Chancellor Carlo Montemagno said that although declines in enrollment contributed to the decision, it was primarily propelled by efforts to increase student engagement.
CARBONDALE — This fall, Southern Illinois University Carbondale will add two of the city’s tallest buildings to its assortment of vacant housing.
Chancellor Carlo Montemagno said that although declines in enrollment contributed to the decision, it was primarily propelled by efforts to increase student engagement.
University officials announced earlier this month that Mae Smith Hall and Neely Hall — 17-story, east-campus residence halls known as the Towers — would no longer house students.
The decision also shuts down Trueblood Hall, an east-campus building that contains mail service, offices and a dining hall, and commons building Grinnell Hall. A third 1960s-era high rise, Schneider Hall, was shuttered in 2017.
In 2017, Mae Smith Hall and Neely Hall were just 66 percent full, according to university data.
But Crystal Bouhl, assistant director of University Housing, remains upbeat about the future of east campus.
“I don’t believe that the Towers’ role on our campus is finished. I believe that they serve our students and they serve our students well,” Bouhl said.
Southern Hills, a complex of 272 apartments built in the 1960s, has been abandoned for several years. Several buildings on Greek Row are completely vacant, and others house university offices; many are in need of repair and renovation.
Does Bouhl worry that the Towers will wind up in the same state?
“That’s a good question, and that’s one that I asked when we were discussing the plan. I’ll say that I’ve been told that they’ll be closed appropriately,” Bouhl said.
University maintenance workers have kept up Schneider Hall for the last year by going through rooms on a weekly basis to flush toilets, run sinks and run showers, Bouhl said. Workers have also continued with annual fire alarm testing and preventative maintenance, such as running fire pumps. That same protocol will be implemented for Mae Smith Hall and Neely Hall.
SIU Carbondale Police Chief Benjamin Newman, director of the Department of Public Safety, said officers employ a standard patrol protocol for all buildings on campus. The protocol involves an interior building check.
“They are monitored even if they’re closed,” Newman said.
Newman said the Department of Public Safety, currently housed on the lower level of Trueblood Hall, has no plans to relocate. He said the closures of the east-campus buildings are temporary and that it would be “premature” to relocate the department.
CARBONDALE — With plans for a new housing facility declared dead on arrival, Southern Illinois University Carbondale must develop another strategy to update its aging housing stock in order to reel in students.
In 2016, administrators began discussing building a new housing facility to replace the aging Towers. The plan was scrapped at a Board of Trustees meeting in July 2017, when representatives from Blue Rose Capital Advisors, a consulting firm enlisted by University Housing, informed trustees that the project was not financially viable.
Trustees expressed interest in razing the Towers; the cost of tearing down each building would be between $3 million and $4 million, according to Blue Rose.
Eventually, University Housing will make a recommendation to the SIU Board of Trustees, Bouhl said, but she doesn’t yet have a timeline.
“When enrollment increases, we’ll look at if it makes more sense to update the Towers as needed and reopen them or to add new housing to campus, and we’ll put together a proposal and submit it to the Board of Trustees, and the trustees will decide whether that’s the direction they want to go, so they’ll approve it or not, and at that point, we’ll make plans and move forward,” Bouhl said.
Bouhl, a former resident of Neely Hall, said the Towers were a different place when she was attending SIU in the mid-1990s. She said all the vacancies have left students “disconnected.”
“When I lived on campus, I lived with friends, roommates, suitemates, and the buildings were bustling and everything was busy and full. And by consolidating our students in one area, I want them to have that same experience that I did. I want them to have that sense of community and belonging and that sense of excitement, and I think that this is a good way to get there,” Bouhl said.
Eric Caldwell, manager and bartender at Hangar 9 in Carbondale, lived in Mae Smith Hall from 2008-09 and in Neely Hall from 2009-10. He said he loved his time in the high-rises, where he had a great view of the city and he was surrounded by many different types of people.
“I came from a small farm town in central Illinois where everybody’s the same, and it was a town of less than 2,000 people, so coming there and having so many different types of people was amazing. … There was more diversity and more going on at the Towers,” Caldwell said.
Rick Reeve, owner of Shawnee Outfitters in Carbondale, lived on the 14th floor of Schneider Hall from 1972-76. He said he would be sad to see the Towers torn down.
“I think if I sat here in front of my shop and watched that thing implode, it would kind of tear a part of me away. I’d look at it like, wow, that’s part of my past, you know? I always felt like if I ever left this town and came back, there’d always be that symbol of my time spent in Carbondale,” he said.
When the votes were tallied Tuesday evening, Saline County Commissioner Roger Craig defeated incumbent Kim Buchanan and won the Republican nomination for Saline County Clerk.
