Firefighters called to West Frankfort home

West Frankfort fire fighters responded to a call this morning for a possible electrical fire in the 200 block of East Elm Street.


West Frankfort firefighters were called to a possible electrical fire Wednesday morning. Firefighters were summoned just after 9 a.m., at the report of smoke coming from the rear of the home.

Two residents said they noticed smoke, but did not know the source. They exited the home safely.

The home is located at 212 East Elm Street in West Frankfort.

Benton man faces battery charges

Benton Police have arrested David A. Hunt, 21, of Benton after a call about a domestic dispute on Wednesday night.

Police investigated the dispute in the 1400 block of South Pope Street, and charged Hunt with aggravated domestic battery, domestic battery, battery, unlawful interference with the reporting of domestic violence, and two counts of criminal damage to property.

Desmar Jackson lifts Saluki Men’s Basketball past Fresno State, 57-54


With 12 seconds left in a tie ballgame, Desmar Jackson launched an off-balance 3-pointer that caught nothing but nylon as the shot clock expired, giving Southern Illinois a 57-54 victory over Fresno State on Wednesday.

The Salukis (4-1) sent a crowd of 5,409 — the largest since the Creighton game in 2011 — home with smiles on their faces as the team is off to its best start since 2006.

“I’m really proud of the effort our fans made and proud of the effort our players made,” said SIU head coach Barry Hinson. “More importantly, I’m really happy for you.”

Two players carried the Salukis on their backs. Jackson finished with a career-high 25 points and made 3-of-4 from 3-point range, while Jeff Early had his second-career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

“Jackson was tough all night and made plays when he had to down the stretch,” said Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry. “I give him a lot of credit. He had an answer all night at the end of the shot clock.”

The Salukis led by as many as 12 points in the second half before the Bulldogs (3-3) rallied to take a 52-50 lead on a driving layup by Tyler Johnson with 2:22 remaining. Neither team led by more than one point thereafter, until Jackson hit his 3-pointer.

“(Desmar) has an incredible offensive pace, which absolutely drives me nuts,” Hinson said. “He’s slow and methodical. No one rushes him. It’s pretty good at a moment like that, that you have that pace.”

The Wyoming transfer, who sat out last season, has had up-and-down performances so far this year and entered the game shooting 37 percent from the field. Hinson said he wasn’t worried about the junior guard’s offense, however.

“I told him before the game started, you have one minute, maybe 30 seconds, if you come out and don’t get in a stance and don’t guard, you’re coming immediately out of the game,” Hinson said. “I think we’re going to let him play the next game.”

Southern’s defense set the tone early by holding the Bulldogs scoreless for the first seven minutes of the contest and without a field goal until Kevin Olekaibe made a 3-pointer with 9:11 to go in the first half. The problem for SIU was that it struggled nearly as much on offense, converting just one field goal during a six-minute span of the first half. Jackson finally took over with a flurry of late baskets, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer just before the half.

The victory was all the more remarkable considering Hinson threw his entire team out of practice on Tuesday after just 10 minutes.

“I felt like we took it for granted,” he explained. “I told our players today at practice, how we can ever take for granted the opportunity to run out there and play basketball blows my mind. I asked them, do you want to do it your way or do you want to do it our way? Thank goodness they wanted to do it our way.”

A week after challenging Saluki fans to turn out in large numbers for tonight’s game, Hinson was effusive in his praise for the fans.

“It was really more of a plea than anything — could you come help us?” he said. “For the 5,400 people today that came and watched us play, I can’t thank you enough. Our players were so excited. They came running in the locker room after shoot-around and said, ‘Coach, there’s people in the stands.'”

“There’s no chance we win that game tonight unless they’re here. It was really special — thank you.”

Meridian spoils Redbirds’ season opener


The Meridian Bobcats rode the 26 points from senior Josh Jones enroute to a 67-43 win over the West Frankfort Redbirds. This was the opening game for coach Dan Dewerff and his Redbird team.

Meridian jumped out to a 15-9  lead after one quarter of play. The Redbirds mounted comebacks but could not get close enough to make the game in doubt. Meridian continued to build their lead in each quarter.

Leading the way for the Redbirds was sophomore Christian Dunning with a dozen points. Seniors Trent Easley and Nick Korolenko were the only other ‘Birds in double figures with 10 points apiece.

The Redbirds stay on the road as they travel to Sesser-Valier Friday night. The home opener is set for Saturday night against Pinckneyville.

W.F. Police announce arrest in firearm theft



West Frankfort Police Chief Jeff Tharp has announced an arrest in the recent burglary of a West Frankfort home. No date was identified when three guns were found missing from a home in the 100 block of West Sixth Street. Chief Tharp said the victim could not pinpoint when the guns were stolen.

The guns stolen were: a .22 long rifle, with a Bushnell scope, a Colt commander .45 caliber pistol, stainless steel and a 100th Anniversary edition, and also taken was a Heritage Roughrider .22 caliber pistol.

On Nov. 14, West Frankfort Police saw the investigation lead to Fairfield. A Fairfield resident told police there that he had purchased one of the firearms but did not know it was stolen. A similar story then emerged with a Thompsonville man saying he bought a gun, not knowing it was taken in a burglary.

West Frankfort Police developed a suspect in the case, and arrested 22-year-old Justin M. Murphy at a home on North Illinois Avenue in West Frankfort.

According to Chief Tharp, Murphy has admitted to investigators he entered the home of an acquaintance and took the weapons.

Murphy has been charged with residential burglary and the theft of the firearms.


