Facility delayed by state budget issues ready for its closeup
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
About the time that many of this year’s freshman students were arriving in the world, SIUE began laying out plans to remodel one of the university’s oldest buildings.
Now, those students — 19 years old and counting — will soon meet the latest jewel on campus. Science Building East, a project fraught with unexpected challenges, is ready for its closeup.
“It’s the single-largest project that we’ve done and will change the nature of this campus, probably second only to adding housing,” said Rich Walker, the vice chancellor for administration, who has been involved with the project since the beginning.
Built in 1966, the Science Building was losing the race to keep up with the demands of a rapidly increasing enrollment. The building originally housed classrooms, laboratories for teaching and research, and offices for biology, chemistry, environmental science, math, physics and STEM curriculum. There simply was not enough room for it all.
The late-Sen. Evelyn Bowles recognized that problem in 1999 when she obtained a $350,000 member initiative grant that allowed for preliminary design on a project that evolved into two buildings. The first, a newly built structure, today called Science Building West, was completed in 2013. That allowed for chemistry, biology and environmental science to be shifted out of the original Science Building so remodeling of the 166,000-square-foot building could begin.
Although the design of the new building was approved in 2006, funding for it didn’t take place until 2009.
The money was appropriated in three steps with the biggest amount coming in the Fiscal 2010 budget year.
“The state appropriated $81.8 million, $52 million of which went to build a new science building,” Walker said. “The remaining $30 million went toward the renovation of the old building for use by math, STEM and physics.”
That renovation was well along — but far from complete — in June 2015 when the university got jaw-dropping news regarding the Illinois General Assembly’s budget impasse with the governor.
“We got the notice at the end of June that all construction must cease. Contractors wouldn’t be paid after June 30, 2015. That was a blow,” Walker said.
It was the middle of the university’s summer. The big auditoriums were torn up, and classes were to start in a few weeks.
“We’ve got students registered, starting to pack their suitcases, starting to head to campus for August classes in a building that just went into a budget freeze,” Walker recalled.
Barricading things was not an option.
“I couldn’t just tell 4,000 students, ‘Sorry, you can’t take classes this fall.’ Devastating would have been an understatement,” he said. “The auditoriums were the critical element. We have to have them every fall and spring semester. They are just booked all day long.”
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
A group of Metro East mayors, cast in a rare forum to talk about their towns, said they are leaning on each other more than ever and believe growth will rely on such cooperation.
“Our communities just have a battle being in the state of Illinois. We don’t need to battle ourselves,” Shiloh Mayor Jim Vernier said.
He was among eight community leaders who gathered in December at the Four Points by Sheraton in Fairview Heights during a Breakfast with the Mayors session sponsored by the Realtor Association of Southwestern Illinois and the Illinois Realtors Political Action Committee.
The event was billed mostly as a means of meeting and greeting elected officials, but as each one of the men stood to speak, it was apparent they were eager to support the need for regionalism.
“Every mayor that we asked committed,” said RASI’s Government Affairs Director Ron Deedrick. “This allows our members to interact with community leaders. The local leaders need to have that dialogue. We want to be partners in the community.”
Invited to speak in addition to Vernier were: Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert, Breese Mayor Charlie Hilmes, Columbia Mayor Kevin Hutchinson, Fairview Heights Mayor Mark Kupsky, Mascoutah Mayor Gerald Daugherty, O’Fallon Mayor Herb Roach and Swansea Village President Mike Leopold.
Following is a synopsis of the remarks by each.
Eckert, who has been mayor 13 years, said prioritizing projects in a 204-year-old city is getting increasingly difficult, particularly with Springfield’s torturous political atmosphere
“While I think all of us agree we love Illinois, it’s a tough time being a city in Illinois,” he said.
Belleville has a lot of older infrastructure and a lot of older neighborhoods, including three historic districts and two National Historic Districts. It’s also 10 miles long, which makes it more difficult for police and fire.
Eckert is hopeful for the coming year, noting the recent annexation of the property from the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows on which a new Hofbrauhaus restaurant is being completed. A new Jack Flash convenience store is about to get underway there, he said. Eckert has received a lot of criticism after delays in the project.
“It is going to happen,” he promised. “No project goes just the you want it to. There are very few fairy tale stories. There’s always hurdles, but we have to have hope and we have to talk. Keep the communication open.”
Eckert said a lot of projects are going to pop in 2018, including some along the Illinois Route 15 corridor, from the Shrine all the way east to the Eckert’s nursery and farm.
He also noted the revitalization of some existing buildings, for example the 4204 Banquet Center, which opened in the 6400 block of West Main St.
“We all have the same headaches,” Eckert said of his mayoral colleagues. “These gentlemen are all people I look up to and I get along well with all of them. We’re working better together today than we ever have and we have to keep that up.”
Hilmes said with Breese being in Clinton County, on the far reaches of Metro East, it’s easy for his town to be overlooked, and he’s come to realize that progress in other communities may mean jobs for Breese residents who live in an agricultural, bedroom community where many people go elsewhere to work.