Craig cited the battle between the county board and current clerk Buchanan as his reason for entering the race. The clerk and board have been locked in a battle since about 2016. In February, the clerk sued the county treasurer and circuit clerk over duties the board had removed from her office and transferred to the treasurer’s office. The county board also voted to take legal action against the clerk.
HARRISBURG — Saline County Board voted to take legal action against Saline County Clerk Kim Buchanan during a special meeting Wednesday evening in Harrisburg.
The board sued Buchanan over her accounting for certain funds collected by her office. In August, the court ordered Buchanan to deposit funds into accounts as the county board directed, and she agreed. In October, they voted to do a forensic audit of the clerk’s office.
“It is a shame we have to wait until November to have the general election,” Craig said.
Craig will face Julie Dunn, a long-term employee of the County Clerk’s Office who Craig calls a close friend.
“There is no animosity between the two of us, because we have accomplished the goal of getting Kim out of office,” Craig said.
He said county payroll has been another issue.
Editor's note: This story was corrected to show annual savings from the new pay arrangement.
“She has caused so much trouble with payroll for county employees. When payroll was moved to the county treasurer’s office, Jennifer Cain found we overpaid IMRF more than $5,000 and people on health insurance that had died,” Craig said.
He added that the county overpaid $22,000 in health insurance benefits and gave benefits to people who had died or quit. One sheriff’s deputy thought he had insurance on his family, but Buchanan never signed him up.
The board also had their secretary start keeping the minutes for meetings because Buchanan did not provide the minutes in a timely manner.
“Looks like the judge is going to find we have to let her at least to re-assume that position of taking minutes. We don’t have a problem with that, if she will give us what we said in a timely manner,” Craig said.
HARRISBURG — Saline County Clerk Kim Buchanan filed a lawsuit Feb. 27 in the Saline County Court asking for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Saline County Treasurer Jeff Murrie and Saline County Circuit Clerk Randy Nyberg over payroll processing.
Craig still claims bragging rights as the U.S. Monopoly champion from 1995 to 1999. He went to Monte Carlo to world championships.
Craig thanked the people who voted for him and added that he had a lot of support from the whole community, including Eldorado, Galatia, Carrier Mills and Harrisburg.
Roger L. Craig won the Republican nomination for Saline County Clerk on Tuesday, defeating incumbent Kim Buchanan, who is in the midst of a legal battle with the County Board.
“I got enough votes to win. I am kind of skittish about what the office will look like when I take over in eight months,” Craig said.
Besides serving on the Saline County Board, Craig is retired from the tire business.
Buchanan called her loss a “blessing in disguise."
“I will continue to serve my second term with pride and dignity,” Buchanan said.
She is very proud of the accomplishments that have been made in the County Clerk’s Office, she said. She will be in office until Nov. 30, 2018.
“Then, I can actually take a vacation,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan has worked every week since taking office on Dec. 1, 2010, and missed one or two board meetings.
“I feel it is my duty and commitment to get the term finished. When one door closes, another door opens. It very well could be a blessing in disguise,” Buchanan said.
In the race for Republican nomination for Saline County Sheriff, Harrisburg Patrol Sgt. J. Whipper Johnson garnered 54 percent of the vote to win the nomination. Saline County Sheriff’s Deputy Craig Williams took 42 percent of the vote, with Casey Perkins capturing 4 percent.
Johnson started in law enforcement as an intern for Saline County Sheriff George Henley, then worked for the department. He was a patrolman in Eldorado for three years before moving to Harrisburg.
Illinois voters added their voices to the 2018 primary season, with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner surviving an unexpectedly stiff primary challenge from the right and a suburban Chicago congressman, Dan Lipinski, narrowly dispatching a Democratic challenger fueled by the party's liberal wing.
Takeaways from the nation's second statewide primary in President Donald Trump's midterm election year:
The general election for governor will pit one wealthy businessman against another. The pair's combined personal spending on the race tops $120 million already.
Rauner, who's just shy of billionaire status, put more than $50 million toward winning his primary by fewer than 4 percentage points. Democrat J.B. Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, spent about $70 million to win 46 percent of the vote in a six-candidate primary.
Rauner, who's battled the Democratic legislature at every turn, offered his fall campaign theme Tuesday night by inviting support from anyone "disgusted by our system of corruption." Pritzker countered by embracing the populist liberalism that now animates the Democratic base; he promised to put "Illinois back on the side of working families" while "fighting for unions ... dreamers and immigrants ... women ... and black and brown communities."
National Democrats view Illinois as one of its best chances to flip a Republican-held governor's office four years after Rauner joined fellow Republicans Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland to claim governorships in states typically dominated by Democrats. Baker and Hogan boast stronger job approval ratings than does Rauner.
