All posts by Martha Quetsch

Village official: Guide in place for downtown revitalization

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Planning Commissioner Susan Filek wants revitalizing the historic business district in Elburn to be a priority for village officials.

“We have just a great little downtown,” Filek said. “We need to think about what we can easily do to make businesses want to locate there.”

Filek recently compiled a condensed version of a document prepared with community involvement in 2002, “The Old Town Elburn Business District Development Plan,” and presented it to the Planning Commission Monday.

Planning Commissioners discussed the need for the village to establish more downtown parking with pedestrian walkways.

“I think that is where the village could focus more,” Filek said.

Adding areas of green space downtown could help sell the area to more retailers, Planning Commissioner Pat Schuberg said.

The commissioners acknowledged the obstacle of the current economy to downtown improvement, although they are encouraged by the success of recently opened businesses, including Schmidt’s Towne Tap.

Filek believes the eight-year-old document still will be a good guide when the economy improves.

“These principles are still very valid,” Filek said.

Principles for downtown vitality that are outlined in the plan include encouraging similar businesses to locate there so that people can comparison shop; making the old downtown district accessible to increased pedestrian and vehicular traffic; and promoting higher rents to make it uneconomical for offices to occupy prime, ground-floor space.

RV owners want an answer

Officials unsure of private-property parking rules
by Martha Quetsch
MAPLE PARK—Don Holder of Maple Park parks his trailer on a gravel area alongside his garage. Now, he’s not so sure he is allowed to do this, since village officials are not sure either.

Holder became doubtful after Maple Park police recently approached him and other RV owners to tell them that the village soon will enforce its municipal code ordinances, without specifying which ones.

Holder said he called the village to ask whether he could still park his trailer next to his garage but was not given an answer.

“They really didn’t clear it up,” Holder said. “No one seems to know if it is an ordinance violation.”

Before buying his house at 804 Willow St. three years ago, Holder wanted to make sure this would be allowed, so he called the village and was told it was permitted, he said.

“That is why I moved to Maple Park, because I could do that (park a trailer on his property),” Holder said.

When Village President Kathy Curtis was asked if Maple Park’s municipal code allows trailers, motor homes, boats and other RVs to be parked on residential property, she did not have the answer.

“It is not that easy; that is why the building inspector has been contracted to interpret (the code),” Curtis told the Elburn Herald on Tuesday.

The municipal code is composed of all municipal regulations, which were established through ordinances passed by the Village Board over the years. The village recently employed Bill Dettmer of International Codes and Consultants, Inc., to interpret the regulations and canvass the village for violations.

If the building inspector determines that the current code allows residents to park RVs on their property, it is uncertain whether village officials will change the code in the future to restrict that parking. Village President Kathy Curtis said Tuesday that she did not want to comment at this time about whether or not that might happen.

Maple Park resident Don Schiff hopes the village will continue allowing him to park his trailer in his driveway at 526 S. Huntley St. He said the section of the code that pertains to parking “didn’t clarify” the current regulation.

Schiff, Holder and several other RV owners from Maple Park attended the village’s Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday to request more information about village ordinances regulating RV parking. However, the committee meeting format does not allow for public comment, so Holder and the others plan to attend the next Village Board meeting on Tuesday, April 6, to talk to trustees about the issue.

Booking it

Fourth-grader Jennifer Parra, 10, took a look at a book during the Blackberry Creek Elementary School Book Fair Tuesday. The event this week in the Learning Resource Center of the Elburn school provided students and parents an opportunity to purchase a variety of popular children’s titles. Photo by Martha Quetsch

Dewey Dash in Elburn will kick off race season

file photo
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Gene Stern of Elburn has participated for the past several years in the Dewey Dash, a 5K event that Town & Country Public Library sponsors each spring.

Stern said he likes that the race is early in the year.

“It’s a good motivator to get started,” he said.

Stern runs many different Chicago-area races from spring through fall. Elburn’s terrain is good training ground for the race season, he said. Since he runs on his own regularly in the village, he knows that it’s just not flat farmland.

“There are some pretty big hills in Elburn, which might surprise runners who are not from here,” Stern said.

The routes for the Dewey Dash and for the Elburn Days 5k, which Stern runs in August, both include plenty of those inclines, he said.

Stern rose to the challenge last year, coming in second in his group (men 30-39) in the Dewey Dash, with a time of 20:53.7.

This year, Stern is battling a minor injury, but still would like to take part in this year’s event on April 11.

“I’m really hoping I will be there,” Stern said.

He said the Dewey Dash will help him gear up for the Rockford marathon in May.

6th Annual Dewey Dash
5K run to benefit
Town & Country Public Library
Sunday, April 11
7:30-8:30 a.m. Race-day registration
8:30 a.m. 5K starts
9 a.m. 1-mile run/walk
320 E. North St., Elburn
Post-run snacks
USATF-certified 5K course
Register online at
Proceeds will help the library
purchase three electronic
bulletin boards

$5M IEPA loan sought for treatment plant

Larger facility needed for future development
by Martha Quetsch
MAPLE PARK—Maple Park officials want to make sure the village’s wastewater treatment system is adequate for future development. However, meeting that goal will require $5 million.

That is the estimated cost of a new wastewater treatment plant, which will have more than twice the capacity of the existing one, said the facility designer hired by the village, Jeremy Lin of Lintech Engineering.

At Lin’s urging during Tuesday’s Maple Park Infrastructure Committee meeting, village officials decided to apply to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency by the March 31 deadline for a loan funded by federal economic stimulus money.

Lin said that applying now is crucial because of the competition for funding.

“It (the application) is something that has to get done,” Lin said. “You have to get on the list.”

The IEPA application review process could take some time because of the backlog of applications for the funding from municipalities and counties throughout the state, Lin said.

“You’re probably not likely to get the money this year, but possibly next year,” Lin said.

If approved for the funding, the village would be able to borrow the money for little or no interest, and would pay the IEPA back through future developer contributions, village officials said.

The larger wastewater treatment plant will be needed before a 469-home development planned by John Clare Ltd. can be built at County Line Road and Route 38.

“With another development (in Maple park), the existing treatment plant would not have sufficient capacity,” Lin said.

John Clare Ltd. recently obtained a five-year extension from the village for the project but still plans to build when the economy improves.

The new wastewater treatment plant will have up-to-date technology, including computer monitoring of flows, blower and screening buildings, a holding tank and a pump station.

Village officials want to build the new plant near the existing one on Maple Park Road, which consists of an aerated lagoon employing dated technology.

Trustee: ‘We want to get this town up and running’

Downtown business revitalization is goal
by Martha Quetsch
MAPLE PARK—Village officials want to help improve and promote downtown Maple Park by collaborating with local businesses.

“We want them to know that we want to get this town up and running and that we are not ignoring them,” trustee Pat Lunardon said.

Lunardon took a first step toward that goal recently, obtaining permission from Old Second Bank officials for local businesses to post a sign on the bank’s property at Route 38 and County Line Road directing people north to the center of Maple Park.

“I truly believe people drive through (on Route 38) and have no clue there is a downtown,” Lunardon said.

