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SIU Board votes down Carbondale-to-Edwardsville funding shift

CARBONDALE — Southern Illinois University Carbondale constituents erupted in applause Thursday as the SIU Board of Trustees voted down a proposal to shift $5.1 million in state appropriation funding to SIU Edwardsville.

SIU System President Randy Dunn said that he will continue to search for an external consultant to review the system’s funding formula based on changes in enrollment at the two campuses.

In a lengthy public-comment portion, SIUC faculty, staff and students pleaded with the board not to approve the first-phase reallocation of the appropriation budget while the university is struggling to get its enrollment back on track.

Speakers from SIUE, meanwhile, argued that their campus is growing rapidly, and that additional investment by the system will pay off.

Trustees said there should have been more consultation with the Carbondale campus before the proposal appeared on the meeting agenda several days ago. The board first discussed hiring an external consultant to look at the allocation of state funding at its March 9 retreat at Touch of Nature.

After the meeting, SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook wrote in an email to students that State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, will soon be introducing legislation that would create separate trustee boards for Carbondale and Edwardsville. 

Trustee Phil Gilbert said he would vote against the proposal, but that it wasn’t a vote against SIUE. He said he was in favor of “Edwardsville getting a larger slice of the pie,” but he called the proposal “premature and ill-advised.”

Trustee Marsha Ryan echoed Gilbert’s comments, saying she wanted more data.

“I do not denigrate SIUE at all. I simply need the facts with which to make a high-quality decision,” Ryan said.

Ryan said she had concerns about how the item was placed the agenda. She said Carbondale’s chancellor and financial advisers were not given time to review the proposal.

Trustee Tom Britton, who was appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday to fill a longstanding vacancy on the board, said he was concerned about the speed with which the proposal was being implemented and the process itself.

“It needs to be a system-wide review and activity. I’m not sure that took place. Because it is a system-wide decision, we need to make sure that we’re not dividing and not pitting campuses against each other,” Britton said.

Trustee Joel Sambursky also said he was disappointed in the process.

“I don’t like being blindsided 10 days ago with absolutely no warning, no context of a huge agenda item that has very significant consequences to the universities, but also to the communities,” Sambursky said.

Trustee Shirley Portwood said she planned to vote for the proposal, and pointed out that during the state budget impasse last year, trustees were willing to approve a $35 million loan from SIUE to SIUC with little notice.

“I note that when the question came up of loaning money from Edwardsville to Carbondale, all except one trustee was willing to do it on two days’ notice. Finding out about it on Wednesday, voting on it on Thursday, with no details about how much, when it would be repaid and the impact upon Edwardsville. ... So this idea that we can’t decide things in 10 days is kind of hard to imagine,” Portwood said.

Britton, Gilbert, Ryan and Sambursky voted no; board chair Amy Sholar, SIUE student trustee Luke Jansen and Portwood voted yes. Trustee Randal Thomas abstained because he was not present at the March 9 board retreat where the matter was originally discussed.

During a news conference after the meeting, Dunn told reporters that he would move forward with hiring an external consultant to develop the formula for splitting up the appropriation.

Although the hiring of a consultant for that purpose was part of the resolution that failed to pass, Dunn still has administrative authority to get the work underway. There will be no adjustment in the formula until it comes back to the board.

Dunn said the first-phase recommendation was meant “to be responsive to a tremendous amount of pressure that was building” at SIUE in the surrounding community.

“I go to things there as I go to things in Carbondale and in Springfield, and the issue is one that has had great discussion, great focus, and my sense was, a desire to get this thing moved forward, at least in terms of the policy that had been in place,” Dunn said.

Pembrook said that conversations about reallocation started in earnest on the Edwardsville campus after the approval of the $35 million loan last year.

“That was the beginning of that, as part of that agreement, that we would begin the conversations about the allocation,” Pembrook said.

Pembrook said he believes that the enrollment lines will cross in fall 2018, based on SIUE’s recruiting numbers.

“... If we’re not going to at least have the conversation, if we’re not going to try to address it now, when would we do that? Because the distribution ... has basically been static for the last 18 years, and so as you know the enrollments have changed dramatically, and we thought at a point when that enrollment went past 50/50 that it would be a logical time for the board to discuss it, and we started discussing it today, obviously. I think the board feels that more information might be helpful, so that’ll be the next step,” Pembrook said.

Dunn said that enrollment will likely wind up comprising at least 51 percent of a funding formula, but that there are other variables to consider, such as research mission, physical infrastructure and need for asset preservation, and community service or regional support.

“We still have to be careful about what Carbondale has to absorb all at once. We can’t do a one-year fix on this,” Dunn said.

Sholar said that she supported the resolution partly because of its phased-in approach.

“We recognize that there’s sizable assets that are being distributed between the campuses, and that’s not something that in one fiscal year or two fiscal years, that you can easily adjust to that. So I do prefer a phased-in approach, whatever the outcome of any consultant’s report may be, so that everyone has the opportunity in terms of time to adjust to this,” Sholar said.