With 94 percent of precincts reporting, 1.2 million Democratic votes had been cast in the governor's race, compared to 655,000 for Republicans — an advantage that feeds Democratic hopes of a national wave election in November.
For comparison, in 2010, the year of a Republican general election sweep, the Democratic advantage was 959,521 to 783,060. In 2006, the last time the Democrats flipped control of the U.S. House, Democrats outvoted Republicans in the Illinois primary 997,720 to 751,627.
CARBONDALE — With wide margins in both primaries, Murphysboro Republican Mike Bost, Brendan Kelly, the Democrat from Swansea, and Green Party candidate Randy Auxier will face off this fall in the contest for Illinois’ 12th Congressional District.
Besides reclaiming the governor's mansion, Democrats hope the apparent enthusiasm gap helps their nominees in five GOP-held congressional districts in Illinois that are among the party's targets nationally. Democrats need to flip 24 Republican-held seats for a House majority.
Illinois voters didn't settle the ideological battles within the two major parties — they simply illuminated them, even with the impressive turnout among Democrats.
In the GOP governor's primary, state Rep. Jeanne Ives hammered Rauner for his moderate stances on immigration, abortion and LGBTQ rights. That raises doubts about Rauner's ability to build a winning coalition in a Democratic-leaning state. He gave a nod to his weaknesses on the right, saying he's "heard" from "those of you who wanted to send me a message" and asking them to "focus on issues that unite us: reducing taxes, growing jobs and reducing corruption."
The question is whether that approach, basically repeating his 2014 pitch as a Chamber of Commerce problem solver, can be enough without the national GOP wave that aided his initial election.
CHICAGO — Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and billionaire Democratic businessman J.B. Pritzker spent millions attacking each other even before their 2018 matchup was set, providing a preview of just how brutal and astronomically expensive the race for the state's top job is expected to be.
Perhaps Rauner's best comfort is in his Democratic rival's primary struggles. Despite his spending advantage, Pritzker couldn't manage a majority after a primary race that featured his two closest competitors calling him a "fraud" and a "liar." And Pritzker's pledges to working families notwithstanding, the liberal groups and activists that have propelled the anti-Donald Trump resistance movement lined up mostly behind the second- and third-place finishers, Daniel Biss and Chris Kennedy.
Pritzker must hope that the most outspoken liberal branches of the party follow the lead of Indivisible Chicago, the local chapter of one of the leading national grassroots organizations that formed after Trump's election to resist his agenda. The group called for party unity Tuesday, called Pritzker's platform "progressive" and said he "represents a significant upgrade" over Rauner. Perhaps not a full-throated endorsement, but a first step toward what Pritzker needs.
Illinois' top-billed congressional primary wasn't in a battleground district that will determine House control in November; it was a safe Democratic seat in greater Chicago where seven-term incumbent Dan Lipinski, part of the dwindling Blue Dog caucus of moderate and conservative Democrats, nipped his more liberal challenger, political newcomer Marie Newman, by about 2 percentage points.
Lipinski, whose father held the 3rd Congressional District seat before him, had broad union support and nominal backing from national Democratic bosses including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. But that didn't play with Democratic voters increasingly displeased with Lipinski's opposition to abortion rights and same-sex marriage, his vote against the 2010 health care law, and his late-breaking support for legislation to shield certain young immigrants called "Dreamers" from deportation.
Newman was endorsed by Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator and erstwhile presidential candidate, and liberal groups including the women's advocacy organization Emily's List, local Indivisible chapters and Our Revolution, the offshoot of Sanders' 2016 campaign.
Even with Lipinski surviving, the fact that Newman battled him to a near draw will embolden liberals in other Democratic primary battles and in the larger struggle for party identity.
— Associated Press writer Sara Burnett contributed to this report.
MURPHYSBORO — Wednesday was an emotional day for some in a Jackson County courtroom during the trial for a Cape Girardeau man charged with murder in the death of a Carbondale musician on Easter Sunday 2016.
Travis Tyler, 23, is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery with a firearm and aggravated discharge of a firearm. The charges stem from a March 27, 2016, shooting, which took place during a house party at 402 W. Walnut St.
Tim Beaty, 41, was home in his apartment next door at 334 W. Walnut St. when he was killed by a stray bullet. He was a well-known drummer in the Carbondale music scene, who played in several rock and punk bands.
MURPHYSBORO — The murder trial of a Cape Girardeau man charged in the 2016 shooting death of Carbondale musician Tim Beaty started Monday in Jackson County, but the day ended without a full pool of 12 jurors and alternatives being selected.
On Wednesday, Tim Minckler, Illinois State Police crime scene investigator, gave his testimony after several photos of the crime scene were shown in court. Some photos showed Beaty’s body after he was shot and his subsequent wounds.
