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West Frankfort
West Frankfort expands liquor licenses to address video gaming requests

WEST FRANKFORT — Mayor Tom Jordan said after lively, but civil debate, the West Frankfort City Council is moving forward to change the way the city handles liquor licenses and video gaming.

The council was scheduled to discuss expanding its Class A liquor licenses and to approve a request for a new license.

Jordan said during September’s meeting, a discussion surrounding the Nifty Swifty gas station’s request for a liquor license prompted Tuesday’s agenda item. Jordan said the gas station owners requested a license in order to place a gaming facility in a new 72 feet by 36 feet convenience store and gaming station that would replace the gas station — the State of Illinois requires gaming establishments have a Class A license.

“The other option was if we don’t then there’s concerns they would have to close the business,” Jordan said of the request. He explained that he believed the item deserved a broader discussion that involved greater public input.

Tuesday’s meeting provided just that. Jordan said business owners that have gaming at their establishments came to speak against adding a new license and expanding the number of licenses the city offers — there were seven at the time. Jordan said they were concerned about a reduction in their revenue.

According to an August Illinois Gaming Board Report, West Frankfort’s net wagering activity among seven gaming sites is just shy of $1.5 million.

“The concern is that the gaming pie, and what is going to be spent in West Frankfort, is a known quantity,” Jordan said.

He said he sees both sides of the coin. Ultimately though, he said he is inclined to side with development. He asked this question: “Do we not grow, do we not look to other people to come in if it’s going to hurt somebody that’s already here?”

In the end, Jordan said the City Council decided to expand the number of available Class A Licenses in the city from seven to 10, granting the Nifty Swifty request.

Jordan said he personally is not in favor of gaming, but said he is tasked with managing development in the city within the law. He said gaming is legal in the state and while West Frankfort does not want to be a gaming hub in Southern Illinois, it can help some businesses stay afloat, which is good for the city.

“We want to be good stewards and make sure the community doesn’t suffer at our hands,” he said. “I’m anti-gaming, but I’m pro-West Frankfort."

There was some discussion also, Jordan said, of what criteria the city will use in the future in granting the remaining liquor licenses.

“The city’s position right is now is … in order to get a gaming license in West Frankfort, we would like you to invest in the community,” Jordan said.

Jordan said what that investment looks like will be up for debate in the next few months. He said he would like established businesses previous investments in the city to be considered should someone want to apply for a license.

“First priority would be the people that are already here,” Jordan said.

Jordan said he wants to make sure there are set, publicly known criteria to be used in these decisions so no one feels discriminated against. He said this will be discussed in the coming months during council meetings.

By adding more liquor licenses, the city will potentially be able to support more community development endeavors. Jordan said half of the city’s revenue from gaming is put to community building, particularly aimed at young people — in August, the city received $52,498.40 according to the Gaming Board Report. Jordan said in the past, the city has donated to a local park, sponsored a trip to Chicago for a local student to attend a thespian competition, as well as to a local cheer leading squad.

Jordan said he is really pleased with the tone of the debate Tuesday.

“It was great to be involved in that discussion and we look forward to moving forward in a positive way,” he said.

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Work underway to replace brick roadway, sidewalks on South Market Street in Marion

MARION — Work is underway to replace the brick surface on South Market Street and sidewalks along both sides of the street. The work area is just south of the entrance to Marion Carnegie Library parking lot.

Samantha Cativera, a librarian with the Marion Carnegie Library, said patrons have voiced “lots of opinions” about the street work, as well as their difficulty getting into the parking lot. Some think the street should have been covered with asphalt. Others like the brick.

“I’m glad they are putting brick back down. I think it will look nice,” Cativera said.

Outside, some people stopped to watch the workers lay brick.

Dan King, project supervisor for E.T. Simonds, was measuring brick to make sure everything was lining up correctly.

“We are checking every five rows and have to make adjustments,” King said.

This is E.T. Simonds first street-paving project using brick. When the project is complete, workers will have paved 1,056 feet of street with 126,000 bricks.

