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3 Trump accusers speak out, call for congressional probeAP photo Rachel Crooks (left), Jessica Leeds (center) and Samantha Holvey attend a news conference, Monday, in New York to discuss their accusations of sexual misconduct against Donald Trump.

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 06:37:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – Three women who have previously accused President Donald Trump of sexual harassment shared their stories on NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today.”

Jessica Leeds, Samantha Holvey and Rachel Crooks on Monday told of alleged harassment by Trump spanning decades.

The White House called the claims false and “totally disputed in most cases.” It said “the timing and absurdity of these false claims speak volumes.”

One of the accusers, Rachel Crooks, called the White House statement “laughable.”

Crooks said of sexual misconduct: “I think politicians seem to be immune to this.”

Holvey described the pain the women felt after Trump’s victory. “We are private citizens and for us to put ourselves out there, to try to show America who this man is, and especially how he views women, for them to say, ‘Meh, we don’t care,’ it hurt.”

The women, who first shared their stories before the November 2016 election, were holding a news conference later Monday to call for a congressional investigation into Trump’s alleged behavior. They cited the recent revelations of sexual misconduct by prominent men in business, media and politics, for their decision to speak out publicly against Trump once again.

“The environment’s different,” Holvey said. “Let’s try again.”

AP photo Rachel Crooks (left), Jessica Leeds (center) and Samantha Holvey attend a news conference, Monday, in New York to discuss their accusations of sexual misconduct against Donald Trump.


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Bitcoin futures soar amid frenzy over virtual currencyTraders work in a trading pit at the Chicago Board Options Exchange, Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, in Chicago, as they trade futures and options unrelated to bitcoin. Trading in bitcoin futures began Sunday on the CBOE. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 06:36:00 GMT

NEW YORK – Wall Street got its first taste of bitcoin Monday, with the price of the first-ever futures contract for the digital currency jumping 20 percent. It’s a step forward for the bitcoin, which has soared this year despite concerns that the surge of investor interest has transformed it from a new-age currency into just the latest speculative bubble. One prominent securities regulator warned that people were now taking out second mortgages on their homes to buy bitcoin. The January contract for bitcoin futures closed at $18,545 on the CBOE Futures Exchange. Trading began Sunday and the price rose as high as $18,850, according to data from the CBOE. The bitcoin futures first day of trading was not entirely smooth. The CBOE’s website crashed several times or slowed down, because of a surge of interest. The exchange halted trading twice on the first day to stem volatility. The exchange operator has rules in place to stop trading after price swings of 10 percent. The CBOE said at least 20 trading firms “actively participated” in the first day of trading, without giving specifics. Volume of the bitcoin futures was relatively low, trading less than 4,000 contracts compared with the tens of thousands that typically trade for more popular commodities such as oil, gold or wheat, or the hundreds of thousands of contracts for popular stock-based futures such as the S&P 500. The CBOE futures don’t involve actual bitcoin. They allow investors to make bets on the future direction of bitcoin. Monday’s futures price indicates investors expect bitcoin to keep rising in the coming weeks, although at a slower pace than seen recently. The futures price was about 8 percent higher than the price of $17,100 quoted for bitcoin on the large private exchange CoinBase late Monday afternoon. But with the surge of interest has come concerns about the bitcoin market being in a bubble. In an interview on business network CNBC, North American Securities Administrators Association President Joseph Borg said he observed some people taking out mortgages on their house to buy bitcoin. While bitcoin has a vocal group of true believers, it also attracts its fair share of detractors. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has called bitcoin “a fraud.” Thomas Peterffy, chairman of the broker-dealer Interactive Brokers Group, expressed deep concerns about the trading of bitcoin futures last month, saying “there is no fundamental basis for valuation of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and they may assume any price from one day to the next.” But there is some hopes that bringing bitcoin to a public exchange like the CBOE or the Chicago Mercantile Exchange will bring some regulation or legitimacy to the world of cryptocurrencies. “The next immediate things we will see with the futures is more predictable price movement and less volatility,” said Emin Gun Sirer, a professor at Cornell University who studies digital currencies such as bitcoin. There have been other attempts to bring bitcoin investing into the mainstream. Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, twin brothers who own large amounts of bitcoin, tried to create an exchange-traded fund based on bitcoin, but federal regulators denied their application. The Winklevoss twins run Gemini, however, the exchange the CBOE is using to price its bitcoin futures. CBOE’s rival exchange CME will start trading its own futures on Dec. 18 but will use a composite of several bitcoin prices across a handful of exchanges. Traders work in a trading pit at the Chicago Board Options Exchange, Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, in Chicago, as they trade futures and options unrelated to bitcoin. Trading in bitcoin futures began Sunday on the CBOE. (AP[...]


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Pentagon to allow transgender people to enlist in militaryFILE - In this March 27, 2008 file photo, the Pentagon is seen in this aerial view in Washington. A Pentagon official tells The Associated Press that transgender people can enlist in the military beginning Jan. 1, despite President Donald Trump's opposition. The new policy reflects growing legal pressure on the issue. Potential transgender recruits will have to overcome a lengthy and strict set of physical, medical and mental conditions that make it possible, although difficult, for them to join the armed services. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 06:36:00 GMT

WASHINGTON – Transgender recruits will be allowed to enlist in the military beginning Jan. 1, the Pentagon said Monday, as President Donald Trump’s ordered ban suffered another legal setback.

The new policy reflects the difficult hurdles the federal government would have to cross to enforce Trump’s demand earlier this year to bar transgender individuals from the military.

Two federal courts already have ruled against the ban and on Monday a federal court judge denied a government request to set aside the January start date for enlistment.

In October, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly barred the Trump administration from proceeding with its plan to exclude transgender people from military service. Part of the effect of the ruling was that the military would be required to allow transgender people to enlist beginning Jan. 1.

FILE - In this March 27, 2008 file photo, the Pentagon is seen in this aerial view in Washington. A Pentagon official tells The Associated Press that transgender people can enlist in the military beginning Jan. 1, despite President Donald Trump's opposition. The new policy reflects growing legal pressure on the issue. Potential transgender recruits will have to overcome a lengthy and strict set of physical, medical and mental conditions that make it possible, although difficult, for them to join the armed services. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)


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'One of my nightmares': Pipe bomb attack hits in NYC subwayAP file photo Law enforcement officials work following an explosion Monday near New York's Times Square. Police said a man with a pipe bomb strapped to his body set off the crude device in a passageway under 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 06:36:00 GMT

NEW YORK – A man inspired by Islamic State extremists strapped on a crude pipe bomb, slipped unnoticed into the nation’s busiest subway system and set the device off at rush hour Monday in a scenario that New York has dreaded for years, authorities said. In the end, the only serious wounds were to the suspect himself, Akayed Ullah, a 27-year-old Bangladeshi immigrant and former cab driver, authorities said. But the attack sent terrified commuters fleeing through a smoky passageway, and three people suffered headaches and ringing ears from the first bomb blast in the subway in more than two decades. “This was an attempted terrorist attack,” Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters. “Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goals.” The attack near Times Square came less than two months after eight people died near the World Trade Center in a truck attack authorities said was also inspired by the Islamic State group. Law enforcement officials said Ullah was inspired by IS but apparently did not have any direct contact with the group and probably acted alone. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said there was no evidence, so far, of other bombs or a larger plot. He said officials were exploring whether Ullah had been on authorities’ radar, but there was no indication yet that he was. Investigators described the bomb as a low-tech explosive device attached to Ullah with Velcro and plastic ties. They were looking into how it was made. Cuomo said there was reason to believe the attacker looked at bomb-making instructions online. Authorities were searching Ullah’s Brooklyn home and a rented space in a building nearby, interviewing witnesses and relatives, reviewing his subway fare card and looking for surveillance footage that might show his movements in the moments before the 7:20 a.m. attack. Security cameras did capture the attacker walking casually through a crowded passageway under 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues when the bomb went off amid a plume of white smoke, which cleared to show the man sprawled on the ground and commuters scattering. “All we could hear was the chaos,” said Elrana Peralta, a Greyhound customer-service worker who was working at the Port Authority bus terminal near the blast, though she did not hear it. Instead, she heard people yelling, “Get out! Get out! Get out!” Port Authority police said officers found the man injured on the ground, with wires protruding from his jacket to his pants and the device strapped to his torso under his coat. They said he was reaching for a cellphone and they grabbed his hands. A photo published by the New York Post showed a bearded man crumpled on the ground with his shirt apparently blown off and black soot covering his bare midriff. Investigators said it was not clear if he set the bomb off intentionally or prematurely. Law enforcement officials said the suspect was speaking with investigators from the hospital bed where he was being treated for burns to his hands and abdomen. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the blast. Ullah came to the U.S. from Bangladesh in 2011 on an F-4 visa, a preferential visa available for those with family in the U.S. who are citizens, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said. He had been licensed to drive a livery cab between 2012 and 2015, but the license was allowed to lapse, according to law enforcement officials and NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the explos[...]


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Habitat for Humanity of McHenry County looking for families in need of new home in 2018Members of the McHenry Police Department work with Habitat for Humanity of McHenry County at one of its build sites this summer as they volunteer their time to put a new roof on a home.

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 06:35:00 GMT

McHENRY – When Habitat for Humanity gives a family keys to a new house, Kathy Haupt loves watching children’s faces.

“These are kids that had to move every year, change schools constantly, didn’t make friends because they were moving, or were in and out of shelters, and when you bring them to their new home, it’s pure joy,” said Haupt, the nonprofit’s service coordinator.

Habitat for Humanity of McHenry County is looking for deserving families for 2018 home builds and repairs, Haupt said.

The organization has built 46 homes since 1995 and is hosting its 46th dedication ceremony Saturday in Woodstock. Seven homes were completed in 2017 in McHenry, Lakemoor, Harvard and Woodstock.

“It’s a big deal because when I first came here in 2010, we were doing two houses with no repairs, and now we are doing more homes and repairs and helping many more people within our county,” Haupt said.

Repairs can include anything from yard cleanup to major electrical repairs.

So far for 2018, the McHenry organization has plans to build in Wonder Lake and Harvard. Haupt said it is trying to build a pool of families so that once property is purchased, the organization can fit families into houses.

“Our mission is to spread the word, because nobody wants to say, ‘We are living in a shelter’ or ‘We lost our home and are living at our grandmother’s house,’ ” Haupt said. “Adults in the workplace don’t want to admit they are struggling.”

To be eligible for a home, a person must be at least 18 years old; a U.S. citizen or legal resident; willing to live anywhere in McHenry County; able to save for a cash down payment of $1,000 and pay back a low-interest mortgage; not be able to qualify for a conventional mortgage; be steadily employed or have a reliable income; and be willing to help build the home.

The requirement to live in McHenry County was changed for 2018 after the organization was building more than other affiliates, Haupt said, allowing them to reach out further.

For example, Lake County’s program does not offer repairs, so if the property is close to McHenry County’s boundaries, Habitat for Humanity of McHenry County will work on the project.

Mortgages are no more than 30 percent of the family’s income, Haupt said. There also are income requirements depending on family size, which can be found at www.habitatmchenry.org/becoming-a-habitat-homeowner. Interested families can call Habitat for Humanity at 815-759-9002.

“We watch our families grow, and if it wasn’t for a little helping hand, they’d stay in poverty,” Haupt said. “With that little bit of help, these kids are making the honor roll and planning for college – dreams they never thought could come true.”

Members of the McHenry Police Department work with Habitat for Humanity of McHenry County at one of its build sites this summer as they volunteer their time to put a new roof on a home.


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District 300 board to vote on property tax levy increaseSarah Nader file photo — snader@shawmedia.com Students walk down the hallway at Dundee Highlands Elementary School in West Dundee. Algonquin-based Community Unit School District 300 has been patching tiles at Dundee Highlands Elementary School on an as-needed basis since a $35 million capital development grant from the state never materialized.Sarah Nader file photo — snader@shawmedia.com A view of replaced floor tile is seen in a first grade class room at Dundee Highlands Elementary School in West Dundee. Algonquin-based Community Unit School District 300 has been patching tiles at Dundee Highlands Elementary School on an as-needed basis since a $35 million capital development grant from the state never materialized.

