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Local
Talking turkey and all the fixings

The “gobble” is not only the sound a turkey makes, but it also can describe what is happening to consumers’ pocketbooks as they fill their shopping carts with holiday meal mainstays.

Higher prices for menu items associated with a Thanksgiving dinner are taking a bigger bite out of the grocery bill.

The 37th annual Farm Bureau report shows the average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving feast for 10 is $64.05, or less than $6.50 per person.

This is a $10.74 or 20% increase from last year’s average of $53.31, the Farm Bureau said in a news release Wednesday.

It is a 36% increase ($46.90) from two years ago.

“General inflation slashing the purchasing power of consumers is a significant factor contributing to the increase in average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner,” American Farm Bureau Federation Chief Economist Roger Cryan said in the release.

General inflation has been running 7% to 9% in recent months, and the most recent Consumer Price Index report for food consumed at home revealed a 12% increase in the past year.

“Other contributing factors to the increased cost for the meal include supply chain disruptions and the war in Ukraine,” Cryan said.

The shopping list for Farm Bureau’s informal survey includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers.

Prices for turkeys this year also have been affected by an outbreak of avian flu.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 50 million birds, including more than 8 million turkeys, have been lost.

But prices have been falling this month.

According to USDA Agricultural Marketing Service data, the average per-pound feature price for whole frozen turkeys was $1.11 the week of Nov. 3-9 and 95 cents the week of Nov. 10-16, a decline of 14% in just one week; and the share of stores offering feature prices rose from 29% to 60%.

If you are planning to serve a turkey and have not bought it yet, it likely will be available at a lower price.

As the Thanksgiving holiday gets closer, grocers often begin to offer promotions and discounts for turkeys, including by selling turkeys as loss leaders with costs lower than the wholesale price, the USDA said.

Looking at advertised retail turkey prices before early November might not reflect the advertised retail prices consumers see when they buy their turkeys closer to Thanksgiving, the USDA said.

“Turkey prices tend to fall near Thanksgiving, as retailers often use turkeys to get people in the door, and they’ll advertise lower prices,” Jayson Lusk, head and Distinguished Professor of Purdue’s Department of Agricultural Economics, said in a news release.

Lusk recommends price-conscious shoppers be on the lookout for discounts. He predicts in the future, turkey production will recover as pandemic effects subside.


Local
Gym rehab at Momence's St. Pat's is 'absolutely remarkable'

MOMENCE — One of Father Peter Jankowski’s favorite scripture verses, in short, goes something like this: “When I was hungry, you gave me food.”

“How many times do we say that scripture or hear people recite it?” Father Pete rhetorically asked earlier this week while in his Momence home connected to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.

“We say it. But how many people live it?”

Count Father Pete as one who tries to live it. He has proof to back up that verse these days.

About a one minute walk north of the church rectory front door, there is something similar to a miracle taking place just off of Second Street.

The former St. Patrick’s Academy gymnasium, a 1931 structure according to a cornerstone on the southwest corner of the brick building, is going through a renovation process.

The former four-story, 50,000-square-foot school building was demolished in 2016.

PLACE FOR THE COMMUNITY

The gym rehab, a process that started only a month or so ago and is expected to continue through all of 2023, will transform the sleepy, worn out three-story gym complex into what Father Pete envisions as something all of Momence will can use.

A community center.

Once the location where St. Pat’s Academy students played basketball games and volleyball matches, where the parish held New Year’s Eve dances and where beef cookout diners ate dinner, the building is now going through a major overhaul.

Inside the structure alone, the projected renovation cost likely will be in the neighborhood of $250,000.

That cost, of course, would have been so far out of bounds for the church that any former boys’ heavyweight basketball team would have called a foul on itself.

Instead, through connections with contractors, through the generosity of parishioners and through the goodwill of city businesses, this extensive renovation will likely cost the parish less than 10% of the projected cost.

Father Pete estimates the parish’s cost will be about $20,000.

“This is not just a gym for St. Pat’s. This is a place for the community. There is nothing like this in Momence,” he said.

On this chilly Wednesday morning, a three-man crew from Veterans Floor Inc., of Rockford, were applying the first coat of sealer to the freshly stripped and sanded maple hardwood basketball floor.

