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Scott County’s 2021 was, of course, altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, life went on, and the county witnessed many newsworthy events – both for the good and for the bad. Here is a look back at the past year.
■ A New Year’s Day ice and snow storm hit Scott County in the early morning hours of Jan. 1. The storm created power outages for approximately 400 IEC customers.
■ The family of Laura Paslay was working to raise money for playground equipment for Memorial Park. Paslay was a 2004 graduate of Winchester High School and was a pre-school teacher in Kentucky at the time of her unexpected death.
■ After years of not knowing why the Winchester American Legion was named the Julian Wells American Legion post. The mystery was solved in early January when, a group of old framed photos were found in the office. Amongst these treasurers was a photo of Julian Wells, along with his history. Wells was one of the first Americans to be killed in WWI.
■ Local, state and federal elected officials representing Scott County condemned the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
■ Sam Coonrod, the 2011 Carrollton High School graduate who put the city on the map when he pitched in his first Major League baseball game in 2019, learned, that the San Francisco Giants, who had drafted him in the fifth round of the 2014 draft, had traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies for 2020 fourth round draft pick Carson Ragsdale, also a pitcher.
■ IDNR released 2020 deer harvest totals from the Scott County’s firearms seasons. Harvest was down from 2019, which 311 deer harvested in 2020 and 319 in 2019.
■ Scott County Dog Rescue received a $10,000 grant from Springfield’s Sally Lorraine Vaughn Irrevocable Charitable Trust. The grant funds were used to improve the Dog Rescue facility – including replacing a water heater, purchasing laundry machines, improving dog pens, installing an awning, and improving outdoor play areas.
■ Local law enforcement agencies voiced concern over HB 3654, a sweeping criminal justice reform bill passed by the state legislature. Agencies asserted the bill would put unfunded mandates in place that would tax already financially struggling law enforcement departments.
■ The City of Winchester offered a second round of business relief grants to businesses located in the city’s TIF district that had been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Each eligible business could apply for a $1,000 relief grant.
■ Bluffs’s village maintenance truck was a 2007 model with 111,000 miles. The Board voted to get bids and discuss the matter later. Village Board President Linda Sapp thought the village might be able to buy the truck outright with no borrowed money.
■ IDNR released total 2020 deer harvest numbers. Total deer harvest was 681, an increase over 2019 of 36 deer. The increase was due to an increase in the deer harvested by bow hunters. There were 342 deer harvested by bow hunters in 2020 and 298 in 2019.
■ The City of Winchester purchased a new fire truck. The new truck – a 2015 Chevy 2500 four wheel drive flatbed – was purchased to replace the fire department’s 35-year-old brush truck.
■ Winter weather created multiple traffic accidents in Scott County on Monday, Feb. 8.
■ Winchester and other communities that sell natural gas to their residents were hit with a huge price increase. The cost of gas went from $3 per decatherm to $224 a detached. If the town went over the allotted usage, it could be penalized. Residents were urged to be frugal with gas usage especially Saturday, Feb. 13 through Tuesday, Feb. 16.
■ State Senator Steve McClure and Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer both attended a special meeting of Winchester’s city council to discuss the fallout of the inflated February natural gas prices.
■ New phone numbers issued in Central Illinois will have a 447 area code starting March 27. Residents with a 217 number will remain the same, but all dialed numbers will have to include the area code, even local calls.
■ Three fires in Scott County, one in Winchester, one in Merritt and one in Glasgow, caused major damage to homes.
■ Annual pancake and sausage dinners were held throughout the county in late February.
■ Winchester’s city council voted to allow residents up to 36 months to pay back their hugely inflated February natural gas bills.
■ U.S. Representative Darin LaHood sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in support of an investigation to determine if natural gas suppliers engaged in market manipulation leading up to and during the February natural gas price spike.
■ Winchester Elementary/Junior High Principal Andy Stumpf was named 2021 Illinois Middle School Principal of the Year by the Illinois Principals Association. Stumpf was honored at a surprise March 4 ceremony.
