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bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

SIU's Austin Ulick (17) is congratulated by Alex Lyon (2) after scoring in the eighth inning against Austin Peay at Itchy Jones Stadium on Wednesday in Carbondale. The Salukis went on to win 10-6.

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Severe Weather
Tuesday storms cause extensive damage in rural Galatia

GALATIA — Sean and Brittany Adams moved silently through the remains of their house on Johnston City Road, about a mile west of Galatia.

Kitchen utensils and packages remained on tables and counters, covered with a veneer of mud. Yet, the roof was completely gone. Jagged edges of the exterior walls remained upright on three sides, but their front door leaned precariously into what had been their living room — a result of a storm that rolled through Saline County on Wednesday.

Remarkably, the Adamses escaped injury.

“We were in the bathroom,” Brittany said. “Us, and our three children (ages 7, 4 and 1). We’re OK. We were in the bathtub.”

The Adams home was one of several destroyed in a short portion of the Johnston City blacktop. Despite the line of destroyed homes and outbuildings, no injuries were reported.

“We had been listening to the news stations until the power went out,” Sean said. “Then, we just got in the bathtub.”

Brittany picked up the tale.

“It kind of got really quiet,” she said. “And, then it hit and it only lasted like 30 seconds.”

By the time the 30 seconds had passed, the Adamses had lost their roof and most of their possessions. Fortunately, they were able to take shelter with relatives who live nearby.

Les Winkeler / Les Winkeler, The Southern 

Sean and Brittany Adams were home with their three children with the Tuesday afternoon storm ripped the roof from their house in rural Galatia. No one was injured.

“We lost pretty much everything,” Brittany said. “None of the kids even had shoes on.”

About a half-mile to the west, Eddie Anderson sat in a pickup truck in front of his home, trying to coordinate the clean-up process he faced. Although his house was largely intact, a shed had been flattened on another pickup truck. Anderson’s grain bin had been blown into his swimming pool.

“A tornado came through obviously and took out my shed, my horse barn and did some damage to my house,” he said.

A notice on the National Weather Service website Wednesday said damage surveys are in progress. The NWS reports that Illinois State Police confirmed a tornado near Spillertown. NWS also says law enforcement reported an unconfirmed tornado near Galatia, with nine homes damaged along Harper Road — three or four of them were completely destroyed.

Anderson was not home at the time of the storm.

However, he said his wife arrived home at almost precisely the time the storm hit. She parked her car in the driveway, but was unable to open the doors because of the air pressure.

Some of Anderson’s children live nearby. Although their homes were destroyed, they were in their storm shelters and escaped injury.

These scenes played out in several locations near the intersection of Harco and Johnston City roads.

Residents of the area spent Wednesday morning cutting up trees that had been toppled and picked up debris from their yards. Large chunks of twisted sheet metal littered the open fields or swung from limbs of shattered trees.

Although residents of nearby Galatia largely escaped the ill effects of the storm, there were trees down and damage to buildings east of the community. The most serious damage was concentrated on Johnston City Road.

Elsewhere in Southern Illinois, NWS received several reports of damage due to the storms that moved through the area Tuesday.

Trees were downed and a metal roof was peeled back in Crainville. Multiple structures were damaged in Energy. Hail up to 1 inch in diameter was reported in Williamson, Alexander and Saline counties.

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Tornadoes hit Williamson, Saline, Massac counties Tuesday; disaster declared in Williamson

MARION — Williamson County officials on Wednesday confirmed a tornado touched down Tuesday night, causing significant damage to homes and businesses.

Deputy Brian Murrah of the Williamson County Sheriff's Office saw trees and power lines down as he worked Tuesday evening. He said some areas of the county sustained damage to structures, including in Energy, several structures in Whiteash, a couple in the Crenshaw area and a few on the north edge of Pittsburg. 

No injuries or fatalities were reported. Williamson County Board chair Jim Marlow signed a disaster declaration Wednesday morning, activating the county's emergency operations plan.

According to a news release from the Williamson County Emergency Management Agency, several disaster response efforts are ongoing:

  • The Williamson and Franklin county EMAs are conducting detailed field damage assessment of residential and business structures that were affected;
  • The National Weather Service is doing detailed assessment to determine the path and strength of the tornado; and
  • The American Red Cross has deployed staff to aid in recovery efforts.

The Home Depot in Marion has also donated supplies to assist residents.

A tornado also struck Saline County, but Allan Ninness, director of the Saline County Emergency Mangement Agency, said he did not foresee needing a disaster declaration for damage in the county. On Wednesday afternoon, Ninness was assisting a team from National Weather Service that was working to determine an EF rating for the tornado.

