Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Oak Ridge Trail Open at Dixon Refuge

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
The new Marquis Oak Ridge Trail is now open for visitors at the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge at Hennepin & Hopper Lakes.

The 2.7-mile gravel trail is designed for hiking and bicycling and leads from the levee at the north end of the site through prairies and wetlands to the newly-restored Oak Ridge marsh and savanna at the center of the refuge. Six signs tell travelers about habitats, plants, animals and refuge history.

The trail takes visitors through or close to different types of prairie, meadow and marsh, ending with a short loop around Oak Ridge. Hikers or bicyclists who complete the trip can see the restored marsh from a viewing platform, a good spot to see migrating waterfowl. You also might spot gentian, a wildflower, and river otters along the trail.

The Wetlands Initiative has been restoring the 70-acre Oak Ridge area since 2014 through a 3-to-1 match challenge grant offered by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and donations from individual supporters. Final restoration steps this fall will include planting native trees.

A $100,000 grant from Marquis Energy LLC of Hennepin made trail construction possible, with additional funding from Dr. Scholl Foundation, Dynegy Hennepin Power Station, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Illinois Wildlife Preservation Fund, and donors to The Wetlands Initiative.

From Route 26, visitors can access the trail by turning west onto the levee just south of Coffee Creek bridge and parking at the small lot along the levee and following the signs to the trailhead.

Source: News Tribune


Harvest Home, Eric Ciucci Family Tribute Saturday in Hennepin

Saturday, Hennepin's Harvest Home celebration, "Homegrown, a Tribute to our Roots", is combining with the second Annual Eric Ciucci Tribute - A Day to Celebrate Families for a full day of family friendly activities.

Starting with Harvest Home scarecrow judging Friday evening - winners will receive $50 for first and $25 for two runner-up positions - the main event will kick off with the annual parade.

All entries are asked to be at the Hennepin Park District Pool Complex no later than 10:30 a.m. for the themed event.  All organizations, businesses, and politicians are welcome.

Following the parade, from 12-12:30 p.m. will be registration for the Golf Cart Race.  There is a $10 entry fee and only licensed drivers can participate; no four-wheelers will be allowed in the race.

The race will take place at 1 p.m.

From 11:30 a.m. - 6 p.m. refreshments will be available for purchase at the shelter, with the Methodist Church Chicken Dinner beginning at 5:30 p.m.

The dinner will be held at the Methodist Church and is open seating. Tickets can be purchsed at the door. Dinner includes the famous fried chicken, mashed potatoes with skillet gravy, green beans, coleslaw, and a selection of homemade pies.  Carry outs are available.

Also starting at 11:30 and running to 9 p.m. is the beer tent.

Starting at noon - 5 p.m. are the Children's "Brown Bag" auction for ages four - 12, and inflatable bouncy houses.  Winners of the Brown Bag auction will be announced at 5:30 p.m.

From noon - 6 p.m. is the silent auction, open to all ages.

Face painting and children's arts and crafts for ages four - 12 will run from 1 - 4 p.m.

An ice cream eating contest, open to all ages will begin at 2 p.m.

A 50/50 bead game, also open to all ages will begin at 6:30.

Evening activities will culminate with music from Darryl, Hall & Soen Oats performing from 7-9 p.m.

All proceeds from the days events will benefit the Putnam County Educational Foundation.

Source: News Tribune


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Hennepin to Fix Boat Docks

Hennepin will donate $100 to the Peru homeless shelter, fix boat docks instead of replacing as discussed at a previous meeting, and award the Hennepin Vocational Grant to Jordan Hatton, Riley Morris and Katelyn Leitner. Hatton will get the first place grant, with Morris receiving second and Leitner third.

Also Wednesday, the village board heard from village engineer Bill Shafer on a proposed drainage issue on 11th Street, and Shafer also told the board he would be semi-retiring, only working part-time, but would continue to be the head engineer for the village.

After returning from closed session, the board directed village clerk Diana Brandstatter to place an ad to hire a new part-time street department worker, after the resignation of the current part-time employee.

Source: News Tribune


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hanna Hundley Attends Girls State

Image courtesy of the Putnam County Record
Hennepin American Legion Auxiliary Post 1044 selected Hanna Hundley as top candidate to attend this year’s Girls State on the campus at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.

Hundley is pictured with her mother, Melanie Hundley.

Girls State activities were scheduled for the week of June 19-25. Hanna joined the American Legion Auxiliary during its July meeting and summarized the events she experienced while attending Girls State. She is anticipating a return to Girls State as a counselor.