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 06:34:00 GMT

ALGONQUIN – Community Unit School District 300 is requesting a 26 percent increase from 2016 to 2017 in its property tax levy, Chief Financial Officer Susan Harkin said. A typical homeowner with a $200,000 home will likely see an increase in next year’s property tax bills. If an average homeowner’s equalized assessed value is the same as last year, the homeowner would see a decrease of $378, and if the EAV increases because of overall market conditions, the homeowner will see an increase of $66, Harkin said. The District 300 board will hold a hearing and vote on the projected property tax levy at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Central Office, 2550 Harnish Drive, Algonquin. ​The Algonquin-based district has requested $237,593,688, but anticipates it will receive $193,518,881 once the tax cap is applied to the district levy, Harkin said. The request is a 26 percent increase over 2016, but once the tax cap is applied, it will be closer to a 3.1 percent increase. New funds will be used for costs associated with increased student enrollment and facility maintenance and improvement projects, Harkin said. The district began a master facility plan last spring and has 21,068 total students enrolled. Over the past several years, 100 additional students a year have been added to the district, Harkin said. Additionally, because of a lack of funding from the state for a Capital Development Board Grant, the district is still waiting for funding to complete projects that were identified in a 2004 referendum, Harkin said. For example, there are numerous District 300 schools that need asbestos tile abatement and replacement, Harkin said. At the board’s Jan. 23 meeting, members will review a formal master facility plan that will identify projects that need to be completed over the next five years to ensure the district’s facilities are properly maintained. The comprehensive list has $35 million worth of projects needed, ranging from security improvements to general roofing. “We want to make sure we are investing and maintaining our largest asset,” Harkin said. “Eight to nine schools have projects that were supposed to take place, but never have. We’ve tried to do this with existing dollars, but it’s getting to the point where we’re here in 2017 and it can’t wait any longer.” Financial concerns for the district includes the property tax freeze, sustainability of state funding for education, the state pension obligation, future growth and capital project needs and improving educational opportunities for students, according to district documents. The district is still waiting for the final state revenue figures with the new state school funding formula. Until the information is finalized, Harkin said she is unsure of the formula’s effect on the district’s state funding. District 300 includes Dundee-Crown, Hampshire and Jacobs high schools; five middle schools and 17 elementary schools, according to the district’s website. Sarah Nader file photo — snader@shawmedia.com Students walk down the hallway at Dundee Highlands Elementary School in West Dundee. Algonquin-based Community Unit School District 300 has been patching tiles at Dundee Highlands Elementary School on an as-needed basis since a $35 million capital development grant from the state never materialized.Sarah Nader file photo — snader@shawmedia.com A view of replaced floor tile is seen in a first grade class room at Dundee Highlands Elementary School in West Dundee. Algonquin-based Community Unit School District 300 has been patching tiles at Dundee Highlands Elementary S[...]


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FBI searching for Huntley bank robberPhoto provided The FBI is searching for this man who robbed a TCF Bank inside a Jewel-Osco at 13200 Village Green Drive in Huntley on Sunday, FBI Special Agent Garrett Croon said.

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 06:33:00 GMT

HUNTLEY – The FBI is searching for an unknown man who robbed a TCF Bank inside a Huntley grocery store Sunday.

The robbery occurred at 3:45 p.m. at a TCF Bank branch inside a Jewel-Osco grocery store, 13200 Village Green Drive, Huntley, FBI Special Agent Garrett Croon said.

The man escaped with an undisclosed amount of money and is believed to be a serial bank robber.

The robber is described as 5-foot-4, and was wearing a wig and sunglasses, Croon said.

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to his arrest. Anyone with information can call the FBI at 312-421-6700.

Huntley police said in a message on the department’s Facebook page that anyone with information can call the Huntley police at 847-515-5333 or by texting TIP HUNTLEY followed by the message to 8887777.

Photo provided The FBI is searching for this man who robbed a TCF Bank inside a Jewel-Osco at 13200 Village Green Drive in Huntley on Sunday, FBI Special Agent Garrett Croon said.


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Police: Fox River Grove man charged with hate crime after throwing beer at man

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 06:33:00 GMT

FOX RIVER GROVE – A 26-year-old Fox River Grove man was charged with a hate crime after throwing a beer at a gas station clerk and telling him to leave the country, police said.

Jason P. Bachler, of the 100 block of Beachway Drive, was arrested Oct. 30 after throwing a beer can at the clerk’s chest after the employee asked him to pay for the drink, Fox River Grove Police Chief Eric Waitrovich said Monday.

According to a complaint filed in McHenry County court, Bachler asked the man, “Are you an American or something?”

When the clerk replied “no,” Bachler threw the can and told the employee to “get out of my [omitted] country,” the complaint states.

Bachler is charged with battery and committing a hate crime. If Bachler is convicted of committing a hate crime, he could receive a one- to three-year prison sentence, charging documents show.

Bachler posted $1,000 bond Nov. 1 and was released from the McHenry County Jail.

His next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 5.




Appellate judge denies convicted Woodstock sex offender's request for lighter sentence

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 06:32:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – A former Woodstock man convicted of sexually assaulting women in what one victim called a sex dungeon will remain in prison serving a 36-year sentence, according to a recent appellate court ruling.

Attorneys representing 49-year-old Charles Oliver previously had filed a motion to reconsider Oliver’s 2014 sentence, which they argued was “excessive,” according to the motion. Second District Appellate Judge Robert McLaren denied the motion Dec. 4.

Oliver was found guilty of criminal sexual assault and unlawful restraint in what was expected to be the first of eight trials. One month later, he pleaded guilty to two additional sex crimes, and the remaining charges were dropped. McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather subsequently sentenced him to 36 years in prison.

His attempt to appeal the conviction in 2016 was denied.

Oliver’s former defense attorney, Mark Facchini, has since been appointed a McHenry County associate judge. Representatives from Facchini’s previous firm, Donahue and Walsh, could not be reached for comment.

In a Jan. 12, 2016, motion filed in McHenry County court, Facchini argued Oliver had led a “law-abiding life” before the charges were brought forward and that the “character and attitude of [Oliver] indicate he is unlikely to commit another crime.” 

McLaren, however, disagreed and said the evidence presented during trial suggested Oliver’s behavior was part of a pattern.

“…The evidence proved that the crimes of which defendant was convicted were not isolated incidents but part of a pattern of contacting women online to arrange in sexual acts for money and then engaging in the assault, abuse and humiliation of these women,” McLaren wrote in his Dec. 4 order.

The judge also noted that Oliver’s sentences on charges typically punishable between six to 30 years in prison were below the midpoint sentencing range.

Prosecutors at the time said Oliver responded to women’s ads online and would agree to meet them for sex in exchange for money.

Oliver would then force the women into a room in his basement, which one victim described as a “sex dungeon,” according to a motion filed by prosecutors in November 2013.

In the motion, Oliver was accused of recording many of the assaults, calling women his “property” and telling them “no one would hear [them] scream.”

On Jan. 28, 2013, multiple videos of unidentified women were recovered from his house. 

In the videos, he is physically rough with the women and threatens them, according to statements made by the state’s attorney’s office in 2013 court filings.

During a police interview, Oliver admitted to picking up prostitutes and listing ads on Craigslist, and bringing them to the basement because one woman had escaped from the house, prosecutors said.  

Oliver is required to register as a sex offender. His projected parole release date is Sept. 25, 2043, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections.




Crystal Lake City Council impressed with Woodlore Estates planRichard Olson, of Gary R. Weber Associates, speaks Monday to Crystal Lake City Council about CalAtlantic Homes' proposal for 489 new homes in the city.

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 06:32:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE – The City Council is on board with the second proposal in the past two months that could bring hundreds of new homes to the city.

CalAtlantic Homes built on the favorable feedback it received Wednesday from the Crystal Lake Planning and Zoning Commission with a strong initial review by City Council on Monday night. There were no formal votes, as it was just an introduction to the project, but council members showed extensive enthusiasm.

CalAtlantic’s plan is for 489 new houses on 310 acres located northeast of the commercial properties near the intersection of Routes 176 and 31. About half of the neighborhood, named Woodlore Estates, would be open space – including woods, wetlands and parks. The council also was pleased with the architectural touches of the homes presented.

“In terms of the quality of the product you presented, there are only a few places in Crystal Lake where we have housing units of this particular character,” Mayor Aaron Shepley said.

Ryland Homes, which merged with Standard Pacific to become CalAtlantic, earned approvals in 2006 from the city for a land plan with 30 fewer homes than this latest proposal. The old plan, Preston Pines, would have had 33 percent open space. The new plan has 50 percent open space. Additionally, the old plan called for lots as large as 20,000 square feet, while Woodlore Estates lots would be capped at 12,000 square feet.

Several council members, in hindsight, were briefly critical of the Preston Pines plan while saying Woodlore Estates is a vast improvement.

The housing market collapsed in the years after Preston Pines was approved. Since then, the demands of homebuyers have evolved and CalAtlantic went back to the drawing board to try to meet them.

Of Woodlore Estates’ 489 residences, 104 would be designed for active people 55 years old and older. Council members spoke glowingly about the plan, which would be the first of its kind in Crystal Lake. Both the development team and the council cited market trends that show baby boomers are looking to downsize to two-bedroom homes.

The council did express concerns, however, about access to Woodlore. CalAtlantic may have two entrances off Route 31, but will need to figure out a safe way for future residents to go southbound on Route 31.

It was noted the company sold a piece of land on the southern end of the site for commercial development. With the sale, an agreement was reached that may allow CalAtlantic to build a road through that parcel for access to Route 176.

CalAtlantic will now get to work on the finer details of their neighborhood design in preparation for a formal application with the city.

Richard Olson, of Gary R. Weber Associates, speaks Monday to Crystal Lake City Council about CalAtlantic Homes' proposal for 489 new homes in the city.


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Snow snarls Monday evening commute in McHenry County

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 06:31:00 GMT

McHENRY – McHenry police activated an emergency snow plan Monday evening as a sprawling storm system slickened the area with slush and turned portions of Route 31 into a parking lot. The National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook late Monday afternoon in McHenry County because of a high risk of snow and wind. Although meteorologists expected snow to fall at rates of an inch an hour, the storm system fizzled by 7 p.m. – but not before stalling traffic and causing minor crashes on icy roads. “The snow is done,” National Weather Service meteorologist Gino Izzi said about 7 p.m. Monday. “At this point, it’s going to be windy and quite cold.” Less than two weeks from the first day of winter, McHenry County residents are now in store for the coldest temperatures yet. Temperatures will fall into the teens Tuesday morning and struggle to reach the 20s in the afternoon, Izzi said. Northwest winds of 30 mph will make the day feel much colder than it is, holding wind chills in the single digits all day. The National Weather Service is tracking another storm that could bring a quick shot of snow Wednesday. “We’ll be watching that,” Izzi said. Monday’s icy weather affected the commute across northern Illinois, where visibility dropped to as low as one quarter of a mile at times, according to the National Weather Service. “The combination of a quick snow accumulation on some roads and low visibility will result in hazardous travel conditions,” the National Weather Service said in a statement. “Leave extra time to reach your destination and use caution driving. Slow down on snow-covered roads and in low visibility.” The surprise snowfall made for a busy night of traffic-related calls to police, according to local authorities. “We’ve been getting a lot of traffic calls that appear to be directly related to the weather,” Crystal Lake police Sgt. Lucas Behning said. One incident happened about 5 p.m. at the intersection of Routes 14 and 176, where a car slid on a slick patch of road into the back of a school bus. No one was injured in the crash and no children were on the bus. Behning did not know which school district the bus belonged to. Marengo Fire Protection District Captain Mark Pankow said a lot drivers had trouble managing the slippery roads. “The snow comes with slick roads, and there were a lot of people spinning out,” Pankow said. “We don’t get called out for those.”  About 3:30 p.m., on a stretch of Route 12 west of Spring Grove Road, a semitrailer slid through the snow, jackknifed and crashed into a car. One person suffered minor injuries in the weather-induced crash, Spring Grove fire Capt. Joe Christopherson said. About 5:35 p.m., police sent out a Nixle alert warning motorists to avoid Route 31 south of Bull Valley because of heavy traffic. In some cases, motorists tripled their commute times waiting for traffic to inch through the snowstorm. Crystal Lake police offered some tips for motorists thinking about driving in snowy weather. “Use common sense,” Behning said. “Slow down and make sure there’s enough distance between yourself and the person driving in front of you.” [...]


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Woodstock's Rendezvous Bistro set to close Dec. 23Rendezvous Bistro, 2400 Lake Shore Drive, in Woodstock has announced that its last day of service will be Dec. 23, according to its website and Facebook page.

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 19:54:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – Rendezvous Bistro is set to close less than a year after it changed hands.

The last day of service at the Woodstock restaurant, 2400 Lake Shore Drive, will be Dec. 23, according to its website and Facebook page.

Rendezvous Bistro is a full-service bar and small-plate restaurant that hosted frequent events such as “paint and sip” nights and live music.

The restaurant formerly operated as a coffee house, restaurant and bar. Woodstock caterers Megan and T.J Liebetrau reopened the space in February and now have decided to close.

