Tag Archives: Tom Runty

KCFB celebrates 100 years, hosts family event

Photo: KCFB Information Director Ryan Klassy points out details in the carving to KCFB members Erwin Panzer, Bernice Maness and Leonard Panzer of Maple Park. The sculpture, at the corner of Randall Road and Oak Street in St. Charles, tops out at 11 feet tall and sports a Kane County Farm Bureau 100th Anniversary logo. Courtesy Photo

KANE COUNTY—The seventh annual Touch-A-Tractor at the Kane County Farm Bureau attracted a steady crowd thanks to the efforts of dozens of member/volunteers. Several events at the April farm-city event helped highlight the Farm Bureau’s centennial celebration.

A tree carving on the corner of the KCFB property, facing Randall Road, made a one-of-a-kind Touch-A-Tractor experience. Professional carver Michael Bihlmaier of Marengo, Ill., turned the base of a trunk of a 120-year-old ash tree, taken down due to disease, into a towering ear of corn.

Bihlmaier used half a dozen chainsaws of varying sizes to chip away at the carving over the course of the three-day event, creating a tribute to Illinois’ number-one commodity crop.

“Ash is a very hard, dry wood so it takes a lot of time,” said Bihlmaier.

His chainsaws hummed away as onlookers waited to see what the sculpture would be. What remained when Bihlmaier hit the off switch on his chainsaw was an 8-foot-tall ear of corn, complete with curling husks that cradle over 350 individually carved kernels of corn. Good weather allowed him to finish the ear of corn before the last Touch-A-Tractor visitor left.

A Kane County Farm Bureau 100th Anniversary logo was all that was left to be added when showers came late in the day on Sunday. The sculpture measures 11 feet tall, from the ground to the tallest point.

“It’s definitely the biggest ear of corn I’ve ever carved,” said Bihlmaier, who has completed hundreds of carvings.

Bihlmaier has award-winning talent, has competed in national carving competitions and is a member of the Echo chainsaw carving team. He used a grinder, dremel and other woodworking tools to add detail to the sculpture.

“We’re really impressed with the job Mike did,” said PR Chair Beth Engel of Hampshire. “The detail is so impressive. It should catch the attention of drivers on Randall Road and give them a reason to stop and see what we’re doing to promote a bright future for agriculture here in Kane County.”

KCFB also kicked off the Centennial Grove tribute program, and visitors were able to get a first-hand look at the trees available for purchase to dedicate to individuals or events.

Another first-time attraction was a 1913 Port Huron steam engine brought in by KCFB member Tom Runty. It was a huge hit with kids and adults.

“The littlest kids seem to have the best understanding of it,” Runty said. “They know it looks like a train, and of course that’s exactly the way it works, like a steam-operated locomotive.”

Runty’s first appearance at Touch-A-Tractor was perfectly timed, as the association is celebrating its centennial. The steam engine, which he bought in 1999 and spent five years restoring, is almost the same age as the Kane County Farm Bureau, which has a date of Dec. 31, 1912, on its charter. Almost every kid, and many adults, took a turn standing on the platform of the 20,000-pound behemoth.

“Because we are celebrating our 100th year, we wanted to make this Touch-A-Tractor one to remember,” said Director and PR committee member Bill Collins. “Thanks to moderate weather conditions and some exceptional equipment and displays, I think we provided a really good experience for the kids—which is what it’s all about.”

The event featured 17 antique tractors, modern farm equipment, farm animals and lots of agricultural activities for children. The weekend wrapped up with the announcement of 21 college-bound recipients of nearly $22,000 in Kane County Farm Bureau Foundation scholarships, followed by the drawing of the winners in the not-for-profit’s annual Winner’s Choice Tractor Raffle fundraiser.

Attendance at the annual farm-city event was estimated at 1,500 people for the three-day event.

Just in time

Harter Middle School walk-through completed day before school opening
by Susan O’Neill
The final walk-through of the Harter Middle School took place on Tuesday, just in time for the first day of school on Wednesday.

“It’s been tight, but we’ve made it,” former Superintendent of Business Tom Runty said.

After Runty retired, he was hired back by the district to supervise the completion of the new school, as well as renovations of the current middle school and Blackberry Creek Elementary School.

“A lot of progress was made in a very short time,” he said.

Runty and Assistant Superintendent of Business Julie-Ann Fuchs credited the custodial and technology staff for working quickly and efficiently to get things done The final concerns had been to complete the roadway and to get the exits cleared for students to enter the grounds. Runty said that everything is finished on Harter Road except for some work on the road shoulders.

New students and their parents visited the school for the first time last Thursday, to orient themselves and find their way around.

“There were a lot of ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs,’” Runty said.

District 302 notes

by Susan O’Neill
Former business superintendent to coordinate construction
Tom Runty, former District Assistant Superintendent for Business, has been hired as a construction coordinator for the 2009-10 school year to monitor progress on the three ongoing building projects: the Harter Middle School construction, the old middle school renovation, and an addition to Blackberry Creek Elementary School. Runty will be hired on an hourly basis at $50 per hour, not to exceed 500 hours. Runty will be the liaison between the architect, construction managers and the District.

