I’ve visited farmers’ markets all over the Midwest, so I have a critical eye. I went to the Marengo Farmers Market on June 30, just to see what it was like. Of course it isn’t the largest market I’ve ever seen, but it is delightful in the variety and quality of goods offered, and exciting in its potential for growth. It is also local. To me, that says it all.

If you’ve never been to a Farmers’ Market, the one in Marengo is a perfect way to start. You need to know that these markets are not for a shopping list. Farmers Markets are for discovery. What will I find? What’s in season right now? A larger market can be overwhelming— often too many choices, if truth be told.

I brought home lettuce from Blue Barn Farm, owned by Eric and Sheila Debelak; and raspberries and green beans from Nichols Farm and Orchard. These were the discoveries that caught my eye that day from among their offerings. Both farms promise there will be lots more vegetables as they come in season. Tomatoes are only a few weeks away and corn on the cob will follow, along with onions, carrots, summer squash. . . you get the picture.

Hasselmann Family Farms is selling meat— beef, pork and chicken raised on their farm here in Marengo. And remember Troy Umland from our last issue? He’s selling Umland’s Cheesy Bites at the market. Come and get a sample and buy all three flavors.

Looking out for my pets, I discovered some homemade treats created by Angela Johnson, owner of Wholesome Petz, Inc in Marengo. Both poodles enjoyed their doggie cupcakes. The market is pet-friendly, by the way. I saw several customers with dogs on leashes, enjoying a walk in Calvin Spencer Park where the market is located each Saturday from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.


The breeze in Calvin Spencer park under the shade trees was enhanced by live music. Mary Lai was playing her guitar and singing the Saturday I visited.

Rather than being overwhelmed with craft and artisan products, this market offers several vendors of a wide variety, from essential oils, to handmade pillows and quilts. I couldn’t resist the soaps created by Courtney Vettere of Bubbly Designs. I almost made it past Broken Twig Gifts and More till a beautiful hand crafted cutting board caught my eye. I’m glad I stopped because I met Kevin and Melissa Schultz who are just starting their business and have begun by selling wood working, jewelry, and other items at the Marengo Farmers Market this summer.

All the vendors report how they enjoy meeting their neighbors. They just wish more of us would come. I know I’ll be going back. I hope to see you there! 

Park districts represent communities. They represent health, education, fun and interaction, and are also a thread of togetherness.

In the more than three years I have been serving as a Commissioner of the Marengo Park District Board, the question I hear more often than any other by far is, "Will the pool be reopening?". The question is asked by adults and children alike and is sometimes accompanied by a recounting of memories of fun times spent at the Marengo Pool. Some inquiries take a more critical tone. Recent comments on the town's social media pages have even suggested that residents make an effort to raise the money and materials to rejuvenate the pool.

Marengo is in the Midwest, where our summers are limited and the weather is unpredictable. Even the most interested swimming families couldn't always make use of the pool. Research of public pool records throughout Illinois show that most public pools finish the season at a financial loss due to weather closures, overhead costs of personnel, water treatment and ongoing maintenance and replacement costs regardless of pool attendance.

The Park District is also financially burdened by loan and bond payments which are repaying monies used to make changes to the facilities many years ago. One such repayment will not even begin until 2020, leaving the Park District with only the resources to make absolutely necessary expenditures on facilities and program development.

Still, we hear the residents who are interested in having the pool open again, and they will have the chance to voice their opinion this November as the Park District is planning to post a referendum to the ballot asking residents if they want the pool to be restored to working order and re-opened. This would include increasing the tax levy to cover pool renovation and maintenance costs. The results of the referendum vote will be published and the Park District will use this information for future planning.

Residents of the Marengo Park District are always welcome to attend the Regular Park District Board Meeting held on the third Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Indian Oaks Park Building to learn about the district's latest developments.

A proposed 235-acre solar farm on two parcels at the intersection of Johnson Road and Route 20 was approved in principle by the Marengo City Council, during its June 25 session. The action included annexation agreements for 110- and 126-acre sites, each containing three parcels, along with a text amendment to the existing Estate Residential (ER) zoning designation allowing the solar farm and a forty-year term special use permit for its operation.

