Panama Canal expansion could impact Missouri ports

MODOT officials say the widened canal will open more freight shipment opportunities to Missouri.

Franklin School construction proceeds as planned

The $10 million project is being constructed next to the old school. It will open for the 2012 school year.

Dino's Pizza damaged by fire

The Cape Girardeau Fire Department estimates $250,000 in damages, but the building is not a total loss.

Mississippi River Basin nitrate pollution remains high

Nitrates flowing from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico contribute to the formation of areas known as dead zones.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rebuilding begins in Joplin

JOPLIN, MO (KBIA) - Amid the destruction caused by the tornado that hit Joplin, Mo., May 22nd, residents are beginning to pick up the pieces and think about rebuilding their city.

One man has already found a new home.

Surrounded by family, friends and volunteers, Joplin resident Dan Florry is sorting out his life, searching through a pile of rubble that once was his home. It’s been a tiring ordeal. Florry is helping volunteers pack up several items he missed last week: tools, a deep freezer and some food. He says he hasn’t stopped working since last week.

"It was kind of incredible to me," Florry said. "The tornado was Sunday night, and Tuesday at lunch time, my wife told me my face was dirty and I needed to wash it. And when I put the soap in, I realized that was the first time I had soap in my hand was Tuesday."

With the help of friends, Florry and his wife have signed a contract for a new home across town, in a less affected area. He says he still hopes to eventually restore this home – to help with what he sees as an inevitable housing shortage. But rebuilding his home – and Joplin – will be a much longer process.

Courtney Flatt, KBIA

Monday, May 30, 2011

NWS confirms southeast Missouri tornadoes

The National Weather Service confirmed several tornados in southeast Missouri that occurred on Wednesday, May 25.

An EF-3 tornado touched down near Ellsinore and left a path for 48 miles through Carter, Wayne, and Madison Counties. Its peak wind speed was 150 miles per hour.

The NWS also confirmed that several smaller tornadoes struck. An EF-1 tornado landed in Cape Girardeau County near Neely’s Landing. The tornado’s damage was limited to tree damage and some roofing damage to one house.

Another EF-1 tornado struck rural Bollinger and Madison Counties. The tornado ripped a path 13 miles long between Marquand and Alliance.

The NWS also confirmed three small EF-0 tornadoes in Perry, Scott, and Carter Counties.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Racial disparities persist in stroke care

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - A new analysis suggests racial and ethnic minorities are not getting equal treatment when it comes to strokes.


At the request of the American Heart Association, a group of stroke experts led by Saint Louis University neurologist Dr. Salvador Cruz-Flores examined the scientific literature for racial and ethnic disparities in stroke care.


Cruz-Flores says they found that minorities have more risk factors for stroke, like high blood pressure and diabetes, and are less aware of their health status. They also have less access to healthcare.


“There are some studies actually that may allude to possibility of perceived or true presence of even of bias within the system,” Cruz-Flores said.


Cruz-Flores says that among other factors, low income, lack of health insurance, and concern about immigration status may also limit minorities' access to stroke care.


Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fire destroys Fredericktown apartment complex

FREDERICKTOWN, MO (KRCU) - An early morning destroyed an apartment complex in Fredericktown on Thursday.

Fredericktown fire chief John Clark calls the complex a total loss.

“Upon our arrival we found a structure with flames showing through the roof. All victims were accounted for. We did have one with injuries. She was transported to Madison Medical Hospital. And we had a firefighter with a back injury. We had him checked out for precautionary measures.”

Clark estimates damage to be worth between four and five hundred thousand dollars.

The state Fire Marshall is investigating the cause of the fire.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Bloomfield Road residents express displeasure over city trail

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The city invites residents to come and share their ideas on planned road construction, and got a fair share of food for thought.

By one man’s estimate, at least 25 people attended the event to voice their displeasure over a multi-modal trail that will run along the eastern side of a renovated stretch of Bloomfield Road in Cape Girardeau.

The plan and more specifically the trail has come under fire when it was discovered that its planned route will run through a private park.

The man who built the park and subdivision, Robert Penrod, was on hand Thursday night. He says “it’s all wrong.”

"Now they’re using it on the, on the park side and later on all the way down behind those apartment buildings there gonna take out all the trees, some of that wall will be eight feet high. It's taking away some of the goodness of that subdivision."

However, Cape Girardeau City Engineer Kelly Green, says that the subdivision association signed off on the plan.

"Our trail is on our right of way and the subdivision association did sign off on all the easements that we had to have so we moved forward with our contract or with bidding the project and we have a contractor on board and were gonna be starting June first," Green said.

The construction will take place on Bloomfeild Rd. starting just south of Stonebridge Drive down to the Benton Hill Rd. intersection.

Construction on Bloomfeild Rd. will begin June first and will reopen as late as January.

Tim Fillla, KRCU

EPA finds low levels of E. coli in Birds Point floodway

Floodwater in the Birds Point floodway contains elevated levels of bacteria, according to limited sampling conducted by the EPA.

However, the EPA test also reveals that E. coli levels are below Missouri’s official standards for safe swimming water. E. coli is an indicator for fecal coliform bacteria.

In addition to the coliform bacteria tests, the EPA is also checking for residue from chemical pesticides and fertilizers, aluminum, and gasoline and diesel fuel. The results from those analyses are still pending, according to an EPA press release.

The EPA still advices people to avoid contact with floodwater if possible.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cantor draws McCaskill's ire

Senator Claire McCaskill is incensed and dismayed by statements made by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

According to the Washington Post and other media, Representative Cantor stated “that if Congress passes an emergency spending bill to help Missouri's tornado victims, the extra money will have to be cut from somewhere else.”

Senator McCaskill responded directly to those comments in a radio conference call Wednesday.

"I would like to venture a guess that if Eric Cantor had the kind of destruction in his congressional district that the people of Joplin have endured over the last few days that he would not have the nerve to say that money for Joplin would only come at the expense of another program," McCaskill said.

Representative Cantor has taken flak from both sides of the aisle since his comments Monday.

Over 120 people lost their lives in the tornado that ravaged Joplin on Sunday.

Tim Filla, KRCU

Nixon meets with Joplin faith leaders

JOPLIN, MO - Governor Jay Nixon met with faith leader in Joplin on Wednesday as they struggle to support victims of the devastating EF-5 tornado that left the southwest Missouri town in rubble.

The governor says that is he confident that Joplin will rebuild … but he is not sure if stronger building codes will do much good to prevent another disaster like this one.

"I don’t know that man can build something strong enough to handle the damage of the strength of what came through here. I know that we can tie things down," Nixon said. "I know that we can use a little different material. But when you have an EF-5 tornado moving as slow as this one does, I mean, this is as strong a force as has ever touched this state, that’s for sure."

The death toll from Sunday’s tornado now stands at 125.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Storms rip through Southeast Missouri

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Powerful thunderstorms ripped through Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois last night, spinning off funnel clouds and tornados.

The National Weather Service reports that a tornado touched down near Elsinore in Carter County. The tornado damaged homes and left a 3 miles debris field west of Elsinore.

Trained spotters also report at least two injuries from a tornado that touched down in rural Wayne County.

In Bollinger County, winds between 70 and 80 miles per hour were reported throughout the county.

Cape County sheriff arrests suspect in convenience store robberies

The Cape Girardeau County Sheriff Department has arrested a man for allegedly robbing a pair of convenience stores in Fruitland.

Alex Curry is formally charged with two counts of a Class A Felony of Armed Robbery and one count of the Felony of Armed Criminal Action.

Alex Curry was arrested on Tuesday at noon. The robberies occurred the previous two Sunday mornings.

Curry is a being held at the Cape Girardeau County Justice Center in Jackson on $50,000 cash-only bail.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Red Cross does not need item donations for Joplin tornado victims

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The American Red Cross’ job has gotten a little bit harder this week.

Their Southeast Missouri volunteers are already working closely with those displaced from their homes due to flooding. But as Cheryl Klueppel, the chapter’s Executive Director explains, the group is also reaching out to Joplin area residents affected by the recent tornado.

“Our Red Cross has mobilized volunteers to help families, to be of support, to shelter, provide mental health, health services to families in the Joplin area,” Klueppel said.

Klueppel says the Red Cross is not currently in need of item donations. But those interested in giving other types of aid can make a monetary donation at redcross.org or call 211 to volunteer their time with partnering organizations.

Cara Wilson, KRCU

No long-term funding in place for Broadway renovation

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - While the final look of the Broadway Corridor Enhancement Project is still on the drawing board, its funding is set in stone.

Funding for the undertaking is coming from two sources, according to project manager Kasey Brunke.

