Thumbs up to a new apartment complex getting set to open in Cairo. Currently, officials from Marion-based Shawnee Enterprises are working to reopen the “Ralph T. Stenger" building. The building would house 10 apartments — eight one-bedroom, and two two-bedroom apartments — and will be made available to families being relocated from Cairo’s Elmwood and McBride complexes as HUD prepares to tear them down because they are unsafe. It’s not much, but it’s really good news for a community that hasn’t much in the line of good news lately. And another thumbs up to Jim Covey, owner of Shawnee Enterprises, for spearheading this effort.
Thumbs down to the ongoing situation in Zeigler concerning treasurer Ryan Thorpe. On Tuesday, during a City Council meeting, members voted to remove Thorpe from his post after a report presented evidence of his involvement in a conspiracy to steal city funds. According to a report provided to the City Council by Dennis Uhls, “Ryan Thorpe has altered check images from the bank statements and given these falsified records to me for the Fiscal year end April 30, 2016 audit,” Uhls’ report reads, adding that Thorpe also falsified accounting records in the city’s computer system to “try to cover up theft.” In all, the report states that Thorpe allegedly stole $226,266.94 from the city. That’s a lot of money.
Thumbs up to Gold Star 500, which ran through Marion on Wednesday. The event is a bicycle ride in remembrance of the 34 Illinois National Guard service members who were killed while supporting operations overseas since 9/11. Seven of those were affiliated with the Illinois National Guard Armory in Marion: Sgt. Brian Romines, who died June 6, 2005; 1st Lt. Jared Southworth, Feb. 8, 2009; SSG Jason Burkholder, Feb. 8, 2009; Sgt. Scot Stream, Feb. 24, 2009; SSG Joshua Melton, June 19, 2009; Sgt. Christopher Talbert, July 7, 2009, and Sgt. Gerrick Sith, July 29, 2009. The ride raised funds for Gold Star Mission, which provides support to Gold Star families and scholarships in honor of the fallen soldiers. The ride began Wednesday morning at Fort Defiance in Cairo, and will continue through Saturday when it concludes in St. Charles.
Thumbs up to another successful Murphysboro Apple Festival. The local celebrations, embodied by the Apple Festival remind us of a simpler time in America. More than that, the Apple Festival and similar celebrations are part of the unique fabric of life in Southern Illinois, it is part of our DNA.
Thumbs down to the increased use of methamphetamines in Southern Illinois. A report issued by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration this week indicates the use of meth has been increasing in the region for the past five or 10 years. St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly said his county is on pace to file close to 200 meth-related cases in 2017. He said the number of homegrown meth laboratories as the result of readily available supplies of meth being smuggled into the country.
Thumbs up to the 2017 class of Leaders Among Us. Communities, small nor large, cannot thrive without people willing to step up to do the behind the scenes work that keep organizations, towns and cities operating efficiently. The people who come forward and do the often thankless jobs that go unnoticed add greatly to our quality of life. This year’s honorees include: Darrell Bryant, Peter Gregory, Ron Ferguson, Nancy Brown, Justin Jeffers, Sandra Ripley, Kevin Hunsperger, Steven Pate, Jon Davey, Suzanne Baker and Susan Whitemountain.