The project is being presented by Marengo Solar LLC, a consortium comprised of SunEast Development, Energy Renewal Partners, and Enel Green Energy. Cost estimates range from a $25-$30 million investment would place approximately 60,000 solar panels on either side of Johnson Road. The location under contract contains three parcels owned by Richard Johnson and Judith Feddema, and another three parcels owned by Nelligan Investments LLC.

The council’s full approval, with 4th Ward alderman Dennis Hammortree casting a dissenting vote, follows the Marengo Planning and Zoning Commission recommendation made during an Apr. 16 special meeting. After a public hearing on the proposals, the zoning text amendment to allow the commercial project in an (ER zoning district, and a special use permit contingent upon annexation were approved. It was then forwarded to the full council for disposition.

“Also in the annexation agreements is that they have a 36-month window to finalize the details on the facility, the operational end, and its agreement with Commonwealth Edison,” said Marengo city manager Josh Blakemore. “There are other contingencies as well, but the time period was set for their completion of all the necessary requirements.”

One primary concern that has been raised is the soil quality of the parcels, after it is decommissioned. The group has indicated that the life expectancy of the solar panels in the array is 40 years. The special use permitting also carries a forty-year term, coinciding with provisions of the zoning text amendment.

The annexation agreements also contain a clause stating that if the solar farm fails to transmit energy to the electrical distribution system within a period of twelve, or more, consecutive months, not pursuing repairs, or refutes the contention within thirty days, the site will be presumed abandoned.

The group must also finalize an agreement with ComEd, through its parent company, Chicago-based Excelon, Inc., for energy transmission and connection to the Marengo power substation.

A benefit for the county and the municipality is state legislation, passed by the General Assembly. House Bill 5284, which “Provides the equation for the fair cash value of commercial solar energy systems in counties with fewer than 3,000,000 inhabitants.” Its offshoot, Senate Bill 0486, allows the property tax code amendment that a commercial solar energy system should be calculated at $218,000 per megawatt generated. Both bills await Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature.

The Marengo ground installation is expected to produce up to 40 megawatts of energy, and could factor out to $330,000 in property taxes on an annual basis, relative to area’s the taxing rate.

“That could translate to $30-$40,000 per year for the city of Marengo, for the general fund and police pension for the property tax revenue line items,” said Blakemore. “The assessed value of $218,000 per megawatt is a similar assessment for wind power generation as well.”

 Solar farms considerations for Mc Henry County areas are being viewed by specialized provider companies. Another site is being proposed for a leased 16-acre section of a 29-acre larger parcel in Marengo Township, owned by Michael Grismer. The California-based firm of Borrego Solar Systems Inc. seeks county zoning approval for the site on Route 20, near Burma Road, and is planned to generate 2 megawatts

California-based Shabadoo Solar/Cypress Creek Renewables Development LLC, and the Wisconsin-based firm of West Grant Development, Inc. have gone through the McHenry County Zoning Board of Appeals process and now are awaiting a date for the county board to consider their project. They seek to place a solar panel array on 90 acres near the intersection of West Ringwood Road and South Solon Road.

The Marengo ground installation along Route 20, on either side of Johnson Road, is listed as unincorporated McHenry County, until the annexation agreements are effectuated to bring them into the municipality’s fold.</p>


The civil litigation filed by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office against 300 West LLC and Arnold Engineering, Inc. remains set for the next status hearing, following an Apr. 4 continuation that would give the state agency more time to review a 1,339-page report, submitted by the Marengo-based company. The report was submitted by the defendants in Mar., after a time-extension for its completion.

Entitled, “The Comprehensive Site Investigation and Remedial Objectives Report,” it outlines site contamination and the scope of mitigation with data regarding on- and offsite testing well locations and potential contaminant spread. The civil litigation, under docket# 13CH1046, was filed in 2013 by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office on behalf of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency stemming from groundwater contamination at the plant site.

Annie Thompson, press secretary for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, said the companies had submitted the report ahead of a scheduled Mar. 8 trial date, and more time was required to review the documents.

