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updated: 12/26/2013 10:31 AM

A look at the Fox Valley's biggest news stories in 2013

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  • The Batavia captains hoist the championship trophy following their Class 6A championship game in DeKalb.

       The Batavia captains hoist the championship trophy following their Class 6A championship game in DeKalb.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Batavia's Micah Coffey (15) brings the 6A championship trophy to his teammates after beating Richards in DeKalb.

       Batavia's Micah Coffey (15) brings the 6A championship trophy to his teammates after beating Richards in DeKalb.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Former Carpentersville Fire Chief John Schuldt

      Former Carpentersville Fire Chief John Schuldt

  • The Fox River snakes through downtown Elgin. The city is among Fox River towns working to transform their shorelines.

      The Fox River snakes through downtown Elgin. The city is among Fox River towns working to transform their shorelines.

  • Former Elgin city councilman Bob Gilliam talks about his life of service to the city and what it's been like since he was voted out of office in April.

       Former Elgin city councilman Bob Gilliam talks about his life of service to the city and what it's been like since he was voted out of office in April.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • Huntley Village President Churck Sass, with local and state dignitaries, wave checkered flags as the first vehicles roll through the westbound entrance ramp to the Jane Addams Tollway in Huntley. The $59 million, all-electronic interchange finally opened this year after 17 months of construction.

       Huntley Village President Churck Sass, with local and state dignitaries, wave checkered flags as the first vehicles roll through the westbound entrance ramp to the Jane Addams Tollway in Huntley. The $59 million, all-electronic interchange finally opened this year after 17 months of construction.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • Surrounded by family members and supporters outside the McHenry County courthouse, Jerry Casciaro announces a $25,000 reward for information about the location of Brian Carrick's body. Casciaro's son, Mario, was sentenced to 26 years in prison Thursday after being convicted of Carrick's 2002 murder earlier this year.

       Surrounded by family members and supporters outside the McHenry County courthouse, Jerry Casciaro announces a $25,000 reward for information about the location of Brian Carrick's body. Casciaro's son, Mario, was sentenced to 26 years in prison Thursday after being convicted of Carrick's 2002 murder earlier this year.
    Harry Hitzeman | Staff Photographer

  • Lisa Koziol-Ellis

      Lisa Koziol-Ellis

  • The Anvil Club in East Dundee was one of many of Tom Roeser's acquisitions in the village. Roeser has partnered with the village to spruce up downtown and has already made several property investments in town to make this happen.

       The Anvil Club in East Dundee was one of many of Tom Roeser's acquisitions in the village. Roeser has partnered with the village to spruce up downtown and has already made several property investments in town to make this happen.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • This rendering depicts the proposed Centegra Hospital-Huntley that would house 128 beds, a women's center and an emergency department. Now that a judge has thrown out a lawsuit rival health systems filed to block the hospital, construction of the $233 million facility begins next year.

      This rendering depicts the proposed Centegra Hospital-Huntley that would house 128 beds, a women's center and an emergency department. Now that a judge has thrown out a lawsuit rival health systems filed to block the hospital, construction of the $233 million facility begins next year.
    Courtesy of Centegra Health System

  • Bill Ganek, retired Algonquin village manager

      Bill Ganek, retired Algonquin village manager

  • An investor for the long-stalled Riverside Plaza development in Algonquin finally came through and construction is expected to start in January.

       An investor for the long-stalled Riverside Plaza development in Algonquin finally came through and construction is expected to start in January.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Charles Fox of Elgin, who served in the Army 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, from 1967-68, looks for the names of some of the 18 friends that were killed on one day during his service. Fox was there also for the opening ceremony for the Wall that Heals at the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin.

       Charles Fox of Elgin, who served in the Army 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, from 1967-68, looks for the names of some of the 18 friends that were killed on one day during his service. Fox was there also for the opening ceremony for the Wall that Heals at the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • James Kearns, Grafton Township Supervisor

      James Kearns, Grafton Township Supervisor

  • John Dryden, social studies teacher at Batavia High School, says the community should be asking about a survey on behaviors given to the school's students, including whether students could have incriminated themselves.