School Board approves plans for Esker Drive extension
The School Board on June 15 approved plans for the Esker Drive extension at the Harter Middle School site. Engineering Enterprises, Inc. has estimated the cost at approximately $1.5 million.

The extension will allow traffic to travel south on Esker Drive through to Wheeler Road in Sugar Grove, providing another entrance to the school in addition to the Harter Road entrance.

The project will be put out to bid.

School District receives donations
The Kaneland School Board accepted the following donations on June 15:
• $750 from an Educational Alliance Grant to Kaneland John Stewart Elementary School for math and science education
• $6,000 from the Kaneland McDole Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) to purchase technology and school improvement
• Used weight-training equipment from XSport Fitness with an approximate value of $4,000 for the Kaneland Middle School on Meredith Road.
• $1,496 from Spring Bluff Nursery, Inc. for Kaneland John Shields Elementary School grounds beautification
• $800 from the Kaneland John Shields PTO to the John Shields Learning Resource Center for the Book Chat project in conjunction with the Rebecca Caudill Award.

Dirty dilemma

District struggles to get out from under a pile of dirt
by Lynn Meredith
Let’s talk dirt: That unsightly pile sitting on the Kaneland campus is being talked about. In an effort to get rid of it, district officials are asking around.

“It sits right in the wrong location,” Superintendent Charlie McCormick said. “We want to look at the cheapest option to make it go away.”

Let’s talk size: The pile is estimated to require 2,100 semi-truck loads to move.

After a recent story in the Elburn Herald, the district received responses, one of which was that someone would move it for a fee but dump it for free, an option that is appealing. However, it could prove difficult due to timing. With the parking lots scheduled to be paved and seal-coated, moving the dirt would have to happen at just the right time.

Another option that just won’t work without expert engineering advice is to spread it around the 40 school-owned acres to the east that are currently being farmed.

“That would create water problems for (our) neighbors. We have to be careful that it is handled correctly,” Assistant Superintendent of Business Tom Runty said. “We need an engineering study to look at what it will do to the elevations and run-offs if it’s spread on the fields.”

The Facilities Planning Committee recommended that the board obtain a civil engineering study to determine the options for removing the dirt, relocating the dirt, distributing the dirt on site and possible water drainage issues or leaving the pile where it is.

Help! It’s quicksand!

Pipe-laying halted at Harter Road site
by Lynn Meredith
It was all going so well at the Harter Road construction site, until workers encountered quicksand at 1,000 feet when trying to lay the sanitary sewer line.

Sand permeated by water has made it impossible to continue until a process called “dewatering” is accomplished.

“The site has been so kind to us up to this point,” Assistant Superintendent of Business Tom Runty said. “All the rain hasn’t helped.”

Dewatering consists of placing well points at intervals on either side of the trench. Ground water is pumped out of the area, lowering the water table between well points. Then the pipe can be laid and back-filled with gravel. Once the pipes are in place, the water doesn’t affect them anymore.

The same process was done on Foxmoor Drive while McDole Elementary was being built.

The situation is considered an emergency because it is crucial to being able to get other parts of the construction done on time. The total cost for the month-long process is $283,002.

Steaming into retirement

Budgets give way to steam engines
by Lynn Meredith
Whether he’s fixing a musical phrase, fiddling with a steam engine or analyzing a budget, Tom Runty comes by his many talents naturally.

He will retire this year from his position as assistant superintendent of business for the Kaneland School District and plans to spend more time enjoying the things that are in his blood.

One of those things is steam engines. He owns two, a 1920 engine that is currently “in pieces” and a restored and running 1913 engine.

“You’re always tinkering with them. It’s in my blood. My dad was into that stuff. He gave me a tabletop steam engine and I had it for years and years,” Runty said. “It’s the history of it. You kind of fall in love with steam. The sounds, the smells, the sights, how the engine operates and how it does things. It’s more than a tractor. These things move at a slower pace, but they seem to live and breathe. It’s a different feel, and it gets inside you.”

The engines remind Runty of the type of farming he grew up with as a kid in Manhattan, Ill., where corn was harvested on the cob, rather than harvested by combine, and later shelled.

“This is communal farming that I grew up with,” he said. “We picked corn. My uncle owned the sheller, so he’d bring the sheller over. We’d provide the tractor. The next door neighbor would bring over an old truck, probably from the early 40’s,” he said. “People would bring grain trucks or just bring shovels, and the ladies would get together and fix the meal. steam_runty_2_4cWe’d go help others. That’s what I remember from growing up-shelling corn.”

