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Looking back on 2012

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series focusing on the events in and around Bureau County in 2012.

Jan. 3: More than 20 fire departments assist the Peru Fire Department in battling a blaze at the former Westclox site, including fire departments from Spring Valley, Ladd, Cherry, Princeton, Dalzell, Arlington and LaMoille, as well as numerous LaSalle County departments. Also assisting were police departments from Spring Valley, Princeton, LaSalle County, the Illinois State Police and sheriff’s departments from LaSalle, Bureau and Putnam counties. Less than three hours after the fire was discovered, police arrested a 17-year-old LaSalle male and a 15-year-old Peru male.

Jan. 5: Three Princeton businesses are evacuated after police receive a bomb threat. Police Chief Tom Root says the first hang-up call came at 6:20 p.m. at Culver’s and another call came one minute later with the caller saying a bomb was going off in six minutes at the Burger King and McDonald’s restaurants. Police evacuate the businesses as well as the nearby Roma’s restaurant.

Jan. 7: The suspect in Wednesday’s bomb threat incident in Princeton appears in Bureau County Court on another bomb threat charge. Princeton Police Chief Tom Root says Kristofer C. Watson, 24, of Princeton was arrested Wednesday night on one count of disorderly conduct bomb threat, a Class 3 felony, for allegedly calling AmericInn in Princeton Dec. 10 with a bomb threat against the Burger King restaurant.

Jan. 10: Plans are set in motion for replacing the Route 89 bridge over the Illinois River south of Spring Valley. Four representatives of the Illinois Department of Transportation meet with Spring Valley officials and the Bureau and Putnam county boards to discuss the project and timetable. The project is estimated to cost $22.5 million with the construction season to be 2016-17.

Jan. 12: Handcuffed, shackled and wearing a black and white county jail prisoner outfit, Kristofer C. Watson, 24, pleads not guilty at his arraignment in Bureau County court to the Class 3 felony of disorderly conduct. He is accused of reporting a false bomb threat on Dec. 10, 2011. Officer Chris Erickson of the Princeton Police Department testifies before the grand jury.

Jan. 14: Phillip Mol of DePue forms a “Let’s Rename Negro Creek” group to change the name of the creek to something which would not have “a negative connotation.” The group will come up with a list of possible names and make a final decision in February. After a new name is chosen, Mol will go to the DePue, Seatonville, Hollowayville, Ladd and Bureau County boards to ask them to pass resolutions in favor of the name change.

Jan. 17: The Hall Township Food Pantry opens a healthy foods section to help clients with special dietary needs. The new section has been very well received, Director Jan Martin says. Because of the rising cost of medications and some healthy food items, many senior citizens are using the food pantry services, she adds.

Jan. 19: Area resident Rob Pozzi addresses the Ladd School Board about the possible annexation of Leepertown Grade School into the Ladd School District. Pozzi asks the board to not voluntarily take on another school district but to wait for a decision or mandate to come down. In response, the board states it has never made any statement approving the annexation, and the decision will not be theirs to make but will be made by the Regional Office of Education.

Jan. 21: The St. Benedict’s Church building in Ladd will be demolished, as determined by the Catholic Diocese. The church was closed months ago, based on declining attendance and giving. In November 2010, items from the building were sold at auction. In December 2011, the village board sends a letter to the Diocese requesting the church building be demolished or repaired to avoid an ordinance violation.

Jan. 24: Five Bureau County communities will receive federal funding for infrastructure projects through Community Development Assistance Program grants. Arlington and Neponset will each get $350,000 for water treatment plant improvements. Malden will get $350,000 for water treatment plant and main improvements. Sheffield will get $350,000 to install new water mains and to replace two failing lift stations. Wyanet will receive $350,000 for sewer system improvements.

Jan. 26: Leepertown School Board members unanimously approve a petition to dissolve their school district, citing difficulties in providing a high quality educational program due to “serious financial hardship due to the limited financial resources available to the district.” Superintendent Amber Harper says it was an emotional evening because she and four of the board members were graduates of Leepertown, and she had taught there for her first two years.

