DeKalb County Life for Feb. 1, 2016: Local media news, Hospital series continues, Bigolin on Altgeld, Jessi on Kish police academy, Doug on the Super Bowl

Local media makes changes

By Barry Schrader, DeKalb County Life online editor


On the left is the 1970 Chronicle with 9 columns; next is the Chronicle in 6 columns like it was until this week; at right, the new tabloid format. In photo below is Chronicle publisher Karen Pletsch.



Two local media have had some significant changes this month.
The Daily Chronicle sported a new look this week, changing its size and format to a tabloid paper, now four columns wide instead of the six it has had since 1970. Most days it will feature a lead story with full-front-page photo. Back in 1970 while I was editor, we went form a wider nine-column page down to six columns when we moved the office and production facilities our to Barber Greene Road.  It takers awhile for longtime readers to adjust but many should find it a more convenient size, whether reading at the breakfast table or even in bed. And it may just be the right size to fit in the bottom of your canary cage!
Daily Chronicle publisher Karen Pletsch, just stepping down last week (see her photo) as Sycamore Chamber president the past two years, has been elected to the board of the Illinois Press Association. Karen also serves as publisher for the Kane County Chronicle and Suburban Life Media Group for Shaw Media, which includes the Sandwich weekly. She has more than 30 years in the newspaper industry. Her late husband Lloyd was once editor of the Daily Chronicle. Her other outside achievements include serving on the board of the Kishwaukee Family YMCA, DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation. Family Service Agency, and Sycamore Economic Development Commission.

Orange Peel Gazette gets new owners

Orange peels and bagels do mix—at least when one is edible and the other readable.
The popular magazine-sized Orange Peel Gazette has been around DeKalb County some 10 years now, since Janet Larson and her daughter Corinna Skidmore from Kingston bought the local franchise, which is owned out of Florida.
Then last month they sold their franchise to Tim and Bobbi Hays, who also own Barb City Bagels at 122 South First Street in DeKalb. Residents of Cortland, the Hays family has operated the bagel shop for one year now.
Tom was once a missionary pilot in Guatemala and the Caribbean, then a teacher and school principal at various private schools, the last one being Cornerstone Christian Academy in Sycamore for two years. His wife Bobbi has had a career in teaching as well.
They plan to continue the twice-monthly publication with humor and anecdotal items as before, but want to expand its editorial content to feature local upcoming attractions and add some local historical vignettes.
It is distributed through retail outlets and professional offices all over the county, about 15,000 a month. But if you can’t find a copy in a retail establishment or at libraries or professional offices/waiting rooms around the area, stop in and pick up the always-free copy at the bagel shop on South First Street.
The Hays can be reached at their Orange Peel Gazette office number 815-501-0705.
As shown in the photo the Hays family includes parents Tim and Bobbi in front with Benjamin in hat, Jacob in back center, and Aaron on the right.



