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bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

SIU guard Kylie Giebelhausen (32) shoots over Indiana State forward Rhagen Smith (45) during the first half at SIU Arena on Sunday in Carbondale.

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SIU Day of Giving
SIU Day of Giving raises more than $350K

CARBONDALE — Southern Illinois University officials worked to engage alumni, faculty and students on Wednesday in a massive fundraising campaign that raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars within hours.

University “giving days” — online crowdfunding campaigns designed to generate a sense of immediacy and enthusiasm — have become more prevalent at institutions of higher learning in the last several years, according to Rebecca Renshaw, associate director of development communications.

SIU held its first Day of Giving in 2017.

“A lot of universities across the country are now turning to an online giving day … so we just said let’s try it and see what happens, and it was a great success,” Renshaw said.

Last year, the university sought to raise $75,000 and raised $341,000, Renshaw said.

“So this year my goal is to raise $342,000,” she said. “It would be nice to reach half a million, but it’s more about the number of donors, is really what we’re after.”

At 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, the SIU Credit Union presented a $20,000 check to the chancellor. By 10:30 a.m., the counter on the campaign’s website had already ticked past $200,000. By a little after 5 p.m., it was nearing $353,000.

Amelia Ketzle, lead data analyst at SIU Foundation, was stationed at a booth in Morris Library, where she offered cookies to passersby. She said SIU’s campaign follows the national trend.

“We’re trying to sort of take advantage of that notoriety, that kind of word of mouth that’s already out there and make it an SIU tradition as well. And it kind of helps focus people’s attention on donating, where they may have an intention to donate for months or years and never actually get around to it. Giving them an actual day to use as a goal helps make people make that a reality,” Ketzle said.

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

Molten brass is poured into a mold to create a "Forever SIU" emblem at the SIU Foundry on Wednesday as part of the university's annual "Day of Giving" events.

Elvira Muckelroy, director of donor relations, called the event “unifying.”

“Anybody, students, faculty, staff, come together for a great cause,” Muckelroy said.

Addressing faculty and staff in Morris Library Wednesday afternoon, SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno said that both small and large donations were important to the future of the university.

“What’s different about (the 24-hour campaign model) is it provides a mechanism for people to connect with their giving,” Montemagno later told The Southern. “Many of the gifts that we get are the result of everybody understanding that there’s a common core of need that they want to be satisfied. … This opportunity to give provides a framework so that everybody says, ‘My $50 gift or $20 gift is going to make a difference, because we’re all giving together as a community.’”

A trophy will be awarded to the school or college with the highest number of participants. As of press time, the School of Medicine led the pack with 108 gifts and $31,675 raised. The fundraiser was set to close at 6 a.m. Thursday.

Montemagno, who sported an “I Gave the Gift of Experience” sticker, said he couldn’t divulge which college or program he’d chosen to support.

“I can say that I’m passionate about it and they’re deserving,” Montemagno said.

Renshaw said alumni have been happy to rally behind SIU.

“Your college years are your most formative years, and people remember. Any time they see a photo of Campus Lake or a photo of Faner, they always, on our social media, say, ‘Oh, I remember that! I remember being there when I was at the university; those were some of the best years of my life,’ and so people have a connection, and that phrase, ‘Once a Saluki, always a Saluki,’ rings true,” Renshaw said.

Saline County board votes to take legal action against county clerk

HARRISBURG — Saline County Board voted to take legal action against Saline County Clerk Kim Buchanan during a special meeting Wednesday evening in Harrisburg.

Board Chairman Jay Williams called the meeting to order and, as is customary, the meeting opened with a prayer. Commissioner David Phelps prayed that the board would make civil and fair decisions.

The first item on the agenda was an ordinance to make the county treasurer — or someone in that office — the agent for the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

Treasurer Jeff Murrie explained that the accounts for some employees were incorrect. In October, some employees were taken off IMRF in error. In one case, an employee owes $5,000 and the county owes $5,000.