Any Hennepin girl, who is a high school junior, interested in levels of government should complete the Illinois Girls State form offered during the spring school year.

Congratulations, Hanna!

Source: Putnam County Record


Monday, August 8, 2016

Hennepin Starts Planning 2017 Bicentennial

The Village of Hennepin will celebrate its 200th birthday next year and a group of citizens met recently to begin planning a birthday party for the town.

All were invited to the initial meeting, but attending the event were Mayor Kevin Coleman, village board members Quentin Buffington, Matt Dean and Karyn Christiansen, Putnam County Historical Society representative Sidney Whitaker, town residents Jim Gibson, Tom Dore and Jay McCracken, and Marquis Inc. representative Dana Gustafson.

The tentative days for the birthday party will be Saturday-Tuesday, July 1-4, 2017. Each day will have varying degrees of entertainment and activities planned.

Taking Gustafson’s idea to theme each day of the celebration, the tentative birthday activities as follows:
Saturday: A Day for Residents, Past and Present. The village will host a hog roast and corn boil for people who live or lived in the village to come back and honor their roots and celebrate the village’s birthday. The town also will unveil the Village Hall of Fame, a list of noteworthy deceased residents. Saturday also will see the beginning of the historical walks, the village movie on loop, kid’s activities, a DJ, and a possible “Hennepin’s Got Talent” contest.
Sunday: Blues and BBQ’s. Dean will host a rib cook-off while the smooth sounds of blues music fill the streets. Everyone is welcome to come to the village to help wish Hennepin a happy 200th  while enjoying vendors, viewing historical farming tools, continued historical walks, kids games, enjoying food vendors, beer gardens, stage coach and wagon rides, and visiting the historic Pulsifer House.
Monday: A Day for Kids. Afternoon and evening activities include kids games and a movie at dusk.
Tuesday: Happy Fourth of July. This day will be all that Hennepin is known for, bags, beer gardens, bands, and spectacular fireworks.

How are they going to pay for it?
Celebrations like this can run in the tens of thousands of dollars, if not more, and when fireworks get involved, you can be looking upward of six figures. The plan, said Coleman, is to ask for donations from local businesses.
“We’re going to have to solicit the big companies around us,” Coleman said. “It’s our 200th year.”

Source: News Tribune


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hennepin Board Reluctantly Comes Down on Property Owner

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
To condemn or not to condemn, that is the question in Hennepin. 

Or actually, can they condemn, how do they condemn, and should they condemn if they even can condemn houses that violate town property ordinances.

“I’m not real big for this, but I’m going to talk about condemning a house. I have no idea how it goes, what the process is to do it, whosE authority it is to do that,” said property maintenance officer Josh Randall. “There is a residence in Hennepin that is not inhabited, hasn’t been inhabited for at least five years. I’m told the pipes are broken and the house is moldy.”

Randall said that while he wasn’t for the government coming in to take someone’s property, he wanted the board to look to the future on how to deal with the possibility of condemning the property, if the issues, both inside and outside, aren’t rectified.

“It doesn’t need an answer,” Randall said, referring to Wednesday night, “but it’s just something to look at in the future as we get more structures, just so we have more direction. I don’t want to bring in a bulldozer and run anyone’s house over. I’d like this property maintenance thing to get to me coming in here because somebody didn’t mow their lawn.”

Randall was told by Mayor Kevin Coleman to start by issuing a citation to the property in question for the outside property maintenance issues until they are all brought up to code.

Source: News Tribune


Family Search Helps PC Natives Find Family From 1800s

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
Searching for family members from the mid-1800s and early 1900s is getting increasingly easier in Putnam County, thanks to the efforts of Rusty and Cindy Stimmel.

The Stimmels, who originally called California home, were in Putnam County for about 20 weeks digitizing old court records. They previously spent time in Cook County on a similar job, waiting for the Putnam County project to open up.

Rusty said Cook County will be a multi-year, multi-person process.

Along with the Stimmels, volunteer Sidney Whitaker from Putnam County Historical Society has been taking the journey through Putnam County’s history, making digital copies of old probate, immigration, and guardianships records.

“I found a person who had died in the Cherry Mine disaster,” Cindy said. “Sid found some stuff his grandfather had done he didn’t know about.”

But, the Stimmels aren’t just digitizing the records for fun.

They are on a volunteer mission for Family Search, a nonprofit organization sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that has the world’s largest collection of family history and genealogy resources online.

In Putnam County, Rusty said some of the more interesting things he found involved the guardianship records of a Virginia Wolf.