“After much deliberation, we have decided that our last day of service will be Saturday, December 23rd,” the restaurant's Facebook announcement said. “Thank you to our loyal customers & employees. It has been an exciting ride & we are grateful to all that helped along the way. We hope to see you before we go.”

The property, located off Route 14 near Centegra Hospital – Woodstock, is for sale.

It is marketed as a turnkey restaurant, according to its Berkshire Hathaway listing. The asking price is $65,000.

Rendezvous Bistro, 2400 Lake Shore Drive, in Woodstock has announced that its last day of service will be Dec. 23, according to its website and Facebook page.


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Mario Batali steps down after sexual misconduct allegationsFILE - In this Wednesday, April 20, 2016, file photo, Mario Batali attends an awards dinner in New York. Batali is stepping down from daily operations at his restaurant empire following reports of sexual misconduct by the celebrity chef over a period of at least 20 years. In a prepared statement sent to The Associated Press, Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, Batali said the complaints match up with his past behavior. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 19:21:00 GMT

NEWARK, N.J. – Mario Batali has surrendered oversight of daily operations at his restaurant empire following reports of sexual misconduct by the celebrity chef over a period of at least 20 years. The online site Eater New York, part of Vox Media, reported Monday that the incidents involve at least four women, three of whom worked for Batali. One of women, none was named in the story, said that Batali groping her chest after wine had spilled on her shirt. Another said he grabbed her from behind and holding her tightly against his body. In a prepared statement sent to The Associated Press, Batali said that the complaints "match up" with his past behavior. "I take full responsibility and am deeply sorry for any pain, humiliation or discomfort I have caused to my peers, employees, customers, friends and family," Batali said. A spokesperson for Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group says an employee reported inappropriate behavior by Batali in October. The company told Eater it was the first formal complaint against Batali and that he was reprimanded and required to attend training. Batali will also take leave from his ABC cooking show, "The Chew." "We have asked Mario Batali to step away from The Chew while we review the allegations that have just recently come to our attention," the network said Monday. "ABC takes matters like this very seriously as we are committed to a safe work environment. While we are unaware of any type of inappropriate behavior involving him and anyone affiliated with the show, we will swiftly address any alleged violations of our standards of conduct." A wave of sexual misconduct allegations have upended the political scene and embroiled Hollywood, gaining momentum after shocking allegations of abuse and assault by Harvey Weinstein. The #metoo movement has brought down Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Matt Lauer, and led to resignations in the U.S. House and Senate. There are new calls for President Donald Trump to address sexual misconduct allegations that he's faced. Last week Time magazine named the "silence breakers," those that have shared their stories about sexual assault and harassment, as Person of the Year. The 57-year-old Batali was well known in culinary circles, taking jobs early in his career as a sous chef at the Four Seasons in Santa Barbara and San Francisco. His career took off after opening Po in New York City in the early 1990s, and he skyrocketed to fame with the airing of "Molto Mario," a show that ran on the Food Network for eight years, until 2004. It was there that his signature look, a fleece vest, shorts, and orange Crocs, became instantly recognizable to most people. The Food Network, which was planning to relaunch "Molto Mario," said Monday that it was placing its plans on hold. "Food Network takes matters like this very seriously," it said. Batali also co-owns restaurants in a handful of cities. The Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group owns or operates several restaurants, including Babbo in New York, Carnevino Italian Steakhouse in Las Vegas and Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles. It's also a partner in Eataly, an Italian food hall and grocer, which has locations in New York, Chicago and Boston. Batali has long been socially active. The Mario Batali Foundation advocates child nutrition. He has come out forcefully against hydraulic fracturing, a method used to extract oil and gas. [...]F[...]


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Downtown McHenry theater progresses; seating arrivesTheater investor Rick Merkel of McHenry helps unload the new theater chairs Friday at McHenry's remodeled theater.McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett (left) and Aaron Dullum of McHenry help unload the new theater chairs Friday at the city's remodeled theater.Volunteers and theater investors help unload new theater chairs Friday at the remodeled facility.

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 06:22:00 GMT

McHENRY – McHenry is one step closer to the opening of its indoor movie theater after volunteers moved a truckload of seating into the three-screen space. The theater has been in the works since February after McHenry City Council members approved plans for its development. The theater has been closed since 2014 and has undergone a massive transformation since construction began. Remodeling of the building has included roof replacement, interior wall and floor work and facade improvements. The project’s cost is estimated at about $1.5 million – about $1.2 million for the building, and another few hundred thousand in build-out and equipment. The theater will operate under a community-owned model, with community members and business owners investing in the redevelopment, including McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett. Woodstock-based D.C. Cobbs will complement the theater. The restaurant plans to open a location next to the theater in February. The burgers and brews-style pub will offer a menu in McHenry similar to its Woodstock location, including 24 beers on draft, owner Dan Hart said. The restaurant also will feature outdoor dining on a patio and roof. The space almost entirely has been built from reclaimed resources, aside from things that must be bought news, such as kitchen equipment, tables and chairs. “Less than 10 percent of our construction materials are from new things,” Hart said. “We have also designed a louvered roof that will open and close, and we have gas fire pits to let people [sit] out longer.” The theater will hire between 16 and 18 employees, and manager Scott Dehn – who also runs McHenry’s outdoor, drive-in theater – said he wants to offer a fun, unique experience for moviegoers. “I want a fun, clean, family-friendly experience,” Dehn said. “And I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve that I know other theaters don’t offer. Every time they come there, they will remember something special about it.” The indoor theater has been something residents have wanted for a while, and its presence should complement the outdoor theater space, which only is open seasonally, Dehn said. “Customers always say they wish there were an indoor theater so they can see movies the other half of the year,” he said. “The outdoor theater is really a different kind of experience. I’d not think one is going to impact the other because they are so different. … If anything, they will complement each other and help each other out by being neighbors.” Construction is ongoing, and the theater is expected to open in January, he said. The theater, located downtown by the McHenry Riverwalk at 1208 N. Green St., will enhance the area around it, McHenry Chamber of Commerce Director Kay Bates said. “I have walked through and have been impressed by the amount of work put into this theater,” Bates said. “It’s going to be wonderful, and the combination with D.C. Cobbs is incredible. … We think it’s going to be a big enhancement for the downtown.” The theater could act as a catalyst to redevelopment for the riverwalk, as well, which is about a third of the way complete, said Kit Carstens, vice chairman of the Riverwalk Foundation. Carstens said the nonprofit has been on a “five-year quest” to get [...]


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Cary advances to next stage with Metra station improvement projectThis rendering shows what the Cary Metra station could look like after a planned improvement project. The Village Board approved a contract Tuesday with Muller and Muller Ltd. of Chicago for $151,438

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 06:18:00 GMT

CARY – The village of Cary is moving forward with the next phase of its Metra station improvement project.

The Cary Village Board approved a contract Tuesday with Muller and Muller Ltd. of Chicago for $151,438. The village previously contracted with Muller and Muller in January for up to $312,000 in design services.

Now that the design of the improved station is near completion, the village reached a deal with the same firm for procurement and construction services.

The contract has a 10 percent contingency for unforeseen changes in scope that could bring the maximum money spent on the phase up to $166,582.

Metra will step in to lead the procurement and construction phases. The village led the design phase.

Metra and the firm will handle the bid process, site observations, technical inquiries from potential bidders and overall management of the project.

A request for bids is anticipated to be issued by Metra this winter for a summer construction start, according to Metra’s latest estimates.

Substantial completion is expected in summer 2019, according to village documents. The multiyear schedule requires the expenses to be budgeted over two fiscal years.

The Cary Metra station improvement plan first was announced in November 2014. The station, which is more than 50 years old, will cost from $2.5 million to $3 million.

About $2 million will be covered by a federal grant that Metra obtained and announced in 2014 as part of its capital improvement plans.

The village is planning to build a fully enclosed building and ticket agency facility on the inbound side of the track, as well as to demolish the existing building on the outbound side of the tracks.

An added warming shelter will replace the current “windbreaks,” Metra has said.

The existing Cary station is unique in that it is on the outbound side of the tracks. Stations usually are on the inbound side. This project will relocate the station to the west side, or inbound side, of the railroad.

This rendering shows what the Cary Metra station could look like after a planned improvement project. The Village Board approved a contract Tuesday with Muller and Muller Ltd. of Chicago for $151,438


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Price increases pushing U.S. health insurance shoppers into hard choicesIn this Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, photo, Stephanie and Lance Schmidt pose for a photo with their children, from left, Stella, Solomon and Theo, at their home in Oklahoma City. The Schmidt's have opted for a cost-sharing ministry this year after they realized their monthly insurance bill would have more than doubled to over $1,200 and stuck them with an $8,000 deductible for their family of five. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 06:16:00 GMT

Margaret Leatherwood has eight choices for health insurance next year but no good options. The cheapest individual coverage available in her market would eat up nearly a quarter of the income her husband brings home from the oilfields. The Bryson, Texas, couple makes too much to qualify for Affordable Care Act tax credits that help people buy coverage. But they don’t make enough to comfortably afford insurance on their own, although Paul Leatherwood works seven days a week. Margaret Leatherwood, stays at home and takes care of her grandchildren. This largely middle-class crowd of shoppers is struggling to stay insured. They’ve weathered years of price hikes and shrinking insurance choices with no help. Faced with more price increases for next year, they’re mulling options outside insurance or skipping coverage entirely – a decision that could lead to a fine for remaining uninsured and huge bills if an emergency hits. The sign-up period for 2018 coverage closes on Friday in most states, meaning shoppers have only a few more days to find something that squeezes into their budgets. “I kind of cringe when I am meeting with those clients because I don’t have a solution for them,” said Kelly Rector, a Missouri-based insurance agent. The ACA helped chop the U.S. uninsured population 41 percent to 28.8 million people earlier this year from 48.6 million in 2010, when it became law, according to the latest government figures. The law expanded Medicaid coverage for the poor and created health insurance marketplaces where people can use income-based tax credits to buy a single or family individual insurance plan if they don’t get coverage through work. Those subsidies cover part or all of the bill, capping insurance costs at a percentage of income for those who are eligible. That shields recipients from price hikes of 20 percent or more that have hit many markets. But that help stops abruptly for people making four times the federal poverty level or more – around $48,000 for an individual and more than $98,000 for a family of four. Of the roughly 15 million people who bought ACA-compliant individual insurance for this year, nearly 7 million had no tax credit help, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Meanwhile, the uninsured rate among adults who make too much to qualify for help buying coverage jumped to 5 percent this year from 2 percent in 2016, according to The Commonwealth Fund. Brokers and health care researchers expect that to climb again, especially for people with income levels close to the cutoff for federal help. “It’s not going to be like an on-off switch where prices get too high and nobody buys coverage,” said Sherry Glied of New York University. “It’s more like a drip, drip, drip.” The vulnerable population includes the self-employed, small-business owners and those close to qualifying for the Medicare program that covers people age 65 and over. These customers can face monthly bills that climb past $2,000 for a family plan and then a big deductible before most coverage starts. Plus fewer markets this year have insurance that comes with a health savings account, which lets people save for medical expenses before taxes. Those accounts are popular with individual insurance shoppers who don’t get tax credit help, St. Louis broker Emily B[...]


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U.S. Nobel laureate worries politics could undermine scienceMichael Rosbash, laureate in Medicine 2017 delivers a speech, during the Nobel banquet in the City Hall, in Stockholm, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017. (Fredrik Sandberg/TT News Agency via AP)

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 06:16:00 GMT

STOCKHOLM – An American researcher who shared this year’s Nobel Prize for medicine bluntly criticized political developments at home in his address at the awards’ gala banquet Sunday night. Michael Rosbash, who was honored for his work on circadian rhythms – commonly called the body clock – expressed concern that U.S. government support such as that received by him and colleagues Jeffrey Hall and Michael Young is endangered. “We benefited from an enlightened period in the postwar United States. Our National Institutes of Health have enthusiastically and generously supported basic research ... [but] the current climate in the U.S. is a warning that continued support cannot be taken for granted,” he said in a short speech at the ornate city hall in Stockholm. The 2018 federal budget proposed by President Donald Trump calls for cutting science funding by billions of dollars. “Also in danger is the pluralistic America into which all three of us of born were born and raised after World War II,” Rosbash said. “Immigrants and foreigners have always been an indispensable part of our country, including its great record in scientific research.” Literature laureate Kazuo Ishiguro of Britain expressed concern about increasing tensions between social factions. “We live today in a time of growing tribal enmities of communities fracturing into bitterly opposed groups,” said Ishiguro, who was born in Japan. He said Nobel prizes can counterbalance such animosity. “The pride we feel when someone from our nation wins a Nobel prize is different from the one we feel witnessing one of our athletes winning an Olympic medal. We don’t feel the pride of our tribe demonstrating superiority over other tribes. Rather it’s the pride that from knowing that one of us has made a significant contribution to our common human endeavor,” he said. In the Norwegian capital of Oslo, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima compared her struggle to survive in 1945 to the objectives of the group awarded this year’s Nobel’s Peace Prize. Setsuko Thurlow, who was 13 when the U.S. bomb devastated her Japanese city during the final weeks of World War II, spoke as a leading activist with the Nobel-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Thurlow said the Hiroshima blast left her buried under the rubble, but she was able to see light and crawl to safety. In the same way, the campaign to which she belongs is a driving force behind an international treaty to ban nuclear weapons, she said after ICAN received the Nobel prize it won in October. “Our light now is the ban treaty,” Thurlow said. “I repeat those words that I heard called to me in the ruins of Hiroshima: ‘Don’t give up. Keep pushing. See the light? Crawl toward it.’ ” The treaty has been signed by 56 countries – none of them nuclear powers – and ratified by only three. To become binding it requires ratification by 50 countries. ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn, who accepted the prize along with Thurlow, said that while the treaty is far from ratification “now, at long last, we have an unequivocal norm against nuclear weapons.” “This is the way forward. There is only one way to prevent the use of nu[...]