Benton library plans Christmas Talent Show


Benton Public Library will hold its first Christmas Talent Show Dec. 12 at 6:30 p.m.  The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.

“This is something new we’re trying this year,” said library director, Erin Steinsultz. “We’ve had Christmas concerts in the past that have been well attended.  Violinist Rebecca Curry has performed for us many times, and she came up with this idea to offer the teens of our community a chance to show off their talents.”

The library has a signup sheet at the front desk for any teen wishing to participate.  Interested performers should sign up before December 7.

“We’re hoping for a variety of performers, from musicians to poets and anything in between, as long as it has a holiday theme,” said Steinsultz.

Curry and her family have been long-time supporters of the library.

“Rebecca and her brothers have all volunteered at the library.  We appreciate their support.  I think this is a great idea, and I appreciate her interest in helping the library to provide new things,” said Steinsultz.

Performers and audience members should please refrain from wearing perfume or cologne due to severe fragrance allergies.

The library encourages all teens to sign up and share their talents.

“I know we have a lot of talent in the teens that come here regularly.  All teens are welcome to perform, even if they’re new to the library,” said Steinsultz.

Anyone with questions or who is interested in performing can call the library at 618-438-7511.

Redbirds ready for season opener tonight


Coach Dan Dewerff begins his third season at the helm of the West Frankfort Redbird boys basketball team on Tuesday night.

The opening game of the season was to have been this past Saturday as the ‘Birds were scheduled to host Benton. However, the Rangers asked to move the game, and it will now be played Dec. 21.

So, the Redbird junior varsity and varsity open their 2012-2013 season tonight against Meridian High School in Mounds. While always a top notch Class A program, the Bobcats mark a change in the Redbird schedule under Dewerff. In his first two years, he was tasked with preparing the Redbirds to play powerful Pinckneyville.
This year’s edition of the Redbirds feature eight seniors as part of their roster. Two freshmen starters from a year ago also return.
One sophomore  expected to start and heavily contribute is Hunter Johnson. However a knee injury will keep him on the sidelines tonight.

WF City Council to discuss next step in electric aggregation process


A regular meeting of the West Frankfort City Council is slated for tonight at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 201 E. Nolen St. One of the items listed in the agenda is the next step in the city’s electric aggregation process: Commissioners will consider approval of an agreement with the city of Marion to pool their households and buy energy under the same contract.

West Frankfort voters approved an electric aggregation referendum earlier this month, which allows the city to buy power in bulk on the futures market for residents, a move that can save households 20 to 25 percent on the purchased power rate on their electric bills.

Both Marion and West Frankfort have contracted with Select Energy to facilitate the electric aggregation process, and the company has recommended the two cities buy under one contract, as more households can add up to greater savings.

West Frankfort residents will be given the opportunity to “opt out” of electric aggregation and continue to buy their electricity from Ameren before the program begins.

The Council is also expected to approve a $35,000 loan to Morthland College. This had been discussed at a previous council meeting, but tabled. There had been concern that the city would not be able to grant the loan to the private college.
A third major item on the agenda is the next step in renovating the now cleared site of UMWA Hospital, on West St. Louis Street. The site, being purchased by the city, will be offered to developers. At tonight’s meeting, the Council is expected to approve a $2,500 expenditure to begin Phase One of the environmental site assessment.
A new tenant is expected to be approved for the Business Incubator, Street Department grievances will be discussed, and routine business is also expected to come before the council tonight. As always, the meeting is open to the public.

Railroad to fix rough crossings in W.F.


Repair crews will begin patching rough areas on the railroad crossings at Cleveland and St. Louis streets within the next two weeks, according to West Frankfort City Commissioner Tara Fasol-Chambers.

After fielding calls from local residents complaining about the tracks and potential damage to vehicles, Fasol-Chambers met with Union Pacific Railroad officials, who conducted an inspection of the railroad crossings in the city. The railroad company is responsible for maintenance of the tracks, not the city.

Although the concrete areas surrounding the tracks are periodically inspected, repaired and replaced, Southern Illinois weather is not conducive to their long-term condition. The cycles of freezing, thawing, heat and moisture cause areas to weaken and crumble under normal traffic patterns.

Following the inspection, commissioner Chambers announced that repair crews would be patching the affected areas in the next week or two. The patching should be enough to keep the crossings intact throughout the winter. Next spring, additional reconstruction work will be done on a larger scale.

The crossings at Cleveland and St. Louis streets will be blocked on a short-term basis during the work when necessary.

Zeigler officials await property answer on old football field


One of the most meaningful projects in Zeigler’s early TIF District history could see construction in the near future. That optimism that a rumored Dollar General Store will be built in the community comes as a counter offer for land is being considered.

The 1.7 acres being considered is at the northern edge of the city. It is part of an area that is best remembered as the Zeigler-Royalton High School football field.  When the Tornadoes and the nearby Christopher Bearcats began co-oping their team, the games were moved to Spann Field in Christopher. Since that time, the former football field has been used as a walking path by some in the community.

Zeigler Mayor Dennis Mitchell confirmed that an offer by an unnamed developer was not quite enough money for the land. However, a recent counter offer was made which we are told is closer to the appraised value of the lot. Zeigler officials await a reply from the developer seeking the property.

Zeigler Council members have speculated on the use of the land by the developer. They have specifically mentioned Dollar General Store as a possible business seeking to build. That would fit a profile being watched in other communities as well. West Frankfort is believed to be in negotiations for a second Dollar General Store in that community. No timetable for reply to the counter offer was mentioned at the previous Zeigler City Council meeting.

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