In January, the Saline County Board voted to move payroll processing from the county clerk’s office to the county treasurer’s office, citing problems with paychecks being available on time and issues with payroll deductions. Murrie’s office is now trying to correct some employee accounts.

Murrie said the easiest way to get those accounts corrected is for someone who is involved with payroll to get the reports from IMRF. Currently, those reports go to the county clerk.

“The board has to pass a resolution to get that done,” Murrie explained.

Joe Jackson, chairman of the budget committee, made a motion to pass the resolution. It was seconded by Steve Karns.

“Judge Clark said the county does not have authority to remove duties of the county clerk,” Commissioner Danny Gibbs said, referring to a case management conference held earlier in the day for a lawsuit filed by Buchanan against Murrie and Saline Circuit Clerk Randy Nyberg.

Saline County State’s attorney Jayson Clark explained those duties are not statutory duties of the county clerk.

Again, Gibbs questioned why this vote was taking place when the lawsuit gave the parties a deadline of March 27 to work out their issues.

“We are trying to correct an issue that has been going on for years,” Jackson said.

The motion passed with all board members present voting in favor of the resolution except Gibbs, who recused himself.

The next item on the agenda was the vote to take legal action against Buchanan for not complying with a judge’s order from last year to keep note account balances on a form created by the county board that is then given to the treasurer.

Buchanan is dividing money received by her office into different accounts than those specified.

The resolution asks Clark to petition the court to hold Buchanan in contempt of court for not filling out the form as ordered.

“The forensic audit we had done specifically pointed out that this was a problem,” County Commissioner Roger Craig said.

The motion passed with everyone except Gibbs voting in favor. Gibbs again recused himself.

Craig said the attorney general’s office is looking at the forensic audit. When they finish, they will contact the state’s attorney to discuss it.

The next item was elections. Commissioner Phelps, chairman of the election committee, contacted the county clerk to discuss the election, but she has not replied.

“The issue is, the election office is not open from noon to 1 p.m., which violates state statute,” Clark said, adding that he has been contacted by people who have tried to vote during their lunch hour, but could not.

Another issue is new election equipment. The equipment will cost more than $100,000 but the board was told it could not cost taxpayers anything. The board has asked for the contract for the equipment to see if it might be cheaper to rent the equipment, but has not received it from the county clerk.

Also, the equipment has not been tested. A test is usually run before absentee voting begins to make sure the equipment works properly.

Saline County Democratic Chairman Bob Oglesby said he was told the equipment would be tested at 10 a.m. Friday.

The board also discussed a lawsuit the county clerk filed seeking an injunction and restraining order against the treasurer and circuit clerk over payroll processing. The parties involved were asked to work out a temporary agreement, which Clark believes happened, that will be in force until a permanent agreement can be reached. The judge expects a permanent agreement by March 27, the date of the next hearing.

The final item on the agenda was payment of supplemental health insurance from AFLAC. A number of employees purchased the optional coverage through AFLAC. The amount was deducted from their paychecks. However, the premiums for the insurance were not paid.

Two employees have had large claims, including an employee whose son was attacked by a dog, and another whose daughter was transferred to an Evansville hospital by helicopter.

“We took money from employee pay checks. We did not pay. So, they didn’t get what they were promised,” Commissioner Steve Karns said.

The result is a complicated mess, according to Karns.

During this discussion, members of the crowd voiced their opinions.

Bill Bethel, Buchanan’s father, asked why this meeting was called two weeks before the primary election. Buchanan has an opponent in the primary, Commissioner Roger Craig.

Ellis McEwan, an army veteran, asked if his vote would count.

“Given all the history of her not doing her job right, how can we expect a fair election?” McEwan asked.

Phelps said unless some glaring mistake was found on election, he believes the election will be fair. He also urged everyone to get out and vote in the primary.

“The worse enemy we have is complacency,” Phelps said.

Williamson County
IDOT gets $7.6 million federal grant to widen I-57 in Williamson County, with aim at safety

A federal grant that has been awarded to the Illinois Department of Transportation could help to make Interstate 57 safer near Marion.

