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Herrin High School | Trade Apprenticeships
Trade apprenticeships are helping young people jump into the workforce

MARION — Graduate high school, go to a four-year college, get a high-paying job, that’s the modern day narrative about how to be successful in today’s world — right?

Turns out, that narrative completely ignores a large part of the workforce who are making livable salaries and are doing it without large amounts of debt built up from years at a major university.

Another option high school graduates have is checking out where local apprenticeship programs are located and learning a trade. In a new program at Herrin High School, juniors and seniors are able to finish a bulk of apprenticeship classes before graduating.

Whether it is construction, pipefitting, heating and cooling, or plumbing, options exist outside of a four-year college, according to Griffin Goetz, assistant administrator for the Illinois Laborers' and Contractors Joint Apprenticeship and Training Fund.

“The time of getting a four-year college degree and coming to Southern Illinois and thinking you are get a job paying $60,000, $70,000, $80,000 a year, that is a dream,” he said. “It is not reality. Kids are forced to go to college, last a year, don’t get a degree and are still stuck with thousands of dollars in debt.”

The laborer’s program has a training base set up in Marion. The program takes applications for its apprenticeship program on the first Tuesday of the month. The application process involves an aptitude test. Applicants must have a valid driver’s license, graduate high school or have a GED, and pass a drug test.

Goetz said if the score is high enough on the test, students are brought in for an interview with somebody from the apprenticeship program, the local union and a contractor representative. If they score high enough, they will be placed on the eligibility list and later be called to start classes.

Once the apprenticeship starts, the employees will complete 600 hours of classroom instruction and 3,000 hours of on-the-job training over three years. As for pay, Goetz said it is progressive pay scale. Employees start out at 75 percent of what a journeyman gets paid the first year. It jumps to 85 percent the second year and 95 percent the third year.

After benefits, a journeyman usually makes about $28.23 an hour, Goetz said.

“These men and woman graduate from the program with zero college debt,” he said. “It doesn’t cost them a dime.”

The Plumbing and Pipefitters Local 160 Union also has an apprenticeship program with a similar setup, according to Doug Pursell, training coordinator with Local 160.

He said Local 160 accepts applications year round. The applicant must be 18, have a high school diploma or GED, official transcripts, and will also take an aptitude test. Qualified individuals are interviewed based on scores and placed on a working roster to start the classroom portion.

The pipefitter’s apprenticeship is a five-year program where students go to class two nights a week year-round for three hours a night. The students aren’t paid to be in school, but they are usually working during the day and earning a wage.

Classes are free to the apprentice, and they are paid based on the number of hours completed in the classroom and on the job. Pursell said the average wage for a journeyman is $44 an hour. Apprentices are started at 40 percent of that wage, and move up each year.

Working with students

Goetz said the Illinois Laborers are working with Herrin High School on a new program that will allow juniors and seniors the opportunity to finish a large chunk of apprenticeship classes before finishing high school.

In a new program approved by the Herrin School Board a couple weeks ago dubbed The High School Craft Preparation Program, Goetz said juniors are brought into the apprenticeship program, taught how to pour concrete, rake asphalt, work on a bridge and obtain the instruction through the classwork.

He said by the time the students finish the program as seniors, they will have 12 of the program’s 15 classes needed for the apprenticeship program.

“We have seen a need for years that with the budget cuts, some of the first things that get cut are the trade classes — wood shop, metal shops,” Goetz said.

The Laborers are also hoping to partner with Shawnee Community College to grant those who complete the apprenticeship program 27 hours toward an associate’s degree. Goetz said this program is still pending with the Illinois Community College Board.

Additionally, the apprenticeship program is working with SCC to allow the high school students in the preparation program dual credit to the community college.

“Our program isn’t just a decision of should I go to college, should I not go to college,” he said. “You can do both.”

Jobs are available

Jason Stutes, HVAC instructor at John A. Logan College, says he has seen a tremendous growth in HVAC jobs available. Recently, those jobs have been in maintenance positions because of the wide-reaching skills of a person with a HVAC background.

He said the class is graduating more than 20 students this year and they have all had jobs before the class finished.

“I see people with higher level degree that either can’t get a job or aren’t satisfied with their career to come back and try to make money this way,” Stutes said.

Many times, Stutes said students start the program with intentions to transfer to a four-year school after finishing the program but choose to head straight into the workforce because they figure out how much money they can make.

He said program organizers considered at one point putting a cap on the number of students enrolled in the program but there were concerns about the number of jobs, but that mindset has changed.

“Enrollment has increased and there aren’t enough students to fill the amount of jobs out there,” Stutes said.

Trump chides Giuliani on Stormy story

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump suggested Friday that Rudy Giuliani, the aggressive new face of his legal team, needed to "get his facts straight" about the hush money paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election. Giuliani quickly came up with a new version.

Trump chided Giuliani even as he insisted that "we're not changing any stories" about the $130,000 settlement, which was paid to Daniels to keep her quiet about her allegations of an affair with Trump. Hours later, Giuliani backed away from his previous suggestion that the Oct. 27 settlement had been made because Trump was in the stretch run of his campaign.