      John Dryden, social studies teacher at Batavia High School, says the community should be asking about a survey on behaviors given to the school's students, including whether students could have incriminated themselves.

  • A Kane County Sheriff's deputy was on watch outside Mill Creek Elementary after a parent launched into a rant over the way the Pledge of Allegiance was recited at the school.

       A Kane County Sheriff's deputy was on watch outside Mill Creek Elementary after a parent launched into a rant over the way the Pledge of Allegiance was recited at the school.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • Eldon Frydendall

      Eldon Frydendall

  • Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke

      Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke

 

The year 2013 saw at least a half dozen court cases across the Fox Valley came to an end, turnover in key political positions, progress on several construction projects and important property acquisitions. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair also made a trip across the pond to speak to a select group at Judson University and Batavia rejoiced when after more than 100 years its football team won the Class 6A state football championship. Those stories, and the others that follow, had all of us talking.

U-46 discrimination case lingers in court

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The eight-year-long discrimination case against Elgin Area School District U-46 continues as attorneys try to hash out an amicable agreement, avoiding an appeal of the judge's July 11 decision.

In July, Federal Judge Robert Gettleman ruled in favor of U-46 on two of the three main issues in the 2005 case, yet determined the school district discriminated against Latino students by placing them in a separate, segregated gifted program. He has called for U-46 to fix issues with the gifted program by the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

Patricia Whitten, the attorney representing U-46, said the parties need more time to come to an agreement.

The original lawsuit, filed by five black and Latino families, was prompted by U-46 changing its school boundaries in 2004 and concentrating students in neighborhood schools. The plaintiffs said the boundary changes discriminated against minorities by leaving them in inferior, overcrowded schools while sending their white peers to newer, more spacious facilities. Gettleman found in the district's favor on that issue.

His ruling about the gifted program applied to how it was run before 2009. Any changes made to the program since then will have to be factored in before U-46 corrects any inequities.

Both sides have been working behind closed doors since the July 11 ruling to reach a settlement.

The U-46 school board has not yet decided whether to appeal the judge's decision.

-- Madhu Krishnamurthy

Lauzen successfully names political ally as animal control director

Kane County Chairman Chris Lauzen lobbied the county board for nearly a year to give a political ally of his the job of Animal Control director.

Lauzen unsuccessfully tried to appoint Robert Sauceda to the job shortly after taking office as chairman.

He then created a billing manager position and had county staff hire Sauceda to fill the job. The position acted as a trial run for the director job and eventually won Sauceda the position after he demonstrated an ability to increase agency revenues.

-- James Fuller

Batavia wins Class 6A title

A championship 101 years in the making -- that's what the Batavia football team brought back from DeKalb on Nov. 30.

With a 34-14 victory over Richards at Northern Illinois' Huskie Stadium, Batavia won the Class 6A state football championship. It was the first football state title for Batavia, or any Tri-Cities high school, and the first state championship in any IHSA sport for Batavia since the school won the 1912 boys basketball state title.

The Bulldogs finished with a 13-1 record and winners of their final 12 games. They avenged their only loss to Richards in the state championship game behind three touchdown runs by Anthony Scaccia, two touchdown passes from Micah Coffey and another dominating effort by the team's defense.

"This is everything for us," junior lineman Patrick Gamble said. "Ever since '06 this has been our goal. All my friends that have grown up with, this is what we talk about, you know? In the weight room, on the track, doing our thing, all our off-season work -- everything. It's for this. It's the first state title we've had since 1912. Since our high school was created, it's our first state title. It's everything to us. It's awesome, it's unreal."

-- John Lemon

Tony Blair headlines Judson forum

Among the highlights of Judson University's 50th year was the visit by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who spoke last April at the Elgin university's third annual World Leaders Forum.

Blair followed prominent heads of state including, former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 2012 and former President George W. Bush in the inaugural year of the forum. Blair spoke of his decision to involve Great Britain in the Iraq War, and told stories about his time in office, his relationships with former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush, and his commitment to highlighting faith as a force for good. Attendees had the chance to get photos taken with him and received an autographed copy of his book.

