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Looking back on 2012

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

Nov. 1: Princeton City Council members meet for nearly two hours with department heads to discuss possible projects for the new fiscal year. Upgrades at Darius Miller Park and city hall, a new ambulance and dump truck, and continuing street projects are among the considerations. Reviewing the city’s existing debt service, City Manager Jeff Clawson says he wants to make the new year a no-new-debt year since Princeton is in the middle of some large projects and is still paying on some completed projects.

Nov. 3: Citizens First National Bank is closed late Friday afternoon by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver. According to the FDIC, in order to protect the depositors of Citizens, the FDIC entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with Heartland Bank and Trust Co. of Bloomington to assume all the deposits of Citizens First National Bank. The 21 branches of Citizens First National Bank will reopen Saturday as branches of Heartland Bank and Trust Co.

Nov. 6: Today’s presidential election will cost Bureau County taxpayers about $100,000. Bureau County Clerk Kami Hieronymus says the main expense of any election is the cost of ballots and supplies. Though basically everyone gets handed the same ballot, Bureau County will have about 120 different ballot styles today to handle variables like the 26-county board seat elections, state Senate districts and Representative districts.

Nov. 8: The race for Bureau County Circuit Clerk may appear to be over ... but not quite yet. In Tuesday’s election, Mary Romanelli Dremann beat challenger Dawn Reglin by only 97 votes, for a 50.3 percent to 49.7 percent margin. However, there are still 124 absentee ballots out there, which could make a difference in the outcome of the race, Bureau County Clerk Kami Hieronymus says. In other county-wide races, incumbent Janice Wamhoff wins her first election as county coroner, having been previously appointed to the position. Wamhoff beats challenger Randy Grant of Wyanet. Bureau County State’s Attorney Patrick Herrmann has been re-elected to his office over challenger Desiree Bromme Sierens.

Nov. 10: Sullivan’s Foods owner Scott Sullivan confirms his company is looking at the former Bassicks Co. site in Spring Valley as a possible site for a new grocery store. Whether its three months, six months or 18 months, the company is wanting and willing to move forward, Sullivan says. A store in Spring Valley would bring Sullivan’s Foods number to 12, already doing business in Princeton, Kewanee, Morrison, Freeport, Lena, Mendota, Mount Morris, Rochelle, Savanna, Stockton and Winnebago.

Nov. 13: Bureau County Circuit Judge Marc Bernabei and Circuit Clerk Laurie Abrahams announce the opening of a new online Bureau County Legal Self-Help Center. The free online center will provide legal information for lower income residents who cannot find or afford an attorney to represent them in court, or who are looking for information on topics such as Social Security, Medicare, unemployment compensation, powers of attorney and marriage dissolutions. The self-help center is a good thing for the community, Bernabei says.

Nov. 15: The Bureau County Board says no to a conditional use permit for a private residential care institution near Tiskilwa. At Tuesday’s meeting, the county board hears from neighbors opposed to the proposed Seed of Hope residential care institution, which would have been built on a 28-acre property located on the Tiskilwa Bottom Road. Project developer Steve Graham of Tiskilwa does not make it to the board meeting in time to make a presentation on the proposed residential care institution, hear the neighbors’ concerns or talk about any details concerning the facility.

Nov. 17: It’s official. The Hall High School Board will ask voters in Spring Valley, Ladd, Cherry, Dalzell, Seatonville, Hollowayville and Bureau to approve borrowing $32 million for a new high school. The board unanimously approves moving forward with the project and putting the referendum on the April 9, 2013, ballot. The school board hired an architect earlier this year to do an assessment of the existing high school building. In September, the board approved building a new school and demolishing all of the current buildings. The alternative would be $18 million in required renovations.

Nov. 20: Mosquito surveillance for the 2012 West Nile Virus season ends in Bureau and Putnam counties with 1,830 mosquitoes sampled and ultimately testing negative for the disease. Bureau/Putnam County Health Department Director Diana Rawlings says the local health department collected four dead birds in each county for testing this year, with only one blue jay, collected in the Princeton area, testing positive.

Nov. 22: The Princeton City Council projects an estimated $24,897,000 in revenue for the city’s 2013-14 fiscal year beginning May 1, 2013. The council approves an ordinance levying $1,573,843 in property taxes from the 2012-13 tax levy. Additional revenue is projected at $23,323,158, with the primary sources of that revenue coming sales tax and income tax. The property tax rate for the city itself remains at 1 percent, or $1 per $100 of assessed value of property, City Manager Jeff Clawson says.

Nov. 24: The Bureau Henry Stark Regional Office of Education is awarded a federal 21st Century Community Learning Center grant to provide extended day programming and extended year programming for area students. ROE Superintendent Angie Zarvell says the federal grant award provides a total of $999,520 in the first year of the five-year grant. Bureau County schools benefiting from the grant are Bureau Valley South in Buda and LaMoille’s Allen Junior High and High School.

Nov. 27: Spring Valley residents will see a slight drop in their taxes, thanks to a decrease in the Spring Valley Elementary School District’s tax levy. Superintendent Jim Hermes says residents should notice about a nickel drop for every $100 of equalized assessed valuation. This is despite an overall drop in the EAV for the district, which dropped about $200,000 from the previous year to $72,579,311. The total tax levy including the bond and interest fund is expected to be $2,091,866, which is a drop of $59,389 from the year before, Hermes says.

