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Looking back on 2012

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 3:13 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 3:43 p.m. CDT

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series focusing on the events in and around Bureau County in 2012. Aug. 2: There’s more water problems in Spring Valley, as the city’s back-up well is showing signs of bacteria. The area drought may be worsening the situation, according to city engineer Jack Kusek. The well isn’t used on a regular basis, but the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency still requires the water to be bacteria-free, he says. The city will continue to work on getting clean samples from the back-up well. Aug. 4: The bad news for Bureau County farmers is the drought continues. The good news is at least Bureau County has now joined the ranks of those counties designated eligible for federal drought assistance. Gov. Pat Quinn announces the U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared 98 of 102 Illinois counties, including Bureau, as disaster areas. The designation means federal disaster assistance is now available to help farmers in drought-stricken areas. Aug. 7: The Bureau/Putnam County Health Department is awarded a $74,388 grant from the “We Choose Health” program sponsored by the Illinois Department of Public Health. The grant money is expected to be used to promote healthy eating and active living programs in area schools, to promote work site wellness through policy developments, and to work to support further policies to limit smoking in outdoor spaces such as parks and campuses. Aug. 9: The Princeton City Council continues to discuss the best way to market Princeton’s logistic center/commercial park. The Chicago-based firm of Lee & Associates of Illinois is currently handling the marketing of the 133-acre logistics center, which is listed at $40,000 per acre. Commissioner Joel Quiram says the price is too high. City Manager Jeff Clawson says he has formed an economic team to look at marketing and other economic issues. Aug. 11: Discussion continues on the clean-up of DePue’s Superfund site with DePue Mayor Eric Bryant saying the responsible parties are irresponsible. ExxonMobil and CBS have been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as the two companies responsible for the clean-up. Aug. 14: By the time the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency got involved with the clean-up of the former New Jersey Zinc smelting site in DePue, many of the previous owners were no longer in existence, according to Russ Cepko with the CBS Corporation. Responsibility for cleaning up the site fell to ExxonMobil and CBS, with both CBS and ExxonMobil understanding their liabilities with the site. But the Superfund process unfortunately takes a long time, he says. Aug. 16: Community leaders from Princeton, Kewanee, Galesburg, Macomb and Quincy approve the creation of a coalition to boost Amtrak ridership for the five communities. At the invitation of Rep. Don Moffitt and Galesburg Mayor Sal Garza, community leaders and area politicians meet in Galesburg to discuss and form the coalition. Aug. 18: Hall High School Board members are settling into the idea of tearing down the old school and building a new campus. At Wednesday’s board meeting, architects went over the costs and benefits of a completely new building, saying everything could be done by 2015. The total cost of a new building would be around $36 million, but when compared to other options, board members favor the idea. Aug. 21: Obesity, substance abuse, access to health care and mental health are four primary health concerns facing residents in Bureau and Putnam counties, according to the findings of the Illinois Project for Local Assessment of Needs (IPLAN) study. Diana Rawlings, administrator of the Bureau/Putnam County Health Department, announces the 2012-16 IPLAN study has been completed, submitted and approved by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Aug. 23: Perry Memorial Hospital has had a financially strong year, according to CEO/President Rex Conger and Chief Financial Officer Tricia Ellison. The PMH spokespersons tell the Princeton City Council the recent audit for the city-owned hospital shows a net gain of $1,290,863 for Fiscal Year 2012, which ended April 30. PMH experienced gross patient service revenue of $72.5 million, which is a $4 million increase over the previous fiscal year, Ellison says. Aug. 25: The Spring Valley Elementary School Board is moving into the next phase as it plans for a new addition for John F. Kennedy School building. Board members approve the completed design development drawing phase at a special meeting. The board is now having Springfield-based Allied Design move to drafting construction documents. The board will meet with Allied again in October, when about 50 percent of the construction document phase will be completed. Aug. 28: Despite almost 2 inches of rain that fell all day Sunday, this year’s Bureau County Fair is still being called a success. Overall, everything went well, according to Bureau County Fair Board member and past President Mark Verstraete. One of the biggest highlights was this year’s country show with Josh Turner, which turned out to be the biggest country show in fair history, with more than 3,300 tickets sold, Verstraete says. Aug. 30: Decreasing revenue continues to be a problem for the Princeton Elementary School District as it enters the 2013 fiscal year. PES Superintendent Tim Smith says general state aid is down about $600,000 from four years ago, and the district is no longer getting about $100,000 from reading improvement and school safety grants. The corporate personal property replacement tax is down this year $40,000. State revenue for the transportation fund is down 42 percent. Expenses haven’t been the issue for the district, rather it’s been the decreasing revenue, Smith says. Sept. 1: Crew members with Knigge Mason Contractor of Dixon work to repair the