Editorial: Deer Super Santa

By Frank Schier
Editor & Publisher

What I’d like for Christmas would take a Super Santa to deliver, so I won’t bother ol’ St. Nick with this list, although he will read it for a grin to gather.

Dam. Yes, dear Super Santa, I’d like a dam for the City of Rockford for Christmas because Com Ed can’t run their Fordham Dam worth a dam. It’s common sense for ComEd to give the dam away, with the caveat that the Rock River Homeowners Association maintain the river level settings because they’ve been putting up with the ups and downs of ComEd’s incompetence with dam running for years.

I am “slightly” biased here because on Thanksgiving weekend, the dam gates malfunctioned for the zillionth time; the river half drained; and my poor houseboat moored at Prairie Street Marina was sitting on the bottom of the Rock River.

Remembering the spirit of Christmas, I could almost hear from my family’s holiday celebration ComEd PR man Paul Callighan’s elvish cant, “Ho! Ho! Ho! Happy Thanksgiving, your boat is sinking!” Yes, I’m mixing my holiday metaphors, but my mix-up has nothing on how ComEd runs the damn dam. Thankfully, I can say, Merry Christmas, Paul, please give the dam to our fair city.

As coal in your ComEd stocking, when doing the cleanup for the EPA on the old steam plant pollution next to the dam (buried coal dust, coal oil — kinda like the library problem), please arrange the dug-up dirt so we can put in a whitewater raceway for kayaks and canoes.

Also, throwing more coal in the stocking, please throw in a dam maintenance fund for at least 10 years in duration.

Did you know the city has plans for installing hydro-electric power on the dam if you give it to them? Ho! Ho! Ho! ComEd’s giving could reduce the city’s electric bill!

Also, dear Super Santa, I know you’d give a mythical damn, but the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District (WCFPD) doesn’t seem to give a damn about its name, the “Forest” and “Preserve” parts anyway.

Super Santa, preserve and unwrap the recent acquisition of the Alice and former State Rep. Dave Winters 2003-previously-paid-for-by-the-feds-windfall property (they were paid $937,000 to take a large portion of the property out of cropland production and let it revert to wetlands or prairie). When you unwrap this gift, you’ll see they are getting another $900,000-plus for the same property. That’s almost $2 million for ecology “investment”! Dang! I’ve never seen such green generosity in my whole life of not hanging out with the good ol’ boys and girls.

Speaking of good ol’ boys, kinda reminds me of the Don Gasparini gifting the WCFPD did when they acquired his property at a hugely inflated price. WCFPD used taxpayer money for that little present to Donny; but to their “credit,” they are using foundation and private donations to make the Winters acquisition. In either case, it sure pays to be a former politician around Winnebago County. Wonder what could have been “preserved” or maintained in the other forest preserves?

This is from the WCFPD website: “Due to an aging electrical system and possible safety concerns WCFPD has closed down electrical service at the Pecatonica River Forest Preserve Campground. WCFPD is working to assess the situation and determine if it is fiscally feasible to make needed repairs to restore electrical service.” Good morning campers; it’s a Winters’ wonderland!

And if you campers need a lawyer or a construction company, call Donny Gasparini, and he can recommend Nicolosi and Scandroli for some more green. The whole bunch are in the process of getting a very nice present from Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen for their property at Church and Chestnut (roasting over an open fire) streets.

By the way, WCFPD demoted President now-Board Member Randy Olson (“I’m running for sheriff now”) said in the daily he was opposed to the Winter Wonderland deal because of the costs of future maintenance. Dandy Randy arranged the inflated deal for his good ol’ buddy Donny, and the costs of cleaning out those lakes and putting in roads and trails were drowned out by back-slapping and Ho! Ho! Hos!

The holiday cheer of chainsaws echoed in the “Forest” of the Roland Olson Forest Preserve again. I received phone calls from the folks who live next to the “preserve” that they were upset more trees were being cut down, again. Recently, a large stand of pine “forest” had been clearcut to establish prairie, with totally inadequate notice to the neighbors.

So I called the new director of the WCFPD, Michael Holan. He said the trees that were being cut down were either dead, suffering from the emerald ash borer or invasive. He also said those that were concerned with the last clearcut at the “preserve” were notified by e-mail, which I confirmed.

I then had a conversation with him about the public’s concern that I had gathered over the years about how people, when given a choice between a walk in the woods, or a walk in the prairie, will usually choose woods. I told him that the extremes of the “restorationist” movement seemed like a prairie cult to me. He might want to get a consensus of the neighbors before making any more drastic cuts.

He said it was impossible to please all the neighbors all the time, and good practices had to be followed in taking care of WCFPD properties. I can see that viewpoint. But I felt, not for the first time, my viewpoint was not welcome.

I can also see a disregard and disdain for the public by public officials, and I can also see elitism that communicates poorly and acts according to their own values and benefits — everyone else’s is uneducated and not in the club. Neighbors of the Roland Olson Forest Preserve still insist good trees, specifically maple trees, were in the latest chainsawing.

Super Santa, I’d like a WCFPD that doesn’t stand for WCOBPP,LLC: Winnebago County Ol’ Bums’ Prairie Preserve and Limited Lumber Company.

Last on my list, dear Super Santa, I’d like more presents like the following letter:

Apex Clean Energy, Inc.

310 4th Street NE, Suite 200

Charlottesville, VA 22002

Via Electronic Mail, November 15, 2013

Mike Reibel

Planning & Zoning Administrator

Ogle County

911 West Pines Road

Oregon, IL 61061

RE: Status of Baileyville Wind Farm

Dear Mr. Reibel:

As a follow-up to our phone call of a few weeks ago, please accept this letter as written notice that Apex has discontinued development of the Baileyville Wind Farm. We have withdrawn from the PJM Interconnection queue and removed our meteorological towers, and are in the process of formally terminating our land leases.

Mike, it has been my pleasure to work with you and the Ogle County Board. If you have any questions about this notice or if I can be of further assistance, please contact me at (434) 220-6124 or karlis.povisils@apexcleanenergy.com.

Sincerely, Karlis Povisils

Director of Project Development

That’s the end of dangerous and ecologically damaging windfarms for Ogle County and they’re dead in Winnebago County, too; dear Super Santa, may we please receive a letter just like this for Boone County, too. I, the beset neighbors and all the bats and eagles windfarms kill would thank you.

Super Santa, thanks for reading my list.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and to all of you Super Santas, may you have great days and nights. After just the right amount of water is held by the dam, may your boat float, your trees and plants grow, and may a fine breeze wing you along.

From the Dec. 25-31, 2013, issue

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