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Health center touts 'Heart Month'

With February designated as American Heart Month, the St. Francois County Health Center is encouraging county residents to think about what they can do to become heart healthy.

During the month of February, Americans are encouraged to live a heart healthy lifestyle to avoid having a heart attack or stroke. The St. Francois County Health Center offers various helps to residents to help them be successful in their efforts.

"Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States and specifically St. Francois County," said Jessica McKnight, SFCHC director. "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention around 610,000 people die every year in the U.S. because of heart disease. Over 2,000 deaths between 2005 and 2015 in our county were due to heart disease.

"Nearly half of all Americans have at least one major risk factor for heart disease, but many don't know it or do not act on the warning signs. While factors like age and family history can't be changed, there are several programs and services available at the St. Francois County Health Center to help people live a healthier life and reduce their risk for heart disease."

According to McKnight, registered dietitians at the health center can provide free nutrition counseling through one-on-one appointments that provide personalized diet information and science-based nutrition information on topics such as weight loss, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure among others.

"Eating a healthy diet is important to having a healthy heart," said Breanna Griffin, SFCHS registered dietician. "One of the most important things I do in my job is educating about the DASH Diet."

The DASH Diet is a dietary plan promoted by the U.S. based National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to prevent and control hypertension.

"The diet is low in salt (or sodium) and low in fat as well," Griffin said. "So, not only does it help with hypertension, but it is also what we recommend for those with heart disease."

And what kind of diet recommendations would Griffin suggest?

"I'd just make sure that if you're eating a processed food, that you check out the food label," she said. "Make sure that the sodium content is less than 140 milligrams per serving and that it contains 5 grams of fat or lower. Other than that, I think increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat is the best way to go."

Griffin said most people living in the United States are not eating a heart healthy diet.

"The average American's diet is extremely processed and extremely fast — whatever is at our fingertips," she said. "We typically don't like to put a lot of time or effort into our foods. I think that's where we fall.

"Whenever we want something fast, they add a lot of salt, they add a lot of fat, they add a lot of preservatives just to make it last longer on the shelves, and so it is there whenever we need it."

Griffin noted that there's something else Americans can do to begin living a heart healthy lifestyle.

"Staying physically active is also important because the heart is a muscle and it needs exercise in order to be strong and healthy," she said. "Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week in order to have a healthy heart."

Director McKnight stressed the importance of learning to manage stress, as well as getting enough sleep each night.

"According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is essential for a healthy heart," she said. "Those who don't get enough of it can have disruptions in metabolism, blood pressure and inflammation — which increase heart disease risks. The Living a Healthy Life class taught by SFCHC helps participants set goals and make step-by-step plans for healthier living including improving sleep and managing stress.

"We also offer free classes to help people quit smoking in a supportive environment. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease. Smoking increases blood pressure, decreases exercise tolerance and increases the tendency for blood to clot. According to the 2017 County Health Rankings, 25 percent of adults in St. Francois County smoke.

"Heart Month is a perfect time for everyone to schedule a checkup with their health provider to check blood pressure, cholesterol, and look for signs of heart disease or other illnesses. Discounted lab services and free blood pressure monitoring are available at SFCHC by appointment."

For more information on services available at the county health center, call 573-431-1947 or visit

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Woman injured in house fire

Firefighters were called to a home engulfed in flames Wednesday afternoon. One person was injured in the blaze.

Big River Fire Chief Dave Pratte said they received a call for a house fire on Reese Street in East Bonne Terre.

“As we came over the hill out of town there was heavy black smoke showing,” Pratte said. “When we arrived at the scene with the first pumper the complete structure was on fire from one end to the other of that 40 foot trailer.”

The chief said it was an extremely quick moving fire.

Woman injured in house fire Vol. I

“Our mutual aid companies came in and supplied us with water and manpower,” added Pratte. “There wasn’t water access here, so we had tankers coming with hoses ran from the truck down to the house refilling our water supply.”

Two people lived in the trailer. A female who was home at the time suffered some minor burns and smoke inhalation and was taken to the hospital. Pratte said they would be following up with her at the hospital.