Kish-Northwestern Forum questions continue…

By Barry Schrader (

Last week this column concentrated on just the first question asked at the county board-hosted forum featuring the three KishHealth/NW executives (Kevin Poorten, Michael Kokott, Joseph Dant) regarding the sale of the buildings, properties and contents.
Below this article you will find our latest listing of most of the Kish-Northwestern holdings plus a couple of other ownerships, but for now we will continue the questions and answers.
Some answers had to be summarized. When you see three dots (…) it means the answer was too long so had to be condensed. They appear in the order asked.
1) Joe Puleo asked about fulfilling the need for inpatient mental health care.
Answer from Kish execs: If one patient in DeKalb County need mental health care there’s a need. Now whether we are best situated, given the resources, commitment and everything that is needed to run a high quality, efficient and effective inpatient unit, these are two different things. We have never said there wasn’t a need… that doesn’t mean we are always in the best position to offer the highest quality program to meet that particular need. That was the start of the thought process our board had to to through, given the circumstances, given the facts, lack of resources. The board’s uneasiness that could we continue to have a strong quality program… It wasn’t about economics. We subsidize on a regular basis a number of programs… I’m not saying economics wasn’t one of the factors but it was not the driving factor behind the board’s decision to close the inpatient mental health unit… We had zero patient census there the last two years, 50 percent of the time… Psychiatrists are very difficult to recruit… You won’t see your own psychiatrist in the hospital. They will hand you off…
Poorten added, we’ve had conversations recently with the mental health board and them providing leadership, and then all the social service agencies, on how we can have the appropriate network of services available to address the needs within our community for those who need mental health services. (Editor’s comment: The only conversation I am aware of is five of them attended a countywide Mental Health Summit convened by Judge Robbin Stuckert and 708 board staffer Deanna Cada and exchanging comments during that daylong meeting. I was there most of the day.)
Central DuPage Hospital has increased their inpatient unit from 15 to 48 beds. They also have adolescent inpatient care, very beneficial…
Patient preference trumps all. If patients don’t want to go to CDH, they won’t go to CDH. The advantage is the medical records will be the same… When you get patients back from inpatient facilities that aren’t part of the (Northwestern) family we always worry about what and when… are they getting connected by this counselor or psychiatrist. The transition from inpatient to outpatient will be far superior with the hospital (CDH) that is now connected to us.
2) Donna Bennett’s comment: You have a large population out here that is not convinced, and I know from personal experience, since my picture appeared in the paper from the public hearing, I have had people come up to me on the street and say “Bring back our intpatient treatment. We want our mentally ill relative  kept here in this community.”
POORTEN’s response: If folks have a difficult position in reference to this, we respect that. Our commitment is to work to address the broader mental health needs. Now could that eventually, at some point in the future, because it is not on our immediate horizon to open up an inpatient mental health unit. We understand why it is important to be having this conversation and I admire the advocates on behalf of this particular issue, to generate the type of dialog, and this type of interest, on a very important issue. And hopefully people can be a little bit more balanced in their perspective and be constructive in the dialog and not destructive and be less personal about the conversation… ultimately that is not helping us to get to what the end game is: What is the best way given our limited resources … The county board can tell you how difficult it is. The county had to make a decision awhile back to get out of the home health care business…
3) Jack Bennett: We would like to be sure that you tell us what is going on, that a reporter will be able to be at any decision-making meetings and we can be there and protest if we disagree.
POORTEN RESPONDS: Two different components to that comment. We absolutely have an obligation to inform the public. I don’t think in the 13 years I have been here any member if the board, any member of the management team has turned down an offer to meet or go to any type of forum… A Rotary, Kiwanis, a tea clutch, a poker group can invite us and we will show up.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: After Jack Bennett and I had a brief meeting with Poorten and Brad Copple in 2008 in the hospital cafeteria, at our request, they told their board members not to meet with me, as told me by two board members I had already contacted about meeting, so my attempts at meeting were hopeless.)
Poorten continued: The board meetings you are making reference to—we are a private corporation; those are private deliberations that take place in the board room. But decisions, strategies, and priorities, we are more than willing to educate and inform what our plan is and what we are willing to do on behalf of the communities that we serve.
