Winnebago County

Mayo Clinic News Network

Government officials in Winnebago County announced Tuesday they are taking aim at the pharmaceutical industry in the fight against opioid abuse. 


Rockford and County officials said they intend to pursue legal action against companies they believe helped enable the growing opioid addiction crisis. 


A referendum proposing that the Winnebago County Clerk and Recorder offices be combined will appear on the March ballot.

The Winnebago County Board voted 14 to 4 last week to put the question on the March primary ballot. County Board Chairman Frank Haney says merging the offices might save the county money over time.

He says the idea hasn’t been controversial, and the board’s priority is to serve residents in the best way at the best possible cost. Generally, the County Clerk handles election responsibilities whereas the County Recorder keeps property ownership records.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Police are still looking for a man accused of shooting a Winnebago County sheriff's deputy last weekend.

Deputy Stephen Wright was shot in the back and shoulder early Saturday morning during a traffic stop near southwest Rockford. Detectives identified 27-year-old Jordan Spates of Rockford as a suspect. They conducted a massive manhunt much of Saturday in wooded areas near the site of the shooting, including Klehm Arboretum.

Winnebago County

Winnebago County may have to pay New Milford $300,000 because of bureaucratic oversight. 

The Rockford Register Star reports the County agreed to reduce the amount of money it charges Groot Industries to dump garbage at Winnebago Landfill from $3.47 per ton to $2.47 per ton. Concurrent with this deal, it also agreed to reduce landfill hosting fee payments to the village from 20 cents per ton to 14 cents.

Winnebago County

Former Winnebago County purchasing director Sally Claassen has finished paying back around $440,000 she embezzled from Winnebago County. 

She stole the money in 2014 and 2015 and was the subject of an FBI investigation. One year later, she pleaded guilty to two counts of theft from a program receiving federal funds.

The Belvidere School District will open a health and wellness center for its employees July 10 in a district building at Sixth Street and East Avenue.  

It will be operated by Activate Healthcare and provide several services to employees who accept the district's insurance program, the Rockford Register Star reports.

Unlimited primary care services, annual health assessments, health coaching, and generic medications are included at no cost. 

Jessie Schlacks / WNIJ

The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office said it has used the opioid reversal drug Narcan more than a dozen times so far this year.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Winnebago County’s Sheriff dropped the idea Thursday of allowing the federal government to house immigration detainees in his jail. Gary Caruana said Immigration and Customs Enforcement was not able to agree to his terms.

In exchange for committing a portion of the jail to the federal prisoners, guarding them, and caring for them, ICE would have paid the county a daily per-prisoner fee; $80 was one figure mentioned frequently during discussions. 



Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

The Winnebago County Coroner's Office has been working for most of the past year to identify decomposed human remains which were found in a garbage can outside an apartment building on Market Street in Rockford in July.

The coroner's office later determined it was a middle-aged Caucasian male. Tests indicate lower-spine degeneration, which means the man may have walked a lot.

Flickr User Doug McAbee/CC 2.0

High winds caused a variety of damage in several areas of northern Illinois yesterday. 

Splintered trees and pieces of sheet metal littered ditches along the 7900 and 8000 blocks of North Rockton Avenue in rural Rockford, the Rockford Register Star reports. The winds were also strong enough to rip part of the roof off of a large shed.

ComEd also reports almost 1,200 customers are without power in the area.  

Winnebago County's newest board chairman has released a 60 day review looking at financial and policy concerns facing county government.  It's part of Frank Haney's campaign pledge to implement the "ACT Initiative" to bolster accountability, collaboration, and transparency. 

According to the document, the review "is a starting point in which to build on and not intended to be a complete or final analysis."

Village of Rockton, Illinois

Discussion continues over a proposed asphalt plant at Black's Quarry near Rockton.  

The Rockford Register-Star reports Northern Illinois Service Co. wants a special use permit to build the facility.  However, residents are concerned about disruptive effects of the plant, including a lowering of property values and poor smell.

Suspect In 2011 Rockford Death Found Guilty

Jan 12, 2017
Susan Stephens/ WNIJ

Winnebago County's State's Attorney announced the jury's guilty verdict of Luis Eduardo Anaya.

The 28-year-old was convicted of First Degree Murder and Aggravated Discharge of a Firearm in the death of Brandon Wright, according to a news release. 

Wright was found shot Nov. 12, 2011, after a car left the road and hit a tree near Linden Rd and Perryville Rd.

Witnesses say the victim was part of a group involved in a fight earlier in the evening at a Rockford business. 

Ben Jacobson/CC 2.5

One of the main arguments Great Lakes Basin Transportation Inc. has made in favor of its rail project is that it would act as an economic driver for the region.  Company lawyer Mike Blaszak says construction would create a significant number of jobs.

"Those of course, would be temporary," he said, "but the construction period would last at least two years."

Once the railroad is in operation, he envisions a smaller set of permanent positions operating trains, maintaining track, and other daily functions. 

Village of Rockton, Illinois

Discussions surrounding a proposed asphalt plant near Rockton were pushed back to January. 

Northern Illinois Service Co. had filed for a special use permit to build the plant on unincorporated land at Black’s Quarry.  However, more than 100 Rockton residents voiced their opposition at a five-hour Winnebago County Zoning Board of Appeals meeting Wednesday. 