Next year's forum will feature former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the first black woman to serve as Secretary of State, who will speak about global leadership at a March 19 community event on the university's Elgin campus.

The World Leaders Forum is Judson's largest fundraiser of the year. Half the proceeds go toward the endowment fund for an entrepreneurial studies program proposed for Judson University, and the other half pays for student scholarships.

-- Madhu Krishnamurthy

Gilliam looks back at 40 years in Elgin

Former Elgin Councilman Bob Gilliam made history in two significant ways: He was the city's first African-American councilman, and its longest-serving member.

Gilliam, who was first elected in 1973, lost his re-election bid in April.

He was hospitalized for an asthma attack in March, and spent long months in recovery, including three weeks in the intensive care unit.

Losing his seat was the best thing that ever happened to him, because until that point he had neglected his health, he said.

The most important vote he ever cast was in favor of building the water treatment plant.

He was most criticized for approving the construction of The Centre of Elgin, and regrets voting against the Grand Victoria Casino coming to Elgin.

-- Elena Ferrarin

Charlestowne Mall sold

The future of the ghost town mall began looking up at the end of 2013 as The Krausz Companies, Inc. purchased the property and promised a major revamp.

New outlets will bring more restaurants and shops and make the mall more visible from the always busy Route 64. The mall building itself will also see a redesign that will enhance entrances but make the structure smaller. The structure itself will now be known as The Quad. Construction is set to begin in April.

-- James Fuller

26-year sentence in 2002 Johnsburg murder

A judge in November sentenced Mario Casciaro to 26 years in prison after his conviction in the murder of Johnsburg teen Brian Carrick, who was last seen in December 2002 at a grocery store owned by Casciaro's parents.

Casciaro, 30, of Fox Lake, was convicted of first-degree murder in April after his first trial in 2012 ended with a hung jury. Casciaro's family railed on the sentence outside the Woodstock courthouse and vowed an appeal.

-- Harry Hitzeman

Cremains put to rest

New Kane County Coroner Rob Russell discovered the ashes of 47 cremated people sitting on dusty shelves in a storage shed when he took office in 2013. Some of the ashes were claimed by relatives, but the majority found a new resting place in a St. Charles Township cemetery vault.

Russell's push to find a respectful resting place for the ashes brought a spotlight to the problem of unclaimed human remains that local funeral homes said they also deal with. A total of 161 unclaimed cremains were buried at the site.

-- James Fuller

Judson University celebrates 50 years

Judson University marked 50 years at its Elgin campus, which today houses 17 buildings and is home to 1,170 students pursuing more than 50 different majors and minors in liberal arts, sciences and professions.

The private Christian university, situated on roughly 19 acres off Route 31, hosted various commemorative events in the fall, including bringing back members of its first graduating classes from 1964 and 1965 for a panel discussion in September during homecoming week festivities.

Anniversary celebrations included the Presidential Installation ceremony for Dr. Gene C. Crume Jr., Judson's sixth president and the Founders' Day convocation with Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington.

Judson College was founded in 1913 as the undergraduate branch of Northern Theological Seminary in Oak Brook before moving to Elgin. It was later renamed Judson University, which has a satellite campus in Rockford that offers graduate programs at night for working adults.

The university draws roughly 80 percent of its student population from the region, with the remainder coming from other states and countries.

It recently added new graduate and postgraduate level programs, including a doctorate in literacy accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Judson also now offers two new master's degrees in business administration and leadership in ministry.

-- Madhu Krishnamurthy

Turnover in St. Charles leadership

With the election of a new mayor and new city council, St. Charles residents already had plenty of turnover in their political leadership. But the election proved to be just the beginning of change. City Administrator Brian Townsend left to take a job in Schaumburg. He was replaced by Public Works Director Mark Koenen.

City officials also appointed Joe Schelstreet as the new fire chief following the retirement of Patrick Mullen. And, now, city officials will have to find a new police chief as Jim Lamkin recently decided to follow Townsend to Schaumburg.

-- James Fuller

Unrest in the Carpentersville Fire Department

The Carpentersville Fire Department had a tumultuous year marked with its longtime fire chief's abrupt retirement and strife between the village and the union that represents its full-time firefighters.

