Volunteers are being sought to help out with cleaning the Marengo Cemetery on the corner of N. East St. and Jackson St. During the winter winds and weather, branches, pinecones, and other detritus tend to accumulate. Homeowners tend to spend late winter and early spring weekends cleaning up their own yards. The Marengo Cemetery Board of Managers has a huge job in front of them in clearing acres worth of winter’s accumulation from the property.

“We are looking for volunteers, individuals and groups to help us do a spring cleaning,” said Diane Oranger. “We have time slots available, but if everyone wants to show up at the same time, that’s fine too. We can get it all done.

“We will be working from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, April 14 and 15. We will be starting at the northeast corner of the cemetery. We will be dividing it into sections for workers to concentrate on, clearing one area, and moving on to the next. We will be offering a light lunch and drinks for those that come to help us.

“We will be providing gloves and trash bags. Feel free to bring any clippers, shears, and rakes you have available.

“I am reaching out to groups in the community. It would be nice to get as many as we can to come help and make short work of tidying and making the Marengo Cemetery look presentable after winter’s ravages.”

For further information or to reserve your spot, please call Diane Oranger, 815-568- 8250. Volunteer sign-in on that weekend will be at the Cemetery Garage located in the northeast corner of the cemetery.

Dubbed by American Idol hosts as “The Ukrainian Rapper,” Marengo’s Mish Gontar has much more music versatility than the title implies.

Gontar, 27, moved to McHenry County from Ukraine seven years ago. When his mother and her American husband decided to move to America, she asked Gontar to come with her. “I said, why not?” He had good friends in Lugansk, but most of them are gone now. “Because of the war, they moved to Kiev, Russia, and other countries.” Gontar moved to Marengo four years ago. He works as a freelance MRI technologist, commuting to Lake Barrington, Deer Park, and Arlington Heights. So, when he realized American Idol auditions were in Chicago, and he had the day off, he decided to audition.

In Chicago, Gontar spent most of the time standing in line with about 2500 other people. The process is a little different that the television show portrays. Gontar sang a song in English: “Bad Company” by Five Finger Death Punch to a judge at one of 10 tables set up in a large room.

“She told me she really liked my guitar playing and voice.” After an interview, Gontar was asked to come back the next day for more auditions. After two more auditions with judges and producers, Gontar got asked to audition in New York in front of the celebrity judges.

“A lot of people liked the song I sang in Ukrainian,” he said. “It’s a crazy song with a catchy chorus, by a band that isn’t mainstream.” The band is more of an underground reggae-rap band.

“They asked me to do something different,” Gontar explained. “It didn’t show as much vocal range as some of the other songs I sing.”

Gontar has no formal vocal training. “Lots of people encouraged me to try out for American Idol or The Voice,” he said. “Since I had the day off, I thought, why not?”

Waiting in New York was the biggest challenge. “There were only about 35 people auditioning there, but the wait to perform was 10 hours.” While he waited, the crew shot video and interviewed him. Since Gontar had never been to New York, some of the video involved him taking in the sites. “It was a good experience.”

Since his ‘stardom’ on American Idol, Gontar has been on Star 105.5 and invited to play in a few places. Most recently he performed at Stage Left Café in Woodstock. He sings rock, alternative rock, some more melodic metal songs, and reggae. His advises others to “be your best self and show a range of good singing ability.”

Watch Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan sing along with Gontar in this American Idol clip of Gontar’s audition on YouTube: https://youtu.be/ACOI_Xw6_gA.

Saturday March 24th marked the 18th Moms United of Marengo resale event in 9 years. With up to 70 sellers, an abundance of gently used clothing, toys, baby equipment and more started in the Zion gym and now has the walls of the MCHS commons bursting each spring and for “back to school.” Shoppers come from far and wide across Northern Illinois, averaging around 700, knowing this is a bargain hunters dream. This event was a means to help support Moms United, a monthly group that met at Zion Lutheran Church to hear inspiring speakers and fellowship amongst mothers with childcare provided. Being blessed with such tremendous success with these sales, the group now gives back to the Marengo-Union communities by sponsoring events like the Cancer Kids 5K, Lutheran Charities Comfort Dogs and the Marengo Park rebuild. For items left for donation to the M.O.R.E. Pantry, thank you to our volunteer driver Mr. Ham for your service.

