Rochelle News-Leader | Year in Review 2022: January through June

2022-12-23 21:14:47 By : Mr. yifei xiang

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By: Jeff Helfrich - Updated: 21 hours ago Hot Dipped Galvanized Steel Tube

Rochelle News-Leader | Year in Review 2022: January through June

ROCHELLE — On Friday, a ribbon cutting event was held for Steder Tattoo, a tattoo parlor at 507 W. 4th Ave. downtown that is now open. 

Officials from the city, members of the Rochelle Chamber of Commerce, members of the community and friends and family of the owner, Mat Steder, were in attendance. Steder comes from Raven Tattoo in Dixon and services a lot of Rochelle residents already. The business is Rochelle’s first tattoo shop. 

"It was breathtaking,” Steder said. “I wasn't expecting the turnout to be this big tonight. It was a wonderful feeling seeing everyone come out to support me. I just appreciate everybody coming out. It just blows my mind. I'm speechless."

In the past few months since having a special use permit approved by the city council, Steder has been working to get the space ready for business. He said that at times, the work felt like a “never-ending story,” but he got the shop finished, complete with merchandise. 

“I've told my wife multiple times that I'm tired of building and I just want to get back to tattooing,” Steder said. “I'm very excited to get back and do what I love doing."

ROCHELLE — On Wednesday morning, the City of Rochelle hosted a commencement ceremony for its Hickory Grove demolition project. 

Afterwards, the city turned the 1127 N. 7th St. site back over to its contractor, McDonagh Demolition, which had spent the past week doing site preparation and even started some teardown before the commencement. The work is ahead of schedule, as demolition was originally slated to start Jan. 24. 

City officials and staff members attended the commencement ceremony. Mayor John Bearrows spoke and detailed the building and site’s history and said it was a bittersweet day.

“It's mixed emotions being here today,” Bearrows said. “We see a building coming down. This building represents a lot of things for Rochelle. I want to publicly thank the Ogle County Civic Center Authority board, who worked for so many years to maintain this facility and tried to keep it alive. It's a melancholy truth that the day we're born, we begin to die. It's the same with a building, they have a useful life. This building met its useful life. But we can't forget what it provided for our community.”

ROCHELLE — At Monday’s Rochelle City Council meeting, Jeff Leininger was surrounded by his Rochelle Police Department coworkers as he was recognized for his retirement after 23 years with RPD. 

“That was humbling,” Leininger said. “It made me feel good to see them come out and support me and say kind things. It’s one of those things that makes you think you may have made a difference in the world.”

Leininger served in a variety of roles with RPD including patrol officer, detective, patrol sergeant, detective sergeant and finally deputy chief. He was also a D.A.R.E. officer and tactical team member. 

“It was interesting,” Leininger said. “I was lucky to be hired when a lot of movement was coming up. To start on the street and see everything, people want that. Being a detective, you get to figure out more things. There’s a satisfaction in working and solving a case and making an arrest. You feel like you’re making a difference. Sometimes patrolmen can only go so far. Getting to the bottom of a case is a challenge. Being in charge of the detective bureau was exciting. I enjoyed teaching the younger guys.”

ROCHELLE — When Dr. Nancy Williams came to practice in Rochelle in Aug. 1980, she moved four hours away from her family. 

Williams retired last week after 41 years in town as a family doctor. Over that time she built a family of her own. On top of that, she built relationships with her patients and their families. 

“I think the hardest part about retiring is how much I'll miss the patients,” Williams said. “People that I see frequently or even the ones I see every six months or once a year. I have a relationship with them and I'm going to miss that. As I was thinking about all of this, I thought, 'Maybe doctors should move every 10 years so they don't develop such ties with patients.' And then I thought, 'Well what fun would that be?'”

Williams said it’s been a blessing to have developed relationships with patients. While growing up, her children called a lot of people in the Rochelle area grandma and grandpa. 

“People have been very gracious in including us with their families and inviting us to weddings and picnics and all sorts of things,” Williams said. “It's been great.”

ROCHELLE — Hicks BBQ, a local food concession and catering business, recently announced it has purchased the building at 315 Cherry Ave. and the lot west of it. 

No, the building will not be a restaurant. It will be a centralized location for the owners, Jeremy and Erica Hicks, to continue and grow their catering and food truck business. Some carry out and events may be in the cards in the future for Hicks BBQ at the location. 

“The new building will help considerably,” Jeremy said. “We have stuff stored in four different places right now. We do a lot of catering. This will centralize us. We do more catering than anything. But we don’t want a restaurant. People ask us that a lot.”