“This might be the first road bricked in Southern Illinois in 100 years,” King said.

Originally the project was projected was predicted to take 11 days, but several variables have slowed progress. One had to do with the way the bricks were shipped. Workers are laying two different styles of bricks and had to sort them.

The other is the weather. The sand between the bricks is a polymer that turns to wet when water is applied. The rain causes the gel to cover the surface of the bricks with what King described as a slimy film. Once it sets, workers will pressure wash the street to remove the residue.

King said the process has been slower than anticipated.

“It’s very time consuming — a little more than expected,” King said.

It started with the removal of the old brick surface. Workers have removed brick that is believed to be more than 100 years old.

When Rece Roper heard about the street project last year, he had an idea that would recycle the brick and meet the requirements of a project assigned by his English teacher Elizabeth Hileman.

“It had to something you could show progress,” Roper said.

Roper did not know if the project would be possible, but he decided to try. His idea was to sell bricks to be engraved and set in bands of five bricks in the sidewalk.

“He took a part of the past and put it to use in the present to create something that will be here in the future,” Tom Roper, Rece’s dad, said.

The first idea was to sell 56 bricks, one for each year Mayor Robert Butler has served as mayor of Marion. The mayor and City Council thought there would be more people who would purchase a brick, so they raised the number.

Rece Roper sold 102 bricks. Tom Roper said some of the bricks are stamped on back with “Clinton Manufacturing,” the company who made the bricks. To fill in, the bricks will be set so that mark shows.

The original project draft called for the proceeds of the brick sales to be donated back to the city to defray the cost of the project. The City Council instead suggested Rece donate the proceeds to the local charity of his choice. Deciding where to donate the money may be the hardest part of the project.

“It was actually harder than I thought it would be,” Rece said. “There are a lot of different local charities.”

He may end up splitting the funds between two or more organizations.

“He’s done a really great job with the project. It is good for him to go to the city council meetings and present his project and get to know people in the community,” Tom Roper said.

“I think it’s awesome. I didn’t know if the project would be accepted, and it will finally be set in stone or set in sidewalk,” Rece Roper said.

Richard Sitler / Richard Sitler, The Southern 

Marion running back Caden Hilliard takes the handoff from quarterback David Fletcher during a first quarter play that resulted in a touchdown this season at Carbondale. 

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Carbondale police investigating another armed robbery by men in Halloween masks

CARBONDALE — Police are investigating after another armed robbery at a business early Friday morning — at least the eighth to occur since late July.

According to a news release from Lt. Paul Edwards with the Carbondale Police Department, officers responded at 12:32 a.m. to a business in the 1900 block of South Illinois Avenue, near the intersection of Pleasant Hill Road and South Illinois Avenue.

Officers learned that two suspects entered the business — police did not identify the business — and demanded money, and one suspect displayed a firearm. That suspect, who police said is believed to be a black male, was wearing a Halloween mask, a hooded black coat, blue jeans and dark footwear; he was about 5 feet 8 inches tall and was of "average build." The other suspect, who police said is also believed to be a black male, also wore a Halloween mask and a black coat, black jeans and dark footwear; he is about 6 feet tall and "had an average build."

The suspects left the business westbound on foot with an undisclosed amount of money and merchandise, the release said. No one was injured.

Since late July, at least seven other armed robberies have occurred in Carbondale and Herrin by suspects in Halloween masks with similar descriptions to those involved in the Friday morning robbery. Carbondale Police did not say whether this latest robbery is connected to the others.

The Friday morning incident is at least the eighth armed robbery within the past three months in which the suspects wore Halloween masks. The cities of Carbondale and Herrin announced in a news release last week that they are offering a $3,000 reward to anyone with information leading to the arrest of the suspects in the previous robberies, which police are investigating as connected.

Anyone with information about the most recent incident is encouraged to contact the Carbondale Police Department at 618-457-3500 or Crime Stoppers at 618-549-2677.