The issue surfaced when Marengo crews attempted to install a well on Ritz Road and discovered the condition. In May 2010, Arnold retained a consultant group with monitoring wells to produce on-site samples. The subsequent findings detected concentrations of the vinyl chloride, PCE, TCE, and other carcinogens that contaminated private and commercial wells in the area of Ritz Road and Railroad Street.

As a remedial action, Arnold Magnetics Engineering, Inc., and its property holder, 300 West LLC did complete a Feb. 2016 agreement with the city of Marengo to pay for a water main along Railroad Street that connected with the municipal water system. It also allowed for a “no-fee” hookup for impacted well owners, and billing charges at the “in-town” rate with annexation.

“It’s slow going while they are getting easement access along the road, the main is in,” said Marengo city manager Josh Blakemore. “They’re still on the hook for the connections and the water main, as well as securing a letter of credit.”


Union-based INTREN has completed an acquisition and merger June 18 with the Miller Construction Company, Inc., in an effort to expand its marketplace base. INTREN is a specialty utility contractor and a certified Women’s Business Enterprise, as is Miller, a third-generation electrical contractor offering a full-service operation.

“With Miller Construction, we have found a culture match and an experienced execution partner…a company that shares our values and our vision of transforming the way business is done,” said Loretta Rosenmayer, INTREN founder and chairperson, in a statement. “Our goal is to not only build the best women-owned and women-controlled board, but to be the best overall solution-provider for our customers.”

 The press release further states, “Miller Construction’s 175 employees join INTREN’s 1,700-strong team to provide more to complete service offering 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. Christina Ernst, 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.”

INTREN was also involved with the replacement and rebuilding of the playground at Marengo’s Indian Oaks Park in 2017. They provided work crews and materials in erecting the new playground equipment, which arose from fundraisers and community involvement as a project that replaced swings and other activity riggings that had deteriorated and outlived their safety factors.


The Marengo city council approved an amendment to the chapter pertaining to water and sewer rates that establishes an annual adjustment, based on the consumer price index, during its June 11 meeting. The 5-2 vote, with two absentees, allows the increase to take effect for meter readings June 1, for bills due in Aug., and amends the current rates by 1.7 per cent.

The ordinance stipulates that subsequent years will be adjusted by the previous year’s CPI, with an increase of not less than 1 per cent, and not more than 3 per cent. The increase was cited as due to operation and maintenance costs, along with employment and insurance costs.</p>

The developer of an indoor gun range and shop is moving ahead with construction efforts to remodel the former Mc Gill manufacturing building, which is proximal to the downtown business district, following approval of three combined ordinances by the Marengo City Council, during its Apr. 23 meeting.

The 7-1 vote, with 3rd Ward Alderman Matt Keenum opposing, allotted a special use permit with nine contingences and a parking variation, a zoning code text amendment, and an amendment to municipal code allowing the discharge of firearms at an approved shooting range within the city.

The developer is Union based D5 Ranges, Inc., with D5 Iron Works, Inc., and the owner listed as L.B. Marengo LLC. The property, located at 131 E. Prairie Street, was formally owned by the Marengo United Methodist Church, at 119 E. Washington Street, one block away. It still owns property adjacent to the coming gun range that was planned for additional parking by church members. It also operates Parent’s Day Out, a before- and after-school program.

 “At the time of the property sale, we were unaware that this would be the type of business operating at that location,” said Pastor Doc Newcomb, of the church. He declined further comment.

According to its website, D5 Ranges, Inc., “… has been serving civilians, police forces, and military bases across the country since 1997, with complete gun range solutions that encompass facet(s) of production, from initial conception and design to fabrication, installation, and complete outfitting of ranges and shoot houses...we are a structural steel fabrication and installation company as well as range outfitter and service provider.”

A public hearing convened during the Apr. 16 Marengo Planning and Zoning Commission meeting brought owner introductions and project initiatives, and public comment questioning the business location, just off State Street and the historic downtown area. The commission approved and forwarded recommendations for city council consideration that modified the B-1 Central Business District zoning designation by adding “indoor gun range” to its language, as a special use text amendment for permitting, along with a parking requirement variation.

