2009: Looking back at events in Union County

Weather, crime, plans for a new county courthouse and the closing of a major employer were among the top stories in Union County during 2009.

This week, The Gazette-Democrat takes a month-by-month look back at some of the stories which made "front page" headlines during 2009 in the Union County area.

<strong>January</strong>

Details of a settlement were announced in litigation involving the landmark Cross of Peace atop Bald Knob Mountain near Alto Pass. The settlement, which was actually reached on Dec. 24, 2008, established "a new and better framework to properly manage and improve the Bald Knob Cross of Peace Corporation."

Shawnee Community College opened its new extension center in Anna.

The Union County Board of Commissioners early this month announced that it was seeking volunteers to serve on committees which would focus on the future of the county courthouse in Jonesboro, the Sunshine Inn Community Center in Anna and the State Pond property near Jonesboro. The commissioners approved appointments to the committees later in the month.

Jonesboro School District 43 officials announced that the Union County area pre-kindergarten program would continue to operate, in spite of a delay in funding allocated by the State of Illinois.

A winter storm late in January dumped more than 5 inches of snow, sleet and ice on the Union County area. The storm caused extensive damage in the area. The roof over Davis Pastry, a longtime business in downtown Anna, collapsed. Thousands of people were left without power in the winter cold.

<strong>February</strong>

Union County was declared a state disaster area in the aftermath of the late January winter storm which struck the area.

Utility crews continued to work to restore service to customers who lost their power during the January winter storm.

The future of the aging Union County Courthouse in Jonesboro was the focus of discussion this month. Following the January winter storm, a number of leaks occurred in the structure.

The Union County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to seek bids regarding action on the future of the courthouse in Jonesboro.

The Cobden High School girls basketball team won a sectional championship.

<strong>March</strong>

Union County was included in a federal disaster declaration issued in the aftermath of the January winter storm.

The Cobden Village Board approved the hiring of David Isom as police chief, effective in April.

"The Wizard of Oz" was presented by the Cobden Unit School.

Clifford and Margaret Heil of Cobden were recognized for having the number one sorghum syrup in the nation.

A "Celebration of Unity" event to benefit the Cross of Peace near Alto Pass was held at Giant City Lodge near Makanda.

Anna city officials announced that most of the city's utility service rates would remain steady when a new fiscal year starts in May.

The Jonesboro City Council took action that was designed to help customers who faced utility service disconnection because they have trouble paying their bills.

Shawnee Community College hosted an open house at its new extension center in Anna.

The Union County Business Expo was held at Anna-Jonesboro Community High School.

<strong>April</strong>

Municipal elections were held in Union County communities. Light turnout was recorded.

Molly Beckley became the first woman to be elected as mayor in Cobden's election.

Union County officials discussed concerns about unpaid court fines and costs. The county was owed more than $2 million in unpaid fines and costs.

Hundreds of people attended an annual Easter sunrise service held at the Cross of Peace near Alto Pass.

The annual River to River Relay was held. The popular event, which involves hundreds of runners, started in Union County and ended in Golconda.

"Beauty and the Beast" was staged at Anna-Jonesboro Community High School.

Longtime Union County assessor Gene Plott announced that he plans to retire at the end of May.

The Union County state's attorney's office in Jonesboro reported an increase in the number of local residents who are being targeted by lottery and sweepstakes scams.

The PAST organization of Union County hosted its annual Pieces of the Past Quilt and Table Show in Cobden.

State and local public health officials were monitoring an outbreak of what was being called "swine flu."

The local Friends of the Cross organization continued its efforts. The organization is working to raise funds for restoration of Bald Knob Cross.

<strong>May</strong>

Anna Mayor Dave Tellor unexpectedly resigned. Anna City Council member Steve Hartline was appointed as mayor pro tem.

Junior high and high school rodeo action took place at the Anna City Park.

Wolf Lake hosted its annual mud racing action.

Violent weather swept through the region early this month. While there was some damage in parts of the Union County area, the impact of the storm was felt the most in areas just to the north, including Murphysboro, Carbondale and Carterville.

Plans continued regarding development of the county's State Pond property near Jonesboro, now being called Pine Ridge Lake.

Commencement ceremonies were held at Union County's four public high schools.

Alto Pass hosted a Springfest celebration.

Union County high school baseball and softball teams won regional championships.

Memorial Day events were held throughout the area.

<strong>June</strong>

The Cobden High School softball team won its second straight state championship.

A JuneFest celebration was held in Jonesboro.

A Restoration Cross-Walk event was held for the benefit of Bald Knob Cross.

The search for a missing rural Cobden man ended on a sad note. The man's body was found in a field not far from his home. Many people volunteered their services to help in a search for the man.

Amy D. Mezo of Union County was honored as a winner in a nationwide business competition.

<strong>July</strong>

Union County residents celebrated the Independence Day holiday. A fireworks display was presented in Anna.

The Union County Board of Commissioners heard concerns about recreational use on national forest lands.