4) County board member Steve Reid asked about their high salaries:
Joe Dant responded: As a not-for-profit corporation in health care we are extremely regulated, so actually what determines the salary levels of anybody who works at the hospital is the market conditions…we’ve had third party market surveys for salaries and levels of compensation for me through nursing, down to our housekeepers and we make adjustments on what the market will bear…
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Poorten made over $1 million a year as of 2014, Dant made over $323,000 and Kokott made over $232,000 that year)
Dant continues: I’ll tell you some years we have better years than President Obama and so I’m really proud of what we’ve done. The three people sitting in front of you spent 90 years in the service business. I spent four years serving my country in the U.S. Navy… really proud of what we do in our industry. We had six facilities 13 years ago, now have 23 facilities because it was our commitment to bring services closer to where people live…from 700 employees to 1,600 employees.
5) DeKalb County board member Jeff Whelan asked about pain management services here which he is daughter needs, which was answered. Then he asked about the fiber optic system  like the one planned by the county, and if they were going to look into that between Kish and Northwestern. Answer was yes.
6) County board candidate from Genoa John Wett asked about the walkin clinic at Ben Gordon Center two days a week and what additional resources Northwestern might bring.
ANSWER: There is a walkin policy for Medicaid patients… But I can’t tell you what we will do, only 51 days with the Northwestern partnership. But we certainly see that access issue as a challenge. We’ve already added 25 hours a week provider service (at BGC). Dant added: We organized the KishHealth Physicians Group (formerly DeKalb Clinic) as a Not-for-Profit so they (Medicaid patients) fall under  our scheduling policies… they fall under our charity care policies. So we have increased access because our outreach is extending.
7) County Board member Frank O’Barski (who has since been hospitalized in his battle with cancer) commented: One of the concerns raised by Deputy Fire Chief Coyle was that he used to be able to do training for first responders with local mental health beds. He would like to go back to that kind of training and also have a followup community mental health system so that those people are not being constantly recycled though the criminal justice system or Emergency Room.
ANSWER: “That is one of the questions we did get ahead of time. We’d love to help engage  and help the folks who would work with paramedics and EMTs. So it intrigues me that we can have better collaboration with our local providers (firefighters). We are more than willing to revisit that because our commitment to EMS is very strong… One of the discussion points we have had with the Mental Health Board at the (Mental Health) summit is training for first responders, in this case the police, on how to better handle and de-escalate folks that might be in an agitated state…”
8) County board member Misty Haji-Sheikh said she was approached by constituents asking about Marc Strauss, chair of the NIU Board of Trustees, who now has been appointed to the Western Region Board of Northwestern Memorial,  and it may be a conflict of interest and he would have to recuse himself when NIU matters arose.
ANSWER from Poorten: Strauss is not there representing NIU; but there may be specific agenda items on which he might have to recuse himself.
9) Bessie Chronopolous said her concern is about mental healthcare services and that she has heard from health care providers and law enforcement the we are desperately in need of enhancing services.
RESPONSE: I think future forums (on this subject) would be great. We could host them at the hospital.
HAJI-SHEIKH interjected that she is chair of the board’s Health and Human Services Committee and that might be a logical place to have these discussions. The hospital execs later agreed to come to her committee meeting in March to discuss this further.
10) County board member John Freiders of Sandwich asked how the merger will affect Valley West Hospital, both operationally and financially, how the merger will affect current employees and do they plan to increase the physicians and services at Valley West.
ANSWER: The hospital execs responded  “Yes, Yes, and Yes  to almost all of these,” adding that Northwestern can help them.
11) County board member Paul Stoddard expressed a concern he has hear—that the county no longer has a local operator of our health care system.
ANSWER from Poorten: I plan to stay around. And added that he hoped to stay another 13 years. He mentioned that there is “a lot of misinformation out there… So its very personal…when people put out bad facts. Bad facts do not make for constructive dialog.” He said to ask the people down in Sandwich if they’re not better off today than when they became part of KishHealth System in 1998; also ask Hospice, ask Home Health, and a year from now ask the people about Ben Gordon Center.
Another question from the back of the room was not intelligible on tape. But at the end the three execs shared their email addresses in case there were more questions; Emails, and


