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Biden to visit Kankakee County farm

KANKAKEE — President Joe Biden appears set to visit a Kankakee County farm Wednesday to gain first-hand information regarding the impact of soaring fertilizer prices on America’s family farms.

The Daily Journal has confirmed Biden will visit a local farm and learn how the recently soaring fertilizer prices — largely due to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, which is a chief supplier to the United States of farm fertilizer — are being handled by farmers.

In addition, the president will likely discuss food supply issues as well.

Kankakee County farmers have only just begun spring planting due to the past few weeks of cold, wet weather. This week, temperatures are expected to climb into the 80s which should aid corn and soybean planting.

The president previously had events planned in Illinois for Wednesday, most notably a Democratic National Committee fundraiser for mid-term elections, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

He is also slated to address the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers while in Illinois.

Armstrong seeks bankruptcy protection

KANKAKEE — Armstrong Flooring, a key member of the Kankakee County economy for decades, has seen its stock tumble by some 50 percent in recent days and the company is expected to seek bankruptcy protection.

The company had been looking to sell itself, but, to this point, has not found a willing suitor.

Locally, the Armstrong site at 1401 N. Hobbie Ave., Kankakee, employs about 350. The production lines at Armstrong operate seven days a week.

According to Kankakee Mayor Chris Curtis the company recently filed a permit application with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to invest in the production process at the Kankakee plant.

Due to air quality issues, the IEPA is the granter of the permit.

“That would tell me Kankakee is still a viable location,” the mayor said. “It tells me Kankakee is still a strong plant. This is a reorganization.”

Michel Vermette, president and CEO of Armstrong, noted in a Monday press release that with the support of the board of directors, “we have determined that using the Chapter 11 process to effectuate a potential sale is the right next step for our company.”

“As we have said previously, we firmly believe in the value and potential of Armstrong Flooring — and we are confident that this definitive action puts us in the best possible position to preserve and maximize value for our stakeholders. In the meantime, we are open for business and remain firmly committed to our customers, vendors and employees as we navigate the path forward.”

The Lancaster, Pa.-based company said in recent published reports it has amended some of its credit agreements while engaging with interested “third parties to potentially sell itself.”

Tim Nugent, president and CEO of the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County, said there is no question Armstrong is a vital member of the region’s employment base.

“It would be a big hit if something were to happen to that plant. That is a considerable employment center,” he said.

The Kankakee location produces flooring tiles found in many home improvement stores.

The company said in a recent Wall Street Journal report it had not found a buyer. It had a self-imposed deadline of May 8 to have such a deal in place.

As a result of this inability to find a buyer, the company will likely file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

A Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing allows a company experiencing financial difficulties protection from creditors for a limited period of time which allows the company an opportunity to reorganize itself.

The Armstrong financial situation is not new. The company warned in November supply chain disruptions, as well as rising inflationary pressures it anticipated would continue into 2022 — regarding transportation, labor and raw materials — would likely knock the company out of balance with its credit agreements.

On the final day of 2021, the company hired Houlihan Lokey Capital Inc., to assist in selling the company.

In order to fund and preserve its operations during the Chapter 11 process, Armstrong has entered into a credit agreement, subject to Bankruptcy Court approval, providing for $30 million of financing.

Upon approval, the financing will provide Armstrong with the necessary liquidity to operate and cover expenses as it pursues a potential sale.

New role for recently retired Bradley PD Deputy Chief

BRADLEY — Craig Anderson wasn’t a “former” Bradley village employee for long.

The recently retired deputy chief of the Bradley Police Department is now the village’s administrator.

Anderson’s new village position was approved by a 6-0 vote at Monday’s village board meeting.

He will receive a salary of $105,000 and officially begins his position today.

The village has been without an administrator — which is an official who basically handles the day-to-day function of running a municipality — since mid 2020 when then-administrator Catherine Wojnarowski took a leave of absence. She was terminated from that role in late 2020.

Wojnarowski has since returned to the village in a new contractual role.

Since mid 2020, Bradley Mayor Mike Watson and village finance director Rob Romo have been sharing much of the village administrator functions.

That practice will now end as Anderson, a 22-year member of the police department, the last seven years as its deputy chief, will assume those duties.

Anderson, 54, only retired from the police department at the end of March. He basically took April off before agreeing to this new role.

Watson said the two had discussed this possibility since the summer 2021.

“He is a good addition. He’s a natural fit. He knows the direction we are going with this village. This is a great opportunity for him,” Watson said after the meeting.

Anderson had not planned on being retired for long. He said becoming a village administrator was something he wanted to do and the fact the opportunity presented itself in his hometown made the decision even easier.

The new administrator said he has been preparing for this new role for many years and the time has come to “take the next step.”

“This has been part of my plan, I just didn’t know it would be in Bradley,” Anderson said. “The village is moving in a great direction. I’m here to build on a successful situation and I want to take some responsibilities off of Rob and the mayor.”

Herscher High Varsity Scholastic Bowl team places 2nd in nation

HERSCHER — The Herscher High School Varsity Scholastic Bowl team placed second in the public school division of the National Academic Quiz Tournaments Small School National Championship on April 24.

A total of 283 students competed in the tournament from 55 public schools and 54 private schools from nine states.

The second place spot marks an improvement from last year, when the team placed fifth in the same tournament.

The team is also the 2022 Illinois Masonic Bowl Class AA State Champion.

Being one of the smallest AA schools in the state has not stopped the HHS team from coming out on top.

In the last three years, the team has won three Illinois High School Association Regional Class AA titles, one IHSA Sectional Class AA title, one Masonic Bowl Sectional title, and three Illinois Central Conference titles.

Leading the team is Gavin Markoff, who was No. 4 individual player in the nation at the April 24 tournament. He placed No. 1 last year.

Markoff is also a member of the Illinois All State Scholastic Bowl Team.

Other players are Chloe Whalen (placed No. 98), Gunnar Tejes (placed No. 129), Brock Berg, Alex Joffe and Christian Mondane.

The team is coached by math teacher Jessie Rezba, who is assisted by Christopher Bachmann.