"The entire funding that we have for the Broadway Corridor Enhancement Project, which is from Pacific Street to Water Street we have $3.85 million," Brunke said. "$2.85 million came from the Transportation Trust Fund Four tax."

The other one million dollars comes from the city's transfer of property to Isle of Capri.

The project has been planned on for many years, but it was jumped started by Isle of Capri’s decision to open a casino in Cape Girardeau.

While funding for construction is in place, many supporters harbor some level anxiety about the long-term upkeep of the project.

Brunke says that there is no definite long term funding solution, but it is one of her top priorities.

"I know maintenance is a huge issue," Brunke said. "We are still checking into all that. It is very much at the forefront of our radars. We don’t wanna put something in that looks great the day we put it in, but then a year or two years later it doesn’t look so nice. I thought SWT had a really good comment about saying they want it to look good when they put it in and 30 years later."

The project will rehab a stretch of Broadway running from Pacific to Water Street. Bidding will start in the fall. Construction is slated to start in the winter and be done by next fall.

The team hopes that the construction will be completed by Southeast Missouri State’s homecoming.

Tim Filla, KRCU

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Business owners and residents brainstorm Broadway's future

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Residents and local business leaders put their heads together Monday night to discuss the Broadway Corridor Project.

It marked the first public forum on the DREAM Initiative-funded project.

A workshop allowed for participants to ask questions as well as bounce around possible ideas.

For residents, the meeting was about bringing a new and beautiful rebirth for the once thriving avenue. For business owners, such as Robert Gentry, the focus was on traffic.

"Anytime when you are in the business district, increased traffic gives a business owner the opportunity to increase their business," Gentry said. "Nothing is guaranteed of course, but when there is more flow of traffic when more store fronts are filled opposed to vacant, it creates the appearance of fullness."

While most supported the project, some still voiced concerns such as traffic, parking, and long term maintenance.

One such supporter, Rob Herbst, felt the most pressing issue was that of long term sustainability and upkeep.

"Maintaining it going forward as far as keeping it clean and in good repairs. So often these kinds of projects are built and then five years later you don’t have the maintenance there, but I think they are addressing that and being able to plan it in," Herbst said.

The meeting acted as a data collection mechanism for the three firms hired and tasked with designing the project.

The project will affect the stretch of Broadway spanning from Pacific to Water. It will be bid on in the winter, and completed by Fall of next year.

The meeting was held at the Discovery Playhouse on Broadway in downtown Cape.

Tim Filla, KRCU

Death toll grows in Joplin

JOPLIN, MO (KBIA) - 116 are confirmed dead in Joplin.

Police and rescue forces spent Monday searching for survivors amongst the rubble. Seventee people were found alive.

Senator Claire McCaskill will visit Joplin today. President Barack Obama says he will tour Joplin on Sunday.

14,000 residents in Joplin remain without electricity.

Scott Kanowsky, KBIA

Confusion persists over health care overhaul

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - More than a year after becoming law, Missourians still aren’t sure what to think about President Barack Obama’s Health Care Overall Law.

Members of the Missouri Foundation for Health met with about 15 Cape Girardeau residents Monday night to answer questions about the law and to dispel rumors.

The Foundation designed the question-and-answer session to provide information about the law, according to policy analyst Thomas McAuliffe.

“The common questions are: When is this going to kick in? Is this going to change the cost of care? Will I be healthier as a result of this law? Ultimately, people say, ‘Why was it passed the way it was passed?’ I think lot of people are upset not about the content as much as they are the ultimate way in which it was passed,” McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe says that many Medicare users express concern that their benefits will change. The individual mandate is also a common theme for discussion throughout the state.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Clay not concerned by possible rival

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - Democratic Congressman William Lacy Clay says he’s unconcerned about a possible primary challenge in 2012.

New Congressional maps approved earlier this month over Governor Jay Nixon’s veto put Clay and fellow Democrat Russ Carnahan in the same district.

Carnahan appears to be leaning toward running in the new Second District, but has not ruled out a primary challenge to Clay.

Clay says primaries are part of the political process.

“I’ve run six times and I’ve been primaried six times. I put my record up against whomever. And that’s for the people, because they ultimately make the decision,” Clay said.

He says he’s focused more on introducing himself to new constituents in south St. Louis city.

Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

Monday, May 23, 2011

Agriculture Innovation Showcase opens in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - An event starting today at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is looking to match up investors with emerging agricultural technology companies from across the globe.

The third annual Ag Innovation Showcase will draw international venture capitalists and corporate agricultural investors like Monsanto and Dupont.

Showcase organizer Mark Gorski says sixteen agricultural start-ups will be vying for their attention.

"We’re really trying to foster innovation and the funding of innovation through this conference by providing a stage for these high quality young companies to these potential investors," Gorski said. "They’re presenting their business plans, and we hope that deals and investments will result from the conference."

The young companies will present business plans for producing everything from genetically modified biofuels to high tech agricultural sensors.

"It’s all about feeding the world more effectively and utilizing renewable sources of energy, versus the fossil fuels types of energy we currently utilize primarily," Gorski said.

Gorski says the event will bring together sixteen emerging agricultural technology companies and potential investors – from venture capital firms to corporate giants like Monsanto and Syngenta.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

State responds to tornado in Joplin

The State Emergency Management Agency continues to work with Missouri state and local agencies to deploy all available response resources to Joplin following the deadly tornado that ripped through the city Sunday evening.

Sunday evening, Gov. Jay Nixon activated the Missouri National Guard to respond to the area. The Missouri State Highway Patrol has also sent additional troopers to the Joplin area.

The State Emergency Management Agency is helping to coordinate the deployment of search and rescue teams, a disaster medical assistance team, communications vehicles, mobile command vehicles, heavy equipment and an incident support team.

The incident support team will provide support to the emergency operation center.

Tornado rips through Joplin

JOPLIN, MO (KSMU) - Officials in Joplin fear the death toll from Sunday night's tornado is as high as 89.

Eastern Kansas and southern Missouri were pummeled by severe thunderstorms Sunday evening, the strongest of which struck Joplin around five o’clock.

The National Weather Service in Springfield says that the tornado’s path wasn’t particularly long, especially for a tornado of this strength, but it was devastating because it hit a heavily-populated area, according to meteorologist Andy Boxell.

"Some of the pictures we've seen thus far do suggest the tornado was likely at least half a mile wide in some locations, so it was a very large, a very strong tornado," Boxell said.

St. John Regional Medical Center in Joplin evacuated nearly 100 patients after the hospital took a direct hit from the tornado.

Some were moved to Freeman Hospital in Joplin while others were being moved to St. John’s Hospital in Springfield and to a hospital in Arkansas.

At least two National Weather Service survey teams will head to Joplin early this morning to begin to assess the damage.

"They'll go out and evaluate the structures that were damaged," Boxell said. "Meteorologists and engineers in the past have done studies to determine what kinds of wind speeds result in a particular amount of damage for a particularly built structure, whether it's a commercial building or a single-family home, an apartment complex, things like that, and so, by evaluating that damage, we should be able to start to get an idea that suggests how strong that tornado was."

Southwest Missouri isn’t out of the woods yet. Boxell says the area has a chance for strong to severe storms through Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has activated the National Guard following Sunday’s storms. President Barack Obama says the Federal Emergency Management Agency is working with state and local agencies in response to last night’s tornado. He says the federal government is prepared to provide help as needed.

Michele Skalicky, KSMU

Friday, May 20, 2011

Capaha Pool demolition begins

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Crews began to demolish Capaha Pool in Cape Girardeau on Thursday. 

The swimming pool became obsolete after the construction of the Cape Splash water park last year.

Capaha Pool was built in 1957. Structural issues made the pool infeasible to repair.

For time being, the pool will be replaced by green space, according to Cape Girardeau Housing Assistance Coordinator Steve Williams

“Right now the Park Board does not have any particular thing to go in there. What he is going to do, once we haul off all the material, he’s going to bring in fill and put it to grade. Then when will seed and straw it,” Williams said.

The $73 thousand project must be completed within 45 days. Williams expects the demolition to be finished much sooner than that.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

FEMA practices major catastrophe in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD, MO (KSMU) - What would you do if a catastrophic event occurred? FEMA is asking itself that exact question this week, and the federal agency is using Springfield as one of its locations to find out. The feds have teamed up with local hospitals, shelters and morgues to see just how prepared the region is for a major disaster.

Part of the old terminal at the Springfield-Branson national airport was turned into a gigantic triage room this week as military personnel from across the country practiced evacuating patients.