Kish Health parcel deeds reveal details

By Barry Schrader (

Since the sale of all KishHealth System(aka KCH) properties and related subsidiaries to Northwestern Memorial took place December 1 it is interesting to go over the various legal documents that describe those holdings.
Something that stood out was the purchase by KishHealth System  NFP Corp. of the former DeKalb Clinic at 1850 Gateway Drive, Sycamore for $13,300,000 in March 2015.  Then it became part of the the Northwestern purchase in December 2015 for zero dollars.
(Editor’s Note: Why would any board or corporation turn over a recently-purchased $13 million building, contents and real estate for NOTHING after spending that much to buy it only months before?)
Looking south to Sandwich, the Valley West Hospital properties are still held by the Valley West Community Hospital Association at 1302 N. Main St. in Sandwich. The hospital is on 8.7 acres at 11 E. Pleasant Ave. in Sandwich, then other parcels are at 1302 N. Main St. in Sandwich, then a half acre at 1310 N. Main St. in Sandwich, then four lots in the Valley West Addition, then another parcel in the Knights Subdivision on West Knights Road, Sandwich. These all may have been included in the sale to Northwestern, but not verified yet.
Regarding the sale/takeover of the Ben Gordon Mental Health Center and its related properties by KCH/Northwestern: The main center at 12 Health Services Drive is still owned by the DeKalb County 708 board. But Reality House at 631 S. First St. in DeKalb (valued at $575,000) was conveyed to the DeKalb Behavioral Health Foundation Inc. (new 2015 subsidiary of KishHealth) on Nov. 1, 2015 by First Street Holding, Inc. of 12 Health Services Drive for no dollars. But the same First Street Holding  apparently still owns the nearby property at 617 S. First St. in DeKalb; no names of officers listed for that company. The warranty deed was signed by Michael Flora, then President/CEO of Ben Gordon Center, NFP Corp. on Nov. 1, 2015. An apartment complex tied to Ben Gordon Center, located at 313 Gurler St. in DeKalb, known as Gurler Apartments, is owned by DeKalb County Residential Development Corp. at 310 N. Sixth St. in DeKalb, and not owned by the Ben Gordon Center Corp.
Kishwaukee Health at 21193 Malta Road in Malta is owned by Kishwaukee Community College District, not KishHealth System.
KishHealth Counseling building at 760 Foxpointe Drive in Sycamore is owned by Dunlea Commercial Prop. LLC of Wayne, Ill. Not connected to Kish Health.
Kish Hospice at 2727 Sycamore Road, DeKalb, is owned by KCH/Northwestern.
The Windmill Shopping Center in the 2700 block of Sycamore Road, DeKalb, is owned by KCH/Northwestern. It was purchased for $1.3 million. by KCH.
The former Hauser-Ross building and property at 2240 Gateway Drive in Sycamore, purchased by KCH Corp. (now under Northwestern) for $4.1 million is still owned by them.
The new Hauser-Ross at 1630 Gateway in Sycamore is owned by SASS Real Property Investments. Not connected to KCH.
Kish Corp. Health at 3251 Commerce Drive in DeKalb is owned by Thomas Allawah of Barrington, Il.
Family Service Agency at 14 Health Services Drive in DeKalb is owned by FSA for DeKalb County Inc. and was purchased by Family Service Agency in 2007 for $280,000.
Family Health Center at 1170 DeKalb Ave, Sycamore, is owned by KGKD Partners of Palatine, IL. Not part of KCH Corp.
Two vacant lots at 709 Oakland Drive, DeKalb (house demolished) owned by KCH. Another single vacant lot also on same street owned by them. The vacant lot in between is owned by DeKalb Area Retirement Center.
A large parcel of vacant land on Bethany Road west of Kishwaukee Family YMCA is also owned by KCH/Northwestern and is reportedly slated for a rehabilitation and recreational complex.
(Please report any errors or omissions to Barry Schrader, editor of DeKalb County Life Online at


Historian Steve Bigolin writes…

Why is Altgeld Hall a castle?


Without a doubt the most architecturally, impressive building on the NIU campus, and one of the most impressive in all DeKalb and the county for that matter, is Altgeld Hall.  Why then was it designed to look like a castle?
Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld was the reason.  He served from 1893-1897, and was of the opinion that the public architecture in this state did not do the people justice.  To him the scores of public buildings looked more than as if they were simple warehouses or shops.  They had no architectural distinctiveness he said.  In fact, he issued an executive order that every public building erected during his term of office had to resemble a castle.  He was born in Germany, and used the castles along the Rhine River as his model.
After DeKalb was chosen as the site for the new Northern Illinois State Normal School, in May, 1895, the competition then began to select a design for the school building itself.  Renderings were submitted by 18 architects for Altgeld review, with the winning one the proposal of Charles E. Brush of Chicago.  Brush was from Carbondale, Illinois, that community having been founded by his father Daniel Harmon Brush.  As built, the exterior of Altgeld Hall differs very little from the rendering.  Not only NIU, but Illinois State, Eastern Illinois and Southern Illinois University, all have a campus building erected during Altgeld’s administration, that is a castle.  Each was the work of a different architect however.  The University of Illinois has an Altgeld
Hall, but it is an example of Romanesque Revival Architecture, not a castle.  Western Illinois at Macomb was founded after Governor Altgeld left office, so their older building is Classical Revival, looking more like
a large county courthouse or a state capital.  Even a section of the State Prison at Joliet built when Altgeld was in office looks like a castle.
   Are there gargoyles on the exterior of Altgeld Hall?  Yes, but they are not stone animals at the top of the 5-story central tower.  These are actually grotesques, and are larger, and more distinctive than the gargoyles.  The gargoyles are small decorative water spouts, and some do appear on the tower.   Over the years a few grotesques were struck by lightening, replaced by new ones between 2000 and 2004 during the extensive renovation/restoration of Altgeld.  An original 1890’s grotesque is located in the garden east of Altgeld, where it has been since 1973.  Which of the various Altgeld Halls look best?  According to the late Dr. Earl W. Hayter – University Historian, and author of the 75th anniversary history Education In Transition: The History of Northern Illinois University – whom had seen all of the castles, ours was by far the best.  “But I am biased in the matter,” he stated many years ago.
—-By Steve Bigolin, DC Historical-Genealogical Society Historian  