John Schuldt, fire chief since 1996, retired while under investigation for inappropriately touching two female police department employees.

He was replaced by then-police chief Al Popp, who now oversees both the police and fire departments. In the fall, the union that represents the 32 full-time firefighters complained about staffing changes tied to their new contract. The village and the union are in discussions to resolve their issues.

-- Lenore T. Adkins

Davis/Richmond lawsuit over

The creation of grade level centers in St. Charles Unit District 303 came to at least one end in 2013. A Kane County judge ruled the district did not meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind by converting the two buildings into grade level centers.

However, the judge also did not force the district to undo the transformation. Instead, the district had to development a new plan to address groups of students labeled as failing under the federal law. Appeals are still possible in the case.

-- James Fuller

Neighbor charged in Elgin townhouse murder

A felon was arrested and charged with the March murder of Lisa Koziol-Ellis, 33, a Chicago artist who had just moved to the Garden Quarter Townhouse complex on Elgin's near west side. Her murder went unsolved for more than two weeks before police arrested Paul A. Johnson, 34, who lived in the same building as Koziol-Ellis. Johnson, who was on parole at the time, broke into her home to steal a DVD player and other items and he stabbed and killed her with a screwdriver, police said. He is being held on $5 million bail, is due in court on Jan. 8, and could spend the rest of this life in prison if convicted.

-- Harry Hitzeman

Lawsuit dismissal clears way for Huntley hospital

Huntley had another big year, thanks to the dismissal of a lawsuit that clears the way for Centegra Health System to build a new hospital in the village.

In November, a Will County judge upheld a state panel's decision to let Centegra build a 128-bed hospital in the village.

Mercy Health System and Advocate Health Care filed the lawsuit and argued the hospital was a waste of money, would duplicate existing service and compete with them for patients and staff. The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board approved the hospital's construction last year and construction begins in 2014.

-- Lenore T. Adkins

Interchange completed at Route 47 and the Jane Addams Tollway in Huntley

The good news continued in Huntley in early November after its long-awaited full interchange finally opened, allowing entry and access onto Route 47 from both sides of I-90.

The $59 million, all-electronic interchange was built in 17 months and features six new ramps, a rebuilt bridge over I-90 and wider lanes on a portion of Route 47.

-- Lenore T. Adkins

Algonquin's longtime village manager retires

Bill Ganek, village manager in Algonquin for 21 years, called it a career in early 2013.

Ganek oversaw the village through its exponential residential and retail growth and is credited with solidifying the village's finances.

By a unanimous vote, the village board tapped Timothy Schloneger, the city administrator in Lockport, to replace Ganek and lead Algonquin into the future. The board of trustees honored Ganek by naming village hall after him.

-- Lenore T. Adkins

Tom Roeser plants his flag in East Dundee

The partnership between East Dundee and Tom Roeser, president and chief executive officer of Carpentersville-based Otto Engineering, to spruce up and bring more foot traffic and business to village's downtown, picked up steam this year.

Roeser started out by buying and rehabbing at least a half dozen properties in the village and he also recruited Jeff Turner, owner of In the Neighborhood Deli in Elgin, to open a location in East Dundee. Roeser also bought out the 57-year-old Anvil Club and is presently renovating that, thanks to financial assistance from East Dundee. And he is paying for a portion of the new Dundee marketing director's salary.

-- Lenore T. Adkins

Grafton Township enters peaceful era

Grafton Township in McHenry County was known more for its infighting, being on the brink of a shutdown and legal battles than it was for governance. But a new supervisor and an almost entirely new board have quickly turned things around in 2013.

The transformation started taking shape in the February primary after voters ousted Supervisor Linda Moore from office.

The new board, led by Supervisor James Kearns, sought to right the township's financial ship, and started by ending three lawsuits that involved the last administration.

The board also approved a budget that didn't cut any services and ended a complicated property transaction that dated back to 2008 and involved returning ownership of the township offices and garage from the road district to the township.