The 140 fake patients - in this case mannequins on stretchers  - arrived by local ambulances. They were whisked into the medical room before soldiers and FEMA personnel loaded them onto massive C-130 military airplanes.

Beth Freeman is the regional administrator for FEMA Region 7 in Kansas City. She says this simulation was based on how FEMA would respond to an earthquake out of the New Madrid Fault Zone.

“Springfield hospitals and airports will be, if this scenario would indeed happen, would be probably the first large hospital center that patients can get to. Those hospitals here will quickly be filled. They will need to move patients out to other hospitals. That’s what we are practicing.”

The C-130s took off, loaded with the mannequins and medical staff, and headed for hospitals in Kansas City, Omaha, Des Moines, and Shreveport, Louisiana. For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.

Rain complicates planting season

BENTON, MO (KRCU) - Torrential rain and flooding have complicated what should have been a good year for Southeast Missouri farmers.

Commodity prices for corn, wheat, and soy beans remain high. But most farmers have been forced to plant later than normal. Some Bootheel farmers lost entire wheat crops due to water standing on their fields.

David Reinbott is an agriculture business specialist at the University of Missouri Extension in Benton. He says that it’s been a difficult year, but it is still too early to call it a loss.

"Corn has just been delayed. Corn that should have been planted in the end of March or April is now getting planted in mid-May," Reinbott said. "Soy beans that should have been planted two or three weeks ago have not even been put in the ground. So we’ve got everything getting delayed and the profit potential that we’re looking at is starting to fizzle a bit. The potential is still there, but not quite as good as maybe it was a month ago or two."

Reinbott says that it all hinges on the weather and water. If we get a couple of weeks of sun, crops should do well. The picture would be complicated if more rain falls on Southeast Missouri.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Redhawks' Underwood on CNN.com

Southeast Missouri State University pitcher Jordon Underwood was featured yesterday on CNN.com.

Several major media outlets profiled Underwood this season, including The New York Times. Underwood has pitched in 14 games this season and has compiled a 4-0 record.

He has become a successful pitcher with only one eye.

Underwood will take the mound this Saturday at Capaha Field against Eastern Illinois at 1 p.m.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Carnahan has no plans

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - U-S Congressman Russ Carnahan says he still has not decided what political office he'll pursue next year.

The St. Louis Democrat's 3rd congressional district will be eliminated based on redistricting maps approved by Missouri lawmakers. Today/Wednesday, Carnahan was asked by reporters if 2nd District congressman Todd Akin's announcement this week that he'll run for the Senate makes his decision easier….

"There is an open 2nd congressional seat that has a large number of my current constituents in it, so we're obviously taking a serious look at that, Carnahan said. "And I know there are other folks that are also taking a serious look at having the court review the maps that have been passed by the legislature."

The second-highest ranking Democrat in the House, Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland, was in St. Louis Wednesday to help raise money for Carnahan's reelection campaign.

Bill Raack, St. Louis Public Radio

Blunt and McCaskill sound off on gas prices

High gas prices are on the minds of both Missouri Senators this week.

A bill co-sponsored by Senator Roy Blunt was on the Senate flood Wednesday to address expanded oil production and other issues.

Blunt says one area of concern is refineries taking time to customize production under the Clean Air Act rather than working on bulk oil refining.

"It really impacts supply whenever you have to make all these special blends of fuels in the summertime for the 19 or 20 or two dozen cities that are under some Clean Air requirements right now. Until we changed the law a little bit a few years ago all of them had to have a unique blend of fuel that had to be produced just for them," Blunt said.

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill says alternative fuels is her focus – with a caveat.

"Incentivizing alternatives to oil petroleum is a very good idea," McCaskill said. "I do think we have to be careful that doesn’t turn into an entitlement program. Incentivizing the beginning of a market is much different than an entitlement program that goes on for decades and decades and decades. So we do need to look to the future and figure out at what point and time do we need to wean that market off of the tax dollars that they have received."

The Senate this voted down a McCaskill proposal that would have dropped tax credits for the largest of the oil companies.

Kirk Wayman, KXCV

Shaw announces retirement

Dr. Randy Shaw, dean of the School of Polytechnic Studies at Southeast Missouri State University, and associate provost of the School of Extended Learning, has announced his retirement effective July 31.

Dr. Chris McGowan, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, will serve as interim dean of the School of Polytechnic Studies. Dr. Allen Gathman, director of the Center for Writing Excellence and professor of biology, has been named interim dean of Online and Extended Learning.

City sends final notice to Commander

Cape Girardeau City Manager Scott Meyer sent a letter to Commander Premier Aircraft Corporation, instructing the company to vacate city property within 30 days.

Commander Premier has failed to pay rent to the city for over three years. According to the letter dated May 16, the company has also failed to provide required insurance documentation.

Meyer’s letter says that if Commander does leave the premises within 30 days, then the city has the right to enter the property and remove all parties.

The letter also states that eviction does not end Commander’s financial obligation to the City of Cape Girardeau. Commander must still pay back rent. Interest will continue to accrue.

The aircraft manufacturer has been housed at a city-owned hanger near the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport since 2007.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Corps to rebuild Birds Point levee

The Army Corps of Engineers says that the Birds Point-New Madrid spillway levee will be restored.

In a letter to Representative Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, established a timeline for rebuilding the levee system.

In the letter, Darcy said that water should recede within 40 to 60 days without further rainfall. The land will need another 21 to 30 day to dry. After the drying out period, the Corps would make an assessment to determine the extent of restoration.

Representative Emerson called the Birds Point operation, “a deeply painful experience for thousands of people.” She says that the Corps’ commitment to rebuild is the first good news about the levee in a long time.

SEMO Food Bank wins $100K grant


Tri-State Advertising & Marketing Professionals awarded the Southeast Missouri Food Bank a $100,000 grant. The Advertising for a Cause grant was established to provide advertising assistance, production and media placement for regional public service organizations. 

In a press statement, Karen Green, director of the Southeast Missouri Food Bank, says the award could not have come at a better time. The receding flood waters are leaving behind many people displaced from their homes and, those who are able to return, are finding damaged or lost food stores.

Ten regional media companies have donated their production and placement services to fund the grant. The media partners will develop and implement a multi-media public service campaign for the Southeast Missouri Food Bank covering a five-state service area.

Photo: Southeast Missouri Food Bank director Karen Green.

Akin to run for U.S. Senate

As expected, Missouri Congressman Todd Akin announced Tuesday that he will challenge Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill in 2012.

Akin, who has represented the 2nd Congressional District in suburban St. Louis for the past 10 years, says that he has the exact opposite record as McCaskill.

“And we give people a clear choice. It is a choice of two futures for America, and I believe that the people in Missouri will choose the choice of limited government, living within our means, developing American energy, and of course, freedom,” Akin said.

Akin joins former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman to officially announce their candidacy for the 2012 Senate race.

St. Louis businessman John Brunner has said he also is considering a Senate campaign.

Julie Bierach, St. Louis Public Radio

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mosquitoes a concern for flooded areas

Residents living in flooded areas have something else to worry about ... lots of mosquitoes.

Areas that have received a lot of rain will likely have to deal with big batches of the bugs.

Illinois State Department of Public Health spokesperson Melaney Arnold says the good news is that these are floodwater mosquitoes ... not the house mosquitoes that often carry the West Nile Virus. Still ... she says the state has already begun surveillance for West Nile in Illinois.

“And we typically start to see either positive bird or mosquito pool come around May 8th is when we saw the first bird test positive last year. So it’s the early part of May that we do start to see West Nile Virus activity. The first human case isn’t generally until around the first of July,” she said.

Arnold says house mosquitoes usually emerge once the waters recede ... and any pools of stagnant water are left ... which is where they like to breed.

Brad Palmer, WSIU

Illinois officials begin flood assessment

CARBONDALE, IL (WSIU) - Officials from the state and federal levels arrived in southern Illinois Monday to begin documenting damage to homes and businesses from this spring's flooding.

Staff from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration say information gathered during the damage assessment will be used by the state of Illinois to support a request for federal assistance.

IEMA director Jonathon Monken says five teams of state and federal officials will conduct damage assessments in about a dozen counties.

"Basically what they are focusing their attention and time on is counties that actually reported having private homes or significant private property damage in the course of the flood," Monken said. "So this is really the phase that we are really working on right now is the individual assistance phase, which is geared specifically towards those private properties."

Monken says he expects the damage assessments to be completed by the end of the week.

He says the assessments will be very thorough.

“They look for a lot of things. The water level in the house. How high it ultimately reached. Whether or not it hit the electrical system or affected the electrical systems. Whether or not basic life support functions are still there, meaning life support in terms of water, electricity, heating, air conditioning, things like that. And then they also look at whether or not there was any structural damage to the home itself,” Monken said.

