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Looking back on 2013

Published: Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 3:18 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 3:32 p.m. CDT
(BCR photo/Dan Acker)
A Bloomberg photographer, Dan Acker, captured this overwhelming crowd photo during the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January 2013. Acker captured the events of the inauguration, including the parade, the ceremony and other photogenic events. Acker lives in Tiskilwa.
(Shaw Media Service photo)
Former Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell (right) is pictured heading into court for a sentencing hearing. Crundwell was convicted of stealing approximately $40 million from the city of Dixon’s coffers. She is in federal prison in Minnesota with a 19-plus year sentence.

Editor’s note: This is the first segment in a series that allows you the opportunity to look back and reflect on 2013.

Jan. 1: The Bureau County United Way reaches 55 percent of its $120,000 goal for its 41st annual campaign. Executive Director Michelle Lymberopoulos says the local United Way chapter has operated with a $120,000 campaign goal for the past several years with 88 percent of its goal raised last year. The 55 percent pledged so far this year is a bit behind last year’s campaign at this time of the year, Lymberopoulos says.

Jan. 3: Though final numbers aren’t in for the year, Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson says crime was generally down in the county for 2012 in all areas except for crime against property, which include thefts and burglaries. Another area that saw a large increase was in the area of fatal traffic crashes, though Thompson said those were not crime-related. Most of the fatal crashes were the result of not wearing seat belts or the use of alcohol.

Jan. 5: The 2012 year enters the weather record books as one of the mildest years in Illinois in a very long time, according to state climatologist Jim Angel. The 2012 year appears to be the second warmest and 10th driest year on record for Illinois, based on preliminary data available for December. In Bureau County, the Princeton Water Treatment Plant staff documented 17 warm weather records for 2012, including three in January, eight in March, five in July and one in December.

Jan. 8: The U.S. Census Bureau releases the 2011 poverty estimates for every school district and county in the nation. Data for Bureau County shows 17.1 percent of all children under 18 are living in families in poverty. The 2011 statistic is a decrease from the previous year, when almost 19 percent of children were living in poverty.

Jan. 10: Lighting and painting upgrades, equipment repairs and planting an estimated 300 trees are among the more than 90 projects completed during the past 12 months within the Princeton Park District. The Princeton Park Board reviews the year-end highlights, as presented by Elaine Russell, executive director, and Superintendent of Parks Keith Scherer.

Jan. 12: A combination of evaporating state aid, shrinking property values and declining enrollment leads the Cherry Grade School Board to pursue closing the school at the end of the 2013-14 school year. Superintendent Jim Boyle says the board has asked him to prepare a presentation regarding the situation for residents at an upcoming public meeting.

Jan. 15: Vandals strike on the south side of Spring Valley, damaging the drivers’ side mirrors on at least nine vehicles during a one-night crime spree. Police Chief Kevin Sangston says police believe all the incidents are related.

Jan. 17: The investigation continues into a Princeton mail carrier who has resigned from his job, apparently as a result of the investigation. Assistant Special Agent Bob Brooks with the United States Office of Inspector General (OIG), says the OIG is looking into the evidence of the case. When completed, the OIG report will be submitted to the U.S. Postal Service management to determine if any criminal charges are warranted, Brooks says.

Jan. 19: About 150 Cherry residents and friends attend a town meeting at the Cherry Grade School to discuss the future of the school. Superintendent Jim Boyle says it is a heart-wrenching experience to give up your school, if that’s what has to be done, because a school is the very foundation of a community.

Jan. 22: One hundred years of impacting the community through books, books and more books will be celebrated at an open house at the Mason Memorial Public Library of Buda. Library Director Jeannie Jarigese says the library has a collection of about 16,000 books, 400 DVDs and 500 VHS tapes, as well as three computers for public use.

Jan. 24: Tiskilwa photographer Daniel Acker is one of five photographers sent to Washington D.C. by Bloomberg News of New York City to cover the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Acker has worked for Bloomberg for about 10 years, relocating to Tiskilwa a couple years ago. Prior to flying to Washington D.C. for the inauguration, Acker was in Detroit to cover the Detroit Auto Show for Bloomberg.

Jan. 26: Allan Beaber of Princeton and Jim Shipp of rural Princeton announce their intentions to seek the Republican Party’s nomination for the office of Bureau County Sheriff in the November 2014 general election. Beaber says he decided to run for sheriff because he’s a lifelong resident of Bureau County, has 36 years in law enforcement, having retired in 2012 from the Princeton Police Department, and is ready to continue serving the county as sheriff. Shipp says he has 35 years at the sheriff’s department and believes he can make changes in the department for the betterment of the residents of Bureau County.