The subsequent council meeting was moved to Marengo Community High School, due to an overflow crowd that exceeded capacity at the City Hall council chambers.

 “The chambers holds about 150 people, and there was about 160, or more at the high school, so we had to move it, for capacity reasons,” said Josh Blakemore, Marengo’s city manager. “Most of the people spoke in favor of it, during the public comment section. At this point, it’s pretty much over, as the city council approved the special use permit.”

The conditions included the submission of a written plan for inside and outside security with 24-hour monitoring of the parking lot; an exterior lighting plan; specific hours of operation; a National Rifle Association chief range officer, and other range safety officers on-site; and street closure compliance with city events, such as Settler’s Days.

Additionally, patrons from Illinois must have a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card, and Wisconsin residents must possess a valid driver’s license.XXX Also, of concern, is a customer policy of zero-tolerance for being under the influence of alcohol, especially with several taverns, and alcohol-supplier restaurants and stores, within a two-block radius.

“It’s not making customers take breathalyzer tests…the condition is that the owners have to develop a customer policy regarding alcohol, and use of the range,” said Blakemore. “The other thing is the police department is right across the street.”

 There was also mention of a potential agreement with the Marengo police department regarding use of the facility, and range training for its personnel. A last condition of the special use permit is that if the business is sold, or ownership of the operation is transferred, the city must be notified immediately. Should any of the conditions be violated, the permit will be revoked.

“They still have to apply for building permits, and such, but the re-modeling on the exterior and interior is already taking place, and it’s pretty significant,” Blakemore said.

Requests for comment from Richard Lindner, owner of D5 Ranges and D5 Iron Works, were not returned.


Two road improvement projects with the state of Illinois Department of Transportation as the lead agency, are expected to gain traction during the coming months on the outskirts of Marengo. When completed, Mc Henry County will have a total of five such traffic-flow installations.

“The two Marengo sites are U.S. Route 20 with Harmony Road, and it’s expected to go out for the bid-letting process on June 15…the other is U.S. Route 20 with Marengo road, Beck Road, and Union road,” said McHenry County Division of Transportation construction manager Jim Warner. “Because these two projects involve state thoroughfares, IDOT is handling the specifics, and will reimburse the county for some costs, in the near future.”

Other roundabout installations are in Johnsburg (the confluence of St. John’s Avenue, Wilmot and Johnsburg roads), Woodstock (Charles and Raffel roads), and one currently underway near Island Lake (River and Dowell roads). The construction contract for the latter system was approved by the county board Apr. 17 to Addison-based PirTano construction, Inc. at a $3.59 million cost.

“The reasoning behind employing roundabouts is to eliminate ‘bottleneck’ traffic back-ups at capacity times, and address safety at an intersection where there are a lot of accidents,” Jeff Young, MHCDOT’s assistant county engineer. “The roundabout concept is more efficient, there’s no stopping, and cost comparisons show that it is less expensive to build.

Traffic entering the roundabout must slow down, and yield to traffic in the circle, and the flow is always to the right. The installation-type is a fixture in European cities, and gaining popularity in the Chicago area.


 A potential 1-2 percent annual water and sewer rate increase for residential and commercial customers on Marengo main hook-ups was discussed by the city council, during its May 14 meeting. Determinations will be made at a future council session, pending the completion of a report outlining the increase proposals.

The discussion’s purpose was to seek direction on appropriate actions before establishing any adjustments to the current rates. At the previous meeting, spreadsheets were supplied to council members showing how other area and surrounding communities adjust their rates, whether as flat increase, or tied to consumer price index rates, which are issued annually.

The Village of Maple Park uses the CPI adjustment method. Council members favored this approach, but also favored a 1 per cent increase, as a flat amount. In a packet to council members, City Manager Josh Blakemore indicated 1-2 per cent increase would be a consideration. At current usages, coupled with a downward trend for future use, a 1 per cent increase would amount to approximately $15,000 in additional income, and that the water/sewer fund in the Fiscal Year 2017/18 budget, due to the assistant city manager position being eliminated.