damaged former Classic Touch building, located at the South Main/Park Avenue West intersection, directly north of the Bureau County Courthouse in Princeton. Structural engineers have agreed the wall collapse at the building was caused by hidden decay in the foundation. The Princeton City Council has closed that section of Park Avenue West to pedestrian and vehicle traffic for safety precautions. Sept. 4: Hurricane Isaac blows into Bureau County early Saturday, bringing gray skies and wind but little of the predicted rainfall. According to the Princeton Water Department, 1.2 inches of rain fell Saturday, far below amounts predicted by forecasters. Illinois is not used to having “tropical storms,” says Illinois Climatologist Jim Angel. Although less than anticipated, the rain continues to help bring the area out of the drought which has plagued the area much of the summer. Sept. 6: Signs urging drivers to “Block RICL” are popping up in northern Bureau County. The signs are part of an effort to block the proposed Rock Island Clean Line (RICL) energy transmission project, which is being considered by Clean Line Energy Partners, based in Houston, Texas. The project would carry electricity produced from wind farms in South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa though Illinois and eastward. Sept. 8: Not everyone on the Princeton Park Board is so sure things are moving as fast as they should with the new soccer fields at Zearing Park. Board members Dick Volker, Denis Nink and Carl Pacunas express their concerns on the lack of use of the new soccer fields. Pacunas recommends the board hires someone part-time to market the fields for tournaments. No decision is made on the recommendation. Sept. 11: For the past several months, questions, comments, and rumors have been circulating about Citizens First National Bank, headquartered in Princeton. In a one-on-one interview with the Bureau County Republican, Citizens First National Bank President/CEO Tom Ogaard says he wants customers to know their deposits are secure. Customer deposits are insured through the FDIC up to at least $250,000 and could be substantially more depending on account ownership. Citizens continues to operate business as usual; opening accounts; making loans — whether for commercial, consumer or home loans, he says. Sept. 13: The Bureau County Board gives its OK to permit video gaming in the county’s 12 licensed liquor establishments. Bureau County State’s Attorney Pat Herrmann gives the board a summary of its options, including banning video gaming by passing an ordinance, passing an ordinance allowing the gaming and charging businesses a hook-up fee for each machine, or doing nothing, which would allow gaming because the county doesn’t have an ordinance banning the machines. Sept. 15: The LaMoille Ambulance Service hosts a program at LaMoille High School for emergency and medical personnel, with guest speaker Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Joe Beliveau, on the growing problem of common street drugs and synthetic drugs, like bath salts. Emergency personnel need to be aware of the symptoms of drug use, Beliveau says. Sept. 18: Some Neponset residents are concerned about increasing water rates. Neponset trustee Ken Snyder agrees the rates are high, but the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has given the village no option when it comes to dealing with its sewer and water issues. The village has needed to take out loans to make repairs, which has caused the higher rates, Snyder says. Sept. 20: The Princeton City Council continues to discuss just how much discussion is needed before adopting an ordinance. The council takes no action on an ordinance which would require each proposed ordinance to be read at two separate meetings before it could be adopted. Commissioner Joel Quiram says two readings are needed to make it easier for the public to learn about an ordinance and to make known any concerns or questions they might have. Also, two readings would be a way to promote transparency and trust with the public, he says. Sept. 22: Representatives of the Healy, Bender architecture firm of Naperville are back at Hall High School to show yet another version of a proposed new school building. The board hired the firm in November 2011 to conduct a building facility assessment study, which showed the average age of the school is 75 years old and half of the school is almost 100 years old. Also, there are crumbling walls, leaking roofs and failing mechanical systems. After working with Superintendent Mike Struna and the school’s facilities committee, the Naperville firm shows a revised plan with a price tag of $32 million. Sept. 25: More than $2.5 million is raised during the first day of the live auction of 134 quarter horses and frozen semen from the breeding program belonging to former Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell. Federal prosecutors have indicted the 59-year-old woman on a single count of wire fraud. She is also charged in Lee County with 60 counts of theft for transferring city money into a secret bank account. Sept. 27: The developers of a gun range in Spring Valley are shooting for opening their doors by the end of next spring. But before the range can be established, the city council would have to change at least one and possibly several ordinances involving everything from noise to gun possession, A location for the range is not yet chosen, but some officials believe the business would make a welcome fit to the city’s outdoors themes. Sept. 29: Following a nationwide search, Rosemary Cain is selected by the Freedom House Executive Board as the new executive director for the domestic abuse and sexual violence shelter located in Princeton. Cain has been interim director for Freedom House since April. In addition to her role as fiscal manager for the last seven years, she has also served as operations director. Oct. 2: Bureau/Putnam County Community Partners Against Substance Abuse (CPASA) coordinator Dawn Conerton announces CPASA is working with the