Smart Home

Stew Cohen

  • Sunday 6:00am-6:15am

News of the Northwest Suburbs is my focus on Joe and Tina’s Show in the morning on STAR 105.5 FM. I’ll give you a comprehensive look at McHenry County news, Chicagoland’s top stories, Illinois news, top national stories,  and sports.  I’ll assist Tina in providing traffic in the northwest suburbs.   All of this information in a couple of minutes each hour.  Just as Joe and Tina keep you entertained with great music and their funny banter, I’ll keep you in touch with what’s going on.  Stew’s News on STAR 105.5 Monday through Friday from 6am to 8am. We’ll give you ten traffic reports throughout the morning.

I’ve been finding important issues and events to expand our focus from the shorter newscast length to the longer form public affairs show.  The program is called Northwest Spectrum, airing every Sunday 6am for 15-minutes.  Northwest Spectrum allows for more time to open up an issue and examine it thoroughly.

I’m in my fifth decade of providing news in the morning, public affairs and public service.  Thank you for listening to me.



The McHenry County Board will vote on three major reforms to further cement its reputation as a state and national leader for good government.
Its Ad Hoc Committee on Governmental Consolidation recommended Tuesday that the full board vote to put two binding referendums on the Nov. 6 midterm ballot to impose term limits on County Board members and the County Board Chairman. They also voted to recommend that the County Board pass a resolution reducing its size by 25 percent, from 24 to 18 members.
“Today’s actions are a huge step forward for empowering voters to choose the way they are governed,” County Board Chairman Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said. “Two years ago, almost 80 percent of county voters said in an advisory referendum that the County Board should be reduced in size. The same year, a poll from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute put support for term limits in Illinois at 80 percent. The committee’s vote today sends a message that its members heard the people they represent loud and clear, and I’m confident the full County Board will follow suit.”
The proposed referendums would ask voters to limit the County Board Chairman to no more than two terms as of the 2020 election, and to limit County Board members to no more than 12 years as of the 2022 redistricting election, when the size reduction ordinance would take effect.
“The County Board isn’t making the big decisions on term limits – the voters are, which is the way it should be,” Franks said. “I want to thank the Ad-Hoc Committee, as well as the many other County Board members who attended its meetings, for bringing a lot of good ideas to the table and working together to do the people’s will.”
The referendums will be voted on at a special meeting Aug. 16, to meet the state deadline of Aug. 20 to put binding referendums on the Nov. 6 ballot. The ordinance to reduce the County Board’s size, in accordance with board rules, will be put on 30-day review for a likely September vote.


— A double-decker bus built by The Walt Disney Co. that was undergoing maintenance in an area marked “Do Not Enter – Restricted Area” at the Volo Auto Museum took an unexpected trip across the grounds after two young children climbed behind the wheel.

No one was injured. But the bus — circa 1956 and valued at $450,000 — was damaged Monday, July 16, after one of the grammar-school-aged children took the vehicle out of park, sending it rolling 80 feet into a tree, said Brian Grams, director of the museum at 27582 Volo Village Road.

The incident reminded Grams of the recent news account of a 5-year-old boy that climbed up and toppled a glass sculpture in an Overland Park, Kansas, community center. The child’s parents received a $132,000 bill for the damage, sparking a national debate over who’s to blame in such a case — the venue or the parents.

Grams said he was thankful that no one was injured and the only damage suffered was that of the bus. “There couldn’t have been a better outcome to a bad situation,” he said. “The bus hit the tree straight on at its sturdiest point. The damage would have been much greater had it been just a few inches to the left or right.”

Nonetheless, the vintage vehicle’s frame is bent and its steering wheel is broken. A one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable brass radiator shell also was mangled. Grams has filed an insurance claim, and the museum’s insurer has been in touch with the parents’ insurance provider.

“Unlike the Overland Park sculpture incident, we did have signs posted saying ‘Restricted Area’ ‘Do Not Enter’ and ‘Do Not Touch,’” Grams said. “This is a perfect example of why it is important that people do not ignore the warnings.

“Some people remarking on the sculpture incident have said the piece should have been roped off or otherwise secured, while most have said parents need to better supervise their children,” he continued. “It’s impossible to put everything behind a partition, so where does a venue draw the line?”

The bus debuted in Disneyland in Anaheim, California, in 1956, and in 1982 was put to use at Epcot Center in Disney World, Florida. The Volo Auto Museum acquired and restored the exceptionally rare vehicle in 2014. The omnibus has not been used to offer rides since it was retired from Disney World in the 2000s. A 62nd anniversary-of-debut event, including rides with costumed characters, is planned at the Volo Auto Museum Aug. 11, which is why the bus was out of its usual indoor display space for maintenance.

The Volo Auto Museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. It features roughly 400 classic, muscle and Hollywood cars and more. Regular admission is $15 for adults, $9 for children ages 5 to 12 and free for children 4 and younger. For other information, call 815-385-3644, find Volo Auto Museum on Facebook or visit


McHenry County Department of Health (MCDH) reports that nine County residents were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease between June 7 and July 1.  The people who became ill are from various County localities and range in age from 46 to 82 years old.