The documentation of damage comes as the Ohio River continues receding, having threatened Cairo and swamped parts of Metropolis.

The Ohio River's retreat meant that a highway bridge linking Cairo to Wickliffe, Kentucky has reopened, and the curfew in Cairo was lifted Monday.

Governor Pat Quinn issued a state disaster declaration for the southern Illinois flooding on April 25th.

Brad Palmer, WSIU

Belmont joins OVC

The Ohio Valley Conference announced that Belmont University will become the 12th team in the OVC.

Belmont’s teams will begin competing in the OVC in 2012-2013 season.

The Belmont Bruins participate in 16 of the 18 sports currently offered in the OVC.

Belmont University is located in Nashville, Tennessee and has approximately 6,000 students. Belmont is leaving the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Bruins athletic teams have made recent NCAA Tournament appearances in men's and women's basketball, women's soccer, men's tennis and volleyball. The men's basketball program has made four NCAA Tournament appearances in the past six seasons.

Meadows wins Buck Scholarship

Southeast Missouri State University awarded the Jack Buck Scholar-Leadership Award to a high school student from Chesterfield, Missouri at a luncheon yesterday.

Erin Meadows is active in her community and school, and she has also excelled in the classroom and in theatre and dance.

Carole Buck, wife of the late Jack Buck, attended the luncheon to present the award to Meadows.

The award, which was the first scholarship to be established in memory of Buck, recognizes a student in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area who has demonstrated outstanding character, academic achievement and the potential to be a leader in the community.

Corps to hold informational meetings

Personnel from the Wappapello Lake Project Office will host a series of informational meetings regarding the recovery and reopening of facilities and State Route T that were affected by record reservoir levels.

The first meeting will be on May 24, 2011, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. with a formal presentation to begin at 1:30 p.m. The second meeting will be on May 24, 2011, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. with a formal presentation to begin at 6:30 p.m. These meetings will be held at Crabb’s Fisherman’s Net in Wappapello, Missouri.

The third meeting will be held on May 26, 2011, at the Greenville Junior High School multipurpose building in Greenville, Missouri, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. with a formal presentation to begin at 6:30 p.m.

Missouri unemployment down in April

Missouri’s unemployment rate continued to move down in April, according to data released yesterday by the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

Missouri’s unemployment rate fell to 8.9 percent, down by two-tenths of a point from the March figure on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Since January of this year, Missouri’s unemployment rate has now fallen by seven-tenths of a point.

In comparison, the U.S. seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is currently 9.0 percent.

Construction continues to show signs of growth. Manufacturing has also been growing for several months; in April the industry employed nearly 250,000 Missourians, an increase of 7,700 jobs, or 3.2 percent, over the past year.

Contaminated soils found in three St. Francois County schools

The EPA is removing lead-contaminated soil and replacing them with clean soils at three schools in Farmington.

Action to remove and replace soils began last week and should be completed, weather permitting, by the end of the week.

The schools are Jefferson Elementary School, W.L. Johns Early Childhood, and Truman Kindergarten. Those three facilities are attended by children whose ages put them at greatest risk of health effects from toxic lead exposure, according to a release by the EPA.

Removal work also began recently at five other area schools, including North County Primary in Bonne Terre; Parkside Elementary in Desloge; and Central Elementary, West Elementary and Special Acres in Park Hills.

Meanwhile, EPA risk assessors are reviewing the results of recent tests showing elevated levels of lead in soils at 10 of 11 public parks surveyed in St. Francois County.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Board of Regents approves tuition increase

Southeast Missouri State University’s Board of Regents approved a student tuition increase for the upcoming academic year.

The 4.8% increase will amount to about ten dollars more per credit hour.

The tuition increase comes after the Missouri legislature approved a budget for Fiscal Year 2012 that included a 5.8% funding reduction for higher education. The budget awaits the Governor Jay Nixon’s signature.

Despite Southeast’s recent budget cuts and the tuition increase, Southeast will have to cut spending by 5% in the coming fiscal year as well.

Cairo - Wickliffe Bridge Reopens

The Ohio River Bridge between Cairo, Illinois and Wickliffe, Kentucky has now been reopened.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has completed repairs to the bridge which has been out of service since April 26. During the worst of the flooding, water was spilling over the bridge on the Kentucky side.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship carries Douglas Greene's name

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Southeast Missouri State University’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship now officially bears the name of Douglas C. Greene.

Mr. Greene and his wife Heather are successful businesspeople who have assisted the University in with various scholarships and programs, including the Multi-Media Center in Kent Library.

Himself an entrepreneur, Greene has provided financial assistance to the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He has also undertaken the role of guest speaker and motivator at the Center.

“I’ve subscribed to this giving a hand up rather than a hand out. And so we have sponsored scholarships here for deserving students in entrepreneurialism, and we have a plan down the road to do even more. And what is great is to come back and meet these students,” Greene said.

A dedication ceremony was held on Friday to honor Douglas and Heather Greene.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Cairo won't crumble from sand boils, geologist says

CARBONDALE, IL (KRCU) - A professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale says that Cairo, Illinois is not at risk of being overtaken by sand boils.

Dr. Nicholas Pinter is a professor in the Department of Geology at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He’s an expert on flood hydrology and floodplain management. He says that the land beneath Cairo is not in danger of crumbling apart. The town’s real peril subsided when river levels dropped on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

“They were and should have been worried when the waters were up. This was a major threat to the integrity of those very levees. And it’s a threat that increased as the water levels got higher. Now as the crests have passed, thank goodness here, the immediate threat from those features has subsided,” Pinter said.

Pinter says that the Birds Point floodway had the desired effect of reducing river levels at Cairo and 40 miles upstream. He believes that the Army Corps of Engineers could have opened the floodway earlier, which may have prevented flooding in the southern Illinois community of Olive Branch.

Moving forward, Pinter wants to see less intensive use of the floodway.

“Keep construction, infrastructure, and population out of that floodplain. Agricultural use of that land is absolutely appropriate. And that has been one of the major developments. That land has gone from partially used to very, very intensively used since the designing of the original system,” Pinter said.

Dr. Pinter believes that the levee should be reconstructed. He would like to see more land set aside for floodplains in order to mitigate future flood events.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Late-term abortion ban moves to Nixon's desk

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - To stop what they called "barbaric murder," Missouri Republicans approved a ban on late-term abortions Thursday.

After a final House vote, the bill is on to Governor Jay Nixon.

It would halt abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

Jefferson County Republican John McCaherty was one supporter.

"We talk about landowner rights and business rights and worker rights. It's high time we talked about the rights of the child," McCaherty said.

Democrats, like St. Louis County Representative Stacey Neuman, say the decision should be left to the women in the situation.

"A woman needs to rely on the expertise of her physicians, not politicians, not the state," Neuman said.

Neuman's plea was not enough, as Republicans passed the bill 121-33.

A leading abortion-rights supporter in the Senate said these late terminations are so rare that the bill is inconsequential.

Theo Keith, Missouri Digital News

Gunman allegedly goes on crime spree

A crime spree that stretched from Fort Leonard Wood army base to Rolla is over.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol apprehended 31-year-old Cody Willcoxon early Thursday afternoon just outside Rolla.

Willcoxon allegedly attempted to get on the Fort Leonard Wood base and when denied… drove through the gate. He purportedly fled the base, engaged in a rolling gun battle with authorities on Interstate 44, then drove into Rolla.

Rolla police chief Mark Kearse says investigators have a lot of work to do.

"We need to trace all the bullets, the vehicles, then where his vehicle ended up crashing, of course that's a scene. There is where he stole the other vehicle and the occupants of that place and interviewing them and how he broke in, and the scene where he was captured," Kearse said.


Kearse says officials believe Willcoxson acted alone, and they do not yet have a motive. Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla was locked down for more than four hours.

Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

No camping fees at state parks for flood victims

Missouri State Parks will waive all camping fees for families displaced by recent flooding along the Mississippi River in state-declared disaster counties.

Camping fees will be waived at Trail of Tears State Park and Lake Wappapello State Park. The waiver will apply for 30 days, after which time each situation will be re-evaluated to determine if the stay needs to be extended.

All campsites will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

People requesting the fee waiver should provide documentation from a governmental or charitable organization certifying that they have been displaced by flooding in a declared county in Missouri.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

University announces Young Alumni Merit Award winners

Southeast Missouri State University’s Alumni Association has selected six alumni to receive the University’s Young Alumni Merit Award.

The Award is given annually to honor those alumni 37 years or younger who have brought distinction to the University through professional growth, service and individual character.