Village of Rockton, Illinois

More than 100 Rockton-area residents packed into Rockford's Veterans Memorial Hall for a Winnebago County Zoning Board of Appeals meeting.  Over the course of five hours, they voiced their objections to the construction of an asphalt plant near the village.   

Democrat Dan Fellars will be the Winnebago County Board member for District 19.  Preliminary election results had had incumbent Republican John Guevara in the lead.  However, the county recently certified the race's mail-in ballots.  They put Fellars ahead by 47 votes.  

The Rockford Register-Star reports Guevara isn’t ruling out a recount.  If the results stand, the board will have 12 Republicans and 8 Democrats.  

Great Lakes Basin Railroad EIS Filing

Great Lakes Basin Transportation Inc. provided daily traffic estimates on segments of its proposed railroad.  

The project would run from Rock County, Wisconsin through six Illinois counties in order to bypass congested  Chicago freight lines.  

Republican Frank Haney won the race for Winnebago County Chairman over Democrat John Nelson.  With all precincts reporting, Haney beat Nelson by nearly seven thousand votes.  

Nelson led from the start and for much of the evening.  He amassed a big numerical margin in Rockford but Haney built a lead in the rest of the county as the night wore on to first narrow the gap and then surpass Nelson. 

Incumbent Chairman Scott Christiansen did not seek re-election. 

The Winnebago County Board unanimously approved a resolution Thursday opposing the construction of the Great Lakes Basin Railroad.

The 261-mile railroad would pass through six Illinois counties and into Rock County, Wisconsin, to bypass congested Chicago freight lines. .  However, opposition groups have formed in many of the affected counties, including a group which claims more than 14,000 members in Winnebago County. 

Residents of Winnebago County opposed to the Great Lakes Basin Railroad will try to meet with the  county board tonight.

The 260-mile long railroad would pass through six Illinois counties into Rock County, Wisconsin in order to bypass congested Chicago freight yards.  However, opposition groups have sprung up, mostly over concerns about the rail’s effects on private land.   Winnebago group member Lana Daley says some county boards, have drafted resolutions opposing the project, but not hers.

Great Lakes Basin Transportation, Inc.

Opposition to the Great Lakes Basin Railroad Project is growing in Winnebago County, but its true effect on property value may not be known for a while. 

The 260-mile line would cross through Winnebago County on its way between Wisconsin and Indiana, bypassing congested Chicago freight yards.  Various property owners have raised opposition to the project -- particularly farm owners.  Illinois Certified Appraiser Charles Davidson says that’s due to the railroad’s potential effect on property value and function.    

Great Lakes Basin Transportation, Inc.

Hundreds of Winnebago Township residents protested the latest proposal for the Great Lakes Basin Railroad.

The 260-mile route would pass through several parts of Winnebago County in order to bypass Chicago freight traffic.  However, the Rockford Register-Star reports residents are concerned the route could pass through their farmland or have a negative effect on wildlife. 

Great Lakes Basin Transportation, Inc.

Great Lakes Basin Transportation Inc. unveiled a proposal for an alternative rail route that wouldn't run through Boone County.  

The company originally proposed a 281-mile railway that would bypass Chicago's congested freight lines.  However, this plan faced opposition from Boone County residents.  A letter opposing the project cited loss of livability, land, and water quality, as well as an increase in noise and insurance costs. 

Four Bodies Identified In Rockford House Fire

Sep 19, 2016

The Winnebago County Coroner’s Office identified four victims of a Saturday house fire in Rockford.  

27-year-old Keandra Austin, 6-year-old Keeryn Austin, 9-year-old Deangalo Totty, and 6-month-old Aliya Beasley-Austin were found dead in their house at 2815 Garfield Drive.

A federal judge sentenced Sally Claassen to two years in federal prison and one year of supervised release.


She must also pay more than $445,000 in restitution and fines.

Claassen allegedly siphoned nearly a half million dollars from Winnebago County between 2014 and 2015.

County administrators have said she used her county-issued credit card to buy personal items, including resort vacations and kitchen renovations.

Claassen ran the county's Purchasing department for a little more than 18 years.

Federal prosecutors are seeking jail time for a former Winnebago County purchasing director accused of embezzlement. 

Sally Claassen allegedly siphoned $451,353 from the county between 2014 and 2015. 

She’s accused of using the money to remodel her kitchen and pay for vacations to Marco Island and Amelia Island in Florida. 

Winnebago County’s Finance Committee failed to agree on a balanced budget Tuesday.  

The county has a deficit of more than $7 million. Officials say this is due to increased employee salaries, as well as funds paid out by arbitration.  They say one example is that since police aren't allowed to strike, an arbitration court decides the amount awarded in the case of an impasse.  

  South Beloit is debating whether to contract police services with the Winnebago County Sheriff's Department. 

The option is being considered due to a continuing drop in city revenue. 

The Rockford Register-Star reports South Beloit collected about $700,000 less in sales taxes this year compared with 2008. 

Coroner's Office Still Stumped By Body Found In Trash Can

Aug 25, 2016

The Winnebago County Coroner’s Office still doesn’t know the gender or cause of death for a body found in a garbage can on Market Street last month.

Bill Hintz is the office’s Deputy Coroner. He says several efforts are working to get more information on the decomposed body.  

“It’s going to be definitely challenging with the condition of the person. But we are hoping – with the technology the way it is these does -- we’re hoping that toxicology might help a little bit," Hintz said.