A special note of sincere appreciation needs to be mentioned to the outstanding committee members for dedicating so much time, effort and love to this amazing organization…I could never do this without you. xoxo Cecily

This Easter Moms United hosted a breakfast fundraiser at Zion Lutheran Church to help the family of baby Levi who was born in December with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The group no longer meets for monthly “meetings”, but now they focus on having monthly “outings” where moms can get together and have fun at various activities. Open to anyone, and always welcoming new faces, to get more information about Moms United, please visit their Facebook page (Moms United Marengo) or for upcoming sales information for sellers and buyers (www.momsunited-zion.com).

March 14th marked the one-year anniversary that the Vallee family received the blessing of a lifetime…Logan would receive a new heart. After 17 years of doctors, several open-heart surgeries, tests and uncertainty of heart failure this young man would get to finally do things we take for granted. Logan’s recovery was amazing and day by day he healed and adapted to be a little more normal. Logan now had stamina to watch an entire basketball game, without being exhausted and leaving early. He would ride a bicycle farther than one block and a tedious chore to most… shoveled snow for the first time in his life this winter. As a teenager, going to the mall or out for a bite to eat with his friends alone was unheard of, until this year.

His testing for rejection has been at zero, but he is still monitoring, testing and adapting to the right balance of several medicines that he will have to take for the rest of his life, but he doesn’t mind. He is very aware of his gift and when asked if he wanted to celebrate his one-year anniversary with a party, he said no. What Logan decided to do was ask his friends and family to donate to the Ronald McDonald House. A huge success, March 14th was the largest donation day from private parties, from money to vacuums they were overwhelmed by the generosity. The Vallee’s ask in honor of selfless donors, their families and miracles they provide, please consider organ donation yourself. Toss your change into the bin for the Ronald McDonald House at McD’s or contribute to CaringBridge.com a wonderful means of communication for families with critical illness, which they have used for years. As a community #TeamLogan helped keep a positive energy present during many dark days, but now we can all cheer our buddy on for more milestones and a bright future. 

Robert and Heidi Fish of Union already had three children under the age of six when a friend called asking for a favor. Her friend had agreed to foster an infant with special medical needs, but she was in California and the baby had been born. Could Heidi help and foster him for a few days till her friend returned home?

“As we drove up our driveway bringing Arthur home from the hospital, I already knew we’d never let him go anywhere else,” Heidi said. Arthur had been diagnosed with a chromosome disorder called 22Q or DiGeorge Syndrome, so they had an idea what challenges might lay ahead. Developmental delays and abnormalities of the face structure are typical. Arthur also needed several heart surgeries—his first at age six weeks.

Arthur is ten now. His physical health problems have largely been resolved. He has learning delays with “splinter skills,” so he is excellent beyond his years in some things and deficient in others. He is in the fifth grade, studies theater with the Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association and participates in Challenger bowling and Challenger baseball.

His greatest accomplishment is communication. Two years ago, in preparation for a medical test that required him to speak different sounds while doctors viewed inside his neck with a scope, Heidi searched for someone to give Arthur speech therapy. Pediatric Speech Therapist Lisa Kubelka of Swedish American Hospital in Rockford, began working with him to prepare him for that test. He did so well that his test went better than doctors had ever seen with a 22Q child. He wanted to do more. So he has been working with Lisa and his mom with the goal of being able to speak clearly and be understood by others. “He works so hard and is aimed at his goals. He enjoys each time we reach a new milestone. I love Arthur!” Lisa enthused.

So do his parents, his big brother, Isaiah, his big sisters, Isabella and Rebecca, and the family dog, Samson. “He’s a joy,” Heidi commented. “It hasn’t always been fun, but it has always been worth it. We know we were called to be his parents. Arthur is making all of us better people. He brings out empathy and grace in others.”

If you meet this young Union resident, he would love to practice his speaking skills with you. If you take the time, you’ll be glad. Arthur Fish has important things to tell us.v

 

“In history, a great volume is unrolled for our instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and infirmities of mankind.” (Edmund Burke)

Maureen Mikyska (80,) a lifetime learner, is fascinated with the Civil War period.