Hicks said he and his wife have been looking to get into a building for a couple of years. They considered building something in Hillcrest, but wanted to be in the downtown area. The couple have been using the kitchen at Headon’s Fine Meats in Creston for their catering and wanted to have something in the middle. 

Hicks BBQ is planning an overhaul of the building including paving the lot for a place to park its two food trucks. The inside of the building will be gutted, cleaned and repainted. A new roof will be added and windows and doors will be replaced. 

“We’re going to revamp the whole place,” Jeremy said. “It won’t look anything like it does now. We want to be local and downtown. People have to find our trailers wherever they are now. I’d like to have it open by the beginning of summer. We’ll do it as soon as we can.”

ROCHELLE — Fran Volz had to brave the elements while constructing his most recent sculpture. 

The process began in late January and Volz’s snow angel has been inhabiting the downtown gazebo since. During one day of sculpting, temperatures fell to -22 degrees. 

“It was so cold on Wednesday that my car didn’t start,” Volz said. “I waited until 10 a.m. when it was about -10 degrees. I had to bundle up. You’re using water and working with your hands. I had boots that were made for extreme temperatures.” 

Volz, a Rochelle resident and professional sculptor, has erected sculptures both inside and outside the area in the past. The statue at the Veterans War Memorial at Lawnridge Cemetery is his work. He made a mermaid snow sculpture in the gazebo last winter. 

Volz chose the location because it keeps sunlight and rain off his snow sculptures. He got his inspiration this year from a model he has.

“I had a little model of an angel and I thought I’d make it full scale,” Volz said. “The cold slowed me down. Usually it only takes two or three days. The snow was powdery and I had to mix water with it and work fast in the cold.”

ROCHELLE — During Tuesday’s Rochelle Township High School Board of Education meeting, Assistant Superintendent Tony Doyle said RTHS was starting its third week of mask optional for students and staff and hasn’t seen major issues with it. 

 “There's not a lot of new information,” Doyle said. “We are starting our third week of mask optional. It's full steam ahead. I guess that's how I'd say that. We've had no major issues with it and I wanted to communicate that to the board."

All Rochelle schools are currently under a mask optional policy for students and staff and ceased student/staff exclusions for quarantine as “close contacts” and staff vaccination/testing requirements. All of those measures were previously mandated by executive orders of Gov. JB Pritzker.

On Feb. 4, a judge in Sangamon County issued temporary restraining orders related to the Governor’s COVID-19 executive orders and emergency rules issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) regarding COVID-19 mitigation strategies for students and staff in school. Those orders have not been successfully appealed by the state and governor.

ROCHELLE — The long-awaited mystery company that is filling the former Nippon Sharyo buildings at 1600 Ritchie Court in Rochelle is Zekelman Industries, the largest steel pipe and tube manufacturer in North America, a City of Rochelle press release said Friday.

Operations will commence in Rochelle this fall and the development is expected to create between 100 and 150 jobs locally, the release said. The city expects the project to foster further industrial and commercial development in the community.

"The City of Rochelle is pleased to welcome Zekelman Industries to our community," Rochelle Mayor John Bearrows said in the press release. “The city was only able to attract this type of development because of our ongoing investment in our utility infrastructure."  

In the past, Zekelman Industries has been said to be making a capital investment of over $130 million in the facility and its jobs will pay an average of $52,000 per year before benefits.

The Lee-Ogle Enterprise zone was amended by the Rochelle City Council and other area members to attract Zekelman Industries by adding 10 years of 50 percent abatement, creating a category for companies that make an investment of $100 million or more plus adding at least 125 new jobs and a pay rate of $50,000 or more before benefits and maintaining 95 percent employees. There are a total of 12 years of abatement for Zekelman Industries’ west building. The east building won’t be abated at all. 

The city also reached a development agreement with Zekelman Industries.

KINGS —  About four months ago, Kings School history and English teacher Steven Steiner found out that one of his students was colorblind. 

He reached out to a company called EnChroma to see if he could get some glasses to help the student. He was asked to test every student in the school for color blindness and found five others that needed the glasses. Steiner came to an agreement to get glasses from EnChroma for all of them. That was about four months ago.

On Friday, five colorblind Kings students were presented with their glasses during a school-wide assembly and some saw colors for the first time. Others with more mild color blindness saw colors in their fullest capacity. 

Receiving glasses Friday were Tyson Carmichael (sixth grade), Aiden Carmichael (seventh grade) and eighth graders Alex Foster, Ben Foster and Andrew Johnson. Seventh grader Colton Hopp was not able to attend the assembly and Steiner gave him his glasses the day before.

