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pin oak plaza planA site map of the mixed-used development planned at I-55 and Route 143 in Edwardsville.By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
    EDWARDSVILLE – A mixed-use development along Illinois Route 143 and Interstate 55 is about to move to the front burner with significant progress anticipated in the coming year.
    A planned, four-way signalized intersection will mark the entrance to Pin Oak Plaza, a 95-acre project planned just west of the interstate. The location is just across from where Blackburn Road exits onto Route 143. The stoplight is considered crucial to the development site, which features a lakeside setting and is expected to have a hotel, two restaurants, a travel plaza and the potential for much more, said Sean Goding, president of Pangea Development Co.
    The site is privately owned, and Pangea has secured a master developer for the project. It will be a joint partnership between C.W. Byron Properties, L.L.C. and Plocher Construction Co., which will own, manage and perform the site development work.  
    Construction was scheduled to begin last summer but was delayed by due diligence studies involving access, surveys, soil boring, hydrology, wetlands and cultural research. Talks have involved the city, county, state and federal jurisdictions.
    “Those things have taken more time than expected,” Goding said.
    No significant archaeological results were found. However, analysis of traffic flow led to a decision to move the existing entrance to the site.
    “It’s going to be a little further west, to avoid stacking issues with the interstate, so the traffic doesn’t back up,” Goding said.
    The shift does not impact the overall plan, but it does affect some of the layout. The lake, too, is going to be redesigned so it is positioned further to the rear, allowing more frontage along Route 143.
    “They are going to fill in some of it and dig out more behind it, to the south, toward the (Plummer Family) Sports Park,” Goding said. “It will be enough to accommodate 1-acre lots in the front. They really want to use the frontage on 143 because there is so much visibility there.”
    He added: “Based on our (latest) meetings, everything seems to be positive. The studies are all finished. The timeframe that came out of them is workable with the developer, and they feel they will be ready for rough grading and dirt moving in early 2018.”

BrowderBrowderBy ALAN J. ORTBALS
    Eight years ago, attorney Perry Browder with the Alton-based law firm of Simmons Hanly Conroy was approached by Belleville attorneys Ann Hatch and Russell Scott. They wanted Browder to join the board of directors of the Illinois Bar Foundation.
    Browder told them, “I don’t even know what the Bar Foundation is.” But, he said, they educated him about what they do, made a believer out of him, and now he’s the foundation’s president.
    The Illinois Bar Foundation, Browder said, is the charitable wing of the Illinois State Bar Association and does work throughout the state. Its initial objective was to provide aid to deserving members of the Illinois Bar who, because of age or infirmity, could no longer provide for their own care or support. Since then, the foundation has expanded its scope to ensure access to the justice system for those with limited means and it has adopted the following organizational objectives: to enhance the availability of legal aid to those of limited means; encourage pro-bono legal work; educate Illinois residents regarding their rights and responsibilities under the law; and extend assistance to colleagues in need of support.
    Browder said that the foundation seeks to help poor people that have a hard time getting legal representation and getting their issues resolved in the court system by providing financial assistance to legal aid organizations. It supports the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation and Prairie States Legal Services in Southwestern Illinois and many others throughout the state.
    “That’s what sets the Illinois Bar Foundation apart,” Browder said. “It’s probably the only state-wide organization that helps the various legal aid organizations in cities and counties throughout the state. That makes it unique.”
    These organizations assist low income people with a variety of legal issues ranging from landlord/tenant disputes to divorces to expungement of criminal records.
    “An expungement of an old criminal conviction is kind of like an annulment for a marriage,” Browder said. “The court will get rid of it completely. We’ve done a lot of those for veterans who have some old, small crime on their records. These are not violent or weapons related felonies but they can pop up and hurt people when applying for jobs.”
    Another foundation program is the Illinois JusticeCorps in which specially trained students and recent graduates serve as guides to make the courts more welcoming and less intimidating for people without lawyers. The IBF also provides legal fellowships that support students at the various law schools in the state.
    “Another thing that the IBF does is provide financial assistance to lawyers who are on hard times,” Browder said. “I know everybody thinks lawyers are wealthy and driving fancy cars. But there are some lawyers whose practices don’t do well or they have health or addiction issues and the foundation helps them and their families get through hard times. The Simmons firm has been involved with the foundation probably since its founding,” Browder added. “We have been more and more involved over time and we feel like we’ve been a nice voice from southern Illinois with the Bar Foundation.

    A mammoth ground storage tank and improvements to a water system spread across several miles will accommodate the growth of Troy for many years, officials say.
    The planned project will cost $9 million to $9.5 million and was 11 years in the making, but city officials said the wait will be worth it — both in terms of costs and service.
    “We were always conscious of our ratepayers. We think we’ll produce water for about the cheapest rate of anybody in Metro East,” said Mayor Al Adomite.
    A host of dignitaries broke ground on one part of the project last month, a 2-million-gallon concrete ground storage tank and booster pump station being built within view of the current Troy water tower along Illinois Route 162.
    The second part of the project is retrofitting the 38-year-old water plant located on United Drive in Collinsville, which will account for most of the expense, about $6 million.
    The project was long in the works and stalled out in earlier considerations because the price tag was coming in way too high, the mayor said.
    “We stepped away from a $13.3 million improvement where we were going to bring our water plant all the way to Troy and put new line in the ground, which was going to be very expensive, about three and a half years ago. We stepped away from something we thought was too expensive and in the end came back with something that’s going to save us about $4.5 million dollars,” Adomite said. “I want to give a lot of credit to our council and our staff and Rob Hancock, who is now our public works director but at that time was our water supervisor.”
    The city started planning the improvements in 2006.
    The contractor for the plant work is L. Keeley Construction, of St. Louis. The contractor on the booster station is Highland-based Korte & Luitjohan Contractors.
    Gonzalez Companies provided engineering services for the redesign of the city’s water treatment plant, which includes new high capacity water filtration equipment; filter backwashing facility modifications; a new 500,000-gallon clear well/water storage tank; electrical and instrumentation upgrades; design of a high-service pump station; site security; and site improvements. In conjunction with the plant upgrades and the ground storage tank and booster pump station, a new 16-inch water distribution main will improve water flow and pressure to the city.
    A key in the considerations was Troy’s growth.
    “We’ve had good growth,” City Administrator Jeff Soland said. “You kind of gauge about 20 years ahead of time, and we hope that what we’re building is going to take care of us for the next 20 years. When the plant was built we had 2,000 or 3,000 people in Troy. Now we have a little over 10,000. That’s been 30 to 40 years. We’ve made changes and improvements to the plant over the years but we’re just at a point where we produce a certain amount of water per day and we need to produce more.”
    Rates were increased starting in May to begin recovering the costs. The increase is about $3.92 a month on average for a 5,000-gallon consumer. It had been 15 years since the last increase. Rates are based on volume of usage.
    “This keeps us at one of the competitively lowest rates in Metro East — and we’re still going to double our amount of production,” the mayor said.


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    ALTON – Simmons Hanly Conroy employees collected 27,378 pounds of food during its 11th Annual Simmons Employee Foundation Food Drive and donated it for the holidays to five area food pantries.
    “We strongly believe in supporting the communities we call home,” said John Simmons, Simmons Hanly Conroy chairman. “The SEF food drive is just one of the many ways our employees are able to make a difference in people’s lives beyond the courtroom. We hope our neighbors in need and their families are able to eat well this holiday season.”
From Oct. 6 to Nov. 17, employees paid to participate in several interoffice activities – including raffles, Fan Day Fridays, and a Halloween costume contest – to help raise the money needed to purchase food, which amounted to a little more than 5,000 pounds per pantry.