Tuesday, November 5, 2019

$100,000 Nature Project Planned Near Hennepin by Wetlands Group

Image credit: Putnam County Record
More trails, birdwatching platform, natural restoration envisioned

Volunteers and scientists have spent 18 years building trails and restoring wetlands, lakes and prairie throughout a more than 3,000-acre nature area south of Hennepin.

But they have not done much work at the northeast corner of the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge.

That’s about to change, as The Wetlands Initiative received an $18,045 wildlife habitat grant from Illinois Department of Natural Resources for restoration of the 42-acre Violet Meadow south of Coffee Creek.

“It’s an area where we had never really done any intensive restoration,” Vera Leopold, grants manager for The Wetlands Initiative, said. Chicago-based TWI is a private entity but keeps the nature area open to the public.

Starting in 2001, TWI turned off pumps that had been used by farmers to drain a natural Illinois River backwater area, and then clean water came in to create Hennepin-Hopper Lakes within the former drainage district’s levees.

Violet Meadow parallels Route 26 near the north levee, near a roadway that leads to the existing Oak Ridge Trail.

TWI will provide more than $92,000 in matching funds for the initial project in the Violet Meadow area as well as a total of 195 acres including seeding, planting native prairie plugs, disconnecting tile and drainage lines and prescribed burns for restoration of mesic prairie, according to the DNR.

Leopold said the work initially will focus on management of aggressive cattails and removal of invasive honeysuckle, both of which “are really starting to dominate that area.”

Leopold said they named the area Violet Meadow because four types of native violets grow in one of the “seep” areas within the 42 acres, and TWI plans to introduce one other native violet.

TWI plans to create a trail loop southeast to the violet meadow, and eventually plans to install a platform for birdwatchers. The acreage also includes wetlands, woodlands and sedge meadow.

“Our goal is to get a portion of trail done in the next two years,” Leopold said.

What’s been happening lately?

Local site manager Rick Seibert said until recently, he had not heard much about the next project, but nature lovers should like the addition.

He said the southern part of Hennepin-Hopper Lakes, near the boat ramp, has attracted a lot of birdwatchers lately.

In addition to all kinds of ducks dropping in, birders have been showing up this fall to see a bird that they want to add to their lists of birds they’ve seen in their lives, the glossy ibis.

The bird’s range has been spreading from the southeast, but they were rare here.

Source: Putnam County Record


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Hennepin Board Talks Demolition Status for Blighted Properties

It was a night occupied by legal considerations at Wednesday’s Hennepin Village Board meeting.

Village attorney Sheryl Churney updated board members regarding the demolition status of the abandoned house at 511 E. Sycamore St.

She stated that a notice that the property is subject to demolition has been placed in the newspaper Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Also, notices have been mailed to the property owner, of which one has been served. Additionally, the notice has been filed with the county clerk’s office for recording as required by statute, and a sign will be posted on the house on Thursday.

Churney explained that if the property owner disputes the village’s notice to demolish, he has 30 days to file an action against the village to try to stop it. If he does not, the village has 120 days thereafter to demolish the structures at this location.

The process “is moving forward rapidly”, she said. Consequently, Churney recommended that the board get a couple of estimates for the demolition and removal of the structures at the property for consideration at their next meeting.

“That work should be well under $25,000, so you don’t need to go through formal bid solicitations to get those options,” she said.

Churney also highlighted concerns about another neglected property in the village located at 228 E. High St.

In view of the condition of the house, with gaping holes in the foundation, Churney expressed her view that this property should be a subject of a demolition proceeding.

“With the direction of the council, I’d like to go ahead and order the title work on that, so we can send out the appropriate notices and get that moving along because that is a hazard,” she said.

After much discussion, the board authorized Churney to draft a letter to the individual known to possess personal interest in the property, along with its current owner, outlining specific actions and improvements necessary to forestall the ultimate demolition of the house.