Around the corner, Joe Kraus, owner of Momence-based Kraus & Sons Remodeling LLC, and who is also a longtime parishioner, inspected the early stages of a project which is transforming a storage closet into a women’s restroom.

“We have so many good people at this church. They just keep helping. I said I’m putting in purgatory points,” Kraus cracked.

Up next will be the installation of new windows. There is talk of new interior lighting. New lights have been added outside. Father Pete is kicking around the idea that perhaps an actual parking lot could be installed.

The building’s old roof was rehabbed. Gutters were installed.

The approximate $15,000 expense for the hardwood floor resurfacing is being covered by a person who wants to remain anonymous. A Momence-based company is talked of paying for the windows.

Others are lending their skills in the trades.

TOO IMPORTANT TO LOSE

One organization assisting with help is Momence-based Van Drunen Farms.

Ted Petersen, Van Drunen’s community liaison, said the property is simply too important to Momence and the surrounding area to watch it fade away.

He noted once Father Pete made his intentions known, the company looked for ways to help.

Van Drunen’s is looking to help install new windows, starting with the north side. He said the company will also purchase 240 new folding chairs which will not scratch the hardwood floor’s new finish.

The company previously purchased four new exterior doors as well as gutters.

Van Drunen’s uses the facility for company gatherings and has one slated for early December. He noted employees have used the gym to play basketball.

“This is such a great building. Jeff and Kevin [Van Drunen] just couldn’t see this coming down. This building might be old, but it has a good foundation. It’s a sound structure. This place means a lot to the community.”

Simply put, Petersen said, this is the only Momence location that can support an event of up to 300 guests.

As a show of gratitude to the Van Drunen assist, he suggested having the company logo painted at center court. Van Drunen’s declined the offer.

Petersen said the reason for declining the offer was simple.

“This is the St. Pat’s gym. We would love to see the clover leaf put back in the middle of the floor. Jeff and Kevin love to help out. They like to be part of the solution but not the entire solution.”

Petersen is hoping other companies and other individuals come forward.

“This is a real nice venue. It will be well used.”

That is Father Pete’s plan. He would like to see constant activity at the site. Just like the days when the grade schoolers were playing kickball or dodgeball.

“This will be something that is for all of Momence. It’s absolutely remarkable.”


Local
A Bourbonnais campus plan for the community to embrace

BOURBONNAIS — With the toss of four shovelsful of grass and dirt Wednesday, Bourbonnais village officials embarked on the construction phase of the Community Campus.

The present met the future at Robert Goselin Park, which will be transformed into what is called Village Green.

The place will feature a two-side stage, lawn seating, a splash pad and an improved Safety Town for children.

It will be a place for not only village residents to enjoy, but visitors from Kankakee County and places further away.

“We are breaking ground for the future of Bourbonnais and the region,” Bourbonnais Mayor Paul Schore said during his opening remarks to the 30 people who attended the groundbreaking ceremony.

COMING ATTRACTION

Not even a frigid, windy, snowy day could dampen the enthusiasm.

“I’m super excited about moving into the next phase [construction] of this project and the dream of the Village Green is being completed as one phase for the community and region to enjoy,” Laurie Cyr, assistant village administrator, said.

“In 84 weeks, we will be standing on the stage for the 2024 Friendship Festival. It will be here before we know it.”

Cyr has been heavily involved with the project.

It included an online survey for residents to tell officials what they would like to see. Then there was the open house where The Lakota Group offered ideas from other projects they had designed and fit the responses from the online survey.

Next were the conceptual designs officials looked over and gave their input on.

In all, more than 3,000 people offered insight, opinions and ideas, Schore pointed out in his remarks.

Scott Freres, president of The Lakota Group, said these types of projects definitely need community involvement.

“You don’t do community projects anymore unless you invite the community in from Day One, and carry it all the way through,” Freres said.

“If not, people are going to form coalitions against you and then create their own information. You got to stay with it and you got to bring people in from Day One. This is a great example.

“They have been here all the way. There are no bells and whistles. This is what we said we were going to do. This is what we put into it. This is what it is going to cost.”