Occurring more frequently in hot humid weather, Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a type of bacteria commonly found in the environment and is transmitted by aerosolization, which means you can become ill by breathing in a mist or vapor contaminated with the bacteria. Legionella bacteria is found naturally in freshwater environments like lakes and streams.  It can become a health concern when it is found in building water systems such as shower heads, hot tubs, fountains, hot water tanks and large plumbing systems.

Legionnaire’s Disease symptoms typically begin 2-10 days after exposure and can include muscle aches, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills.  Shortness of breath, coughing, headache, or mental confusion can also be common.   “Legionnaires’ disease is not known to spread person to person,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Chief Medical Officer Jennifer Layden, M.D., PhD  “Most healthy people do not get Legionnaires’ disease after being exposed to Legionella bacteria.  Individuals at increased risk of developing Legionnaire’s disease include those older than 50 years of age, or who have certain risk factors, such as being a current or former smoker, having a chronic disease, or having a weakened immune system.”

The Health Department is working closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health to investigate these occurrences. See your healthcare provider if you are symptomatic and think you have been exposed to Legionella bacteria.  For more information visit


At the District 47 board meeting on June 18, 2018, the board approved the appointment of
Aaron Knoth as assistant principal at Hannah Beardsley Middle School effective July 1, 2018.
Knoth will replace Carolyn Stadlman, who is District 47’s new director of math, science and
Besides taking on his new role as assistant principal, Knoth will oversee the district’s Title I and
Title III summer school programs as principal. He has spent his 11-year education career in
District 47 serving as a math teacher for eight years at Bernotas Middle School, an icoach
(technology coach) at Woods Creek Elementary School, and most recently as a full-time
instructional coach at Hannah Beardsley Middle School. In addition, he has served on
numerous committees, including the district’s curriculum adoption committee and the “Future
Ready” task force.
“We are excited to have Aaron in a new leadership role at Hannah Beardsley,” said Cathy
Alberth, principal at Hannah Beardsley. “ He brings strong instructional leadership experience,
an enthusiastic “can-do” attitude, and a commitment to innovation and student-centered learning
to serve the HBMS community.”
“I’ve spent my entire career in District 47 so I know where we’re headed,” said Knoth. “I look
forward to bringing my experience and expertise in innovation to the rollout of the strategic plan,
as well as continuing to build relationships with both faculty and families.”
Knoth holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Illinois State University; a
master’s degree in curriculum instruction (with a focus on technology integration) from National
Louis University; and a master’s degree in instructional leadership from Aurora University.

The McHenry County Emergency Management Agency has released a new “McHenry Aware” mobile app to help McHenry County residents become more aware of potential hazards and provide information on how to prepare through all stages of certain disasters.
The app provides users with weather alerts, updates on road conditions throughout the county, and updates during extreme weather situations. It also includes customizable checklists to help make you and your family disaster ready, and the ability to report personal property damage.
EMA Director David Christensen says, “Residents will now have access to the most up-to-date information in times of crisis. Notifications about evacuations, outages, disaster relief and emergency services will be at their fingertips. Self-reporting of damage assessments is now available for the first time ever.”
While not a substitute for your primary means of emergency notification, the new app will serve to provide McHenry County residents with information about the EMA office and the services they provide, as well as the ability to provide users with emergency notifications to their phones. It also will provide more detailed directions to the disaster resources available to them, and enable users to volunteer to help to assist their communities with the push of a button.
McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks of Marengo says, “As last year’s historic Fox River flooding proved to us, disaster can happen anytime, anywhere. It’s important not only to have advance notice of severe weather and other emergencies, but also to have a disaster plan in place for you and your family. The McHenry Aware app is a powerful tool to ensure that you’re prepared when disaster strikes.”
The app is available for free download on both the Google Play Store and the App Store today. For more information on the app or to download it by scanning a QR code, visit

–  INTREN, one of the nation’s largest certified Women Business Enterprise (WBE) specialty utility contractors,  announces continued growth through its plan to combine with Indiana-based Miller Construction Company, Inc., a third-generation full-service electrical contracting company, and also a leading WBE.  By joining forces, INTREN will broaden its marketplace offerings, including Miller Construction’s deep expertise in transmission.

“With Miller Construction, we have found a culture match and an experienced execution partner, as well as a company that shares our values and our vision of transforming the way business is done,” said INTREN founder and Chairwoman of the Board Loretta Rosenmayer. “Miller Construction is a family-owned business with a long history of exceptional safety and meeting customers’ needs, which makes them a natural fit for the INTREN family.”

Rosenmayer stressed that INTREN’s acquisition furthers her vision of creating a national full-service company. “Our goal is not only to build the best women-owned business and woman-controlled board, but to be the best overall total-solutions provider for our customers. INTREN’s and Miller’s shared values of stewardship, integrity and customer focus will guide us, and firmly support our belief that companies do well in the marketplace by doing good,” Rosenmayer added.

“INTREN is known for anticipating and fulfilling the needs of our customers and we are doing just that by broadening our capabilities through the acquisition of Miller Construction Company,” said Kelly Tomblin, INTREN’s Chief Executive Officer. “By joining forces, we are continuing our evolution to serve customers in every business segment, wherever they need us geographically,” she said.