Jan. 28: Bureau County Coroner Janice Wamhoff comes under fire by a family who claims Wamhoff should not have been involved in the investigation of their loved one’s death. The family of Leslie Ann Holmes, who died July 19, 2011, in Bureau County, has asked the Bureau County Board to remove Wamhoff from office and also to adopt policies requiring the coroner to recuse herself when conflicts of interest exist. In response, Wamhoff says the family is misrepresenting the facts. She has handled the death in an appropriate and professional manner, Wamhoff says.

Jan. 31: The DePue Superfund court order had major flaws when it was written by the Illinois attorney general in 1995, according to Ron Actis, a DePue native, now of Michigan. Actis is serving as a consultant to the DePue Action Committee. Actis says his study of the 150-page court order found violations and what he termed as major omissions and discrepancies between what the order was supposed to accomplish and what actually occurred.

Feb. 2: About 25 people attend a meeting at the Ladd Fire Department to discuss their opposition to the proposed changing of the Negro Creek name. Chad Errio of Seatonville leads this side of the debate, saying the Negro Creek name is not offensive, and it’s a part of local history which should not be changed. Petitions are being circulated, both in person and online, on both sides of the issue.

Feb. 4: WQAD News Channel 8 meteorologist Anthony Peoples describes the 2012 winter as “bizarre.” If the Quad Cities area does not get any more accumulating snow this winter, this would be the least snowiest winter in Quad Cities’ history, with records going back to 1884, Peoples says. Bureau County Highway Engineer John Gross says this is the winter for which the highway department has been waiting, with an obvious savings in fuel and overtime costs.

Feb. 7: Longtime Princeton community leader and theater entertainer Dick Dorsch is honored with a Lifetime Achievement in the Arts award, presented by the Prairie Arts Council at its annual gala event. Dorsch has been active in more than 25 stage productions, a member of the Bureau County Chorus, has portrayed former area citizens for many venues, and has been involved in a variety of organizations in the area.

Feb. 9: Princeton residents continue to hash out the pros and cons of home rule, a designation which gives city officials more taxing options, greater spending flexibility and more authority over state mandates. About 80 people attend a town hall meeting at the Bureau County Metro Center, sponsored by the Home Rule Committee, a 12-member citizens committee appointed last summer to study the home rule issue for the Princeton City Council. Members of the home rule committee have now established a “Princeton Residents for Self-Reliance” Facebook page in support of  home rule.

Feb. 11: Spring Valley’s Lincoln School Principal Kim Lisanby-Barber is chosen the Elementary Principal of the Year by the Illinois Principals Association. Lisanby-Barber was nominated for the award by Spring Valley Elementary Superintendent Jim Hermes,  along with Esmeralda Harris, a speech pathologist assistant and pre-kindergarten parent coordinator at Lincoln, and by school nurse Mary Drumheller. Hermes says it was an easy decision to nominate Lisanby-Barber based on everything she’s done during the last 15 years.

Feb. 14: Illinois State Superintendent Christopher Koch tells state superintendents and administrators their school districts will get less money from the state this year than they may have hoped. Princeton Elementary Superintendent Tim Smith says his district has lost $569,000 during the past four years in general state aid and Hold Harmless money. Ohio Superintendent Sharon Sweger says the two Ohio districts have adjusted their budgets because the state had communicated a possible cut in general state aid prior to budget development. This shortfall, coupled with the loss of programs and categorical money during the last several years, is affecting the educational process, Sweger said.

Feb. 16: St. Margaret’s Hospital in Spring Valley wins its fight to keep its tax exempt status. In recent activity in Bureau County Court, Associate Circuit Judge C.J. Hollerich signs a court order granting a permanent injunction prohibiting Bureau County Supervisor of Assessments Tom Sweeney from assessing St. Margaret’s property and placing it on the county’s property tax rolls. In making the permanent injunction order, the judge declares null and void the notices of assessments already sent out by Sweeney and ordered Sweeney to provide St. Margaret’s with Certificates for Status of Exempt Property for the 2012 tax year.