“I did that yesterday and his reaction was just so special to me,” Steiner said. “Because as a teacher, I always want to help my students see the world in a different way and experience things they've never experienced before. Just seeing his reaction, it really was something I'll never forget and I'm sure he would say the same."

ROCHELLE — The Hickory Grove demolition project is “mostly completed,” Rochelle City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh said Wednesday. 

All debris and demolition equipment have been removed from the site. Remaining work including landscaping and facade work on the Comfort Inn hotel next door must wait until the weather is nicer, Fiegenschuh said. 

Other remaining issues on the project for the city include subdividing and replatting the property and coming to an agreement on a land swap with the hotel. There are several parking spaces in the front portion of the Hickory Grove lot that are owned by the hotel, and the hotel desires some property currently owned by the city so it can put in a new pool, Fiegenschuh said. 

The city hopes to come to an agreement and bring the land swap before its Planning & Zoning Commission in May for a recommendation before it goes in front of the city council. 

Fiegenschuh said he plans to work with Community Development Director Michelle Pease and engineering firm Willett, Hofmann & Associates to put together a request for proposal to put out for developers interested in the Hickory Grove site. Willett, Hofmann & Associates has worked on the project since the city purchased Hickory Grove and has supervised the demolition.

ROCHELLE — On Thursday, a ribbon cutting event was held for blueflamedecor, LLC, a new business at 400 Lincoln Hwy. that sells handmade wooden signs, home goods, decor and gifts. 

Remodeling was recently completed inside the former Stone’s Hallmark building by the business’s owners, Nathan and Cheyenne Uhl. The back area of the store includes a workshop. The front of the store has various products on display. The business began in January 2019 when Cheyenne started making wooden signs for the couple’s home after they got married. It quickly outgrew their home. 

“We had a lot of people who helped us on this project,” Nathan said. “We want to say thank you for the part that you played in lending a hand and giving us the most valued resource, your time. That's not lost on us and we really appreciate it. This isn't just a business opening. It's a big change in both of our lives. We're excited about it and thankful for the overwhelming support of the city and everyone that's been welcoming to us and supported us up to this point.”

ROCHELLE — On Thursday, a ribbon cutting was held at the new Starbucks at 1076 N. 7th St. in Rochelle ahead of its opening in the afternoon. 

City officials, chamber of commerce members and local and regional Starbucks employees were on hand to officially open the location. 

"On behalf of the chamber, thank you and welcome,” Rochelle Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tricia Herrera said. “This is one of the biggest things that has happened in this town in quite some time. We are always very encouraged when new business comes to town, especially on the level of Starbucks. We know you can put your business anywhere, and we're always thankful when Rochelle is the choice. On behalf of the chamber, we're here for you. Anything we can do to help, we certainly are ready to do that.”

Mayor John Bearrows spoke on behalf of the city and welcomed the business to Rochelle. 

“As I've looked back through some of the history of Starbucks, it has some great traditions,” Bearrows said. “Now it's focusing on smaller communities and more rural atmospheres. It's going to be an awesome thing for our community. Thank you for being here.”

ROCHELLE — For the past five and a half years, Kurt Lodico of Rochelle has been running marathons in hopes of competing in and finishing the Boston Marathon.

He did just that on Monday. The marathon was his 14th over that time. His time was three hours, 53 minutes, finishing 16,216 out of the full 30,000 in the race and 950th out of the 1,700 in his age group of 55-59. 

Lodico was in the second wave of runners to start the race. Each wave has 7,500 racers in it. Runners represented every state and people from 122 different countries ran in the Boston Marathon, he said. Qualification is required to get in. About 500,000 people attended the event, which was run at its normal time in the spring for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

“It was awesome,” Lodico said. “It was unbelievable. The huge billboards they put up and it’s lighted and there’s so many TV cameras. There’s probably 200,000 people just at the finish line. They say some can’t even hear their name when they cross the line because it’s so loud. It’s very exciting going down that last stretch. It’s exhilarating.”

ROCHELLE — Dr. Mike Wattles of Maintain Your Smile Dental in Rochelle recently returned from a nearly five month-long Illinois Army National Guard deployment in Poland as a dental officer in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. 

Wattles’ job while deployed was to set up a dental clinic and once it was up and running, he was in charge of a dental unit in an Army medical clinic. 

“We were treating soldiers for emergencies like broken teeth or trauma or whatever would come up,” Wattles said. “The other things we did, they sent us throughout Poland to do dental examinations on soldiers to see if they had any dental needs. I had to go and see the different divisions and the guys that were kind of on the front lines. That was pretty interesting. Basically we just treated dental emergencies there."