“Right now we are looking at four homes destroyed, possibly 25 homes that have damage and seven businesses with damage. Most of those businesses are farm-related,” Ninness said.

He had no reports of injuries, except a few bumps and bruises.

“No person that I know of has sought medical treatment. It’s a very trying event,” he added.

The damage in Saline County is near the village of Harco, along Johnston City Road. Ninness added that most of the homes have Galatia addresses. Also, some damage was located east of Galatia and north of Raleigh.

The suspected tornado damaged property along a 10.5-mile path through the county.

“We are getting help from neighboring agencies and mutual aid agencies. We are trying to offer people ‘neighborly help,'” Ninness said. “We are doing our best to help our neighbors; that’s what we always do.”

Chief Deputy Ken Clore of the Saline County Sheriff's Office said there was a lot of damage to outbuildings and storage buildings, along with damage to trees and downed power lines. 

"I think the power company got a lot of the power on really quickly last night, but I'm sure there are some areas still without power."

By 4 p.m., Ameren reported two customers in Saline County with outages. Southeastern Illinois Cooperative did not have any outages. 

The National Weather Service issued a statement confirming an EF0 tornado touched down one mile north of Metropolis at 6:29 p.m. Tuesday. 

"Numerous buildings with shingle damage were seen as well as large trees and limbs down with Bradford Pear trees snapped," the statement reads. 

Saline County residents can report damage by calling 618-252-8661. Williamson County officials are asking residents to report significant structural damage and assistance needs by calling 618-997-6541.

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50 years later, SIUC's Father Joseph Brown reflects on assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

CARBONDALE — When Father Joseph Brown received word that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated, he didn’t speak for two days straight.

Brown, professor of Africana Studies at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, reflected on the 50th anniversary of King’s death Wednesday in a talk called “A Testimony of Hope.”

About 30 to 40 people in attendance listened with rapt attention; the sparsely populated Student Center Auditorium was so quiet that Brown, who was not amplified, could be heard even when speaking in a whisper.

He said he had chosen to organize the event because no one in the city of Carbondale or on the SIUC campus had called for any kind of commemoration.

“Why isn’t the message compelling enough to have every major administrator on this campus in the front two rows? Because they know perfectly well that this is not on their agenda,” Brown said.

King’s assassination occurred while Brown was a student at St. Louis University.

“That day, April 4th, 1968, for some reason, I was growing into my fullness as a spiritual channel. And I felt off all day, and I couldn’t understand why I was in such a terrible space,” Brown said.

Brown left his dormitory room and went downstairs to a common room and recreation area to pick up a magazine, when a regularly scheduled show on the television was interrupted with a news bulletin.

“And I stood there, and it all became clear. It all became clear. I had been waiting for the knock at the door. A lot of us in this room know how that feels. You don’t know — all of a sudden the phone rings, and then you say, ‘Mhmm, I guess I was expecting this call.’ And what had been restlessness and distraction cohered,” Brown said.

Brown said King wasn’t killed because he was trying to work within the system for progress.

“See, my radicalism at the age of 73 is simple: Why should we ever use a word like ‘progress’ when talking about equality, justice and restoration? ‘Well, we’re not where we ought to be.’ Then stop. I don’t want to hear no more. We’re not where we ought to be. That’s not my fault. That’s not the fault of anybody in this room.

“… You can’t make progress for a human right. Either it’s there or isn’t. I’m tired of that. Because we have gone backwards in these 50 years,” Brown said.

He pointed to voter suppression strategies impacting people of color, including gerrymandering and voter ID laws.

Brown referenced an ongoing lawsuit alleging horrific violence and neglect in a private Mississippi prison, and he spoke about the militarization of police.

“No one here wants to admit that we’ve made a mistake about anything. That’s not the American way. That is not proving American exceptionalism — exceptionalism means I don’t make mistakes,” Brown said. “ … This is a nation built on and exploiting addictions. This is a nation using slave labor, indentured servitude, in constitutionally protected ways that King talked about.”

Brown noted that by the year 2020, the majority of college students will be people of color. He said students of color are often treated as though they are unprepared for college, when in reality they have been “institutionally abused.” He spoke about the slashing of support services he has seen over his career at SIUC, such as the Center for Basic Skills.

“Now it don’t exist, and the graduation rate for black students is 33 percent,” he said.

Brown themed much of his speech around the biblical story of the Battle of Jericho, in which the Israelites march around the city for seven days and then blow their horns and shout until the walls of the city come down.

