Archive for the ‘McHenry’ Category


The goal of the bison grazing partnership is to utilize bison as another tool to manage prairie and grassland habitat for the benefit of breeding birds and other wildlife. The District is committed to advancing its conservation goals through data-driven, conservation-oriented farm management using practices that protect soil and water resources, conserve wildlife habitat, and regenerate ecological function. We continue to seek innovative ways to accomplish these goals through new partnerships.

Bison are a native species that historically played a keystone role in the ecology of prairies and grasslands, and they are an excellent management tool for prairie ecosystems. They help keep the balance of habitat structure and species composition of the prairie. Their grazing and wallowing behavior creates a mosaic of microhabitats for grassland birds, pollinators, and other wildlife. Bison are also more selective in their grazing habits, which promotes a more diverse plant community.  It is important to the prairie habitat to have grazers part of the land management.  The bison are doing the work of managing the prairie, and in a far more natural and beneficial way for wildlife.

In 2021, the Conservation District entered into a 15-year lease agreement on 180 acres of pastureland at Pleasant Valley Conservation Area in Woodstock to Ruhter Bison LLC  to raise young bison (age 1-3 year-old animals). Liberty Prairie Foundation was instrumental in finding and connecting the two entities, which developed into a successful match for the District to begin a bison grassland grazing program.  The Conservation District is using a low stocking rate and rotating the herd to manage the habitat. Ruhter Bison is dedicated to wildlife conservation and protecting natural resources.

“The bison will do the work of managing the prairie in a far more natural and beneficial way for wildlife,” said Brad Woodson Manager of Natural Resources, McHenry County Conservation District. “It is so important to prairie habitat to have grazers as another restoration tool in land management. Grazers like elk, deer or bison are essential to enhancing the diversity of a grassland habitat – they help keep the balance of habitat structure and species composition of the prairie.
We are looking forward to seeing the result!”

“When used in conjunction with prescribed burns, to manage grassland habitat, bison are a native species that historically played a keystone role in the ecology of prairies and grasslands. Their grazing and wallowing behavior creates a mosaic of microhabitats for birds, pollinators, small mammals, and other wildlife,” stated Brenna Ness Agricultural Ecologist, McHenry County Conservation District.

Grassland bison grazing is something McHenry County Conservation District has looked at establishing for many years, but there were few opportunities where the conditions were just right. The opportunity presented itself when the previous tenant, who utilized the land as a combination of agriculture and cattle, no longer wished to re-new their farm lease.

Read the full McHenry County Conservation District article here, watch their video and ask yourselves how great it would be to replicate this initiative in a portion of Horizon Farm?

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The McHenry County Board likely will ask state lawmakers to repeal a law that makes McHenry County the only county in the state where voters can vote to dissolve a township.

The board will vote on a resolution at Tuesday’s meeting that calls on state lawmakers to repeal the 2019 law, which county officials said has too many problems and needs changes. No township in the county has been successfully dissolved since the law was passed two years ago, which officials argued shows the law is not necessary.

“Our intention is not to make a statement opposing government consolidation or take away the power from voters to choose how they are represented and taxed,” said board Chairman Mike Buehler, a Crystal Lake Republican.

The 2019 law was introduced by former state Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican and an ardent supporter of allowing voters to choose to eliminate or consolidate units of government. It has also recently been the subject of lawsuits filed by Nunda and McHenry township road districts, which argued the state constitution prohibits legislation from applying only to a single county.

“This law is poorly written legislation and offers almost no guidance for how our county government would handle the assets, responsibilities, contracts and employees of an eliminated township,” Buehler said.

Referendums to consolidate townships have been on the ballot in some McHenry County townships recently, but none passed. Voters in 2020 voted overwhelmingly against dissolving Nunda and McHenry townships, and voters in April voted against abolishing the McHenry Township Road District.

Read more here.

Related: “Algonquin Township voters to decide whether to abolish township in April election

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MM McHenry

State Rep. Martin McLaughlin, R-Barrington Hills, seated at the table, speaks to the McHenry County Board law and government committee Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021.

McHenry County is currently the only county in Illinois where voters are allowed to vote to dissolve a township, but McHenry County Board members say the law has too many problems and needs changes.

Meeting Tuesday with each of the state lawmakers who represent parts of McHenry County, the County Board’s law and government committee asked the county’s lawmakers to change a law that allows only McHenry County voters to eliminate townships.

