Friday, February 20, 2015

Water District Meeting Change

Please note that the water district has changed their regularly scheduled meeting. New date and time:

Tuesday, March 3
6:30 PM
Hennepin Public Water District Administrative Building

Thank you!


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Senator Sees Lots of Interest in Vast Steel Site

The Illinois Valley’s state senator reported today there has been a “steady stream” of businesses looking at the former LTV Steel plant — and the stream should continue once an online auction is completed Thursday.

State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said today that interest is surging in the former steel plant. The property, she said, has drawn considerable interest, and she expressed hope that development will surge once new owner IPS Steel completes auctioning old spare parts, excess tools and other miscellaneous items that will help further the demolition of buildings that have been deemed unusable or inefficient.

“What they are hoping for is to make an industrial complex of a sort,” said Hennepin Mayor Kevin Coleman. “After the buildings are taken down, smaller industry can use the base to build.  There is a tremendous concrete base. All of the utilities will remain.  I know this is a multi-phase process.”

In a press release, Marci Duro of Illinois Valley Area Chamber of Commerce told of the possible continuation of the current rail line to the river, as well as the possible purchase by IPS Steel of an onsite locomotive.

The facility currently has rail service and access to the Illinois River, as well as Interstate 180, with interstates 80 and 39 in close proximity.

“Any future investor or company would be lucky to find three of these assets in one location,” Rezin said. “What I am most proud of is our local workforce. Our people in and around Hennepin work hard, are incredibly knowledgeable, and are very excited about making the old steel site a huge asset to the area again.”

While no industry or business has been officially announced, the site should be ready for immediate development in the coming months.

Source: News Tribune


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

New Group Says it Can Do Better at Attracting Jobs

Representatives for a new economic development group approached the La Salle City Council Tuesday, saying its plan was to focus more intensely than the Illinois Valley Area Chamber of Commerce on marketing the tri-county area for business.

Hennepin Mayor Kevin Coleman and Princeton city manager Jeff Clawson introduced their emerging coalition, informally called the Economic Development Corp. of North Central Illinois.

“I’m here not to talk you into joining something — I’m here to make sure you have the facts,” Clawson said, explaining that the group was not in any competition with IVAC but was differentiating itself to make attracting businesses to La Salle, Bureau and Putnam counties its priority.

The real competition, Clawson said, was with other economic hubs around the state such as Joliet, Rockford and the Quad Cities.

“We’re looking forward to hearing more from this group,” La Salle Mayor Jeff Grove said.

Clawson described the vision for the board of 13-15 people, with six from the public sector and the remainder from the private sector. The six from the public sector would include three from La Salle County, two from Bureau County and one from Putnam County, recognizing population differences. Private-sector members would be asked to invest $25,000 for their seat on the board.

The group would have a $400,000 annual budget, much of which would go toward paying for three staff positions. These would include an executive director, an assistant director and a secretary, with office space at Illinois Valley Community College.

“The focus of the director will be to market this region,” Clawson said.

Clawson cautioned that the details were subject to change and that he hoped to have them finalized by the end of March.

“This is going to be an open, competitive process,” Clawson said, adding that anyone would be welcome to apply for the staff positions.

He also said the group needed “to talk about the shortcomings we’ve had in the area of economic development.”

Grove said any alliance between the city and the group would be inconsequential to city economic development director Don Aleksy: “By no means does this affect Don at all.”

Source: News Tribune


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Legos: They're Not Just for Kids

Image courtesy of the Putnam County Record
Adrienne Shore, Marilyn Calbow and Paula Taylor look over a Lego diorama that Taylor put together. Taylor received a gift of a Lego set for Christmas, 2013, and she’s had the bug ever since.

Since then, she has completed several projects, including a 30-inch tall R2-D2 with working parts and an old-time movie theater. The model in the photo has several shops including a French restaurant with plates and dishes.

Taylor’s Lego pieces are on display at the Hennepin branch of the Putnam County Library.

Source: Putnam County Record


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Ex-Hennepin Army Wife Named Top Spouse at Fort Hood

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
A St. Bede Academy graduate who grew up in Hennepin again earned recognition as a military spouse.

Last month, Theresa (Irizarry) Johnson, married to Army Command Sgt. Maj. Leon Johnson, was declared the winning Army spouse of Fort Hood, Texas, where her husband is stationed. She went on to compete against other Army spouses in the nationwide Military Spouse of the Year contest. The winners from each branch of the military eventually will face off to be the nation’s No. 1 military spouse.

Johnson was a finalist for the top Army spouse last year, earning recognition for the Remembrance Run events she organized, in which boots tagged with photos of fallen service members from all branches of the military were set up along a course for runners and walkers to remember.