Feb. 18: After 15 years, five superintendents and countless meetings, it’s finally official. Gov. Pat Quinn announces Spring Valley Elementary is going to receive $12.23 million to double the size of the current John F. Kennedy facility. Superintendent Jim Hermes says the news is amazing. The new building could be up in about 18 months. The new building will allow the district to close the Lincoln School, which is 75 years old, and to have all the students at one location.

Feb. 21: Work is underway on a four million gallon excess flow lagoon pond to help alleviate overflow water problems caused by periodic heavy rains in Princeton. Scott Wallis, superintendent for Princeton’s Wastewater Treatment Department, says the nearly $4 million project will hopefully be completed by early summer. The project includes not only the establishment of the excess flow lagoon but also an upgrade to the Park Avenue East/Sixth Street lift station and the replacement of water lines from Perry Memorial Hospital eastward to the lift station.

Feb. 23: Faced with a projected deficit of up to $1.4 million for the 2012-13 school year, the Bureau Valley School Board approves a package of cuts and fee increases to save the district almost $225,000. Finance Committee Chairman Kent Siltman says the committee had reviewed projections for both income and expenses for the next several years before coming up with a list of cuts and fee increases. There are other possible cuts still under consideration, he confirms.

Feb. 25: The Princeton High School and Princeton Elementary School districts hope to join forces to hire a new curriculum director to be shared by both districts. PHS Superintendent Kirk Haring says the joint effort is a great opportunity for the districts. The PES Board is expected to discuss the shared position at its next meeting and approve going ahead with the joint endeavor. A rough draft of the job description has been developed and he hopes to have a candidate chosen for approval at the PHS Board’s March meeting, Haring says.

Feb. 28: Princeton Mayor Keith Cain confirms the city manager position was offered to an individual following last week’s interviews with the top five candidates. The council expects to hear back from the chosen candidate within the next 10 days. Until the candidate formally accepts the position, no further details can be announced, Cain said. If the chosen candidate accepts the position, he will become Princeton’s third city manager, replacing Jeff Fiegenschuh who resigned in November 2011.

March 2: The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency approves a revised schedule for the contamination cleanup at the former New Jersey Zinc/Mobil Chemical Superfund site. The schedule was submitted by the DePue Group, which consists of CBS Corporation and the ExxonMobil Corporation, the parties responsible under Superfund. The revised schedule will require work at the Superfund site to move forward in a “timely manner with enforceable deadlines.”

March 3: Sue Krolak of Spring Valley beats out 33,104 other participants nationwide to win this week’s prize in the Checkered Flag Challenge, sponsored locally by the Bureau County Republican and nationally by Second Street Media. It was Krolak’s first time to enter one of the BCR’s online contests. Krolak won the local contest by 141 points. She won the national contest — and a NASCAR Fathead of her choice — by 24 points. Krolak credited her victory to luck, though she does watch a lot of NASCAR, she said.

March 6: The city of Princeton hires a new city manager, Jeff Clawson of Fairfield, Iowa. According to a press release issued by Princeton Mayor Keith Cain, Clawson comes to Princeton with more than 25 years of city government experience. Until Clawson begins his work full time in Princeton, he will travel to the city on weekends and occasionally during the week to work with the city in its budget process and to meet with department heads, Cain says.

March 8: If David Turpen of Tiskilwa wins the March 20 primary election, he’ll face a greater problem at the Nov. 6 general election. As of now, Turpen would face no Democratic challenger for the District 7 seat on the Bureau County Board, but Turpen couldn’t take his seat on the board because he doesn’t live in District 7. Turpen is facing incumbent Marshann Entwhistle for the Republican nomination for the District 7 seat. County Clerk Kami Hieronymus confirms Turpen is a resident of District 19.

