As 2013 winds down, The Sun once again takes a quick look back at some of the trials and tribulations, triumphs and tragedies that drew our attention this year.
Here are 10 of the stories that predominated on our pages since last Jan. 1, in no particular order:
A good first run
The inaugural Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon and Half Marathon, held on a crisp Sunday morning in early November, attracted 2,524 runners to a pair of routes that swirled through the southern half of Naperville, starting and finishing on the downtown campus of North Central College.
The event was marked by an unexpected emergency that evaded tragedy, thanks to a group of Good Samaritans. When Geneva resident Steve Sloma collapsed near the six-mile mark on the course, two nurses who work at Edward Hospital led an effort that later was credited with sparing the 38-year-old runner from succumbing to cardiac arrest.
The event was also a run for the money. Organizers hoped to collect donations of $20,000 to $25,000 for distribution among local charities, but wound up tallying more than $280,000 for more than two dozen local nonprofits.
The city’s second annual marathon has been set for Nov. 9, 2014.
Exacting a toll
Fatal heroin overdoses escalated in DuPage and Will counties this year.
After numbering 38 in 2012, the death toll in DuPage stood at 45 for the first nine months of this year. In Will County, the total showing on the coroner’s website was 64, with eight weeks left to go in 2013.
County and municipal officials are responding to the alarming trend, allocating new funds for programs aimed at education, treatment and prevention, and more community members are stepping up to help pull away the shackles of stigma that have kept residents from discussing the problem.
Kindergarten became a bigger commitment for some of Naperville’s youngest learners this year.
School District 203 launched an option in August enabling families with children in its seven Title One schools — defined by the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch — to have their children attend kindergarten for the full school day. In early November, the school board agreed to extend the alternative to all 14 elementary campuses, beginning in 2014-15.
Board President Jackie Romberg said the unanimous decision reflected “a very, very deliberative and thoughtful approach by our administrators.”
The district spent $1.2 million this year to implement the program in the first seven schools and projects a $1.3 million expense for adding on the other seven. The yearly cost to run the program, which will put District 203 on par with the options offered now for kindergartners in Indian Prairie District 204 and other area school systems, is pegged at slightly less than $2 million.
Residents near the West Branch of the DuPage River were hit particularly hard by a deluge that saturated the area with six to eight inches of rain April 17 and 18. School Districts 203 and 204 cancelled classes, motorists were stranded, hundreds of basements in the city flooded, and four bridges spanning the swollen waterway closed for a time.
Homes in the Cress Creek subdivision and residents of far west Lisle were among those that took on the most water, putting massive heaps of ruined carpeting and furniture at the curb when garbage haulers made their rounds the following week.
The catastrophic flooding qualified residents and business owners in DuPage and Will counties for federal funding relief and prompted Naperville to accelerate planned improvements to the storm drainage system in some areas of town.
Medicinal smoke signals
Naperville officials took a close look at their preferences for locating and regulating the facilities that will produce and sell marijuana when the substance becomes legal to use with a prescription on Jan. 1. The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act allows local municipalities to adopt more stringent rules than those laid out by the state, but they cannot outlaw the facilities.
The City Council on Dec. 17 passed a set of guidelines that restrict dispensaries to community shopping center, general commercial and health services zoning districts. Cultivation centers, to be allowed as a conditional use, will be permitted in districts zoned for research and development; office, research and light industrial; and industrial uses. Neither type of facility will be permitted in the city’s downtown retail area.
The council opted against a prohibition on drive-up windows at the dispensaries, although several members had expressed reservations about allowing them.
Road work ahead
The Illinois Department of Transportation went full speed ahead during the fall on its massive overhaul of Route 59 in Naperville. Stretching nearly 3 1/2 miles, the $85 million project reaches from Aurora Avenue to Ferry Road and will include new lanes, intersection upgrades, additional sidewalks, noise abatement walls and assorted utility improvements.
IDOT has suspended work in much of the construction zone to ease holiday traffic, although some lane closures have remained in effect.
The endeavor is expected to be finished sometime in fall 2015.
Water Street work to flow
A critical piece of Naperville’s downtown commercial landscape took on a defined blueprint this year when the Water Street project garnered the City Council’s blessing.
The urban redevelopment, set to break ground early in the new year, is planned for 2.4 acres bounded by Main, Webster and Water streets and the Riverwalk. Anchoring the project will be a 160-room Hotel Indigo, decorated with help from locally sourced art and photographic images. Also in the plans are 71,000 square feet of commercial space, 26,000 square feet for office use, a 550-space parking deck, improvements along the Riverwalk, and a pedestrian bridge linking the hotel and the Loggia Building to the east.
Operators of two restaurants — Bien Trucha, a Mexican small plate restaurant based in Geneva, and Blue Sushi Sake Grill, which has locations in Denver and Fort Worth — recently signed on to open locations in the development, which is expected to be in operation by the fall of 2015.
The city’s young athletes again demonstrated their prowess this year. Members of the girls’ soccer team at Naperville North High School took their second straight state title in early June, capping off two consecutive undefeated seasons. And last month, Naperville Central High School’s football team won the 8A state championship at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.
The Redhawks, who went 6-3 in the regular season, beat Loyola 13-10 to win the crown.
The title was the second for the Redhawks in their third trip to the finals. They won the Class 6A championship in 1999 and were second in 8A in 2001.
Blaze claims Naperville couple
Investigators have not yet determined the cause of an early-morning house fire that killed a Naperville psychologist and his wife and injured three other occupants of the home Dec. 18.
Thomas Lambert, 57, and Janet Lambert, 56, were killed after the fire erupted about 6:50 a.m. in their two-story house at 1212 Field Court. The injured included Thomas Lambert’s 56-year-old sister, Patricia Carhoff; the siblings’ father, John Lambert, 84; and an unidentified 21-year-old man who worked as a full-time caregiver in the home. Firefighters were unable to reach Thomas and Janet Lambert, but managed to rescue the caregiver from the second floor shortly before they were ordered out of the home because the structure was at risk of collapse.
Thomas Lambert, who was fighting an aggressive strain of brain cancer, had been hoping to participate in clinical trial research the Cleveland Clinic.
Peacekeeping beefed up
Naperville law enforcement was further fortified in the downtown late at night, when the Police Department added two new patrol officers in May to the force assigned to the area.
The move came after the city experienced an increase in crime in and around the bars in the city core, particularly late on weekend evenings. The trend already had led to a reallocation of police personnel designed to heighten the public safety presence late in 2012.
Officials reported a decrease in the incidents after the adjustments were made. Aside from a now-unusual half-dozen fights in the wee hours of Dec. 21 that netted 11 arrests, violence in the downtown has been on the wane.
- VIDEO: How Naperville residents inspired us in 2013
- In the running
- DuPage on pace for record number of heroin deaths
- All-day kindergarten is approved for all District 203 schools
- $7 million in federal flood funds to flow to DuPage
- Naperville officials lay out rules for medical marijuana
- Weatherproof: Winter won't stop work on massive Route 59 project
- ‘This hotel will have a soul’: Designers to include Naperville history
- Football: Naperville Central crowned Class 8A champ
- Downtown crime drops 11 percent: cops
- Coroner formally IDs fatal Naperville fire victims