Dunn said it could take nine months to finish the consulting process and that the adjustment would be unlikely to take effect in FY ’19.

“We’re going to move with as much rapidity as we can, but at the end of the day, there might be another year that goes by before we see an adjustment driven primarily by the enrollment numbers,” Dunn said.

Sholar said the system would make a good-faith effort to work together.

“I think we hash out difficult issues, and we’ll work to come back together. And I believe that these issues were already present. We’re just speaking about them publicly at this point in time,” Sholar said.

SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno said that as a scientist, he as a problem taking the pro forma position that money should be reallocated to Edwardsville.

“I think that we have to determine what the impacts are on our communities, because we have a responsibility to our communities. We have to look at what the distribution in majors are and the cost of educating different individuals. It costs more money to educate a biochemistry student than it costs to educate an accounting student,” Montemagno said.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting will be held July 12 at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.

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Carbondale City Council has discussed closing the LIFE Center. The Park District says it's essential to the community.

CARBONDALE — Generations of families have passed through the Carbondale Park District’s LIFE Community Center, and along with those families have come years of wear and tear on the 50-year-old building.

As the City Council and Park District negotiate the future of several Carbondale parks, some have suggested closing the center could alleviate a financial burden on the district.

The LIFE Center, 2500 W. Sunset Drive, is operated by the Park District and is the only public indoor pool within Carbondale city limits. According to Jane Childers, the district’s superintendent of recreation, about 1,500 people use the pool per month, whether it be for recreational swimming or aquatic classes.

The pool is just to the left as users walk through the front door. For those nonresidents wanting to use the pool, it is a $4.50 charge from 6 a.m. to noon during the week. The pool opens back up from 3:30 to 7 p.m. Residents within the city limits with proper identification get a slight discount.

Childers said when you add the children in daycare and the amount of people signing up for fitness and specialized classes, like karate and jujitsu, there could be about 2,000 people using the center any given month.

The Alice Wright Early Childhood Center provides full- and part-time childcare for children 2 years old through kindergarten-aged. Childers said the center is completely booked with 33 children, which is the maximum they are allowed through the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

However, lack of funding and an aging building has taken its toll. On the bottom floor where the conference room is located is a prime candidate for flooding. Childers said there is a sump pump just outside the door leading outside, but when the power goes out, there’s not much that can be done.

Additionally, the men’s locker room still looks the same as it did when the center first opened in 1968. Carbondale Park District Commissioner Rick Erickson said the tiles and lockers are the same, and the showers have trouble holding sustainable water pressure.

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

The men's locker room showers at the LIFE Community Center in Carbondale.

The piping throughout the building dates to the late ‘60s as well, Childers said. Sometimes the pipes spring leaks, or the air conditioner goes out. Plumbing work needs to be done, too, she said. These are all things that happen in the aging building.

However, despite the problems, Childers doesn’t see any reason the building should be shuttered or closed. Recent talks at Carbondale City Council meetings have included suggestions to the Carbondale Park District about closing the center in order to alleviate some financial burdens on the district.

“Could there be other cost-saving measures,” Childers asked. “Where are all these people supposed to go?”

She called the building essential to the community.

This conversation has been predicated by the ongoing negotiations between the city and the park district about how to move forward with the maintenance of a few parks in the city.

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.

Childers said if the center were closed, it would cause many people to be very angry.

“They (the swimmers) don’t want to go to SIU,” she said. “The water is too cold. There is a number of reasons why they don’t want to be over there.”

She said many of the users of pool are instructors and they don’t like to run into their students on campus. The other option is John A. Logan College. But Childers said many of the users are seniors and that could be too far away.

“Some people don’t want to get on (Illinois) 13 because it can be like a racetrack, and our seniors don’t want to drive that far,” she said.

Many of the facility’s users come from out of the district as well, Childers said, adding that several come from Murphysboro, Du Quoin and De Soto because the center is open at 6 a.m. Childers said several swim in the morning and head to work in Carbondale.

Similar users utilize the daycare the same way. She said people drop their children off at the daycare, go to work in Carbondale, and can pick up them up after work because the center is open late.

Recently, the district proposed an extension of the leases along with an annual stipend of about $150,000 from the city to help with maintenance costs. At the March 27 council meeting, the consensus of the council was that it wasn’t too excited about the idea of giving the stipend.

By the end of the meeting, a committee was formed composed of park district commissioners and city councilmen. It will include Park District Board Commissioner President Carl Flowers, Commissioner Rick Erickson and Director of Maintenance Ed Robinson. For the city, Mayor Mike Henry, City Manager Gary Williams and Councilman Tom Grant will attend the meetings.

Also at that meeting, the city gave direction to city 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.

Erickson has felt like the council has been talking “at” the park district and telling them what to do, instead of working to find common ground.

He said the district didn’t go to the city and demand a stipend, but that is something that came out of talks between Williams and Park District Executive Director Kathy Renfro.