FRIENDLY CONFINES

Goselin Park was dedicated May 24, 1987, in honor of a Bourbonnais resident who died serving his country during the Vietnam War.

It has been the home to the annual Friendship Festival held each June.

The stage will not be ready for the 2023 festival, but village officials are hopeful a part of the campus will be ready.

Regardless, building the facility gives the area another venue to enjoy for future generations, Bourbonnais Fire Protection District Chief Jim Keener said.

“While many may not agree with this project, it allows for the community leaders to provide community-based opportunities not for today, but for the future,” Keener said as he looked around the site while people retreated back into the warmth of the Municipal Center.

“Places where future children, parents and grandparents can create memories. It was once said, ‘If you build it, they will come.’”


Elections
Clean sweep: Home rule wins across Illinois

KANKAKEE — Freeport Mayor Jodi Miller did everything she could think of to inform voters in the Stevenson County community when it came to the question regarding whether or not the city should retain its home rule authority.

She went to every community or civic organization she could think of in eight weeks. Town hall meetings were held. Mailers were sent out. Off-duty firefighters went on a door-to-door campaign.

And an education project was undertaken.

“I had no idea how this vote would go. None. I figure our chances were 50-50,” said Miller, Freeport’s mayor since 2017.

Freeport has had home rule powers since 1971. Similar to Kankakee, Freeport’s population in 2020 dipped below the 25,000 level, which was needed to keep home rule in place. Freeport’s population from the 2010 census to the 2020 count dropped from 25,638 to 23,973, a decline of 6.5%.

As it turned out, her guess was fairly close. The vote came out 60% to 40%. Home rule powers in Freeport survived as 4,393 voters cast ballots to keep this system in place, and 2,915 voted against it.

“The community really understood what was at stake,” Miller said. “Education was the key. Absolutely. ... When people understood the real impact of losing it, I think it was easy for them.”

There were those campaigning for the city to lose home rule. A large part of the campaign came from the Illinois Realtors Association. The IRA had waged unsuccessful campaigns in several communities.

Attempts to gain comment from the Realtors association were unsuccessful.

In short, home rule provides municipalities with greater resources to deal with issues. Without home rule, the city’s ability to enact legislation to collect additional revenues as well as its ability to create ordinances tailored directly to the community’s needs no longer would be as simple as drafting legislation and voting on the measures as a council.

Miller said there was plenty of misinformation being spread. In the end, the city won out, and for that, Miller is grateful.

“We were preparing two budgets. One with home rule and one without. We were thinking it would have had a 20% impact on the budget.”

To her relief, and to the relief of council members and city employees, those reductions will not be needed.

Kankakee and Freeport were two of seven Illinois municipalities which were forced to place home rule referendums on the Nov. 8 ballot because of reported population drops. Others were Carbondale, Harvey, Melrose Park, Collinsville and East St. Louis.

All survived.

The margins of victory ranged from 53% to 47% in Cook County’s Harvey to an 80% to 20% split in Cook County’s Melrose Park. Kankakee’s victory margin was near the top at 78% to 22%.

Kankakee Mayor Chris Curtis was somewhat surprised all home rule referenda were successful. He said communities obviously did a good job explaining the vote and what it meant to the communities.

“In this day and age and political climate, I think it becomes easier for people to vote down referendums. To see all of them survive is something. I’m sure they all need it [home rule authority],” he said.

While a victory is a victory, Curtis remains pleased the city’s passed with its large margin. He believes not only did the citizens go through a civic lesson crash course but the city’s elected body did as well.

“I will be honest, this was an education process. The first thing we had to do was let them know home rule doesn’t just let government raise taxes without asking. We showed them we’ve actually lowered taxes,” he said.

He noted voters learned home rule also allows the administration to do some other things regarding passing ordinances that help make the city safer.

“In hindsight, I think having this referendum up for vote was good. We not only helped educate the community but the city council as well. I know I learned a lot from this.

“We learned this power is even more valuable. So often we just take things for granted.”

With this vote, home rule is now cemented into place on the communities’ legislative books.

To be fair, that’s not entirely the case, Curtis said.

He said a group could work to have a home rule referendum placed on the ballot sometime down the road and work to have it revoked.

“I’m not sure how successful that would be. Almost four out of every five voters said they want this.”


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