Woman injured in house fire Vol. II

“There was a lot of fire very quickly,” said Pratte. “That’s different from what we typically see. With trailers you normally see one end burning, but this was across the entirety of it. I always say you have two to three minutes and this is a perfect example. I came across town in two to three minutes and it was totally involved.”

Pratte said there was no stopping it at that point and the home was a total loss. Departments who assisted included Desloge, Goose Creek, Lake Timberline, Farmington, Leadington and Park Hills.

An investigator with the state fire marshal’s office was called in to investigate the cause of the fire.

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Desloge has long 'to do' list

With the start of a new year, the city of Desloge is already working on plans to improve and enrich the quality of life for its approximately 5,000 residents.

Dan Bryan, who began his tenure as city administrator six months ago, believes 2018 will be another year of potential growth and limitless possibilities for the city as it continues to set its sights on the future.

“Desloge residents are always wanting to improve the town,” he said. “We’re always wanting to make it a better place to live. It’s a good life here in Desloge, so that’s what we’re really wanting to focus on.”

One area of importance for Bryan over the course of the new year is the further development of community space.

“These are projects that you’re not necessarily going to get revenue returns from, but when you look back at it you can take some pride in what you have in your town,” he said. “You can say this is a real family-focused town where they are engaging folks to go outside, get away from technology for a while and enjoy their surroundings and family.”

Bryan placed several polls on the city’s Facebook page to discover what responses he’d receive from residents about several projects he had in mind.

“First would be a farmers’ market,” he said. “With that, I’m also thinking of some place where we can do benefit events or where residents can reserve a space and hold their barbecues. We need a location where these folks can go to and won’t have to struggle to find a place to make these things happen.

“I’d like to see a place like that where the city is simply saying, ‘We’re supporting you. Here’s a location where you can take advantage of some of those things to better your organization or your benefit, whatever that might be.”

Bryan also mentioned his desire to see a “dog park” in the city.

“Folks love their pets, so I’d like to incorporate a dog park on the Walnut Trail where people could walk their dogs, along with a couple of benches and a few things for the pets to play on,” he said. “It gives folks the opportunity to sit down, take a little break and watch their pet play. They can also interact with other people in the community who are there.”

There are also plans for upgrading the upper end of Walnut Trail and City Park.

“My vision for that would be a concrete trail to match the existing trail in the park,” Bryan said. “I also envision lighting the upper end of the trail, and if it’s possible, maybe light the entire trail within City Park. At that end of the trail, I’d really like to see some outdoor exercise / fitness equipment and a water fountain.

“I got really good feedback on this other poll, as well,” he said. “They were real supportive of that. People love Desloge City Park. It’s one of those retreats that when you go up there — especially when you get to the upper part — you can stare out into that field with all the oak trees. Just for a second it doesn’t feel like you’re standing in the middle of Desloge, Missouri. It kind of takes you to another place.”

Bryan is hoping to get several community organizations like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts involved in the project, as well.

He said, “Maybe we’ll see if we can put in a few flower beds, make some bird houses or something to engage folks as well.”

Moving on to the subject of the city’s municipal court, Bryan said, “Last year we incorporated an amnesty week and we want to have a little more consistency with that this year. We want to offer it three times this year.

“We want people to realize that it’s not a trap. It’s not where you’re going to show up at city hall and we’re going to have an officer here to place you in handcuffs and you’re going to jail. That’s not the intent. The intent is to create an opportunity for individuals to get themselves back on track.

“What I mean by that is, ‘Come in with $100, give us a new address where you’re at, let the ladies set you up with a new court date and let’s get reestablished with this. Let’s avoid jailtime.’ That’s the ultimate goal with that.”

Bryan added that amnesty weeks will be held Feb. 5-9, May 7-11 and Sept. 4-7.

The water department will be spending the next 12 months connecting additional neighborhoods to the city’s new water system.

“South Desloge Drive, South Grant and East Chestnut will be the neighborhoods that we’re going to focus on in 2018,” Bryan said.

The public works department will be working on upgrades in Brightwell Park.

“That will include new curbing and some sprucing up of the park itself,” Bryan said. “So, people will see some gradual upgrades to that area. In City Park we have to do some maintenance to some of the playground equipment. Also in City Park, the roadway that goes behind the pool is going to be widened to make it a two-way instead of a one-way road. Parking will also be addressed in that part of the park.