"The payment was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the president's family," Giuliani said in a statement released Friday. "It would have been done in any event, whether he was a candidate or not."

A day earlier, Giuliani had said on Fox News: "Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton."

Trump said Friday that Giuliani was "a great guy but he just started a day ago" and the former mayor of New York City was still "learning the subject matter." Giuliani revealed this week that Trump knew about the payment to Daniels made by his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and the president paid Cohen back.

Giuliani insisted Trump didn't know the specifics of Cohen's arrangement with Daniels until recently, telling "Fox & Friends" on Thursday that the president didn't know all the details until "maybe 10 days ago." Giuliani told The New York Times that Trump had repaid Cohen $35,000 a month "out of his personal family account" after the campaign was over. He said Cohen received $460,000 or $470,000 in all for expenses related to Trump.

Giuliani's suggestion that the president knew anything about the payments — even as a monthly retainer — appeared to contradict Trump, who has repeatedly denied the affair and told reporters on Air Force One last month that he hadn't known about a settlement with Daniels.

Trump's irritation was plain Friday when reporters reminded him of his previous denial. He blasted the media for focusing on "crap" stories like the Daniels matter and the special counsel's probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The president claimed that "virtually everything" reported about the payments — which are the subject of swirling legal action and frenzied cable newsbreaks — has been wrong. But he declined to elaborate.

It was Trump's own team's missteps that yielded another day of headlines about Daniels. In his statement, Giuliani said his previous "references to timing were not describing my understanding of the president's knowledge, but instead, my understanding of these matters." He didn't elaborate on that either.

Giuliani's statement correcting himself came just a day after he said, "You won't see daylight between me and the president."

The about-face came amid concern in the White House that Giuliani's comments could leave the president legally vulnerable.

While Giuliani repeated his belief that the payment did not constitute a campaign finance violation, legal experts have said the new information raises questions, including whether the money represented repayment of an undisclosed loan or could be seen as reimbursement for a campaign expenditure. Either could be legally problematic.

The episode also revived worries in Trump's inner circle about Giuliani, who enjoys the media limelight and has a tendency to go off script. He had been widely expected to join Trump's administration but was passed over for secretary of state, the position he badly wanted.

His whirlwind press tour this week bewildered West Wing aides, who were cut out of the decision-making process when Giuliani first revealed that Trump — who often boasts about signing his own checks — had some knowledge about the payment to Daniels.

No debt to Cohen was listed on Trump's personal financial disclosure form, which was certified on June 16, 2017. Asked if Trump had filed a fraudulent form, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday: "I don't know."

Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, is seeking to be released from a non-disclosure deal she signed in the days before the 2016 election to keep her from talking about a 2006 sexual encounter she said she had with Trump. She has also filed defamation suits against Cohen and Trump.

Her attorney, Michael Avenatti, tweeted Friday that "Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Trump are making it up as they go along." He added: "How stupid do they think all of us are?"

Trump is facing mounting legal threats from the Cohen-Daniels situation and the special counsel's investigation of possible Russian coordination with the Trump presidential campaign.

Cohen is facing a criminal investigation in New York, and FBI agents raided his home and office several weeks ago seeking records about the Daniels nondisclosure agreement. Giuliani has warned Trump that he fears Cohen, the president's longtime personal attorney, will "flip," bending in the face of a potential prison sentence, and he has urged Trump to cut off communications with him, according to a person close to Giuliani.

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Jackson County
Larry Reinhardt will not seek re-election as Jackson County Clerk

MURPHYSBORO — Jackson County Clerk Larry W. Reinhardt recently filed papers to remove his name from the ballot for re-election in November 2018.  Reinhardt had filed to run for his sixth consecutive term as county clerk in the primary election March 20. 

Reinhardt had originally planned to freeze his pension and serve four more years if re-elected in November. With Jackson County Board proposing changes to the compensation plan for employees that will raise the employee contribution, he reconsidered his decision.

He decided to withdraw his bid for re-election in mid-April and filed the paperwork to remove his name from the ballot.

“It comes down to economics for me,” Reinhardt said. “For my family, it is better economically for me to retire and focus on real estate.”

He added that will give him a little more time to spend with his 7-month-old granddaughter, too.  

On Wednesday, the Jackson County Democratic Central Committee met to select a candidate to replace Reinhardt on the ballot.

“They caucused in a candidate to replace me. They chose Frank Byrd,” Reinhardt said.

Reinhardt added that Byrd had worked in the county clerk’s office since 2010. Byrd also owned a business and worked for Jackson County Ambulance Service.

Byrd, a longtime employee of the county clerk’s office, has been nominated to fill that vacancy and will stand for election on Nov. 6.

Reinhardt was first elected as Jackson County Clerk and Recorder in 1998 and has run for re-election four times, garnering 67 percent of the vote in 2014.  In the March 2018 primary, Reinhardt drew the second highest vote total in Jackson County for any party in any race in any party, second only to Secretary of State Jesse White. He has been in public service for 30 years.

“I have enjoyed my time in public service,” Reinhardt said.