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Firm convictions, uneasiness at churches before Alabama Senate voteFILE - In this Dec. 5, 2017 photo, former Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore speaks at a campaign rally, in Fairhope Ala. Alabama voters pick between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)FILE- In this June 21, 2016 file photo, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., listens at a U.S. monetary policy meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington. Most statewide Republican officeholders in Alabama say they're voting for Roy Moore for U.S. Senate. But the state's senior U.S. senator, Shelby, didn't vote for Moore. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)Jeremiah Chapman prays during a 16th Street Baptist church service on Sunday in Birmingham, Ala. At the church pastor Arthur Price told the mostly black congregation that Alabama's U.S. Senate election is too important to skip. "There's too much at stake for us to stay home," Price said of Tuesday's election.

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 06:15:00 GMT

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Alabama’s race for U.S. Senate settled into church for worship on Sunday, with the minister at a historic black congregation calling the race a life-or-death matter for equal rights, conservatives standing by Republican Roy Moore and others feeling unsettled in the middle. Speaking at Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, where four black girls died in a Ku Klux Klan bombing in 1963, the Rev. Arthur Price evoked the civil rights era between hymns. Democratic nominee Doug Jones prosecuted the last two Klansmen convicted in the attack and has attended events at the church, a downtown landmark with twin domed towers. “There’s too much at stake for us to stay home,” Price said of Tuesday’s election. He didn’t endorse Jones from the pulpit but in a later interview called the candidate “a hero” to the congregation and Birmingham. Despite allegations of sexual misconduct involving teen girls decades ago, Moore isn’t being abandoned by worshippers at Montgomery’s Perry Hill Road Baptist Church, where Moore spoke at a “God and Country” rally in September before the accusations arose. Leaving the red-brick building after a service that ended with a hymn and an altar call, Kevin Mims said he didn’t believe the claims against Moore. But even if true, he said, they occurred long ago, and Moore is a conservative who stands “on the word of God.” “Everyone has to vote their convictions,” said Mims, holding a Bible. “My conviction is he’s the right man for the job.” Lines aren’t so clearly defined elsewhere. Interviews with a dozen parishioners at Mobile’s Ashland Place United Methodist Church, the home church of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, turned up neither any Moore defenders nor confirmed votes for Jones. The prevailing mood seemed to be one of frustration over having to choose between a Republican with Moore’s baggage and any Democrat. “I will vote for Judge Moore,” said Bill Prine, of Mobile. “I’m not a fan of his, but I’ll have to stick with the Republicans.” The candidates also spent time in church. Accompanied by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), and others, Jones tweeted a photo from More Than Conquerors Faith Church, a large black congregation in Birmingham. Aides to Moore, who has been almost invisible on the campaign trail during the closing days of the race, didn’t disclose his whereabouts Sunday. After church, Jones told supporters in a cramped campaign office that the results of Tuesday’s vote would send a message far beyond Alabama’s borders. “This is an election to tell the whole world what we stand for,” he said, adding: “This campaign, ladies and gentlemen, is on the right side of history.” Polls show the race too close to call. While Moore had a clear path to victory in a state where no Democrat holds statewide office, the 70-year-old has been fighting for his political life since reports surfaced a month ago that he made sexual advances on teen girls when he was a deputy district attorney in his 30s. Speaking on CNN on Sunday, GOP Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby said allegations that Moore molested a 14-year-old were the “tipping point” in his decision to cast a write-in ballot for a “dist[...]


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Israeli, French leaders tangle over U.S. Jerusalem decisionProtesters try to enter the U.S. embassy as they are sprayed by riot police using water cannons during a demonstration in Aukar, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017. A few hundred demonstrators, including Palestinians, pelted security outside the embassy with stones and burned an effigy of U.S. President Donald Trump in a protest to reject Washington's recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 06:14:00 GMT

JERUSALEM – The French and Israeli leaders sparred verbally Sunday over the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while new violence rippled across the region after the move by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The move upended decades of U.S. policy, and a longstanding international consensus, that the fate of Jerusalem be decided in negotiations. Israeli and Palestinian claims to the city’s eastern sector form the emotional core of their conflict, and Trump’s announcement was seen as siding with the Israelis and has drawn wide international criticism.

At a meeting in Paris with Israel’s visiting prime minister, French President Emmanuel Macron condemned recent violence against Israelis. But he also expressed “disapproval” of Trump’s decision, calling it “dangerous for peace.”

“It doesn’t seem to serve, in the short term, the cause of Israel’s security and the Israelis themselves,” Macron said.

Protesters try to enter the U.S. embassy as they are sprayed by riot police using water cannons during a demonstration in Aukar, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017. A few hundred demonstrators, including Palestinians, pelted security outside the embassy with stones and burned an effigy of U.S. President Donald Trump in a protest to reject Washington's recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)


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Southern California fire flares up, leading to new evacuationsFirefighter Joe Santos of Nevada works to contain the Thomas fire burning through Los Padres National Forest near Ojai, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 06:14:00 GMT

LOS ANGELES – A powerful flare-up on the western edge of Southern California’s largest and most destructive wildfire sent residents fleeing Sunday, as wind-fanned flames churned through old-growth brush in canyons and along hillsides toward coastal towns.

Crews with help from a fleet of water-dropping planes and helicopters saved homes as unpredictable gusts sent the blaze deeper into residential foothill areas northwest of Los Angeles that haven’t burned in decades. New evacuations were ordered as the fire sent up an enormous plume near Montecito and Carpinteria, seaside areas in Santa Barbara County that had been under fire threat for days and now were choked with smoke.

“The winds are kind of squirrely right now,” county fire spokesman Mike Eliason said. “Some places the smoke is going straight up in the air, and others it’s blowing sideways. Depends on what canyon we’re in.”

Firefighter Joe Santos of Nevada works to contain the Thomas fire burning through Los Padres National Forest near Ojai, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)


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Deadline nears for loan applications to help McHenry County homeowners repair after Fox River flood damageDeadlines are approaching for homeowners and businesses affected by July flooding to apply for the Small Business Administration’s loan program to help pay for damage.

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 06:12:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – Deadlines are approaching for homeowners and businesses affected by July flooding to apply for the Small Business Administration’s loan program to help pay for damage.

Homeowners and businesses can apply for loans to repair damage caused by flooding, and businesses can apply for loans to offset economic damage, according to a news release from the McHenry County Planning and Development Department. 

The deadline to apply for physical damage loans is Jan. 12, and the deadline for businesses to apply for economic damage loans is Aug. 13. 

Applicants must have an acceptable credit history, prove the ability to repay the loans and provide collateral for loans more than $25,000. Although the SBA will not decline a loan for lack of collateral, the administration will require applicants to pledge what is available. 

Residents can apply for loans online at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela, by calling 800-659-2955 (or 800-877-8339 for the deaf and hearing-impaired) or by emailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

Deadlines are approaching for homeowners and businesses affected by July flooding to apply for the Small Business Administration’s loan program to help pay for damage.


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Woodstock School District 200 Board to vote on tax levy

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 06:11:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – Woodstock homeowners could see tax savings this year.

The Woodstock School District 200 Board is scheduled to meet Tuesday to determine its annual tax levy. Officials determined in November to levy for $56.7 million, about a $1 million reduction from last year’s levy, according to a news release from the district.

The district plans to use reserve funds to make up the difference. The board froze its levy in 2015 and lowered it in 2016.

An owner of a $200,000 home could see his or her property tax bill decrease by $372 compared with last year’s bill, unless there has been a rise in property value.

“We are pleased to present this levy to the board. We will be able to continue to provide a high-quality education for our students while continuing to lower our tax rate to provide relief for our local taxpayers,” Superintendent Mike Moan said in a statement. “We continue to work to provide the best possible education while being responsive to the needs of our community. Over the last three years, our tax rate has dropped over 14 percent.”

Property tax values are expected to rise, however. The total equalized assessed value of all property within district boundaries is expected to rise to an estimated $810 million, according to the district.

“We’re trying to be very responsive to the high property taxes of homeowners,” said Rita Hanson, the district’s chief financial officer.

About 60 percent of a homeowner’s property taxes go to District 200, with the rest divided among other taxing districts, such as McHenry County, the city of Woodstock and Woodstock’s Fire/Rescue Protection District.

The board is scheduled to vote on its levy at its next meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the learning resource center at Woodstock High School, 501 W. South St.




McHenry County grand jury indictments

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 06:11:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – A McHenry County grand jury the past two weeks indicted these people on these charges:

• Christopher J. Charpentier, 25, of the 14400 block of Kishwaukee Valley Road, Woodstock; possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

• Sergio Lira, 27, of the 5500 block of Creekside Court, McHenry; possession of a controlled substance.

• Randall Scott Kleich, 19, of the 2900 block of Mabie Street, Delavan, Wisconsin; possession of a controlled substance and possession of nitrous oxide.

• Gustaf D. Wahl, 37, of the 3700 block of Maxon Road, Harvard; aggravated battery and domestic battery.

• Vincent A. Falco, 27, of the 3700 block of Live Oak Road, Crystal Lake; armed violence, use of explosives, use of weapons and possession of a controlled substance.

• Betsy Manshoor, 32, of the 13900 block of Route 176; aggravated identity theft.

• Jason Bachler, 26, of the 100 block of Beachway, Fox River Grove; battery and a hate crime.

• Matthew K. Wiese, 19; transient, theft, burglary and criminal damage to property.

• Matthew K. Hoff, 24, of the 900 block of Westwood Drive, McHenry; aggravated battery and resisting a correctional institution employee.

• Mario Casas, 29, of the 600 block of Church Street, Harvard; possession of a controlled substance, obstructing a peace officer and resisting a peace officer.

• Mark E. Lambert, 29, of the 1000 block of Hawthorne Drive, Crystal Lake; unlawful possession of marijuana.

• Thomas B. Bueche, 41, of the zero to 100 block of East Grant, Fox Lake; possession of a controlled substance and aggravated fleeing and eluding.

• Ryan M. McKenzie, 29, of the 400 block of North Taylor Street, Marengo; possession of a controlled substance.

• Alexandra M. Yeftich, 29, of the 100 block of North Channing Street, Elgin; possession of a controlled substance.

• Tawney L. Larsen, 26, of the 300 block of North Grove Street, Carpentersville; aggravated fleeing and eluding, and reckless driving.

• Monika A. Ramos, 21, of the 1400 block of Meadows Edge Lane, Carpentersville; possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance.

• Fernando Roman, 25, of the 100 block of Kings Road, Carpentersville; possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, obstructing justice and obstructing identification.

• Taylor M. Dierkes, 19, of the 500 block of Seventh Circle, Marengo; possession with intent to deliver marijuana, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.




Woman seeks special use permit to open massage parlor in Crystal LakeThe Crystal Lake City Council will decide Monday night whether to grant a special use permit to Velina Lazarova, who wants to open Astro Spa in a vacant space at an office building at 7115 Virginia Road.

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 06:10:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE – The City Council will decide Monday whether to grant a special use permit for a massage spa in a Virginia Road office building.

The sign for Astro Spa already is up at 7115 Virginia Road, Suite 111, where Velina Lazarova is looking to open a new business in a vacant office space. According to city code, massage establishments are required to apply for a special use permit.

Lazarova was before the Crystal Lake Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday, where her presentation received positive feedback from commissioners. They voted, 5-0, to recommend that the City Council grant the special use permit.