“This acquisition is in response to requests from our customers and the marketplace. We are expanding our transmission capabilities and expertise, and adding other services such as equipment testing, vegetation management and innovative professional services while providing the same safety, quality, and customer focus. We are now well-positioned to grow further and be even better partners for our customers in the future,” added Tomblin.

Christina Ernst, the CEO of the Miller Construction Company, will join the woman-controlled INTREN Board of Directors, one of the few in America’s utility contractor space.

Miller Construction’s 175 employees will join forces with INTREN’s 1,600-strong team to provide more work to customers through a wider geographic reach. Company President Andy Carmean will continue to oversee Miller activities and will join INTREN as Regional Vice President serving the Indianapolis and St. Louis markets.

“As a family-owned and operated WBE, Miller Construction Company is thrilled to join the INTREN family,” Christina Ernst said. “Not only does INTREN embody the principles and values of Miller Construction Company, but we provide complementary services that will help INTREN achieve continuous growth and become a total utility solutions provider. Together we are well-positioned for industry leadership that will provide creative solutions for our customers.  I look forward to serving on the Board and continuing to help advise the combined companies. ”

INTREN’s acquisition of Miller Construction Company shows the industry that diverse companies can combine to create a different and innovative workplace offering.  INTREN’s latest growth to meet the infrastructure needs of the utility marketplace reflects their 30-year trajectory that was bolstered in 2017, when One Equity Partners became a minority investor, providing significant funding for future growth.


For 30 years, INTREN has been an innovative solution partner, dedicated to building and maintaining the infrastructure of the energy industry. The company’s culture of stewardship guides INTREN to care for others’ priorities as if they were their own. Through an unwavering commitment to safety, integrity, customer focus and employee empowerment, the company has succeeded in offering turnkey services to a long list of satisfied clients. As an industry leader, INTREN is proud to serve many of the country’s foremost utility companies, private contractors and developers, municipalities and cooperatives. For more information, please visit


About Miller Construction Company 

Miller Construction Company is a full-service electrical contracting company, providing deep expertise and services throughout the Midwest in overhead transmission and distribution, along with emergency storm restoration services, nationwide. Miller also provides extensive in-house project management and estimating, along with vegetation management and electrical testing services.


The Vincennes, Indiana-based third-generation family business is a certified Women Business Enterprise (WBE) and possesses a long history of exceptional safety, exceeding customers’ needs, and deeply caring for their employees and their communities. For more information, please visit


A bat that tested positive for rabies was recently found outside a Wonder Lake home.  No human exposure was reported, although potential exposure to two dogs found playing with the bat is being taken into consideration.   Keeping pets (even those who stay indoors) up to date with vaccinations will not only keep them from getting rabies but also provide a barrier of protection for people if a rabid animal bites a pet.

According to Maryellen Howell, Manager of McHenry County Department of Health’s Veterinary Public Health Division, “Whether a bat is found inside or outside your home, avoid touching it with bare hands.  Using a shovel or plastic bag ensures no direct contact. For a bat found inside, contain the bat in a room by closing the door. If you find a bat outside and think there has been exposure to a person or pet or if the bat is injured, place an upside down bucket over the bat if possible.  In both cases, immediately call Animal Control (815-459-6222).  To test bats for rabies, it is important the bat be in good condition (i.e. head is intact) and either alive or recently deceased.

Rabies is a fatal disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system, only confirmed by laboratory testing.  The best way to avoid rabies is to avoid exposure.  A bat that is active by day, found in a place where bats are not usually seen (such as in your home or on the lawn) or is unable to fly, is potentially rabid. People should take a “hands off” approach to all wild animals to reduce their risk of exposure.  Children should also be educated to avoid handling wild animals.  Bats are a protected species and part of the natural habitat.

If you have questions about exposure, call MCDH’s Communicable Disease Program at 815-334-4500. To learn more about rabies prevention, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at


Seeking to improve independence and transparency in the way legislative ethics complaints are handled in Illinois, the Illinois Senate approved significant reforms to the Legislative Ethics Commission on May 31. State Senator Pamela Althoff, co-sponsor of House Bill 138, says the legislation incorporates the suggestions and input of members of the Legislative Ethics Commission, and has received the full support of the Illinois Senate Women’s Caucus.

Notably, the changes advanced in House Bill 138 call for an independent search committee to determine candidates for the Legislative Inspector General role, with members of the committee to be composed of retired judges or former prosecutors. Additionally, the measure offers the option of hiring a full-time Legislative General, which until now has been a part-time position. Sen. Althoff says a full-time LIG will increase accessibility and guarantee an LIG is available to quickly vet and act on all complaints filed with the office.

“This legislation is the result of hard work put in by members on both sides of the aisle, and I applaud everyone in the Senate Chamber for their efforts on this,” said Althoff. “This bill allows anyone who feels they have been harassed, or feels they have fallen victim to some sort of misconduct within the legislative body, has peace of mind in the process and does not fear retaliation. For too long, the Capitol building has been the breeding ground for unethical, corrupt behavior. I am proud to stand with my colleagues today to finally say, ‘we’ve had enough.’”

