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10 for 2013: Relive the stories that shaped a year in Lombard

LOMBARD – New challenges and triumphs await as the new year lingers just a few days away. In the final hours of 2013, we take a moment to reflect on the incredible stories that captivated our communities. From the first new village mayor elected in nearly five terms to state-of-emergency flooding, these are the memories that shaped the year.

1. State of emergency

What happened: The Village of Lombard declared a state of emergency April 18 after severe thunderstorms caused significant rainfall and flash flooding. The extensive rain pooled in streets, rivers, ponds, backyards and homes.

Residents were asked to avoid driving, and most public and private schools were closed. Reported rain totals in Lombard were more than 6 inches. All off-duty police officers and firefighters were called in to assist with emergencies.

The Lombard Public Works Department was inundated with calls throughout the day.

Quote of note: “A lot of roads are impassable. I thought it was important to let residents know before they woke up and tried to get to work.” – Bill Ware, while serving as Lombard Acting President

2. President elected

What happened: Lombard Village Trustee Keith Giagnorio was elected the new village president on April 9, grabbing 49 percent of votes. Giagnorio, a 28-year Lombard resident, became the village’s first elected president following the legacy of late Village President Bill Mueller, who died in August 2012 after serving almost five terms.

Giagnorio, who took office May 2, previously served as village trustee for Lombard’s District 2, Lombard Park District board commissioner and Park District board president.

Quote of note: “The residents want a village president who is in touch with them, someone who is actively involved in the community and who will keep Lombard first.” – Keith Giagnorio

3. Property tax freeze

What happened: The Lombard Village Board of Trustees in November approved an ordinance that will freeze the village’s tax levy next year. The total village tax levy will remain at $8.7 million. This was the first time in more than 20 years that the village froze the property tax rate.

Quote of note: “As we look at our particular needs as a village, we are in a place where we don’t need the additional money.” – Peter Breen, village trustee

4. Ken Loch rezoned

What happened: The DuPage County Board on Dec. 10 voted 15 to 2 to approve the rezoning of the 31-acre Ken Loch Golf Links property, 1 S. 601 Finley Road, allowing a developer to move forward with a planned multi-family home development project.

Real estate developer Donven Homes had been seeking approval to rezone the property, located just south of Four Seasons Park in Lombard.

The Lombard Village Board of Trustees had continually objected to the rezoning, citing that building townhomes on the for-sale golf course was not consistent with the village’s comprehensive plan, as well as past comprehensive plans of DuPage County.

Quote of note: “Lombard does not want this development, Lombard does not need this development. We come to you as Lombardians, but also as DuPage County voters. I implore you, listen to your constituents and do not approve this development.” – Keith Giagnorio, Lombard president

5. Trail bridges open

What happened: The village celebrated the official opening of the Great Western Trail bridges during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 6 on the St. Charles Road bridge.

Three bridges – along St. Charles, Grace Street and along the Union Pacific Railroad – were constructed, allowing people to use the Great Western Trail safely without crossing streets and railroad tracks.

The project was almost 12 years in the making as village staff worked to design the structures and find a way to fund them. The project cost about $5.5 million, and the village contributed $1 million, which came from funds from one of the village’s tax increment financing districts. The remainder came from federal funding.

Quote of note: “The bridges are open to the public and are being used quite extensively.” – Carl Goldsmith, Lombard public works director

6. Mr. Z closes

What happened: Mr. Z Supermarket, 401 S. Main St., abruptly closed its doors on Sept. 27. The grocery store, owned by Herman and Clara Zeidler, opened in Chicago in the 1920s. The couple moved the business to Elmhurst in the 1930s, and then in 1976, relocated to Lombard.

The supermarket was known among Lombardians as a friendly and dependable place to shop. Village officials have expressed their hope that another grocer will fill the prominent location located in the heart of the village’s downtown.

Quote of note: “They had a strong and loyal customer base of individuals who had been shopping there for years, if not decades. It was a fixture of the community.” – William Heniff, Lombard community development director

7. Lake Shore landing

What happened: During a recreational flight on Sept. 22, local pilot John Pedersen was forced to make an emergency landing on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive.

