Release From Mary Becthel, Mt. Vernon City Manager

On Friday, September 15 at 9 a.m. at City Hall, the City Council will be is considering repealing the Utility Capital Improvement Fee also known as the meter fee and replacing it with a sales tax to fund water and sewer improvements. If the City Council chooses to implement a sales tax, the ordinance will have to be passed and file with the State of Illinois by October 1.

The Utility Committee has been studying the water and sewer infrastructure and has identified several immediate needs, such as, water tower maintenance and replacement, water line replacements, water meter replacements, sewer lift station replacements, sewer line replacement and relining.

Also before the City Council will be a plan for equipment replacement, roadway improvement plan, demolition of condemned structures and accelerated debt reduction also funded from the newly proposed sales tax.

In a statement from Mayor Lewis, “The meter tax is putting an undue burden on a large percentage of our citizens who live at the poverty level or on fixed income. The City has some immediate needs with our water and sewer infrastructure”. This MUST be addressed. If you don’t have running water, EVERYTHING stops, the new schools, Water Park, and life as we’re used to. We have also discovered that there has been no equipment replacement program in place for many, many years. A check with our fleet supervisor revealed that there is approximately 6.4 million dollars’ worth of vehicle or equipment which needs to be replaced either because of age, mileage or upkeep maintenance has gotten out of hand.

We have whittled that list down to approximately 3 million in immediate needs but even at that level, it will take many years to get our heads above water. Further, we discovered there has not been a street maintenance program which has kept up with our deteriorating streets as well as funding the demolition of condemned structures.

Although I do not like taxes, the meter tax has to go. To replace that revenue stream, be much more affordable to our citizens, and address ALL of our immediate needs, I am proposing a 1% home rule tax. This is one of those tough decisions but the result would be the removal of your $10 per month meter tax and for the majority of our citizens, 52.8%, replace it with a tax that would cost each household $2.25 OR LESS. A savings for the vast majority of our citizens of $7.75 every month.

This tax would not apply to groceries, medicines, nor licensed vehicles. Not only would this tax save the majority of our citizen’s money, but would also be enough to fund utility system improvements, equipment replacement program, demolition program, a street improvement program AND start paying down our bond debt. Our infrastructure is part of our “house” and we must maintain it if we plan to stay in this house. Every penny will be dedicated to our infrastructure or bond reduction.

Some may wonder why the rush; the reasoning is to remove the meter fee as soon as possible. To do that the State of Illinois requires notification by October 1st in order to collect the tax receipts starting January 1st. If we wait it will not be until June of 2018, meaning the meter tax would stay in place until then.”

KFC in Harrisburg rebuilding

The Kentucky Fried chicken in Harrisubrg, which has the largest seating capacity in the US, will be reconstructed soon. (Flickr photo)

HARRISBURG, IL –  Please click on the link from Travis DeNeal from the Harrisburg Register, discussing with KFC manager Val Mitchell about the new store being built in Harrisburg.

A couple of the amenities the new store will have will be a double buffet and a meeting room.

The old store was one of the largest KFC’s in the nation.  There are several Franklin County residents, especially on the east side of the county will make a special trip to eat there.

Korean War vet’s remains identified; to be returned to Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, IL  – (Travis DeNeal, Harrisburg Register.  Please click on the link above for the full story.  Here is an excerpt below.)

Edward L. Borders was a U.S. Army Reserve corporal and a member of the 2nd Infantry Division fighting in the Korean War when he disappeared in February of 1951.  He was 20.

According to information from his family, he was a member of Army Battery D 82nd Anti-Aircraft Artiller Automatic Weapons Battalion in the 2nd Infantry.

Though the North Korean government confirmed Borders had died in a prisoner of war camp later that same year, his remains were not positively identified until recently.