Additionally, the legislation does the following:

  • Allows the Legislative Inspector General to investigate allegations of sexual harassment, without first receiving approval of the Legislative Ethics Commission.
  • Requires enhanced reporting regarding the types of matters brought to both the Executive and Legislative Inspector Generals, as well as enhanced reporting by the Legislative Ethics Commission regarding the number of cases where the Legislative Ethics Commission does not publish reports and situations when the Legislative Ethics Commission refuses to allow an Inspector General to proceed with a complaint.
  • Identifies appropriate processes for Legislative Ethics Commission Members to recuse themselves.
  • Authorizes the sharing of information about complaints and the investigation process with complainants
  • Improves transparency with regard to allegations and investigations by violation category
  • Allows for the Legislative Ethics Commission to develop training on topics pertaining to sexual harassment, discrimination and workplace civility, which may be approved to meet the sexual harassment training requirement.

Having been approved unanimously by the Illinois Senate, House Bill 138 moves to the Illinois House of Representative for concurrence.



McHenry County has awarded funding for the first project under the County’s Wetland Restoration Fund program. The Wetland Restoration Fund was created to provide greater opportunities for approved projects to mitigate for wetland impacts under the county’s jurisdiction (Isolated Waters of McHenry County or IWMC). Per the countywide Stormwater Management Ordinance, projects that impact IWMC must mitigate (replace) the impacted wetland. Approved projects have the opportunity to provide mitigation by paying into the Wetland Restoration Fund. Money paid into the Fund is used to help pay for wetland restoration projects in McHenry County. Applicants seeking funding for wetland restoration projects through the program will be evaluated on a variety of criteria including the merits of the proposed project and the qualifications of the applicant. The goal of the program is to achieve a countywide goal of “no-net-loss” of wetland acreage.

The first project to be approved to receive funding through the Wetland Restoration Fund is the Crystal Lake Park District’s Sterne’s Fen Wetland Restoration – Phase II. Under the current phase of the project, the Park District will be reimbursed for up to $118,810 to restore or enhance approximately 7.8 acres of wetland habitat. The project involves restoring hydrology and native vegetation to a wetland that has been artificially drained due to ditches that formed in the site’s organic soils. The Park District and their contractors will install a series of rock check dams within the channels, remove invasive species, and replant native vegetation. The rock check dams slow the water moving through the channels, thereby raising the water table throughout the entire wetland and preventing further erosion from occurring. The intact portions of the wetland in Sterne’s Fen include extremely high quality habitat. It is anticipated that much of the drained wetland will revert to high quality habitat once wetland hydrology has returned. If areas do not respond favorably on their own, seed will be collected from the high quality areas and re-distributed in the restoration area.

The Crystal Lake Park District and their contractors have a proven track record for success. With assistance from the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission and the efforts of dedicated volunteers, restoration work has been taking place at Sterne’s Woods and Fen for about twenty years. Work on the project is expected to begin in the fall of 2018. The progress of the restoration work will be monitored for approximately five years to ensure the required performance standards are achieved. Volunteer workdays are held every month if you are interested in learning more about Sterne’s Woods and Fen or would like to get involved with the restoration activities. Please visit the Crystal Lake Park District website for details.

As funds become available in the future, the McHenry County Stormwater Management Commission will send out Requests for Proposals for potential wetland restoration projects to apply for funding through the Wetland Restoration Fund. For additional information about the Wetland Restoration Fund, please contact Joanna Colletti, Water Resources Manager, with the Department of Planning and Development at [email protected]

The Board of Directors for The Literacy Connection announces David Zimmerman as its new Executive Director.  Zimmerman replaces Karen Oswald, former Executive Director who resigned this past February.

Zimmerman brings experience in non-profit organizations as well as community business collaboration, board governance and organizational change management to The Literacy Connection.

Zimmerman has served previously as the Employment Opportunities Manager for the Center for Enriched Living and was the Employment Coordinator for New Foundation Center (now Thresholds).  Zimmerman is also a Veteran of the United States Navy.  He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Affairs (Management) from Indiana University, as well as a Master of Arts in Public Administration (Nonprofit Management) from University of Colorado and a Master of Business Administration (Management) from Roosevelt University.

Zimmerman says, “I’m honored to have been given the opportunity to lead this organization. The mission of The Literacy Connection is such a needed resource in the communities we serve as I have encountered several clients at my previous positions that had severe deficits in basic literacy fundamentals, in addition to other barriers in their own lives.  Reading your schedule at work, filling out job applications, or just being able to write about what you enjoy doing in life; literacy in our communities is so essential towards the inclusion and prosperity for our readers.   Providing opportunities for those who need help is a great passion of mine and having a career that aligns with this is truly a blessing. The Literacy Connection is a public nonprofit organization and I plan on continuing to build new bridges with the communities and reaching out to new learners who may have been hesitant or unaware of our services.”

Board President Jay Robinson stated, “We are confident that David’s experience, knowledge, and integrity are a great match for the work, staff, and friends of The Literacy Connection. Together with the staff and the Board of Directors, we will continue to advance our mission by helping adults in the northwest suburbs reach their literacy goals through one-on-one volunteer tutoring and small group instruction.”