Bryan added that upgrades will be made to the electrical system in City Park to better meet the needs of vendors who take part in the Desloge Labor Day Picnic.

“As the picnic grows, vendors’ technology and vendors’ equipment is more taxing on the system, so we need to improve that,” he said.

The Desloge Drive Project is another “huge” improvement Bryan hopes the city will be able to tackle this year.

“Ideally, I’d like to be able to get this thing started in 2018,” he said. “I don’t know if we need to phase this thing or if we could do the entire stretch this year. We’ve secured all the right of ways effective as of this morning, so we’re good to go on that aspect.

“Then we’ll be working with the engineers to get their final plans approved through the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT). I’m going to be meeting with the engineer [Friday] to discuss lighting and things like that.

“I’d love to have it out for bid for contractors to bid on that project. The worst case scenario — if things aren’t progressing like they should — is that it may have to be pushed off until 2019, but I’d really like to get this in this year if we can.”

Bryan remains optimistic about attracting new businesses and facilitating its continued growth in 2018.

“A lot of times what residents are interested in is, ‘What are you doing to bring in new business?’,” he said. “We had a couple of new businesses open at the end of 2017 and I want to continue that into 2018. Here real soon we should see some new growth along Desloge Drive. There’s going to be another project around the new El Tapatio.”

Other items on Desloge’s 2018 “to do list” includes upgrading fees and permits to better match up with those of other cities in the surrounding area; continuing to update city vehicles; seeking new grants for new air packs and a tanker truck for the fire department; new technology for the police department; and improvements to the city’s animal control.

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Youth pastor faces additional charges

A Bonne Terre youth pastor is now facing additional charges after authorities in two counties reviewed the case of his alleged sexual assault of a girl at the church where he was a youth pastor and near her home.

Brian Cassidy, 33, of Park Hills, is now charged in both Ste. Genevieve and St. Francois counties with a class A felony of statutory rape in the first degree and a class B felony of child molestation in the first degree.

According to a probable cause statement, on Dec. 15 a Children's Advocacy Center interview was conducted with a girl less than 17 years old. During the interview she said she was having a relationship with Cassidy, a youth pastor at the First Baptist Church in East Bonne Terre.

She described the relationship as sexual and said she had intercourse with him on two occasions and that he also touched her inappropriately on a regular basis. She said it all started shortly after her 13th birthday.

The first incident reportedly took place inside the church and the second time was in a field near the girl’s home in Ste. Genevieve County. She also said he tried to force himself on her in other ways, but was unsuccessful.

The girl told the caseworker that at the time another girl, who would have been 15 years old at the time, also had a sexual relationship with Cassidy. She provided screenshots of Facebook messages showing her attempt at blackmailing him.

On Jan. 23 an officer with the Ste. Genevieve County Sheriff’s Department reportedly contacted the other girl and was able to get new information for the case. He talked with the teen and she said she remembered two years ago she and the young girl has sneaked out of the girl’s grandmother’s house and met Cassidy.

She said they sat in his car and talked with him for a long time. The detective texted her a photo of Cassidy and she identified him. She also described the car he had at the time.

The next day the officer sent a text to the teen stating he had information that she sent Cassidy nude photos. The teen confirmed that she most likely did, but did not receive any nude photos from Cassidy. She added she sent nude photos of herself to numerous boys/men during that time in her life.

That same day, the St. Francois County detective working the case was able to pull information from the young girl’s phone. The detective reportedly found screenshots from a conversation with Cassidy on July 14 where the young girl attempted to blackmail him by threatening to tell about him raping her. The detective noted that in the conversation Cassidy made numerous incriminating statements in reference to their sexual activities.

He also made an incriminating statement in reference to the sexual contact in the church where he reportedly had sex with the girl the first time. In the correspondence he said to remember the "church thing" wasn’t just his decision and he always regretted and felt bad for any wrongdoing.

Cassidy is now facing four felonies. He is being held in the St. Francois County Jail on a $150,000 bond, and now has an additional $50,000 bond in Ste. Genevieve County.