■ The Village of Bluffs voted to donate $1,000 to help with the community’s Sesquicentennial celebration.
■ U.S. Representative Darin LaHood visited the John Wood Community Orr Agricultural Education Center on Monday, March 15. LaHood toured the facility, led by JWCC staff and administrators, as well as University of Illinois staff and researchers.
■ On March 27, the Winchester American Legion hosted a dinner to honor the sacrifice of those who served in the Vietnam War.
■ Phyllis Jefferson retired from a career as a registered nurse, spending over 20 years working at the Scott County Health Department. Her last day at the department was April 2.
■ The North Scott Park District held an egg hunt for children age 1-9 on Saturday, April 3.
■ Spring football, normally reserved for colleges and then only inter-squad games was in force for the West Central Cougars. With last fall season being cancelled due to COVID, the teams were putting on the pads in the spring.
■ Incumbent Winchester Mayor Rex McIntire was reelected. He was challenged in the race by Steve Hoots. McIntire received 264 votes, while Hoots received 200. Teri Little defeated Anthony Cox to win the race for Winchester city clerk. Ron Bell defeated Brenda Robinson in the race for Winchester’s Ward 3 alderman seat.
■ Tom Benton defeated Mark Hankins in the race for Manchester village president.
■ Two new school board members – Roger Barnett and Matt Bangert – were seated on the Bluffs school board.
■ Two new school board members – Molly Traw and Aaron Littig – were seated on the Winchester school board. Traw was elected, and Littig was appointed.
■ School board members, school staff and community members heard a presentation about the feasibility of the consolidation of the Winchester and Bluffs school districts. The consultants who conducted the study recommended that the districts consolidate.
■ After a tie between Rita Brockman and Robert Sandman, Brockman was determined as the winner in the race for Bluffs village trustee. Also elected as trustees were Chuck Pine and Aaron Sharrow.
■ The Winchester Public Library received official notice that it was awarded a long-awaited grant from the Illinois State Library. That grant funds are to help fund the expansion of the library building.
■ Scott County Health Department began vaccinating residents under 18 years at the end of April.
■ West Central’s Dylan Fox and Peyton Hartley advanced to the IHSA State Bass Fishing Tournament after finishing second at the Jacksonville Sectional. The state tournament was held at Carlyle Lake in southern Illinois.
■ Scott County students attended a mock traffic crash demonstration to learn first-hand the dangers of impaired and distracted driving.
■ Winchester Junior High Principal Andy Stumpf was recognized as the Two Rivers Regional Junior High Principal of the Year at the Tuesday, May 11, Winchester school board meeting.
■ After significant renovations and the construction of a new pool house, Winchester held a grand reopening of the community’s pool on May 29. Elected officials and community members were on hand for the event. Pool board members treated attendees to ice cream.
■ Pike-Scott Farm Bureau donated dozens of agriculture related books to elementary teachers in Bluffs and Winchester. The books are to be used in the Ag-in-the-classroom program.
■ Manchester received a $30,000 grant from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency designed to help unsewered communities develop waste water treatment solutions.
■ The Winchester Spring Celebration was held complete with carnival rides and foods from May 25-29.
■ Scott County Health Department held a vaccination clinic for 12 to 15 year-olds on June 2.
■ After reopening in May, the Winchester Public Library was forced to again shut its doors for two weeks, because of COVID-19 exposure.
■ The City of Winchester approved the purchase of a 2021 Silverado to be used by the city’s police department.
■ 7 Sweets and a Sour – a new ice cream, shaved ice, and lemon shakeup business – opened for business on South Main Street in Winchester. The business is operated by the Abe and Krista Kunz and Corey and Jodi Brown families.
■ Illinois Department of Public Health announced that Illinois was entering Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois Plan – allowing businesses and events to operate at full capacity.
■ The Winchester pool received a new Automated External Defibrillator (AED) from Highland’s Greg Holthaus Memorial Fund.
■ The Paslay family dedicated a playground in the memory of Laura Paslay. The family raised approximately $15,000 to construct the playground.
■ Bluffs celebrated the community’s “zip code day” on June 26. The date numerically corresponds to the Bluffs zip code – 61621.
■ Scott County Health Department rolled out a new countywide public health emergency preparedness program called CodeRED. The system alerts residents of public health emergencies and disasters affecting the county.
■ 10 Pike and Scott County women traveled to Camdenton, Missouri to participate in the Lake Valley Ladies Tournament.
■ Winchester Car Show on the Square attracted hundreds of attendees and well over 100 entrants. Several attendees were visitors from neighboring states, and some were from as far away as Colorado and Georgia.
■ A Valley City dog that had been missing for 14 months was found across the Illinois River in Scott County. According to Scott County Dog Rescue President Becky Lashmett, the dog likely crossed the river on the Norfolk Southern Railroad bridge, which she said has been done by at least one other dog in the past. The dog was subsequently reunited with owner Angie Johnson of Valley City.
■ Winchester City Hall hosted an open house to showcase the extensive renovations made to the building. Residents were given tours of the facility by city officials.
■ Pike-Scott Farm Bureau hosted a celebration July 22 on the square in Winchester to commemorate 100 years of Farm Bureau in Scott County.
■ Longtime Winchester Public Library Director Darlene Smith announced her retirement. Smith said her decision was prompted, in part, by the COVID-19 pandemic. Her last day was July 31.
■ At the Aug. 4 Winchester city council meeting, retiring library director Darlene Smith was honored for her years of service and was presented with a commemorative clock by council member Sandy Long.
■ After a year off due to the pandemic, the Alsey Burgoo was held Aug. 7.
■ The David Lashmett Memorial Tractor Pull was held Aug. 14 at the Scott County Fairgrounds.
■ Winchester Public Library named Jeanette Wallace as the new head librarian.
■ Bluffs held their sesquicentennial celebration Aug. 21
■ The Orr Corporation, JWCC and the University of Illinois held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new 24,000 square foot multipurpose agriculture building at the JWCC Agriculture Education Center. The new facility will house an exposition hall, classroom/office space and an animal care wing. The $2.2 million facility is being paid for by private donations raised by the Orr Corporation, the JWCC Foundation and the JWCC Ag Alumni Association.
■ A new tax credit law, giving parents the opportunity to receive a monthly check instead of taking a deduction on their end-of-year taxes, had pros and cons. Several parents who tried to opt out of the program found the task difficult and confusing .
■ Due to the high cost of construction materials, the Bluffs village board opted to postpone letting bids on the village’s new water tower. They will have until June 2022 to use the funds from a federal loan program.
■ School in both districts was scheduled to start on-time, with in-person learning, but masks would be required.
■ Kent Coultas and Alan Merriman were inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in a ceremony at Illinois State University on Aug. 21.
■ Glasgow hosted its annual Burgoo Sept. 4, complete with parade, entertainment and pageants.
■ Scott County’s corn and bean harvest were in full swing by the first full week of September. Ideal growing conditions this year allowed Scott County farmers to cash in on near-record commodity prices. Prices were driven up, according to Pike-Scott Farm Bureau’s Blake Roderick, by high global demand and low levels of grain in storage.
■ Scott County Nursing Center celebrated its 50th year of operation. Countless photo albums, newspaper clippings, photos of resident’s activities, photos of staff and management of years past were on display throughout the month.
■ Winchester High School hosted a car show Sept. 11 to raise funds for the school’s career and technical programs.
■ Rural Cyclery – a combination bike shop and café – opened its doors after months of renovations at 21 S. Main St. in Winchester. The business is owned by Jackie and Colin Kuchy. The shop sells and repairs bikes, including e-bikes, and customers can purchase coffee, espresso, alcohol and other café drinks. Food will be added after a commercial kitchen is built.
■ Winchester received a USDA Capital Facility Grant to help pay for the planned expansion to the city’s library building.
■ After being held virtually in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions, the annual JWCC Ag Alumni Association’s livestock judging competition was back in-person in 2021. 260 students from 20 Illinois and Missouri school districts participated in John Wood Community College’s Ag Alumni Association 18th Annual Livestock Judging Invitational on Friday, Sept. 17. The contest was back in-person after being held online last year.
■ A Bloomfield farmer was injured in an auger accident. Pike-Scott Farm Bureau’s Blake Roderick reminded farmers to use extra caution during harvest season.
■ Darrell Moore, a local auctioneer, had the honor of selling record breaking price per acre farmland in Morgan County. Moore has been an auctioneer for 41 years.
■ A groundbreaking ceremony for the Winchester Public Library addition project was held Oct. 21. Representatives from U.S. Representative Darin LaHood’s office, local elected officials, as well as representatives from USDA and the Illinois State Library were on hand to mark the occasion.
■ A new cell phone tower was constructed at the Winchester sewage lagoon. The owner of the tower is initially renting a quarter acre plot for $500 per month.
■ Leevia Barnett, a social studies teacher at Winchester High School, was awarded an Excellence in Education Grant from the Illinois Retired Teachers Association. The grant will be used to fund a map project in her world geography class.
■ The Winchester Civic Group coordinated the first “Shop BOOtiful Winchester” event on Oct. 29. The event was designed to promote and support local retail and food service establishments.
■ More than 400 children attended Winchester’s trunk or treat event on the square.
■ Following the 2020 census, redistricting resulted in Illinois losing a U.S. congressional seat. As a result, Scott County found itself in the 15th Congressional District, which is represented by Rodney Davis. Pike County is currently represented by Darin LaHood.
■ Lathan Barnett, linebacker/running back for the West Central Cougars and Ryan Moore, running back and defensive lineman, also for the Cougars received honorable mention by the Illnois High School Football Coaches Association.
■ Dr. Randall Voigts was awarded the 2021 Rural Physician Lifetime of Service Award.
■ Members of the Morgan-Scott CEO class assisted members of American Legion Post 441 put out flags in Bluffs in honor of Veterans Day.
■ Veterans Day ceremonies took place Thursday, Nov. 11. In addition, Winchester American Legion hosted its annual Veterans’ Ball Nov. 13.
■ Four Bluffs FFA members traveled to Indianapolis to attend the organization’s national convention.
■ The Lady Cougars placed second at the St. John’s basketball tournament.
■ Winchester’s Old School Museum hosted the Illinois Freedom Project. The Illinois Freedom Project is designed to give museum visitors a glimpse into the struggles and victories of African Americans in Illinois.
■ Approximatley 80 children visited with Santa Saturday night, Nov. 27 in Bluffs.
■ Winchester hosted its annual Hometown Christmas event. This year, the community was visited by the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile during the day of Hometown Christmas. In addition, the lighted parade, to cap off the event, featured approximately 40 entrants.
■ Students at Winchester High School performed in their winter play, “Christmas Scene Investigators.”
■ After a year off, due to COVID, the Winchester Tournament is scheduled for January 2022. Raffle tickets are already available.
■ The Cougar Football team presented the Winchester American Legion with a football signed by team members.The gift was a thank you for the Legion allowing their hall to be used for pre-game meals and the end-of-the-season banquet.
■ Preliminary data released by IDNR show that the number of deer harvested in Scott County’s firearms seasons is up from last year.
■ Pike-Scott Farm Bureau was honored at Illinois Farm Bureau’s annual meeting in Chicago. Pike-Scott Farm Bureau received the organization’s coveted Liberty Bell Award for its public policy work, and it also received an Excellence Award for its work distributing pork to food pantries in Scott and Pike counties.
■ Winchester held its annual Christmas lighting contest. AJ and Hillary Shewmake took first prize among homeowners, while Pharmacy Plus was recognized for its business display.