To make downtown Maple Park a more vital destination, village officials intend to work with current business owners on improvement strategies and with prospective owners on start-up issues.

Village officials’ next step is to host a business workshop on March 23. The event is open to the public and will feature speakers from agencies that help businesses through education and other assistance.

In addition, village officials will be present to talk to people about strategies for downtown revitalization. The event will include a review of economic development activity in Maple Park and a discussion of programs and policies affecting local businesses.

“We thought it would be great if people could sit down together and talk about these issues,” Lunardon said.

Trustee Suzanne Fahnestock, who helped arrange for the workshop presentations, said the speakers will focus on a variety of topics including financing, productivity, business plans, resources and technology.

“That kind of information could be very helpful for businesses in Maple Park,” Fahnestock said.

Local Business Workshop

Tuesday, March 23 • 7 p.m.
Maple Park Civic Center
upstairs board room

Guest Speakers:
Bill McNew, Kane County Dept.
of Employment and Education; Colleen Aeppli, 1st Institute Training and Management; and
Harriet Parker, Waubonsee
Community College Small Business
Development Center

Questions? Call (815) 827-3309

Committee recommends higher water-sewer charges

Village Board to vote on proposal at March 15 meeting
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Elburn Village Board members in recent weeks have debated the best way to raise water and sewer revenue, with ideas ranging from charging a customer fee to hiking usage rates. On Monday, they decided the village should do both.

The Committee of the Whole recommended that the village establish a $10 base fee ($5 for water and $5 for sewer) and increase usage rates to $6.10 per 100 cubic feet ($3.50 for water and $2.59 for sewer).

The Village Board will vote on the recommendation during its next meeting, Monday, March 15.

Elburn officials determined in February that the village needs to charge more for water and sewer service because of rising costs, declining revenue and an aging water and sewer system needing repairs,

“It’s a bitter pill that we have to swallow, but it’s been neglected for so long,” Trustee Patricia Romke said Monday.

The village has not raised its water and sewer rates in many years. Currently, the sewer usage rate is $2 per 100 cubic feet, and the water rate is $2.69 per 100 cf.

Trustee Bill Grabarek did not agree with the Committee of the Whole’s recommendation Monday. Grabarek said the proposed increases in water and sewer charges would impact low users on limited incomes, including seniors and single people, the hardest. He believes that the village should raise usage rates more and charge a lower base fee.

“My feeling is (when the Village Board votes on the recommendation), I’m probably going to say ‘nay,’” Grabarek said.

In addition, the reserve fund that the village draws on to pay for water and sewer capital improvements has dwindled. By the end of the fiscal year this June, that capital fund will total just $53,000, compared to $543,000 five years ago, Public Works Superintendent John Nevenhoven said. Several major water and sewer projects needed this year alone will cost more than $100,000.

With the rate increase proposed Monday, annual water and sewer operations, costing $1.15 million, could “break even” in 2010-11; the hike would boost revenue by about $303,000 annually, Nevenhoven said.

Monthly water and sewer operating revenue has fallen short of operating costs by about $25,000 monthly for more than a year, Nevenhoven said.

The $10 base fee would raise more than $150,000 annually for the water and sewer capital improvement fund, village officials said. Their goal to build up the fund to be able to pay for future unexpected and planned projects, including painting two water towers for $400,000.

How much would
water-sewer bills go up?

The following chart shows estimated increases in monthly water and sewer bills for households and businesses if the Village Board approves the new base fee and usage rates proposed on Monday.
Current bill  /  Proiected bill
$10    $16.10
$10.38    $22.17
$14.07    $28.24
$18.76    $34.32
$23.45    $40.38
$42.21    $64.66
$70.35    $101.08
$93.80    $131.43
$150.08    $204.27
$178.22    $240.69

Stimulus funds sought for aging stormwater system upgrades

Villages apply for $3.4M for flood reduction projects
by Martha Quetsch
MP, ELBURN—Maple Park and Elburn officials hope that economic stimulus funds will make sorely needed stormwater system improvements possible in their villages.

The two villages, along with Cortland, applied this week for $3.4 million in federal funds for stormwater drainage repairs and improvements to reduce residential flooding.

In Maple Park, sections of the village’s existing storm water sewers are “archaic” and are not effectively mitigating water during heavy rains or when snow melts, Maple Park Village President Kathy Curtis said.

A village engineering study in 2008 recommended stormwater system improvements with an estimated cost of $1.8 million. However, the village does not have the funds to undertake such a project, Curtis said.

By applying collectively, the villages could have a better chance of securing some or all of the much-needed funding, Maple Park trustee Suzanne Fahnestock said.

In the combined funding application, Elburn Public Works Superintendent John Nevenhoven stated that the northwest side of the village experiences frequent flooding, standing water and sewer back-ups due to an “inadequate and antiquated storm sewer system.”

Elburn applied for stimulus funding to install new storm sewers in that area, a project with an estimated cost of $192,000. The project would reduce street flooding and standing water in residential yards that plague that part of town by replacing existing storm sewer lines that were installed during the 1920s and 1930s, Nevenhoven said.

Those aging lines “are woefully undersized to meet demand, have completely clogged or clog easily during a rain event,” Nevenhoven said.

If Elburn does not obtain the stimulus funds, it could use money from the water and sewer capital fund, Village Administrator Erin Willrett said; the fund currently totals just $53,000, but village officials are considering boosting the balance through higher water and sewer charges.

Another option for Elburn, if it does not receive the stimulus funds, would be to pay for the new storm sewers through the village’s fund designated for expanding the wastewater treatment plant in the future, Willrett said. The fund currently has a balance of $1.5 million.

Village officials: Projects would create 100 jobs
In their combined application for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (federal economic stimulus program) funding for stormwater system improvements, officials from Maple Park, Elburn and Cortland estimated that the projects would create more than 100 jobs.

On Feb. 13, 2009, the U.S. Congress passed the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. According to the federal government’s website, the act’s goals are to create new jobs and save existing ones, and to spur economic activity and invest in long-term growth.

Customer fee vs. higher water-sewer usage

Solution still uncertain for service’s budget shortfall
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Elburn trustees do not all agree that a customer fee is the best or only way to raise water and sewer revenue.

Three trustees suggested Monday that the village should raise usage rates.

“At least we’d be saying, ‘We’re going to charge you for the true cost of the water and sewer, not charge you a surcharge,’” trustee William Grabarek said.

Village officials in February proposed a combined water and sewer customer fee of $20 monthly in addition to the existing usage fees, and since have proposed lowering the base fee to $10, beyond usage charges.

The usage rates have been the same for many years—$2 per cubic foot (cf) for sewer and $2.69 per 100 cf for water, which some trustees think is too low.

“We have underpriced our water and sewer for a long time,” Grabarek said.

Grabarek suggested raising the combined water and sewer usage rate from $4.69 to $7 per 100 cf.

For more than a year, water and sewer operations have cost the village nearly $29,000 more per month than the village collects in water and sewer revenue. Village officials’ goal is for water and sewer service charges to match the cost of providing them.

“At $7 (combined water and sewer usage rate), we would make up the deficit in two years,” Grabarek said.

Charging that rate also would increase revenue in the water and sewer capital fund to pay for future system improvements, Grabarek said.