On his watch
• Dec. 1998-Tom Runty is hired as
Assistant Superintendent of Business
• 1999-200 acres are purchased on
Harter Road for future middle school
campus; land purchased in
Maple Park
to accommodate future growth
• 2001-Referendum fails
• 2002-Referendum passes
• 2004-Blackberry Creek
Elementary School opens
• 2005-McDole Elementary
School opens
• 2006-Kaneland Auditorium opens
• 2007-Referendum fails
• 2008-Referendum passes
• 2009-Construction of Harter Road
Middle School begins

“He’s been in the driver’s seat supervising the construction
from the district’s standpoint. He’s been in hundreds of meetings
and made thousands of decisions.”

Charlie McCormick, Superintendent

“He’s very easygoing, easy to work with. He’s understanding and not easily upset. If he gets upset, he has a really good reason. It’s truly rare.”
Susan Phillips
Administrative Assistant for Business

“Tom brings great competency to his position. You can rely that things are going to be done the way they need to be done. He provides the background calculations and rationale as to why we ask the public to increase a certain amount. That’s the key to everything that’s happened.”
Charlie McCormick

Kaneland School District notes

by Lynn Meredith

Garland hired as Stewart assistant principal
The Kaneland School Board approved the hiring of Laura Garland for the position of assistant principal at John Stewart Elementary. Garland has served as a kindergarten and first grade teacher at John Shields and Blackberry Creek. She is currently a reading specialist at John Shields Elementary.

District reduces benefit funds to meet recommended balance
The Kaneland Employee Benefit Trust Fund will be reduced by $1.2 million dollars to bring it down to the recommended fund balance. Currently it has a balance of more than $2.5 million dollars or 10 to 12 months of claims. The industry standard is four months.

“That’s too much money to tie up. It’s restricted and unavailable for use for anything else,” Assistant Superintendent of Business Tom Runty said.

The School Board voted to move the money into Wellness Committee activities, such as the blood draw analysis and flu shots, and to provide seed money for others. In addition, it will provide a month holiday from paying premiums which saves employees a total of $53,308. The money will also be used to offset increases in premiums for staff and the board.

District’s bond rating improves
The district’s long-term financial rating on its bonds has been elevated from an “A” to an “AA” by Standard and Poor Rating Services. The rating reflects Standard and Poor’s opinion that the district has very strong income and extremely strong wealth levels and that it is improving financial operations and has good reserve levels.

Mobiles on the move

by Lynn Meredith
With the slow-down of growth in the Kaneland School District and the construction of a new middle school, the mobile classrooms that have served the district in its time of need are being let out to pasture. Those that are leased will be returned; the district-owned mobiles will be sold or find other uses. But nothing will happen until all’s clear and the new school is up and running.

“I recommend we don’t do anything with them until we’re sure we don’t need them, just to have them here as a fall-back if-we’re not saying ‘when’-but ‘if ‘ we would need them,” Assistant Superintendent of Business Tom Runty said.

Two of the leased mobiles are at the middle school, and one sits at John Stewart Elementary. The leases are up Nov 1. Runty recommends that the mobiles be returned at that time. The timing will allow the district to use them if there would happen to be any problems getting into the new school at the beginning of the year.

All three are double-wides and cost $10,000 to $14,000 annually to lease. The sites on which the middle school mobiles are located could not be used again in the future, so the removal would be permanent. The John Stewart site could be used again in the future if necessary. However, removing the mobiles frees up more parking spaces and aids traffic flow.

Two of the district-owned mobiles at the north of the middle school are of little resale value due to their age and poor condition. If they are left where they are, they are grandfathered in by fire regulations. If they are moved, they could not be returned to the same spot in the future. Fire code prevents them from being placed that close to the building.

“Sales of mobiles are not particularly fruitful financially,” Runty said. ” But at least we would not endure the cost of moving them—that would be up to the buyer.”

The three mobiles in the back of the middle school are in good condition and are not in the way of anything. Runty recommends that they be retained for future use, maintained and made available for storage. They could also be converted into office space.

The Facilities Planning Committee reviewed the recommendations and agreed that waiting until after the opening of the new school to do anything with the mobiles would be prudent. The School Board agreed to revisit the issue after Sept. 1.

3 Kaneland administrators will take on new roles

by Lynn Meredith

            The Kaneland School Board approved changes to administrative staffing for the 2009-10 school to adjust for the the planned retirement of Assistant Superintendent of Business Tom Runty and Director of Special Education Marilee Green.

            Dr. Julie-Ann Fuchs will replace Runty as the Assistant Superintendent of Business. She has worked with the Business Office for several years and has been involved in many of the key operations of the district. Fuchs holds a doctorate in Curriculum Leadership and masters degrees in Education Administration and Secondary Education.

            Fran Eggleston will replace Marilee Greene as Director of Special Education. She has served as principal of McDole Elementary since the school opened. She has a background in Special Education and has taught at all three levels.

            Martne McCoy will replace Eggleston as principal of McDole, where she currently is serving as Assistant Principal. She has been an assistant principal at three of the district’s elementary schools and has taught early childhood and elementary levels.