Edged out
However, she was not named in the top 18 last Friday in the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year competition. Three other Army wives advanced in the competition — and that’s no slight to Johnson’s accomplishments and ongoing efforts.

The Army wives advancing in the competition included Rachel O’Hern, who has been featured on BBC for her expertise in the field of providing support for wounded service members; Fort Gordon chaplain’s wife Corie Weathers, a therapist and licensed counselor who has dealt with four deployments and who, along with her husband, has led more than 35 Strong Bonds retreats for couples and spouses of deployed soldiers; and Melissa Gomez, whose husband has been deployed five times and who has been relocated four times, who is a lead singer in the Military Spouses Choir and cited as a problem in the military, “a lack of focus on equipping spouses to be able to detect, address and cope with operational stress that may affect the service member.”

Carrying on for wounded soldiers, families
Johnson will continue her Remembrance Run efforts.

“It was just kind of a unique way to raise awareness,” Johnson said, adding that she wasn’t in the contest merely for the recognition but also because she wanted to promote Fisher House, a lodging program for family members visiting injured service members in the hospital.

“Your home becomes your military community,” Johnson said. “Whenever something happens, your biological family doesn’t really have a place to stay, so when they come in to help you, you can stay there.”

Johnson is the manager at the Fisher House at Fort Hood. She also was a recipient of the program’s services in 2013, when her son, Blake, was injured in a car accident while stationed in Germany. She stayed for three months at the Fisher House near Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to see him.

“Fisher House is very personal to me, because if it wasn’t for them, I would not have been able be with my son the way I was,” she said.

The other reason she organized the Remembrance Run was to provide a space for family and friends of fallen service members to deal with their losses.

“That was their opportunity to kind of close the gap,” Johnson said. “They don’t necessarily have the right opportunity to process the loss of their battle buddies, because they have to stay in the fight and stay focused.”

Expanding her efforts
A loss close to her was the death of family friend Pfc. Timothy Vimoto, who was killed in action in 2007. Now, Johnson is looking forward to seeing her Remembrance Run spread in May to Fort Bragg, N.C., where Vimoto’s family is.

After beginning the event in Hawaii, where she originally was stationed, Johnson has seen the run at Fort Hood and Fort Campbell, Ky. Plans are in the works to hold more runs at Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Liss, Texas and Fort Riley, Kan., she said.

Fellow St. Bede graduate Brenda Rick Smith lost touch with Johnson after high school but later reconnected through Facebook.

“I see these pictures popping up on Facebook of all these boots, and I wondered what was going on,” said Smith, a Tonica native now in Louisville, Ky. “Everything I’ve seen from her has been so uplifting and encouraging … She’s so passionate about what she does; I think she’s a great resource for the military community.”

Before Friday, Smith thought Johnson had a chance to be named No. 1 Army spouse, or even Military Spouse of the Year.

“I think she does have a good chance, simply because her influence has spread,” Smith said in January. “She’s now spread this run around the country, so that has a huge impact.”

Whether Johnson wins the contest or not she is focused on the missions of Fisher House and the Remembrance Runs.

“It’s not about how awesome I am as a spouse, but it’s about what we did. The contest for me is about showing that one person can have a dream and act on it, and if you share it, it can be life-changing for many people. It’s brought thousands of people together.”

Source: News Tribune


With Fuel Prices at Their Lowest in Years, Will There be a Backlash?

According to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. It’s commonly applied to situations outside of the realm of physics incorrectly, but we still ponder cause and effect. Currently, prices for oil and gasoline are at the lowest they’ve been in years. The question is ... is someone suffering because of that now, and will we see a backlash in the future?

While one might think the drop in gas prices would negatively impact ethanol production, Mark Marquis of Marquis Energy in Hennepin said that’s not the case.

“Gas and ethanol prices aren’t directly tied together,” Marquis said. “Gasoline isn’t involved in ethanol production, and the prices don’t really have an impact. Right now corn prices are down. Natural gas prices are down. Those are two things we use to produce ethanol, so that price drop really helps. Right now, we’re at a record high production.”

Some ethanol producers and economists have bemoaned the impact of cheaper gas on ethanol production; Marquis doesn’t see it that way.

“Each year at this time, it’s a slowdown because people drive less in the winter months,” Marquis said. “That’s normal. During the winter, we’re producing too much for demand, and we have tighter margins. During the summer, we aren’t meeting demand, and we have higher margins.”

However, other sections of the country are feeling the cheap oil pinch. Perhaps chief among them is North Dakota. Since the 2006 discovery of the Parshall Oil Field, North Dakota has become a new land of opportunity. Unemployment is the lowest in the country, and the government reported a budget surplus of $1 billion in 2013. That’s probably going to change for 2015.