Current residential rates for 15,000-gallon usage: water at $45 ($3.00 per 1,000 gallons), wastewater operations at $61.50 ($4.10 per 1,000 gallons), water/wastewater debt at $43.50 ($43.50 per unit), and wastewater treatment plant expansion at $67.50 ($4.50 per gallon) for a $217.50 total. Commercial rates are identical to the residential amounts, except an additional $25 charge per unit for a $242.50 total.

Under a 1 per cent increase scenario, residential usage rates would be: water at $45.45 ($3.03 per 1,000 gallons), wastewater at $62.10 ($4.14 per 1,000 gallons), water/wastewater debt at $43.94 ($43.94 per unit), and wastewater treatment plant expansion at $68.25 ($4.55 per gallon) for a $219.74 total. Commercial rates would coincide with residential amounts, except for an additional $25 per unit, for a$244.74 total.

Under a 2 per cent increase scenario, residential usage rates would be: water at $45.90 ($3.06 per 1,000 gallons), wastewater at $62.70 ($4.18 per 1,000 gallons), water/wastewater treatment debt at $44.37 ($44.37 per unit), and wastewater treatment plant expansion at $68.85 ($4.59 per 1,000 gallons) for a total of $221.82. Business usage rates would be identical except for an additional $25.00 per unit, for a $246.82 total

It was noted that the additional $25.00 flat charge to businesses, for the treatment plant expansion costs, remains unchanged from existing fees.

Mrs. Stephanie Keenum, Language Arts teacher at Marengo Middle School along with 16 MCMS families loaded boxes for Feed My Starving Children(FMSC)which is a non-profit organization that has been tackling world hunger since 1987 by sending volunteer-packed nutritious meals to 70 countries. The meals are specifically designed to reverse and prevent malnutrition and are used in schools, orphanages, clinics and food programs to break the cycle of poverty. In addition, the class donated their pocket change and donated $100.00 to the charity as well.

Riley School is losing 64 years of teaching experience this Spring. Two beloved teachers are retiring, taking those years and a lot of happy memories with them. They also leave behind many happy memories and good friends. XXXConnie Marsh has taught at Riley for 33 years. She began teaching junior high math for eight years. Then she switched to K through eighth grade physical education. Most recently she’s taught physical education to first through fifth graders and algebra to eighth graders.

“The students keep it fun,” Marsh declares. She’s especially enjoyed teaching at a small school because she’s been able to see students progress through the years. She plans to do more traveling now that she’s retired.

Sharon Dunker, has enjoyed teaching at Riley School, too. She calls the 31 years she’s taught kindergarten there “an important chapter in my life.” She names the experience of teaching the children of former students “interesting,” and notes that these parents are a great support of this small community school.

Dunker is looking forward to being a full time grandma in the next chapter of her life.

Thank you and congratulations to these two dedicated educators

How difficult would it be to fit an elephant into any living room within Marengo’s city limits? I’ll venture to answer, “impossible”! Likewise, our elected city officials had a similar situation with the huge McGill industrial building located within a Central Business District which rightfully did not allow industrial use. But the officials have approved an acceptable use for the building which has created a fair degree of original, historical appearance for which its new owners must be applauded!

So, if by chance you have recently been in the 100 block area of East Prairie Street, you will have noticed the rebirth of the original building and the remaining additions that were added over the years. The first significant addition occurred during the winter of 1951 under the direction of local contractor, Ralph Deneen, which added about 1500 feet of additional factory area.

The original two-story McGill building was built in the 1890’s by George Crego to house his livery stable business which he was moving from Coral Township. Eventual individual owners were early car dealers, Charles Dietz, Pete Jobe and Ralph Joslyn. The company came into existence in 1878 in Chicago, engaged solely in the manufacture of ticket punches for the railroads and other traction systems. In 1922 the company developed a highspeed money changer which was a boon for conductors of railroads and street car lines. The buildings name sake, George McGill, brought his business to Marengo in 1924, later building a beautiful brick home at 104 West Street in the mid 1930’s. In 1932 he added the manufacture of mouse traps which brought a fair degree of notoriety to Marengo. It’s new use in 2018 will be that of a shooting range for our local and out of town gun enthusiasts, complementing, our local Marengo Guns business on E. Grant Highway.

