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.

On Sunday, March 4 and 11, the Union Lions Club will be holding a fundraising pancake breakfast at the Union Fire Station at 6606 Main St. from 7 to 11 a.m.

Proceeds from the March 4 breakfast will be divided among two worthy causes. Half of the amount will be donated to Northern Illinois University’s special education program. They educate student

s entering the field and provide services for the visually impaired. The second portion of the donation is for residents in need of visual impairment aids or procedures. The breakfast to be held on March 11 will benefit the Rodriguez family who suffered a tragic car accident in January.

The Lions will be preparing a delicious breakfast and hope that you will join them on one, or both days.

“Farm Day is a long-standing tradition,” said Suellen Lopez, principal of Locust School. “It began at Hawthorne School and when Hawthorne closed, we brought the students here and we kept the tradition going. The whole day is rescheduled to have farm themed activities. Science, art, music – everything has a farm theme.

“Rebecca Hicky volunteered to incubate and hatch our chicks. Locust students were able to visit local farms and partake in other fun farm related activities throughout the day. This is definitely one of our favorite school days of the year.”

A Zoo to You set up a fenced-in barnyard in the school lobby with a duck, goats, sheep, a llama, and assorted farm creatures. A bus sat by the front door to take kids on a quick farm field trip. Storyteller Chris Fascione, on his sixth Farm Day visit to Locust, had stories ready to go in the Library/Media Center. He juggled to entertain the kids while more classes filtered into the library.

Fascione’s visit was sponsored by the Marengo American Legion Auxiliary who collected funds to defray Farm Day expenses for Locust

As I entered the high school building I was confronted by several anti-bullying posters. A welcome sign in this day and age. I was on my way to a rehearsal for the school’s Spring Musical. They are putting on Godspell this year. I was curious about how drama teacher and director, Kate Griffith would proceed with this play from the seventies.

Asked why she chose Godspell, Griffith replied, “It’s an ensemble piece with awesome music.” This year, she explained, she has a phenomenal number of talented students available. Rather than produce a piece that showcases only a few students, Godspell features everyone in a play that reflects on what community and solidarity really mean.

I commented that this reminds me of the school’s Fall play, A Wrinkle in Time. Griffith agreed that there are similarities. “In both plays, we see reflected in teen culture what we need everywhere—a breakdown of cliques and social strata.”

Since the play is built around the story of Jesus and his teachings, characters will have the names of Gospel characters, but they will be playing “dramatized versions of themselves,” Griffith explained. Senior Raina Tynis will be playing the part of Jesus.

“It’s different than a lead role,” Tynis assured me. “As Jesus I represent a leader of the community who wants to bring everyone together. The play has a strong message that we should turn from being conformists to being whoever we really are, loved for ourselves.”

Godspell is full of wonderful music, and the students tell me the dancing is “hard and fast and fun.” That alone is reason to come to one of the four performances being staged March 8 -10.

Plays about being one’s true self and building community? Posters about ending bullying? An atmosphere of welcome? — Could Marengo Community High School be onto something?

On Saturday, February 17, Drew Mateja represented MCHS at the Sectional Swim Meet in St. Charles. Drew swam in two events (50 Free and 100 Fly) and did well overall. He placed 5th of his heat in the 50 Free with 24.68 seconds, nearly beating his personal best time. Unfortunately, the timing system and scoreboard malfunctioned during his 100 Fly event and the exact time was not recorded.

There are many good reasons to garden vertically. If space is at a premium going vertical is a great solution while at the same time the volume of produce harvested can be dramatically increased in a small space. Growing upwards can offer greater accessibility for physically challenged gardeners. Plant health is enhanced and maintenance chores can be reduced or almost eliminated. There are many approaches that work well to grow upwards. This month we share our experiences with vertical gardening.

Over the last two gardening seasons we have converted the majority of our gardening to a vertical format to achieve several objectives. We wished to down-size our garden space and move it closer to the house near our high tunnel. This consolidated the lion’s share of our work effort while allowing us to produce our favorite crops in adequate amounts.

