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State Representative Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) is hoping to infuse some common sense into the discussion of township road district consolidation by requiring a cost analysis to determine if consolidation proposals will actually save taxpayers money.

HB 4190, filed in Springfield this week, serves as a trailer bill to clarify two pieces of legislation approved earlier this year. The bill would require a cost study be conducted before a township’s trustees could take action to put a consolidation proposal before voters. “People seek consolidation because they want lower taxes. I fully support consolidation that results in lower taxes,” said Reick. “But consolidation just for the sake of consolidation- when taxes don’t go down or possibly would actually increase- that is not in the best interest of taxpayers. We need this additional layer of transparency so trustees and voters are acting on a full set of facts.”

Specifically, Reick’s HB 4190 would amend the Illinois Highway Code by providing that before a township may submit a referendum to abolish a road district, the township must prepare through an independent contractor a cost study that demonstrates the abolishment is cost-effective and that the township which would assume the road district responsibilities is capable of carrying out the duties performed by the road district slated for elimination. Any consulting firm with an existing agreement for services in the township in question or in the county where the township is located would be prohibited from conducting the study.

“SB 03 and HB 607 were both signed into law in August of this year, but neither includes this additional step of transparency” Reick said. “Consolidation does not necessarily equate to lower taxes because services must still be provided. Before asking taxpayers to make a decision at the ballot box, trustees need to ensure that a successful vote won’t have unforeseen negative consequences on people’s property tax bills.”

HB 4190 is awaiting assignment to a substantive committee, and Reick is hopeful it will receive fair consideration when lawmakers return to Springfield at the end of January.
State Rep. Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) visited Woodstock High School Tuesday, Dec. 12 to get a firsthand look at how high school students are using STEM in the classroom and what it means for their future.

Reick recently visited Prairiewood Elementary School for their Hour of Code event and said he wanted to see how these technology lessons translated for students once they entered later grades. “I’m really interested in developing technical training because there’s a crying need for it,” Reick said. “These are the things that are going to drive innovation.”

Reick visited the metals manufacturing lab, an automotive lab and an engineering classroom and spoke with students and teachers including Jason Huber, Jeff Griffith and Steven Thompson, chair of the career and technical training department at Woodstock High School. Huber explained that the goal behind the course offering is to give students some real world training to prepare them for current and future STEM related jobs. “That’s the call of McHenry County - for more manufacturing jobs, so we’re trying to build that pipeline,” Huber said.

Some students already have internships with Scot Forge and other area manufacturing companies and some classes translate into college credits.

Reick said he’s seen educational technology demonstrations in Springfield but said the personal visit to Woodstock High School had a big impact on him. “Education is more than just teaching them to read and getting them into college,” Reick said. “I couldn’t be more impressed.”
With the year-long Bicentennial celebration underway, let’s find out just how much you know about Illinois’ history. Take this quiz and learn how much you know about Illinois' past. Click here to start the quiz.
The charitable arm of the Illinois Farm Bureau is offering agriculture students and Illinois Farm Bureau families an opportunity to apply for 76 college scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $7,500 per college year. A total of $144,800 will be awarded for the 2018-2019 collegiate year.

The application deadline for these monetary awards is February 1, 2018. The scholarships include three Illinois Agriculture Association (IAA) Foundation Top Scholarships of $5,000 each, and an Illinois Farm Bureau Legacy of Leadership scholarship of $7,500. In addition , several family scholarships often established to honor loved ones are available, and the IAA Foundation offers scholarships on behalf of such organizations as Prairie Farms Dairy and the Illinois Soybean Association.

Eligible applicants must be high school seniors who have been accepted into or students already enrolled at an accredited college, university or community college. Scholarships are awarded for exceptional academic ability, leadership and financial need. Previous winners may reapply for the duration of their college education. Click here to view a full list of available scholarships and to review the eligibility and application guidelines.
Illinois’ Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps eligible low-income households pay for winter energy services. The program’s heat and electric assistance is a one-time benefit payment per heating season. The amount received depends upon household size, income and energy costs.

