Phil Pash’s Up & Down The Rock

Take a Break, Mr. Mayor: I’m not surprised Rockford Mayor Doug “Opie” Scott would keel over at one of his many press conferences last week. The guy needs to slow down a little.

He was ripping around the city pretty close to the speed of those winds that raked Rockford July 5, causing millions of dollars of damage and leaving some people without power for almost a week.

The mayor was trying to put the city back together while at the same time trying to carry on with regular duties—meetings, the stress of worrying about being No. 3 instead of No. 2, appearing at the airport, chasing here, there and everywhere. Take a break, Mr. Mayor. Go fishing for a few days, or whatever it is you do to relax.

Rockford still will be here. We’ll be No. 3, but we’ll still be here. If those winds didn’t blow us off the map, we’ll survive pretty much anything this side of nuclear holocaust.

The winds, by the way, could have been as high as 100 mph, with gusts between 60 and 80 mph, according to various reports.

There’s little doubt the cleanup bill will run into the millions. ComEd’s bill will be BIG. The utility had 219 electrical construction crews—some from out of state—and 59 tree-trimming crews in here to restore power to an estimated 85,000 homes and businesses.

The city of Rockford also will have a big bill, and before his collapse, Scott said he talked to his old buddy, Gov. Rod Blagojevich, about some state help. The feds ought to kick in some money, too.

Being the Forest City, we have a lot of trees, including on our golf courses and in our parks, and Rockford Park District really took a hit, losing somewhere around 1,200 trees. Ingersoll golf course had to be shut down to allow for cleanup.

And that big, old burr oak tree in Sinnissippi Gardens, it’s gone. Someone laid flowers at the site of the downed tree; WTVO-TV-17 had footage of the flowers. The tree was believed to be 150 years old … 150 years old.

Rockford barely existed when it started to reach for the heavens. It was honored as a millennium tree when we entered the new century. Mother Nature can brew up some fury when she has a mind to, and she doesn’t care what gets in her path. She certainly doesn’t respect old age.

A lot of people praised local radio station WNTA-AM-1330 for the job it did after the storm hit, and that praise was deserved. But I also thought the local daily rose above itself and did a very good job of storm reporting—as did WTVO once it got back on the air that Saturday afternoon.

Poor WIFR-TV-23. Its transmission tower was felled by the storm, and it was still off the air a week later—except to subscribers to Insight Communications cable system, which includes Rockford, Belvidere, Freeport and parts of Ogle County.

According to WIFR’s Web site, it was sending its signal to Insight, and still was broadcasting over the air on a temporary low power tower and transmitter. But it was not on Charter Communications cable, which serves northern Winnebago County and other nearby areas.

WIFR called the downed tower a multi-million-dollar calamity, and said a new tower will take at least six months to design and construct.

One of the worst things I read about outside of the Rockford area was reported by the Waukegan News-Sun: Two North Shore Sanitary District pumping stations in Lake Bluff-North Chicago and Lake Forest lost power … after violent storms cut power lines, causing more than 366,000 gallons of raw sewage mixed with storm water to spill into Lake Michigan.

The Lake Bluff pumping station also experienced a 300,000-gallon raw sewage spill during a storm last summer, the paper said.

That is not what Lake Michigan needs.

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113 and Still Going: The oldest person in Illinois is Mary Crombie of Dixon. She was born July 6, 1890, and marked her 113th birthday a week ago last Sunday. Mayor Jim Burke proclaimed July 6 as Mary Crombie Day in Dixon.

The Dixon Telegraph found some interesting data: She is the fourth-oldest person in the United States and the ninth-oldest person in the world, according to Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group. The oldest woman is 115-year-old Kamato Hongo of Japan. The oldest man is Yukicki Chuganji, 114, also of Japan.

The oldest person in the United States is Elana Slough of New Jersey. She turned 114 July 8.

Mary Crombie had a twin sister who lived to be 94 and a brother who lived to be 100.

Mary Crombie, by the way, is a really longtime Chicago Cubs fan. She was 18 the last time the Cubs won a World Series. I’d say she has waited long enough for the Cubs to do it again.

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Encouraging Economy: For a change, there is some good economic news across northern Illinois, from west to east:

Louis Goikas, president and CEO of a company called Savanna Depot Technologies Corp., wants to use the vacant ammunition bunkers at old Savanna Army Depot as a secure “server farm” to store data for financial institutions and others. He formerly worked for IBM’s data management division and says it can be done. He hopes to hire 150 employees by March—and projects a work force of more than 2,000 by August 2006.

U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo, the Egan Republican, said last week that $7.5 million is included in the House-approved defense bill to establish a public-private manufacturing research center in the Rockford area. It would involve businesses and universities in this area and elsewhere in Illinois, and Manzullo said House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois is behind it.

McHenry County developer Joseph Buralli has signed a contract to buy the vacant Motorola plant in Harvard and turn it into a six-story indoor water park, convention center and resort complex. Buralli said he plans to open the indoor water park next summer. He also is trying to build a hotel and indoor water park in Huntley. Both projects likely would impact Rockford’s Magic Waters.

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