We utilize grow bags to elevate the plants off of the ground. The bags are filled with a quality compost and soilless planting mix that we produce. The majority of the bags used are 7-gallons, 10-gallons and 15-gallons in size. Landscape fabric is laid over the ground to eliminate any weeding maintenance. The bags sit on plastic pallets that were placed over the fabric to provide air circulation, good drainage and a little more elevation.

The grow bags are used for herbs, peppers, eggplants, potatoes, okra and tomatoes. Five-foot tall concrete reinforcing mesh cages are placed over the tomatoes and okra. To provide needed support bamboo stakes are used to secure plants in all the grow bags. We utilize drip irrigation emitters in the bags to make watering and fertilization an easy task. By using this method there is very little bending required to harvest crops. There is no weeding required and good air circulation is easy to achieve with adequate spacing between the grow bags.

In 2017 we trialed, with great success, a vertical roller hook system in our high tunnel to grow vining tomatoes and cucumbers. The plant is pruned to a single stem which is attached with clips to a cord that is moved vertically as the plant grows. We harvested tomatoes and cucumbers into December. The 2018 plan is to implement this system outside the high tunnel and compare the results. The tomato plants grown in the high tunnel using this method remained disease free during the growing season.

The majority of the effort for our vertical approach is in the set-up and dismantling. We find this system to be much less demanding physically and it reduces wear and tear on the knees and back. Contact us with your gardening questions. sdeberg@ marengo-uniontimes.com

For the past three years Stone Soup Social, has operated a weekly drop-in lunch, available for everyone free of charge. Donations are accepted for the meal, but there are no set fees. An average of 150 people come to the First Presbyterian Church each Tuesday between noon and 5 p.m. for a choice of six different homemade soups created by Mary Ann Regelin, John Brandt, John and Loretta Arient (recent choices were Split Pea and ham, Dill Pickle, Cheeseburger, Depression Era, Garlic Cauliflower and Potato Ham), along with breads, deserts and beverages.

Members of the Stone Soup committee have recognized that there are people who need extra help sometimes. John Arient, who leads the project, says “There are people who don’t qualify for government assistance. They are the working poor, the folks whose incomes don’t quite cover their monthly expenses.” For folks like these, Stone Soup has launched a weekly Sharing Center.

“It’s a place to share goods and volunteer time,” Arient explains. “Each week at the same time we are serving soup lunches, we are also making food available to anyone for the asking.” The food pantry is located in the basement of the church. It is stocked with donated food from the community as well as with food from the Feeding America Foodbank.

Seeing a need and putting it in operation are two very different things. Arient and his team had the idea and the space, but they needed some younger energy. Beth Austin, an instructor at Camelot School of Belvidere, located in Garden Prairie was looking for a place for her high school students to volunteer their services, while also learning some work skills. The Camelot School students and the Stone Soup were a perfect fit for each other!

Arient reports, “These kids are really a blessing!” They cleared out and cleaned the space where food would be stored, moved in shelving and stock the shelves every week. It’s a spacious area where people can come to get needed food. The kids come during their school day each Tuesday for a few hours to help people pack food and carry it to their cars, and to help with clean up. They also enjoy a soup lunch and a visit with everyone —a win-win for everyone.

Dozens of Marengo and Union residents volunteer their time to Stone Soup each week. They cook, serve and clean up, and enjoy a chance to visit with each other and with Marengoans who stop by. If you have already done so, you know how delicious the soup is and how pleasant the company. If you haven’t been there yet, Stone Soup will be at the First Presbyterian Church, 203 W. Washington St. every Tuesday from noon till 5 p.m. Stop by for lunch. If you need some groceries or know someone in need, remember the Sharing Center will be open at the same time.

And if you are looking for a really great way to give some volunteer service while enjoying some good company, call first Presbyterian Church at, (815) 568-7441, to volunteer. 

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