The Literacy Connection serves 16 northwest suburban Chicago communities including Algonquin, Bartlett, Carpentersville, Cary, Elgin, South Elgin, East Dundee, West Dundee, Gilberts, Hanover Park, Hampshire, Hoffman Estates, Huntley, Lake in the Hills, Streamwood, and Schaumburg. The agency provides customized one-on-one and small group adult tutoring, citizenship conversation groups, English conversation groups, and family literacy programs.

Who is the “Illinois Integrity Fund” that sent our mailers during the primary in March? Joe Tirio wants to know.

McHenry County experienced a March Republican primary that many felt stooped to unprecedented lows with anonymous political mailers, robo calls by people using aliases, and websites making unfounded accusations of criminal wrongdoing.

Some of these “hit pieces” were distributed by individuals hiding behind fictitious entities such as the “Illinois Integrity Fund.” The “Illinois Integrity Fund” did not register with the Illinois Board of Elections nor is it a registered Illinois company or corporation. When Tirio drove to the Hoffman Estates address listed on the three mailers that attacked him, he found an office building with no trace of anyone or anything associated with the “Illinois Integrity Fund”.

No one has come forward to acknowledge being a member of the “Illinois Integrity Fund” or to claim responsibility for what was printed.

Voters and the general public do not know who was behind the “Illinois Integrity Fund” and Joe Tirio is concerned voters believed the “Illinois Integrity Fund” was a registered political organization making “truthful claims.” Neither is true, Tirio maintains. The “Illinois Integrity Fund” was a mask for someone putting out false, defamatory information about Tirio. The public doesn’t know who is behind this entity.

But Joe intends to find out. Joe Tirio is striking back.

Joe left a successful career in the corporate management world to run for political office in 2015. He successfully spearheaded the initiative to save taxpayers’ money by starting the process of merging the County Recorder and County Clerk’s offices in McHenry County.

Joe  ran a winning campaign in March 2018 to be the Republican nominee for County Clerk, but not without suffering scathing personal attacks from the “Illinois Integrity Fund,” an organization working in the shadows, accusing him of committing financial crimes.  The “Illinois Integrity Fund” is an unregistered organization Tirio wants to unmask.

“I wasn’t just called names.  I was accused of committing crimes with taxpayers’ money! Throughout my political career I’ve tried to make county government more efficient and responsible and save the taxpayers’ money.  These accusations serve no purpose but to misinform a voter, rob him of his or her vote, and discourage civic- minded people from getting involved in politics,” said Tirio.

Woodstock lawyer Phil Prossnitz who is representing Tirio reflected, “A certain amount of mudslinging is to be expected, but what was done here was unconscionable. Joe is a good man. We believe in the eye of the law these mailers went too far.”

“If people hiding behind an alias can get away with making false accusations of crimes against an honest man like Joe, they can do it against anyone running for office. We need to unmask these people,” commented Prossnitz.

Because Tirio does not know the identity of the person or persons behind the fliers, he and his lawyer are going into court using a new Illinois Supreme Court Rule that allows limited discovery to find out the identity of the “Illinois Integrity Fund.” The respondents in the petition are the printing company whose name appeared on the mailers and Tirio’s opponent who used language in her automated telephone call similar to the mailers.“Politics is a rough business, but if we as a community don’t stand up to people who distributed thousand of fliers with lies claiming I committed crimes, how can we expect honest, hard-working citizens to come forward for public service?” questioned Tirio.

Tirio says, “This lawsuit is about answering : When is lying about an opponent in a political campaign going too far? Should people be allowed to use aliases or hide behind fake organizations and make false accusations to gain an advantage in an American political campaign? Does blatant, knowing, overt lying undermine American democracy? Does this behavior rob you of your vote? In an American political campaign should we teach our children — “anything goes?”

Tirio invites politicians and citizens of all backgrounds and party affiliation to say enough is enough and come forward to unmask the people behind the “Illinois Integrity Fund.”

The case has been assigned to Judge Kevin Costello, 18 MR 302, and is next up May 23, 2018 at 9:00 A.M. in courtroom 204.


McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks has invited leaders from nine area school districts to a discussion on what districts can do to lower their property tax levies.

The meeting comes after voters overwhelmingly approved an advisory referendum asking school districts to follow the County Board’s example and reduce their levies by at least 10 percent. The County Board reduced county government’s levy by 11.2 percent for this tax year, and will continue to search for additional efficiencies to save taxpayers money.

“While every local government has an obligation to the taxpayers to tighten their belts like we did, I believe school boards have even more of one because they account for the biggest percentage, by far, of property tax bills. We’re not here to criticize public education or the fine work that our teachers do. But the voters told us in March that schools need to lower their taxes. And unfortunately, people are also voting with their feet and leaving McHenry County. We have to reverse this trend before we reach a demographic and economic point of no return,” Franks, D-Marengo, said.