Pedersen, 51, of Lombard was flying his RANS 2-6 Coyote II, two-seater plane in Chicago when he experienced a malfunction that caused the aircraft to shake violently. He made a mayday radio call to O’Hare Airport’s control tower and then proceeded to land on northbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive, about 500 feet north of Buckingham Fountain.

Despite the experience, Pedersen said he is not reluctant to return to the skies.

Quote of note: “The police were all excited. They were having a blast and taking pictures. It made me feel better. Life’s short. God has a sense of humor.” – John Pedersen

8. New village manager

What happened: The Lombard Village Board of Trustees on Nov. 22 chose Scott Niehaus as its new village manager. Niehaus, 42, was village manager of Tinley Park since 2003.

The village began its search a couple months prior with roughly 40 candidates. Lombard’s previous village manager, David Hulseberg, announced his retirement in June.

Niehaus will begin his new position in January.

Quote of note: “Part of my management philosophy is that a successful leader needs to be adept at both sending and receiving information.” – Scott Niehaus

9. District 45 Super

What happened: Anthony Palmisano, 43, was named the new superintendent of School District 45. Previously, Palmisano spent 20 years at Jackson Middle School, first as a teacher, then assistant principal and most recently as principal.

In his first school year, Palmisano said he’s faced with the challenge of learning more about the district schools, understanding their unique cultures and responding to their needs.

Quote of note: “We all matter and together we matter more and students will achieve more when we’re working together. The final result will be student achievement.” – Anthony Palmisano

10. Hammond sentenced

What happened: Glenbard East High School alumnus Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to 10 years in prison last month after being involved in the December 2011 hack of a government-contracted, global intelligence firm.

Hammond, 28, on May 28 pleaded guilty in federal court of conspiracy to engage in computer hacking. Under the alias “Anarchaos,” Hammond helped steal internal emails from the global intelligence firm Stratfor in Austin.

Quote of note:

“He’s one of those people who didn’t just complain about politics, he went out and did something about it.” – James Ewert Jr., former classmate in a 2012 interview with Suburban Life Media

11. Mueller memorial

What happened: The Community Memorial Site for the William “Bill” Mueller project was announced last spring.

A gazebo, to be built on the property of the Victorian Cottage Museum, 23 W. Maple St., will honor Mueller, who served as village president in Lombard for nearly 20 years. Mueller died in August 2012 from complications with West Nile Virus and blood cancer.

The project is budgeted at about $30,000 and will be covered exclusively through donations. As of October, about a third of the money had been raised.

Quote of note: “What a perfect way to honor my father for all of his years of service to Lombard.” –Donna Fruehe, Mueller’s daughter

12. Montini streaks

What happened: Montini wrestling won its sixth consecutive state title in February, while the Broncos’ football and girls basketball teams came up just short of improving on their own streaks.

The wrestlers bested Geneseo in the championship match to win the Class 2A title in Bloomington. In March, the girls basketball team came up shy of a potential four-peat, losing 48-45 to Vernon Hills in overtime of the state semifinals.

Earlier this month, the varsity football team fell short of a five-peat, losing 38-28 to Sacred Heart-Griffin in the Class 5A championship.

Quote of note: “We just fell a little bit short. It doesn’t mean that they’re not champions or they’re not great players or they’re not a No. 1 team. They’re really, really good.” – Jason Nichols, Montini girls basketball coach

13. Bicycle kick

What happened: Glenbard East graduate Matt Eliason scored a goal, a bicycle kick, in the Messi & Friends exhibition soccer match this summer at Soldier Field. Eliason’s goal went viral, and received more than 2 million views on YouTube.

The kick also made the No. 1 play on “Sportscenter” that night.

Eliason, who graduated in 2011 as Northwestern’s all-time leading scorer, planned on attending the match as a fan, but was surprised when his former coach called to ask him if he wanted to fill a vacancy on the roster.

Quote of note: “It was pretty surreal, especially first arriving at the locker room and trying to be a teammate and not a fan. For the first couple minutes, I was a little star struck and then it was just another soccer game.” – Matt Eliason

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