Also, Churney has been authorized to order the title work that she recommended pursuing.

On another front, trustee Lynn Haage questioned various price increases passed on by Republic Services for curbside trash removal, which seem inconsistent with the contract the village possesses.

In view of this, with authorization from the board, Churney will send a letter regarding these matters to Republic.

Source: News Tribune


Monday, September 23, 2019

Hennepin Looks to Buy a Street Sweeper Rather Than Paying for Service

Hennepin mayor Kevin Coleman this month proposed the village purchase its own street sweeper. For what the village pays for street sweeping services, the purchase of a sweeper would pay for itself within three to four years, he said.

Board members will inspect a used 1996 GMC street sweeper with 27,000 miles and 1,100 hours of use. If purchased, the village would be the third owner of the equipment that features a stainless steel water tank. The board approved the potential purchase, pending inspection, which is not to exceed $14,800.

Members said the village owning its own sweeper also would allow for spot cleaning as needed.

Source: News Tribune


Sunday, September 22, 2019

Antique Car Club Plans Hennepin Visit

Members of the Illinois Valley Antique Auto Club of Peoria will visit Hennepin on September 28.

They're expected to arrrive at approximately 10AM and will be touring the courthouse, the Pulsifer House, and other historical attractions.


Saturday, September 21, 2019

Hennepin Takes no Action on Cannabis Sales

Image credit: News Tribune
Board discusses unsafe pools, bridge for hikers

Hennepin Village Board members decided during their Wednesday meeting that their community of roughly 750 residents is too small for a cannabis dispensary to be a viable business.

“We can’t even get a gas station, so I don’t see how we’d get a dispensary. I don’t think we could expect them to be able to make enough sales here every day to survive,” Mayor Kevin Coleman said.

Legalization of recreational cannabis in Illinois takes place Jan. 1.

The board members needed to take no action since they’re not going to pursue the addition of a dispensary to their roster of local businesses. If they had, the board would have needed to establish a municipal taxation ordinance by Sept. 30 to receive tax revenue from sales of the newly legal product.

However, village attorney Sheryl Churney did advise the board to review and possibly amend its zoning and other ordinances to address issues related to cannabis use and paraphernalia.

Pool safety

The board is concerned about and discussed the number of pools seen in the village without safety fences. No action was taken, but the issue will continue to be discussed at future meetings, and ordinance violations may be issued to residents not in compliance.

Wetlands footbridge project

Churney reported the easement paperwork has been finalized with KCK Marine and that the project to install a footbridge over Coffee Creek and into the trail system of the wetlands refuge is now able to move forward.

Coleman said he would be scheduling a meeting with the attorneys for The Wetlands Initiative in preparation for the construction of the bridge.

Village engineer

Village engineer Bill Shafer recommended next year’s street projects include the repair of the edges along Morine Drive. The crumbling areas will be ground and overlaid with new asphalt.

Shafer also said the riverfront stair project was set to soon begin.

The fountain in Hazel Marie Boyle Park will remain shut down until the float can be repaired next spring.

Board amends firearms ordinance, redefines boundaries

Hennepin Village Board this week approved an amendment that expands upon the prohibition of the use of weapons within the village boundaries.

It is unlawful to discharge any handgun, shotgun, rifle or other firearm, as well as crossbows or bows and arrows within the municipal limits.

The village limits are defined as being west of Route 26, south of Old State Highway 26, and north of Coffee Creek.

It’s also unlawful within the village limits to discharge any weapon or instrument of any kind that is operated by means of compressed air or any compressed gas, or by metal, wooden or rubber spring action, including, but not limited to, crossbows and bows and arrows.

Source: News Tribune


Thursday, September 5, 2019

Hennepin Vocational Trade Grant Notice


The Hennepin Village Grant and Scholarship Committee would like everyone to know that the deadline for the Hennepin Vocational-Trade Grant has been extended to September 15th.

