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Morning headlines - Thursday, May 24 2012

(via Flickr/IndofunkSatish)

Fraternity removes GOP campaign banner after hearing from Nixon staffer

A fraternity at the University of Missouri Columbia has removed a campaign banner of Republican gubernatorial candidate Dave Spence from its house after Gov. Jay Nixon’s communications director raised concerns.

Spence, an alumnus of Beta Theta Pi, hung a banner at the site of the fraternity’s new house. A chapter official says he got a call the next day from Beta Theta Pi’s national office saying the governor’s aide, Sam Murphey, had expressed concern that the banner might jeopardize the non-profit status of the fraternity’s foundation.

Murphey did not comment to the Associated Press on Wednesday. A fraternity representative at the construction site says Beta Theta Pi removed the banner because some alumni had concerns about favoring one candidate over the other.

Menard's on tap for Northwest Plaza site

The owner of the shuttered Northwest Plaza says the proposed $106 million redevelopment will be anchored by a Menards.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Bob Glarner, with Raven Development, made his plans for the North County site public last night at a meeting of the St. Louis County Tax Increment Financing Commission. The company is seeking $33 million in tax increment financing and about $8 million in state brownfield credits.

The Post-Dispatch says Menards will purchase about 17 acres at the 122-acre site and build a 600,000 square foot store. Glarner says it’ll be one of two anchor stores, and that he’s in discussions with other companies about locating at the site.

Blanchette Bridge users can learn more tonight

Drivers who use the Blanchette Bridge to travel between St. Louis and St. Charles counties on Interstate 70 will get a chance tonight to learn more about the closure planned for November.

The Missouri Department of Transportation's  first open house is tonight from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Immanuel Luther Church in St. Charles.  Another meeting will be Wednesday, May 30 at the Maryland Heights Government Center.

MoDOT will close the bridge's westbound span in November for about a year. That traffic will be diverted onto the current eastbound span.

"The westbound 70 span is the original of the two bridges," said MoDOT spokeswoman Linda Wilson. "It opened in 1958 and needs a major rehab. The project will basically replace about 75 percent of the bridge."

Wilson is urging drivers to start thinking about alternative routes now.

"Our main emphasis is trying to stress to those daily commuters to start thinking--could they use the 370 Bridge or the Page Avenue Bridge, especially during those morning and evening rush hours," she said.

Drivers will also see some lane closures in Earth City for two weekends in June. The upgrade will cost $63 million.

Reward increased in hit and run case

The reward for information about the death of 23-year-old in downtown St. Louis last month has more than doubled.

23-year-old Amber Wood was crossing South Broadway near the Broadway Oyster Bar early in the morning of April 27 when she was struck and killed by a speeding Pontiac Grand Am. Police later traced the car, owned by 29-year-old Eric F. Peterson to a junkyard in Madison County, Ill. Peterson was charged with obstruction of justice, but not the hit-and-run itself.

"We want to bring closure to the friends and family that loved Amber dearly," said her mother, Georgie Brown in a written statement. "That's why we are offering up this additional reward."

The total reward is now $2,500. Wood's family is asking anyone with information to call CrimeStoppers at 314-725-8477.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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