County Board members Michele Aavang, R-Woodstock, Christopher Spoerl, R-Cary, and John Jung, R-Woodstock, led the effort last year to put the advisory referendum on the March 20 primary ballot. Voters approved it by a three-to-one margin.

Franks invited the superintendents and the school board presidents from nine of the 16 school districts that have their administrative centers in McHenry County: Woodstock Community District 200, Johnsburg District 12, McHenry Community High School District 156, Marengo Union Elementary School District 165, Huntley Community School District 158, Richmond-Burton Community High School District 157, Cary Community School District 26, Community High School District 155 and Crystal Lake Elementary District 47. Other districts will be invited to future meetings.


River Road at Dowell Road Roundabout Project Begins

Work is starting on a project to build a roundabout at River and Dowell roads in Island Lake.

The project consists of replacing the current three-way intersection, controlled by a single stop sign, with a roundabout to increase safety, improve traffic flow and correct the extreme skew of Dowell Road’s connection with River Road.

Utility relocation has started, and construction work is expected to begin in mid-May and be finished in November, weather permitting. While River Road will remain open throughout construction, Dowell Road will be closed at the intersection from early June through mid-August, and a posted detour will take drivers along an alternate route of Burnett and Darrell Roads. Local access to all nearby properties will be provided during construction.

The contract was awarded April 17, 2018 to PirTano Construction of Addison, for $3.59 million. Funds for the project will come from the county motor fuel tax and the county’s share of the Regional Transportation Authority sales tax.

Roundabouts make for a safer alternative to traditional intersections. Because there is only one-way movement throughout the roundabout – vehicles travel counterclockwise until they find their turn – they all but eliminate the possibility of head-on and right-angle collisions. Accidents at the River and Dowell intersection have increased 60 percent between the four-year reporting periods of 2008-2011 and 2012-2016.

To learn more about the project, follow the progress of the project and watch live video of construction work, visit and click on “Current and Upcoming Construction” on the left-hand side. You can also connect with us on Facebook at

When finished, this will be the third roundabout built in McHenry County. The first was built at Johnsburg and Chapel Hill roads in Johnsburg, followed by the roundabout at the intersections of Charles and Raffel Roads in Woodstock.


The quick actions of a few Woodstock Community School District 200 and Centegra employees and a visiting team parent likely saved the life of a man who suffered a cardiac arrest following a junior varsity baseball game at Woodstock North High School.  Seventy-one-year-old Jerome Qualkenbush, was walking back to his car around 7 p.m. on April 12 after watching his grandson Brandon’s game when he collapsed on a path between the field and the parking lot. Verda Dierzen Early Learning Center Principal Tricia Bogott and a friend happened to be exercising on the Woodstock North track nearby when they saw Qualkenbush fall to the ground.

Bogott had recently taken her two-year cardiopulmonary resuscitation refresher course through Woodstock District 200 and began immediately administering CPR while her friend Amanda DeGrave went for additional help.  Qualkenbush apparently was not responsive nor breathing and did not appear to have a pulse.

The Thunder was playing Marengo and a visiting Marengo parent, Dan Klenske, who happened to be a former paramedic from the Marengo Fire Rescue District, helped Bogott with chest compressions. Klenske, who taught CPR at the fire district, said he was not optimistic his chance for survival when he first got to the scene.

Woodstock North High School athletic trainer Maggie Heldt, a Centegra Sports Care trainer, and junior varsity coach Jeff Legare then arrived with an automated external defibrillator (AED.) All coaches and trainers are trained to use the devices, which are required at all school sporting events. Heldt said they attached the device to Qualkenbush and said it sent two shocks to his heart. Woodstock Fire Rescue paramedics arrived and Qualkenbush began to regain consciousness a short time later, she said. Klenske said it was amazing to see all of the people trying to help and that the AED was what saved the man’s life.

Cynthia Qualkenbush said Tuesday that her husband has been released from the hospital and is recovering well following the incident. She said she was extremely grateful to everyone who helped. Qualkenbush said, ““We consider them all our special angels for all knowing what to do and when to do it. They performed a miracle in our minds. They did the right thing at the right the right time.”

Woodstock Fire Chief Michael Hill said the quick actions were crucial for Qualkenbush as experts estimate that each minute a victim is unresponsive following cardiac arrest significantly reduces the chances of survival. “That’s a rarity what happened that day,” Hill said. “Those AED units are very expensive, but this really shows the benefit of having them around when they’re needed.”

District employees will be recognized for their life-saving efforts at an upcoming Board of Education meeting, and Hill said the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District would also like to recognize the individuals who assisted at the scene.

Lisa Tate, District 200 director of Nursing and Health Services, said that in addition to coaches and athletic trainers, each school building has an emergency response team with individuals who are trained in CPR and on AEDs.

Cardiac Science, the company that provides the AEDs and training to District 200 employees, provided certificates and pins to key people involved in the April 12 incident.  Lori Peters, senior marketing manager for “Cardiac Science understands the deadly toll sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) can take on people of all ages and is dedicated to developing devices that prevent loss of life,” said Lori Peters, Cardiac Science Senior Marketing Manager.


