News - Kane County

Stories of the decade

Kane County stories of the decade

The following are The Chronicle’s picks for stories of the decade:

• Sept. 11 and its effect in the Fox Valley The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, stirred a patriotic spirit in the Fox Valley. Local firefighters and doctors went to Ground Zero in New York City to do what they could to help. People stood in line for hours to give blood. Fox Valley residents enlisted in the military. Local quilters created 9-11 memory quilts for the families of New York City firefighters who died at the World Trade Center. Schools updated their emergency plans to include acts of terrorism.

Cities and patriotic organizations organized candlelight vigils. Several tolled bells for the dead or read all their names. Local police continue to wear 9-11 pins and departments detailed squad cars to carry the reminder. Batavia attorney Paul Greviskes was on the  Kane County Board when the attacks occurred on a morning the board was meeting. “One board member was so concerned that it was widespread terror, that person got up and walked out,” Greviskes said. “The county began a process to address terrorism and mass attacks. I was chairman of the public safety committee at the time and we did a lot of tabletop exercises.” One of the what-if scenarios that most concerned officials was if terrorists used small pox in a biological attack, he said. “Small pox, theoretically, was wiped out in the world. It was such a transmissible disease that would have a wide effect on anyone because there was no immunity and it was very lethal,” Graviskes said. “And to try to get everybody vaccinated again.” The committee pondered what to do if Chicago was attacked, anticipating an exodus to the suburbs. “There was a lot of consideration on how to address those issues, and in coordination with Chicago on how to handle it,” Greviskes said. “I was comforted a lot by the fact that these organizations, the National Guard, the State of Illinois, and other municipalities really did coordinate a lot of stuff, people did not know about. They can take some comfort that the government was working.” – Brenda Schory

• Economic troubles hit Main Street The economic troubles of the latter years of the decade might have begun on Wall Street. But as the first decade of the 21st Century came to a close, the troubles had spread to Main Street. In 2007, the first rumblings of the coming crisis were heard, as markets dealing in subprime mortgages — or mortgages written to home buyers with less than stellar credit — were shaken. And throughout 2008, the initial rumblings turned into a tectonic event the likes of which few living had experienced. From April to the end of 2008, the stock market had lost 40 percent of its value, as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and continued to fall. The decline ravaged 401ks and IRAs alike, leading many to pull money out of the stock market. The financial collapse prompted banks to tighten lending procedures, which, in turn, cut the credit life lines to businesses large and small, causing many to close or cut costs. By November 2009, unemployment in Kane County had risen to 10.3 percent from 6.3 percent a year earlier. The crisis spread to local governments, as well, as tight bond markets made borrowing money difficult and local consumers cut back on spending, creating gaping holes in municipal budgets. In the third quarter of 2009, for instance, sales tax revenues to the Tri-Cities, Elburn and Sugar Grove had declined by 13.5 percent compared to the same period in 2007. The sharp decline led local governments to trim services and lay off workers in the hopes that an economic recovery might loom just beyond the end of the decade. – Jonathan Bilyk

• Local soldiers sent to wars in Iraq, Afghanistan Kane County could not escape from the reality of war. Staff Sgt. Jacob Frazier of St. Charles was the first Illinois Air National Guardsmen to die in the line of duty when he was killed in March 2003 while serving in Afghanistan. St. Charles’ west-side post office in 2006 was renamed the Jacob. L. Frazier Post Office Building to honor him. Other families also felt the pain of war. Marine Capt. Timothy Ryan, a North Aurora resident, was killed in May 2003 in a helicopter crash about 60 miles south of Baghdad in Iraq. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also spurred on efforts by groups such as Fox Valley Troop Support Inc., which sends care packages and letters to U.S. military service members deployed overseas and by provides support for families of deployed troops. – Eric Schelkopf

• Now you see growth, now you don’t Just a few years ago, Kane County was one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. With the economic downturn, housing construction across the county has slowed considerably. And nowhere in our area is that more evident than in Sugar Grove. In 2008, Sugar Grove building officials issued just 16 permits for new single family homes, compared to 48 such permits in 2007 and 106 permits in 2006. “Five years ago, the village was projecting issuing 200 to 300 building permits a year,” said Community Development Director Rich Young. “Nobody knows when the housing market will come back.” After several years of rapid growth, the village’s growth started slowing at the end of 2006, Young said. From 2000 to 2007, the village more than doubled in size. Sugar Grove’s population was 3,909 in 2000, growing to 8,848 in 2007. The U.S. Census Bureau has estimated Sugar Grove grew by 2.9 percent from 2007 to 2008, to a population of 9,645. The growth has also slowed elsewhere in Kane County, according to population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. – Eric Schelkopf