-- Lenore T. Adkins

Vietnam memorial replica in Elgin

"The Wall That Heals," a half-scale, 250-foot traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., made a four-day stop in September in Elgin. The wall has 58,249 names of veterans who died in the conflict.

Nearly 200 volunteers from across the Fox Valley, many of them veterans, took turns to keep an eye on the memorial 24 hours a day, both to serve as guides and prevent vandalism.

The traveling exhibit, a project of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, traveled to 29 sites across the country this year.

-- Elena Ferrarin

Grafton ends bus service for Rutland seniors

In a move that created friction with neighboring Rutland Township, Grafton, due to budgetary issues, eliminated bus service to the senior and disabled riders in the Rutland portion of Huntley's Sun City.

That was due to Rutland's inaction to help keep the rides going -- they had been using the service since 2007 without making any financial contributions.

In the end, Huntley stepped up and used its allotment for Rutland riders to hire a cab service that takes them around the village. That service will continue until the money runs out. There is no permanent solution on the table.

-- Lenore T. Adkins

Progress made at Algonquin's Riverside Plaza

The four-year battle to begin construction on Riverside Plaza in downtown Algonquin finally saw some light.

Officials announced that the developer, John Breugelmans, secured $11 million to develop the building into 63 luxury apartments, 9,600 square feet of retail space on the ground floor and parking.

The building, at the corner of Route 31 and Route 62 in the heart of downtown Algonquin, remained unfinished since 2009 and became an eyesore after the original developer defaulted on his loans and terminated its construction.

Officials herald the building as a key component to downtown Algonquin's rebirth, as it will increase the number of people living, eating and shopping there.

-- Lenore T. Adkins

A look at life on the Fox River

Towns along the Fox River were born not as suburbs, but as independent towns that boomed in the late 1800s thanks to local industries that sprouted along the railways that flanked the river.

These towns faced challenges as those industries closed or relocated throughout the 20th century, but are now rediscovering the river as a source of attraction and economic growth.

In Elgin, where Gail Borden Public Library and Festival Park boast eye-catching views of the Fox River, the long-awaited rebuilding of Riverside Drive is almost done.

Algonquin has developed two parks along the river and wants to foster recreation opportunities such as kayaking and paddle boating. Geneva and Batavia are working to turn the shoreline into more of an attraction, and St. Charles recognized the Fox River as a key to drawing people to its downtown.

Downtown neighborhood groups and associations also have played a key role in pushing for lasting river improvements.

-- Elena Ferrarin

Elgin charter school plan inches forward

The Elgin Math and Science Charter School Initiative's plan for a charter school inched forward slightly in 2013.

The group continues to work on an application for a kindergarten through eighth-grade charter school, which will likely be submitted to the Elgin Area School District U-46 school board by early next year.

The proposal must first be vetted by the U-46's charter school review committee, the school board and the community before going to the state for approval. The targeted date for the school opening is fall 2015.

The group proposing the charter has been working for more than a year and a half to research charter schools. Leaders are working to choose a nonprofit management organization to run the school.

A location also needs to be determined. Group leaders have been eyeing a 53-acre, wooded campus that used to house the Fox River Country Day School on Route 25, north of Interstate 90, in Elgin.

The charter school initiative has received support from the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.

If approved by the U-46 school board and the state, the Elgin charter school would have open enrollment for all students and serve as an option for students who don't have the scores to get into U-46's gifted or academy programs, or have the need for special education.

-- Madhu Krishnamurthy

Campton Hills rejects rehab center

After months of debate, the Campton Hills village board voted in January 4-2 to reject a proposed drug rehabilitation facility proposed for a 120-acre former Glenwood School for Boys. Opponents of the 96-bed drug treatment center were worried about security, the effect it could have on property values and damage to the village's image. Officials from the Kiva Recovery Center said it was a private facility for recovering professionals. Kiva officials later pulled the plug on plans to go to the Kane County Board for approval instead.