A household is eligible for heating assistance through LIHEAP if the combined income is at or below the levels shown in the accompanying chart. For more information on this program in McHenry County, please contact the McHenry County Housing Authority at (815) 338-7752.
This week I visited Prairiewood Elementary School in Woodstock and watched an incredibly bright group of students engage in computerized learning activities in observance of the international “Hour of Code,” which is part of Computer Science Education Week.

I was impressed (and admittedly a bit humbled) as I watched students program games and do other levels of computer code work. It was a bridge activity, with high school students from Woodstock High School on hand to lend additional expertise. I appreciated the invitation and the opportunity to observe this unique learning activity which brought older and younger students together in the classroom.
With the Christmas season in full swing, there are many opportunities for families to gather for fun at local events in and around the 63rd District. To help you navigate all that northern McHenry County has to offer, I have compiled a list of some events that will take place between now and the end of the year. And if you haven’t yet gotten your Christmas Tree and plan to visit a cut-your-own tree farm, I’ve also included a list of many places that offer a beautiful assortment of trees, wreaths and other holiday items.

Crystal Lake
Sing-Along Messiah with Voices in Harmony: Sunday, December 10 at 4:00 pm. Handel's "Messiah" performed by Voices in Harmony. Raue Center For The Arts, 26 N. Williams Street, Crystal Lake.

Christmas Bedtime Stories: Tuesday, December12, from 6:00 to 7:00 pm and Friday, December 15 from 6:00 to 7:00 pm and 7:15 to 8:15 pm. Come join Mrs. Claus for an evening of activities, stories and treats! We'll hear about the North Pole, sing songs and maybe even get a special visitor to stop by! Come dressed in your PJ's and bring your favorite blanket and stuffed animal for a cozy night. Please register all siblings. Rotary Building, 431 N. Walkup, Crystal Lake.

The Nutcracker Ballet: Performances Saturday, December 16 at 1:00 pm and 5:00 pm and Sunday, December 17 at 1:00 pm. Audience members will hear Tchaikovsky's unforgettable music, witness emotional dancing and view lavish costumes when the incredible Nutcracker Ballet returns to Raue Center's stage. Raue Center For The Arts, 26 N. Williams Street, Crystal Lake.

Home for the Holidays: Performances December 22, 23, 29, 30 at 8:00 pm and December 23 at 3:00 pm. Bring the whole family and celebrate the holidays with Raue Center and WSRep with their fun, family-friendly and festive show. Reminisce with WSRep Ensemble members, the WSRep Comedy troupe and other local favorites in this homegrown holiday special. Raue Center For The Arts, 26 N. Williams Street, Crystal Lake.

A Rockin’ New Year’s Eve with Jimmy Nick and Don’t Tell Mama: Sunday, December 31 from 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm. Join us as we welcome in the New Year with an amazing evening of Rock and Roll. Your musical host for the Evening is Jimmy Nick and he'll be joined on stage by his band Don't Tell Mama. Jimmy Nick combines his massive talent and stage theatrics with high-energy blues and rock and roll for one of the best live shows around. Raue Center For The Arts, 26 N. Williams Street, Crystal Lake.

Historic Holidays Open House: Saturday, December 16 Drop-in Noon–4:00 p.m.
Experience holiday preparations from days of old. Step back in time to visit the 1854 restored Greek Revival, Powers-Walker House and watch volunteers in historical attire preparing for winter and the holidays in the mid-19th century. Glacial Park, Powers-Walker House, Rt. 31 & Harts Road, Ringwood.

Holiday Cookie Workshop: Saturday, December 16 from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. Holiday Time! Time to prepare the holiday cookies for giving and enjoying throughout the season. Loyola Univeristy Chicago Retreat and Ecology Campus, 2710 S. Country Club Road, Woodstock.

The Nutcracker Ballet: December 9 through December 17. Performances at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Come enjoy the magic of the holiday season as the Judith Svalander Dance Theatre transforms the Opera House stage into a realm of fantasy. Woodstock Opera House, 121 Van Buren Street, Woodstock.