Stinson Memorial Library in Anna again hosted a popular summer reading program.

Heavy rain and strong winds swept through the Union County area during the middle of the month. The storm knocked over a new barn which was under construction at the Anna City Park in Anna. The new barn was being built to replace a structure destroyed during the January winter storm.

Pastor Bill Vandergraph of Union County was announced as one of the people who will be honored as an Illinoisan of the Day. Vandergraph was honored at the 2009 Illinois State Fair in August in Springfield. Vandergraph was honored for his work in the Bald Knob Cross restoration effort.

Longtime Anna city employee Greg Plott retired.

Area legislators and others voiced their support for the Illinois Veterans Home in Anna. Rumors were circulating about the possible closing of the veterans home in the midst of a state budget crisis.

Candidates could begin circulating nominating petitions for the 2010 primary election.

<strong>August</strong>

County officials continued to review the status of the courthouse in Jonesboro.

Another round of stormy weather swept through Union County area, bringing with it heavy rain and strong winds.

The Cobden Peach Festival was held. The Cobden Lions Club again sponsored the celebration.

Kaci Clary of Anna was crowned as the 2009 Cobden Peach Festival queen.

A reception was held to honor Karen Winzenburger for her dedicated service to the Village of Cobden.

The Union County pre-kindergarten program continued to wait for state funding. The program did not begin on schedule when a new school year opened.

The annual Union County Fair was held in Anna.

Maegan Ferguson of Dongola was crowned as the 2009 Union County Fair queen.

Concerns about vandalism at the Anna City Park were voiced at a meeting of the Anna City Council.

Shawnee Community College reported record enrollment as a new academic year started.

<strong>September</strong>

An act of "horrific violence" happened at the First Baptist Church in Anna late this month when two women, both of whom worked at the church, were violently attacked by an intruder. (Both victims continue to recover.)

Cobden hosted a Shawnee Hills Wine Trail Festival. The festival, held in Cobden for the first time, was termed a big success by organizers.

Plans were discussed to again place a proposal to have five Union County commissioners on the ballot. Voters approved the proposal in 2006, but another vote is needed because state law at the time did not allow the county to increase the number of commissioners.

The U.S. Forest Service announced plans for a number of projects in the area, including improvements at the Lincoln Memorial Picnic Grounds in Jonesboro.

Anna-Jonesboro Community High School hosted its annual homecoming celebration.

<strong>October</strong>

Willis Edward Bates, 45, of Anna, was taken into custody and charged in connection with the attack on two women at the First Baptist Church in Anna in late September. A second person was taken into custody in connection with the investigation of the incident.

A rural Dongola man was found murdered at his home. Two persons subsequently were arrested in connection with the homicide.

A proposal was made, and subsequently approved, to place a sales tax issue on the February 2010 Union County primary election ballot. Proceeds will fund construction of a new Union County Courthouse. (The proposal was formally approved by the Union County Board of Commissioners in November.)

Candidates filed nominating petitions for the February 2010 primary election in Union County.

Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center in Anna celebrated its 140th anniversary with a number of special events.

Union County ColorFest activities, including a Pumpkin Patch display at the Choate Center in Anna, were held.

A new historical marker on the Jonesboro Square was dedicated.

Plans for development of a recreational complex in Anna continued to move forward.

The Union County Sheriff's Department has been equipped with Tasers.

The wettest October on record was reported in the region.

<strong>November</strong>

Transcraft announced plans to close its Anna production plant in 2010.

Union County received a Governor's Home Town Award. The award was presented in recognition of the volunteer work which was done in 2008 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln-Douglas debate in Jonesboro.

The Anna-Jonesboro Community High School football team made another appearance in the postseason playoffs.

A number of activities were held in the community in observance of Veterans Day, which was Nov. 11. The Anna VFW post sponsored its annual Veterans Day parade.

The Anna City Council approved a proposal to place a sales tax increase on the February 2010 primary election ballot.

Public health officials reported that a local resident's death was linked to the H1N1 flu virus. The victim had underlying medical conditions.

A Scouting for Food drive in Union County collected thousands of items to help local food pantries.

Union County residents celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday. Lick Creek School hosted its annual Grandparents Day programs in conjunction with the holiday.

<strong>December</strong>

Authorities announced the arrests of 15 people in connection with local burglaries and firearm trafficking. The investigation involved local, state and federal authorities.

The Lick Creek School Board finalized plans for a public meeting to discuss a tax referendum which will be on the February 2010 primary election ballot.

The Union County Ambulance Service hosted an open house at its new building in Jonesboro.

A "Christmas in Cobden" celebration made a very successful debut in the Union County community.

The First Baptist Church in Cobden hosted "A Night in Bethlehem." The holiday season event was visited by many people.

A light dusting of snow on the morning of Dec. 25 gave Union County residents a white Christmas.

Heavy rain and strong winds swept through the area during Christmas week.


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        Anna, Illinois 62906
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