Some things to watch in Lake County in 2013
Road construction, high-profile criminal trials, a major business departure and local politics will be among the stories to watch for in 2013 in Lake County.
Graded "F" by transportation officials, the intersection of Rollins Road and Route 83 in Round Lake Beach will be frequented by construction crews in 2013. To untangle the mess, Rollins will be redone and dropped beneath a bridge that will be built to carry railroad tracks there as part of the complicated $37 million project.
A railroad crossing at Rollins is only 90 feet west of Route 83, often creating fist-pounding delays as 50 commuter and freight trains a day pre-empt the traffic signals.
"It takes typically three to five cycles after the train leaves for those signals to get back into coordination," said Al Giertych, assistant county engineer.
One construction project commuters dreaded when 2012 arrived was at Route 137 and Milwaukee Avenue in Libertyville. That mess will remain something to keep an eye out for in 2013.
Following is a quick spin around other stories on the docket in the coming year:
• Daniel Baker, 24, was found guilty but mentally ill of murdering the mother of his Vernon Hills girlfriend in early November, but sentencing of the Deerfield man still remains to be completed.
Lake County Circuit Judge Daniel Shanes, who ruled in late November that Baker does not deserve a new trial, is scheduled to hold a sentencing hearing Jan. 9.
• A new trial for Sandra Rogers, 56, could hit a courtroom in the first part of 2013.
Rogers, currently serving a 30-year-sentence for attempting to murder her ex-husband, was awarded a new trial in May 2012 after attorneys were blamed for withholding evidence in the nearly 10-year-old case.
The trial was initially expected to go on in November, but was delayed by defense lawyers.
• James Ealy's long-anticipated murder trial is projected to go in 2013.
Ealy, now 47, is accused of strangling Mary Hutchinson to death on Nov. 27, 2006, at a Burger King in Lindenhurst. Delays due to evidence suppression have prevented the case from going to trial for nearly seven years, but prosecutors are predicting that could happen in March.
• Montago Suggs has been incarcerated in Lake County jail since May 2007 for killing Round Lake Park resident Melinda Morell, 22, at a Waukegan Check n' Go.
Authorities accuse Suggs of entering the store near closing time, demanding money, then shooting Morell in the back of the head after she handed him $2,000. The case has been working its way through the court process and the trial finally may start in January.
Libertyville is expected to wave goodbye to Motorola Mobility.
Motorola Mobility is bolting Libertyville for downtown Chicago. The mobile telephone maker, under parent company Google Inc., announced it'll move its entire workforce to new Merchandise Mart headquarters by late 2013.
Some experts say there should be concern in Lake County about Motorola Mobility's pending move.
"A move like this has a tremendous effect on the local economy, and (it) could easily affect the surrounding hotels and affect those jobs," said Joe McInerney, president and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
"It's a blow to the community in terms of tax dollars as well."
April local elections
Just when you're coming up for air from the November election, a whole new batch of political candidates will be out there in early spring.
Lake County mayors, village board trustees, school board members and township officials will be among those on the April 9 ballot.
Mayors Kristina Kovarik of Gurnee, Terry Weppler of Libertyville, James Dietz of Round Lake, Linda Soto of Hainesville and Rhett Taylor of Grayslake are among the incumbents looking to retain their high-profile seats.
Plans to upgrade and expand Westfield Hawthorn mall in Vernon Hills were proposed in spring 2012, but 2013 may be when work finally gets started.
Westfield and Vernon Hills officials in late 2012 began talking about a financial incentive package that could lead to the improvements. In April 2012, Westfield proposed what could be a $40 million to $50 million upgrade of the mall at routes 60 and 21 to include a new entrance between Sears and JCPenney, with new restaurants there situated beneath a 12-screen theater.
As outlined, the three other mall entrances would also be upgraded and some adjacent spaces filled with new uses. Westfield initially has requested $7.5 million in incentives over 20 years, and the village is asking for information the company considers confidential and/or proprietary to evaluate.
Westfield asked Vernon Hills to find a way to keep its sensitive information confidential as part of the process.
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