Wattles said the goal of dental officers like him was taking care of soldiers’ dental emergencies in order to keep them healthy and able to perform their jobs in the field, from infantry soldiers to officers. He called it “quite different” from the atmosphere, pace and type of treatment he practices in Rochelle.

ROCHELLE — On Friday, the City of Rochelle and Rochelle Municipal Utilities held a celebration for their recently-completed $13.8 million electrical substation project at 1630 Ritchie Court. 

The project broke ground a year ago in an effort to serve current customers and attract new industrial growth. The new substation will increase reliability for nearby industries and create the ability to have redundant feeds. This substation will also introduce a new voltage class for the city to be able to provide electricity to larger users and will be the first substation project split into two yards with the distribution yard owned and operated by RMU and the transmission yard owned and operated by ComEd.

In 2019, the city purchased just over 16 acres for construction of the substation to support growth in Rochelle’s southern corridor. Zekelman Industries, which will soon be opening next door to the substation in the former Nippon Sharyo buildings, will be one of the city’s largest power users. 

“This is an amazing project,” Rochelle Mayor John Bearrows said. “It takes care of not only our businesses today, but it also gives us expansion capabilities for the future. That's one of the things the city has always been good about, looking forward and seeing what we’ll need in the future, not just today. This project will be the catalyst for not only current service, but to promote expansion down the road.”

ROCHELLE — The Rochelle Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner & Awards event took place Thursday evening at the Kennay Farms Distilling Rickhouse. Eight awards were presented to local businesses for their work in the past year.

Rochelle Mayor John Bearrows closed the night with a speech and thanked those in attendance for running businesses in the community. 

“Each and every one of our business owners is a winner in my book,” Bearrows said. “What I really like about being mayor is working with our businesses and seeing a new business open. Enjoy those around you and your fellow businesses, because we're all in this together."

ROCHELLE — Last month, Rochelle Community Consolidated District 231 announced that Lincoln School Kindergarten Teacher Mrs. Nicole Tobler was recognized as the recipient of the Illinois Principal Association (IPA)’s Teacher Leadership Award for the state's northwest region.

Tobler will represent Rochelle’s region as the IPA chooses a state elementary teacher leader of the year from all the regional winners. She’s taught in the district for 14 years at Lincoln Elementary. In her first year in the district, she taught second grade. After that, Tobler taught first grade for the next 10 years. She’s been a kindergarten teacher in the district’s dual language program for the last three years.

“It felt very humbling to be selected from a group of excellent teachers from the northwest region of Illinois,” Tobler said. “I am truly honored and appreciative.”

ROCHELLE — On Wednesday, the Rochelle Little League held a ceremony to honor National Cancer Survivor month for the fourth consecutive year.

Teams from every league gathered on the little league field for the ceremony. Banners were donated by local businesses commemorating the month and placed on each league’s field. Before every game in the month of June, somebody who has cancer, is a survivor or was lost to it will be acknowledged and the song “We will rock you” will be played.

"Our slogan is #WeWillRockYou,” Umpire Albert Burciaga said. “The meaning behind it is we're sending a message to cancer. Cancer, we're going to beat you, and we're going to rock you. The banners will stay up this whole month. Hopefully every time somebody dealing with cancer hears this song, they will know there's a whole community supporting them. We hope it will give you positivity and hope.”

Players from different leagues carried bases painted gold onto the field during the ceremony. Every player wore something gold. That’s the color of pediatric cancer, which the little league chose to focus on this year.

ROCHELLE — At its Monday meeting, the Rochelle City Council unanimously approved a development agreement with Seldal Properties, LLC for the redevelopment of five downtown properties on Lincoln Highway.

The agreement is for 318, 320, 322, 324 and 326 Lincoln Highway and the redevelopment will consist of mixed-use retail and residential space. The total project will be just over $1 million. The city will reimburse Seldal Properties, LLC $300,000 in five separate $60,000 payments, starting upon the acquisition and completion, but no sooner than Dec. 31, 2023. The money will come from the city’s downtown and southern gateway tax increment funding (TIF) district. 

“I think this is a classic example of a public-private partnership,” Mayor John Bearrows said. “We've said we need housing and we want to fill the stores up downtown. We're using TIF money to reinvest in the community. I commend [Seldal Properties, LLC Owner Bruce Seldal] for his efforts to do this because it will change the appearance of that whole downtown. I'm anxious to see it.”

Seldal answered questions at the meeting and said he plans to do an “extensive remodel” of the facade on the front of the downtown building that would see it rebricked and new glass windows and doors would be put in.

The July through December portion of the News-Leader’s Year In Review will appear in the Sunday, Jan. 1 edition.

Rochelle News-Leader | Year in Review 2022: January through June

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