In a news release from Democratic U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, it was announced that IDOT was awarded $7.6 million in federal funding for infrastructure improvements along Interstate 57 in Williamson County. The grant was awarded through U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER grant program.

According to the release, the money will be used for the expansion of approximately five miles of the interstate — an additional lane will be added in each direction, a median barrier will be installed, the existing lanes will be resurfaced, pavement markings and deficient guardrails will be updated, and raised reflectors and rumble strips will be installed.

In the news release, Durbin said he's hopeful that the funding will increase safety along that section of interstate, which is the site of numerous crashes, some deadly, each year.

“This funding will help prevent future accidents and improve safety for the tens of thousands of people who travel along this section of I-57 each day,” Durbin said.

Duckworth, who in January hoped she would hear President Donald Trump address infrastructure improvements in his State of the Union speech, praised the investment.

“Investing in our state’s infrastructure is one of the most important things we can do to move our state forward,” Duckworth said. “With the help of a significant infusion of federal TIGER funds, this project will go a long way toward improving safety and relieving congestion along Interstate 57.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, also saw the grant as a "win-win."

“It not only will improve safety along a dangerous stretch of highway between Marion and Mt. Vernon, but also has the potential to lead to economic development around Benton and other points in between," Bost said in a news release. 

In the release from Bost's office, Rauner also praised the grant, adding that I-57 is an important thoroughfare for the state and the updates will help a "key segment" of the interstate.

Marion Mayor Anthony Rinella said Wednesday his office hadn't been notified of the grant. But, he said any improvement to safety along I-57 is welcomed. 

"Just look at all the wrecks that was on there last summer,” Rinella said. He said he couldn't pinpoint why the interstate was so dangerous.

Williamson County Sheriff Bennie Vick said he, too, was enthusiastic about safety improvements — he said though the Illinois State Police are often the primary investigators for traffic crashes on the interstate, his deputies are also often on site.

“There’s a lot of man hours going to an accident,” Vick said, adding that fire departments are also called out. A reduction in crashes would cut back the time first responders spend cleaning them up, and could increase the time they have for other activities. Vick said beyond the time management aspect, there was also the simple public safety consideration. 

Vick said he credits distraction and high speeds for at least part of the high crash rate on the interstate between Mount Vernon and Marion.

According to Trooper Joshua Haile with ISP District 13, eight people died on the District 13 portion of I-57 in 2017. Seventeen people died in the same stretch in 2016.

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Jackson County
Murphysboro man pleads guilty to child porn and sexual assault of a child
Provided by the Murphysboro Police Department 


MURPHYSBORO — A Murphysboro man this past week pleaded guilty in Jackson County Court to child pornography and predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, according to court documents.

Paul Blaney, 67, pleaded guilty to two of the six counts he was facing. The four additional counts of child pornography were dismissed.

The predatory criminal sexual assault of a child charge says Blaney committed sexual penetration with a juvenile under the age of 13  by having the juvenile perform oral sex on him.

The child pornography count says Blaney knowingly videotaped a child he knew or reasonably should have known to be under the age of 13 who was engaged in sexual conduct. The charge says the digital film depicted the child simulating sexual acts with a sex toy while masturbating.

Blaney was arrested in December after a 14-month investigation, according to the Murphysboro Police Department. During the investigation, authorities executed a search warrant on his home and seized evidence of the production and possession of child pornography.

There is a sentencing hearing for Blaney at 9 a.m. on Thursday, April 26. Both counts are Class X felonies and are not eligible for probation. Court documents say the crimes carry a sentence of not less than six years, but not more than 60 years. The sentences would have to be served consecutively.

Sentencing will be carried out by Judge Ralph Bloodworth III. Jackson County Public Defender Margaret Degan is representing Blaney, while Jackson County Assistant State’s Attorney Casey Bloodworth prosecuted for the state.

Provided by the Murphysboro Police Department