However, Erickson said he felt the city could support the parks a bit more.

“They gave us $100,000 for the Super Splash Park, which is part of the $1 million we raised, which was 10 percent,” he said. “I think that is pretty low for the city to support the Splash Park.”

He said if you look at the total cost of $3.7 million for the project, the city’s contribution comes out to about 2 percent.

“They are giving a $1 million to SIU for a football stadium that is used eight times (per year), but there is no money to help us out to deal with the parks,” Erikson said.

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

The LIFE Community Center is located at 2500 W. Sunset Dr. It is was a point of discussion at the most recent Carbondale City Council about how the savings that could be realized with its closure. 

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Murphysboro files lawsuit against Union Pacific Railroad over rights to North 23rd Street

MURPHYSBORO — The city of Murphysboro has filed a lawsuit against Union Pacific Railroad Company seeking a declaratory judgment about ownership of North 23rd Street.

This is the result of several months of attempted communication with Union Pacific by the city, after residential and commercial property owners learned the railroad claimed they were trespassing on its property on North 23rd Street.

Amanda and Kyle Tuttle, along with Ronald Bastien, Charles and Tamera Milton, Hines Storage Inc., Mike Clutts, Southern FS Inc., and Twin County Service Company, all learned that parts of their Murphysboro properties were considered to be the property of Union Pacific.

The Tuttles learned of the railroad’s claim when they attempted to obtain another mortgage and found that 10 to 15 feet of their front yard was considered Union Pacific property.

They told the Murphysboro City Council that the railroad threatened to charge them $83 a month to use the property to access their home. Similar stories come from the others in the suit.

Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens said Thursday that the city is asking a judge to render a judgement about the situation. He said the city is saying that the road has always been a city street and because of that, it has a prescriptive right to it.

In the lawsuit filed by Ed Heller of Reed, Heller, Mansfield and Gross, acting in his capacity as Murphysboro City Attorney, he says for more than 15 years, 23rd Street has been in use by the public as a public street. Additionally, the street was solely maintained by the city using motor fuel tax funds.

After months of trying to resolve this issue outside of a courtroom, Stephens said he felt the city had no other alternative.

“The city of Murphysboro remains willing to resolve this matter outside of the courthouse, but until Union Pacific comes down off the mountaintop and begins to deal with the reality on North 23rd Street, we will press forward with a legal course of action,” he said.

Kristen South, Union Pacific’s director of media relations, told The Southern Thursday that the railroad is reviewing the matter. 

"We remain open to discussions and hope we will be able to reach a mutually acceptable solution out of court," she said in an email. 

In February, South said when the homeowners reached out to the company in October 2017, it provided them the standard lease process, but were unable to reach an agreement.

She said at the time that the company would consider special circumstances and wanted to work with the homeowner and the city to find a solution. Additionally, South said the railroad hadn’t heard from the Murphysboro attorney and it was ready to discuss the situation to find a solution.

In response to South’s comments, Stephens said it was untrue and that the city had made itself very available and made several calls and left several voicemails.

On Thursday, Stephens said he couldn’t understand why this was such a big deal to a multibillion-dollar company.

“It remains difficult to understand why a company that reported $7.3 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2017 is demanding $88 a month from Murphysboro residents simply to access their homes and businesses,” Stephens said.

According to court documents, the lawsuit isn’t scheduled for a judge review until Oct. 29.


This is a portion of Murphysboro's North 23rd Street, where residents and business owners were told they have to pay Union Pacific Railroad to access their properties.

SIU faces criminal investigation for professor's hotel room, offshore herpes vaccine experiments

ST. LOUIS — The unauthorized testing of a herpes vaccine by a Southern Illinois University professor has come under federal criminal investigation, Kaiser Health News reports.

In a rare move, the Food and Drug Administration is looking into the research of associate professor William Halford and several SIU colleagues for possible violations of human test subject rules, according to the news organization's investigation.

Halford injected people with unapproved herpes vaccines in Springfield hotel rooms and conducted a herpes vaccine trial on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, skirting U.S. laws on medical research.

The biology professor, 48, died of cancer last June after spending his career trying to develop a herpes vaccine. He was an associate professor at the Springfield campus. SIU ended all its herpes research projects earlier this year.

The university's ethics panel launched an investigation last month into Halford's work, according to an internal memo obtained by Kaiser Health News. In the memo dated Dec. 5, the misconduct committee referenced Halford's nasal cancer — "We can only speculate as to (Halford’s) motivation, which may have been related to his terminal illness."

Halford injected at least eight people with experimental vaccines at the Holiday Inn Express and the Crowne Plaza Hotel near his SIU lab on several dates in 2013, according to the investigation.

The FDA has not commented on the criminal investigation. An SIU spokeswoman told Kaiser Health News that "the government is investigating and we are cooperating."

The various investigations could put the university's $9 million in federal research funding at risk because of the violations of research protocol. The university also faces potential legal action from three people who participated in Halford's experiments and said they developed side effects.