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From one of the worst droughts in central Illinois history to the death of a storied judge, 2012 was an eventful year in Piatt County. The year also saw its share of success stories, including several state titles from Monticello students and sports teams, and a very successful cooperative agreement for Bement, Cerro Gordo and DeLand-Weldon schools.
With all that in mind, here are the Journal-Republican’s top 10 stories of 2012. Let the discussion and arguing begin.
A mild, dry winter was followed by a lack of rainfall during the critical months of May through August, which resulted in scorched crops and lower yields, especially for corn. Piatt County farmers typically average 180-220 bushels per acre, but that dropped to about 120 an acre for the 2012 crop. That number was better than the sub-100 yields many expected, with modern seed hybrids helping crops withstand some of the summer stress.
August rains helped the soybean crop come in closer to five-year averages.
A May 23 fire damaged 160 feet of the west-side trail that crosses the Sangamon River. Most of the damage was to the trail surface of the trestle that leads to the bridge.
Six youth told police an errant mortar-style firework caught brush underneath the trail on fire, which spread to the surface above.
A total of $40,000 was spent to fix the bridge, which reopened in early November.
Piatt County Circuit Court Judge John P. Shonkwiler, 79, died on July 18 after an illness. He had been on the bench since 1965 and chief judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit since 1994. A courtroom-style memorial docket was held Aug. 17 to honor the storied judge.
Athletically, 2012 was a historic year for Monticello schools. In May, high school standout Steve Schroeder captured the IHSA track championship in the 3,200 meter run, finished second in the 1,600 meter and ran the anchor leg on the state championship 4x800 meter relay team. Not to be outdone, the MMS seventh-grade girls’ basketball team won a state title of their own in November. The eighth grade girls turned around and took second at state a week later. The MHS girls cross-country team also captured second place at state in the fall.
What began during the summer as a waiver request by a local school turned into a six-month study and rewrite of the Monticello animal ordinance. After being notified that livestock violated city codes, officials at the Metamorphosis Montessori school asked for an educational exemption. That was eventually denied, and the city council voted in December on a rewrite that kept the livestock ban and expanded it to horses and roosters. School officials hinted the ordinance may be challenged in court.
Cerro Gordo/DeLand-Weldon sports combine with Bement
The three-year cooperative agreement reaped immediate benefits as the football squad went undefeated during the regular season and advanced to the third round of the IHSA playoff series.
After netting input at three public meetings, the Monticello School Board received a preliminary facilities report in December from BLDD Architects. The study looked at 16 options that had been suggested at an October brain-storming session. BLDD said the options that would combine elementary school facilities would give the district its best bang for the taxpayer buck. Four of the five district facilities date to between 1894 and 1923.
Fiber optic coming to county
Four Monticello entities are on board to share the cost of running high-speed fiber optic cable to strategic points of town. The City of Monticello, Piatt County, Allerton Public Library and Monticello School District will share the estimated $200-$240,000 cost.
Jefferson Parkway development
The new, $30 million Kirby Medical Center reported a 20 percent increase in patient traffic in its first year of operation at the Jefferson Parkway complex. Also announced was construction of a 54-bed assisted living facility, which is under construction and should be open for business in the spring of 2013.
Cim-Tek Filtration expansion efforts
Cim-Tek Filtration in Bement wants to expand its facilities but hit a roadblock in efforts to rezone a residential lot they own adjacent to the plant. Zoning officials turned down the request, saying they would rather see the business expand to a more commercially-oriented area to the west. Cim-Tek employs 95 in Bement, making it one of the county’s largest employers.
A rash of break-ins are reported in July through September in Cerro Gordo, Bement and Monticello; state finances continue to strap local school districts; Piatt County agencies move to the Piatt County Office Building (former Kirby Hospital); Atwood-Hammond looks to annex into the Arthur-Lovington School District; Rodney Davis defeats Dr. David Gill to win the area U.S. Congressional seat; opposition grows to possible chemical waste storage at Clinton Landfill; James Ayers is named Journal-Republicans Piatt County Citizen of the Year.