If the village raises usage rates, it would encourage water conservation, trustee Ken Anderson said.

Grabarek said seniors, single people and other low users would not pay as much under the higher rate as they would if the village imposed the customer fee.

In response to Grabarek’s rate-hike proposal, Village President Dave Anderson said, “An increase like that for high users is going to be prohibitive.”

Another idea for changing water and sewer fees that trustee Jeff Walter supports is to raise usage rates and to impose a temporary customer fee to build up the water and sewer capital fund.

Walter asked village staff to determine this week how much water and sewer bills would increase for certain households under the various proposed fee scenarios.

The Village Board will continue its discussion of water and sewer charges during the Committee of the Whole meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, March 8, at Village Hall.

What area villages charge
Maple Park
Water: Minimum bill of $26.76 every three months for up to 6,000 gallons, plus $3.84 for every additional 1,000 gallons

Sewer: $32.28 minimum for up to 6,000 gallons, plus $5.38 per 1,000 gal.

Water: Minimum monthly bill of $5 including $3.60 per 1,000 gallons for water ($2.69/100 cf)

Sewer: Minimum monthly bill of $5 including $2.67 per 1,000 gallons ($2/100 cf)

Sugar Grove
Water and sewer: $15.50 customer charge per month, plus $2.75 per 1,000 gallons for water, and $2.76 per 1,000 gallons for sewer

Strategies suggested to improve drainage, environment

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Elburn trustee Ken Anderson wants future village agreements with developers to require stormwater management practices that steer precipitation as quickly as possible into local creeks and aquifers.

“The idea is getting the raindrop back into the ground as close as possible to where it falls,” Anderson said.

By doing that, local water quality and availability would be enhanced, Anderson said.

Toward that goal, he invited The Conservation Foundation to present information on innovative stormwater management practices to the Elburn Planning Commisssion on Monday.

The nonprofit foundation’s mission is to promote stewardship of the environment, including protecting creeks and watersheds and preserving natural lands.

The presenter, conservation designer Dennis Dreher, outlined stormwater drainage practices that the village could encourage or require developers to adopt, such as installing biofiltration swales, which are wide, shallow channels that decrease infiltration time; installing deep-rooted native plants instead of turf grass on open space and along detention ponds, choosing attractive varieties to make the areas more of an amenity in a subdivision; and building narrower streets and using permeable pavement.

Dreher added that the village could change its ordinances to allow for requirements such as building homes on lots with smaller setbacks and shorter driveways—clusters of houses resulting in more open space.

These suggested stormwater management strategies not only would improve drainage, they would be less costly for developers because of less pavement and maintenance, Dreher said.

Using natural landscaping means less watering and maintenance is required, he said. Rather than mowing the landscape, a homeowners association would just have to conduct a controlled burn every few years.

Dreher worked on the design of Settler’s Ridge subdivision in Sugar Grove in 2006, which when if fully built will have 40 percent open space, 13 pocket parks and many stormwater management features including vegetated swales and natural landscaping.

Village officials thanked The Conservation Foundation for the presentation and said they would consider the stormwater management suggestions for subdivisions when the housing market revives.

“I’d like to encompass these practices in future development,” Anderson said.

Dance! Dance! Dance!

As Sandi Sylver strummed her guitar during a musical storytime at Town & Country Public Library in Elburn, several of her audience members jumped up and danced. The library hosted the event on Monday evening to promote children’s reading. Sylver, of North Aurora, also is a ventriloquist who uses puppets in her storytelling. Photo by Martha Quetsch

Soccer buff gives Kaneland kids winter workout

Elburn resident offers free skills coaching
ELBURN—When Brad Simmons of Sugar Grove offered Kaneland students ages 7 to 9 soccer lessons at no charge, parent Aaron Mayhan didn’t hesitate to sign up his son Casey, 8.

“I thought, what a great way for him to put the (Nintendo) DS down and the Wii on a Monday night and go enhance his soccer skills and have some fun—for free,” said Mayhan, of Elburn.

Casey is among about 20 youths taking part in the four-week program Simmons is conducting at Elburn & Countryside Community Center. Not only did Simmons volunteer his time to teach the children soccer skills, he paid the Community Center’s $180 fee to use the gym for the program on Mondays, Feb. 8 through March 1.

A 39-year-old banker, Simmons started playing at age 8 and went on to participate in competitive traveling teams. While studying business at Western Illinois University, he played pickup games whenever he had a chance.

“I just have a passion for the sport,” Simmons said.

Simmons decided to offer the free lessons to teach the youngest soccer players skills they haven’t learned and help them refine those they have.

He said soccer is an extremely physical game, and an excellent way for children to expend energy and stay in shape.

“You use every aspect of your body, and it requires a lot of feet and eye coordination,” Simmons said.

Unlike most sports including baseball, which have a lot of breaks in between action, soccer is “non-stop,” he said.

Mayhan is glad his son has a chance to take part in an active sports program during the winter. Casey plays baseball in spring and summer, and soccer in the fall.

“With the weather being the way it is, when kids can get some gym time in, it’s a great opportunity,” Mayhan said.

Simmons has coached for the Kaneland Youth Soccer Organization and Sugar Grove Park District youth soccer, and currently coaches for a traveling team outside the area. He distributed flyers at Kaneland elementary schools last month to let parents know about the program.

Simmons hopes the program boosts community support for soccer, with his long-term goal being to start up more local traveling teams in the Kaneland area.

Photo: Brad Simmons, of Sugar Grove, coached local 7- to 9-year-olds in soccer skills on Monday at the Elburn & Countryside Community Center. He rented the gym space for the free weekly program, to teach nearly 20 children. Simmons is a licensed coach who wants to enhance soccer programs locally. Photo by Martha Quetsch

Village officials: Higher water, sewer charges needed

Rate hikes, customer fee among options
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Senior resident Joanne Gordon is concerned about the impact that a proposed $20 water and sewer fee would have on her household budget and those of others. Village officials are considering the new fee to boost revenue they said is necessary to ensure efficient water and sewer services.

“I understand the need, but it is going to be a hardship on many people,” said Gordon, who lives in the 300 block of West Nebraska Street.

The $20 customer fee per household would increase water and sewer revenue by $463,200 per year, Public Works Superintendent John Nevenhoven said.

During Monday’s Village Board meeting, Gordon asked the board to consider an alternative that would have a smaller impact on the pocketbooks of those with fixed or limited incomes.

“Is there something that can be proposed that would be in the middle, that would be less hard on people?” Gordon said.

Village trustees discussed other options Monday, such as charging senior households and those who use the least water either a lower customer fee or no fee. They also talked about raising the rates that the village charges for usage in the future. Those rates have not changed for many years—$2.69 per 100 cubic feet for water and $2 per 100 cubic feet for sewer.

“We are going to have to look at a higher price for water,” Trustee Bill Grabarek said.

The Village Board is expected to make a decision about charging more for water and sewer services during their 2010-11 budget planning within the next three months.

By the end of the fiscal year this summer, the village’s water and sewer fund will have about $53,000 available for capital improvements, compared to $543,000 five years ago, Nevenhoven said.