Starting April 15, 2018, the Algonquin, Cary, Harvard, Huntley Johnsburg, Lake in the Hills, McHenry, Spring Grove, and Woodstock Police Departments, in collaboration with the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office, will institute a new policy whereby a warrant for a blood draw will be obtained for any DUI suspect that refuses breathalyzer testing.

Of the policy, Woodstock Police Chief John Lieb said, “with the overall mission of public safety in mind, it is Woodstock Police Department’s perception that this initiative is certain to deter some who may contemplate driving after consuming too much alcohol or are under the influence of other substances.”

While DUI suspects face severe civil penalties, such as suspension of driving privileges, if they refuse breathalyzer testing, police cannot generally require or physically force a suspect to submit.  As such, many DUI suspects, mostly those who subjectively believe their blood alcohol concentration to be above the legal limit of 0.08 g/dL, often attempt to obstruct a DUI investigation by refusing to submit to breathalyzer testing. This is especially true of repeat DUI offenders.  Refusal is done in an effort to ensure that breathalyzer results cannot be used in a subsequent criminal prosecution.

The new policy will no longer allow DUI suspects to undermine criminal prosecutions in this way.  Rather, should a DUI suspect refuse breathalyzer testing, a warrant will be sought allowing police to draw the suspect’s blood.  Should the warrant be granted, the suspect will be transported to a nearby emergency room where his/her blood will be drawn and tested for blood alcohol concentration.  This policy will ensure that prosecutors are equipped with the strongest possible evidence in court and, thereby, that all DUI offenders are held accountable.

In addition to holding offenders accountable, Cary Police Chief Finlon observed that the initiative “will create strong cases for the prosecution, thereby encouraging a defendant to seek plea negotiations, reducing the need for investigating officers to appear in court, and improving law enforcement patrol staffing.”

The policy will be aided by the electronic warrant system, launched in January of 2017.  The electronic warrant system creates a streamlined process that police can follow to obtain a warrant without ever having to leave the police station.  Specifically, the e-warrant system allows police to create search warrants online, send those warrants for review to a judge electronically, interact with the judge via video-conferencing, and ultimately obtain a warrant through a judge’s electronic signature.

“The days of drunk drivers refusing to blow thinking that they can beat a DUI charge are coming to an end,” said Patrick Kenneally, McHenry County State’s Attorney.  “This new policy means that we’re going to ensure we have all the evidence we need to successfully prosecute drunk drivers every time.”


Longtime Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager will be nominated to represent McHenry County on the Regional Transportation Authority Board, according to McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks.
Franks said Sager’s deep knowledge of McHenry County, local government and urban planning makes him a perfect choice to advance the county’s mass transit needs. The 16-member RTA Board has financial oversight of the boards of Metra and Pace, both of which are vital to McHenry County commuters and residents who otherwise would have no means of transportation.
Franks says, “Brian is thoughtful, reasoned, honest, ethical, and arguably the most educated elected official I have ever known. He does not make a decision without studying the issues in depth, and if there is one person in McHenry County who can work with people of different opinions to reach consensus, it’s Brian Sager,.”
Sager, a 37-year resident of Woodstock, served 14 years on the City Council before becoming mayor in 2005, and voters last year re-elected him to a fourth term. He was a professor of animal and plant sciences at McHenry County College for 15 years, and later served as the college’s vice president of academic and student affairs and acting president.
Sager says, “I look forward to the opportunity of serving on the RTA Board to provide a strong, collaborative voice for McHenry County residents and businesses. My specific goal would be to support the growth of McHenry County transportation options while simultaneously focusing on the sustainability of regional transportation services in a financially challenged state.”
Sager earned a Bachelor of Science degree in animal and plant sciences, and a Master of Science degree in agricultural economic development from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He also holds a Ph.D. in international development from Louisiana State University, and a Master of Arts degree in instructional strategies from Rockford College.
The County Board will vote on Sager’s appointment at its April 17 meeting.


Under legislation recently filed by State Senator Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) and State Representative Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield), motorists would have the option to register their vehicles for more than one year at a time. Although McConchie’s and Batinick’s bills differ slightly, the underlying concept remains the same.

Sen. McConchie’s legislation, Senate Bill 2293, would allow motorists, beginning in 2020, to register their vehicles for one or two years. It would also allow those who purchase a new vehicle to register their vehicle for one, two, or five years. The price per year would be the same but an individual would be able to pay it up front and not have to change their sticker every year.

Rep. Batinick’s legislation (House Bill 4259) differs somewhat. Under HB 4259, and beginning with the 2019 registration year, motorists would have the option to register their vehicles anywhere between one to five years at a time. If a vehicle owner chooses between two to five years, there would be an additional $10 fee for every registration year that is more than one year. The money from that fee would be deposited directly to the Road Fund. Likewise, trailer owners would also have an option to register their trailer for one, two, three, four, five, or ten years.

Although the versions of the two bills differ, both legislators agree that the concept of the legislation is a good idea, and that they just have different ideas on how to implement it. Both McConchie and Batinick say they look forward to having a constructive debate on the specifics.

“Both pieces of legislation provide a convenience to those who are able to pay more than one year at a time, and alleviates the burden of renewing it year after year.” said Sen. McConchie. “I look forward to hashing out our differences and coming up with a uniform bill that makes life easier for Illinoisans.”