“Where are the voices today? Where is the thunderous response to that fortress-like mentality? King’s voice was a voice of thunder,” Brown said. “ … But on this campus, only students are speaking up with their full-throated, thunderous voices, because even the faculty are trying to negotiate a better space in an unjust place, and that’s not going to work.”

Brown read some of King’s words calling for “a revolution of values” and closed the talk by playing a recording of the African-American spiritual “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.”

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City Council, Park District form committee to decide future of Carbondale parks

CARBONDALE — In order to come to a decision about the future of a number of parks in Carbondale, a committee comprised of Carbondale City Council members and Carbondale Park District commissioners will be formed to examine all the moving parts about who will take over maintenance duties.

Currently, Turley Park, Tatum Heights Park, the Pyles Fork Greenway path, Evergreen Park and parts of the Carbondale Superblock (outside of the Super Splash Park) are leased to the park district, but owned by the city.

As a condition of these leases, the Park District is responsible for maintaining the parks. Additionally, the district has the authority to develop programming for public use of the parks. The leases on Turley, Tatum Heights and Pyles Fork Creek have expired. The lease on Evergreen runs through October 2066 and the Superblock lease runs through November 2021.

Recently, the district proposed an extension of the leases for the three parks for an annual stipend of about $150,000 from the city to the district. During a meeting on Feb. 27, the two governmental agencies met together to talk about leases, and several ideas were discussed.

At its most recent meeting, the City Council discussed four potential options about how to move forward regarding expired leases with the park district.

One option involved renewing the leases and providing a stipend to subsidize the district’s operations, while the other would renew the leases without a stipend and with strong lease terms to provide greater city oversight.

Neither one of these options were deemed favorable by the City Council.

A third option involved not renewing the leases and directing city staff to take over maintenance of Turley and Tatum Heights.

According to city’s budget projections for the next year, it would cost the city about $320,955 to create a parks department. That includes one-time purchases like buying vehicles, picnic tables, chip for sealing roadways and purchasing other equipment the city doesn’t have, according to City Manager Gary Williams. After the first year, conservative estimates for one year could be about $173,000, but could also reduce over time.

Option four was to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the park district instead of leases, which would bound the park district into an agreement with the city. However, in the event of wanting to dissolve such an agreement, lawsuits could result, meaning two taxpaying bodies spending money in court against each other.

One of the ways the park district could realize some savings is through the closure of the LIFE Community Center, 2500 W. Sunset Drive. Williams said the building loses a lot of money and is in bad condition.

“Closing that building would free up a lot of capital that could be used in other areas,” he said. “The costs to keep that center open and the amount of revenue it generates — there is a big net loss.”

Williams added that net loss could go away by closing the building, it could alleviate a lot of financial stress on the district.

Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry said there is major deferred maintenance on the building that must be done because it is structurally unsound.

As for starting its own parks deparment, Henry said to do, so the city would have to redirect funds from taxes imposed in 2016 — food and beverage tax and package liquor taxes.

“At the time we passed that, nobody thought that money would be used to subsidize the parks,” Henry said. “We had an implied promise to the taxpayers about how we were going to use this money.”

He said that promise was to pay down pension costs and make community improvements.

Carl Flowers, president of the Carbondale Park District, said there needs to be another meeting between the district and council, which felt like the council was talking at the district, instead of having a conversation.

He said the $150,000 stipend was proposed to the council because that is the amount of money the district spends each year maintaining the parks.

“We want everybody to understand that these are not just the city’s parks or the park district’s parks, but these provide outlets for the citizens of Carbondale,” he said.

Henry said the council is interested in working together, and further dialogue is needed.

“This got started because you guys came to us and asked for $150,000,” he said. “You guys could have come to us in May 2013 and said, 'We don’t want to take care of the parks.'"

Park District commissioner Rick Erikson offered the idea of a smaller committee to comb over financials and come up with ideas.

“I think we have to come up with options together — not just from your side,” he said. “I think we are in this together. You need more correct details from us about correct expenses.”

During citizen comments, former city councilwoman Jane Adams said the parks are very important to the public, and great parks should serve all the people.

“At the present time, I hate to say it, even of our premier parks — Evergreen — is an embarrassment,” she said. “It’s locked up. Facilities don’t work. It is critical this be solved. If it requires the city taking it over and making that investment, I would implore you to do that.”

In addition to a committee composed of both council and park district members reporting back on deferred maintenance and yearly costs, the council decided by consensus to direct staff to begin working on negotiations with the district, with a hybrid of the city taking over maintenance of Turley and Tatum Heights Parks and an intergovernmental agreement with the district doing programming.