The commission thanked Lazarova for providing background information on her work experience in other Crystal Lake salons. Commissioners commended Lazarova on the details supplied with her application.

Astro Spa will have astrology consultations, educational workshops on skin care with suggested products and techniques, reflexology and chakra.

Crystal Lake has a specific regulation code for all massage parlors in the city. Among other things, the code requires that it is possible to see through 75 percent of the windows at the parlor, and that the business is not open later than 9 p.m. or before 8 a.m. for any reason.

State-granted licenses of all massage therapists, their names and addresses must be presented to the city.

Massage establishments have attracted some negative attention in McHenry County from time to time.

Two massage parlors that opened consecutively in the same Lake in the Hills location on Polaris Drive lost their massage licenses in September 2016 and again in March.

In 2013, four Crystal Lake massage establishments were linked to prostitution in less than two months.

In response, state-certified massage therapists from the area banded together to defend their practice, saying those who were arrested do not represent the majority of masseuses and legal massage facilities.

In November, a physical therapist working in the same office park that Lazarova wants to open Astro Spa in was charged with battery.

Police allege that Michael Lim, 39, of Huntley inappropriately touched a patient in September.

Lazarova’s request and many others are on agenda for a special meeting of the Crystal Lake City Council at 7:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 100 W. Woodstock St.

The Crystal Lake City Council will decide Monday night whether to grant a special use permit to Velina Lazarova, who wants to open Astro Spa in a vacant space at an office building at 7115 Virginia Road.


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6 candidiates file for vacant McHenry County judge positionsSix people have filed for vacant McHenry County judge positions. They are (top row, from left) Ray Flavin, Mary McClellan, Robert Wilbrandt, (bottom row, from left) Joel Berg, Tiffany Davis and Demetri Tsilimigras.

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 06:09:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – In the race for two new 22nd Circuit judges, voters will choose between four Republicans competing to replace retired Judge Maureen McIntyre and two who filed for Charles Weech’s position. Circuit Judge Tiffany Davis, R-Woodstock, and Associate Judge Joel Berg, R-Harvard, will compete for the vacancy left when Weech retired. Davis was appointed earlier this year by the Illinois Supreme Court to succeed Weech, and she announced her candidacy to retain the seat in July. With 22 years of experience as a prosecutor, Davis served nine years as a McHenry County assistant state’s attorney from 1998 to 2007 and 13 years as an assistant state’s attorney in Rockford. Davis also has experience in family law and small claims from her time as a civil litigation associate in DuPage County. “I believe the Illinois Supreme Court appointed me to the office of circuit judge after taking into consideration both my legal experience and my personal background,” Davis said in a statement when she announced her candidacy. Her opponent, Berg, was appointed associate judge of the 22nd Judicial Circuit in 2011. He previously served six years as an alderman on the Harvard City Council and spent 10 years on the Harvard Library board. Additionally, Berg has 17 years of experience operating his law firm, which he opened four days after being sworn into the Illinois State Bar Association, he said. “I’ve presided over every single kind of case that could come into that building,” Berg said. “... I have business experience. I have experience making sure the government stays within its budget. I’m the only candidate that can say all of those things.” Berg is president of the McHenry County Bar Association. Vying for the seat left vacant by McIntyre are McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan, Assistant State’s Attorney Demetri Tsilimigras, defense attorney Ray Flavin and sitting Judge Robert Wilbrandt. Wilbrandt, R-Woodstock, was promoted from associate judge to fill McIntyre’s vacancy and announced his intention to keep his seat in June. “I think that in this type of a race, experience counts,” Wilbrandt said. “It is a policy position for the courts, and you need experience as a judge.” Wilbrandt has served as a judge in McHenry County for more than 11 years and taught at McHenry County College for more than 25 years as an instructor of business, law and history. He began his career as an intern in the McHenry County Public Defender’s Office, where he eventually became chief public defender. He later moved to private practice and became a local prosecutor for the village of Fox River Grove before working as an advocate training attorney and legal adviser for McHenry County’s domestic violence agency, Turning Point. He was appointed associate judge for McHenry County in 2006. Flavin, R-Woodstock, said voters shouldn’t place too much value on judicial experience alone. “I literally h[...]


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Seating arrives for downtown McHenry theater as renovations progressThe theater has been in the works since February after McHenry City Council members approved plans for its development. The theater has been closed since 2014 and has undergone a massive transformation since construction began. Remodeling of the building has included roof replacement, interior wall and floor work and facade improvements. The project’s cost is estimated at about $1.5 million – about $1.2 million for the building, and another few hundred thousand in build-out and equipment.The theater will operate under a community-owned model, with community members and business owners investing in the redevelopment, including McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett. Woodstock-based D.C. Cobbs will complement the theater. The restaurant plans to open a location next to the theater in February. The burgers and brews-style pub will offer a menu in McHenry similar to its Woodstock location, including 24 beers on draft, owner Dan Hart said. The restaurant also will feature outdoor dining on a patio and roof. The space almost entirely has been built from reclaimed resources, aside from things that must be bought news, such as kitchen equipment, tables and chairs. “Less than 10 percent of our construction materials are from new things,” Hart said. “We have also designed a louvered roof that will open and close, and we have gas fire pits to let people [sit] out longer.”The theater will hire between 16 and 18 employees, and manager Scott Dehn – who also runs McHenry’s outdoor, drive-in theater – said he wants to offer a fun, unique experience for moviegoers. “I want a fun, clean, family-friendly experience,” Dehn said. “And I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve that I know other theaters don’t offer. Every time they come there, they will remember something special about it.”The indoor theater has been something residents have wanted for a while, and its presence should complement the outdoor theater space, which only is open seasonally, Dehn said. “Customers always say they wish there were an indoor theater so they can see movies the other half of the year,” he said. “The outdoor theater is really a different kind of experience. I’d not think one is going to impact the other because they are so different. … If anything, they will complement each other and help each other out by being neighbors.” Construction is ongoing, and the theater is expected to open in January, he said.The theater, located downtown by the McHenry Riverwalk at 1208 N. Green St., will enhance the area around it, McHenry Chamber of Commerce Director Kay Bates said. “I have walked through and have been impressed by the amount of work put into this theater,” Bates said. “It’s going to be wonderful, and the combination with D.C. Cobbs is incredible. … We think it's going to be a big enhancement for the downtown.” The theater could act as a catalyst to redevelopment for the riverwalk, as well, which is about a third of the way complete, said Kit Carstens, vice chairman of the Riverwalk Foundation.Carstens said the nonprofit has been on a “five-year quest” to get an entity into the theater to anchor the area. The foundation wants to continue work on the walkway to increase tourism. The next step is to link the riverwalk between retail areas on Green Street and Riverside Drive, he said. “The whole concept of the riverwalk was an economic development tool for the downtown,” Carstens said. “The concept is if we can create a destination, there really isn’t very much competition [north of] Chicago.”

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 06:09:00 GMT

McHENRY – McHenry is one step closer to the opening of its indoor movie theater after volunteers moved a truckload of seating into the three-screen space. The theater has been in the works since February after McHenry City Council members approved plans for its development. The theater has been closed since 2014 and has undergone a massive transformation since construction began. Remodeling of the building has included roof replacement, interior wall and floor work and facade improvements. The project’s cost is estimated at about $1.5 million – about $1.2 million for the building, and another few hundred thousand in build-out and equipment.The theater will operate under a community-owned model, with community members and business owners investing in the redevelopment, including McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett. Woodstock-based D.C. Cobbs will complement the theater. The restaurant plans to open a location next to the theater in February. The burgers and brews-style pub will offer a menu in McHenry similar to its Woodstock location, including 24 beers on draft, owner Dan Hart said. The restaurant also will feature outdoor dining on a patio and roof. The space almost entirely has been built from reclaimed resources, aside from things that must be bought news, such as kitchen equipment, tables and chairs. “Less than 10 percent of our construction materials are from new things,” Hart said. “We have also designed a louvered roof that will open and close, and we have gas fire pits to let people [sit] out longer.”The theater will hire between 16 and 18 employees, and manager Scott Dehn – who also runs McHenry’s outdoor, drive-in theater – said he wants to offer a fun, unique experience for moviegoers. “I want a fun, clean, family-friendly experience,” Dehn said. “And I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve that I know other theaters don’t offer. Every time they come there, they will remember something special about it.”The indoor theater has been something residents have wanted for a while, and its presence should complement the outdoor theater space, which only is open seasonally, Dehn said. “Customers always say they wish there were an indoor theater so they can see movies the other half of the year,” he said. “The outdoor theater is really a different kind of experience. I’d not think one is going to impact the other because they are so different. … If anything, they will complement each other and help each other out by being neighbors.” Construction is ongoing, and the theater is expected to open in January, he said.The theater, located downtown by the McHenry Riverwalk at 1208 N. Green St., will enhance the area around it, McHenry Chamber of Commerce Director Kay Bates said. “I have walked through and have been impressed by the amount of work put into this theater,” Bates said. “It’s going to be wonderful, and the combination with D.C. Cobbs is incredible. … We think it's going to be a big enhancement for the downtown.” The theater could act as a catalyst to redevelopment for the riverwalk, as well, which is about a third of the way complete, said Kit Carstens, vice chairman of the Riverwalk Foundation.Carstens said the nonprofit has been on a “five-year quest” to get an entity into the theater to anchor the area. The foundation wants to continue work on the walkway to i[...]


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Sandy Hook's legacy: More security in elementary schoolsCampus monitor Hector Garcia greets students Nov. 6 as they get off the bus at the start of the school day at West Elementary School in New Canaan, Conn. Garcia and the district's other campus monitors -- all former police or corrections officers – were among a wave of security officers hired in the aftermath of the deadly school shooting in nearby Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012.

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 04:43:00 GMT

NEW CANAAN, Conn. – The setting could not be more different, but David Wannagot says he applies some of the same skills from his 30-year police career to his new role as a school sentry. As he greeted children getting off the bus at West Elementary School one recent morning, he scanned their faces, ready to guide any who seem upset directly to the vice principal. And from his station at the entrance, he sizes up all visitors asking to enter the building. “We would do anything we can to protect a child or a teacher,” said Wannagot, a former detective in Norwalk. “We’re not armed, but we do have experience dealing with violent people in the past, reading people’s mannerisms, that kind of thing.” In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting five years ago, districts have moved to bolster security, especially at elementary schools, which traditionally have not had police assigned to them like many high schools and middle schools. Many have hired retired officers, firefighters and other responsible adults – an approach that’s less expensive and potentially less intrusive than assigning sworn police, but one that also has raised questions about the consistency of training and standards. Nationally, there is a patchwork of state laws addressing requirements for school safety officers, and many leave it entirely up to local school boards. Some states, including Connecticut, have weighed legislation to impose standards for nonpolice security inside schools. In Danbury, Connecticut, which began posting security guards inside elementary schools after the Sandy Hook shooting, Mayor Mark Boughton pushed for state legislation that would have established standards and training for nonpolice security personnel. The bill ultimately did not pass. In the event of a crisis involving a response by multiple agencies, he said, it would be helpful to have common agreement on the role of private guards. “I still think it’s a good idea,” Boughton said. Even before the shooting, security officers who were once almost exclusively at high schools before becoming common at middle schools also had been turning up increasingly at elementary schools, said Ronald Stephens, director of the National School Safety Center. The “responsible adult” model has been in use for years, he said, but anecdotal evidence suggests it has been growing in popularity. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of primary U.S. public schools with one or more security staffer present at least once a week rose slightly from 26.2 percent in the 2005-2006 school year to 28.6 percent in 2013-2014. In New Canaan, the school district contracted with a private company to set up the campus monitors soon after the Newtown school shooting on Dec. 14, 2012. “Our lenses changed a bit on that day,” Superintendent Bryan Luizzi said. The plan for the monitors initially ran into skepticism from some, including Steve Karl, a town councilor who questioned the cost and the intrusiveness, but he has come around to support the pr[...]


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Women: Sexual misconduct common in hospitalitySharonda Fields who said she was abused while working at a Georgia restaurant last year, talks with her attorney Brad Dozier in his office in Atlanta, Dec. 4. "I was absolutely humiliated. It was degrading, I felt embarrassed, said Fields. "I just felt like nothing happened when those guys talked to me that way and especially when the staff and the managers knew what was going on it made me feel like dirt." As new allegations of sexual harassment are levied against famous people in the worlds of entertainment, news and politics day after day, stories like Fields' are quietly playing out in restaurant, bars and hotels across the country.

