THUMBS UP TO… a successful launch. The new year kicked off fantastically in Marseilles with reports the city will receive a $200,000 state grant as part of a program created to improve public boating access areas across Illinois. Marseilles is just one of six communities to get money in this round of Illinois Boat Access Area Development Program grants, which are intended to support the acquisition, construction and expansion or rehabilitation of public boat and canoe access areas on lakes and rivers.
Marseilles will use the funds to develop land it acquired in a swap with Nucor. The property is along the Illinois River just southeast of Marseilles Elementary School. Mayor Jim Hollenbeck noted the launch at that location was included in city comprehensive plans as far back as the late 1990s, and in so doing paid tribute to his predecessor, the late Jim Trager, who put in a lot of hard work trying to bring the goal to fruition. Tax increment financing revenues will cover the city’s half of the project, and there is good reason to believe the predictions this new launch and associated facilities can help bring new people to town during the busy boating season. We’re excited to see these dreams become a reality.
THUMBS DOWN TO… concerning counts. Usually the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird counts along the Illinois River are a time of largely uneventful fellowship for avian aficionados while taking stock of feathered friends in our beautiful state parks and other natural areas. While the 2019 edition definitely included the requisite amount of amicability, it would be wrong to say everyone left the three-day event happier for having participated. That’s because a concerning quantity of this cycle’s inventory was outside the bounds of what would be considered normal.
No one saw a yellow-bellied sapsucker, a hairy woodpecker or a red-headed woodpecker, birds that should be noticeable this time of year. They did see two yellow-rumped warblers, a species that usually is farther south by late December. And overall the numbers were just down: not as many birds as would be expected given the weather and our environment. Hopefully these outings were just outliers and the numbers soon will be back to normal, although they do appear to reflect larger global trends. It’s definitely disconcerting and something that ought to inspire closer attention to environmental issues.
THUMBS UP TO… getting over the line. After recent reports of the Salvation Army of Northern La Salle County coming up $15,000 short of its goal through the annual December Red Kettle campaign, it was comforting to hear the Streator Salvation Army report its Red Kettle effort exceeded the goal of $40,000 in holiday contributions. Streator Service Director Judy Booze said a lot of the donations came in the final week, which isn’t unusual, but that certainly was a relief given there were very few calendar days between Thanksgiving and Christmas because of the quirks of the 2019 calendar.
In addition to taking in more than $44,000, the Streator Salvation Army also was able to provide Christmas gifts to 112 children ages 13 to 17 through its Angel Tree program. It delivered the same number of food vouchers to senior citizens. Booze praised students from Streator and Woodland high schools for volunteering to ring bells outside stores like Walmart, Walgreens, Kroger and Stock + Field. The money raised stays entirely local, which makes these efforts that much more important. Thank to you everyone who contributed in any way.
THUMBS DOWN TO… a brief confusion. About 2,200 Ottawans got a recent notice in the mail from Ameren about an increase in the municipal utility tax. The problem is the tax has been around since 1992 and nothing is changing. The notices were sent in error. We learned about the snafu because Mayor Dan Aussem brought it up at a City Council meeting last week. That led our reporter to call Ameren’s public relations director, who confirmed the mistake and issued a press release clarifying the situation.
Obviously mistakes happen. We routinely run clarifications and correction items on page A2. In this case, the mistake didn’t cost anyone anything but a little worry until things got set straight in public. So we’re not trying to come down too hard on Ameren here. Hopefully if there’s a next time — for Ameren or any other utility — whichever company is involved reaches out to customers directly as soon as possible to make sure there isn’t any concern. Communication is crucial, and in 2019 it’s pretty simple, too.