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Looking back at 2013

Published: Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 2:42 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 3:22 p.m. CDT

Editor's note: This is another segment in a continuing series on the headlines of 2013.

Sept. 3: A committee of concerned residents start a Bureau Valley Buddy Bags program to help make sure children have food when they aren’t in school. Committee chairperson Brenda Lovick says the new program started in discussion last February after several residents learned about a similar program in the Princeton Elementary School District. The Bureau Valley program began with 13 bags distributed to kindergarten students and their siblings. By the end of the school year, the program had expanded to 35 bags each week.

Area residents and dignitaries gather at the site of the Red Covered Bridge, north of Princeton, to celebrate the sesquicentennial anniversary of the construction of the historic bridge.

Sept. 5: After expressing their concerns earlier this year about water and flooding problems in their neighborhoods, two Princeton residents come back to the Princeton City Council to say thank you for the council’s steps to attempt to solve future water problems. Residents Laura Favia and Esther Tracy attend a council meeting to express their appreciation for the council’s efforts.

An armed robbery charge is filed against Dennis Clark Jr., 23, of Chicago who allegedly was the gunman involved in the Peru Verizon Wireless Store robbery on Aug. 3, which resulted in the death of Peru K-9 Kali.

Sept. 7: The village of Walnut’s engineer presents preliminary plans for updating the village’s sewer plant. Matt Hansen of Willett & Hoffman engineering firm shows plans for a $2 million upgrade for the village’s sewage plant. This plan will begin with a public meeting for village residents to learn about the project and ask questions. The actual construction phase would begin in July 2014, with completion scheduled for June 2015.

Sept. 10: Judge C. Howard Wampler of Wyanet is remembered as a judge who earned a person’s respect, with a strong commitment to the judicial system as well as a legendary sense of humor. Wampler died Sept. 4 at Perry Memorial Hospital at the age of 79. He had served as Bureau County Resident Circuit Judge from 1974 to 1993. Bureau County Resident Circuit Judge Marc Bernabei says he tried many cases before Wampler and found him to be friendly and a judge with a very sharp mind and a quick wit.

Sept. 12: The Bureau County Board declares a state of emergency to get the grounding grid fixed for the communication tower at the Bureau County Jail. Buildings and Grounds Committee Chairman Kristi Warren says the tower was hit again by lightning a couple weeks ago, which again resulted in the loss of communication for a short time within the sheriff’s department. The communication tower had already been hit three times in recent years. The county board unanimously passes a motion to declare the tower repair project an emergency.

Sept. 17: Heartland Bank and Trust decides to close its DePue branch, effective Sept. 30. The four employees at the branch are notified and letters sent to customers. Bank officials say a decline in customers visiting the branch due to the convenience of electronic banking services is the reason for Heartland’s decision to close the DePue facility.

Sept. 19: The decision to close DePue’s Heartland Bank and Trust branch brings confusion, disappointment and a feeling of shock to community members. Village President Eric Bryant says he never received a call, email or visit from any representative of the bank explaining the reasons behind the closure. It would have been nice to know something like this was coming to the community, the mayor says.

With new Director Andrea Anderson in charge, the Bureau County United Way kicks off its 2014 campaign. The goal thermometer is erected on the lawn of Bureau County Courthouse with a goal set at $120,000. The local United Way serves 14 area health and human service agencies.

Sept. 21: Princeton’s new water treatment plant is “substantially completed” and should be in full operation within the next few weeks. Commissioner Joel Quiram says the Farnsworth Group engineering firm wants to bill the city an additional $169,000 for its extended services in overseeing the project, which was to be completed last May. On a 3 to 2 vote, the council votes to use fine money from Vissering Construction Co. for the Farnsworth bill. The Vissering fines ($189,000) were due to the missed completion date. Voting yes were Mayor Keith Cain and Commissioners Bob Warren and Ray Swanson. Voting no were Quiram and Commissioner Ray Mabry.

Sept. 24: In response to concerns surrounding the reason behind Heartland Bank and Trust Co.’s decision to close down its DePue branch, bank officials speak about the decreasing business at the branch. Paula Mitchell, Heartland’s vice president/retail director, says the numbers didn’t warrant the branch, and the bank couldn’t sustain the branch at its location. Nicole Williams, marketing director for Heartland Bank and Trust in Bloomington, confirms there has been a consistent 40 percent decrease in foot traffic recorded at the branch during the last five to six years.