The existing water and sewer fund falls far short of what is necessary to pay for operations and several major water and sewer improvements Nevenhoven said are needed this year to keep the system operating smoothly (see below).

“This (the $20 customer fee) is one of the quickest ways to get that fund re-built,” Nevenhoven said. “I realize it’s going to be hard on people, but we need to push the water from the well to the user and we need to treat it.”

The reason the fund has dwindled is because water and sewer connection fees collected by the village for new homes have dropped dramatically with the residential building decline, Nevenhoven said. The water and sewer fund, under state law, must be self-sustaining and cannot include property tax revenue, he said.

Trustee Ken Anderson suggested implementing the customer service fee and when it builds up the water and sewer capital fund enough to pay for needed improvements and emergency projects, then the village could transition out of the customer fee and into a higher usage rates.

Trustee Patricia Romke and Village President Dave Anderson said the $20 fee is not an unreasonable amount for households to pay.

“I just think that this is so minimal,” Romke said.

The minimum monthly household water and sewer bill of $24.69 for water and sewer, including the $20 proposed customer fee, would be less than a dollar a day, Village President Dave Anderson said.

“I believe the water I use in a day is worth $1, fixed income and all,” he added.

New revenue needed
for improvements

The village of Elburn proposed a $20 monthly customer fee for water and sewer services to provide revenue for system improvements this year including the following:
• removing and replacing sections of
sewer that have collapsed in the
Cambridge subdivision, $20,000;
• extending the Main Street Alley
west-side alley water line to
eliminate a dead-end causing
stagnant water odor, $20,000;
• sequestering iron at wells No. 3 and
No. 4 for $27,000;
• installing a Third Street water main
extension from the library to
Shannon Street, $40,000;
• inspecting and repairing well No. 3
pump, $10,000; inspecting the north
water tower, $3,000;
• inspecting and cleaning the
Blackberry Creek water tower,
• rebuilding a wasting pump at
the treatment plant, $8,000.
Elburn Public Works Superintendent John Nevenhoven presented these project proposals to the Village Board on Monday and said they need to be done as soon as possible, hopefully this summer.

Village goal: Pare down projected $2 mill. deficit

Official expects ‘tough decisions’ on expenses
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Budget planning continued during Monday’s Village Board meeting, a process that started early this year so the village officials can find ways to pare down an expected deficit of nearly $2 million.

Village Administrator Erin Willrett said the first draft of the 2010-11 budget shows projected revenue to be $4.1 million, compared to expenses totaling $5.9 million.

Even if the village limits expenses to those absolutely required—providing water and sewer services, police protection and street and sidewalk maintenance—the budget still will have a shortfall, Village President Dave Anderson said.

“The bottom line is, there is very little budge in this budget,” Anderson said.

The village has about $5 million in reserve funds, but village officials do not want to deplete those monies by continuing to use them to cover budget deficits.

The village already dipped into its reserves to cover a nearly $2 million shortfall in the 2009-10 budget. A deficit in the water and sewer fund was a significant part of the deficit in the village’s total $7 million budget.

Elburn officials are considering raising residents’ sewer and water charges to reduce this year’s expected budget deficit, which will include a shortfall of more than $500,000 in the water and sewer fund (see related story).

Department heads submitted budget request forms for expenses they determine are absolutely necessary, and the Village Board is reviewing them. From among the requests, the board will decide during the coming weeks what proposed expenses to include in the budget this June.

“We need to determine what is important to residents,” Willrett said.

Officials also will be looking at different staff salary options to reduce expenses.

“There are some tough decisions that are going to have to be made in the next few weeks,” Willrett said.

The next budget will not include raises for village employees, whose salaries comprise one third of the budget.

Elburn man indicted for criminal sexual abuse

Crime allegedly took place during local party last fall
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Christopher Runde, 24, of Elburn, could face up to three years in prison for criminal sexual abuse, according to the Kane County State’s Attorney’s office.

A Kane County Grand Jury indicted Runde Feb. 16 for the crime committed during a local party last fall.

Runde was arrested Nov. 4 and has been free since posting $2,500 of his $25,000 bond.

The arrest took place following an Elburn Police Department investigation of an underage drinking party Oct. 30, 2009, in the 200 block of Conley Drive in Elburn.

The investigation revealed that during the party, Runde, of the 500 block of Maple Avenue, placed his hand inside the underwear of a female victim while she was passed out and unaware of what was happening to her.

Police also discovered that Runde used his video camera to record this act. Other people at the party confronted Runde and a physical altercation ensued, during which Runde dropped his camera. Other attendees at the party retrieved the camera and the video tape was turned over to Elburn police.

Police responded to a call at 2:20 a.m. Oct. 30 that a fight was in progress at the party. The fight ended before police arrived. Officers arrested eight people for unlawful consumption of alcohol by a minor, and eight adults were arrested for unlawfully permitting a minor to become intoxicated.

Runde’s next court date is at 9 a.m. April 8 at the Kane County Judicial Center.

Congress on Your Corner

U.S. Congressman Bill Foster met individually with residents from District 14 attending his Congress on Your Corner event at Elburn Village Hall on Saturday afternoon. (R-Dist. 14), hearing their concerns and answering questions. Among those who talked with Foster was former Elburn trustee Claude Henderson.
Photo by Martha Quetsch

Village focuses on unkempt residential properties

Officials will use encouragement, enforcement
by Martha Quetsch
MAPLE PARK—Maple Park officials intend to address the issue of residential property appearance, having received complaints about yards with vehicles parked on them or that are strewn with junk or weeds.

“We are going to try to beautify Maple Park,” Police Chief Michael Acosta said Tuesday. “It’s a quality of life issue.”

The village will start the process by simply talking to homeowners about making improvements.

“We’re going to try to get people to voluntarily keep up their properties,” Acosta said.

In the future, the village will conduct a village-wide canvass to determine what properties need attention and may be in violation of village ordinances. The Village Board decided Monday to have the village building inspector, International Codes Consultants and Inspections, Inc. (ICCI), of Oswego, do the canvass at a cost of up to $800.

ICCI will provide the village with a list of addresses that are not in compliance with the village code. Violators who do not respond to a request from the village to comply could be fined, and then prosecuted for continued noncompliance, Village President Kathy Curtis said.

The building inspector and Acosta will work as a team on this compliance/enforcement process, Village President Kathy Curtis said.

Village study proposes water, sewer fee increase

Board to discuss issue Feb. 22
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—The revenue-strapped village of Elburn could boost its budget by $463,200 per year by charging every household in Elburn a $20 base fee for water and sewer service, according to a Public Works Department study that village officials requested.

Elburn officials have been considering boosting revenue by raising residents’ sewer and water charges since the village had to dip into its approximately $5 million reserve fund to cover a $2 million shortfall in its 2009-10 budget. A deficit in the water and sewer fund was a significant part of the deficit in the nearly $7 million budget.

Public Works Superintendent John Nevenhoven issued the results of the water and sewer rate study to village officials in a Feb. 12 memorandum. The memo states that the water and sewer operating and capital funds experienced a deficit of $543,413 between February 2008 and November 2009, a drop attributed to the decrease in water and sewer connection fees from new-home construction.