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 04:43:00 GMT

CHICAGO – One woman recalled how a general manager at a Chicago-area restaurant where she worked told her that if security cameras recorded him reaching between her legs and grabbing her genitals he could simply “edit that out.” Another woman worked at an Atlanta restaurant and says her boss did nothing when two dishwashers kept making vulgar comments, so she quit wearing makeup to look less attractive and hopefully end the verbal abuse. In the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against several prominent men in entertainment, politics and journalism, accounts like the ones these women share quietly play out in restaurants, bars and hotels across the country and rarely get the headlines. Court documents and interviews with the women and experts on the topic show hospitality industry workers are routinely subjected to sexual abuse and harassment from bosses, co-workers and customers that are largely unchecked. The nature of the work, which often has employees relying on tips, can make them especially vulnerable to abuse. “I was absolutely humiliated,” said Sharonda Fields, who said the abuse at the Atlanta restaurant began shortly after she started working there last year. “It was degrading. I felt embarrassed. I felt low. I just felt like nothing happened when those guys talked to me that way, and especially when the staff and the managers knew what was going on. It made me feel like dirt.” She filed a lawsuit against the restaurant last spring. Calls to the restaurant from The Associated Press went unanswered. Joyce Smithey, an Annapolis, Maryland, attorney who has handled several sexual harassment lawsuits, said those accused of misconduct “have a great sense of who the victims are, who the women are who will put up with this, who need the job, are so scared they don’t fight back.” That’s especially true in an industry where immigrants are a large part of the workforce. In a 2014 federal lawsuit in New York that was ultimately settled, a woman alleged that the general manager of a fast-food restaurant where she worked asked about her immigration status regularly and knew that she was “even more vulnerable” partly because she had no family in the U.S. Many accusers think fighting back is futile. According to a survey in Chicago, not only had 49 percent of hotel workers reported incidents in which guests “exposed themselves, flashed them or answered the door naked,” but just 1 in 3 of the workers who had such experiences reported it to a boss. Sarah Lyons, a research analyst with UNITE HERE Local 1, the union that conducted the survey last year and represents more than 15,000 hospitality workers in the Chicago area and northwestern Indiana, said the most common reason these workers didn’t come forward is because they knew someone who tried to report sexual misconduct and nothing changed as a result. Often things can get worse for those who report misconduct. Attorneys and advocates for workers say waitresses who speak out risk facing retaliation: Their shifts can be taken away or they might be scheduled for slower business t[...]


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Hosey: Hollywood actor stars in Grundy County courtroom dramaJustin Bieber and Selena Gomez pose for a photo with Hollywood actor David Hill.Actor David Hill, who often plays a doctor or police officer, recently was acquitted after he was charged with transporting more than 12 pounds of marijuana, a Class X felony, in Grundy County.Actor David Hill, dressed as a police officer, points a gun during the filming of a TV show.Joe Hosey

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 14:35:00 GMT

Hollywood actor David Hill has flown from California to Chicago a dozen or so times in the past two years, then driven a rental car down to Morris to go to court. “Crash in the car a few hours, show up in court, court’s in and out in 15 minutes, and then it’s back up to Chicago,” Hill said of his trips to Grundy County during his pending Class X cannabis case. Sometimes, he said, he stays at the Super 8, but usually he’s there and gone in the same day. Hill, 56, was arrested in August 2015 and charged with transporting more than 12 pounds of marijuana. He said it was medical grade, and the way it got into the trunk of the blue Dodge Charger he was driving from California to Michigan was the result of a vindictive, labyrinthine plot involving politicians, a TV show consultant and the owners of a California marijuana dispensary. And it all started with a business introduction made by rap icon Snoop Dogg. On Snoop Dogg’s recommendation, the co-owners of a marijuana dispensary began booking Hill to play a police officer “on music videos, YouTube videos and at live events as part of a documentary they were producing,” Hill said in an email. And that seems to make sense, as Hill’s IMDB page says he is “one of Hollywood’s strongest actors to cast in the role of a cop or doctor.” As an actor, Hill rubs elbows with plenty of celebrities himself. He has 134 roles to his credit and has been photographed with the likes of Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Susanne Somers and Vivica A. Fox. The business relationship began with Snoop Dogg’s introduction and led to the dispensary owners retaining Hill to drive to Clio, Michigan, where, upon arrival, he was to fix up the Charger so it looked like a state police squad car for an event called the High Times Cannabis Cup, he said. Then, according to Hill and court testimony, he and his “longtime employee,” actress and singer Tearra Rosario, whose stage name is Tearra Oso, were to dress up like state troopers. This, he said, was so he and Rosario could pose for photos with people who were smoking marijuana at the Cannabis Cup. “The stoner people at the festival find it humorous to have their picture taken with a cop,” Hill said to Illinois State Trooper Chad Martinez in a video captured by Martinez’s squad car camera. The High Times Cannabis Cup, incidentally, is the “world’s leading marijuana trade show, celebrating the world of ganja through competitions, instructional seminars, expositions, celebrity appearances, concerts and product showcases. Hosted in states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana, the Cannabis Cup stands as the foremost gathering place for the cannabis community to network and celebrate,” according to the event’s website. The 2015 Cannabis Cup was held at the Auto City Speedway in Clio, and that’s where Hill said he and Rosario had to get by 5 p.m. Aug. 21. Before he could hit the road, Hill [...]Joe Hosey


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Merry Cary Holiday Parade kicks off village festivitiesResidents march in Dec. 3 in the Merry Cary Holiday Parade. The parade included more than 65 floats and featured local businesses, community groups, Scout troops, bands and more.Residents kick off the holidays Dec. 3 at the Merry Cary Holiday Parade. Next year, the festival will celebrate its 20th anniversary.

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:26:00 GMT

The Merry Cary Holiday Parade and Festival took place Dec. 3.

The parade included more than 65 floats and featured local businesses, community groups, Scout troops, bands and more, said Aimee Suyko, executive assistant of the Cary-Grove Area Chamber of Commerce.

Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the event.

Residents march in Dec. 3 in the Merry Cary Holiday Parade. The parade included more than 65 floats and featured local businesses, community groups, Scout troops, bands and more.Residents kick off the holidays Dec. 3 at the Merry Cary Holiday Parade. Next year, the festival will celebrate its 20th anniversary.


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Crystal Lake's property tax rate to fall, but homeowners still could pay more

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:24:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE – The city’s property tax rate is expected to decrease 1.28 percent on next year’s tax bill, but projected increases to the equalized assessed value in the area could require homeowners to pay more than the previous year. It all depends on property assessments. The Crystal Lake City Council approved the city’s annual property tax levy request Tuesday. With the levy, the owner of a $200,000 home could see an estimated $12 drop in the city portion of his or her tax bills if the home’s property assessment remains the same, according to the city’s finance department. But if an increase in a property’s assessed value equals the overall 5.61 percent increase in the city’s EAV, then the owner of a $200,000 home – for example – would pay about $46 more in 2018 than in 2017. Taxpayers pay their property tax bills based on the previous year’s values – tax bills paid in 2018 are for 2017 values. It is difficult to estimate how much each homeowner will have to pay the city, Crystal Lake Finance Director George Koczwara said. That’s because the amount requested from each homeowner will depend on changes to assessed value of the homeowner’s property. That value will be available in the spring after property assessments are made public. Early projections, however, indicate that the EAV could rise as much as 6 percent in parts of McHenry County. Crystal Lake is requesting $17,070,984 in property taxes based on a tax rate of $1.56 per $100 in assessed value, compared with the 2016 tax rate of $1.58, city documents show. Within the total overall tax rate for the city is a rate of 42 cents per $100 of assessed value that will fund the Crystal Lake Public Library, which is a slight drop from 43 cents the previous year. Each fund supported through the city’s total property tax rate will have a smaller levy than the previous year, except for two – the city’s police pension fund and its firefighter pension fund. The tax rate that funds police pensions will rise from 20 cents to 22 cents, while the tax rate that funds firefighter pensions will rise from 15 cents to 17 cents. “Additional dollars collected as part of the city’s proposed tax levy will be solely used for state-mandated police and fire pension obligations,” Koczwara said in an email. To lower the tax levy, the city elected to abate $4,730,399 in debt service. The city will use cash reserves to pay the debt, which stems from a series of bonds. The tax levy would have been $21,801,383 without abatement. About 10 percent of a property tax bill in Crystal Lake is attributable to municipal services provided by the city. The city levies property taxes to pay for the fire department, library, the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund and pensions for police officers and firefighters. [...]



33-year-old Chicago man charged with Island Lake sexual abuse of childDominic Chess, 33, of the 62700 block of Oshkosh Avenue, Chicago

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:24:00 GMT

ISLAND LAKE – A Chicago man remained at the McHenry County Jail on Friday evening after being accused of sexually abusing someone younger than 13 years old.

Dominic Chess, 33, of the 62700 block of Oshkosh Avenue, Chicago, was booked into the McHenry County Jail on Sunday on aggravated criminal sexual abuse and domestic battery charges, jail records show.

The most serious charge, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, typically is punishable by three to seven years in prison.

Officers received a report Aug. 7 that a child had been sexually abused days earlier, Island Lake Police Sgt. Bill Dickerson said Friday.

One instance of abuse involving one alleged victim was reported to police, Dickerson said.

Neither Chess’ attorney, Terry Mohr, nor a representative from the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office were available to comment on the charges.

Chess’ bond is set at $100,000, meaning he must post $10,000 bail to be released, jail records show.

His next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 26.

Dominic Chess, 33, of the 62700 block of Oshkosh Avenue, Chicago


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'James Doe' lawsuit against former House Speaker Dennis Hastert continued to FebruaryDennis Hastert

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:24:00 GMT

YORKVILLE – Depositions for disgraced former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and a man who said Hastert sexually assaulted him decades ago are expected to take place within the next couple of months, lawyers for the two parties said Friday.

An anonymous accuser known as James Doe alleged that Hastert promised to pay him $3.5 million to keep quiet about Hastert’s sexual assault of Doe when he was a freshman at Yorkville High School, but has said that Hastert only paid him $1.7 million. In his civil lawsuit, Doe is seeking the rest of the money he claims he is owed.

Hastert was a teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School from 1965 to 1981. He went on to become the longest-serving Republican Speaker of the House in the 1990s, retiring in 2007.

In April 2016, Hastert was convicted in federal court of violating federal banking regulations to cover up the sexual abuse of teenage boys during his years as a high school teacher. After serving more than a year in federal prison in Minnesota, he was transferred in July to a halfway house in Chicago to complete his 15-month sentence.

During a conference call hearing Friday at the Kendall County Courthouse, Doe’s attorney, Kristi Browne, said that the written discovery for the case has not been completed.

The parties are working on a protective order for the plaintiff to maintain his privacy. Once that order is complete, Browne said, she expects discovery to continue between the parties.

During a previous courtroom appearance, Judge Robert Pilmer ruled that Browne’s discovery only could reach as far back as 2008, when Doe and Hastert entered their contract. Browne originally had requested for discovery to reach as far back as the 1960s, when Hastert first was hired as a teacher and coach at Yorkville.

In regard to possible depositions in the case, Browne confirmed that her client could be deposed within 60 days. However, John Ellis, an attorney for Hastert, indicated that he did not yet want to confirm a date when Hastert might be deposed. He cited the upcoming holidays and discussions between the parties.

The two attorneys agreed to either complete the depositions or at least agree upon the rules for the depositions within the next 60 days.

The case will be back on the courthouse docket Feb. 23.

Dennis Hastert


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McHenry to study feasibility of indoor pool at its recreation centerThis rendering shows a potential expansion for the McHenry Recreation Center. The city has hired Heller and Heller Consulting LLC to conduct a feasibility study for adding an indoor pool to the facility.

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:23:00 GMT

McHENRY – The city of McHenry hired an engineering firm to complete a feasibility study for an indoor pool at its recreation center.

City Council members voted to hire consulting firm Heller and Heller Consulting LLC to conduct the study over a three-month period. The company will look at McHenry’s demographics, the results of a recent parks and recreation community survey and operational plans for a potential indoor pool.

The city has agreed to pay $19,500 for the services from the McHenry Recreation Center fund. Any expansion of the existing recreation center would require some form of public funding, likely in the form of a tax increase. The question could be put to referendum next year.

The existing multimillion-dollar center was built from park developer donations accrued over many years. The space was designed with the intention to allow the possibility of an indoor pool addition. The center had been in the works since 1999, when city officials decided to save 50 percent of its developer donation revenue for a combined aquatic and recreation center.

Residents have shown a strong interest in expanding the facility, Parks and Recreation Director Bill Hobson said.

“The results of a recent community-needs assessment noted a strong desire to expand both indoor and outdoor offerings at the McHenry Recreation Center, such as an indoor pool for lap swimming, a warm water therapy pool and zero-depth spray pad,” Hobson said in a note to the City Council.