recently-established Rock Island Community Against Substance Abuse coalition to help that coalition in its impact on the Rock Island community. CPASA is also working with the Citizens Against Substance Abuse of Woodford County as well as a substance abuse coalition in Ottawa. In time, CPASA wants to establish a networking guide for all coalitions in the state, Conerton says. Oct. 4: Jeralyn Cunningham of Spring Valley and her daughter, Emily, create a new organization to address the problem of bullying in schools. The mission of C.A.B., “Communities Against Bullying,” is to raise awareness, promote a sense of understanding and compassion for others, and encourage faculty, students, parents and communities to advocate  a consciousness that bullying is a very real concern. Oct. 6: The Bureau Valley School Board approves the 2013 district budget at its September meeting. Interim Superintendent Dennis Thompson says the budget reflects a slightly decreased equalized assessed valuation for the district, resulting in about 1.5 percent less in operating funds than the previous year. Board member Kent Siltman says the district is down about $1.5 million in revenue from the state for the last three years. Oct. 9: Though the number of teens who drink and drive may be decreasing, there is still more work to be done in educating teens and their families on the dangers of drinking and driving, according to Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson. The national “Vital Signs” report states drunk driving among U.S. teens has fallen 54 percent in the past two decades. Thompson says he thinks the local experience would support the national statistics, though there were some local accidents in recent months involving young people and alcohol. Oct. 11: The Rock Island Clean Line (RICL) LLC requests public utility status and approval to build a 3,500 megawatt transmission line in northern Illinois. Both the preferred and the alternate routes cut directly across Fairfield and Clarion townships. The project would carry electricity produced from wind farms in South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa to Illinois and eastward. The overhead high voltage  direct current transmission line would be about 550 miles long and carry up to 3,500 megawatts of electric power. Oct. 13: Local reaction to a proposed new power line across northern Bureau County ranges from skeptical to negative. Bureau County Board member Steve Sondgeroth of LaMoille says there are a lot of upset people in his part of the county. Rock Island Clean Line LLC has requested public utility status and approval to build a 3,500 megawatt transmission line in northern Illinois, cutting through Fairfield and Clarion townships in northern Bureau County. Oct. 16: Mother Nature pummels the Shadows of Blue and Gray event, a Civil War re-enactment, with heavy rain and high winds. Event co-chairman Jeff Freeman says the annual two-day re-enactment, held at the City-County Park north of Princeton, typically brings in about 3,000 people, but this year’s bad weather kept the crowds down to a total of about 250 people. Oct. 18: Hall High School Superintendent Mike Struna gives a group of about 20 community members an overview of the proposed $32 million new school facility project. The small group was chosen by the board as a first step in receiving public input on the project. Audience members agreed local taxpayers would need more information to support the project. Oct. 20: Bureau County has 367 new registered voters in place just in time for the November presidential election. Bureau County Clerk Kami Hieronymus says the new voters bring the total number of registered voters in Bureau County up to 23,582. The Nov. 3 election will hopefully bring out a good number of those registered voters to the polls, she says. Oct. 23: As the national trends go, rural areas will probably not be far behind, according to Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics has released new survey information showing the number of violent crimes increased by 17 percent last year, from 2010 to 2011, and property crimes increased by 11 percent. Thompson says he’s not surprised with the new statistics. Rural areas are usually behind the larger cities, but rural areas will unfortunately catch up in time to the cities, he said. Oct. 25: The Kewanee School District is in good financial shape, thanks, at least in part, to last year’s annexation of the Neponset Grade School District into the Kewanee district. Auditor Stephanie Ramsey says the district’s total equalized assessed valuation rose during the past year from about $60 million to $73 million, due to the annexation of the Neponset School District. Also, the Kewanee District has benefited from reorganization incentive payments offered by the state for school districts to annex or consolidate, she says. Oct. 27:Several Bureau County business owners are honored as “Champions” by the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Illinois Valley Community College. Named as Entrepreneur of the Year is Troy Resetich, of TROY Simplified Technologies, Inc. in Spring Valley. Named as Business Owner of the Year are Spencer and Annette Davis, owners of A Hundred Acres Orchard and Market, rural Princeton, and Joseph Soldati, owner of Central Millwright Services, Inc., Arlington. Also recognized are Dr. Paul Bonucci and Princeton Prompt Care as one of four start-up businesses of the year and Marty Makransky of Princeton as Entrepreneur Educator of the Year. Oct. 30: Bureau County drivers had better get prepared for the next few weeks. According to data collected by State Farm Insurance, the month of November continues to be the most dangerous month of the year for deer/vehicle collisions, with more than 18 percent of deer/vehicle collisions occurring in November..Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson says deer/vehicle accidents not only cause potential damage to people and the animal, but also extensive and costly property damages.

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