The village’s water rate for residents has been $2.69 per 100 cubic feet since 2005. The sewer rate of $2 per 100 cubic feet since 1986.

The proposed $20 base fee would be in addition to the fee for usage, which would be based on the existing rates. Currently, the minimum monthly bill for water and sewer service is $10, which includes usage.

The Village Board will discuss the proposed $20 base fee for water and sewer service during the Monday, Feb. 22, meeting.

Village President Dave Anderson said he hopes that the Village Board decides on a water and sewer fee increase so that the village can put it into effect at the start of the fiscal year in June.

MP community policing initiative begins

Officer talks to Girl Scouts about safety
by Martha Quetsch
MAPLE PARK—A community policing initiative kicked off Monday in Maple Park with a presentation by officer Andy Rissman to local Girl Scouts about staying safe.

Maple Park’s new police chief, Michael Acosta, announced when he was hired in January that he wanted to enhance safety in the village by bringing police and the community together through children’s programs and resident forums with officers.

Acosta said Rissman is an ideal officer to provide such programs.

“He seems to have a knack for talking to people, and he really believes in community policing,” Acosta said.

Rissman volunteered to help with Acosta’s initiative, which also is designed to encourage residents of all ages to know and trust the police.

“The only thing they used to see in town was a squad car pulling someone over for speeding,” Rissman said.

Rissman encouraged the girls to feel free to talk to the police whenever they have a concern.

Girl Scout Emma Bohm, 11, of Maple Park, thought Rissman was “really nice” and said she would feel comfortable approaching him in the future, if necessary. Emma said his safety presentation was “great.”

“I liked that he talked about what to do if you are in a sticky situation, and how to get out of it,” Emma said. “I also liked how he talked about Internet safety, because I go on the computer a lot.”

During the presentation, Rissman offered a multitude of safety tips to the Girl Scouts, offering scenarios of possible dangers they might encounter and what to do under those circumstances. He told them to walk in groups rather than alone, to run and yell if someone tries to accost them, to bite an attacker’s hand so that he lets go, and to tell their parents if someone they do not know tries to communicate with them online.

Rissman also advised the Scouts to remember details such as the color and number of doors of any car whose driver approaches them, and the direction the vehicle goes; then, they can tell police and increase the likelihood that the perpetrator will be apprehended.

Other programs that Acosta is planning to teach safety and acquaint children with officers include puppet shows and storytelling.

Photo: During a community policing presentation at the Civic Center Monday, Maple Park Police Officer Andy Rissman encouraged his audience, a group of local Girl Scouts, to use the skills gained as Scouts to be leaders, not followers, to avoid unsafe or illegal activities such as underage smoking and drinking, and vandalism. Photo by Martha Quetsch

Committee: Use utility tax for village operations

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—In the past, Elburn has dipped into the money residents pay in utility taxes to help keep the village operating. Now, village officials say those taxes should be permanently designated for that purpose.

On Monday, Committee of the Whole members recommended that utility taxes from residential gas and electric bills be revenue for the general operating fund, which pays for village salaries and operations.

“I think the operating fund is the right place for this,” Village President Dave Anderson said.

In the past, the utility taxes collected by the village have not had a designated purpose, other than to reimburse seniors for part of their taxes.

“The fund has just been building a bit,” Anderson said.

Village officials periodically have transferred money from the utility tax fund into the operating fund to keep the budget vital. If the Village Board agrees, the $346,000 fund balance will be transferred to the general fund to help combat the village’s revenue crunch.

“Let’s move forward and make it a permanent move in the next budget,” committee member and village trustee Jeff Walter said.

Elburn officials ponder budget strategies

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Like most taxing bodies, the village of Elburn is coping with declining revenue and rising costs, calling for creative budgeting measures. Those could include hiking water and sewer fees and changing employee salaries and benefits, Village President Dave Anderson said.

“There are no sacred cows,” he said.

Village officials already have started planning for the 2010-11 fiscal year budget because of an anticipated revenue shortage; they will be strategizing how to deal with the crunch until finalizing the budget in June.

The village’s goal is to continue providing resident services despite revenue constraints, Anderson said. He added that since “you need people to provide services,” that will be a challenge, but with employee salaries being a “huge chunk” of the village budget, that is where cuts might have to be made.

“We will have to do our best with what we have,” Anderson said.

Village employee annual salaries and benefits currently total about $2.3 million, comprising approximately one third of the village’s $6.8 million budget.

The village had to dip into its $5 million in reserves to cover the $2 million shortfall in revenue in the current budget. Village officials attribute the drop in revenue to the decline in building and utility connection permit fees because of the depressed housing market.

Anderson wants village staff and trustees to look hard at potential revenue sources such as higher water and sewer fees, he said during Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting. The water and sewer operating budget has a deficit of more than $200,000.

“The water and sewer department’s (revenues) don’t cover their costs,” Anderson said. “We can’t keep doing that and stay in business.”

Village Treasurer Mike Greenen agreed, saying the water and sewer department should be a self-maintaining entity.

Anderson said he knows residents might not be happy with water and sewer rate increases, but wants to give them a heads up that the hikes are coming.

Water and sewer operating costs have stayed basically the same while revenue from fees has declined in recent years because of more water-efficient bathroom plumbing and toilets in people’s homes, he said.

“I’m not knocking that but it makes a difference in water and sewer income,” Anderson said.

Blackberry Creek roads left unfinished by developer

Village to pursue legal avenues to compel completion
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—The developer of Blackberry Creek subdivision in Elburn has failed to finish surfacing several streets as required under its development agreement with the village.

“The developer has indicated that they will not be able to complete the improvements,” Assistant Village Administrator David Morrison said.

Village trustee Jeff Walter said streets east of Blackberry Creek Drive with homes on them have only one layer of blacktop, and need a second layer.

The developer, Blackberry Creek B&B, also has not yet completed the final surfacing of streets for future phases of the development, also east of Blackberry Creek Drive, Morrison said.

The completion of roadways is the responsibility of the developer, Morrison said. The village has bonds in place through the developer’s insurer to cover the cost of completing of the roadways.

Village staff members are working through the legal requirements to compel completion of the roadways by the bond company.

“However, this process can take considerable time,” Morrison said.

The village’s primary focus will be to complete the final surfacing on all the roads that are occupied with residents, Morrison said.

The village also had to call the insurance bonds for the First Street resurfacing project in 2008, when the contractor the village had hired failed to finish the work.

B&B representatives did not return phone calls from the Elburn Herald about the unfinished road work in Blackberry Creek.

Police Department will have new digs

Larger space to allow for interview room
by Martha Quetsch
Maple Park—Maple Park Police Department will move to larger quarters as soon as the police chief and a village trustee spruce up the space in the Civic Center.

The Police Department currently occupies a suite with three small offices on the east side of the Civic Center.

The first week Police Chief Michael Acosta worked in Maple Park, he began to clean and organize those rooms. Then, Trustee Patricia Lunardon offered him the option of moving the department to a larger, four-room space across the hall. Those empty rooms previously were occupied by daycare and arts programs.

Acosta saw the move as a chance to improve the department. He said the bigger space will allow for a police reception area and an interview room, which the Police Department currently lacks.