A Sycamore girl who wants to be a cop

By Jessi LaRue (

Jess1 Jess3

Lilly Haish shown at Kishwaukee College.

Lilly Haish, my sister, is one of two females in a law enforcement class at Kishwaukee College.

Although she has faced some skepticism from some of her 13 male classmates, she’s pursuing her dream and pushing back against the doubt and society’s criticisms.

“Thinking about becoming a female police officer is hard,” she said. “I feel like I’ll have to meet high expectations to show I’m not just some girly-girl cop. Like, I’m here to get the job done just as good as any man can.”

She’s just in the beginning stages of pursuing her career; she’s in her first year at Kishwaukee College. She was part of the Kishwaukee Education Consortium’s Student Police Academy and has been on the lookout for additional volunteer and learning opportunities.

After Kishwaukee, she hopes to move on to Western Illinois University. She’d someday like to work for either Sycamore or Chicago police, maybe even as a homicide detective. She’s not sure where the road will lead her.

One thing’s for certain, though: there’s no turning back now, although she does have some concerns.

“Just because of how cops can be portrayed in the media now, I’m concerned someone will think I’m a bad person just because I want to be a cop,” she said. “I don’t think [I’m a bad person] because of the reasons I want to be a cop. Part of it is to leave a legacy, to feel like I did something important with my life.”

She’s consciously taking steps to prepare herself for life as a police officer.

“Sometimes when I get stressed, I try to just remain super calm, because as a police officer, if you get mad, you can’t just scream at someone,” she said. “Sometimes when I’m driving or walking around, I try to work on being aware of things around me. I think that’s something that can’t be taught in a classroom, but it’s something that could be lifesaving someday.”

Her initial interest in the career came innocently enough.

“I liked to watch ‘Criminal Minds,’ ‘Castle,’ ‘Law and Order: SVU,’ ‘CSI: Miami,’” she said. “That’s why I first thought of [the career.] I think a lot of it though, has a lot to do with growing up in Sycamore; they’re all such good cops, such friendly cops. I feel like if I had grown up somewhere else I wouldn’t have had the same decision.”

Her powder puff football coaches in high school were members of Sycamore Police Department. She found their attitudes and work ethic inspiring. And her passion goes beyond the glitz, glamour and drama on shows like “Blue Bloods” and “Law and Order.”

“I want to try to stop some of the bad in the world,” she said. “I see a lot of stuff in the news that bothers me, and if I can stop even just some of that, I think that’s a big deal.”


From the Doug-out

By Doug Oleson (


As everyone knows, including my sister who doesn’t like sports, this weekend is the 50th Super Bowl. Although it is the largest single sporting event in America today, it wasn’t always that way, especially at the start.

Like many others my age, I remember the very first Super Bowl, which was played on Jan. 15, 1967. For the record, the Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.

At that time, there were two professional leagues: the National Football League, which George Halas helped form in 1920, and the American Football League, which started in 1960. One of the founders of the AFL, which was known as “The Other League,” was a young Dallas billionaire named Lamar Hunt. When the NFL refused his request to buy the old Chicago Cardinals, which he intended to move to Texas, he decided to start his own league, which he did.

One of the smartest things Hunt did was establish teams in cities that didn’t already have an NFL franchise: Boston, Kansas City, Denver, Oakland, San Diego, etc.

