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Strong storms rip through Southern Illinois on Tuesday night

Heavy rains, winds and the threat of tornadoes hit parts of Southern Illinois on Tuesday, causing some substantial damage.

Williamson, Saline and Franklin Counties all reported damage. The rest of the region saw bursts of heavy windfall and strong wind gusts throughout the night.

Properties along Illinois 148 in Energy and Herrin were hit hard, including damage to fences, roofs being displaced from homes, telephone poles down and live power lines on the road. Motorists driving along Illinois 148 about 7 p.m. were asked to find an alternate route for a couple hours.

The Williamson County Fire Protection District also reported the former Home Town Heroes building in Energy was severely damaged.

Carterville had a similar story, with trees striking homes causing major damage, and some structures being completely blown down during the winds.

The Williamson County Fire Protection District reported downed trees and property damage near Fowler School Road in what used to be the Whiteash area.

Significant damage was also reported in Saline County. Attempts to reach Saline County officials for official reports were unsuccessful.

The National Weather Service issued several tornado warnings throughout deep Southern Illinois. At press time, there were no reports available to The Southern that tornadoes had been spotted on the ground, but several significant areas of rotation seen on radar prompted the warnings.

The first came at 5:23 p.m., on a cell near Scott City, Missouri, projected to move in the direction of towns in Alexander and Pulaski counties, including East Cape Girardeau, Tamms, Ullin, Thebes and Pulaski. 

The second was issued just two minutes later for a storm located near Energy at the time. That cell continued to hold indications of rotation, setting off warnings for parts of Williamson, Franklin, Hamilton, Saline and Gallatin counties in Illinois, as well as moving into Posey County, Indiana, and Henderson County, Kentucky, before weakening. 

The Williamson County Emergency Management Agency said in a press release that several structures had been damaged in that cell. They also noted that the American Redd Cross had shelter location on standby with overnight housing available for any affected people. Those living in the affected areas were urged to use caution and follow the directions of local officials. Those not living in affected areas were urged to stay clear to allow first responders to do their work. Citizens in need of assistance, or with damage to report, were urged to call the Williamson County Sheriff's Office at 997-6541. 

Additional warnings on a third cell were issued at 5:56 p.m. near Vienna and at 6:22 near New Columbia, and a third cell at 6:29 near Metropolis. 

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SIU | Smoke-Free Campus
Smoke-free SIU? Some students say smoking has decreased, but still happens on campus

CARBONDALE — In August 2014, the Illinois Smoke Free Campus Act was signed, and by July 2015, Southern Illinois University Carbondale was supposed to be completely smoke-free.

In compliance with the law, the campus posted no-smoking signs on buildings and campus entrances, and worked to build awareness of the policy, according to Rae Goldsmith, chief marketing and communications officer at SIU.

Students who violate the policy are subject to disciplinary actions under the Student Conduct Code, and visitors could be reported to the SIU Department of Public Safety. That is, if they are caught.

Goldsmith said the campus has had very few issues since the ban was implemented.

“Since so many places are now smoke-free, most people understand and comply,” she said. “Enforcement is largely a community effort. People simply diplomatically remind smokers that we are a smoke-free campus per state law, and smokers will usually dispose of their cigarettes right away. Often, the smokers are visitors or new students who simply didn't know.”

However, some students say smoking still happens on campus, but it happens considerably less often. A sign is posted on Faner Hall telling students and visitors the campus is smoke-free, but if a person walked through a set of doors and out the other side toward Thompson Woods, a pile of cigarette butts could be found Tuesday afternoon.

SIU freshman Keisha Johnson of Chicago said smoking still happens on campus, but smokers are very much “low-key” about it.

“People are still smoking, but it’s not like they are out in public doing it,” she said.

Johnson said students can be found hiding behind buildings for a few puffs, where they aren’t visible.

“I saw a person smoking on the way to class today (Tuesday) and said to myself ‘that’s weird,’” she said. “It’s definitely not something you see every day in front of everybody while on campus.”

Parker Mancek, a junior, said he likes the idea of a smoke-free campus. He said he hasn’t really thought much about the fact SIU is smoke-free because he just doesn’t see it much.

“Not as much as you’d expect,” he said Tuesday outside of the SIU Student Center. “I definitely see it way more in the city.”

Like Johnson, Mancek said he happened to see a person smoking on campus Tuesday and thought it was an odd sight.

“I just don’t really see it,” he said.

Another junior, Aaron Caldwell of Fresno, California, said the ban has “definitely” helped on the amount of smoke in the air when walking to class. He said there are some people behind buildings with cigarettes, but it’s bearable.

“I used to be one of people who complained about all the smoke in the air,” he said, saying he has asthma.

Caldwell said now he doesn’t worry about walking to class and having the person next to him blow second-hand smoke in his face.

The smoking ban on campus has resulted in an uptick of the amount of people smoking in their cars or vaping, said Jason, a senior from Carbondale.

He said he barely notices anybody smoking real cigarettes on campus, but he has noticed people in the parking lot with their windows down and smoke rolling out.

“The people you do see smoking are usually somebody who isn’t a regular on campus or is starting to walk off campus,” he said.

According to campus policy, electronic cigarettes are not allowed to be smoked on campus. Visitors to the campus are not immune to the policy, either.