“We’d like to get our hands around either being free of this legislation or being a part of this legislation administered statewide,” said board member Jeff Thorsen, R-Crystal Lake.

The county wants lawmakers to take one of two courses of action on the law: either eliminate the law, so county voters can no longer vote to dissolve a township, or extend the law to all of Illinois’ other 101 counties.

No townships have been successfully dissolved by voters since the law was passed in 2019, but the constitutionality of the law has been the subject of lawsuits filed by Nunda and McHenry township road districts and several issues with the law were identified by County Board members.

The road districts argue state law prohibits legislation from only applying to a single county.

Board members said the law does not clarify how the county should absorb a township when it is dissolved.

Read more here.

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McHenry County Board member Jeffrey Schwartz is seen during a Committee of the Whole meeting of the McHenry County Board Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, at the McHenry County Administrative Building in Woodstock. (Matthew Apgar – mapgar@shawmedia.com/Matthew Apgar)

The McHenry County Board will vote on their fiscal 2022 budget Tuesday night, but uncertainty remains following discussion about how inflation will impact the budget and some board members disapproved of a proposed property tax levy increase

The county’s $217.7 million 2022 budget, which is about $9.3 million more than 2021, includes a $1.4 million property tax levy increase. While small, board members are unsure if raising property taxes to capture inflation for the first time since 2016 is the right decision.

“At this point in our trajectory, I think it’s not going to send a proper statement to the residents at this time in the middle of a pandemic to raise taxes,” board member Jeff Thorsen, R-Crystal Lake, said at Friday’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

The county’s $71.1 million property tax levy still is well below the $79.4 million levy from 2016, prior to the county’s 10% levy reduction in 2017, but an increase of about 2% from this year.

County administrators said the increase is necessary to shore up the county’s funds after the 10% reduction in 2017, county Chief Financial Officer Kevin Bueso said. Failing to capture inflation growth this year would have long term consequences.

“This would set us in a very difficult situation for fiscal year 2023,” Bueso said. “A lot of our forecasting and planning has taken this into account. Especially if the [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] revenue stays the way we are budgeting, that would require 2023 for us to make some tough recommendations.”

The county has been taking property taxes on new construction since 2017, but has not levied an increase on existing property over that time. The county expects $975,000 of the $1.4 million increase will come from existing property, Bueso said.

Read more here.

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300 Threats

Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300 school board President David Scarpino is shown speaking in a screenshot of Tuesday’s board meeting. (Courtesy of Shaw Media)

Since the start of the school year, Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300 Board members and employees have faced threats and insults from a small number of parents, board President David Scarpino said.

These “unacceptable” behaviors have included parents shouting profanities at staff and extending middle fingers to them “in plain view of students,” along with sending “disrespectful and threatening emails, voicemail messages and phone calls,” Scarpino said at this week’s board meeting.

To illustrate the seriousness of the issue, Scarpino read excerpts of messages sent to employees and board members aloud. Some complained about the district’s COVID-19 plan, masks and vaccines, and others threatened legal action against the district and teachers.

“I view you as scum,” one message said. “Scum that will soon be wiped from existing.”

“We are now at a crossroads. Are we going to have a major conflict on our hands? I have an entire army ready to bring the guillotine down,” one person wrote. “You’re about to receive a very eye-opening lesson.”

One message told the recipient that “a little accountability is exactly what you deserve, and I’m getting ready to serve it to you,” while another called someone a “corrupt little puppet.”

“I hope you’re sweating. I hope you’re losing sleep,” Scarpino read from one message. “And if not, you should be.”

Read more here.

Related: “Meanwhile, in the tony City of Lake Forest news…

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MC 50

The McHenry County Conservation District is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a celebration event Saturday, marking 50 years since the conservation district was formed by a countywide referendum.

The free, family-friendly event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Fel-Pro RRR Conservation Area, 1520 Crystal Lake Road in Cary, will feature nature crafts, sidewalk chalk contest, birding, tomahawk toss, fish casting game, a fisheries “live tank” demo, prizes and giveaways, according to a news release.

Attendees are welcome to bring a picnic lunch or stop at one of the food trucks, according to the release. Live music will be performed by Junkyard Groove and a short presentation and introductions will take place at noon.

For information, go to MCCDistrict.org.