Acosta hopes the department will be able to move by March 15, after some improvements are made to the new space.

The project cost is expected to be less than $600, including having the carpet cleaned; he said the reason for the minimal cost is that he and Lunardon will do the painting that the rooms need.

“Starting tomorrow, I will be wearing my painting clothes to work this week,” Acosta said Wednesday.

Lunardon also painted the board room and a village office recently.

“That’s a great thing about this community,” Acosta said. “Village trustees put their blood and sweat into improving it.”

Earthquake shakes the area

Updated Feb. 11, 2010 at 10:53 a.m.
by Martha Quetsch
Brad Hruza of Elburn said that the 4 a.m. earthquake Wednesday was a rude awakening.

“The house didn’t just shake, it felt like it was swaying in the wind,” Hruza told The Elburn Herald. “It lasted about 10 seconds, and I thought I was dreaming until I realized everyone in the house woke up.”

Hruza said some things were falling off shelves and his computer desk.

“It was scary for a bit there,” Hruza said.

Lights in the houses in his neighborhood immediately began going on, as the earthquake woke residents. By 4:10, Hruza was on the U.S. Geographical Survey website, which already had confirmed an earthquake had occurred just before 4 a.m. in northern Illinois.

The USGS first reported that the earthquake had a magnitude of 4.3, but later in the morning stated that the magnitude actually was 3.8.

The USGS estimated that nearly 11 million people felt “a light shaking” during the quake.

Maple Park Police Chief Michael Acosta was abruptly awakened in his Sugar Grove home at about 4 a.m. by the earthquake. He said he heard a loud thunder and crumbling sound and first thought that a car had rammed into his house.

“It felt like the whole east-side walls had moved,” Acosta said.

Acosta said some Maple Park residents initially thought that a train had derailed in the village. No one reported any property damage or injury from the earthquake.

The epicenter originally was reported in Sycamore, Ill., but later in the morning the USGS reported it to be just south of Pingree Grove, Ill. The epicenter’s depth was about three miles.

Elburn and Countryside Fire Department received several calls from residents about the earthquake, but no reports of damage or injury.

Ben Draper contributed to this article.

U.S. Geological Survey links:
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Google map of epicenter:

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IIlinois quakes
The largest Illinois earthquake ever recorded was on Nov. 9, 1968, in southern Illinois, measuring 5.4 on the Richter scale, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake downed chimneys, cracked plaster, broke windows and overturned tombstones.

Earthquakes occur when an abrupt easing of strain occurs on a geologic fault, causing movement on the earth’s surface. The most common measure of the size of an earthquake is its magnitude-a measure of the amount of energy it releases within the earth.

Earthquakes with a magnitude of 3 to 4 occur about once a year in Illinois. Larger earthquakes are more rare in the state, approximately once in four years for a quake with a magnitude of 4 to 5 and once in 20 years for one with a magnitude of 5-6.
Source: U.S. Geological Survey

Church mobilizes for Haiti relief

Lord of Life collection brings in 10,000 items
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Matt Gerke, 13, did a lot of heavy lifting at Lord of Life Church in Elburn last weekend during a massive relief collection for Haiti.

But Matt was more than willing to expend the energy because he found the cause worthy.

“I feel really bad for the people there,” he said. “They were already the poorest country in the world, and then they have an earthquake.”

The Elburn teenager spent Friday through Sunday at the church, with other volunteers helping with the collection. Matt’s job was as a mover, he said, stacking pallets with 70 boxes of relief supplies each.

Lord of Life’s 11-day collection brought in more than 10,000 items from the congregation, as well as other churches and residents. During the project, volunteers sorted and boxed donated supplies, including jars of peanut butter, bags of rice and beans, first-aid ointment, blankets, toothbrushes, tools and more.

Matt said he was impressed by the quantity of donated items, including 1,000 bars of soap from just one individual.

“It’s an awful lot of stuff,” Matt said.

Lord of Life was one of about 20 churches serving as Haiti relief collection sites for Lutheran Church Charities. After the churches take their collected supplies to a warehouse this week in Itasca, they will go by truck to Florida, where they will be sent by ship to Haiti, said collection volunteer and Lord of Life member Kathy Geiger of Elburn.

Lord of Life congregation also collected more than $3,000 since the earthquake to support humanitarian efforts in disaster-torn Haiti.

The monetary donations and supplies will be distributed through Lutheran Church- Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s World Relief/Human Care networks in Haiti.

Photo: Justin Bristle packed up canned goods for shipment to Haiti on Sunday at Lord of life Church in Elburn. He was among the many volunteers who helped with the 110-day collection at the church for Lutheran Church Charities’ Haiti relief drive for supplies needed by people in the earthquake-ravaged country. Photo by Martha Quetsch

Officials praise new chief for first month on job

Acosta making improvements to department
by Martha Quetsch
MAPLE PARK—Maple Park’s new police chief, Michael Acosta, spent much of his time during his first month of employment making initial improvements to help him do his job.

“There are a lot of things the Police Department is behind on,” Acosta told the Village Board Tuesday.

Acosta said the department did not have basic fingerprinting equipment.

“They (previous Maple Park Police Department leaders) were under the assumption that the county would do fingerprinting (if needed),” Acosta said.

Nor did the department have a police interview room, which Acosta is going to establish.

Acosta already has prepared a “very thorough budget” of proposals for the Police Department, Village President Kathy Curtis said.

“I am impressed,” Curtis said.

Acosta and his officers also have cleaned out the community room to prepare for events such as resident forums, officers reading with children, and puppet shows to foster a positive image of police.

Since taking office Jan. 6, Acosta also has spent many afternoons driving through town, stopping to talk to local business owners and residents to encourage them to feel free to talk with him about any concerns they might have.

In the future, he will have more time to patrol, he said.

“Right now I am doing other things, like pulling out carpet and throwing things away,” Acosta said.

Trustee Mark Delaney said it is apparent that Acosta also is beginning to improve policing in the village.

“It’s nice to see the officers near the bus stops and stop signs early in the morning … it’s a nice change,” Delaney said.

Acosta worked with the Kane County Sheriff’s Department for more than 30 years, serving as Commander of Administration, and Commander of Kane County Major Crimes Task Force.

Before hiring Acosta, Maple Park had not had an officer in charge since officer Chuck Slater’s resignation in September.

Developer postpones building 469-home subdivision

Economy cited as reason
by Martha Quetsch
MAPLE PARK—A developer has put plans on hold for a 469-home development in Maple Park because of the downturn in the residential housing market.

The developer, John Clare Ltd. of Naperville, had expected to begin building the subdivision in 2009 at County Line Road and Route 38. The village approved the Naperville company’s development plan more than a year ago.

“It was right before the economy crashed,” said Shari Neeley, John Clare Ltd. vice president.

The planned subdivision is called The Weydert Farm, after the property’s original owner. Neeley said she is uncertain when the company will be able to start construction on the 200-acre parcel, but it will not be until the housing market improves.

The Maple Park Village Board on Tuesday granted the company a five-year extension of the planned unit development ordinance that the board passed in 2008, to allow for the development within 18 months. With the extension, John Clare Ltd. will not have to repeat the village review and approval process and may begin building anytime within the next five years.