The parking lot is also considered smoke-free by the university, but smoking is allowed within a person's vehicle while parked or traveling on campus. Those traveling in a university vehicle are subject to the policy, because those vehicles are considered university property.

Recently, Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale hosted a discussion about the possibility of making Turley Park smoke-free. The park shares a parking lot with Kids Korner. Coordinator Kathy Burns says children in the organization regularly have outdoor programming. In the summer, the amount of time the children spend outside only increases.

Carbondale Park District Commissioner Rick Erickson encouraged those who were interested in pursuing the matter with government officials to do their homework and show up to a Park District meeting with information.


Pulliam Hall is reflected on a door window containing no smoking sticker in a file photo from 2015. The sticker says that SIU Carbondale is a smoke free campus.

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SIU Board of Trustees to consider shifting some state funds from Carbondale to Edwardsville

CARBONDALE — The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees is poised to consider a plan to gradually shift state funding from SIU Carbondale to SIU Edwardsville in order to reflect changes in enrollment levels at the two campuses.

According to the agenda for the regularly scheduled April 12 board meeting, about 64 percent of state appropriations have historically been distributed to the Carbondale campus, while the Edwardsville campus has received about 36 percent.

In the past, that split more or less mirrored the student enrollment distribution between the two campuses. But as enrollment at SIUC has declined, SIUE has been on an upward trajectory. Now the enrollment distribution is nearly equal: In fall 2017, SIUE had 13,796 students, while SIUC had 14,554.

Had Fiscal Year 2018 state appropriations allocation been based on those fall 2017 enrollment figures, SIUE would have seen either $18.9 million or $17.7 million more in funding (depending on whether the adjustment is made using student head count or full-time equivalent enrollment levels, respectively).

Trustees will vote on whether to “begin a phased adjustment of the state appropriation allocation in a more equitable fashion.”

The first phase of the proposal, a “good-faith effort” to begin the process, would reallocate an additional $5.1 million of the state appropriation to the Edwardsville campus for FY ’19.

The proposal doesn’t lay out a definite end goal for reallocation, but it calls for System President Randy Dunn to hire an external consultant to develop a recommended formula for addressing the funding gap — and it anticipates that the recommendation might fall somewhere between $17.7 million and $23.3 million in funds transferred to SIUE.

During the state budget impasse last year, SIUC borrowed $35 million from SIUE after exhausting $83 million in reserves.

On March 1, the SIUE Faculty Senate adopted a resolution calling on the Board of Trustees to “create a new, fair and dynamic formula” to “reallocate the SIU system budget in a just and equitable manner.”

The board will discuss the matter during its working session on April 11 and vote on it the following day.


Also at next week’s meeting, the board is expected to approve the appointment of Meera Komarraju, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at SIUC, as interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. The duties of the provost — overseeing the academic colleges, library affairs, the graduate school, off-campus programs, the honors program, information technology and the centers for international education and teaching excellence — have been split up since the departure of Interim Provost Susan Ford in June 2017.

The board will also vote on whether to spend $55,000 on the packaging and transportation of SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno’s laboratory equipment from the University of Alberta in Canada to Carbondale.

In February, Montemagno came under fire for using some of the $61,000 in moving expenses allotted in his contract to move his daughter and son-in-law’s home. He has since reimbursed the university.

The $61,000 was intended to cover the relocation of his personally owned laboratory equipment. Montemagno had expressed a desire to donate the equipment to SIUC.

According to the agenda, interim vice chancellor for research Jim Garvey determined that the laboratory equipment items have a combined replacement value of $350,000.

The full board meeting will begin at 10 a.m. April 12 in Ballroom B inside SIUC's Student Center.

Jackson County
De Soto man pleads not guilty to first-degree murder charges
Provided by Jackson County State's Attorney's Office  


MURPHYSBORO — A De Soto man pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges on Tuesday in Jackson County Circuit Court.

James Michael Deese, 52, was charged with the murder of Frank Stonemark, 76, of De Soto in a three-count indictment on March 26. Along with first-degree murder, Deese was charged with concealment of a homicidal death, a Class 3 felony, and concealment of death by moving a body, a Class 4 felony.

On Tuesday, Judge William Schwartz arraigned Deese with a formal reading of the charges of the potential penalties.

Schwartz said a grand jury returned a true bill saying Deese allegedly murdered Stonemark by strangling or choking him on or about Oct. 29. A second count alleges that Deese attempted to conceal Stonemark’s death by moving the body with knowledge that he had died from homicidal means. The third count alleges Deese moved the body from the original place of death with intent to conceal information regarding the place and manner of the death.

According to a news release by the Jackson County State’s Attorney’s Office, if Deese is convicted of first-degree murder, the sentence carries a possibility of 20 to 60 years in prison.

Concealment of a homicidal death carries a potential sentence of two to five years. Concealment of death carries a sentence of one to three years. Those two counts are probationable. 

Deese is currently in custody at the Jackson County Jail on $1 million bond. A jury trial date has been tentatively scheduled for June 18. His next court appearance will be May 15 for a pretrial hearing to determine if the attorneys are set for trial.

Deese is represented by a Jackson County Public Defender, while Assistant State’s Attorney Casey Bloodworth is handling the prosecution.

Provided by Jackson County State's Attorney's Office