-- Harry Hitzeman

Slaying ends Aurora murderless streak

The Jan. 31 hammer beating death of Abigail Villalpando, 18, of West Aurora, was the first murder in Aurora since late 2011. The last time Aurora had a homicide-free year was 1946. Three men are charged in her death, in which police say she was hit seven times with a hammer, her body rolled up in a rug and later burned, along with her car. Court documents also allege two of the men were burning her body in a barrel when Villalpando's brother called them, accusing them of playing a role in her disappearance. Her charred remains were found in Montgomery.

-- Harry Hitzeman

Larkin Center closes

The Larkin Center in Elgin closed, with just two day's notice, in October, after 117 years of helping children. The agency, which started as an orphanage, provided mental-health services to children and young adults, in residential and outpatient settings, including a day school. Officials said the center did not have enough money to keep operating. Lawrence Hall Youth Services of Chicago and the Ecker Center for Mental Health in Elgin took over some of the center's programs.

-- Susan Sarkauskas

Flap over school pledge

Civil liberties advocate, or a danger to others? Kane County Sheriff's deputies were called Jan. 8 to Mill Creek Elementary School near Geneva, after the father of two students protested a school pledge children were asked to make. Children are asked to promise to obey the school's teachers and rules. He also said they omitted the word "liberty" from the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag.

Colin McGroarty of Rockford was accused by the Geneva school district of first disrupting the school day by protesting the pledge; he was volunteering at the school.

The district then told police McGroarty sent a threatening email that evening to district and school officials, and other parents, and posted the same message on his Facebook page: "I've shed blood for this country and will do so again if necessary," he wrote.

McGroarty, an Army veteran, is passionate about democracy, the Constitution and individual freedom. He questioned why students were being taught to pledge obedience blindly, likening the practice to that of the Hitler Youth. When he was not allowed to speak to the principal about his concerns, the district said he told the students he was working to question blind obedience and to ask their parents about the Nazis.

He was banned from district property. No criminal charges were filed.

-- Susan Sarkauskas

Teacher causes ruckus over survey

Civil liberties were on the local front page again in May, when a Batavia High School teacher got in trouble for reminding his students that they had a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination before administering a school survey about students' emotions and behaviors, including drug use.

Social studies teacher John Dryden had many supporters, online and in person, who criticized the secrecy surrounding the survey questions, why the school was doing the survey, who was compiling and storing the data and the district's sanctions against Dryden.

He was suspended for a day, and reprimanded by the school board. Conditions were placed on his continued employment, including that he not use sarcasm or make flippant remarks to students; that he not discredit district policy or curriculum; and that he refrain from making statements that would tend to dissuade students from performing in district activities or initiatives. The board also characterized Dryden's statement to students as the giving of legal advice, and told him not to do that.

-- Susan Sarkauskas

Elburn Station approved

The annexation agreement for Elburn Station, a mixed-use development that could double the population of Elburn, was approved by the Elburn village board in March. That vote then cleared the way for the developer to give a right of way to Kane County so it could build the Anderson Road extension, including a pass over the Union Pacific railroad tracks, from Route 38 to Hughes Road.

-- Susan Sarkauskas

Really big magnet

Science fans, and the merely curious, turned out to see a giant electromagnet move through the suburbs, from Lemont to Batavia, where it ended up on the Fermilab campus.

The circular 17-ton device came from Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York by barge and truck on a journey that took a little over a month in June and July and cost about $3.5 million.

Fermilab officials said it would have cost 10 times that to build the ring from scratch. It will be used to study muons' magnetic strength and their gyrations.

-- Susan Sarkauskas

Mooseheart anniversary

Mooseheart, the Child City and School, turned 100 in July. Officials estimated that it had served at least 12,000 children. At the anniversary ceremony, to which the public, alumni and Loyal Order of Moose members were welcome, it broke ground on a $10 million renovation of its school building.

-- Susan Sarkauskas

Batavia mayor keeps on chugging along

Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke continued to reign as the longest-serving mayor in Kane County, as he was elected to a ninth term in April. He was unopposed. But the Batavia City Council's longest-serving alderman, 32-year Alderman Eldon Frydendall, was defeated. Six of the seven aldermen elected are first-timers.

In the same election, Sugar Grove voters advised the village they wanted it to allow video gambling.

-- Susan Sarkauskas

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