Without the PUD extension, the commercial portion of the development could not have proceeded. That part of the project is being developed by Steven Glasgow, who purchased 18 acres from John Clare Ltd. last year on the same corner, for retail businesses and a restaurant.

Village officials recently said they were pleased with the plan for The Maples. Before the project can move forward, however, the developer will need to extend the existing sanitary sewer located in County Line Road to their site, Village Engineer Jim Sparber said.

Neeley said when the The Maples commercial site is built, it could have a positive effect on the development’s residential sales in the future.

“Any sign of life is good,” Neeley said.

Village officials: New employee handbook a must

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—The first draft of a new employee manual, a priority project for the village, is nearly finished. The manual will reflect workplace legislation and village policies that were established since the current handbook was created 17 years ago, Village Administrator Erin Willrett said.

Trustee Jeff Walter said he pushed for the re-write of the employee manual since coming into office in April.

“I want to make sure our manual is up to date and in sync with current human resource trends and regulations,” Walter said. “I also want to ensure that we correctly define which employees are exempt (from certain wage and hour laws, i.e. overtime pay) and that the manual outlines appropriate policies for those considered exempt (management).”

Some of the other sections of the handbook that need updating relate to safety rules, computer and Internet policies, harassment policies, military leave information and jury duty, Willrett said.

The manual will encompass all village departments including police. The village has approximately 23 full-time employees and 16 part-time employees, all of whom must abide by the manual, Willrett said.

The employee handbook will be entirely new.

“We’re not just blacklining the old employee manual,” Village President Dave Anderson said.

The village is paying a consultant, Aurora-based Sikich, $6,000 to create the new employee handbook.

Sikich also will train village department supervisors about how to use the manual properly and how to proceed when an employee has a workplace concern.

During last year’s 2009-10 budget discussions, Village officials indicated that they wanted the manual to be a priority, Willrett said.

‘Miracle’ Meagan

Elburn family’s baby beats odds of survival
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—When Meagan Seals was born Nov. 10, 2009, her parents and doctors did not expect her to live more than two weeks. Based on her rare condition before birth, she was not expected to be able to hold up her head or even eat, much less survive.

Now, nearly three months later, Meagan is healthy and has met developmental milestones no one ever expected her to achieve.

Meagan’s mother, Luellen Seals of Elburn, was over 40 when her baby was conceived, so her pregnancy was considered high-risk. Because of that, she had ultrasounds early and found out that Meagan’s brain was growing outside of the skull, a condition called encephaloceles.

“I was just shocked. I had never heard of it before,” Luellen said. “The doctor basically said, ‘It’s not good; the kids that are born with this condition usually do not survive, and it they do survive, their prognosis is very poor. Usually they are mentally and physically handicapped. Sometimes they don’t live very long. They could live to be a year old or just a few weeks old. They just have a world of problems.’ So he was really telling us, at that point, to consider terminating the pregnancy.”

Luellen said because she did not know a lot about the condition, when she left the doctor’s office she was in denial.

“I left there crying and not knowing what to do,” Luellen said.

Luellen and her husband, Scott, decided to maintain the pregnancy, despite the odds being against the baby’s survival.

“Through my pregnancy, I felt that I just had to give it a chance,” she said. “I couldn’t live with myself if I had terminated it.”

When Meagan was born, doctors told them that she had other health issues. She also has lissencephaly, a rare formation of the brain, making it smooth; and she has microsephaly, which means the main part of her brain is missing. The prognosis was not good.

“The doctors said kids with lissencephaly usually don’t live at all or are a vegetable when they are born,” Luellen said. “They have no control of their body, they have no thought processes, they can’t drink from a bottle, they can’t do anything.”

Right after Meagan was born at Lutheran General Hospital, her brain retracted into her skull, which Luellen was told usually does not happen. Meagan still had to have surgery immediately to close the opening in her skull, however.

The surgery went well, but an MRI of her brain showed that the upper portion of her brain had never developed. The doctor said that with so much of her brain missing, Meagan would never be able to hold her head up and never be able to cry, see, hear, taste, or smell; he said she’ll never have thought processes or know who she is or who her family is, Luellen said.

Luellen said doctors told her that Meagan would come home and be like a vegetable until she dies. The prognosis was that she didn’t have enough brain to support her bodily functions, and that everything would shut down, she would have trouble breathing or stop breathing, or her kidneys would fail.

Although Meagan seemed healthy and normal after her surgery, the doctor told the Seals that those other difficulties likely would begin soon.

“They told me it would probably be quick, like I would bring her home, she would live a week or two and then die,” Luellen said.

The Seals expected to be able to take Meagan home, with hospice care, on Nov. 18. However, on Nov. 16, Luellen’s birthday, the hospital called and told the Seals that Meagan had stopped breathing and was not responding to resuscitation efforts.

“That was the phone call we got. It was just devastating. I dropped the phone, I laid on the kitchen floor and just started bawling because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”

Scott picked up the phone and told the doctor they would leave right away for the hospital. The hour drive to Park Ridge, Ill., was agonizing for the couple, after what they had learned, Luellen said.

After a half hour of unsuccessful CPR, Meagan had been hooked up to a CPAP, to keep oxygen flowing into her lungs.

“They told us right then that Meagan was not going to make it,” Luellen said. “They said, ‘So, go home, get everything in a row and call a funeral home.’ We basically came home and called a few places, tried to figure out what we had to do to prepare for her to die.”

The Seals also called their church, Lord of Life, and asked Pastor Phil Ressler if he would baptize Meagan at the hospital. He arrived the following morning.

“I did the baptism right there in the hospital. Meagan had all the tubes on, and her mom was holding her,” Ressler said. “We all prayed for her.”

The hospital even supplied a baptismal gown.

“We took pictures, and right after she was baptized—I didn’t see this, but everybody else in the room did, the doctors, the nurses—they said she smiled really big,” Luellen said. “I was crying so hard I didn’t even notice.”

After the baptism, the family stayed with Meagan, waiting for her expected passing. The doctor removed the CPAP and put her on a little bit of oxygen to keep her comfortable.

“Within an hour, she opened her eyes, she was looking around,” Luellen said. “She was like a totally different baby than we’d seen days before. She was just different.”

Luellen said she believes it was truly a miracle, that having her baptized was what changed her.

“I really believe that. Because she wasn’t here to stay at that point, after having that long spell of not breathing,” Luellen said.

The Seals were able to take Meagan home the next day, under the understanding that, according to all the doctors there, she was still considered terminal.

“They told us she was probably going to live a week or two, and that was going to be it,” Luellen said. “They said, ‘Just love her and enjoy the time you have with her.’ So we prepared again, but more calmly at this point because we figured, she is here, we have time now, we can do things in a more orderly fashion instead of rushing through. And ever since that day, she’s just gotten better.”

At first, Meagan was on a feeding tube, and the Seals arranged for a hospice nurse to help them at home. However, Luellen said her baby daughter has not had any breathing difficulties, which were expected.