“Everyone thinks a sword is sharp,” Miyska explained, brandishing one from her collection. “Actually, it is used for whacking someone on horseback. It can do a lot of damage.”

Miyska owns an extensive collection of Civil War memorabilia including muskets, swords, drums, lithographs, and clothing. “The time-period just intrigues me,” she explained. “It must have been horrible.” Miyska went on to describe that people were accustomed to gathering around a dying person and holding vigil as he passed on. “During the war, there was so much sudden death, so far

from home. After the battle of Fort Wagner, all the union soldiers were just thrown into a ditch and buried together. It must have been horrible for the families.” Miyska got interested in the Civil War history through Bob McGowan. His enthusiasm spread to a willing student. Soon Miyska regularly attended McHenry County Civil War Roundtable Meetings at the Historical Society in Union.

More than weapons and battles interests Miyska. She has a closet full of women’s hats, dresses, cloaks, parasols, and gloves. She pointed out the “hem-savers” that were part of nearly every woman’s dress during that period. “Dresses often dragged on the ground or floor,” she explained. “The hem-saver could be replaced.” Doing so, kept a perfectly good dress wearable. Sustainability wore a different name in those days; it was known as practicality, or even frugality.

Miyska finds it more and more difficult to find memorabilia. There are more collectors, items cost more, and there are many more counterfeits. “You really need to know what you’re doing,” she said. Miyska recommends a new enthusiast read as much as possible and listen to real experts through the Round Tables. “There’s so much to learn, you could spend a lifetime and not learn it all.” She also recommends visiting The Civil War Museum in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

Dial-a-ride has been available for a number of cities and municipalities within McHenry County for a number of years. Now the dial-a-ride services in McHenry County have been combined into one coordinated service called MCRide. And, for the first time, Union has been included in its services.

Beginning April 1, MCRide dial-a-ride service will be available in the Village of Union. The Village will be joining nine townships and nine other municipalities that currently make up the MCRide program. This expansion builds on the continued collaboration between McHenry County and Pace Suburban Bus to improve public transportation throughout the County.

“We are super excited that people can come to Union to visit the shops, the McHenry County Historical Museum, Illinois Railway Museum, and the Wild West Town. Residents of Union can also get a ride to Marengo and othe towns in McHenry County,” said Susan Borucki, Transportation Planner.

MCRide is a great way to get around McHenry County and provides over 100,000 trips per year. Whether you need transportation for work, school, shopping, medical appointments, or just to visit a friend, MCRide provides an affordable and flexible way to travel.

As a dial-a-ride program, MCRide service is “on-demand” and buses do not travel in a fixed route each day. Riders schedule their trips in advance and the vehicle provides curb-to-curb service from the rider’s desired pick-up and drop-off destinations. MCRide is a shared-ride service, so vehicles may make stops for other passengers. All MCRide buses are wheelchair accessible and up to two children (7 years and under) can ride free with a fare-paying adult.

Trips are scheduled by calling the Pace Call Center at 1-800-451- 4599. Call takers will register you during your first call. Seniors 60 years of age or older and individuals with disabilities can schedule rides up to seven days in advance of their trip. All other riders can schedule 24 hours in advance of their trip. Let the Call Center know your pick-up and drop-off locations, your desired trip time, if you are using any mobility aids, and if you are traveling with other passengers. You should remember to schedule both legs of your trip with the Call Center.

You can travel to and from any place in the MCRide service area for which you are eligible. These locations do not need to be adjoining. All riders are eligible to travel to, from and within the green areas on the MCRide map. Seniors and individuals with disabilities can travel to, from, and within both the green and tan areas.

MCRide has a distance-based fare structure and fares must be paid in cash, upon boarding the vehicle. Drivers will not have change. You will be told the fare amount by the Call Center when you make your reservation. Base fair for the first five miles starts at $2.50 for the general public and $1.25 for senior citizens and people with disabilities. Each mile after that adds an additional .25 cents.