According to a Tuesday, Jan. 27 report from the Public Broadcasting System NewsHour, many of the oil companies have cut back drilling operations. While oil companies normally cut back on drilling during the winter, Emily Guerin of Inside Energy noted many oil companies are planning much less drilling for the upcoming year.

The oil drilling slowdown is also affecting companies that service the oil boom. Companies that service drilling equipment and transportation companies are also feeling the grip as the glut for which they increased their services starts to become a pinch.

The current situation came from several factors, some of which could not be seen coming. Failing economies in many of oil’s biggest consuming countries coupled with improvements in technology have created large cuts in demand. New methods of extracting oil, especially fracking, has increased oil production in the United States and Canada, cutting demand further.

Finally at the November meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Saudi Arabia announced it would not surrender its market share. Instead of decreasing production to stabilize oil prices, Saudi Arabia continued producing at its previous rate, causing prices to plummet.

While the low gas prices are good for consumers in the United States and Japan, countries that depend heavily on income for their oil production are suffering under the current climate. Venezuela has approximately 20 percent of the world’s oil reserves and furnishes 40 percent of America’s oil needs. With prices in freefall and 65 percent of its exports tied up in the oil trade to the United States, Venezuela is experiencing financial problems and accompanying civil unrest.

Bottom line ... the final result of the current oil glut is difficult to forecast.

Source: Putnam County Record


Learn About the Great Emancipator in Hennepin

Image courtesy of the Putnam County Record
Putnam County residents who have a strong love of music or history will want to attend “The Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln” presentation at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12, at the Hennepin Library. The program by Mike Anderson will be a presentation of period music and stories from Lincoln’s times throughout the Civil War.

“I’ve been playing folk music for 40 years. When the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum opened up, I started playing there. I play mountain dulcimer, jawharp and other instruments there,” Anderson said.

Anderson has participated in a lot of craft fairs and re-enactments that have hit this particular time period and has learned a lot over the years.

“The program that I will be doing will be based on the instruments that the soldiers of the Civil War played. Lincoln, of course, will be a part of it, but some of the focus is on the portable instruments the soldiers played,” he said. “There was a lot of music written during the Civil War. The soldiers used the music as an escape. They knew that they could go out and die tomorrow. They were doing anything they could to not think about this.”

Anderson has been giving this presentation for about 10 years. He has worked at the Lincoln museum in Springfield throughout the years and has learned from his experiences there.

“When it (the museum) opened up, I was teaching mountain dulcimer. A group of kids that I organized called the Mountain Dulcimer Kids performed at the opening,” he said.

Anderson has led the New Salem Storytelling Festival and the Clayville Music and Storytelling Festival. He worked to build them up into national events. He has also appeared at the National Mountain Music Festival and holds a position at the Mountain Dulcimer Workshop at Appalachian State University.

“The Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln” is the 11th program in the 2014-15 Putnam County Public Library District humanities program series, “Traces and Byways Discovered.”

Source: Putnam County Record


Helping Low-Income Students, One Bag at a Time

Image courtesy of the Putnam County Record
The free and reduced school lunch program ensures students from low income families can receive nutritious meals each day at school. But what happens to those students during the weekend?

Putnam County Backpack Ministries is a volunteer organization now in its sixth year in Putnam County, which provides weekend packed lunches for school-age students that are eligible for free or reduced lunches.

When the program started, it provided 23 meals. Presently, the ministry packs and delivers 77 lunches per week. Each Friday, lunches are distributed by the staff at the Putnam County Primary, Elementary and Junior High schools. The confidentiality of the students is maintained by the school system.

The Backpack Ministries was started locally under the guidance of Pastor Carol Stufflebeam with the help of several area churches. The program is assisted with food from the Midwest Food Bank and local food and monetary donations. The program is run entirely by volunteers. Without the donations of time, food and money, many area children would go without weekend meals due to lack of food in their homes.

The ministries program is contemplating continuing the program during the summer, but much of the question hinges on funding and logistics. The program was offered last year, but was unsuccessful in reaching the families throughout the summer.

Volunteers are always needed to help shop, pack and distribute food and food and monetary donations are always appreciated.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Gloria Bouxsein at 815-925-7195 or Janee Leatherman at 815-878-0001.

Foods needed to make meals for Backpack Ministries include:

• Cans of soup.

• Microwavable cups of soup.

• Small cans of tuna or chicken.

• Cans of pasta like Ravioli or SpaghettiOs.

• Cups of applesauce, pudding, fruit or gelatin.

• Small boxes of raisins.

• Poptarts or breakfast bars.

• Instant oatmeal.

• Small individual boxes of cereal.

• Plastic jars of peanut butter or jelly.

• Crackers with cheese.

• Crackers with peanut butter.

Source: Putnam County Record