“She wasn’t even a toddler when her parents died,” Rusty said. “So there is a guardianship on her that was about 15,000 images. You could see her life in there. Whoever her descendants are, it will be a treasure trove for them.”

When the images are all copied and cataloged, interested parties will be able to eventually search them online on But Rusty and Cindy say that will take some time.

“They go to a quality assurance group. Then it goes to intake. In intake they put it into their server. Then there are people that parse it to index it,” Rusty said, before explaining how the indexed images are put into databases. “A third person looks at both the inputs and says this one’s right or that one’s right or they’re both the same. Then from there, it will eventually get on the website so it can be searched.”

The Stimmels have been sending images from Putnam County weekly since beginning the project in February. This month, nothing had made it to the website yet, or even gone out for indexing.

The quicker way to search will be to visit the courthouse and look on the copy given to the circuit clerk after it is approved by Family Search. Also, copies of the scanned documents will be available at the historical society.

“It will be much easier than trying to look at the records and trying to make copies of them. These are somewhat fragile,” Rusty said.

The records have given the volunteers insight into the changing practices of the judicial system.

“It’s been fascinating to watch the evolution of how the records show how the judicial system metamorphosized into the way it is now,” Cindy said. She said the records become “really legal,” or more formal, by the 1920s.

Next, the Stimmels head to catalog records in Stark County before starting their retirement by visiting their children in California, Rusty’s mother in Hawaii, and then traveling in their motor home to fly fish in all 50 states.

Source: News Tribune


Friday, July 15, 2016

IV Unemployment Rate Reaching Pre-Recession Levels

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
The Illinois Valley unemployment rate is reaching pre-recession levels, but it’s not because there are more jobs in the area.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is at 6.5 percent for the tri-county area, one of the lowest totals in the past five years.

A shrinking labor force has resulted in the decline of the unemployment rate, as the number of jobs in the area has stayed relatively flat. The labor force dropped from a peak of about 86,000 potential workers in 2010 to 77,000 currently. During that same span the number of jobs went from 76,000 to 73,000.

But what impact does that have on the work force in the Illinois Valley?

Still hunting for jobs skills
While the labor force might be shrinking, the number of people looking to gain work skills has not. Pam Furlan, executive director with the Business Employment Skills Team, said BEST has had as many clients as ever.

“I’m not sure we’ve seen a decline. I think we’ve seen an increase in the number of people that are looking for training,” she said. “In that sense I think we might be working against the trend.”

More people underemployed?
The Illinois Valley typically has average wages lower than the national average. With a lower cost of living in the area compared to an urban setting, people do not need to make as much money.

However, the result might mean some are settling for positions and underutilizing their job training.

“Though the unemployment rate is lower, we feel a lot of people in the area might be underemployed. They’re taking jobs they might be overqualified for so they can make ends meet,” said Jennifer Scheri with the Business and Training Center at Illinois Valley Community College. “Because of that we feel that the unemployment number is deceiving, unfortunately.”

Need For manufacturing
At American Nickeloid in Peru, a majority of employees were near retirement age, according to a recent NewsTribune story. That trend is not uncommon across the area.

“They’re certainly not alone. We hear that all across the region and not just in manufacturing, but in all sectors where age can be a factor,” Furlan said.

And IVCC is aware of this trend. Scheri said local business have reached out to the school to promote more people going into skilled trades.

“We’re getting a lot of requests for training people in manufacturing,” Scheri said. “There is a great shortage of skilled workers in maintenance and electrical. It’s not because of the creation of new jobs but because of the high number of retirees.”

Adam Pacholski, the general manager at Aqua Control Inc. in Spring Valley said the problem might be replacing experience, instead of just replacing workers.

“We can find new people to work, but it’s replacing the 20 years of experience a worker has,” he said.

Different Strokes for Different Folks
Even breaking down the labor force to the three-county area can be problematic because different cities are all doing different things for job creation.

The city of Peru continues to grab the attention of different retail stores, which Peru’s economic development director Bob Vickery said retail sales have toped $600 million in the past 12 months.

“Retail leads the way for us for sure,” he said. “I think Peru is going against the labor force trend in the area and if you controlled it specifically to our area code, you would likely see job creation. What’s good for one is good for all.”

Communities like Utica heavily promote the tourism industry, and the village of Hennepin has a vast space open for industry.

“You really need to look at all sectors. You can’t ignore anything, whether it’s tourism, retail or industry. You have to have a balance,” said Debb Ladgenski, coordinator for the newly formed Economic Development Council of North Central Illinois and Spring Valley economic development director.

Source: News Tribune