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

Do I really need to stake my tomatoes?

Staking tomatoes does take time and some expense, however, the benefits are earlier, larger and healthier fruit. Maintaining the plant upright allows more sunlight to reach the leaves, better air circulation to keep diseases from spreading and provides easier picking access. If your tomatoes are the bushy determinate type, staking might not be as necessary. Indeterminate types that continue to grow through-out the season can sprawl all over the garden. Tomatoes lying on the ground may rot and suffer attacks from pests.

While sturdy cages are great for determinate plants, indeterminate tomatoes need taller, sturdier cages, pruning or trellising to carry the size and weight of the plants. Be sure to stake the tomato soon after planting to prevent damage to the root system.

Does companion planting really benefit my garden and how should it be done?

The effectiveness of companion planting in the garden is really up for debate. Evidence of benefits is more anecdotal than scientific. Perhaps the best example of effective companion planting is the use of marigolds which seem to repel pests, both the flying kind and the four-legged kind. Planting flowers among vegetables also attracts beneficial insects and pollinators that contribute to healthier and better producing plants. Planting basil around tomatoes repels aphids, white flies, spider mites and hornworms. Basil is also said to improve tomato flavor and pollination. For more information on companion planting check the library for “Carrots Love Tomatoes”.

How do I protect my plants from adult Japanese beetles?

Adult beetles emerge in late June and early July in central and northern Illinois. The beetles feed on a wide range of plants, preferring smartweed, grape, basil, raspberry, rose, crabapple, linden, and willow. The beetles can be controlled by handpicking or using insecticides. Because the beetles are numerous and cause damage for about six weeks and most insecticides last two weeks or less, repeated applications are necessary. Vegetable and other crops can be protected with row cover. Studies have shown that landscapes with Japanese beetle traps are likely to experience

If you have been seeing red, white, and blue rockets scattered here and there around Marengo, and you like fireworks, you may want to drop some money into the rocket. They are the work of a group of volunteers who have missed having fireworks in Marengo. Their intent is to fund a fireworks display at no cost to the city. “A bunch of volunteers are trying to do a good thing for Marengo,” said Mike Miller. “We haven’t had any fireworks in Marengo for a few years and we miss them. We are planning to have live bands and a beer tent behind Trio Grill.

“Jeff Seevers came up with the plan and we put in a lot of work making the canisters. We fabricated, well, mainly Jeff Seevers did the work while I helped, five rocket collection boxes. We are putting them around town to raise money to fund a fireworks display behind the Trio Grill on June 30.

“I am a 1st ward alderman on the City Council and I spoke to the mayor about our plan. Technically, this will be a city sponsored event, but the city will not be paying for it. It will be paid for by donations from the citizens of Marengo. Gene Lindow has been helping quite a bit and UniCarriers has made a sizable donation. We have or will have canisters at places like City Hall, Trio Grill, the Farmers Market, Sullivan’s… They can be moved around.

“We are hoping to set this up as an annual event year after year. Next year, we would like to get schools’ art departments to paint the canisters.

The Spot was voted this year’s Best of the Fox by Northwest Herald readers for the “Best” Video Gaming and “One of the Best” Karaoke.


I took my Kindergartener to his first play last month, put on by the local children’s theatre CAST. It was a great time. We jumped at the chance to see Peter Pan so close to home, at our local high school. The price was reasonable at ten bucks per ticket, and we scored front row tickets by purchasing early. We have never been theatre people, and I have seen limited plays in my life. After seeing this play, I realize what a shame that is.

Ryan was so excited to go on our “date” and see the play. He did not know what to expect, and neither did I. We grabbed our front row seats and the magic began. Peter Pan was played by a - gasp! - girl. And played so darn well, you could barely tell.

Smee was also played (very well) by a female cast member. Captain Hook was a tall, amazingly funny male actor who was kind enough to chat with my guy after the show in full character and snap a picture. Every kiddo, from the smallest mermaid to the loudest Lost Boy, was exceptional. Choreography was amazing, set was on point. It was such a surprising treat for us, and we will surely be back for more.

As my kids get older in our little town, it is such a joy to see them participating in community events and activities, from free Park District events to reasonably priced sports teams with awesome coaches. Marengo Union Times usually updates our family on what is coming up, and I look forward to finding out more about the goings on in our town each month.

Parents, I highly recommend checking out and getting involved in something that interests your family! There is bound to be something that suits you. As we sample more and more activities, we continue to be pleasantly surprised and more engaged within the community. We cannot wait for the next play and starting soccer and t-ball this summer. Hope to see you guys there!


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