March 10: Bureau County Girl Scouts help plan one big birthday party, complete with cake, games and entertainment. The Girl Scouts of Central Illinois, which encompasses Bureau, LaSalle and Putnam counties, are participating with other Girls Scouts nationwide in celebrating the 100th birthday anniversary of Girl Scouts of the USA. Locally, the birthday celebration is set for March 18 at Illinois Valley Community College. Malden Junior Troop 1068 Leader Tricia Sennett says her troop has been busy for the past month working on a camping display for the celebration.

March 13: The two sides of the Negro Creek name issue come together, not to yell or name call, but to celebrate the things the groups have in common. Mol and Sharon Kopina, who want to change the name, sat down with Chad Errio and Carl Neuhalfen, supporters of leaving the name alone, to discuss the future. The Kopinas say they will continue the fight to change the name on either a social or national level. Errio and Neuhalfen say they will continue their efforts to block any change on a local level but would accept a state or federal change.

March 15: Bureau County Board members debate just how much they should be paid for their service to the county. Fees and Salaries Committee Chairman Marshann Entwhistle presents a recommendation from the committee to set county board salaries at $8,000 annually for the board chairman; $3,500 annually for the vice chairman; and $75 for the remaining 24 board members for attending regular monthly meetings and $40 for attending each committee meeting. Currently, the board chairman gets $5,000 annually, with all other members receiving $115 per month, which includes all meetings, whether or not they attend them.

March 17: An estimated 440 Bureau County fourth-graders attend the annual Bureau County Ag Fair sponsored by the Bureau County Farm Bureau at the Bureau County fairgrounds in Princeton. The annual event included 14 learning centers, which covered topics such as small animals, conservation, equipment, embryology and safety.

March 20: Though spring doesn’t officially start until today, Bureau County residents have already had several weeks of unusually mild weather, which has led to earlier outdoor clearing projects, and unfortunately, to several brush, grass and field fires. Diana Stiles, director of the Bureau County Emergency Telephone System Board (BuEComm), says Bureau County fire departments have responded to a total of 29 brush, grass and field fires so far this year, with seven of those fires happening in January, five in February and 17 in March.

March 22: Princeton voters say no, no, no and no to home rule. The home rule referendum on Tuesday’s ballot for Princeton voters is defeated on a 1,569 to 411 vote.  In the contested Bureau County Board races, Republican incumbent Marshann Entwhistle beats challenger David Turpen on a 185 to 95 vote, and newcomer Derek Whited beats newcomer Tony Pease for the Republican Party’s nomination for District 6 on a 173 to 126 vote.

March 24: Gen. Wesley Clark addresses the Patriot Renewable Fuels annual shareholders meeting in Annawan. Clark, who spoke at the invitation of Patriot CEO Gene Griffith, retired as a four-star general in 2000 and now serves as co-chairman of Growth Energy, an ethanol industry support group. Each year the average American spends $1,000 on importing oil and other liquid fuel products into the United States, for a total of $300 billion annually. That money needs to be kept at home, Clark says.

March 27: With flowers blooming and lawns growing, Bureau County residents will probably not be surprised to learn the month of March has been one for the record books with its unseasonably warm temperatures. WQAD News 8 meteorologist Anthony Peoples says March is the warmest March on record for the Quad Cities area, which experienced seven consecutive days of high temperatures which tied or broke previous records. High temperature records are also broken in Princeton, which set eight new high temperature records during the past two weeks.

March 29: The Bright Beginnings program at the Princeton Elementary School District is discontinued for next year, at least until state funding is secured. At Monday’s meeting, the PES Board approves Reduction in Force (RIF) action for the entire Bright Beginnings staff. Superintendent Tim Smith says he hopes to be able to reinstate the Bright Beginnings program and staff for next year, dependent on the status of the state’s Early Childhood Block Grant which funds the program.

March 31: After deliberating for just over 15 minutes, the Regional Board of School Trustees unanimously approves the petition by the Leepertown School District to dissolve, with most of the district being annexed into the Ladd School District and a small portion annexed into the Princeton Elementary School District. Leepertown Superintendent Amber Harper says it’s a relief to know where the students will go next year.

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