Nov. 29: Mainstream Renewable Power withdraws its application for the Green River Wind Farm Phase 1 in Bureau County, but the company says it will likely submit a new proposal. The Ireland-based company pulled its proposal less than a week after the Bureau County Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously recommended against Mainstream’s plan for 19 wind turbines for the northern part of the county.

Dec. 1: Edison Mission Group, the owner of Big Sky wind farm north of Ohio, responds to a complaint filed against it by Suzlon Energy Ltd, the company which had made the turbines used by the wind farm. Suzlon Energy Ltd filed its complaint against Big Sky earlier this year claiming Big Sky improperly refused to make a prepayment for turbines supplied to Big Sky. The Ohio-based wind farm bought 114 Suzlon turbines in October 2009 for the Big Sky project. Big Sky claims numerous un-remarked serial defects affected the wind turbines supplied by Suzlon.

Dec. 4: The Spring Valley Historic Association’s Museum is one of 30 recipients of Gov. Pat Quinn’s Home Town Awards. The 30th annual awards recognize volunteers for their work in improving their communities. The museum’s award came in the area of history and historic preservation for communities with a population of 5,001 to 10,000.

Dec. 6: The Manlius Village Board approves a project to replace all water meters in the town. The approval came after a lengthy board discussion and a tie-breaking vote by Mayor Gene Menard. The $63,900 estimated cost of the project includes the purchase of 180 meters, the necessary software and installation. If village employees handle the installation, the cost of the project would be reduced to $49,400.

Dec. 8: Spring Valley residents Hildi Grivetti and Mike DeAngelo are chosen to head up the steering committee which will oversee efforts to promote and garner votes for a new Hall High School building referendum on the April ballot. Superintendent Mike Struna says the Hall School Board will likely vote in January to put the referendum on the ballot after a special waiver is received for the school to legally borrow the projected cost of $32 million and pay it back over 30 years instead of the regular 20- or 25-year period.

Dec. 11: Malden Elementary students participate in MACK, “Malden Acts of Christmas Kindness” project by going out of their way to be considerate of others. When someone receives an act of kindness, then they are “MACKed”, according to Superintendent Mike Patterson. Getting MACKed is a way to show that Christmas is about giving, not receiving, Patterson, says.

Dec. 13: The Tiskilwa Village Board decides with a 4-2 vote to not proceed with requiring certain employees of the village’s bars to go through a training program. Mayor Randy Philhower says the training isn’t required in Illinois, but he feels it may be in the future. Mike McComber, owner of the Indian Valley Inn, tells board members he opposes the training program because he deals with enough rules and regulations and dollars going out for liquor licenses from the state and village plus insurance and health department fees.

Dec. 15: The Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network (ICAHN), based in Princeton, receives news it will receive a $338,600 federal grant to upgrade health information technology services in rural hospitals and health care units. Executive Director Pat Schou says ICAHN has 51 members and she will work with members to verify which are ready for the upgrade program.

Dec. 18: Locked doors, security cameras, office monitors ... area educators review their security systems once again in light of Friday’s shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Princeton Elementary Superintendent Tim Smith says he began addressing the Connecticut incident on Friday afternoon with his administrators and staff. Spring Valley Elementary Principal Kim Lisanby-Barber says some of her teachers broke down into tears at the thoughts of Friday’s events.

Dec. 20: The Princeton Elementary School Board votes to go out for $3 million in general obligation bonds to help meet expenses for the next three years. Superintendent Tim Smith says the $3 million in bonds is about $1 million more than issued three years ago. Part of that reason is the district is receiving $600,000 less annually in general state aid than it did three years ago, Smith says.

Dec. 22: The Hall High School Board takes a few steps toward making a new building a reality by unanimously authorizing architect Healy, Bender of Naperville to move into the next phase of the planning project. After looking at an estimated price tag of $18 million to bring the existing building up to code, the board approves building a new school at an estimated cost of $32 million. The project will need to be approved by voters in the April 9 election.

Dec. 25: Twenty ornamental sheep figures, handmade by Walnut resident Guido Ledergerber, are delivered to Newtown, Conn., as a gift in memory of the 20 young children killed on Dec. 14 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. The sheep had been a part of Ledergerber’s lighted Christmas display on his front lawn. Ledergerber decided to send the sheep to the Sandy Hook park district for display in that community.

Dec. 27: Princeton Police Chief Tom Root and Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson say they agree with new laws which further restrict the use of cell phones while driving. As of Jan. 1, drivers on Illinois roadways will not be able to use cell phones in all roadwork zones or while driving within 500 feet of an emergency scene. Also, commercial drivers will no longer be allowed to use hand-held cell phones.

Dec. 29: Candidates from communities around Bureau County have thrown their hats into the ring for the April 9, 2013, consolidated election. Among the contested races are mayoral races in Bureau Junction, Spring Valley, Tiskilwa and Wyanet. Contested trustee/commissioner/alderman races are set for Cherry, DePue, Malden, New Bedford, Spring Valley, Walnut and Princeton. DePue voters will also decide on a contested village clerk race.

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