Over the past 20 years, Reinhardt has been very active at the county, regional and state level, supporting county government and working to keep costs in check. He has served on many state-level committees, including State Board of Elections Advisory Committee, Clerks and Recorders Association Legislative Committee, organizer and charter member of Secretary of State’s Electronic Recording Committee, Illinois Attorney General Social Security Protection/Redaction committee, Illinois Election Cybersecurity Committee, Illinois Flat Fee Recording Committee and others. 

Reinhardt has been active in Illinois Association of County Clerks and Recorders, serving as both regional and state president. For the past 10 years, he has raised $30,000 to $40,000 annually to cover costs of training for clerks and recorders, which helps keep costs down for Illinois counties.

Reinhardt has fought to keep local taxes down by consistently reducing budget costs through insourcing tasks at lower rates and reducing staff levels by one-third through attrition. Jackson County Clerk’s budget has traditionally held only a 1 to 1.5 percent comparable budget growth during the past 20 years for this reason. 

“Over the years, I have had positions at the state level which have allowed me to save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Reinhardt said. “I have no doubt that Mr. Byrd, if elected, will continue that.”

Reinhardt plans to remain active in the community and will continue to serve as supervisor of Somerset Township.

“I am thankful for the opportunity Jackson County has offered and what it provided my family. I look forward to next chapter,” Reinhardt said.


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State | Adams County
Illinois coroner to poor: Pay $1,000 or county keeps remains

A coroner in western Illinois is facing sharp criticism for how he handles poor people who can't afford to bury their loved ones: He has them sign over their rights to the deceased, leaving them without the death certificate, then cremates the body and keeps the ashes until the family pays $1,000.

If they cannot come up with the money, the ashes are eventually buried, along with others, in an unmarked grave. If the family needs the death certificate to access bank accounts or life insurance, the coroner first arranges for the county to recoup its costs from any proceeds.

Adams County Coroner James Keller says the policy started after the state, which for years has faced billion-dollar deficits and unpaid bills, announced it was too broke to pay for indigent funerals and burials — shifting the cost to funeral homes and county coroners. Of the $1,000 people pay, he says $800 goes to the funeral homes and $200 to the crematory.

The county's poverty rate of 13 percent is on par with the overall rate in Illinois. Keller says his approach protects taxpayers in the small county along the Mississippi River, ensures local funeral homes get money for their services and gives poor families an alternative to paying for a full burial. He's continued the policy even though the state has resumed paying for the funerals.

"We do our very best and our due diligence to taxpayers, and we try to be supportive of families, with the hand that we're dealt with by the state," Keller said.

Some residents are trying to change the policy, saying it amounts to the coroner's office holding ashes hostage and creates a financial crisis for grieving relatives already struggling to pay for basic necessities.

"I felt like it was a kidnapping. He was being held against his will," said Tom McElroy, whose brother, Mark, died last year with nothing more than the $200 in his wallet.

After Chris Weible died last month, his family held a memorial service at a Quincy church with just a photograph and an empty container. Weible and his ex-wife, Wendy Smith, who had three children together, were both on disability.

"I just think they pick on the people that are poor," Smith said.

How to pay for indigent burials is a question that has stymied other counties and states. More than a dozen states provide money to cover the costs, though several — from Indiana to West Virginia — say their funds haven't been enough to meet demands.

Illinois provides up to $1,655 — $1,103 for funerals and $552 for cremation and burial. But the money was cut off in 2010 and again in 2015 as the state headed into a more than two-year budget impasse. In some cases, counties ended up picking up the costs.

Rod Cookson, co-owner of Zehender Robinson Stormer Cookson Funeral Home in Quincy, said at one point the state owed his business about $20,000. Cookson said he didn't know the Legislature restored the funding.

"They're bankrupt," he said of the state.

He's not the only funeral home director who's either unaware that funding is available again or has given up on the state. Though lawmakers appropriated $9.3 million this year — the same amount as the 2015 budget year — the number of claims has plummeted, from 5,652 in the 2015 budget year to 1,084 so far this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Cookson likes Keller's program and said and it's not right that some are making him out to be "next to the devil." While some places such as Chicago's Cook County pay for indigent burials, in other counties poor residents must call around to funeral homes until they find one that will help.

"These people that don't have any money are very, very lucky to live in Adams County," Cookson said.

Keller also works as a funeral director, but he insists his decision to create the policy was unrelated to his other job.

He says he had 90 inquiries about indigent burials last year. He says he asks families multiple times if they're sure they want to sign over their loved one's body, and gives them time to change their minds. He says he doesn't give them the death certificate or ashes to protect against "abuse," such as a case in which he later learned a family that didn't want to pay for burial had received life insurance.

Smith has a different version of events. She says she was unclear about what the form she was signing would do, and that she asked Keller if he could work with her to make payments toward the $1,000 and he refused. She also says Keller told her that if she didn't pay, he'd bury the ashes in a cemetery and not reveal the location. He denies that, but several friends and family say they heard Keller make that statement or that he separately told them the same thing.

Smith eventually raised the $1,000 through donations. McElroy's family did the same, but it took months.

"He could've died in prison and been better off," Tom McElroy said. "He deserved better."