Jan. 29: Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson says he will enforce a new state law helping undocumented immigrants get a driver’s license, but he has mixed opinions about the law. By giving illegal aliens or immigrants the authority to get a driver’s license, it is overlooking the fact they are still here illegally. The law does not address the bigger issue of controlling the borders, the sheriff says.

Jan. 31: Before an audience of about 60 residents and concerned friends of the Cherry Grade School District, Ladd Elementary Superintendent Michelle Zeko makes a presentation and answers more than 70 questions on what Ladd could offer Cherry students. When the Cherry board members made the decision to look into closing the Cherry school, they invited Zeko to Monday’s meeting and Dimmick Superintendent Ryan Linnig to the Feb. 25 board meeting.

Feb. 2: Selby Township Library Director Marcia Broady announces the library has been awarded a Public Library Construction Act Grant of up to $94,140 for the repair and upgrade of the existing library building located in DePue. The exterior of the building will be removed and replaced, and any structural damage repaired. New windows, soffits, gutters and other exterior improvements will also be included in the project, Broady says.

Feb. 5: Doris Hamilton of Tiskilwa is honored by the Prairie Arts Center in Princeton with a Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award. Hamilton served as a music education teacher for Tiskilwa elementary and high schools for 35 years and also served as director of the Homestead Festival musicals for 35 years. She has also taught private voice and piano lessons, served as her church organist and choir director, and is a member of the Princeton Elementary School Board.

Feb. 7: Manlius Village President Gene Menard walks out of Tuesday’s board meeting and submits his letter of resignation. Menard says the board has been arguing for a year about a request from a resident to increase the number of liquor licenses within the village. The issue has been on the agenda many times and failed twice and should not be brought up again, he says.

Feb. 9: The Ladd Village Board takes action to approve a final change order of $63,369 and a pay request of $335,253 from Pohar & Sons for work on the Cleveland Street sewer separation project. The board also discusses an Internet/Telecommunications policy for village employees.

Feb. 12: The city of Spring Valley takes its next step in allowing indoor gun ranges in Spring Valley. The city’s planning commission will meet to create an ordinance for the proposed gun ranges. The council began discussing the indoor gun ranges in September 2012 and approved changing its zoning code in November to allow for the ranges in certain zones with a special use permit.

Feb. 14: The Bureau County Board says more information is needed on a request for a conditional use permit by a rural Walnut farmer to build a private grass landing strip on family property. Marc Wilt addresses the county board, saying the board’s approval of the conditional use permit is the first step in the process of building the landing strip on property owned by his family since 1933.

Feb. 16: After 16 years, five superintendents, four governors and too many meetings to count, Spring Valley Elementary moves a major step closer toward getting its new building. Board members meet with district architect Bill VanDusen and others to approve construction documents on the new addition and authorize their release to contractors. The expansion would allow the district to close Lincoln School, which is 75 years old, and have all the students at one location.

Feb. 19: The 100-year-old Sheffield Village Hall is named to the National Register of Historic Places, thanks to the work of an ad hoc committee of Sheffield area residents.Committee member Mary Ann Cernovich says the process to get the designation began about five years ago when a group of citizens decided the historic building was worthy of the designation. The two-story brick building, located at 239 S. Main St., was designed by well-known architect George Barber.

Feb. 21: A power outage during a winter storm at Bureau Valley High School does not stop board members from conducting regular monthly business. After the meeting was called to order, a nearly two-hour closed session took place, which forced audience members to wait in the lobby of the district office. During this time, lights flickered on and off, eventually activating the building’s emergency backup lights. When open session of the meeting reconvened, the boardroom was lit by only two backup lights, which left some board members and the audience relying on the light of their cellphones to read their agendas.

Feb. 23: An excavation hazard notice is sent to property owners of a three-acre area surrounding the 2011 train derailment site east of Tiskilwa. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency says the impacted groundwater is generally located 13 to 15 feet below the ground surface. No residences or commercial buildings are located in this area. The Iowa Interstate Railroad is working with the IEPA to develop appropriate signage for the area, according to Michelle Tebrugge, IEPA community relations coordinator.

Feb. 26: The DePue School District takes steps to help teachers better adjust to the varying amounts of technology collected during the last couple years. DePue Principal David Higgs says the Quintech company will complete an inventory on the school’s technology for the state-required technology plan. The ultimate goal is to close any learning gaps surrounding the technology, the principal says.

Feb. 28: A winter storm, dubbed “Rocky” by the Weather Channel, barrels through the Midwest, including Bureau County, bringing heavy snowfall and high winds. The storm causes early dismissal of county schools and cancellations of after-school activities and community events. Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson says his deputies were non-stop busy as they responded to 20 weather-related accidents throughout the storm.