There are two grants still available. Examples of Vocational or Trade programs are, but not limited to: Cosmetology, Nursing, Horticulture, Early Child Development, Truck Driving, Welding, Electrician, Plumber, Dental Hygienist, Computer Technician, etc.

Please check out the Scholarships & Grants page for guidelines and applications. You may also email villageclerk@mchsi.com or call the Village Hall at 815-925-7138 for more information.


Saturday, August 24, 2019

Power Plant Site Could Be Redeveloped, But Coal-Burning Will End in 2019

Image credit: News Tribune
What’s next for coal-fired plant site, workers?

Coal appears to have no future in Hennepin.

Village, county and state leaders, along with displaced-worker assistance representatives, met Friday with the community relations team of Vistra Energy to learn more about company aims and plans in the retiring of the coal-fueled Hennepin power plant.

Caroline Atkins, manager of corporate affairs, and Brad Watson, senior director of community affairs for Vistra, outlined the background to the decision to close the plant and provided information as to the next steps.

Watson anticipates the plant being retired by the end of this calendar year.

Atkins emphasized Vistra’s present focus is the safe operation and decommissioning of the plant and assistance to company employees, considering the necessary transition they face.

She said they have retained the services of the outplacement firm of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. of Chicago to assist employees affected by the shutdown in finding jobs elsewhere. Watson said this will not be a group approach, but individualized guidance for each employee who wishes to take advantage of this service.

Furthermore, he said Vistra itself will assist employees with skill assessment, resume writing and developing interview skills; and for emerging entrepreneurs, the company will offer itself as a resource in the key elements of launching a business such as how to write a business plan. For the employee who decides to retire, they will assist them with that process also.

Additionally, Watson pointed out that Vistra is seeking to coordinate employee services with regional and local agencies, including Illinois WorkNet Center and BEST, Inc.

Regarding the plant itself, Atkins indicated that after the plant has been satisfactorily decommissioned, the company can look at what can be re-purposed, what remains as scrap, and how to best use the land — whether to sell or redevelop the site.

Though the decision to close the plant as a coal-fueled operation is final, Watson indicated that it is Vistra’s preference to redevelop the site as a solar and battery operation — which is doable at the Hennepin location. However, he said that could not happen without favorable action on the part of the state legislature on the Coal to Solar & Energy Storage Act of 2019. Without this, it would not be financially feasible for Vistra to make this investment.

Apart from this prospect, Vistra would consider whether the option existed for someone else to redevelop the sight — possibly selling the site to a liability transfer entity, thereby removing the asset from the company balance sheet.

Watson estimates an 80% reduction in tax liability once the plant has been retired.

According to Tamara Mehalic, Putnam County Supervisor of Assessments, Vistra’s 2018 tax bill for the plant and the immediate grounds upon which it rests totaled nearly $250,000.

Source: News Tribune


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Hennepin Board Hears Concern About Deer Eating Produce

Hennepin Village Board got a refresher on varmints and gun laws Wednesday.

Illinois Conservation Police officer Robert “Leo” Finn met with the Hennepin Village Board at the invitation of trustee Lynne Haage, and provided information about dealing with invasive wildlife, hunting and discharging a weapon for conservation purposes within the village.

This presentation came in response to an individual who is growing produce on farmland within the village who approached Finn, seeking remedy and relief due to the damage deer are causing to some of the crops.

Based on Finn’s information and recommendations, village attorney Sheryl Churney will take steps to review and revise relevant village ordinances as appropriate.

On another matter, Churney indicated that an opportunity may present itself soon to speak with the owner of the abandoned house at 511 E. Sycamore St., to yet seek a favorable resolution to the property’s neglect, before moving to its demolition.

Either way, she is ready to act and will update the board regarding this at its next meeting.

Village engineer Bill Shafer said work on the riverfront steps will begin soon — first across from the grocery store, then at the boat launch, followed by those at the riverfront park.

Source: News Tribune