“There’s no good reason not to do some version of this. My plan allows taxpayers to keep the status quo. Or, they can simply pay a small convenience fee to receive multi-year registration,” Batinick stated. “I’ve spoken to businesses that would love the ability to buy a 10 year plate for their utility trailers. It’s efficient for them and should save the state money too.”

Currently, ten states give individuals the option to register their vehicle for longer than one year.

Spring semester is right around the corner and the McHenry County Community Foundation is reminding veterans who have returned from service and are heading to McHenry County College that they can take advantage of grants to help save money on the tools and books they’ll need for a successful academic career.  With Spring semester classes beginning January 12, 2018, the Foundation, along with the Friends of McHenry County College Foundation are encouraging veterans to apply for grants to cover the cost of a new laptop or book rentals.“We are grateful to veterans and to their sacrifice. We also want to encourage them to seek their degree or certificate close to home,” said Robin Doeden, Executive Director of The McHenry County Community Foundation. “We’ve partnered with McHenry County College to ease student veterans’ transition back to school by encouraging them to apply for the Student Veteran Laptop Grant and the Pay-It-Forward Book Grant,” she added.

Educators suggest that having a laptop computer is critical to improved academic performance and encourages retention and persistence when veterans return to school. Thanks to the generosity of local donors, the Community Foundation provides $500 grants in the form of direct deposit into students’ bank accounts. In the 2016-2017 school year, 34 veterans received laptop grants. Recipients volunteered for college and community events, veteran celebrations, fundraisers and other “thank you” efforts.

Student veterans receive the funds to pay for books in time for the first week of class by applying for the Pay-It-Forward Book Grant. Students repay the grant directly to the fund when they are able to return their books to the MCC Student Veterans Resource Center. The books are then lent to future students. In exchange for receiving a laptop grant, student veterans are asked to volunteer their time at activities and events that deepen their connection to local communities and to other veterans. Students receiving a book grant have the option of providing volunteer service if they are unable to payback their book rental fees. In the 2016-2017 school year, a total of 19 Pay It Forward Book grants were awarded to veterans, with an average value of $255.

“The Friends of McHenry County College Foundation expresses our gratitude to the donors who contributed to the McHenry County Community Foundation, which continues to support our county’s student veterans,” said Brian DiBona, Executive Director of the Friends of McHenry County College Foundation. “Many men and women returning from overseas deployments often lack access to the technology that plays such a key role in college success,” said DiBona. “Having a laptop computer and textbooks in time for the first day of class are critical to their success and encourages them to stay in school and work hard toward fulfilling their dreams,” he added.  The laptop and book grant programs have been offered to MCC student veterans since 2014. During the last school year, 285 student veterans took advantage of their educational benefits at MCC.  Grant recipients have donated an average of 20 hours of volunteer service, including participating in student government, and volunteering for events, organizations and fundraisers.

Many veterans have commented on the impact these grants have made in their lives. “The beginning of a semester is always rife with financial challenges and being faced with [staggering] book costs can be daunting to say the least. Thank you once again for easing that stress with your timely and generous gift,” wrote Alicia Sutherland, veteran, U.S. Air Force. “This gesture of kindness is greatly appreciated. To all of you who took the time and donated what you could to further my life’s ambitions is a deed this card cannot repay. My dedication to success is solidified, and your contribution to my success is now permanently etched,” Timothy D. Miller, veteran, U.S. Air Force.

For more information on the Laptop and Pay-It-Forward Book Grants, veterans are invited to contact or visit the MCC Student Veterans Resource Center, online at or in person at 8900 US Highway 14, Room C122, Crystal Lake, IL 60012.

The McHenry County Community Foundation is a trusted community leader, sponsor and participant encouraging philanthropy and welcoming partnerships to create a positive difference in the quality of life in all of McHenry County.

The McHenry County Community Foundation is a tax-exempt public charity created by and for the people of McHenry County.  We work with you to help you fulfill your charitable interests and goals.  We play a key role in addressing community needs, opportunities and dreams – now and in the future – in order to help make giving as effective as possible.

For more information please contact the Foundation at 815.338.GIVE (4483) or connect with us:


News of the Northwest Suburbs is my focus on Joe and Tina’s Show in the morning on STAR 105.5 FM. I’ll give you a comprehensive look at McHenry County news, Chicagoland’s top stories, Illinois news, top national stories, and sports. I’ll assist Tina in providing traffic in the northwest suburbs. All of this information in a couple of minutes each hour. Just as Joe and Tina keep you entertained with great music and their funny banter, I’ll keep you in touch with what’s going on. Stew’s News on STAR 105.5 Monday through Friday from 6am to 8am. We’ll give you ten traffic reports throughout the morning. I’ve been finding important issues and events to expand our focus from the shorter newscast length to the longer form public affairs show. The program is called Northwest Spectrum, airing every Sunday 6am for 15-minutes. Northwest Spectrum allows for more time to open up an issue and examine it thoroughly. I’m in my fifth decade of providing news in the morning, public affairs and public service. Thank you for listening to me.