This year’s award recipients are Christie Johnson Nardozzi, Michael Johnson, Roy Van Brunt III, Christopher Robertson, Stephen Bauer, and Christie Bruening.

Agencies meet with flood victims; Pinhook struggles to be reborn

CHARLESTON, MO (KRCU) - Officials from numerous state agencies visited Charleston, Poplar Bluff, New Madrid, Sikeston, and Caruthersville over two days this week to meet with residents who have been affected by this spring’s record flood.

Agencies provided information on unemployment benefits, how to seek damage compensation, and mental health services, among others.

Debra Tarver met with several agencies at the Community Response Meeting in Charleston. She is from the village of Pinhook - population 24 - which sits in the Birds Point spillway.

Despite government efforts to help rebuild, she’s not sure if Pinhook will ever be reborn.

“I want to. But everybody else is pretty much older. You know, it’s a lot of older people there. I don’t know if the young people would go back there at this point. I just don’t know. Financially, it’s hard to say,” Tarver said.

Governor Jay Nixon announced $25 million in disaster relief money for Mississippi, New Madrid, Butler, Taney, and St. Louis Counties. President Barack Obama has declared the same counties a disaster area.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

New Madrid spared from flooding


NEW MADRID, MO (KRCU) - New Madrid has been spared much of the flooding damage and devastation that other communities have felt this spring.

The city’s levees have held. Pumping stations are removing backwater from city streets.

A series of eight to ten sand boils have appeared on streets along the levee. New Madrid city administrator John Gilbert says that they are under control, but he expects more sand boils to bubble up from time to time.

"And so the minute we see one, we plug it," Gilbert said. "So we have not had too much problem with them yet. We’re expecting more streets to kind of give way and maybe some sewer lines to sink. We’re going to have some problems after the fact like many cities."

Gilbert believes that opening up the Birds Point-New Madrid floodway helped relieve pressure at New Madrid and other communities along the Mississippi.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Cairo evacuation ends

CAIRO, IL (KRCU) - The mandatory evacuation of Cairo, Illinois is now over.

Mayor Tyrone Coleman announced that residents can begin return to homes and businesses can re-open.

The city has been under a mandatory evacuation since May 2.

River levels at Cairo have fallen since the detonation of the Birds Point Levee in Southeast Missouri. The city’s streets are still pockmarked by large sand boils.

Mo. Senate approves conceal and carry bill

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - With only a few days left in the 2011 session, Missouri's Senate voted to give legislative staff the right to pack pistols in the Capitol.

Democratic St. Louis Senator Joseph Keaveny voted against the bill and says he would advise his staff against taking part in the program.

"People act irrationally sometimes and that's a mistake that you'll pay for for a long long time," Keaveny said.

Republican Washington Senator Brian Nieves said he would absolutely support his staff packing heat.

"I think it's good for citizens to be able to protect themselves, law-abiding citizens to protect themselves when they want to," Nieves said.

The bill now goes to the House.

Andrew Weil, Missouri Digital News

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fake pot bill moves to Nixon's desk

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - Missouri's governor is the final step for a bill that bans so-called bath salts and fake pot.

The measure would get two synthetic drugs -- K-3 and bath salts -- off the market.

It passed the House with 90 percent support.

West Plains Republican Ward Franz talks about what bath salts did to one man.

"He didn't show up for work. He didn't show up to pick up his kids," Franz said. "They found him barricaded in his garage because he was hallucinating and hearing voices."

Franz says sellers are getting around the law by labeling bath salts as not for human consumption.

But St. Louis Democrat Mike Colona says the effects of bath salts and K-3 are much different.

"If you talk to law enforcement, there are two different issues. One leads to neurosis, uncontrollable activities. The other puts you to sleep," Colona says.

Colona says the bill would hurt businesses that also sell legal drugs.

It's not the first time state lawmakers have done battle with these drugs. They banned another form of fake pot, called K-2, last year.

The bill's next stop is Gov. Jay Nixon's desk.

Theo Keith, Missouri Digital News

Il. Treasurer makes loans available to flood victims

The Illinois Treasurer's Office is helping to make low-interest loans available to flood victims in southern Illinois.

Treasurer Dan Rutherford announced a partnership with local banks, including Banterra Bank, to offer the loans for businesses and homeowners at up to three-percent interest.

Rutherford says he's also made changes to the existing state loan program, which used to require a disaster declaration for property owners to be eligible for the loans.

The Disaster Recovery Program through the state will provide up to a half-billion dollars in low-interest loans... but Rutherford says he's willing to re-evaluate the number if totals go higher than that.

"If we get to the edge of that, and we are pushing that $500 million cumulative and LINK Deposit Programs, see me. And I will then look, and do an assessment, as is appropriate, on what further needs may be in the southern Illinois area. And I will not, let me make this clear: This treasurer will not let that limit stop us continuing to participate in the needs for the constituency here in southern Illinois," Rutherford said.

If the property owner lacks flood insurance, the loans must be repaid in five years. If insurance does cover the damage, the loans are usually bridge loans to cover costs until insurance money is received.

"If there's a disaster in your home... and you've got mold, and you've got mud, and you've got damage to your property in your business or your home, it doesn't matter what the federal government does as far as declaring a federal disaster area. It's a disaster for you," Rutherford said.

The loan program is open to people with or without flood insurance. Amounts are based on the damage estimate related to the disaster.

To begin the pre-qualification process, you must call the hotline: 866-523-0641. More information can be found at treasurer.il.gov.

Jennifer Fuller, WSIU

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine have shown that estrogen-lowering drugs can help reduce the need for mastectomy in some breast cancer patients.

Estrogen is known to increase tumor growth in the majority of breast cancer patients.

In a new study, post-menopausal women with large breast cancer tumors were given one of three estrogen-lowering drugs before surgery.

Study lead Dr. Matthew Ellis says all three drugs were equally effective in shrinking tumors and reducing the need for complete breast removal.

“In this particular study, about half the patients who were told they needed a mastectomy when they arrived in the doctor’s office could undergo breast conservation surgery at the end of treatment,” Ellis said.

Ellis says these drugs are already used to reduce tumor size and improve surgical outcomes in Europe. He hopes these results will help encourage more U.S. doctors to do the same.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Mississippi County farmers inspect Birds Point floodway

CHARLESTON, MO (KRCU) - Mississippi County farmers were allowed to enter the Birds Point spillway on Monday to inspect property that was flooded by last week’s levee breach.

Mark Dugan farms about 3000 acres in the spillway. He says that the amount of damage was close to what he expected.

“I really was anxious to do that. I don’t think it was comforting. But I wanted to see and I wanted to see what damage had been done,” Dugan said.

Dugan says that most of the homes in the flooded area were damaged, but he thinks that farmers might be able to salvage their metal work buildings, grain bins, and irrigation pivots.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Much of Olive Branch remains underwater

OLIVE BRANCH, IL (KRCU) - Even though river levels are declining, much of Olive Branch, Illinois remains submerged. 

The small community in Alexander County was hit hard by rising floodwaters from both the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Even now, many of the town’s homes and businesses are underwater.

Andy Clark’s home sits on higher ground and avoided direct flooding. But his father’s home shares a common story with so many others in southern Illinois.

"It came up too suddenly. It was kind of unexpected the way the water came that direction. So we were not able to sandbag or do anything," Clark said. "It was kind of just out of the blue. So he lost a lot of stuff and, of course, we’re going to be trying to clean that up tomorrow or the next day."

Clark says that his father’s home had survived previous floods without a drop of water entering the house. This time, it took on 6 inches of flood water.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Cairo remains under mandatory evacuation



CAIRO, IL (KRCU) - Cairo, Illinois is still under a mandatory evacuation. 

Ohio and Mississippi River levels are falling outside of Cairo’s flood walls. But sand boils continue to plague the community’s streets.

Residents can return to Cairo to check homes and property between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., but they cannot stay overnight.

Lifelong resident Kenny Simelton left Cairo two weeks ago. Looking over a series of sinkholes, he wonders if the city’s foundation is structurally sound.

“Is the city safe at all? I mean, you know, if they fix this hole, will it collapse again? Will there be an area that collapses? Who knows? I dunno,” Simelton asks.

Cairo has been under a mandatory evacuation since May 1 due to massive flooding on the Ohio and Mississippi.

In a written statement, Cairo mayor Tyrone Coleman urged residents to respect the evacuation order … saying that the city of Cairo is still unsafe.

Despite this, there are some signs of life returning to normal.

Pharmacist Fran Sherrill packed everything from her shop into a moving truck before the evacuation on May 1st. Now she and her employees are cleaning the windows and restocking her shelves as residents trickle back into town.