Dozen take part in RLC baseball camp

Rend Lake College’s second baseball camp of the summer saw grades 6-8 working on the fundamentals hitting, fielding, pitching, throwing, base running, and mental aspects of the game. The camp was coached by RLC Head Baseball Coach Tyler O’Daniel, far left, volunteer Kaleb Miller, left and volunteer Jake Wylie, far right. Participants in alphabetical order were: Anderson Barker (Mt. Vernon), Colton Berk (Woodlawn), Erik Healy (Enfield), Will Meadows (DuQuoin), Braxton Ragan (McLeansboro), Nathan Ragland (Sesser), Gavin Rogers (DuQuoin), Jake Rogers (DuQuoin), Camden Storm (Bonnie), Drew Wheeler (Mt. Vernon), Robert White (Mt. Vernon) and Dalton Williams (Valier). Click on the image for a larger view.

Johnston City, Illinois, plans for 1st fireworks show in nearly a decade

JOHNSTON CITY, IL (Logan Gay, WPSD-TV.  Please click on the link above for the full story and video above.  Here is an excerpt below.)

For the first time in nearly a decade, a local city will host a fireworks show. The catch is that the event is actually being held a week before July 4, and the city only had three weeks to plan it.

The show in Johnston City is possible because of Panera Bread. The company chose Johnston City to film a national commercial. Panera Bread said the fireworks show is the theme for the commercial. Panera Bread paid the city $30,000 for it.

People in Johnston City told me they believe it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. One of the local organizers, Grant Mitchell, said the town feels like it won the lottery.

NOTE:  Panera Bread donates to a lot of causes here in Franklin County that is unknown, especially to fight poverty.  I felt that was worth mentioning.


50 Influencers of Rend Lake College: Doug Leeck, Gone too Soon

Reece Rutland, Rend Lake College Public Information 

INA, IL –  Doug Leeck is still a name that brings a wellspring of emotion to people around Rend Lake College to this day, 20 years after his untimely passing. His memory invokes looks of pride, wry smiles and profound sadness for a man who loved his students but left us all too soon.

Leeck, an Opdyke resident, started his journey with the college as a student, graduating with an Associate of Arts Degree in 1972, studying under former RLC President (and future colleague and friend) Mark Kern.

Doug Leeck (RLC photo)

He went on to earn a B.S. in Ag Education from SIUC and returned to Rend Lake College to teach Welding and Hydraulics from 1975-78. He joined the AAA (Agriculture, Architecture and Automotive) faculty as an Ag Mechanics and Ag Occupations Instructor in 1978. He also was responsible for overseeing students involved in Supervised Occupational Experience classes. Leeck assumed the AAA Department Chair position July 1, 1996, administering six programs and specialized Country Companies training.

Leeck was part of the team that helped the college’s Automotive Technology Program receive a master’s certification from the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation and the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. At the time, RLC was one of just three schools, and the lone community college, in downstate Illinois to receive the honor.

Outside of RLC, Leeck’s larger-than-life personality saw him make a positive impact in several community endeavors as well. At one point or another, he was involved with Mt. Vernon Township High School Board; Jefferson County Fire Protection District Board; the Masons, Shriners and several other fraternal organizations, and such groups as the Association of Diesel Specialists and the Southern Illinois University Alumni Association (lifetime member), in all of which he was an active participant.

Tragically, Leeck died suddenly of a heart attack on March 6, 1997, less than a year after assuming the AAA Department Chair position. He was only 45 years old.

Doug Leeck, left, stands with Corey Rabe, regional sales representative for John Deere, Terry Clark, chairman of the Agriculture Department, and Mark Kern, RLC president.

In the annals of RLC history, Leeck (also known as the soothsayer Karnack the Ag-nificent) is remembered for his biting wit and sense of humor almost as much as the impact that he made in his department as well as on his students lives, and that’s saying something. An estimated 1,200 mourners, many of which were former students, came to the funeral home in a show of love and respect for the fun-loving jokester and serious-minded educator.

A piece written at the time of Leeck’s passing reads, “Friend and foe alike are not going to feel the zing of his biting sense of humor. And the number of jokes told on campus will no doubt be reduced significantly … Most noticeable among those who shared in the family’s grief – and that of the RLC family – were the many students past and present among the visitation guests – several proudly wore their blue Agri-Achiever jackets.

“Nobody made them come. Their beloved instructor was not going to mark them absent. There was no extra-credit attached to this field trip. But, their presence spoke volumes for the impact Doug Leeck had made on their lives. Farm families, in particular, are like that, and his students looked up to Leeck as a fun-loving friend and as a father figure who likewise earned their respect.