Residents also want a gymnasium with a walking track and an outdoor aquatic center with more amenities, he said.

City officials have to determine whether they want to use a referendum by August for the November election. The feasibility study will help figure out costs of the project, as well as maintenance and operational costs.

“The process of a referendum, as unpopular as it is, truly puts [the decision] in residents’ hands,” Hobson said.

City Council members voted, 4-3, in favor of the study, with 1st Ward Alderman Victor Santi, 2nd Ward Alderman Andrew Glab and 4th Ward Alderman Scott Curry voting against it.

The response rate on the community-needs assessment was 6 percent, which Curry said doesn’t show a strong interest.

“To me, it just doesn’t appear we have a great return for our investment for the survey,” Curry said. “I am unconvinced there is a strong community desire. Maybe it’s true, but I don’t think we have shown that.”

This rendering shows a potential expansion for the McHenry Recreation Center. The city has hired Heller and Heller Consulting LLC to conduct a feasibility study for adding an indoor pool to the facility.


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McHenry County Board to vote on referendum encouraging 10 percent cut to school property tax leviesThe McHenry County Board will vote Tuesday on an advisory referendum asking school districts to cut their property tax levies by at least 10 percent. Chairman Jack Franks is hoping that the County Board can use the 11.2 percent cut to the county’s property tax levy as a “bully pulpit” to push other governing bodies to cut their own levies.

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:22:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board will vote Tuesday on an advisory referendum asking school districts to cut their property tax levies by at least 10 percent.

The vote will follow on the heels of the County Board’s approval of a fiscal 2018 budget that included an 11.2 percent reduction of the property tax levy.

The resolution – an action from County Board members Michele Aavang, John Jung and Christopher Spoerl – seeks to ask voters in the March 20 primary election whether they would like to see school districts do the same by 2020.

“It’s not a mandate, but we want them to look at things differently, like we did this year,” McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks said at Thursday’s County Board Committee of the Whole meeting. “Since we’ve shown that we can do it, I don’t think it’s inappropriate to ask others to do the same.”

Advisory referendums allow residents to weigh in on issues, but they are not legally binding – the County Board has no statutory power to dictate budget policy for school districts.

Franks said the County Board would use the 11.2 percent cut to the county’s property tax levy as a “bully pulpit” to push other governing bodies to cut their own levies.

“The schools are about two-thirds of the property tax bills – they’re the biggest issue, and that’s why I thought it was important to focus just on that issue at this point,” Franks said. “It’s important to ask this now since we’ve shown that we can do it, and if they can’t, at least they can say they’ve tried, and they’ve looked at it, and they’re now going to be focusing on this. I don’t think folks are focused on this at all.”

At a regular meeting in November, all County Board members voted in favor of the budget and a $71.4 million property tax levy that will collect $8 million less next year than the county collected this year.

“Our citizens are leaving our state. They are fleeing our state and our county, and we’ve lost population in five of the last seven years,” Franks said. “And it’s primarily due to our crushing property tax burden, so I think it’s imperative that we ask this question now, while we have the moral authority to do so.”

The McHenry County Board will vote Tuesday on an advisory referendum asking school districts to cut their property tax levies by at least 10 percent. Chairman Jack Franks is hoping that the County Board can use the 11.2 percent cut to the county’s property tax levy as a “bully pulpit” to push other governing bodies to cut their own levies.


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MCC paramedic students practice new skills with full-scale crash simulationMCC paramedic students and firefighters and paramedics from several McHenry County agencies simulated a head-on crash between two cars around 9 a.m. Saturday in a campus parking lot. "This is about as real as we can get it for the students," said Weirich, who is a registered nurse. "It’s nerve-wracking for them.”The students and professionals ran through the simulation four times to give each student the opportunity to lead an operation. The scene consisted of a four-door car with four teenagers who were not wearing seat belts that had struck a minivan carrying a parent and two children. "The goal of today is for these students really to assess the situation, be the team leader and treat the patients’ injuries with the inclement weather – that’s going to throw some curve balls in it,” Weirich said.Crews would gather around each vehicle and assess how to enter it and extract those inside safely. Two teens were partially ejected from the car, and those in the minivan were also injured. After the patients were removed, the teams would work together to assess and pretend to take them to area hospitals. Weirich's 21 students needed six months of experience as licensed Emergency Medical Technicians before they could take her class, which lasts almost a year. Weirich said the course is fast-paced, and the crash simulation was part of its trauma unit. The students, who come from across McHenry County, including Spring Grove, Richmond, Woodstock and Marengo, also participate in other simulations throughout the course.“We do a lot of them indoor here at MCC throughout the year, but by far this is the biggest one with actual cars and things like that,” Weirich said. Most students want to become full-time firefighter-paramedics somewhere. One wants to become a transport flight paramedic. “We train them and give them the best opportunity to put it altogether in a situation like today, so that when they go out in the real world, they’re a little more prepared,” Weirich said. MCC offers degrees for both EMTs and firefighters.

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:22:00 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE — McHenry County College Lead Paramedic Instructor Brandy Weirich said the blustery conditions Saturday morning would provide an even more realistic experience for her students.

MCC paramedic students and firefighters and paramedics from several McHenry County agencies simulated a head-on crash between two cars around 9 a.m. Saturday in a campus parking lot. "This is about as real as we can get it for the students," said Weirich, who is a registered nurse. "It’s nerve-wracking for them.”The students and professionals ran through the simulation four times to give each student the opportunity to lead an operation. The scene consisted of a four-door car with four teenagers who were not wearing seat belts that had struck a minivan carrying a parent and two children. "The goal of today is for these students really to assess the situation, be the team leader and treat the patients’ injuries with the inclement weather – that’s going to throw some curve balls in it,” Weirich said.Crews would gather around each vehicle and assess how to enter it and extract those inside safely. Two teens were partially ejected from the car, and those in the minivan were also injured. After the patients were removed, the teams would work together to assess and pretend to take them to area hospitals. Weirich's 21 students needed six months of experience as licensed Emergency Medical Technicians before they could take her class, which lasts almost a year. Weirich said the course is fast-paced, and the crash simulation was part of its trauma unit. The students, who come from across McHenry County, including Spring Grove, Richmond, Woodstock and Marengo, also participate in other simulations throughout the course.“We do a lot of them indoor here at MCC throughout the year, but by far this is the biggest one with actual cars and things like that,” Weirich said. Most students want to become full-time firefighter-paramedics somewhere. One wants to become a transport flight paramedic. “We train them and give them the best opportunity to put it altogether in a situation like today, so that when they go out in the real world, they’re a little more prepared,” Weirich said. MCC offers degrees for both EMTs and firefighters.


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Former Woodstock nursing home employee says workers violated Illinois Whistleblower ActA lawsuit filed Nov. 30 in McHenry County court accuses employees at Hearthstone Communities, 920 N. Seminary Ave., Woodstock, of violating the Illinois Whistleblower and Nursing Home Care acts after firing a woman for reporting abuse that a patient disclosed to her.

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:21:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – A lawsuit filed by a former Woodstock senior living center worker accuses the business of firing her for trying to report abuse disclosed by a patient. Juana Walsh is suing Christian Living Communities and Hearthstone Communities for more than $75,000 in money damages and the reinstatement of her job. The lawsuit, filed Nov. 30 in McHenry County court, comes exactly one year after Walsh was fired from her job at Hearthstone Communities, 920 N. Seminary Ave., Woodstock. The suit names two employees – facility Administrator Joni K. Fisher and Director of Nursing Patricia A. Birks – who Walsh believes violated the Illinois Whistleblower and Nursing Home Care acts after firing her for reporting the abuse. Representatives from Hearthstone Communities’ human resources department could not be reached for comment. An employee answering phones at the senior living center Friday said Birks no longer works there. According to the lawsuit, Walsh entered a male resident’s room to take his vital signs Nov. 26, 2016. The man was shaking and appeared nervous, and when Walsh asked whether there was anything she could do for him, he said he was afraid of a male nursing assistant. The man went on to say he was “treated very badly” by a particular nursing assistant the day before, the lawsuit states. At the beginning of the male employee’s shift, he told the resident to “keep quiet” and “not bother him,” according to the lawsuit. Later, when the resident used the call light to ask for a glass of water, the nursing assistant reprimanded him and said not to call him for anything else. As the nursing assistant was leaving, the man asked him to fix his pillow, and the employee was physically rough with the man’s head, the lawsuit states. The resident told Walsh he was scared of the employee and did “not feel safe at Hearthstone.” Walsh’s attorney, James Harrison of Harrison Law Offices, could not be reached for comment. Days later, after Walsh had reported the abuse to both her supervisor and the company’s human resources director, a social worker told her no one would be filing an official report. The social worker told Walsh that Birks had spoken with the man Nov. 28, 2016, and reported he was “confused,” the lawsuit states. According to the lawsuit, Walsh said she prepared a written statement of the man’s complaint and shared it with the resident’s brother upon request when he visited two days later. When Fisher learned that a family member had seen the complaint, she told Walsh what she did was wrong, and that she had put the entire place, and everybody’s job – including her own – at risk, according to the lawsuit. Wal[...]


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Woodstock's Northwood Middle School hosts LEGO robotics qualifierSarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com Creekside Middle School's Liam Hanson, 11, sets up his teams robot during Saturday's LEGO League Robotic Qualifier Competition at Northwood Middle School in Woodstock Dec. 9, 2017. Students used LEGO Mindstorms technology to solve a set of missions by building, programming, and testing an autonomous robot.

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:21:00 GMT

WOODSTOCK – Students from all over northern Illinois descended on Northwood Middle School Saturday for a roughly six-hour LEGO robotics competition. Teams, composed of up to 10 middle-schoolers, prepared all semester for the FIRST LEGO League Robotic Qualifier Competition of the season. FIRST LEGO League is a global robotics program “designed to ignite enthusiasm for discovery, science and technology among students age 9 to 14,” according to LEGO. Top performers from Saturday will move on to the state competition. Creekside Middle School teacher Kristina Hermansson said LEGO ended up in school curriculum nationwide because of the push for STEM learning. “This opportunity allows students to not only do robotics, but to research and present,” Hermansson said, adding FIRST LEGO comes with embedded curriculum, but students often research on their own time. “It’s the total package.” Teams are expected to consider four components when preparing and competing. The first is to find a problem within a topic assigned by LEGO. This year, it’s hydrodynamics. Throughout one gymnasium, teams set up displays of a water-related problems the country or a community is facing, and a possible solution to the problem. Teams tackled issues such as lead-poisoned water, wasted water and the impacts that wasting food can have on a water system. The second objective is to program their LEGO robot to complete missions on the official LEGO hydrodynamics course. Teams aim to score as many points as possible in 150 seconds. Part three is all about core values, and asks the students to work together programming, researching and putting it all together for the competition. Students contacted professional plumbers, engineers and others to consult on the various issues they wanted to address. The last component is robot design, when students are assessed on how the robot is built. Judges look at factors in the robots such as durability, whether it responds to sensors, or if it can pick up, push or pull things. Judges presented awards Saturday afternoon for the winners of the day, as well as robot design and performance, and core values. FIRST LEGO is part of the gifted program in Woodstock School District 200. Students who are in Challenge Corps are able to compete. The gifted program starts identifying eligible students beginning in fourth grade. “It would be great if they opened it up to more students in the future, I think,” Hermansson said. In 2015, the district received an $8,000 grant from Google, which helped pay for the existing program. Woodstock has participated in LEGO robotics for more than a decade, with its Northwood team gaining global recognition in March[...]


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Rep. David McSweeney calls for abolishment of Algonquin TownshipRep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, and then-Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, get together on the House floor during session Aug. 25, 2015, at the state Capitol in Springfield.Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, waits on lawmakers to return from caucus while on the House floor during session Aug. 25, 2015, at the state Capitol in Springfield.