“It’s not like I’m doubting what the doctors told me. That’s what makes it so much more of a miracle,” Luellen said. “She was seen by 10 doctors, who all said the same thing about what to expect for Meagan.”

A couple of weeks after the Seals brought Meagan home, Luellen accidentally dislodged the baby’s feeding tube and called the nurse for help to reinsert it.

Luellen told the nurse that Meagan seemed much happier with the tube out of her throat. The nurse suggested that Luellen try giving Meagan a bottle and see what happened.

“So I did, and she was fine with it,” Luellen said.

The doctor told her to continue bottle-feeding as long as Meagan was not aspirating or choking.

“They say that in itself (being able to drink from a bottle), with her not having all of her brain, is just amazing,” Luellen said.

Luellen said she realizes that Meagan likely faces physical and mental challenges in the future, but she is glad her daughter has come as far as she has in just 2-1/2 months.

“She acts like a totally normal baby now, which is not supposed to be,” Luellen said.

Luellen took Meagan out of the house for the first time recently, going to the library with two of her other three children. When they got to the library, Meagan started crying loudly because she was hot from being bundled up for the outdoors. Luellen said she was thrilled to hear Meagan’s wail.

“It was the first time I heard her really, really cry. It was a good sign,” Luellen said. “She made me cry, because it was such a milestone for her.”
Luellen said she wakes up every day wondering what else Meagan will do.

“I know she is going to have setbacks and not make her (development) goals on time-rolling over, sucking her thumb or sitting up. But she is close to some of them, now,” Luellen said. “If I lay her on the floor, she can push herself up on her hands, and she wasn’t even supposed to be able to hold her own head up. So for her to get her chest off the ground, that’s huge. And it’s actually right on time for a two-month old.”

Meagan also recently began being able to roll to one side.

“There’s a lot of things that we hope for yet,” Luellen said.

Meagan has come a long way since her release from the hospital, when doctors said she likely would not survive more two weeks. Luellen said that the doctors no longer are giving the Seals a timeframe for the expected length of Meagan’s life.

“Now they are just saying, ‘It’s in God’s hands. It’s up to God how long she is going to be here,” Luellen said.

Photo: Baby Meagan was a little sleepy after her mother, Luellen Seals, had given her an afternoon bottle. When Meagan was born, she weighed 5 1/2 pounds but lost weight after surgery to close a gap in her skull. Against all odds, she has grown to a healthy weight of more than six pounds in less than two months.
Photo by Martha Quetsch

Dying swan saved after being shot

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—A swan found nearly dead from a gunshot wound will survive, thanks to being saved by a passerby and taken to the Fox Valley Wildlife Center in Elburn.

The bird was found a few weeks ago in a retention pond on the east side of St. Charles, in serious condition.

“He couldn’t get out of the water, and he didn’t have the strength to hold up his head,” said Andrea Krueger, an animal rehabilitator at the Wildlife Center.

The bullet had gone through the swan’s belly, as evidenced by entrance and exit wounds, and the bird had been suffering from the injury for some time before being rescued.

“It was very infected,” Krueger said.

At the Wildlife Center, he received antibiotics and is nearly recovered.

“He is doing good,” Krueger said. “He will be able to leave in about two weeks.”

The Fox Valley Wildlife Center is a nonprofit organization located in a former ranger house in Elburn Forest Preserve. The center rehabilitates injured wild animals so that they can be released back into their natural habitat.

The healed swan, however, will go to an individual that keeps swans in the winter and takes them to ponds in the area where they spend the rest of the year.

“We don’t know if this is a wild swan. He’s pretty tame,” Krueger said.

Since being rescued, the swan has spent his days at the Wildlife Center swimming in the bath tub and munching on lettuce and other treats in his own room. The reason the bird is kept isolated is so that he does not have too much contact with people, which could thwart the rehabilitation process, said Kaitlin Zordan, education coordinator for the Wildlife Center.

However, his progress is being closely monitored by volunteers and staff at the center.

“We want to make sure he will be able to manage on his own in the future,” Krueger said.

St. Charles Police Department spokesman Paul McCurtin said if an officer had caught someone shooting the swan, the offender would be arrested for discharging a weapon within city limits and fined up to $500. If lacking a firearm license, the offender would face up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Photo: Part of the rehabilitation at Fox Valley Wildlife Center for this rescued swan is spending time in the bathtub to regain his swimming strength. The Elburn organization, including staffer Kaitlin Zordan, brought the swan back to health after he was found near death in a retention pond in St. Charles after being shot.
Photo by Martha Quetsch

St. Charles organization offers to promote Elburn

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—The St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau wants to promote Elburn attractions in order to draw more tourists to the area.

“We’d like to bring visitors to Elburn and see them stay at St. Charles hotels,” said Egolf during Monday’s Elburn Development Committee meeting.

If Elburn officials agree to participate in a joint program, the St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau will list Elburn attractions in its tourist guides at no cost to the village.

Development Committee members like the proposal and recommended that the Village Board approve it.

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” Committee member and trustee Jeff Walter said. “It will be some promotion we don’t have now.”

Among the Elburn entities Egolf has identified to list in the Bureau’s publications are Amazing Grace Antiques, Heritage Prairie Farm, Ream’s Elburn Market, the Metra station, the Great Lakes Leadership Campus, Elburn Days and the St. Charles Sportsmen’s Club.

Egolf said the St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau works with the Illinois Bureau of Tourism, which would include Elburn’s attractions in state visitors guides.

The St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau is supported by city and state funding.

Earthquake devastation heartbreaking for former missionary

by Martha Quetsch
SUGAR GROVE—When the severe earthquake hit Haiti last week and TV stations ran footage of the devastation there, Sugar Grove resident Kaelynn Wilson said her heart was broken.

“My initial thought was … they don’t need any more problems in Haiti,” Wilson said.

She said it was emotional for her to see on screen the earthquake-torn places that she is so familiar with, having gone to Haiti five years ago on a mission with her church, Sugar Grove United Methodist.

“I saw those buildings, I went to those markets, I walked those streets, and the conditions were bad before,” Wilson said.

In 2005, Wilson, a teenager at the time, went to Haiti to help at the Grace Children’s Hospital in Port Au Prince with her church pastor, the Rev. Steve Good, and other members of their congregation. While there, she befriended a child and wrote to him regularly after returning to the U.S. until the child, who had AIDS and a cleft palate, died.

She believes awareness is crucial before people will offer their help and support to the Haitian people, particularly the country’s youngest and most vulnerable.

“Small children should not have to suffer,” Wilson said.

Wilson said if people from Northern Illinois form a mission to go to Haiti to help, she hopes to join them. Meantime, she wants to boost awareness among the American public about the Haitians’ plight, not only now, but historically. She said that the earthquake is just one more trauma on top of others that came before in Haiti, from poverty and political upheaval, to health issues including AIDS and tuberculosis.

“I am spreading the word, that if you are able to help, please do,” Wilson said. “There is so much that needs to be done.”

Photo: Sugar Grove residents, from left, Stephanie Claesson, Kaelynn Wilson-Bennett, Amanda Mendoza and Kristin Heckert, participated in one of Sugar Grove United Methodist Church’s past mission trips to Grace Children’s Hospital in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Courtesy Photo