DeKalb County Life for Jan. 25, 2016; Hospital sale details revealed; Jessi Haish finds basketball fun; Doug explains snow football; Bigolin explores central Sycamore

All Kish hospital properties sold, Kevin Poorten admits


Kish CEO Kevin Poorten, at right, led the forum last week with VP Joseph Dant and Michael Kokott joining him the panel. Wish board chair Tom Matya, at left, stayed in the crowd. Noticeably absent were any of the Northwestern executives who appeared at the State Health Facilities review board hearings. (Photos by Curtis Clegg)

The most important question on many people’s minds at the Kish-Northwestern forum hosted by the DeKalb County Board last week was: Did the KishHealth board and CEO Kevin Poorten sell not only the Kish hospital “business” but also the real estate, buildings and all the contents to Northwestern.
When asked that question CEO Kevin Poorten had to admit publicly for the first time, they sold everything, lock, stock and barrel, not just the name and business/records.
He was quick to add that it “was not sold, it is a member substitution in which Northwestern becomes the sole corporate member of Kishwaukee and all its assets…no exchange of dollars.
So we finally learn the truth, despite what was stated in their application to the state board: Northwestern Memorial Healthcare is now the owner of all the assets, all the buildings, all the property and all the equipment, even that donated over the years by hundreds of families, non-profits, the Kish Foundation and local companies and corporations. It was part of a secret deal made between Poorten and his board with Northwestern last summer, never informing the county board, the hospital personnel, their Foundation members, or the public, until it was a done deal.
One must ask: Why would they sell everything, with an assessed valuation of about $340 million, for no money, no tradeoffs or no assurances it will be kept intact as before? Is it possible  just one conclusion that can be drawn is greed and self-preservation on the part of the leadership who were promised lucrative contracts for an unspecified period of time, so they will reap millions in salaries, perks, bonuses and added benefits under the Northwestern ownership. Poorten’s deceptive doublespeak “not sold—it is a member substitution” is so phony and it is beyond belief for anyone hearing or reading this.
What could happen next? Could Northwestern merge with another giant health care provider or be sold outright and our “Community hospitals” will become a pawn in a game of who gets what and what will be left of the health care system for all of DeKalb County. They can turn around tomorrow and sell everything to another bidder, trim staff, eliminate the smaller Valley West Hospital (not until after 24 months according to the state board application), and move many of our patients to Central DuPage Hospital for treatment which has already begun in more than just the mental health area.
Why the existing board in 2015 would allow this to happen leaves a lot of questions for their motivation unanswered. Last fall Northwestern also bought Marionjoy Hospital in Wheaton for $28 million. They not only bought the “business” but in a separate transaction bought the property on which it stood. That property sale amount was not disclosed at the time.
The western region board of Northwestern Memorial will add five members from the old Kish Not-for-Profit Corporation board, which was dissolved at the time of the sale. For some reason they reached out to the chair of the NIU Board of Trustees to pick Marc Strauss, plus Poorten, Tom Matya, and Michael Cullen.
There were several other probing questions asked during the forum (all recorded on tape) but they will have to be detailed in next week’s DeKalb County Life Online, so this will have to end with the bad news above—sad actually, for all those who donated to what KishHealth boasted on its website up until November was a “Community-owned hospital” a successor to the DeKalb Public Hospital and Sycamore Municipal Hospital, that were eliminated and merged to make one grand countywide health care facility we could call our own. But no more; it is gone and no public official or county board or city council can do anything about it—since “the horse is out of the barn” before they even knew there was a barn door.
Immediately following the forum, I spoke during the public comments portion of the DeKalb County Board and expressed great dismay at what we had just learned, asking the county board to impanel a Grand Jury to look into the secret dealings that led up to the sale for no dollars, to delve into the contracts and agreements that had changed substantially from the original incorporation papers in 1970-72, and learn the details of the the top administrators’ negotiations to keep their handsomely-high-paid jobs, and also track the transfer of more than a dozen properties from around the county to determine their disposition.
This blog published a list of some 17 possible buildings and sites owned by Kish and its subsidiaries earlier this month, and now it needs to be followed with a report on what happened to each one. Only a Grand Jury can subpoena records, call witnesses and question under oath those on the board and administrators to answer questions we all want to know.
It the States Attorney Richard Schmack won’t act on his own, then the board needs to compel him. The board’s actions on this needs to be monitored closely.
I will propose that the DeKalb County Citizens for Better Mental Health Care also return to the county board to ask that the letter prepared prior to the sale now be sent, asking for the return of at least six beds devoted to behavioral health inpatient care. Again we will watch to see if some board members now oppose something they were poised to approve, until scared off by Kish Board president Tom Matya with only a couple well-placed phone calls to the top people on the board (Tracy Jones and Mark Pietrowski)
Only time will tell if the County Board cares enough to do something about the mental health patients and families who desperately need local hospital beds, not being sent off to Winfield, where Northwestern reaps the profits from an increased bed count at Central DuPage, and make families from here travel a great distance to visit their loved ones.
—-Barry Schrader, DeKalb County Life online editor

