Winnebago County News Briefs


Police take to air with drones for investigations

The Rockford Police Department will begin using Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones, to help investigate serious and fatal accidents as well as other uses.

The new drones, which were donated by Illinois Drone-One, Inc., are expected to help speed up the investigations at  crash scenes.

Traditionally, roads are closed for hours after serious accidents so photographs and measurements can be taken. By using drones to capture video and photographs, the data can be downloaded into software which will provide to-scale measurements in a much shorter time frame than traditional investigation methods.

“We will still need to close roads to examine evidence at the scene,” says John Pozzi, Assistant Deputy Chief with the Rockford Police Department. “However, the drones will reduce the process by several hours.”

Other uses for the new drones will include large crime scene mapping and aerial security and intelligence during critical incidents. 

Operations of the drones are governed by the Federal Aviation Administration, and all of the department’s pilots are FAA Part 107 certified. The Rockford Police Department holds an FAA waiver which allows for low light or night time operations and includes additional safety precautions. Staff is working with the Rockford International Airport to coordinate safe flights in the airspace throughout the City.   


History on high speed in upcoming RVC program

An American history seminar touring through Illinois community colleges that recounts the past 100 years in memorable photographs, Hollywood film clips and timely music will be presented at Rock Valley College’s Bell School Road Center on May 7.

“U.S. History and Today,” a fast-paced visually-rich presentation, features 600 historic photographs and 44 popular film and music clips that highlight American life from 1914 through present day. Topics range from both World Wars and The Great Depression to civil rights, Vietnam and surprising presidential elections. Entertainment highlights include Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Elvis Presley, Emma Stone, “Back to the Future” and “The Andy Griffith Show.” 

“It’s a century of American history presented at high speed,” said one attendee, who applauded the blend of pop culture woven into hard-hitting fact-based history. Reviews from showings at eight Illinois community colleges to date have been enthusiastic.

The show is presented by John LeGear, a builder and promoter of national not-for-profit organizations from Chicago who turned his attention to American history late in his career. He employed skills acquired as a journalist, photographer, video editor and public speaker to assemble the presentation over two years. LeGear said he created the show to lend balance and historical perspective to today’s rollercoaster ride of news and cultural events.

“U.S. History and Today” is being offered through Rock Valley’s Continuing Education Department beginning at 6 pm. The registration fee is just $15. To register online, visit For more information, please call RVC Community and Continuing Education at 815-921-3900.  


New basketball coaches at Auburn, Guilford

Jefferson assistant boys basketball coach John Rossato will take on the head coaching job at Jefferson High School while Northern Illinois University alumnus and former professional basketball player Antonio

Maestranzi will take over the Guilford High School head coaching job.

Both will guide their respective programs starting with the 2018-19 season.

Rossato replaces Todd Brannan at Jefferson, and Maestranzi replaces Dean Martinetti at Guilford. Jefferson and Guilford’s interview process included students, teachers and administrators to vet strong applicant pools. The appointments are pending approval from the Rockford School Board.

Rossato was hired as a dean at Jefferson in August 2015 and is now an assistant principal/head of the EMITT Academy (Engineering, Manufacturing, Industrial and Trades Technology). Rossato has also taught at Welsh and Carlson elementary schools in RPS 205.

Rossato has been the head sophomore boys basketball coach at Jefferson since 2010; the sophomore team won the conference this year and finished 15-1. Jefferson’s varsity team finished this season 26-7 overall, a record season; 13-3 in the conference. Rossato has varsity head coaching experience with Jefferson baseball.

Maestranzi played Division I basketball at Northern Illinois University, then continued his basketball career professionally in the Italian Basketball Federation from 2006 to 2012. He has experience coaching as a varsity assistant at Marmion Academy in Aurora, Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) teams, and worked at an elite player development program for Chicago-area high school basketball players.

Carl Armato, a former Rock Valley College men’s head basketball coach and NIU men’s assistant coach, will continue as an assistant coach at Guilford. Maestranzi considers Armato a mentor and played for him at NIU.


Park District saluted as among nation’s healthiest

The Rockford Park District has been honored as one of the “Healthiest Companies in America” by Interactive Health, a national leader known for its personalized wellness solutions.  

The district was one of 184 companies from more than 1,500 Interactive Health clients across the country being recognized for helping employees make significant and sometimes life-saving changes to improve their health. This is the fourth year the Rockford Park District has won the award.  

 “We are thrilled to receive this national recognition, which is a reflection of our employees’ commitment to their own health and wellness,” said Superintendent of Human Resources Rhashonda Williams. “Healthy and more productive team members will in turn provide better, higher quality services to our citizens, and at the same time, lower healthcare costs for taxpayers.

The wellness program encourages employees to maintain and achieve their wellness goals by offering the following programs: 

For more information on “Healthiest Companies in America,” visit


Parent company announces closing of Carson’s, other stores

It’s the end of the line for Bergner’s and Carson’s.

The two chains will be shuttered along with other stores in a Bon-Ton chain  that includes  Younkers, Boston Store,  Elder-Beerman and Herberger’s.

Bergner’s has a store at Cherry Vale Mall while Bon-Ton has a distribution center in Loves Park. Carson’s has a 30-store presence in Illinois and once operated from a Louis Sullivan-designed flagship store in downtown Chicago,

All told, more than 200 Bon-Ton stores will close after a federal bankruptcy judge approved the company’s sale to a pair of liquidation firms.

“Bon-Ton will conduct an orderly wind-down of its operations and is committed to minimizing the impact of this development on our associates, customers, vendors and the communities we serve,” the company said in a statement last Wednesday. “We expect the liquidation process in all Bon-Ton stores to begin shortly.”

Several Carson’s stores were closed earlier this year, including an Aurora clearance center and locations in Schaumburg, DeKalb and Chicago.


–Winnebago County News Briefs–