Sept. 26: The Bureau Valley School Board adopts its Fiscal Year 2014 budget, which Superintendent Dennis Thompson calls a conservative look at the year’s anticipated expenses and income. Total expenditures are projected at $13,994,632, while revenue shows a total of $13,272,305. The district plans to handle the deficit by using money from working cash bonds. The good news is the district has increased its tax rate from $3 million to $3.175 million, due primarily to flat increases in real estate and increase in farming land values, Thompson says.

Sept. 28: The Hall High School Board approves the 2013-14 budget, which Superintendent Mike Struna says shows deficit spending in the education, operating and maintenance, debt service and IMRF/SS funds. The projected deficits in the education and operating and maintenance funds will be covered by the reimbursement of $314, 270 from the new building bond when it is acquired. Deficits in the debt service fund and IMRF/SS fund will be covered by balances held in those funds at the end of the Fiscal Year 2013 budget, Struna says.

Oct. 1: Area officials and dignitaries attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Abbey Fields, a $13 million project to be located on the northwest corner of the St. Bede Academy campus just east of Spring Valley. Catering to senior citizens, ages 65 and older, the new facility will consist of 40 assisted living rooms for seniors who may require various levels of assistance with daily living activities like bathing, dressing and transferring. The new center will also have a special secured section to care for seniors who have a diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease or some form of dementia.

Oct. 3: Princeton Elementary School Superintendent Tim Smith asks for more time to get things in place before making a final recommendation about what to do with district school buildings next fall. The administrative team presents a preliminary recommendation as follows: Douglas would house the Bright Beginnings/Early Beginnings program and kindergarten; Jefferson would have first and second grades; Lincoln would house third and fourth grades; and Logan Junior High School would have fifth through eighth grades, with the fifth-graders staying in self-contained classrooms located primarily in Logan West.

Oct. 5: The federal government shutdown closes a Princeton office building, while the local health department continues with business as usual. Justina Boggio, executive director of the Bureau County Farm Service Agency, confirms all 21 employees in Bureau County's USDA office building are on furlough, or unpaid leave, due to the federal government shutdown. Hector Gomez, assistant administrator of the Bureau/Putnam County Health Department, says the health department has had several calls from area residents asking if the health department is open for business since the federal shutdown. As of now, things are going on as normal at the health department, he says.

Oct. 8: Nearly 30 Bureau County veterans participate in the Quad Cities Honor Flight No. 25 to Washington, D.C. The Honor Flight, which carried 92 veterans, almost never got off the ground. Takeoff was delayed for nearly three hours after the plane struck an owl. Also, there were some memorials in Washington closed to the public because of the federal government shutdown. The late flight also meant a visit to the Vietnam Memorial Wall had to be scrubbed. However, the Honor Flight was the first from the area to tour the 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon. Hundreds of family, friends and veteran supporters made a path for veterans to as they arrived back in the Quad Cities.

Oct. 10: Tom Swierczewski, a representative from Geronimo Energy — the new owner of Walnut Ridge wind farm — speaks to the Bureau County Board about new prospects at Walnut Ridge. Geronimo Energy, which is based in Edina, Minn., sees a lot of value in Walnut Ridge, Swierczewski says. There has been a lot of behind-the-scenes work, he says. The company hopes to have the project construction ready for 2015, but if not for 2016, Swierczewski says.

Oct. 12: The Princeton City Council approves the first reading of an ordinance to refinance five bond issues totaling approximately $6.5 million. Refinancing the bonds will reduce interest costs and potentially save the city about $341,000. Mayor Keith Cain says he is satisfied with the recommendation. The amount to be saved is a pretty good chunk of change, the mayor says. The council is expected to officially authorize the ordinance after they approve its second reading at the Oct. 21 regular council meeting.

Oct. 15: Heading into Week 3 of the government shutdown, the effects continue to trickle down and put a strain on local food pantries. Mary Lanham of the Western Bureau County Food Pantry confirms she is seeing a decrease in the amount of food coming in from the River Bend Foodbank of Moline. While the food pantry normally has the option to choose from a list of about 20 to 25 items at the cost of 18 cents per pound, the list of items has decreased to about six items, she says. Vanessa Hoffeditz of Tri-County Opportunities Council Food Pantry in Princeton, has also seen a reduction of food coming from the River Bend Foodbank. Usually she is able to receive anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 wholesale value of food at no cost. In October, that amount was decreased to $600, Hoffeditz says.

Oct. 17: The Buda Village Board announces a new ordinance regarding ATV, UTV and golf cart usage on village streets, effective Nov. 1, 2013. The ordinance will regulate such vehicles within village roads to ensure the safety of residents. Those who drive such vehicles will be required to obtain a yearly permit from the village police chief. The ordinance does not pertain to roads outside the village limits. The ordinance will apply to village and non-village operators of such vehicles.

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