March 2: Princeton Christian Academy’s Sophia Brandenburg snags the county’s spelling bee championship title, making it her second consecutive win in the annual Bureau County Spelling Bee. Brandenburg, an eighth-grader, defeated 22 fellow contestants during four rounds of competition held at the Bureau County Metro Center in Princeton. Runner-up was Conner Whitten, an eighth-grader from Cherry Grade School.

March 5: With winter months slowly moving past, it seems so is the flu season.Deb Piper of the Bureau/Putnam County Health Department says although the number of flu cases is slowing down, it’s still uncertain when the cases will be cleared. The flu season started early this year, mid-November, and has been a more severe season throughout the country, though considered moderate in Illinois, she said.

March 7: An early morning blaze at Habanero’s Mexican Grill and Cantina in Princeton leaves the downtown restaurant in complete shambles. The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the state fire marshal. Princeton Fire Chief Chuck Woolley says a passerby notified authorities the South Main Street business was on fire. Mutual aid was provided by an estimated 13 neighboring fire departments.

March 9: Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson announces he will not seek re-election in November 2014. Thompson, a Democrat from Ladd, is serving his third term in office, having been first elected sheriff in November 2002 when he defeated incumbent sheriff Bill Rosenow, a Republican from Sheffield. Thompson says he decided not to seek re-election for personal reasons in the sense that he has developed opinions about government and its methodologies which makes it difficult to continue as sheriff.

March 12: The Ladd Community School District is one of 64 school districts in Illinois selected for a pilot program to evaluate kindergarten students for school readiness.Ladd Superintendent Michelle Zeko says she’s excited for this opportunity for Ladd to participate in the statewide Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS) pilot project.

March 14: The Bureau County Board wrestles again with what kind of resolution they want to sign in support of concealed weapon legislation in Illinois. Board member Robin Rediger presents information on six concealed carry bills being considered by Springfield legislators. After board discussion, Rediger says he will come back to next month’s meeting with a more general resolution showing the county’s support of concealed carry legislation and also requesting a portion of the application fee remain in the county for administrative costs.

March 16: DePue High School students announce they will present their environmental project results to the Illinois Lake Management Association at Illinois State University. During the last couple years, the DePue student environmental group has developed a method to encapsulate and immobilize contaminates in soil, sediment, sludge and waste piles. The challenge was sparked after students tested and found high levels of heavy metals in the topsoil of residential areas in DePue, the students said.

March 19: Bureau County Clerk Kami Hieronymus confirms Walnut village president candidate Robert Brasen and Walnut village trustee candidate Lori Wilkinson have withdrawn their names from the April 9 consolidated election ballot. Both Brasen and Wilkinson are incumbents to the Walnut Village Board. Brasen says he does not agree with the infrastructure within the village government. Wilkinson says there is division on the board, and she does not feel all members have the best interest of the residents in mind.

March 21: The voters of Cherry and the school board decide they want their students to go to Dimmick. Cherry Superintendent Jim Boyle says the process has begun to pursue a consolidation agreement with the Dimmick School District. A combination of evaporating state aid, shrinking property values and declining enrollment had led the Cherry board to pursue closing the school at the end of the 2013-14 school year.

March 23: After eight years of praying and planning, the new WUNT Christian radio station will go on air at 1 p.m. Sunday, broadcasting from its Sheffield site. Program Director Paul Butler says WUNT 88.3 FM will go on air with a special one-hour program featuring prayers for the dedication of the station, interviews with staff and board members, and music.

March 26: Princeton native Ben Parr is named by Forbes Magazine as one of the “Top 30 Under 30” in technology and applications. In the recent Forbes Magazine announcement, Parr is photographed with Matt Schlicht and Mazy Kazerooni as co-founders of #DominateFund, a new seed-stage capital fund investment firm which focuses on its Hollywood connections.

March 28: The Princeton Elementary School Board votes to dismiss 25 employees from next year’s school year through a Reduction in Force action, though a good number of those employees could be rehired if funding allows. The PES Board votes to dismiss with regret the entire staff of the Bright Beginnings/Early Childhood preschool program, as well as 10 teachers aides and two teachers in the elementary/junior high buildings.

March 30: Bureau County learns it will have more than $3 million worth of road work done this spring and summer when Gov. Pat Quinn announces $486 million in road and bridge projects. Local projects include a $2.5 million project on Route 6, beginning east of Sheffield to Hazelwood Drive in Wyanet; a $500,000 update to the Great Sauk Trail rest area on Interstate 80 west of Princeton; and a $254,000 surface treatment project from the Manlius corporate limits to County Highway B.

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