NIU basketball good entertainment


By Jessi LaRue (

Last week alone, I attended more basketball games than I have in the last two years.

And as someone who isn’t a big sports fan, that’s a pretty big deal. I have the Northern Illinois University men’s basketball team to thank for my sudden interest and excitement in not just the team, but the sport, too.

Although I’ve attended some of the men’s games in past years, my interest waned as the Convo crowds vanished over time and the student section seemed to disappear altogether. Then, as buzz started to build about the team this year, my family and I had to check it out for ourselves. We were so impressed and had such a good time that we went again just a few days later.

Sure, the team is good right now. They’re 13-0 at home! But beyond the numbers, there’s something more. There’s excitement, there’s a renewed investment from locals, and a budding interest from young fans. There’s a sense of hometown pride.

The enthusiasm during the games is unbelievable, especially for a venue that isn’t known for drawing big basketball crowds. Yet last week’s games had fans on their feet, and cheers emerging from a fairly full student section.

Things I overheard at last week’s games included:

“I’ll definitely keep coming if they keep winning.”

“Wow, this is really exciting!”

“When’s the next home game?”

According to a Jan. 21 Northern Star article, recent home games have reached more than 1,000 attendees per game. That’s great news for the NIU team. A strong team, alcohol sales, discounted ticket and concession days, and free parking all seem to contribute to this season’s success.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive, fun and entertaining evening, I’d suggest checking out a men’s basketball game at NIU. There are only a few home games left, and I can only hope that their success and the Convo’s fresh, rejuvenated atmosphere will continue for seasons to come. After all, they made a fan out of a sports newbie like me.

Go Huskies!


From the Doug-out


By Doug Oleson (

When I was in high school it was the one week we all looked forward to every year at this time, the boys that is. Who knows what the girls looked forward to?

To us boys, it was more exciting than a pretty new girl moving into town or the school cafeteria adding licorice to its menu (remember when you could eat candy at school and the government didn’t penalize you for it?). It was about the only thing to get excited about in the middle of January.

I’m referring to snow football.

For one week every January, the boys went outside for P.E. and played tackle football in the snow. Even the kids who didn’t normally like P.E. seemed to get into it because you really didn’t have to do anything if you didn’t want to and no one noticed.

Of course, the conditions had to be exactly right. There had to be enough snow on the ground to act as a cushion of sorts, and there couldn’t be any ice. It also had to be the right temperature: Too cold and you couldn’t move; too warm and the snow would melt and all you would have is slush and mush, which nobody wanted, especially our mothers who washed our clothes.

What we would do is dress up in old blue jeans, sweat shirts and boots. A wool cap or ear muffs were all right, but only sissies wore a coat. Those who even thought about putting on gloves were ostracized something terrible. We were men, after all, or so we thought – or hoped. There were no helmets or shoulder pads or any other kind of protective gear.

The truth was you really didn’t need any.