“Well obviously we’re a pharmacy and a medical necessity. We’re not a luxury for these people. We’re an absolute necessity for their lives and their livelihood. We thought that we needed to get back as soon as they let us back in here,” Sherrill said.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Monday, May 9, 2011

Economist predicts $93 million drop in total revenue for Mississippi County

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - A Southeast Missouri State University economist studied the impact of the Birds Point Levee breach on the Mississippi County economy.

Dr. Bruce Domazlicky says that the impact of flooding half of the county’s farmland will have the most direct impact through the loss of agriculture output from this land.

The indirect impact is the loss that agricultural suppliers will face. These include lost seed and other input sales.

There will also be an induced impact from the loss of farm wages.

"What we found is that employment in 2011, the current year, will decline by a little over 500. Which is quite significant. That’s about 9% of the total employment in Mississippi County," Domazlicky said. "The second thing we found is that labor income would fall by about 12 million dollars in the county, and that’s also about 9% of the total labor income in the county."

The total revenue in the county, Domazlicky says, will go down by about 93 million dollars. He says this figure is the result of less agricultural output, but it is also affected by the reduction in sales by input providers.

Domazlicky says that these figures translate to about 14 percent of total revenue for the county. The numbers account for the current year.

"What’s going to happen going forward with respect to whether or not those acres can be brought back into cultivation, will then determine how extensive those impacts are going to be in the future," Domazlicky explained.

Domazlicky says that government assistance programs will mitigate these numbers somewhat, but will not completely make up for the direct loss of revenue for the county.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Koster reaches settlement with Bankruptcy First Term Lender

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster reached a settlement with the liquidating trustee, Bankruptcy First Term Lenders Liquidating Trust.

The trustee handled the bankruptcy of Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery.

Koster said following the bankruptcy, former customers of the stores from across the country complained that a third-party collection agent reported negative credit information to credit bureaus without giving the consumers notice or an opportunity to challenge the information. He said consumers had no idea they had credit damage until they were denied credit or were only approved for limited credit, and many denied owing any money at all.

Koster said his office helped negotiate a nationwide settlement with the liquidating trustee that requires the negative information be removed from consumers’ credit reports.

Southeast graduation set for May 14

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Southeast Missouri State University will graduate 1,129 students at commencement exercises on May 14 at the Show Me Center.

936 undergraduates and 193 graduate students will receive their diplomas.

Dr. Fred Janzow, vice provost and dean of the School of Graduate Studies at Southeast, will deliver the commencement address.

330 undergraduates and 95 graduate and specialist students will graduate with Honors.

Mississippi River crests at most places in Missouri

The Mississippi River has crested at most points in Missouri.

The river at Cairo was at 58.3 feet as of 4 a.m. this morning, and it will continue to fall. Despite the falling river, the mandatory evacuation for Cairo remains in place.

The river has also crested at New Madrid and is beginning to fall. The river level this morning is at 47.5 feet.

And the Mississippi is finally falling, albeit slowly, at Caruthersville. The river t is at 47.2 feet this morning. It crested at 47.6 feet on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports the river is 3 miles across at Memphis. The river is typically one-half mile wide. The river is expected to crest on Tuesday at 48 feet at Memphis. The record crest is 48.7 feet. The record was set in the 1937 flood.

This is the first time that the Mississippi has exceeded 41 feet since 1937.

Mo. House approves Local Control bill

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - A deal on local control is working its way through Missouri's legislature, contingent on approval from the St. Louis police union that's so far opposed it.

Missouri's House has approved the deal, sending it back to the Senate.

But the bill won't move forward until the police union gets the collective bargaining rights it wants.

There's a deal in the works to make that happen.

The Senate is scheduled to vote Monday to confirm a new police board member who supports giving the union those rights.

Appointee Tom Irwin would tip the board in favor of a collective bargaining deal.

A St. Louis Democratic Senator who's opposed previous versions of the bill says the police union's OK is needed to get the bill through.

A deal has to happen this week before the end of the legislative session.

Theo Keith, Missouri Digital News

Friday, May 6, 2011

Inmates assist flood relief effort

CARBONDALE, IL (WSIU) - Inmates with the Illinois Department of Corrections are helping with the flood relief effort in southern Illinois.

Donald Gates is the Deputy Director in charge of the region’s prisons. He says inmates from half of the area’s 13 correctional centers are helping battle the flooding.

“At this time we’ve put about 414 offenders out in the field doing various duties of putting sandbags together, and stacking sandbags, and responding to the call,” Gates said.

Gates says so far inmates have bagged about half a million sandbags and contributed 30-thousand man-hours to the flood relief effort.

Gates says it’s honorable for the offenders to be able to come out and assist the communities in need. He says they feel good about helping.

Jeff Williams, WSIU

Gov. Nixon requests federal disaster declaration

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon requested a major disaster declaration for the state of Missouri from President Barack Obama, as a result of the high winds, tornadoes and severe flooding that have affected the state since April 19.

The disaster declaration would provide assistance to individuals and public agencies.

Gov. Nixon declared a state of emergency in Missouri effective Friday, April 22. That order activated the State Emergency Operations Center and enabled the state to mobilize its resources – including the State Emergency Management Agency, or SEMA, and the National Guard and Highway. Since that time, more than 750 members of the National Guard have been mobilized to provide assistance where needed, and some 150 Highway Patrol troopers have been assigned to help with the flooding response.

The governor seeks federal assistance for individuals and for cost of responding to tornadoes in the St. Louis area and severe – and in many cases, record – flooding in southern, southeast Missouri.

Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt joined Nixon in his request.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mo. Legislature passes budget

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KRCU) - The Missouri legislature passed next year's budget which cuts higher education spending, but not as much as originally proposed by the governor.

Missouri lawmakers passed the $23 billion budget which includes a 5.4 percent cut to Missouri's colleges and universities.

Republican St. Louis County Senator Jim Lembke spoke out against areas of the budget where he saw increases in spending.

"Except in a very few like higher education, the bill that we will be going to next where they took a pretty heft cut on top of a cut that they took last year," Lembke said.

Lembke says it’s the legislators responsibility to be the fiscal stewards for Missourians.

The budget now goes to the governor.

Andrew Weil, Missouri Digital News

Illinois Fire Marshal providing assistance for flood relief

The Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office is doing its part to help with flooding in southern Illinois.

Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis says there aren’t any fires to fight but there’s plenty of support that they are able to provide to those directly involved in the flood relief.

“We’ve provided a tent for our mutual aid system for 210 troopers up in Marion. We’ve provided approximately 20 light towers that are spread all over the southern end of Illinois at this point right now,” Matkaitis said. “In addition to that, we’ve put our de-con units about so that the National Guard troops can clean up after they’re done on the levees and the rest of that.”

Matkaitis says there are 45,000 volunteer and career firefighters in Illinois who are standing by to help communities in need of help with flood relief.

Jeff Williams, WSIU

Local control deal maneuvering through legislature

A deal on local control is working its way through Missouri's legislature. As Theo Keith tells us, it is contingent on approval from the St. Louis police union that's so far opposed it.

Missouri's House has approved the deal, sending it back to the Senate.

But the bill won't move forward until the police union gets the collective bargaining rights it wants.

There's a deal in the works to make that happen.

The Senate is scheduled to vote Monday to confirm a new police board member who supports giving the union those rights.

Appointee Tom Irwin would tip the board in favor of a collective bargaining deal.

A St. Louis Democratic Senator who's opposed previous versions of the bill says the police union's OK is needed to get the bill through.

All of this has to happen in the next week before the end of the legislative session.

Theo Keith, Missouri Digital News

River continues to rise at New Madrid

The Mississippi River is expected to crest New Madrid at 50 feet around mid-day on Sunday, before levels begin a long drop to more normal levels. The River was at 48.28 feet at 3:00 a.m. this morning, which sets the record for the highest river levels in New Madrid’s history. The previous high water mark was set in 1937.

New Madrid has already seen major flooding. Residents have been sandbagging for days. Many homes and businesses have evacuated and heavy property damage is expected in the area, according to New Madrid’s Chamber of Commerce. Major damage to agricultural lands is also expected.

Mo. House passes photo ID bill

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - The Missouri House passed a bill that would impose stricter voter registration requirements.

The bill would require voters to show a government-issued photo ID when they show up at the polls.

Opponents say the bill would hurt voter turnout. They say groups such as the elderly, disabled, and immigrants will have trouble obtaining government ID's.

St. Louis City Representative Karla May says it will prevent American citizens from voting.