McHenry County Made: Saturday, December 9 from 10 am to 7:00 pm. Shopping local this holiday season? This is the area’s premiere holiday fair celebrating handcraft, food, beverages and art made here, from the ground up, by hand and from the heart. Mixin Mingle, Cass Street on the Historic Woodstock Square.

Hooved Animal Humane Society Holiday Party and Craft Fair: Saturday, December 9 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. The Hooved Animal Humane Society is hosting their annual Holiday Party and Craft fair. Admission is free! Hooved Animal Human Society, 10804 McConnell Road, Woodstock.

Spring Grove
New Year’s Eve Party: Sunday, December 31 from 8 pm to 1:00 am. Are you looking to countdown the New Year in style? Ring in 2018 at The Shores of Turtle Creek, and dance the night away. The Shores of Turtle Creek, 7908 Winn Road, Spring Grove.

Christmas Tree Farms in McHenry County
Share the magic of cutting your own tree. Did you know McHenry County harvests more fresh Christmas trees than anywhere else in the state? Most locations open the day after Thanksgiving and are open through Christmas Eve. All provide saws and offer assistance if needed. Some locations also have pre-cut trees. They’ll shake and bale your tree and help you secure it to your car for the ride home. Time to plan your trip to a McHenry County tree farm!
  • Ben’s Christmas Tree Farm – Nine varieties of organically-grown, pesticide-free trees from 6-15 feet: Fir, spruce and pine. Handmade wreaths and garlands, available at the farm, may also be ordered online for delivery anywhere in the continental United States. Horse-drawn wagon rides, gift shop, Santa Claus, farm animals, free cocoa and coffee.
  • Bill’s Friendly Evergreen Tree Farm – Six varieties of pine, spruce and fir. Family owned and operated for 20 years, this farm offers a backwoods feel where Christmas trees and customer service are the main focus.
  • Cal & Shan’s Christmas Tree Farm, – 10 varieties of spruce, fir and pine and rooted live trees for planting after Christmas. Gift shop.
  • Conifera Christmas Tree Farm – Four varieties of large choose-and-cut spruce and pre-cut premium grade Fraser and Balsam Fir, as well as live potted trees, wreaths and garland.
  • Grandpa’s Christmas Tree Farm –Dozens of varieties of trees in every shape and size. Open the Friday-Sunday after Thanksgiving only. Free cocoa and coffee, and tractor-drawn wagon rides.
  • Holly Jolly Tree Farm – U-cut Scotch pine, plus pre-cut Frasier fir. Petting zoo, wagon rides, gift shop and free cocoa. Contact: 815.385.9627.
  • M & M Christmas Tree Farm – You choose and cut or you choose and they cut from seven varieties of spruce, fir and pine trees. Contact: 847.275.8720.
  • Moehling Christmas Tree Farm – Choose from 8,000 spruce, fir and pine trees. Visit Santa’s workshop and craft vendors selling homemade gifts in the warming barn.
  • Oney’s Tree Farm – The oldest and largest tree farm in Northern Illinois, with more more than 60,000 trees on 60 acres. U-cut, pre-cut or rooted-for-later-planting in nine varieties of fir, pine and spruce. Weekend horse-drawn wagon rides, bakery, lunch, cocoa, Mrs. Claus in her North Pole house, wreaths, garlands, decorations and gifts.
  • Pine-Apple Tree Farm – Ten acres of you-cut spruce, pine and fir, plus pre-cut Wisconsin Frazier Fir.
  • Pioneer Tree Farm – Organically-grown pine, juniper, spruce and fir. Tractor-drawn wagon rides, free cocoa and coffee in the warming house and handmade decorations.
  • Richardson’s Tree Farm – More than 50,000 trees with seven varieties of spruce, pine and fir on 75 acres. Fresh donuts and kettle corn, free cocoa and coffee in the heated barn with indoor restrooms, wreaths, garlands and decorations. Tractor-drawn wagon rides on weekends.
  • Triple K Pines – You choose and cut from five varieties of spruce and pine. Also Christmas wreaths, garlands, holiday decorations, free hot cider, gift shop.
I hope you are able to enjoy time with family, friends and loved ones during this blessed time of year. It is an honor to serve as your State Representative, and I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas!