Centreville Mayor Jackson and Alorton Mayor Reed
Mayors of the village of Alorton and the city of Centreville are encouraging voters in their communities to turn out for a town hall meeting to hear "all the facts" regarding proposals to merge the two economically depressed, shrinking towns.
Separate ballot proposals in the March 17 election ask voters if they want to unite as the "City of Alcentra" with an aldermanic form of government chosen by wards. A simple majority is needed to pass both measures.
Alorton Mayor Jo Ann Reed and Centreville Mayor Marius Jackson told residents in a letter that they "totally agree with the proposal."
They say consolidation of the two communities where median income is $19,450 in Alorton and $17,441 in Centreville, will mean better roads and sewers, better housing, better jobs, better government and lower taxes.
The town hall meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Feb. 11 at the Charlie Coleman Center in Alorton.
"Come out and get all your questions and concerns addressed openly, fairly and honestly," the letter says.
A major concern for a vocal opponent of the proposal, Donna Ayres of Cahokia, is that she believes the merger is specifically designed to benefit the Democratic Party in St. Clair County.
"It's a power grab," Ayres said. "They haven't fixed the sewer and water problems that already exist in Alorton and Centreville. If they didn't do it then, they aren't going to do it later."
Long a critic of Reed - who's had multiple run-ins with the law and a recent trafffic conviction for borrowing a police car and using it with its spotlight and red and blue lights activated on I-64 - Ayres doubts her promises about consolidation, calling them "fairy tales." She said taxes will go up and services will go down.
She believes that the ultimate goal of the proponents may be to merge united communities with East St. Louis, which has its own board of elections, independent of the St. Clair County election authority.
St. Clair County Clerk Tom Holbrook dismissed the allegation outright, saying, "I've heard all sorts of misinformation out there."
East St. Louis is one of several municipalities in Illinois that has its own elections board. It was created in 1886 when the city was expanding, but for the past couple of decades as the city has seen its biggest population losses it has faced allegations of fraud. A local ballot initiative in 2012 to disband the elections board, was defeated by a large margin.
The city reached a population peak in the 1950s, exceeding 80,000, but has lost more than 70 percent of its population since then.
Its current population is approximately 26,000. In the city's 2019 municipal election, it had 18,142 registered voters.
Centreville, whose population has declined more than 12 percent in the last 10 years to approximately 5,000, had 3,631 registered voters in 2019. Centreville was declared the poorest city in the nation in a 2018, according to the findings of a 24/7 Wall St. study reported in USA Today.
Alorton's population has decreased by approximately 20 percent in the last 10 years to less than 2,000. It had 1,494 registered voters in last year's election.
Cahokia's population has declined by approximately 8 percent in the last 10 years to less than 15,000. It had 9,293 registered voters last year.
Ayres further believes that if voters approve the merger of Alorton and Centreville in the March election, voters in Cahokia will face a similar merger question in a subsequent election.
Cahokia Mayor Curtis McCall Jr. will attend the town hall meeting, according to the Reed and Jackson letter.
"The Village of Alorton, the Village of Cahokia and the City of Centreville, together for a Better, Stronger and more unified Community" it states.
McCall has been contacted for comment, but had not returned a call by press time.
A clerk at Alorton said the village did not have any written information or guide for voters, and referred questions about the proposal to the county Clerk.
Holbrook's office also said it did not have any written information that would explain details about the proposals for voters, but his office did provide the statute governing the union of contiguous municipalities.
What happens if Alcentra is approved? (65 ILCS 5/7-2-1)
After county election officials certify results, mayors in each municipality are to immediately issue proclamations "declaring the existence of the union," and they will become known as the Borough of Alorton and Borough of Centreville.
Within 10 days of the elections being certified, St. Clair County Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson or his designee will create a board of election commissioners that will perform all duties necessary for holding the first and subsequent elections in the boroughs and in Alcentra.
The first election for Alcentra "shall be the next regular election date at which municipal officers are scheduled to be elected as provided in the general election law, occurring not less than 90 days after the proclamation of the union...The regular general municipal election shall occur thereafter at the time provided in the general election law."
The terms of elected officials in the boroughs will expire 30 days after the first election in Alcentra, when the new officials assume office.
All police and fire fighters employed by Alorton and Centreville will become members of Alcentra's departments.
The statute also provides details on debt payments, revenue collection, taxing, litigation and a multitude of other issues.
It also provides:
Sec. 7-2-17. If annexation of any territory is made to a united city, it shall become a part of the borough to which it is contiguous. If it is contiguous to 2 or more boroughs, it shall be apportioned between them by ordinance of the united city.
Sec. 7-2-18. A municipality contiguous to a united city may be annexed to the united city as a borough thereof, by a compliance with Sections 7-1-1 through 7-1-45.