At first, the AFL mainly drew players and coaches who weren’t quite good enough to be in the NFL. That all changed when the New York Jets managed to sign a top college quarterback named Joe Namath, to a much larger contract than he would have gotten had he gone to the NFL. That led to the famous bidding war between the two leagues. Eventually, the other league attracted enough top quality players it forced the two leagues to play a championship to see which had the best team.

Actually, the first couple of Super Bowls were officially called the NFL-AFL World Championship game. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that they became known as the Super Bowl, which Hunt suggested because of the super ball – which was very popular at the time – his seven year old son was always playing with.

Most fans – myself included – didn’t really take the first Super Bowl that seriously. It was like an extension of the season. When the Packers beat the Cowboys for the NFL championship, that was the real title game. Beating whoever won the AFL – which most of us didn’t follow anyway – was just something extra.

Being an NFL snob at the time, I just thought the game gave the NFL a chance to put the new league in its place. Embarrass them bad enough, I was convinced, and they just might go away so the Bears could start drafting good players again that they were missing out on because of the AFL.

To me, it only made sense that the Packers represented the NFL since they totally dominated the sport in the 1960s. Under legendary coach Vince Lombardi, the Packers won five titles in seven seasons. As a Bears fan, of course, I hated the Packers so it wouldn’t have killed me to see them lose.

Although a then record 65 million watched that first super bowl on TV, it wasn’t an immediate hit with everyone. I remember watching the game, which was played Sunday afternoon and not on prime time like it is today, by myself. No one else in the family was even remotely interested. I’m sure they did, but I don’t remember that many people talking about the game the next day either. The commercials weren’t a big deal then, either.

In fact, only 61,946 filled the 100,000 seat Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles for that first super clash. The top price for a ticket was $12, which probably wouldn’t get you a Coke at this Sunday’s game. For comparison, this year’s tickets are going for $4,500 on Stub Hub.

In his biography, “The Fire Within”, Packer fullback Jim Taylor reports that the players couldn’t even give away some of their tickets to the first Super Bowl there was so little interest.

Each player on the winning team that first year got $15,000. Last year, the Patriots got $97,000 each.

Again, for the record, the first Super Bowl was actually close until Willie Wood intercepted a pass early in the second half and ran it back 50 yards to the five yard line, setting up an Elijah Wood touchdown. Surprisingly, the star of the game was Packer wide receiver Max McGee, who caught seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns. That was one pass more than he had caught during the entire season.

For his efforts, the veteran Packer was named the Most Valuable Player of the first game, allowing him to drive off in a 1967 silver Corvette.

Ironically, McGee never expected to play in the first place. A last minute substitution for starter Boyd Dowler, who had injured his shoulder against the Cowboys the week before, McGee expected to be cut before the game. Apparently, he had broken curfew by spending the night before the game with two flight attendants he had just met. According to Taylor’s book, he only got a couple of hours sleep before reporting to the stadium.

That’s how much some of the players thought of the first game.

McGee’s old teammate Paul Hornung was invited to join him on his escapade, but wisely turned him down. Knowing he was at the end of his career, the former Golden Boy didn’t want to miss out on the first Super Bowl. Plus, he was scheduled to get married a few days later.

As the game was winding down, Lombardi sent in his second stringers so they could say they played, sort of like in high school, because he wasn’t sure if the game had a future or not.


Afterwards, Lombardi – who led the Packers to a win over Oakland the next year in Super Bowl II – admitted what many of us fans already felt, that he didn’t think the AFL could match any of the top teams in the NFL.

It wasn’t until two years later, when Namath led the Jets to their famous upset over the Colts, that the AFL finally gained the grudging appreciation they deserved. That eventually led to the two leagues forming into what is the NFL today, with many of the teams from the old AFL forming the American Football Conference and the original teams of the NFL in the National Football Conference.

The rest, as they say, is Super Bowl history.

Today, the game is almost like a national holiday. Personally, I like what Duane Thomas, a running back for the Dallas Cowboys, said when he was asked what he thought about the “Ultimate Game” when he played in it a few years later.

“If it’s the ultimate game, then why are they playing it again next year?” he asked.


Fav Foto of the week…


Follow the leader — Left, right, left, right. Who can resist photographing our most prolific wildlife seen here behind Office Max at the pond near Barber Greene Road?




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