Minckler testified that when he first saw Beaty's body in the apartment, there was a circular defect on his right side that appeared to be a gunshot wound. Using photos submitted into evidence by the state, Minckler explained to the jury how he used lasers from the bullet holes in the apartment to track the bullet’s trajectory from South Beveridge Street.
Jeff Withrow, of the Carbondale Police Department, testified earlier in the day that he was the one who found Beaty in his apartment at about 3 a.m.
According to testimony Wednesday, Beaty died helping a number of women attending the party next door. The state called three witnesses — Megan Robinson, 23, of Chicago, Dominque White of St. Louis, and SIU student Desiree White.
Robinson testified she and her friends were at 402 W. Walnut when she heard a gunshot in the living room. She left the house with Desiree White and proceeded east, where Beaty was on his front steps directing them to come near him.
After a second burst of gunshots happened, Beaty pushed the girls in the house, Robinson said. After the shooting stopped, Desiree White testified, they noticed Beaty was lying on the floor. When she went to check on him, he couldn’t audibly communicate, and was only making unintelligible sounds.
The girls then checked his body, but didn’t see any wounds at the time, Desiree White said. She said he was wearing dark clothes and they didn’t see any blood. This is when the girls called 911 and left the home, she said.
At the beginning of the day’s testimony, Lee Stewart of the Carbondale Police Department said on March 27, 2016, he and Crime Scene Technician Rebecca Mooney found eight .40-caliber shell casings, seven 9mm shell casings and one live .40-caliber shell casing on South Beveridge and West Walnut Streets.
Additionally, a .40-caliber magazine loaded with 14 rounds was found in the yard between 402 and 334 W. Walnut St., he said.
In opening statements on Tuesday, Jackson County Assistant State’s Attorney Casey Bloodworth said evidence would prove Tyler was the aggressor when he shot at an acquaintance, Nehemiah Greenlee, following an altercation at 402 W. Walnut St. on March 27, 2016, and a bullet fired from his .40-caliber firearm entered Beaty’s apartment and struck him.
In opening statements, defense says man accused in 2016 fatal Carbondale shooting acted in self-defense
MURPHYSBORO — The jury trial of a Cape Girardeau man accused of murder in the 2016 shooting death of Carbondale musician Tim Beaty officially got underway Tuesday after a day and a half of selecting jurors.
The defense said evidence will show Tyler was acting in self-defense after Greenlee shot at him, stemming from an altercation between the two men inside the house.
The state will continue presenting its case to the jury starting at 9 a.m. Thursday.
BENTON — A Cairo man has been sentenced to serve 23 years in federal prison for his role in a deadly 2014 bank robbery of First National Bank in Cairo, during which two bank employees were killed.
Otha Don Watkins III, 35, admitted that he assisted James Nathaniel Watts in the May 15, 2014 attempted bank robbery, according to a news release from Donald S. Boyce, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois. During the attempted robbery, Anita Grace and Nita Jo Smith were killed, and a third employee was seriously injured. Watts pleaded guilty last year to attempted bank robbery resulting in a death and was sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years.
Watkins is Watts' stepbrother, according to previous reporting by The Southern.
BENTON — A Cairo man has pleaded guilty to charges related to his involvement in a 2014 attempted bank robbery in Cairo during which two women were killed.
According to the release, Watkins had pleaded guilty in January to assisting Watts in the crime, and to making false statements to the FBI during the investigation of the attempted robbery, possessing a stolen firearm, and conspiring with Watts to commit robberies that interfered with interstate commerce. That conspiracy included both the attempted robbery of the First National Bank and the successful May 2014 armed robbery of over $12,000 from a McDonald's in Charleston, Missouri, the release states.
Watkins admitted that he assisted Watts in the planning of the bank robbery, drove him to the bank, and served as a lookout while communicating with Watts via a handheld radio during the robbery attempt.
The 23-year sentence is to be served consecutively to a 155-month federal prison sentence Watkins was already serving for an October 2014 armed robbery of a McDonald's in Cape Girardeau, according to the release. After Watkins finishes that sentence, in January of 2026, he will begin the 23-year sentence handed down for his role in the First National Bank robbery attempt.
'Burn in hell,' husband of Cairo bank president fatally stabbed in 2014 tells James Watts as he's sentenced to life in prison
BENTON — Family members of the two women that James Watts brutally stabbed to death while attempting to rob a bank in Cairo addressed him one after another on Thursday as he was officially sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Watkins was also ordered to pay a total of $12,062.51 in restitution to the owner of the Charleston, Missouri McDonald's and its insurer, according to the release. He will also serve a five-year period of mandatory supervised release after his prison term.