"We have immigrants that live in our state, that are here legally, that are tax paying citizens," she said. "They all don't have all of this proper identification that you are putting in this bill."

Those in favor of the bill say it will cut down on voter fraud.

The bill passed by 99-52 vote.

It needs to be approved by the Senate once more before it goes on to the governor.

Meghann McGinnis, Missouri Digital News

MODOT announces job cuts, facility closures

The Missouri Department of Transportation has announced plans to eliminate 12,000 jobs and close 135 facilities across the state.

The reductions will help the state cope with a sharp drop in funding for road construction.

For the past five years, MoDOT has been able to spend about $1.2 billion a year on road construction and maintenance.

Due to a variety of factors, that annual number has been cut in half for the next five years.

Department director Kevin Keith says the $500 million in savings the layoffs and closures will generate will be redirected to make up part of that reduction.

"This is hard," Keith said. "There is no other way for me to describe it. It’s hard on the employees, it’s hard on communities. But we’re in a situation where we have to move forward and do something."

The plan doesn’t solve the agency’s long-term funding problems, Keith told the state’s Highways and Transportation Commission. The department’s yearly budget for road construction and maintenance will drop by half next year.

"But it does I think keep faith with the citizens and taxpayers of Missouri that we’re doing everything we can with the resources we have first before we deal with the next problem and that is how do we increase investment in infrastructure in this state," Keith said.

The cuts will save the agency 512 million over five years, which will be used to leverage federal dollars. Keith says the restructuring also allows any new revenue to go directly to roads.

Keith said the bulk of the job reductions will be at the agency’s central office in Jefferson City.

The closed facilities include MoDOT district offices in Macon, Joplin, and Willow Springs.

Rachel Lippman, St. Louis Public Radio

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Levee goes boom: Winners and losers

CHARLESTON, MO (KRCU) - The Missouri levee that the Army Corps of Engineers blasted to pieces is part of a 1930’s era operations plan to control flooding on the Mississippi River.

Now levels on the river are going down. But as with many things, someone’s gain is someone else’s loss.

Generations of Missouri farmers have been making their living with the knowledge that a man-made breach could easily flood them out.

--

Agriculture is king in Mississippi County, Missouri where mile after mile of row crops, irrigation pivots, and grain silos dot the landscape.

It’s no different than in farm counties throughout the Midwest, where corn, wheat, and soy beans form the basis of the economy.

But not this year … not since the Army Corps of Engineers blew a two-mile wide hole in the Birds Point levee … flooding half of the county’s farm land.

Ed Marshall is a farmer here who now has about 8000 acres underwater.

"To the economy in our area, there’s land over there will never recover," he says as he looks over the floodwaters. "Ever."

He recognizes the Corps’ need for action. And like many farmers here in Charleston, he’s resigned to the fact that the Corps will continue to operate the floodway for generations to come.

But Marshall, and others, fault the Corps’ procedures: detonating explosives over a two-mile stretch of levee, allowing for a crush of water to pound onto the spillway.

"When you blow a hole that big, that vast and that amount of water, you’re talking two miles with a twenty-three, twenty-four foot difference in elevation from where that water is coming, it’s like a small tsunami. It’s a two-mile tsunami that comes in there," he says.

Brad and Susan Hequembourg agree. We're driving to check out the set back levee, just a couple of miles outside Charleston. Brad waves to everybody we see, stopping his truck from time to time to heckle neighbors or friends.

As far as Brad Hequembourg is concerned, it’s the explosions that are the problem. Instead of blowing up the north end of the levee, he and others wants the Corps to allow slow flooding.

"This spillway is only going to displace so much water," Hequembourg says. "So why not go ahead and open it up from the south end and let it back in. If you let it back in, there’s going to be damage, but it’s only be minimal.”

The Hequembourgs and others here know that there are big risks involved to farming in a place like this. Many of their deeds contain flowage easements, allowing the Corps to release water at will. And folks seem to recognize that it’s for the greater good to flood this big, 130,000 acre chunk of their county.

But Lee Goodin and 24 other farmers here have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers.

"Well they have the easement to flood it. But they don’t have the easement to damage it … to destroy it," Goodin says.

The Corps says that its actions were necessary to reduce flooding throughout the entire Mississippi tributary system.

While water flows into Missouri fields, a nearby Illinois community was saved.

Cairo sits at the southernmost tip of Illinois where the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers meet. It’s the immediate community with the most at stake. If the Corps didn’t act, Cairo would have been inundated with twenty feet of water.

About 150 of Cairo’s residents are taking shelter at a Red Cross evacuation center at Shawnee Community College. Evacuees have spent a week sleeping on cots without any of the comforts of home.

Carolyn Bellamy says the shelter was abuzz with rumors about blowing up the Birds Points’ levee in recent days. Few allowed themselves to believe that the Corps would actually move forward with the detonation.

"They kept saying ‘we’re going to do it, we’re not going to do it, we’re going to do it.’ I was confusing myself just like everybody else. And when they said finally they were going to it, and I heard the BOOM, I was like, OK, they did it," Bellamy says.

Bellamy was pinning her last hopes on the Corps’ action. Water was seeping through the flood walls, and sand boils were forming throughout town. Without relief, much of Cairo was bound to be destroyed.

Now the concern is for other towns along the Mississippi as the water continues its path to the sea.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

VA under fire for oversights at medical centers

Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs apologized Tuesday for “failures of leadership” that led to questions about the cleanliness of instruments at two Veterans Affairs dental clinics, including the one in St. Louis.

The Undersecretary for Health, Robert Petzel, told members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee some employees have failed to follow the department’s sterilization standards, which he calls the top in the country.

He says people in charge of oversight have been disciplined.

“We have proposed removal in a number of instances, and almost invariably the individual has resigned or retired. We have also reprimanded individuals, suspensions, and letters of counseling,” Petzel said.

The answer was not enough for some lawmakers at the hearing. Missouri Democrat Russ Carnahan, who requested the hearing along with a colleague from Ohio, noted that government concerns about sterilization practices go back as far as 2007.

Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

Mo. Senate committee dives head-first into concussion legislation

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - The man who saved Super Bowl 34 for the St. Louis Rams urged Missouri lawmakers Tuesday to protect young football players from concussions.

Mike Jones says many athletes come back before they're ready.

"A lot of times young people are out there, they might have an injury and they might want to go back out there or their parents may not understand the significance of their injuries," Jones said. "We need this bill right here to help them support what they are doing and and understand exactly what's out there."

Jones was one of dozens to testify on the bill.

The bill protects athletes by creating a waiting time after suffering a head injury and requiring a physician to approve the athlete's return to play.

Opponents have concerns about enforcement and liability issues.

St Louis County's Democratic Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal says she thinks individual school districts should determine the rules for athletes and the legislation opens up schools to lawsuits.

"As a schoolboard member in my other capacity I see potential for liability to go back to the school district and I am not too sure if we want our insurance rates to go continuously up," she said.

A committee vote may on it as soon as today.

Emily Kissee, Missouri Digital News

Biomass conference held in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - Representatives of the biomass energy industry have gathered in St. Louis this week.

They're here to discuss technologies for turning everything from crop residues to municipal trash into liquid fuels, heat, and electricity.

Tim Portz is the program director for BBI international, the company organizing the international biomass conference.

He says it's not going to be easy for the biomass industry to gain a foothold in the marketplace of already established U.S. energy producers.

"So if we really want to get serious about energy independence, creating local jobs, and reducing the carbon emissions component of producing this energy, then we have to get together and we have to push for policy in Washington, DC, and at our state level," Portz said.

Participants toured some of those local biomass facilities.

One is at Anheuser-Busch. The company puts organic-rich wastewater from the beer-making process into a big, air-tight vessel, where microbes turn the organic matter into methane gas.

"The methane is piped to boilers at the facility, and the boilers are presumably boiling the mash as part of their cooking process and their beer-making process," Portz said. "So their waste streams power their beer-making process."

Participants also visited a biomass gas production company and a landfill that captures methane to heat a nearby school and power an asphalt plant.

The conference runs through this Thursday at America's Center.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Scweich says Division of Finance is obstructing investigation

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KRCU) - Missouri's Auditor says the state's Division of Finance is obstructing his investigation into how they're examining banks.

Auditor Tom Schweich has sent subpoenas for bank examination documents to the Division of Finance.

Schweich says records will show whether the Division of Finance is following the right procedures when it's checking up on banks.

In a written statement, the Division said it's against the law to release those records.

But Schweich says his office is allowed to look at them.

"At one point they're saying they can't get us this performance audit, one point they're saying they can't give it to us because they'll go to jail, then they give some of it to us; I mean, what they're doing is obstructing our investigation, there's no other word for it," Schweich said.