During my younger years, I recall b-b guns or rifles being brought to school, on the school bus, by close friends planning to go hunting together after school. The men of the family were taught early in their lives the proper and safe use of a gun. Targets were often set up for target practice in an open field area. The rules were set and accepted. Duck, goose, and pheasant hunting brought some mighty delicious meat to our table. But as we all know, times change. Subdivisions have sprung up in the open field areas. Our residents needed a contained and safe location for their target practice. This new business will serve our current police officers and likely, those in our neighboring communities. It will bring people to our local businesses, especially our many truly good restaurants and those making and / or selling baked goods

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized military commanders to create exclusion zones for persons who were considered a threat to national security. Large portions of the West Coast and the state of Arizona were declared exclusion zones, and the federal government established relocation centers for the displaced people in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. The target population for relocations was German, Italian, and Japanese nationals; and unfortunately a group of Americans referred to as Nisei, or native born Japanese Americans. On March 18, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9102 which officially created the War Relocation Authority (WRA), and the relocation of approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans was initiated. These people were torn from their homes; forced to leave behind many of their possessions; and were interred in one of the ten established relocation centers.

During World War II the US military distributed sweet treats to the troops as a morale booster, and a quick source of energy. The military’s D rations and K rations included chocolate bars that were specifically designed as a high energy food source.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this story – the WRA relocating Japanese Americans, and the US military distributing candy bars to the troops? Well there is method to the madness! During World War II the Curtiss Candy Company was headquartered in McHenry County; more specifically in Cary, and they had a farm west of Marengo.

In 1916 an unemployed Otto Y. Schnering unleashed his entrepreneurial spirit and for $100.00 purchased some candy-making equipment, and the Curtiss Candy Company was born. Schnering initially produced his candy products in the back of a hardware store on the north side of Chicago, and the first few years of business were shaky. He did hit upon enough success with a bar called Kandy-Kake that allowed the company to move from the hardware store, and to expand its operations in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago. A year later in 1920 Schnering’s confectionary enterprise was again burdened by financial woes. Not dissuaded by the money problems the clever entrepreneur came up with a new product in 1921 – the Baby Ruth candy bar. I’m sure almost every reader has heard of this treat – caramel covered in peanuts and dipped in chocolate! This candy bar was well-known even before its co-starring role with Bill Murray in the famous pool scene in the movie Caddy Shack.

Schnering also developed a marketing gimmick where he cut the cost of the candy bar to a nickel during a time when other candy bars were selling for a dime. He also gave merchants the first box of twelve bars for free. The public fell in love with the product, and the bars flew off of the rack. Sales expanded to the national level, and according to the website Immigrant Entrepreneurship the Baby Ruth and another product the Polar Bar “generated over $1 million dollars in sales in 1921.” By 1928 Curtiss Candy Company operated three production plants and employed 3,500 workers.

In the early 1940’s Schnering purchased 650 acres of farmland in Cary, and soon afterward he expanded his farming interests with additional land purchases in other McHenry County locales such as Algonquin and Marengo. When World War II broke out the US government deemed the candy industry as necessary – because of the inclusion of chocolate and candy in the soldiers’ rations. The candy industry wasn’t re-tooled for war production, and continued to produce sweet treats. However, the candy-makers (like other industries) suffered from a labor crunch which was created by potential workers heading off to fight for freedom in far-off lands.

The labor pool may have been diminished, but the demand for candy was not. The candy-makers needed milk, cream, and eggs, and workers were required to produce these items. West of Marengo on US Route 20 the Curtis Candy Company operated a large farm, and like its competitors it faced a labor-crunch. The company tried to hire workers of Mexican descent, but was unsuccessful in its efforts, and turned to the WRA to fill its need for manpower. The WRA agreed to send sixteen Nisei farmers from relocation camps to work the Curtiss Candy Company farm.

On paper this was a great plan, but it all too quickly fell apart when resentment and resistance from some Marengo residents surfaced. Return next month to learn how this saga thrust our community into the national spotlight, and how our citizens reacted


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