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MC Fair

“The McHenry County Fair is a 73-year tradition held in Woodstock, Illinois. At the fair you can see 4-H, Open, and Junior Open livestock and non-livestock shows, educational displays revolving around conservation and agriculture, various vendors from different businesses and organizations across the county, a carnival, and a variety of ground and grandstand entertainment. It is an event for families to come to create summertime memories that last a lifetime.”

For a complete listing of all activities, times and dates click here. For directions, click here.

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Biden MCC

President Joe Biden promised jobs and better access to education in an appeal that may resonate with suburban swing voters during a historic trip to McHenry County College.

“America is back,” Biden said Wednesday, promising to fund transportation through an infrastructure package that faces opposition in Congress.

“Think how life will be when it’s quicker to drive on Randall Road,” Biden quipped, singling out a local traffic hot spot.

It’s the president’s first visit to Illinois since his inauguration and he picked a county where a majority backed former President Donald Trump in 2020.

And, outside the college, along Route 14 in Crystal Lake, a large crowd of Trump supporters gathered with flags and banners to rail against Biden.

“I think everything they’re (Biden administration) doing is harmful to our nation right now,” Crystal Lake resident Fred Bock told the Northwest Herald.

McHenry Board Chairman Michael Buehler, a Republican, said it was “exciting” that Biden picked the county. “It makes sense. McHenry County really exemplifies the best of the best Illinois has to offer.”

Other local Republicans weren’t impressed.

State Rep. Martin McLaughlin of Barrington Hills, who was not at Wednesday’s event, said that “over and over, more empty promises are coming from political elites passing more unrestricted spending programs that barely if ever accomplish what they promise.”

Read more here.

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220 Board 2019

Members of the Barrington School District 220 Board of Education Barry Altshuler, from left, Mike Shackleton, Sandra Ficke-Bradford, President Penny Kazmier, Superintendent Brian Harris, Angela Wilcox, Gavin Newman and Leah Collister-Lazzari are pictured July 30, 2019. Shackleton, Ficke-Bradford, Kazmier and Newman were up for reelection in 2021. Kazmier and Newman did not run. Ficke-Braford unofficially retained her seat in the April 6, 2021 election while Shackleton did not. (Steve Sadin / Pioneer Press)

One incumbent and three others who would be new to the Barrington School District 220 Board of Education are emerging as top vote-getters in Tuesday’s election, according to unofficial results from the Cook, Lake and Kane county clerks’ offices.

The district, with its headquarters in Barrington, serves surrounding towns that are in part or all of each county. Also, a small portion of the district is in McHenry County but unofficial results do not include any totals from McHenry because of what the clerk’s office there called “some anomalies in [Tuesday’s] unofficial election results.”

The top four vote-getters include incumbent Sandra Ficke-Bradford, the current board vice president, with about 12% of the combined Lake and Cook county vote, and newcomers Erin Chan Ding, with about 13%, and Katie Karam and Steve Wang, both with about 12% of the vote, according to unofficial results from each county clerk’s office.

The race had been rancorous, with charges by the League of Women Voters and others of strong partisan involvement in what some expected to be a non-partisan race, and complaints by some parents and candidates over what they saw as unseemly endorsements from the Barrington Education Association teachers union. The union endorsed Ficke-Bradford, Chan Ding, Klauer, and Thomas Mitoraj.

Ficke-Bradford said she wasn’t sure if the BEA endorsement hurt or helped. Chan Ding said she thought the endorsement had little effect overall, but she found it personally affirming that the teachers group saw her as someone with whom they could work.

Read more of the Barrington Courier-Review report on the 220 election here.

Editorial note:  So far, the Daily Herald, Barrington Courier-Review/Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times or the Northwest Herald have not commented on what Alex Strobl shared with this and other publications last weekend.

Additionally, forty-five minutes of Tuesday evening’s Board of Education meeting were devoted to the topic (See “District 220 Board discusses Strobl documents”), so we’re really looking forward to their reports (though we’re not holding our breath).

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The Barrington Hills Observer wholeheartedly endorses Brian Cecola for Village of Barrington Hills President, as well as David Riff, Tom Strauss and Laura Ekstrom for Village Trustees in the April 6th Consolidated Election.

Early voting starts this morning for the April 6, 2021 Consolidated Elections.  For information on where to cast your ballot between now and Election Day, click on your county below:

We’ll be publishing our official endorsements soon. In the meantime, feel free to use and share the sample ballot below noting our recommendations:

Sample Better

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