MCRide operates Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. On Saturday, service is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Currently there is no service on Sundays and Holidays. “We have been looking at expanding hours,” Borucki said. “We want to hear from people so their needs and wants can be included in the planning process.”

For additional information on MCRide, please visit www. McHenr yCountyD OT and click on the “MCRide Dial-a-Ride” link at the left of the page. You may also contact the Division of Transportation at 815-334-4981 or mcride@mchenrycountyil. govwith comments or questions.

A Mar. 1 filing prompted by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office in its civil litigation against Marengo-based 300 West LLC and Arnold Engineering, Inc. netted the submission of a 1,339-page report pertaining to site contamination and its scope of mitigation. The Comprehensive Site Investigation and Remedial Objectives Report, filed by the defendants, encompasses data regarding on- and off-site testing well locations, boring depths, 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 to force compliance with required on- and off-site testing of groundwater at the plant site. They are also seeking corrective measures for groundwater contamination caused from production chemicals that leeched into the water table contaminating seventeen private and commercial wells in a one-mile proximity of the plant site.

A motion to compel order, issued by Mc Henry County Circuit Judge Michael Chmiel, was slated to be heard at a Feb. 23 hearing, as the two defen - dants had requested an exten - sion of time to file the report, after failing to meet a Feb. 16 deadline. A continuation to Mar. 2, ahead of the Mar. 8 trial start date, was granted.

“The defendants entered the document, ahead of the trial date,” said Annie Thompson, press secretary for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. “As a result, the next court appearance has been re-set for Apr. 4. This will allow time for the office to review the documents and make determinations regarding compliance or moving forward on litigation.

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. The plume is migrating toward residences and businesses along Railroad Street, and potentially reaching the Kishwaukee River basin.

The initial sections of the report, obtained by the Marengo-Union Times, show testing data completed nearly one year ago, with laboratory results compiled by Geneva-based Suburban Laboratories, Inc. on groundwater samples. The integrity of the samples followed quality control conditions and chain of custody guidelines as stipulated by the environmental protection agency. Carcinogenic agents that revealed composition elements included Vinyl Chloride, Xylenes, and Trichlorofluoromethane, among others.

“The (flow) models showed significant change in head basin and capture zones for the flow and movement within the supply aquifer occurred only when recharge dropped 30-percent and pumping increased 30 percent within the aquifer supplying Mc Henry County wells,” per the report, with respect to the contaminant plume’s movement in the groundwater.

The Kishwaukee River Valley was highlighted as the major supply source for the area.

A “Summary and Results Discussion” section, noted the groundwater flow model “can be an appropriate tool in assessing the impacts of high-capacity irrigation wells in local unconfined aquifers of McHenry County…The groundwater flow model was developed to understand the singular and cumulative effect of high-ca - pacity irrigation wells located in the Kishwaukee River Valley, specifically wells screened and withdrawing from the surficial drift aquifer.

“Given the period and data available, the conditions modeled were considered appropriate. However, the simulations are not a perfect representation of actual conditions, specifically in regards to those simulating drought and increased pumping. Typically, drought conditions show a decrease in precipitation, which in turn is assumed to lead to an increase in pumping. This respective increase is difficult to quantify and therefore may not be modeled in a manner most representative of actual conditions.

“Lastly, this simulation provides results for steady-state conditions. It is difficult to determine then what the effects of extended drought and increased pumping over longer timesteps will have on the shallow aquifer system.” Monitoring of the contaminant plume will continue, although several contingency mitigation scenarios that were proffered have not been effectuated.

The remainder of the report supplies plats and exhibits meeting IEPA compliance measures, from 2015-17, attached to wells, testing regimens, along with groundwater and soil samples analysis.

Arnold Magnetics Engineering, Inc., and its property holder, 300 West LLC did strike an accord with the city of Marengo in Feb. 2016 to pay for a water main connecting the municipal water system with the plant site, Railroad Street and Ritz Road. A major unresolved issue is the timetable for hook-up to the impacted residences and businesses.

Solar Farm Public Hearing Re-Scheduled

A scheduled public hearing on an expanded proposal for a solar electric grid farm, at the intersection of Route 20 and Johnson Road, has been moved to Apr. 16 in order for the city of Marengo to obtain more information on the exact scope of the project and other contingencies.