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:20:00 GMT

ALGONQUIN TOWNSHIP – Whether they know it or not, elected officials have made a strong case for abolishing townships. Unruly in-house lawsuits, astronomical legal fees and numerous corruption allegations at the highway department have led state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, to put abolishing Algonquin Township at the top of his legislative priorities.  “Algonquin Township is the the poster child for a township government that needs to be eliminated immediately,” McSweeney said. “It’s an example of government not working for the people. It’s outrageous.” McSweeney now is working on a bill that would give voters an opportunity to eliminate township government with a majority vote – a move that would shift the work done by townships to local municipalities and the county government. His legislation would allow voters to trigger a referendum with a petition signed by 5 percent of voters within township boundaries. “Algonquin Township is out of control,” he said. “People are sick of it.” McSweeney has taken a particular interest in the township’s growing legal costs – more than $200,000 through December – and failure of elected officials to communicate or govern. “The only winners are the lawyers,” McSweeney said. “The taxpayers are the losers.”  He also takes issue with Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser’s publication of documents on his website. Gasser has said he is posting documents regarding township spending to his website to improve transparency and highlight questionable practices by his predecessor. McSweeney said allegations of improper spending and official misconduct during the tenure of former Highway Commissioner Bob Miller should be investigated by authorities rather than political rivals and the attorneys they’ve hired using public money.  Miller, who served as highway commissioner for 24 years, now is the subject of a grand jury investigation into official misconduct related to road district spending over the past decade. He has not been charged with a crime. “Nobody knows what is true,” McSweeney said. “That’s for law enforcement to decide.” McSweeney said road commissioners have little financial oversight, which can lead to problems such as those that have cropped up in the township. Gasser is a friend of McSweeney’s who helped the Barrington Hills Republican on the campaign trail in past elections. Gasser previously supported township consolidation when he served on the McHenry County Board. Gasser had little to say about McSweeney’s efforts to eliminate townships. “Bob Miller has done more damage to township government than Andrew Gasser or Bob Anderson ever could,” Gas[...]


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‘I’m not in charge’: Rauner’s words may haunt bidIllinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks Aug. 10 in Springfield. Rauner raised eyebrows, then questions about whether he misspoke after he declared "I am not in charge" of the state. Now it looks like the comment could haunt him all the way until Election Day. The Republican, who's seeking his second term in 2018, made the unusual declaration last week, telling reporters he's "trying to get to be" in charge of Illinois, but has been blocked by his political nemesis, longtime Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. He stood by the remark the next day, adding "everyone in this state knows what I'm talking about."

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:15:00 GMT

CHICAGO – Gov. Bruce Rauner raised eyebrows, then questions about whether he misspoke after he declared “I am not in charge” of the state. Now it looks like the comment could haunt him all the way until Election Day. The Republican, who’s seeking his second term in 2018, made the unusual declaration last week, telling reporters he’s “trying to get to be” in charge of Illinois but has been blocked by his political nemesis, longtime Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. Rauner stood by the remark the next day and added, “Everyone in this state knows what I’m talking about.” Rauner’s words have reverberated across Illinois, drawing criticism from Democrats, GOP primary challenger Rep. Jeanne Ives and even some of Rauner’s biggest supporters. Billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker, one of seven people seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, released a video that features a clip of a wide-eyed Rauner making the forceful comments, interspersed with negative news coverage about problems in state agencies. Democratic Senate President John Cullerton called on Rauner to “take charge” of drafting a new state budget, adding: “It’s hard to run a state without a governor.” Even newspaper editorial boards that endorsed Rauner in 2014 and have consistently supported his pro-business agenda chastised him. “Stop griping,” the Chicago Tribune wrote. Rauner’s sentiment regarding Madigan wasn’t new. For years, the wealthy former private equity investor has blamed Illinois’ many problems – financial and otherwise – on Madigan, who leads the state Democratic Party and is widely considered the most powerful politician in Illinois. The governor pushed things a bit further last week, saying Madigan has gotten rich off his position and “rigged” the Democratic primary for governor, a statement Madigan’s spokesman called “incoherent.” Rauner also said the Democratic-controlled General Assembly has blocked many of his legislative priorities but that he is doing an “incredible” job on things he controls, such as reforming the criminal justice system. Madigan says Democrats have rejected Rauner’s agenda because it would harm the middle class. Asked how long he plans to blame Madigan, Rauner replied: “Until he’s gone.” The response drew applause from onlookers attending an Illinois Farm Bureau meeting. Christopher Mooney, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said the “Madigan argument” may work for Rauner among people who closely follow state government. But the typical voter expects the chief executive – whether president or governor – to be running the show. He noted Rauner assured voters during the 2014 campaign tha[...]


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Tree replacement plan at Illinois fairgrounds continues

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:15:00 GMT

SPRINGFIELD – More than 200 young trees have been planted over the last three years at the Springfield, Illinois, fairgrounds as part of a four-year donation program.

The replacement program began after hundreds of fairgrounds trees were lost to emerald ash borer infestations, age and storms, The State Journal-Register reported. It was created by the Illinois Green Industry Association of nursery and landscape companies.

Joe Khayyat, the association's executive director, said the donated trees came from nurseries across the state. He said the call for donations came after the emerald ash borer was spotted in Springfield, including at the fairgrounds.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture, which oversees the fairgrounds, found 245 ash trees on the fairgrounds when the ash borer was discovered.

Cathy Ward, a plant and pesticides specialist with the Illinois Department of Agriculture, said donations have allowed the agency to diversify the types of trees on the fairgrounds.

Trees donated to the fairgrounds have included swamp white oaks, Kentucky coffee trees and Austrian pines. The association's plan was to plant 50 replacement trees per year, but that has been surpassed.

"When nurseries heard we were doing this, we started getting more trees, Khayyat said. "We started getting extra trees."

The association plans to donate another 50 in 2018.

"We made a four-year commitment for 200 trees, and though we've exceed the 200 total, we're going to keep the four-year commitment," Khayyat said. "And the fairgrounds still needs more trees."

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com




Former Tennessee lawmaker sues Illinois trucking company

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:15:00 GMT

KINGSPORT, Tenn. – A former Tennessee lawmaker is suing an Illinois trucking company for injuries he received in a vehicle accident.

The Kingsport Times News reports that former state Rep. Jason Mumpower, who is currently the Tennessee Comptroller chief of staff, filed a $1.5 million federal lawsuit against Gogu Trucking Express, Sopranos Inc. and truck driver Pavel Gheleniuc.

Multiple crashes took place on Interstate 81 in Kingsport on Nov. 2 that halted traffic for three hours and sent five people, including Mumpower, to the hospital. Police said Mumpower had stopped his vehicle in response to the accident.

A tractor-trailer owned by Sopranos and Gogu and driven by Gheleniuc swerved to avoid a collision and rear-ended Mumpower's vehicle.

Sopranos Inc. is based in Palatine, Illinois, and Gogu is based in Highland Park, Illinois.

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Information from: Kingsport Times-News, http://www.timesnews.net




Lake Shore Drive, I-55 interchange reconstruction completed

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:15:00 GMT

CHICAGO – Illinois officials have completed reconstruction of the busy intersection of Interstate 55 and Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.

Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn christened the $135 million project on Friday. It improves access to the McCormick Place convention center, the Chicago Museum Campus, the University of Chicago and other sites along Lake Michigan. The project began in 2015. It involved rebuilding six bridges that comprise the elevated roads.

Blankenhorn says the project “immediately makes life easier” for commuters but the benefits will be felt far into the future. He called the interchange a key part of the state’s transport system and a critical reason that Illinois is a U.S. transportation hub. Traffic flow is improved with a second lane added to the ramps connecting Lake Shore Drive and outbound I-55.




Lawmakers, groups urge fast deployment of Asian carp defense

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:15:00 GMT

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Members of Congress and Great Lakes advocacy groups are pressing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to strengthen defenses against Asian carp at a crucial choke point.

The Corps is considering a $275 million plan to bolster the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois, with devices such as water jets and noisemakers to prevent the invasive fish from migrating from the Illinois River to Lake Michigan.

Environmental groups submitted 10,000 citizen letters supporting the plan Friday, the deadline for a public comment period. About 50 sporting and conservation organizations also endorsed it.

More than two dozen U.S. House members signed a letter urging the Corps to install the protections faster than the eight-year timeframe currently proposed.

Scientists say Asian carp could seriously harm native Great Lakes fish populations.




Family donates WWII news clippings to SIUE library

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:15:00 GMT

EDWARDSVILLE – A family has donated nearly two dozen scrapbooks filled with news clippings from World War II to the library at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

The Belleville News-Democrat reports Dorris William Wilton of Alton carefully followed news of the war while his son was serving with the U.S. Army. He filled 23 scrapbooks with clippings from coverage throughout the war, including articles from the Alton and St. Louis newspapers.

Wilton's descendants donated the scrapbooks to be permanently preserved and available to researchers at the SIUE library archives and special collections.

History professor Jeffery Manuel says the books are important because they tell the history of the war as well as how people back home followed what was happening. Manuel says it's "a thrill" to encounter such lovingly compiled documents.

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Information from: Belleville News-Democrat, http://www.bnd.com




Shooting after basketball game wounds 3 teens

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:15:00 GMT

CHAMPAIGN – Police in central Illinois say three teenagers were wounded by gunfire after a high school basketball game.

The shooting happened Friday night as a large crowd was leaving the Champaign Central High School gymnasium after a game against Danville High School.

Champaign police spokeswoman LaEisha Meaderds said the three wounded females were taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. Meaderds identified them as a 15-year-old Danville High School student, a 17-year-old girl from Champaign and an 18-year-old Parkland College student.

No arrests were made and police didn’t release any description of the possible shooter.




East Chicago Superfund site on list for accelerated cleanup

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:15:00 GMT

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. – Lead-contaminated neighborhoods in a northwestern Indiana city have been placed on a national priority list for accelerated cleanup work.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has included the USS Lead site in East Chicago among 21 projects slated for special attention under the Superfund program, which provides federal resources to deal with some of the nation’s most-contaminated locations.

The EPA designated the area as a Superfund cleanup site in 2009, but residents didn’t learn the full extent of the problem until East Chicago’s mayor called last year for the relocation of more than 1,000 people from the West Calumet public housing complex. The area was the longtime location of a lead-salvage company that closed in 1985.

The EPA said no additional funding is assured by being on the priority list.




PM announces Iraq’s war against IS has endedIraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi gestures, during a press conference, in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017. Iraq said Saturday that its war on the Islamic State is over after more than three years of combat operations drove the extremists from all of the territory they once held. -Abadi announced Iraqi forces were in full control of the country's border with Syria during remarks at a conference in Baghdad, and his spokesman said the development marked the end of the military fight against IS. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:14:00 GMT

BAGHDAD – After more than three years of combat operations, Iraq announced Saturday that the fight against the Islamic State group is over after the country’s security forces drove the extremists from all of the territory they once held. Iraqi and American officials warned, however, that key challenges remain despite the military victory.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi formally announced the victory in an address to the nation aired on Iraqi state television Saturday evening.

“Honorable Iraqis, your land has been completely liberated,” he said. “The liberation dream has become a reality. We achieved victory in difficult circumstances and with God’s help, the steadfastness of our people and the bravery of our heroic forces we prevailed.”

Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi gestures, during a press conference, in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017. Iraq said Saturday that its war on the Islamic State is over after more than three years of combat operations drove the extremists from all of the territory they once held. -Abadi announced Iraqi forces were in full control of the country's border with Syria during remarks at a conference in Baghdad, and his spokesman said the development marked the end of the military fight against IS. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)


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Snow slows down much of Deep SouthA football blocking sled is coated with snow at Murrah High School, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, in Jackson, Miss. Forecasters anticipate continued snowing throughout much of the central and southern Mississippi until noon. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:14:00 GMT

ATLANTA – Snowfall shrouding much of the Deep South began tapering off early Saturday, but freezing temperatures kept roads slick and thousands without electricity throughout the region while planes remained grounded at the world’s busiest airport.

Forecasters warned that moisture on the roadways could freeze and cause black ice to form. The National Weather Service said that while snow flurries would end by midday in areas including metro Atlanta, temperatures at or below freezing could cause transparent layers of thin ice to form on bridges and other elevated roadways.

A football blocking sled is coated with snow at Murrah High School, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, in Jackson, Miss. Forecasters anticipate continued snowing throughout much of the central and southern Mississippi until noon. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)


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President Trump hails civil rights heroesPresident Donald Trump, left, gets a tour of the newly-opened Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, watches at right. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:14:00 GMT

JACKSON, Miss. – President Donald Trump paid tribute Saturday to the leaders and foot soldiers of the civil rights movement whose sacrifices help make the United States a fairer and more just country, though protests surrounding his visit to Mississippi laid bare the stark divisions among Americans about his commitment to that legacy.

As Trump gazed at an exhibit on Freedom Riders at the new Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, demonstrators near the site held up signs that said “Make America Civil Again” and “Lock Him Up.” Some shouted “No Trump, no hate, no KKK in the USA.”

Trump spent about 30 minutes at the museums, gave a 10-minute speech to select guests inside and then flew back to his Florida estate, skipping the public schedule of the dedication ceremony held outside on a chilly day. He spent more time getting to Jackson than he did on the ground.

Trump’s remarks steered clear of addressing the anger that his participation had sparked leading up to the dedication.

President Donald Trump, left, gets a tour of the newly-opened Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, watches at right. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)


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