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Around the Tri States: Fort Madison wins several tourism awards; former Macomb school board member rejoining the panel; prison guard convicted in beating death of inmate

Around The Tri States
Jane Carlson
Tri States Public Radio

A weekly roundup of news from around the region.

Fort Madison wins several state tourism awards

Fort Madison was named outstanding community in the metro category by the Iowa Tourism Office.

The awards were presented at Iowa’s annual tourism conference on April 22 in Des Moines.

The city’s downtown Kingsley Inn was also named outstanding lodging property for metro areas.

In addition, a collaboration between the Keokuk Area Convention and Tourism Bureau, the Kingsley Inn, and the Nauvoo Tourism Office was named best marketing collaboration.

Former Macomb school board member rejoining the panel

Macomb Board of Education members agreed to appoint Emily Sutton to fill the seat vacated by Ardell Thompson, who stepped down last month after more than two decades on the board.

Sutton will be sworn in next month. The seat will come up for election in April 2023.

Voters elected Sutton to her first term on the school board in April 2019, but she resigned just a few months later when the Illinois Supreme Court appointed her to fill a judicial vacancy in the ninth circuit.

Sutton lost her bid to hold onto that seat in the November 2020 elections.

She now runs Sutton Law & Mediation in Macomb.

Western Illinois prison guard convicted in beating death of inmate   

After a four-week trial in U.S. District Court, jurors found Officer Alex Banta of Quincy guilty in the brutal beating death of a handcuffed and restrained inmate at the Western Illinois Correctional Center in Mt. Sterling.

Banta was convicted of conspiracy to deprive civil rights, obstruction of an investigation, falsification of documents, and other charges. He faces up to life in prison.

Jurors could not reach a verdict for Banta’s supervisor, Lt. Todd Sheffler of Mendon. Sheffler’s attorney expects the government to re-try him.

A third officer, Willie Hedden, pleaded guilty last year.

Juror Kevin Sullivan said the testimony from multiple guards who saw the beating but did not report it showed the Illinois Department of Corrections is deeply troubled.

“The whole brotherhood thing. The whole people get roughed up here, there, I mean, just how corrupt it was. You know, this was an eye opener,” Sullivan said.

The Illinois Department of Corrections has declined to comment on the fact that several of their officers admitted on the stand that they failed to stop or report the abuse.

The altercation happened in mid-May 2018. The prisoner, Larry Earvin, 65, died in late June 2018. He suffered 15 rib fractures, two dozen abrasions and lacerations, and abdominal injuries so severe that he underwent surgery to remove part of his bowel.

Earvin was serving a six-year sentence for a robbery in Cook County. He was due to be released in September 2018.

Bustos secures funds for Galesburg wastewater plant and WIU-QC

Congresswoman Cheri Bustos secured $55 million in Community Project Funding for the 17th district.

The funding includes $1.2 million to upgrade a water treatment facility in Galesburg and $400,000 to expand small business programming at Western Illinois University’s Quad Cities campus.

The Galesburg Sanitary District’s water treatment facility collects, transports, and treats up to 8 million gallons of wastewater every day.

The federal funds will improve the safety and efficiency of the operation.

Monmouth College to dedicate new center for equity and inclusion
Monmouth College is dedicating the Champion Miller Center for Student Equity, Inclusion and Community at 4 p.m. Friday, April 29.

Miller was born a slave and came to Monmouth five years before the Civil War after purchasing his freedom in Kentucky.

In Monmouth, Miller learned to read and write and later was a founding member of the community’s first Black church.

Now the college’s former Center for Intercultural Life on campus will bear Miller’s name.

College officials said the rebranding of the center comes with other, enhanced initiatives for diversity, equity, and inclusion, such as peer-to-peer mentoring.

Oquawka gets USDA grant for new police car

A small village in western Illinois is getting a USDA rural infrastructure grant to buy a new police vehicle.

The $43,000 grant will allow Oquawka to replace an older police vehicle that’s in need of costly repairs.

Rural infrastructure grants are meant to help improve the quality of life in rural communities.

Oquawka’s grant was awarded through the USDA’s community facilities disaster program.

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