The potential 235-acre farm has more than doubled in size from the original 110-acre site brought to the table, last year.

“We thought it best to delay the public hearing, and request some more information on this project,” said City Administrator Josh Blakemore. “The setbacks from the roadways will be met, and it will still connect with the ComEd sub-station by Ritz Road. There are certain items that we need to know, before moving forward on it. The public hearing will be Apr. 16.”

 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, and require annexation agreement as well as zoning variances, in order to comply with issuance of a special use permit. It must also finalize an agreement with Com Ed, prior to a possible application for state incentives through the Future Energy Jobs Act.

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 Will County Board recently postponed action on three separate 20- acre parcels being eyed for solar farm installations, due to similar questions that also extended to infrastructure layouts such as drain tiles and piping on the sites.

County Board Tables Potential Fraternite Settlement Discussion

The Mc Henry County Board set aside discussions on a settlement to resolve civil litigation brought against it, by the Fraternite of Notre Dame Order, during its Mar. 19 regular session. The matter had been listed as an agenda item, possibly signaling a thaw in the dispute through a negotiated accord but was ultimately tabled until an Apr. meeting.

 The board had voted to deny a request by the Order for a special use permit at their rural Marengo county property during its Sept. 15, 2015 session by a 21-2 vote, subsequently prompting the suit’s initiation on constitutional grounds and overt denial of religious freedoms.

At issue is the Order’s request for a permit to build and occupy a boarding school for boys and girls, an assisted living facility for the elderly with hospice care, a bakery, a brewery, a winery with sampling room, a larger gift shop, and dormitory for student and staff housing at their site.

“As I understand it, the matter was tabled for future discussions,” said James C. Geoly, the litigant attorney, representing the order. “We are involved productive settlement talks and working very hard on getting this settlement accomplished. The delay is no one’s fault, it’s just taking a little bit longer.”

The petition process also endured a series of contentious hearings at the McHenry County Zoning Board of Appeals level in 2015, and received a 4-3 neutral vote indicating no clear recommendation for the county board. Testimony and comment at the ZBA hearings included the Order’s representatives, a cadre of nearby residents from the Harmony Hills Estates subdivision, and Coral township officials.

A counter-petition, with more than 800 signatures, contended the Order’s proposal essentially constituted a commercial enterprise in a rural area.

The permit sought approval for the expansion on an additional 30 acres of property, and was viewed as augmenting a previous special use permit that was granted in 2005 for their property at 10002 Harmony Hill Road. Particulars of the Order’s lawsuit noted that several businesses including a golf course serving alcohol operate nearby the property and obtained code licensure.

“It was pretty awesome,” said Vanessa Nichols. “We had a lot of community support. Aiden is 12 years old now and has had kidney disease since he was born. He had many operations, which, combined with the disease, eventually led to complete kidney failure.

“His dad was the first to donate a kidney in 2016. We lost that kidney within 10 days of the transplant. His aunt Tina was the donor for a second transplant back in September, 2017, which was a success.

“Throughout this entire process, people would tell me to call the Make a Wish Foundation. I would tell them, ‘no, Aiden isn’t dying.’ But, I found out, the Make a Wish Foundation isn’t just for terminally ill kids, it is for chronically ill children. I filled out the form and Aiden told them he wanted to go to Hawaii. We were supposed to go two years ago but Aiden was in the hospital and we had to postpone the trip. 

“We were able to go in January and it was a beautiful and stunning vacation we will never forget. Seeing Aiden hiking up and down hills and beating us places was great. We did a helicopter tour of the Big Island. We got to see volcanoes, lava, valleys, and waterfalls. We had time away as a family where Aiden wasn’t sick and had to go back to the room to rest. It was wonderful to see. How very blessed we felt. 

"Aiden has done amazingly well since the transplant. He is a totally different kid. People would tell us that he would be different but we couldn’t imagine it - the sick Aiden was all we knew. He has grown so much since September. He plays sports now, which is something he couldn’t do before since he did not have the stamina for it.

“We are very grateful to the community for their support and to the Make a Wish Foundation. It is a wonderful foundation and this is a wonderful community.

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