Schweich says his office frequently works with confidential records and would enter into a confidentiality agreement.

Andrew Weil, Missouri Digital News

Farmers file class action lawsuit against Army Corps of Engineers

CHARLESTON, MO (KRCU) - A group of 25 Mississippi and New Madrid County farmers filed a class-action lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers following the breach of the Birds Point Levee earlier this week.

The plaintiffs claim that the damages caused by the man-made breach exceeded the scope and the use of flowage easements on flooded property. The lawsuit also takes note that easements were acquired for an a monetary amount far below the current property value.

Attorney Mike Ponder represents the farmers.

“We are hoping that this will be one more tool that helps the farmers of Mississippi and New Countries put their lives back together again,” Ponder said.

Ponder says that the government has 60 days to respond.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Blunt calls Bin Laden raid "appropriate"

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt is calling the death of Osama bin Laden a huge moment for America.

Blunt, a Republican, praised President Obama’s decision to send Special Forces into bin Laden’s Pakistani compound, rather than conducting a bombing raid.

"The risk was appropriate, rather than sifting through the rubble of a compound to try to determine whether or not Osama bin Laden might have been there at that moment," Blunt said.

Blunt hopes the death of Osama bin Laden creates "confusion and chaos" inside al-Qaida and other Islamic extremist groups.

The Senator says it’s clear that al-Qaida cells in countries like Yemen and Somalia have operated more or less independently for several years, carrying out attacks inspired, but not directly ordered, by bin Laden.

"Having him removed as a figure to rally around is important. Eliminating both his money and his ability to raise money is important," Blunt said.

Blunt also praised the decision to bury bin Laden at sea to eliminate a rallying point or a shrine.

He downplayed the idea that bin Laden’s death will inspire revenge attacks, saying al-Qaida affiliates are trying every day to harm American and its allies.

Blunt says although bin Laden has not had operational control of al-Qaida for years, he was an important figurehead and source of financing.

In statements released Sunday night, other area politicians called the raid "justice served" – echoing a phrase the president used during his late-night address.

Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

Mo. House approves Voter ID bill

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - Missouri's representatives voted and approved the bill that's trying to require Missouri voters to have photo identification when voting.

Representative Stanley Cox sponsors the bill.

Cox says if people try to cheat, they water down others' votes and deny the right to vote.

St. Louis County Representative Stacey Newman spoke against the bill.

She says there's no reason to require Missourians to present photo identification, saying that there has not been "one instance of documented voter fraud in Missouri. Not one instance."

Newman says voter impersonation is similar to the issue of voter fraud.

She says she doesn't know how a cartoon, dead person, or a pet can actually show up to vote because it doesn't happen and it never will.

Kyle Tons, Missouri Digital News

Cape Chamber names Educators of the Year

The Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce Education Committee has named Janet Brase, Kristin Gill, Julia Unnerstall, Dennis Wilson and Dr. Steven Hoffman the 2011 Educators of the Year.

The five outstanding educators will be honored at the Educator of the Year Awards Banquet this evening.

Red Cross lends flood victims a helping hand

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Southeast Chapter of the Missouri Red Cross has been providing food and shelter for families that have been displaced due the flooding in Southeast Missouri and Illinois.

The Red Cross has partnered with other local shelters in order to meet as many people’s immediate needs as possible. This has kept the Red Cross from completely tapping out all their disaster funds.

Sara Gerau handles public affairs for the Southeast Chapter and she remarked at how much help these other shelters have been.

"With Southeast Missouri I think it shows what a tight knit community we have down in this area because a lot of people are with family and friends, church family members that type of thing," Gerau said. "Also, there’s been some other agencies that have stepped up and provided hotel stays for individuals so they’ve been able to stay in hotels for a few nights so that’s helped as well."

As of Sunday, May 1, the Southeast Chapter had a total of 853 people registered with them, had served 9,636 meals and over 10,400 snacks.

The Red Cross will continue to help those in need even after the flood waters recede. They will send out their Disaster Action Teams in order to assess damages and start helping on a case by case basis.

Katie Long, KRCU

Monday, May 2, 2011

People in three states hear levee detonation

MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, MO (KRCU) - Three states shook as the Army Corps of Engineers blew up a two-mile section of levee on the Mississippi River. The Army Corps of Engineers blew up the levee to lower river levels in the heavily flooded region.

The levee was packed with liquid explosives and set off by C-4. Water cascaded into the floodway, inundating 130,000 acres of farmland and as many as 100 homes.

All residents of the spillway were safely evacuated in the days preceding the breach.

The Army Corps of Engineers chose to blow up this Mississippi River levee in rural Missouri to ease stress on a river system that has produced some of the worst flooding ever seen in southern Illinois, southeast Missouri, and western Kentucky.

The explosion was an attempt to save numerous small river communities, including the evacuated town of Cairo, Illinois which sits at the point where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers meet.

The breach will drop water levels, but Major General Michael Walsh cautions that the relief may only be temporary.

"As we bring the crest down it will be brought down for a few days. Then the crest will come back and we’ll see where we go from there," Walsh said.

General Walsh indicated that he is in discussions to open similar floodways in Louisiana.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Corps to blow up Birds Point

MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, MO (KRCU) - The Army Corps of Engineers decided to detonate the Birds Point levee in rural Missouri. The man-made breach is designed to battle rising water levels on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

Major General Michael Walsh concluded that the record high water level at Cairo, Illinois necessitated immediate action. Much of southeast Missouri, southern Illinois, and western Kentucky remains submerged.

Announcing his decision on the levee, General Walsh reiterated that his decision extends far beyond the point where the Ohio and Mississippi meet.

“It’s larger than Cairo. It’s the entire system in the watershed,” Walsh said.

All air and river transport is prohibited in the blasting area.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Evacuation order lifted in Poplar Bluff

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KRCU) - Based on the current river stage and the forecasted precipitation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that the Black River in Poplar Bluff will crest at 19.5 feet — half a foot lower than on Thursday, April 28 when evacuation orders were lifted and residents of south Poplar Bluff were allowed to go home.

When the Black River peaked on April 26 at 8 AM, it about three-quarters of a foot lower than the flood of 2008. Authorities lifted all evacuation orders in Poplar Bluff on the morning of April 28, and the evacuation center at the Black River Coliseum was vacated the next day.

Flood relief efforts continue as residents return home and discover the damage to their homes.

Lake Wappapello poses the worst threat for future flooding. Army Corps of Engineers leadership have expressed concern that Wappapello and the St. Francis River pose one of the greatest flood challenges moving forward.

Matthew Clanahan, KRCU

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Gen. Walsh gives go ahead to pump explosives into Birds Point

MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, MO (KRCU) - The Army Corps of Engineers should make a decision soon about the fate of the Birds Point levee in southeast Missouri. The Corps is only one step away from detonation.

Major General Michael Walsh has a difficult decision to make: if he blow ups the Birds Point levee in Mississippi County, the river will flood 130,000 acres of farmland and displace about 200 people. But he will also ease pressure on flood walls and levees that are already pushed to the brink.

The Corps is pumping an explosive mixture into a two-mile section of the levee, located just south of the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The river gauge at the evacuated town of Cairo, Illinois has already set a record, and is expected to crest at sixty-two-and-a-half feet on Tuesday.

The Cairo river gauge was at 60.8 feet as of 4 o’clock this morning.

General Walsh indicated that Tuesday’s crest will surpass the river level that triggers detonation of the levee.

"The operations order says 61 and rising. But again, it’s also tied to the system and making sure that the system is working tight," Walsh said.

The explosives should be in place by eleven o’clock this morning. General Walsh will then decide whether or not to proceed with the plan.

The Army of Corps of Engineers has been able to control some flooding on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers by reducing the outflow of water from several reservoirs, including Barkley and Kentucky Lakes.

However, General Walsh warns that the lakes are nearing capacity.

"At this point most of those reservoirs have reached the full amount of pool that they can handle and they will start releasing more flows in the next couple of days," he said.

This will add additional water to a Mississippi River system that is already at full capacity.

Governor Nixon toured the Birds Point levee with General Walsh yesterday, promising a quick return to agricultural production for the region.

"This is a dramatic, one-in-a-two-or-three-lifetime occurrence in which the greatest time in history ever measured more water is here than has ever been here," Nixon said.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster asked the U-S Supreme Court to review decisions by the 8th District Court of Appeals and the Federal District Court that sought to block the levee breach. Justice Supreme Alito denied the request.

Nixon said his focus is no longer on litigation, but rather making sure that Mississippi County residents are safely removed from the affected area and the operation continues safely.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU