Freeport

Guy Stephens

For years, people in the Freeport area dreamed of creating a commercial-grade kitchen that could be shared by students and entrepreneurs in the community. That dream became a reality with the opening of Pretzel City Kitchens.

The back of the Wagner House, a former industrial warehouse in downtown Freeport, now houses a wine bar, an event space, and Pretzel City Kitchens. The large, brightly lit room is filled with professional cooking equipment, racks of utensils and stainless steel tables. 

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

Several Freeport and Stephenson County business groups are combining forces to promote the area.

Freeport City Manager Lowell Crow helped launch the endeavor, currently called NewCo. He said its aim is to help boost Freeport and Stephenson County by making it easier to do business there.  

“So it’s one-stop shopping,” he said. “You know, for everything dealing with economic development, whether it be events, economic growth, small business development, membership. It’s all under one roof.”  

Pretzel City Kitchens will be open for free tours as part of an event at Wagner House.

The project to create a certified, commercial grade kitchen that would be open for community use began in earnest several years ago. Now, after much grant-seeking and traversing several hurdles, it’s almost ready to open for business.

Freeport City Manager Lowell Crow says Pretzel City Kitchens is an important part of the city’s hope for the future.

 

 

Guy Stephens/WNIJ

When Jim Gitz steps down as Freeport mayor next week, it will mark the end of an era. Voters approved moving to a city manager system of government last November.

Freeport joins scores of cities in the state, including DeKalb and Woodstock, where day-to-day operations are run by a professional administrator.  The move means Gitz was the city’s last full-time mayor.

Illinois First Lady Diana Rauner visited a Freeport hospital to highlight Illinois Family Connects, a program that provides home visits for newborns. 

Officials with FHN Family Health Center in Burchard Hills say a community nurse will visit new mothers about three weeks after they give birth.  They'll conduct wellness checks and provide support in areas such as breastfeeding and dealing with postpartum depression.

U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger is working on a bill that would expand the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area to portions of the WNIJ listening area.

One of these areas is Freeport.  It's well-known as the site of the second Lincoln-Douglas debate, with a statuary park and other exhibits commemorating the event.

Freeport Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Connie Sorn says it’s also where Douglas formed the Freeport Doctrine. This claimed that states could pass laws for or against slavery, regardless of Supreme Court decisions.

WIkimedia Commons/User: IvoShandor

Freeport officials unveiled a new City Hall as part of the city's 162nd anniversary

WIkimedia Commons/User: IvoShandor

Freeport City Council members have approved a three-year contract between the municipality and its police union.  

The document was approved Jan. 17 and includes a retroactive raise for sworn officers, dating back to May 1, of 1.25%.  There also will be 3% raises on May 1 of 2018 and 2019.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

About 4,000 people in the WNIJ listening area got a chance to pose with the Chicago Cubs World Series trophy last weekend. It made its way to Naperville on Saturday, along with Freeport and Rockford on Sunday.

Mike Peck is business operations director for the Rockford Ice Hogs. He says people started lining up at around 8 a.m. to be one of the guaranteed 1,500 ticket holders to pose with the trophy.

Freeport Launches New "All In" Brand Campaign

Nov 16, 2016
Collaborate Freeport

“All In” – that’s the main concept for a new brand campaign Freeport recently launched.

The idea is to create a story unique to the Freeport and Stephenson County community – with the help of residents – and use that story to spread that brand inside and outside of the city and county.

http://www.ci.freeport.il.us/

Freeport Mayor Jim Gitz says it’s time to make way for new leaders. He announced Thursday he will NOT run for re-election. 

Gitz was elected in 2013: he also served two terms as mayor, from 1997 - 2005. Gitz says he’s ready for a career change and had made up his mind before Tuesday’s election. That’s when Freeport voters decided to change to a city manager style government, making their mayor a part-time position.  

Landmarks Illinois

Freeport residents voted in favor of changing the city’s form of government from one run by a full-time mayor and city council to one with a city manager running city operations as chief executive.

The measure calling for the change won with 53 percent in favor vs. 47 percent against.  The measure had been backed by a number of businesses and the local chamber of Commerce.  They argued a city the size of Freeport needed a full-time professional running day-to-day operations, and said it would free up the mayor and council to concentrate more on strategic planning.

Committee to Change City Government

A group in Freeport is backing a measure that would place a city manager in charge of the city’s administration.  

Small business owner Pat Leitzen Frye is a former city council member and one-time mayoral candidate. She co-chairs the Committee to Change City Government. Fye says the push for the measure isn’t about particular personalities or policies, but helping the city to work better for everyone.

  The Freeport School District is rolling out more personal standardized tests. 

The new assessment is known as the Measures of Academic Progress Test, and is adaptive.  Unlike the ISAT and PARCC, it  adjusts the difficulty of questions in real time based on students answers.  This means if a student is doing well, they'll receive harder questions, while if they're performing poorly, the questions will get easier.  

Officials hope the progress test, or MAP, can provide more accurate student metrics as it’s given several times per year. 

City of Freeport, IL

Freeport’s mayor and council are at odds over the city’s legal department. Mayor Jim Gitz on Monday vetoed a council measure to end the department and outsource its services.

Mayor Gitz says the Council did not give a good explanation of why the measure was a good idea, or even why it was needed.   According to the Freeport Journal-Standard, Gitz also says the ordinance was being used to interfere with the work of the mayor.  

Little Cubs Field Hosts Eighth Pee-Wee Classic

May 25, 2015
Katie Finlon / WNIJ

Sixteen teams from Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa played in a tournament at Little Cubs Field in Freeport this Memorial Day weekend. It's the eighth Pee Wee Classic since the field opened, and the diamond is the closest to-scale replica of Wrigley Field you can find. 

At least, that's according to its owner Denny Garkey.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Criminal charges have been filed against a Freeport-area woman after 143 cats and dogs were seized Monday from her home. Many of them were dead. 

Tina McKinnon, 45, is charged with two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, plus three misdemeanor charges. Officials say they had been trying to find her home after she reached out to animal control and another local animal rescue organization for help with all of the animals, only to back away.  

Freeport, Stephenson County Transit Ridership Doubles

Feb 18, 2015
Pretzel City Transit

Bus ridership has nearly doubled in Freeport and Stephenson County in the first six months following service expansion. 

Kevin Cooley, the program compliance oversight monitor at the Freeport senior center, is confident ridership will continue to increase. 

“We’re already well over 30,000 rides--we’ve already pretty much completed everything we did last fiscal year and we have the whole year to go,” Cooley said.

Freeport School District

Freeport School District Superintendent Roberta Selleck has submitted her resignation to the Freeport School Board.

Freeport School Board Investigating Superintendent

Aug 18, 2014
Freeport School District 145

The Freeport School Board says it is investigating the district superintendent for “certain administrative actions and decisions.”

In an August 17 written statement, Board President Janice Crutchfield says that the Board decided to place Superintendent Roberta Selleck on paid administrative leave on July 15 while the Board pursued its investigation.

Guy Stephens

Freeport aldermen approved a plan to sell part of a sprawling industrial compound plagued by environmental problems. For more than a decade, city officials have been removing contaminated soil and lead paint from the Rawleigh complex, the site of a former food processing center. The Freeport Journal Standard reports city leaders agreed to businessman Pete Alber's bid of $100 to buy Building D of the complex.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

The Civil War monument sits outside of the Stephenson County Courthouse. It was built the late 1860s. County officials have said there is no public money available to fix it up, so local residents started raising money. A new base was installed last fall. Ron Werntz is one of the main fundraisers behind the project. He says organizers were stuck at the halfway mark to continue restoration efforts. But recently received an anonymous donation of $40,000 from a local veteran.

"God bless him. Now, once the weather breaks, we have the money to complete the monument," said Werntz.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Freeport residents packed a Highland Community College auditorium last night: they were there to hear from the four mayoral candidates they’ll choose from in the February 26th primary election. 

Guy Stephens

Amtrak is set to resume passenger service across northern Illinois from Chicago to Dubuque in 2014.  Cities along the route are building new stations to handle the new Blackhawk Line. Some in Freeport see a chance to create much more than just a stop on the route.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Reverend Jesse Jackson is the next high-profile activist who plans to visit the northwest Illinois encampment known as “Bainport.” Reverend Al Sharpton spoke to the crowd of protestors based at the Stephenson County Fairgrounds in Freeport Saturday. They’ve pitched their tents across the street from Sensata Technologies, where many of them will see their last day of work two weeks from today.

Jacquilyn Stephens / WNIJ

Workers at a Freeport company that’s slated to move jobs overseas got support from Governor Pat Quinn Thursday. Their also inspiring talk of a hosting a debate on outsourcing.

A Freeport man’s appeal of a child pornography conviction was denied today by the Illinois Supreme court because he took and sent cell-phone pictures of a 17-year-old girl with whom he had sexual relations in 2008.

The pictures were found by the girl’s mother, who complained to police. Hollins was ultimately charged under child pornography provisions, which set 18 as the age of consent to be photographed in such circumstances. The age of consent for sexual activity is 17.

Landmarks Illinois

Two northern Illinois structures have made the Landmarks Illinois 2012 list of Ten Most Endangered Places. They are the Freeport City Hall in Freeport and the Fox River Country Day School in Elgin.

The list, now in its 18th year, calls attention to threatened historic resources in need of assistance in the form of responsible stewardship and/or creative reuse plans. The economic downturn, public deficits and a lack of available financing continue to challenge historic sites throughout Illinois.

WNIJ

The head of the Illinois' largest organization for lawyers says the group supports allowing cameras in courtrooms. Illinois has been one of only 14 states where cameras were limited or prohibited in trial courtrooms. The Illinois Supreme Court approved a pilot program allowing media coverage in January.  John Locallo is President of the Illinois State Bar Association.  Speaking in Freeport, he says the new policy is another step toward transparency/