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Looking back on 2013

Editor’s note: This is the final segment in a series looking back on the headlines of 2013.

Dec. 3: The Spring Valley City Council is working on a plan for the Safe Routes to School Program, which the city became a part of about three years ago. Mayor Walt Marini is working with city engineer Larry Good in the planning of the routes and incorporating studies completed on traffic patterns throughout the city that help determine the safest route. The city’s current plan is estimated to cost around $500,000, which will be covered entirely by the Illinois Department of Transportation. The cost includes the price of sidewalks and a traffic signal light. While the planning is an ongoing process, the routes will not be installed until two years down the road, according to Marini.

Dec. 5: After nearly 50 years in business in Princeton, the Browning car dealerships have been sold to the Prescott Brothers car dealership, based in Mendota and Rochelle.
Tim Browning, owner of the Browning dealerships, made the announcement, saying the decision to sell the longtime family business was not an easy one, but Prescott Brothers is a perfect fit as the new owner.

Dec. 7: Area educators are not happy with the pension reform bill passed this week by the Illinois General Assembly. Gov. Pat Quinn says the new legislation will erase a $100 billion liability and restore fiscal stability to Illinois. The new plan reduces annual cost-of-living increases for retirees, raises the retirement age for workers 45 and under, and imposes a limit on pensions for the highest-paid workers. However, the Illinois Retired Teachers Association announces it will file suit to block enactment of the pension legislation. Phyllis Fasking, who serves as president of the Bureau County Retired Teachers Association, says the pensions are constitutionally protected, and she hopes the Supreme Court judges decide in their favor.

Dec. 10: Alex Arauza of Princeton announced his candidacy for Bureau County Sheriff.
Arauza began his career in law enforcement as a part-time officer for the village of Buda before joining the Princeton Police Department. Arauza says he is the candidate that will give people of Bureau County a role model, which will inspire them to lead honest and honorable lives, thus reducing crime in the county

Dec. 12: The Wyanet Village Board votes unanimously to approve the 2014 tax levy which includes a 4.99 percent increase over last year. The board also discusses the new dump truck with a snowplow which was purchased last month. The board approved several new items for the truck including a back-up camera, snowplow lights and lettering on the side that says “Village of Wyanet”.

Dec. 14: Shortly following the news of Cherry School Board finding an alternative way to close the grade school and send students to Dimmick Consolidated School District, the Ladd Community Consolidated School Board extends an offer to Cherry to enter into an intergovernmental agreement to educate any or all Cherry students who wish to attend Ladd. Ladd School Superintendent Michelle Zeko says the offer is a way for Ladd to make sure Cherry knows the school district is willing to help if need be. If there are Cherry students who want to come to Ladd, we welcome those students to Ladd, she said.

Dec. 17: The DePue Village Board passes a resolution authorizing village President Eric Bryant to enter a $975,000 settlement agreement with Exxon Mobil Corporation and CBS Operations — the “responsible parties” in the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency cleanup of DePue’s Superfund site. In the settlement agreement released by the village, it states, “the village agrees to take no further action to prosecute the underlying litigation and the pending appeal in (the appellate case).”

Dec. 19: The Walnut Village Board hears from Matt Hansen, engineer from Willett, Hoffman & Associates of Dixon, on eight different rate increase proposals relating to the upcoming $2 million sewer plant improvement project. The proposals ranged from a 100 percent fixed rate and 0 percent usage rate to the opposite end, at a 0 percent fixed rate and 100 percent usage driven. Even with an increase in the $18 range for the average customer, Walnut’s rates for water and sewer would remain below the average of many communities in Illinois, Hansen says.

Dec. 21: The DePue School District learns it is responsible for paying back around $80,000 to cover the misappropriated use of funds from the SIG grant, which was terminated by the state board last year. The cost for the district originally stood around $713,000, but after the state reviewed their audit on the SIG grant usage, the amount dropped to around $80,000. DePue Superintendent Randy Otto says the costs come from the district using monies from the grant on iPads for eighth-graders and included junior high teachers getting paid extra day stipends. The grant was meant to only be used on educational purposes in the high school.

Dec. 24: Illinois drivers will need to think twice before pulling out of their driveways next week. Of the more than 200 new laws which will go into effect on Jan. 1 in Illinois, several have to do with motorists, Beginning Jan. 1, motorists will no longer be allowed to talk on handheld cell phones while driving their vehicles. Motorists who smoke while driving and then flick their cigarette butts out the car window can now be fined for littering. The legal speed limit on certain interstates in Illinois will be increased from 65 miles per hour to 70 miles per hour, once the new signs are installed.

Dec. 26: Bureau and LaSalle counties will receive a combined $5.8 million for two bridge replacement projects in the new year, with the bulk of the money going for the Bureau County project. Gov. Pat Quinn makes the announcement, saying the $5.8 million for the local bridge projects is part of the $31 billion Illinois Jobs Now! Capital construction program. In Bureau County, the bridges carrying Interstate 80 over the Hennepin Canal, about one mile west of the Route 40 interchange, will be replaced, at a project cost of $5,233,01.

Dec. 28: DePue can now put a checkmark next to their sirens project, which had been an ongoing deal for years. Mayor Eric Bryant confirms, despite a few minor kinks which are currently being worked out, the sirens are in the ground and have already been through their first testing. Village residents might have even have heard the first tests a few days ago, when the sirens rang out for several minutes. The new sirens are a benefit for the village, as they serve as a protection against disasters, the mayor says.

Dec. 31: The U.S. Postal Service announces it will increase its rate to send first-class mail. Beginning Jan. 26, a first-class envelope will rise from 46 cents to 49 cents. The Postal Regulation Commission says the additional $2.8 billion realized through the rate increase is meant to compensate only for the national recession, not to offset for losses caused by American’s growing use of electronic communications and commercial delivery services.

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