“They always knew they could count on Doug Leeck.”

Leeck’s legacy lives on though. His son, Henry “Buster” Leeck, who is not only a RLC graduate (Class of 2000), returned to Ina to teach History as a professor in 2004. Buster now acts as the college’s Dean of the Liberal Arts Division and is a consistent force for good in the lives of RLC students.

In addition, the Leeck family, and friends of the family, have also been incredibly generous in their giving, setting up the Doug Leeck Memorial Scholarship through the Rend Lake College Foundation to ensure future generations have a shot at receiving and education.

To memorialize their connection, Kern purchased a brick during the RLC Clocktower building project, using the stone to commemorate his former student, colleague and friend. Kern also unveiled a commemorative plaque to honor Leeck that now hangs in the Agriculture Program facilities.

In one final gesture to his dedication to students, the Agricultural Program’s Doug Leeck Service Award is presented annually to individuals who go above and beyond to provide exceptional service to students.

And, it wasn’t a single RLC leader that Leeck influenced. Current President Terry Wilkerson also shared a close connection with Leeck. A fellow product of RLC’s Agriculture Program, Wilkerson studied under Leeck and considered him friend and mentor.

“Doug had a way about him that made education meaningful and fun,” Wilkerson said. “There was never a question about where Doug’s priorities lied … with Rend Lake College students first. Everything else was a distant second.”

In addition to his role at the college, Leeck also co-owned and managed D and L Farms in Valmeyer; he was the owner-operator of Leeck Farms, Opdyke; owner-manager of Leeck Equipment, and a sales representative for Pioneer Hi-bred International seed. He was secretary-treasurer for the Opdyke Cemetery Association and vice president of Dodds Pendleton Coal Association.

The final line of the press release announcing Leeck’s passing holds just as true today as it did back then: “Seriously, Doug, a lot of people – especially your students – are really going to miss you.”


Smith out as MVTHS Superintendent

Press Release by Mt. Vernon Township High School #201 Board of Education



Officials encouraged campus to be aware of symptoms after SIU student diagnosed with bacterial meningitis

CARBONDALE, IL (Daily Egyptian staff report) An SIU student is in critical condition after he or she was diagnosed Monday with bacterial meningitis, a serious illness that inflames tissues covering the brain and spinal cord. In a news release, Ted Grace, director of University Health Services, said the university has notified students and faculty who may have been in contact with the student and has provided them with antibiotics. The university took this as a preventative measure and said students, faculty and staff who have not been contacted by University Health Services should not be concerned. The disease is not highly contagious, university officials said, but can be spread by direct contact with saliva or through the coughing or sneezing of those who are infected.

Relay race to use rural southern Illinois roads this weekend

Southern Illinois River to river relayULLIN, IL (Krystle Callais, WPSD TV Click to read the full story. Here is an excerpt.) Illinois State Police are warning drivers to be on alert for a relay race being held on some southern Illinois roads this weekend. The River to River Relay is being held this Saturday, April 22. The relay race will have teams run from McGee Hill in LaRue Pine Hills on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River through the Shawnee National Forest to the finish at the Ohio River in Golconda. This race goes through Union, Johnson, and Pope County.

Easter sunrise service going strong after 81 years

WSIL photo

WSIL photo

ALTO PASS, IL ( Sean Conway, WSIL TV- Please Click to read the full story. Here is an excerpt) Hundreds gathered at the Bald Knob Cross in Alto Pass Sunday morning for the annual Easter sunrise service. Courtney McKowen drove down nearly two hours from Mt. Vernon to enjoy the service. “It’s about the third time I’ve came,” said McKowen. “I’ve just come to experience the event down here.” McKowen said he loves the experience for the beautiful scenery. People have gathered at Bald Knob for the Easter sunrise service for 81 years. Organizers said it is a unique way for people to connect with their faith. “Just the fact that we can time the service on a hillside … to watch the sunrise as we are worshiping the risen Lord, I think that’s about as unique as it gets,” said Teresa Gilbert, who helped organize the event.

Benton, West Frankfort, Illinois News | Franklin County News