“I would say 35 to 40 percent of Breese has to leave Breese to go to work every day,” he said.
Residents enjoy the quality of life in the community of 4,700 people, with good housing stock and people who take pride in their surroundings.
People feel safe and pitch in on community projects. He mentioned a recently developed park for those with disabilities, funded by $350,000 in private donations
The city did much of the support work on Hannah’s Playground, named for a child who died during that timeframe. The park recently got a $40,000 addition.
Hilmes said that in western Clinton County there are about eight towns with around 28,000 people total, who all work together.
“We’ve finally gotten over parochialism. People are thinking past that. That’s important — in small towns and large towns,” Hilmes said.
Hutchinson called Metro East mayors “great leaders.” One is a current president of the Illinois Municipal League (Mark Eckert). One is a past president of the same group (former O’Fallon’s Mayor Gary Graham).
“Many of us have sat in leadership positions with the Southwest Illinois Council of Mayors. One of the things you’ll find is that none of us thinks of ourselves as all-knowing,” Hutchinson said.
He said there is a willingness by all community leaders to work with groups like the Realtors, whose input is welcome.
Columbia recently had a special census showing the town at more than 10,000 people.
A lot of area is set aside for commercial growth and expansion, he said.
The American Bottom area along Interstate 255 has for years been targeted for large development that never came to fruition in part because both Columbia and Dupo were seeking an interchange, but it’s closer now than ever he feels.
Hutchinson said the situation is a perfect illustration of why potentially competing towns should work together.
“Even before I became mayor there was butting of heads and arguing about that, but since then, the mayor of Dupo and myself and leadership in both communities have worked together to form an alliance and are working on an intergovernmental agreement between the two cities. No matter which interchange goes first, we’ve all agreed that the region will be stronger with both interchanges — and a connector between them.
“Once it gets going we’re looking at a billion dollars of commercial infrastructure. A lot of this will be spurred by the railroad expanding its intermodal yard in Dupo by a mile to the south toward Columbia. That’s an area that’s going to have a lot of potential. It’s really exciting to see two towns working together for the betterment of the region.”
Columbia’s staff is taking the approach that challenges can be solved, he said.
“I find that whenever we have a round peg and a square box, we have a group that can find a way to square the peg or round the box, and a lot of that is coming from you folks out there.”
By ALAN J. ORTBALS
As 2017 wound down, Ken Diel, principal of Diel and Forguson, an O’Fallon CPA firm and founding partner of Cambridge Capital Management, was receiving numerous calls from investors seeking to move their funds to a fee-only wealth manager.
Driving this movement is a new U.S. Department of Labor rule that expands the “investment advice fiduciary” definition under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. The rule will require all financial professionals who work with retirement plans or provide retirement planning advice to the level of a fiduciary, meaning they must act at all times in the client’s best interest.
The Department of Labor initially announced the ruling in April 2016 with full implementation to take effect Jan. 1, 2018. It has since been postponed. But, the fact that it was to become effective Jan. 1 caused a flurry of publicity and woke investors up to the new rule.
“Now, all of a sudden, people are saying, ‘I always thought they were doing what’s in my best interest’,” said Diel. “And he may have been but now they have to meet this standard that they never had to meet before. Prior to this ruling they only had to be able to show that the investment was ‘suitable’ for the client. So, now we’re getting a lot of calls all of a sudden from people looking for someone who’s going to invest in their best interest. We’re seeing a lot more interest today generated by the heightened public awareness.”
Diel opened Cambridge Capital in 1999 as a Registered Investment Advisory firm compensated on a fee-only basis rather than an activity basis. Typically, in 1999, investment advisors were paid by the transaction each time the client bought or sold a stock. They may also have been receiving a commission from the brokerage firm. From the beginning, however, Cambridge was to be a fee-only advisory firm which, Diel said, was a rarity at the time.
“I had opened my accounting firm in 1979 and we were very independent,” Diel said. “In working with our clients, we saw times when their broker was making more money than the investor. I’d ask them how much they made from their investments that year and they wouldn’t know. I’d say, ‘well, your broker did well because you made 100 trades but you didn’t make any money.’ That’s when I decided we needed to do something different and create a fee-only wealth management firm.”
Cambridge charges a percentage based on the value of the money under management. If the value of the portfolio goes up, Cambridge makes more. If the value goes down, Cambridge makes less. They don’t get paid by the trade and often invest their own funds in the same fashion as clients.
Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Paul J. Hanly Jr. as co-lead counsel in the national multidistrict litigation pending against pharmaceutical companies involved in the marketing of prescription opioid painkillers.
U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster, of the Northern District of Ohio, issued an order Jan. 4 naming Hanly and attorneys Joseph F. Rice and Paul T. Farrell Jr. as co-lead counsels for the plaintiffs in the federal litigation alleging pharmaceutical companies and physicians engaged in fraudulent marketing of prescription opioid painkillers, leading to the current nationwide epidemic.