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13 for 2013: Relive the stories that shaped a year in Elmhurst

ELMHURST – 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 Miss Illinois to epic flooding issues, these are the memories that shaped the year.

1. There she is...

What happened: Elmhurst’s very own Brittany Smith, 23, was crowned Miss Illinois on June 29. The Irish dancer and York High School graduate competed in her first pageant as a senior at Purdue University. Once she won Miss Purdue, the aspiring physician assistant realized the leadership and scholarship opportunities of pageants. As Miss Illinois, her platform revolves around STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, which she values as a woman in the medical profession. Smith plans to spend her year as Miss Illinois demonstrating that the scholarship program is much more than a beauty contest.

Quote of note: “It’s funny because [my grandfather] used to actually sing the Miss America song to me when I was younger.” – Brittany Smith.

2. New leaders

What happened: This year the city of Elmhurst saw a new mayor elected in Steve Morley as well as the addition of two first time aldermen. Marti Deuter was elected to represent the First Ward and Michael Honquest was appointed to Morley’s former position as Sixth Ward Alderman by the mayor himself. After 28 years working for the city, Public Works Director Mike Hughes resigned for a private sector job. Steven Weinstock has been serving as interim director of public Works and the city recently began reviewing applications for the position.

Quote of note: “We can do better, and we’ll strive to do better.” – Steve Morley

3. April showers

What happened: A 100-year storm hit Elmhurst hard April 17 to 18, causing severe flooding and damage that seemed all too familiar for residents who experienced the summer of 2010 storms. Acting Mayor Scott Levin declared Elmhurst a disaster area because of overland flooding and severe sewage backups which overwhelmed emergency personnel and resources. Some Elmhurst schools couldn’t escape the rising waters and suffered water damage. District 205 reopened the next day except for Field School which lost paper library materials to the flood and required more extensive clean-up. President Barack Obama declared Elmhurst and surrounding communities a disaster area, making residents eligible to apply for FEMA aid. In the following weeks, residents and businesses offered what assistance they could to each other. The event re-ignited residents’ concern with how the city spends its dollars.

Quote of note: “Cut the marketing. We did not need a Groupon when the water was peaking on my street from Explore Elmhurst,” – Kathleen Sullivan, Elmhurst resident

4. Flood fixes

What happened: The Elmhurst City Council approved and began the first phase of the $7.41 million Southwest Elmhurst Wet-weather Control Facility. The entire project, presented by RJN Group, is estimated to reduce sewer backups in the two areas that accounted for 78 percent of backups in July 2010. It will expand the existing gravity sewer that flows into the lift station at Jackson Street and Saylor Avenue, add a larger wet-weather force main that only operates during storm events and a new concrete storage tank that would hold 2.2 million gallons of sewer water during a storm.

The city also began discussions with the Elmhurst Park District and School District 205 about using their land for the overland stormwater storage plan designed by Christopher B. Burke Engineering. While the city, park district and school district continue discussions through an intergovernmental committee with representatives from each agency, no decisions have been made to move forward with the project.

Quote of note: “Our goal through this entire process was to make these facilities work as a stormwater facility, but also work for the park district or school district use.” – Doug Gotham, Christopher B. Burke Engineering Ltd.

5. First-class care

What happened: Just a few months after the Elmhurst-Edward hospital merger, Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare opened a brand new Center for Cancer Care that combines high-tech machinery, support services and complementary therapies all in one 32,000-square-foot facility. The new center moved all cancer patients from the hospital’s Berteau campus, which finally closed. Patients can now take advantage of the center’s infusion area with both a social treatment area and private bays all with comfortable, heated recliners and televisions. The center follows the Planetree philosophy of patient-centered care established throughout the rest of the hospital.

Quote of note: “This center, this community and the work that you do here holds a very special place in my heart.” – Dan Cronin, DuPage County Board chairman

6. School rules

What happened: School was over, but education discussions filled the summer when parents of Conrad Fischer students and other community members raised a variety of concerns in June about District 205’s English Language Learner (ELL) program. Some worried that separate ELL classrooms were fostering discrimination within the north side elementary school. Others questioned why there was such a need for ELL and English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers and what hiring new teachers with these specific qualification meant for beloved educators without these credentials. Even the district’s method of placing students into the program received scrutiny.

The matter was further complicated when the district announced it would need to offer school choice to Fischer families under the No Child Left Behind Act. Since Fischer did not make AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) for the second year in a row and at the deadline time, Jefferson Elementary was the only school expected to make AYP, 32 students transferred from Fischer to Jefferson this year

The district plans to re-evaluate the ELL program after this school year.