The way we did it, there were like 50 guys to a side so it was impossible to have any kind of set plays. There was really no way you could run the ball, so all that was left was passing. Which wasn’t easy either, considering you were trying to pass a frozen ball with frozen fingers to guys with equally frozen hands who had 10 guys on them.

The captain of the team, meaning the guy who chose up your side, was the quarterback. The guys who didn’t go out for a pass stayed and blocked. It was actually more fun to block than catch a pass since whoever caught a pass was creamed by a dozen players who piled up on you. And that was from both sides. Sometimes all you had to do was fall down and someone would pile up on you. Those who were blocking got to do the piling.

As you can probably imagine, it was very difficult to score, so no one took the games seriously. It was mainly a chance to get outside, run around and scream your head for forty minutes and let off whatever it was that might be bothering you. More than anything, it was just a bunch of guys being guys. And everyone knew it and accepted it.

The funny thing is, except for a few bumps and bruises, I don’t remember anyone getting hurt, which was almost as hard to do as scoring. With the snow, no one could get a running start and really tee off on someone. And even if you were getting piled on, most of the guys missed you and landed on someone else, usually someone who had been on top of you to begin with and had fallen off and inadvertently started a new pile.

Virtually all of the games ended with a snow ball fight, not only against the other team, but members of your own as well. We didn’t discriminate. A good target was a good target. So long as there weren’t any rocks or ice in the snowballs, no one cared. You just wanted to hit others more than you got hit yourself.

I don’t know if schools have snow football today, but I kind of doubt it, and that’s too bad. When I was in school the boys’ P.E. classes were segregated from the girls. In some ways, that’s probably better; in other ways, it’s not. I guess it all depends how you look at it.

The one thing I do know is that I never enjoyed a hot shower as much as I did after playing snow ball.


Steve Bigolin writes…

Sycamore’s Historic Central Block


Somonauk Road is one of the oldest, longest arteries in DeKalb County, extending from the Village of Somonauk on the south to the City of Sycamore on the north.  As it enters Sycamore it becomes Somonauk
Street, dead-ending at West State Street.  On the north side of State is a long two-story brick building of Italianate style, flanking the intersection, whose historic name was lost for the longest time.
Old Sycamore city records researched by Mayor Ken Mundy indicate that apparently there was a time when Somonauk Street was intended to continue north of State.  On December 4,1860, however the Village Board voted 3-2 to vacate the northerly extension  of Somonauk. Another 14 years or so would pass before 239-303 West State was erected.  When renovations began on the building in 1979, the Sycamore Historic District Committee asked me to attempt to trace its origins.
The year of its construction -1874- was never a secret, as that year appears conspicuously in its cornice.  With the establishment of the Joiner History Room at Sycamore Library still almost 10 years away, a viable source material was less than plentiful.  As I review what material there was, I kept coming across references to the “Tifft Block”, was leaning toward calling the structure that name, based on circumstantial evidence.  Then I decided to write to retired newspaper reporter, “Luke” McLagan, author of the 1960 book, Nostalgia and Glee in Sycamore, Illinois, in hopes of his being able to put a name to the old building.
  Luke responded promptly to my inquiry, but said he did not know its name.  Other research he attempted on my behalf failed to answer the question.  Once again, meanwhile, he lamented the fact that the whereabouts of the morgues of the Sycamore True Republican and Sycamore Tribune newspapers were unknown, for that surely could have contained the information being sought.
In the early 1990’s after the Joiner History Room opened, and they obtained the long lost newspaper files, Phyllis Kelley turned up a May1929 reprint of an original 1879 article telling the story of CENTRAL BLOCK.  Two of the stores belonged to members of the Ellwood Family, one to George Wild, and one to John Altman.  A wonderful historic photo was included, showing the ground level facade before any remodeling took place.  Advertisements for the various businesses located there over the years turned out to be abundant in the papers, with some even referenced as being down in the basement.
One mystery still remains unsolved however: Where was or is the Tifft Block?

— By DC Historical-Genealogical Society historian, Steve Bigolin


Fav Foto of the Week


Surfs up — this sunset makes landscape appear to be waves of snow. (Photo by Terry Hannan)


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