Wednesday Aug 31
Pinckneyville Post
 
    

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By Jeff Smyth

In the coming weeks, the Pinckneyville City Council will begin the process of raising water and sewer rates. Finance Commissioner Bill Stotlar has told me this on repeated occasions. Stotlar said the hike is necessary because the current rate is not enough to cover the operating cost of the aging system. If so, then the city’s hand is being forced. It cannot be expected to operate in the red as it simply means money must be transferred from somewhere else to make up the deficit.

Then Stotlar added a few more reasons why a rate increase was justified: it hasn’t been done in a long time, when he compared the city’s rates with those in surrounding communities he found Pinckneyville’s was lower and, it will only add a few dollars to everyone’s water bill.

As far as the first two reasons, perhaps a rate increase hasn’t happened in a long time because it wasn’t needed? Next, so what if Pinckneyville’s rates are lower than nearby towns; shouldn’t that be looked at as a positive? The last excuse, however, is the one that really shows a lack of concern over our money.

By Jeff Smyth

The city of Pinckneyville increased the sales tax by one percent in August 2008 with the promise of aiding businesses. At face value it has been mission accomplished, but just which businesses are benefitting makes it far less of a success story.

In those roughly eight years almost $2.1 million has been collected. Of that, $375,400 has been paid to outside consultants. Conversely, $563,000 has been given directly to local businesses. Subtract the $200,000 from that amount invested in the failed attempt to bring a medical marijuana cultivation center to the former TUMS building, and direct investment to Pinckneyville businesses falls shy of what the consultants reaped.

BY JEFF SMYTH

When Steve Cannedy traveled to Eastern Illinois University the summer of 1977 enroll, he was undecided which courses he wanted to take. Unbeknownst to him, those decisions had already been made.

“When I went over there in the summer to sign up for classes my dad had me meet with Mr. Hilliard, the director of bands at that time,” Steve recalls. “I hadn’t decided what I was doing and he handed me a sheet of classes to sign up for. I think he helped me decide.”

 

By Jeff Smyth

While President Obama is in Paris apologizing to the world for the United States’ role in messing up the climate, I recall my trip up north over the weekend where the devastating effects of climate change could be seen firsthand.

Once past the rolling hills of southern Illinois you traverse across some of the flattest ground imaginable. The geography is void of detail because at one time it was covered by glaciers that, during their ascent and descent scoured the landscape rendering it pancake-flat. The land is demonstrative of the extreme impacts climate change has had on the planet.

But then I thought to myself, how could this be? Man wasn’t around back then burning fossil fuels and dumping CO2 into the atmosphere. How can the climate change so dramatically if we weren’t around to screw it up?

By Jeff Smyth

For all the moaning about Gov. Bruce Rauner being anti-labor comes an editorial by the Chicago Tribune over the holiday weekend that paints a different picture. It turns out that the five Teamsters collective bargaining units and 12 trades units have each reached agreements on four year contracts with the governor.

The Teamsters and some members of the Illinois state police agreed to wage freezes. In return, Rauner vowed to maintain the same level of health care benefits for the workers and their families and create a merit-based system to pay bonuses for those who performed at benchmark levels. While compensation for being productive might seem alien to those in unions, it’s the real world for the rest of us.

By Jeff Smyth

Interviewing George Culley is like riding as a passenger in a car on the German Autobahn.  There are no speed limits and few opportunities to exit so all you can do is just hold on and enjoy the ride.

“Interview” is a mischaracterization when it comes to talking to George.  George speaks at a pedal –to-the-metal rate on whatever topic is at hand, but always with the good intentions of doing the Lord’s work. So, when he cornered me at the grocery store recently he was already revved up and fully charged.

George is the founder of the Least of the Brethren food pantry and estimates that in the 17 years it has been in Pinckneyville he has fed more than 500,000 southern Illinois families. A self-proclaimed prophet, he is on a new mission to open both a soup kitchen and homeless shelter in the old Pinckneyville Community Hospital building. He recently appealed to hospital board to sell the building to him on the cheap.

ONLY IN P'TOWN: Someone named Joe was arrested for allegedly etching his name encircled by a heart (what a romantic) into a newly-poured sidewalk by the Moose Lodge. (NOTE: I have not confirmed this as I am too lazy to do so).

What I do know is that at least nine others also set about and scrawled their initials into the freshly-laid mush. The talk is that all the scofflaws were associated with the lodge, although no one is fessin’ up to anything, see, and I am too lazy to confirm it.

One person did put a cogent perspective on the troubling situation by saying: “They poured new concrete around the grade school (about a block away) and none of the kids messed with it.”

 

The good news is that someone came by with a broom and swept the heart and initials away. Phew.

 

BY JEFF SMYTH

Tomorrow evening Bill Thimming will dim the lights at Thomas Home Improvement and another Pinckneyville storefront will go dark for the last time.  Bill has worked there since 1977 and wanted to keep the doors open for a couple of more years until he retired, but the owners (children of the late Jim Thomas) couldn’t find a buyer after their dad died suddenly in 2011 and decided it was time to quit.

The closing will add to the slow hemorrhaging of businesses Pinckneyville has seen lost over the years. Few independent retailers remain in town and the numbers continue to dwindle.

Charlie Curt locked the doors of Western Auto appliance and auto parts store recently. Toni Englehardt has been trying to sell the flower shop she has owned for 35 years to no avail. The fatigue in her eyes and frustration in her voice makes me wonder how much longer she will wait before walking away.

“We have been profitable since we opened. I don’t understand why a bank won’t loan someone money to buy it. My partner has retired. I don’t know,” she says, her voice trailing off.

By Jeff Smyth

I have empathy for Pinckneyville Mayor Robert Spencer on a personal level. Roughly three months after he was elected to his first seat in public office, he faced a scandal when it was discovered that an employee had allegedly been embezzling city funds for about four years.

Tonya D. Morgan, who worked at the city clerk’s office, was arraigned August 6 on a Class 1 felony charge of theft of between $10,000 and $100,000. Bail was set at $50,000 and she posted $5,000 bond.

Suspicion of impropriety was raised about a month prior and the Illinois State Police were called in to investigate. The city hired CPA Pat Kattenbraker to conduct an internal audit. Spencer promised during those early stages that he would hold a press conference to discuss matters once the investigation and audit were completed. It was an encouraging message to a wary public which believes such things are often swept under the rug.

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