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Herrin Fire Department
Herrin Fire Department dedicates new truck by pushing into station

HERRIN — Fire Chief Shawn Priddy said the fire service is steeped in tradition. Thursday evening, Herrin firefighters and their guests had the chance to participate in one of those traditions when they “pushed in” a new firetruck.

“It’s a tradition from days of old when departments had steam engines pulled by horses,” Priddy said. “After a fire, the engine would be washed and made ready for the next fire, then members of the community would come and help firemen push the steam engine back into the station.”

Today, firefighters push new trucks into the station as a symbol of putting the new truck into service. City officials, neighboring departments and residents are invited to help with the ceremony.

Priddy spoke prior to the ceremony. He explained that they would wet the truck with a hose, symbolizing washing of the steam engines, and then push it into the station.

“Whoever is willing to brave the rain is welcome to go out and help push it in,” Priddy said.

Mayor Steve Frattini thanked firefighters for their work. He said the city has neglected setting aside money for equipment, but added that Priddy persuaded the council they could pay a little each month to purchase the new truck.

“Gentlemen, take good care of it. It may another 20 years before we get another one,” Frattini told the firefighters.

Then, everyone was given commemorative chamois cloths to dry the truck. They read, “Herrin Fire Department, Engine 1, Dedicated December 20, 2018.”

The truck was pushed in, then helpers of all ages worked at drying the truck. Besides Herrin firefighters, Mayor Frattini and Herrin City Commissioners, firefighters from Williamson County Fire Rescue, Carbondale and Johnston City, volunteers from the Red Cross and a retired firefighter from Desoto also participated.

The new firetruck is the first piece of new apparatus the City of Herrin has been able to purchase for 20 years. According to Priddy, the purchase was made possible thanks to a $100,000 donation from the Harrison-Bruce Foundation. The salesman also was able to find a brand new demo truck.

“That made it affordable,” Priddy said.

Total cost was $365,000 just for the truck. The department was able to repurpose some equipment for use on the truck.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have our first fully new truck in years,” Frattini said, adding that the truck was brand new from the factory. “We want to express our gratitude to the Harrison-Bruce Foundation for their participation. We are financing the rest.” 

“Our first brand new truck in 20 years is a blessing,” Priddy said.

For more information, call the department at 618-942-6514 or

Mattis leaving as Pentagon chief after clashes with Trump

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned Thursday after clashing with President Donald Trump over the abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and after two years of deep disagreements over America's role in the world.

Mattis, perhaps the most respected foreign policy official in Trump's administration, will leave by the end of February after two tumultuous years struggling to soften and moderate the president's hardline and sometimes sharply changing policies. He told Trump in a letter that he was leaving because "you have a right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours."

His departure was immediately lamented by foreign policy hands and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, who viewed the retired Marine general as a sober voice of experience in the ear of a president who had never held political office or served in the military. Even Trump allies expressed fear over Mattis' decision to quit, believing him to be an important moderating force on the president.

"Just read Gen. Mattis resignation letter," tweeted Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. "It makes it abundantly clear that we are headed toward a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation, damage our alliances & empower our adversaries."

Mattis did not mention the dispute over Syria in his letter or proposed deep cuts to U.S. forces in Afghanistan, another significant policy dispute. He noted his "core belief" that American strength is "inextricably linked" with the nation's alliances with other countries, a position seemingly at odds with the "America First" policy of the president.

The defense secretary also said China and Russia want to spread their "authoritarian model" and promote their interests at the expense of America and its allies. "That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense," he wrote.

The announcement came a day after Trump surprised U.S. allies and members of Congress by announcing the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Syria, and as he continues to consider cutting in half the American deployment in Afghanistan by this summer. The news coincided with domestic turmoil as well, Trump's fight with Congress over a border wall and a looming partial government shutdown.

Trump's decision to pull troops out of Syria has been sharply criticized for abandoning America's Kurdish allies, who may well face a Turkish assault once U.S. troops leave, and had been staunchly opposed by the Pentagon.

Mattis, in his resignation letter, emphasized the importance of standing up for U.S. allies — an implicit criticism of the president's decision on this issue and others.

"While the U.S. remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies," Mattis wrote.

Last year, Republican Sen. Bob Corker — a frequent Trump critic — said Mattis, along with White House chief of staff John Kelly and then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were helping "separate our country from chaos."

Tillerson was fired early this year. Kelly is to leave the White House in the coming days.

"This is scary," reacted Senate Intelligence committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., on Twitter. "Secretary Mattis has been an island of stability amidst the chaos of the Trump administration."

"Jim Mattis did a superb job as Secretary of Defense. But he cannot be expected to stand behind a President who disrespects our allies and ingratiates himself to our adversaries," said William Cohen, who served as defense secretary under Bill Clinton and knows Mattis well.

Mattis' departure has long been rumored, but officials close to him have insisted that the battle-hardened retired Marine would hang on, determined to bring military calm and judgment to the administration's often chaotic national security decisions and to soften some of Trump's sharper tones with allies.

Mattis went to the White House Thursday afternoon to resign after failing to persuade the president in a tense Oval Office meeting to change his decision on withdrawing troops from Syria, according to two people with knowledge of the conversation but not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Another U.S. official said that Mattis' decision was his own, and not a "forced resignation." The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Trump said a replacement would be chosen soon.

"The president's national security team's job is to give him advice and it's the president's job to make a decision," said press secretary Sarah Sanders.

During his first conversations with Trump about the Pentagon job, Mattis made it clear that he disagreed with his new boss in two areas: He said torture doesn't work, despite Trump's assertion during the campaign that it did, and he voiced staunch support for traditional U.S. international alliances, including NATO, which Trump repeatedly criticized.

Mattis was credited by some in the administration for blocking an executive order that would have reopened CIA interrogation "black sites."

Trump's demand for wall moves government closer to shutdown

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's demand for border wall funds hurled the federal government closer to a shutdown as House Republicans approved a package Thursday with his $5.7 billion request that is almost certain to be rejected by the Senate.

The White House said Trump will not travel to Florida on Friday for the Christmas holiday if the government is shutting down. More than 800,000 federal workers will be facing furloughs or forced to work without pay if a resolution is not reached before funding expires at midnight Friday.

The shutdown crisis could be one of the final acts of the House GOP majority before relinquishing control to Democrats in January. Congress had been on track to fund the government but lurched Thursday when Trump, after a rare lashing from conservative supporters, declared he would not sign a bill without the funding. Conservatives want to keep fighting. They warn that "caving" on Trump's repeated wall promises could hurt his 2020 re-election chances, and other Republicans' as well.

The House voted largely along party lines, 217-185, after GOP leaders framed the vote as a slap-back to Nancy Pelosi, who is poised to become House speaker on Jan. 3 and who had warned Trump in a televised Oval Office meeting last week that he wouldn't have the votes for the wall.

"Now we find compromise," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said. "We have time right now to get it done."

The government funding package, which includes nearly $8 billion in disaster aid for coastal hurricanes and California wildfires, now goes to the Senate, where its prospects are grim amid strong opposition from Democrats. Sixty votes are needed to approve the bill there.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warned senators they may need to return to Washington for a noontime vote Friday.

Many senators already left town for the holidays. The Senate approved a bipartisan bill late Wednesday to keep the government temporarily funded, with border security money at current levels, $1.3 billion, and no money for the wall. The House had been expected to vote on it Thursday.

The most likely possibility Friday is that the Senate strips the border wall out of the bill but keeps the disaster funds and sends it back to the House. House lawmakers said they were being told to stay in town for more possible votes.

With Pelosi's backing, the Senate-passed bill likely has enough support for House approval with votes mostly from Democratic lawmakers, who are still the minority, and some Republicans.

Others were not so sure. "I don't see how we avoid a shutdown," said retiring Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, said he was not convinced after a White House meeting with GOP leaders that Trump would sign the Senate bill.

"I looked him in the eyes today, and he was serious about not folding without a fight," Meadows said.

Trump's sudden rejection of the Senate-approved legislation, after days of mixed messages, sent Republican leaders scrambling for options on Capitol Hill days before Christmas.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, exiting the hastily called meeting with Trump at the White House, said, "We're going to go back and work on adding border security to this, also keeping the government open, because we do want to see an agreement."

By afternoon, Trump shifted his terminology, saying he's not necessarily demanding a border wall but "steel slats" — which is similar to the border security fencing already provided for in the bill.

"We don't use the word 'wall' necessarily, but it has to be something special to do the job," Trump said at a farm bill signing at the White House. The nuance could provide Trump a way to try to proclaim victory. The bill would keep funding at current levels for border security, including pedestrian fencing and replacement fences, but not the wall. It requires previously used designs.

Democratic leaders have made clear they will not budge on their opposition to the border wall that Trump campaigned on saying Mexico would pay for it. Mexico has refused.

"The Trump temper tantrum will shut down the government, but it will not get him his wall," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Democrats favor border security, Schumer said, but he denounced the wall as "ineffective, unnecessary and exorbitantly expensive."

Ryan had promised a "big fight" after November's midterm elections, but as Republicans lost House control, negotiations over the year-end spending bill have largely been between Trump and Democrats.

"I was promised the Wall and Border Security by leadership," Trump tweeted. "Would be done by end of year (NOW). It didn't happen! We foolishly fight for Border Security for other countries - but not for our beloved U.S.A. Not good!"

Trump has bounced back and forth with mixed messages. Just last week he said he would be "proud" to shut down the government over the wall. Earlier this week he appeared to shelve shutdown threats, with the White House saying he was open to reviewing whatever bill Congress could send him.

Before turning on fellow Republicans, Trump had been directing his ire at Democrats, tweeting that they were "putting politics over country."

"Republicans are in a state of disarray," said Pelosi. "Wall funding is a nonstarter."

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Ball still moving forward on Cairo Port

CAIRO — It’s been a year of ups and downs for Cairo. A hard deadline was enforced for families relocating out of its dilapidated public housing, but funding for planning and design of a proposed river port was also allocated in the state’s budget.

State Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, has led the charge for the project since being elected in 2016, making regular trips to the southernmost city in the state.

His enthusiasm for the proposed port project, which would bring a massive river port terminal on the western side of Cairo, sounded a lot like other big dreams throughout the struggling city’s history — dreams that ultimately faded out of sight. But, Fowler, against odds, kept the momentum going.

In previous conversations with The Southern, he reported that it is estimated the port could bring close to 1,000 trucks per day to the city, which would also mean other satellite businesses coming to town. This, coupled with a newly announced housing development, could give the city a much-needed boost.

Funding has been the biggest challenge. Before the port could even be shopped to potential freight companies and other contractors, design work and other preliminary efforts had to be made, which is why the $1 million allocated in this year’s budget for the project was such a boon.

Fowler said since this time, the movement has stayed in the right direction.

“We’ve had numerous meetings actually since the funds have been allocated we’ve been able to move forward with the design,” he said.

Utilization of the massive trade waters flanking the city has been seen by many as a means of economic revival for Cairo, which has seen a sharp decline since white flight prompted by a tumultuous fight for civil rights took jobs away from the city.

Before the budget money came through, Fowler and other hopefuls for the project were buoyed by a $100,000 donation from Gov. Bruce Rauner's foundation to help in designing marketing materials, which helped bring nearly 20 letters from companies across the country who are interested in using the port in the future.

In May, Todd Ely, a consultant for the project, said should the money be released, it would make the project very viable.

Fowler talked to The Southern Thursday as he made his way to Cairo and said that in the last month there has been a successful meeting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — a group that plays a vital role in river traffic on the Mississippi and Ohio waterways. This was crucial to getting off on the right foot for permitting and moving the project forward.

“If you can’t get your permitting, that delays things,” Fowler said.

While Fowler has had support from outgoing Gov. Bruce Rauner, he said Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker is expected to pick up the baton. Fowler said this was evident from the moment he talked with Pritzker about taking a seat on the newly created Job Creation and Economic Opportunity Transition Committee.

“Before I had it out my mouth he was already speaking about it,” Fowler said. They were speaking about the economic possibilities in Cairo.

Setting sights to 2019, Fowler said he looks forward to further movement on what he described as Phase 1 of the port project. This will include completing the design and permitting phase and other preliminary steps.

Fowler said he likes to be reserved on his time estimates on these types of projects.

“I think conservatively, 12 months, because it is a process,” he said. However, he hopes it can come through sooner.

Fowler said, fingers crossed, the progress will continue and the port will soon break ground.

“Not one time has the ball started rolling backwards on us,” he said.