Quote of note: “I think we as adults need to make the best decisions we can for the children. That’s why we’re here.” – Jane Bailey, Conrad Fischer Principal

7. Parking problems

What happened: Although there’s been a lot of discussion about the Addison Parking Deck this year, some may argue it’s right back where it started with the Zoning and Planning Commission reviewing a six-story variance request. First the commission recommended the Development, Planning and Zoning (DPZ) Committee deny the original request for six stories from the developer, but the request was pulled when an expected tenant decided to look elsewhere for more space. After city staff suggestions, a parking study, two extension of the agreement with the developer and discussion by the City Council, aldermen voted to send another variance request for a six-story building to the commission. The current request is for a building with first-floor retail and five floors of parking.

Quote of note: “I think that if the council is considering additional height, I think that now’s the time to do it.” – Steve Morley, Elmhurst mayor

8. Headway on Hahn

What happened: It cost $1.77 million, but the City finally cut a deal with Chuck Pauli in July for the last parcel of land that will be used for the proposed Hahn Street Redevelopment. Pauli’s Auto Repair won’t close until March 31, but the city’s on its way to picking a developer to build a mixed-use building on the site that would include luxury apartments, first-floor retail and public green space as well as public and private parking. The City Council plans to continue reviewing the financials of final proposals from Morningside Group and Lincoln Property Company in the new year. Lincoln’s proposal initially seemed a much better financial deal for the city, but a second look suggested Morningside’s higher price tag may come with a more favored design.

Quote of note: “I think it would be easier for city staff and the City Council to work with a developer to get the numbers where we want them to be than to get a design to where we [want] it to be.” – First Ward Alderman Marti Deuter

9. Biking bandwagon

What happened: Elmhurst hosted it’s first National Criterium bicycle race this year. Competitors from around the world including Russia and Germany raced at top speeds around Elmhurst College on a sweltering July day. Fourth Ward Alderman Kevin York, Elmhurst Masters Competition Cycling, the Elmhurst Bike Task Force and the Prairie State Cycling Series worked together to bring the national level race to town. Just months later, Elmhurst was officially named a bike friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists.

Quote of note: “There’s never been anything like this in Elmhurst.” – Kevin York, Fourth Ward alderman

10. Library legacy

What happened: The Elmhurst Public Library celebrated its 10th anniversary in the “new” building as everyone still seems to refer to it. The 80,000-square-foot building cost $18.7 million to build and opened its doors Oct. 4, 2003. A book brigade of community members formed a line passing the last book from Wilder Mansion to its new home. The facility has come to be more than the go to for printed materials as staff say the demand for meeting spaces and technological devices is growing.

Quote of note: “If this community puts this much love and time and investment into this beautiful facility, then this is great place to live,” – Julie Stiegemeyer, library communication assistant

11. Shopping shuffle

What happened: Elmhurst welcomed Mariano’s to the city’s north side in June. The store brought 475 full and part-time jobs. Before the year was over, Dominick’s, where Bob Mariano himself used to work, announced it would be closing the Elmhurst store at St. Charles and Route 83 along with dozens of others in the Chicago area. Rumors have yet to be confirmed that Whole Foods is buying the Elmhurst store. While many shoppers said they were sad to see Dominick’s leave, they enjoyed the 50 and 75 percent off deals right before Christmas.

Quote of note: “It’s just amazing. Finally we’ve got something like this in town.” – Debi Ryan, works across the street from Mariano’s

12. State Senate race

What happened: Two months after state Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst, announced he plans to run for Kirk Dillard’s 24th Senate District seat, former state Rep. Chris Nybo, R-Elmhurst, announced he was also a contender. Dillard supported Reboletti as his successor during his campaign announcement. The two Elmhurst residents will face off in the Republican primary March 2014. Nybo has named the state’s pension crisis his first priority in his campaign, and Reboletti has stayed active in his efforts to rid the western suburbs of heroin.

13. No. 1 Knights

What happened: Nearly 30 years later, IC Catholic is once again the girls volleyball state champion. The Knights made relatively short work of Edwards County, winning 25-15, 26-19 in the Class 2A state championship match in November at Redbird Arena. It was their first state title since 1984. Knights senior outside hitter Delaney D’Amore returned a serve and received a set from Kimmy Martino. D’Amore smacked the ball just out of the reach of an Edwards County player to clinch the Class 2A state title.

Quote of note: “It meant the world to us. We’ve been working for this since freshman year so it was great to see all our hard work pay off.” – Kimmy Martino

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