• Former priest pleads guilty to abusing two girls Former St. Peter Catholic Church priest Mark Campobello pleaded guilty in 2004 to abusing two teenage girls while he was a priest at St. Peter Catholic Church in Geneva and a teacher at Aurora Central Catholic in 1999 and 2000. In May 2007, the Rockford Diocese paid a $2.2 million settlement to Campobello’s two victims, who are now in their 20s. The families of the girls had sued the diocese, Bishop Thomas Doran and Campobello, alleging the diocese and Doran ignored warning signs and did not conduct background checks on Campobello. He was released in prison in February 2008 after serving three years and eight months at Illinois River Correctional Center in downstate Canton. He was sentenced to eight years in prison. – Eric Schelkopf

• Campton Hills becomes a village CAMPTON HILLS – Campton Hills became a village April 2007 by referendum. Its creation stirred a controversy between those who wanted to be incorporated and those who did not. The leading opposition came from a group called Free Us From Campton Hills. More than two dozen subdivisions and areas of the village sued for the right to disconnect and become unincorporated again. Most were successful. The village also survived a referendum to dissolve. Led by Village President Patsy Smith, the village established a police department, village ordinances, committees and commissions. – Brenda Schory

• Hastert’s resignation paves way for Democrat in 14th After losing the speakership to Democrat Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Yorkville, resigned his 11th term in the 14th Congressional District on Monday, Nov. 26, 2007. His decision set off a series of events that led to the election of Democrat Bill Foster. The district spent about $2 million to run a special primary and a special election in 2008, resulting in a contest between Foster, a Batavia businessman and Fermilab scientist, and dairy magnate Republican Jim Oberweis in November. Foster’s win wrested the seat from Republicans and has fired up a political potboiler ever since. Now Hastert’s son, Ethan Hastert, a lawyer from Elburn, seeks the seat once held by his father. Hastert and State Sen. Randall Hultgren, R-Wheaton, are both vying for the GOP nomination Feb. 2, 2010, to run against Foster Nov. 2, 2010. After leaving Congress, the elder Hastert began working for Dickstein Shapiro LLP as senior advisor in the firm’s Government Law & Strategy Group on June 2, 2008, focusing on legislative and regulatory counseling, according to the company’s Web site. – Brenda Schory

• Mold at St. Charles East High School ST. CHARLES – In 2000, St. Charles District 303 built a second high school, St. Charles North. The  original school was renamed St. Charles East. For years previously, teachers and students complained the building – now called East – made them sick. The school even made national news in 1999 in a Good Housekeeping Magazine report on sick schools. In 2001, testing revealed the presence of the toxic mold stachybotrys. The mold was believed to be responsible for causing respiratory infections, asthma attacks, migraine headaches, tiredness and dizziness among other symptoms in students and employees. The school was closed for 18 months and the district spent more than $29 million to remove the mold. Thousands of students were relocated to mobile classrooms at Wredling Middle School during the clean-up and mold remediation. “When you open up the walls and see where the workers put trash instead of insulation, you know it was a sloppy job to begin with,”  former Kane County Regional School Superintendent Clem Mejia had said about the clean-up process. Several lawsuits filed by students and district personnel were either dismissed or were treated as workers compensation cases for those who could prove air problems caused their illnesses. – Brenda Schory

• Brawl leaves one dead, 17 charged BURLINGTON TOWNSHIP – On Feb. 12, 2005, a mass of young people gathered at Corron Road and Oak Tree Lane in Burlington Township. A disagreement led to a brawl, with more than punches, but also beer bottles, a stun gun and a pool cue. At the end, 20-year-old Nicholas Swanson of Elgin was dead. The incident caused State’s Attorney John Barsanti to convene a special grand jury. The panel indicted 17, who ultimately pleaded guilty and served either jail time or probation. The investigation never really was able to pinpoint who delivered the fatal blow to Swanson. But, the story that captured national attention did not end there. Nine of the defendants charged violated their probation in various ways that included drinking, violating curfew and getting arrested. All but one avoided prison time for their violations. David West was sentenced to four years in prison after violating his probation multiple times. He served about 11 months of that sentence. – Kate Thayer

• Enron scandal brings down Andersen Accounting firm in St. Charles ST. CHARLES – Arthur Andersen LLP employed as many as 1,000 people at its Center for Professional Development in St. Charles before it unraveled after its involvement in the Enron scandal was uncovered. Andersen had been indicted for allegedly obstructing justice in its destruction of records in late 2001 after it became clear the Justice Department was investigating the Enron collapse. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction, but the decision came too late to help the company. Arthur Andersen’s former training center is now being operated as The Q Center, a public convention and conference center. – Eric Schelkopf

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