By Steve Robinson | November 29, 2022 - 12:20 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – When voters take to the polls to determine who will serve as members of Normal Town Council, they will be asked to choose three candidates from a pool of seven people who have filed petitions with the Town Clerk to find their names on the April 4. Three incumbents – Kathleen Lorenz, Stan Nord, and Karyn Smith – are all seeking to extend their terms. Four others, including two men who have run for political office in Town before, filed petitions to unseat them.

Lorenz, Nord, and Smith will face four other residents seeking to become Normal Town Council members: Andy Byars, Rachael Lund, Karl Sila, and Marc Tiritilli.

Of the four, Tiritilli and Sila have tried to win election to public office in Normal previously. The latest tries came two years ago when Tiritilli challenged Mayor Chris Koos in 2021, and Sila’s name was on the ballot that year seeking a first term as a Town Council member.

Byars has spent the past year on Normal Planning Commission having been appointed by Mayor Chris Koos last October. came to Normal in 2015 to attend Illinois State University to be a Spanish teacher but changed his major to Political Science.

Lund was appointed to serve on the Normal Planning Commission in December 2020 with her term due to expire in December 2023. Lund became an NPC member to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Dave Shields. Shields resigned from the Commission due to relocating out of Normal.

Sila ran for one of three Town Council seats in the April 2021 election and was among three incumbents and six challengers seeking to become Council members. Of the nine candidates, Kevin McCarthy, Chemberly Cummings, and Scott Preston retained their seats each for another four-year term. Sila placed seventh with 1,867 votes or 8.59 percent of the vote.

Tiritilli’s run for Mayor a second time last year included a platform which included what he saw was further opening of public access to government in the form of using public comment policy during Town Council meetings. He had explained he believed, under Koos, that policy had become too restrictive as to what subjects citizens could bring up at Normal Town Council sessions. When the ballots were tabulated, Tiritilli received 4,008 ballots, or 43.69 percent of the vote.

Clerk Receives Petitions For Three Normal Offices Not On Ballot: In addition to receiving petitions from candidates seeking office, Town Clerk Angie Hounker said she received petitions from persons seeking to run for Town Clerk, Town Collector, and Town Supervisor. Those three positions are not on the ballot. Town Clerk Angie Huonker explained she received and accepted the petitions for those positions but none of the three jobs are on the ballot. She explained she will turn over those petitions to the Town Legal Department to determine what should be done with those submissions.

By Steve Robinson | November 28, 2022 - 10:51 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Youngsters are always happy to receive something new to play with, or to be able to explore a new playground on. On Monday, fifth graders who attend Prairieland Elementary School were the first to try out a brand new playground following it being dedicated, with officials from the Town of Normal and Unit 5 School District on hand.

Updates made to the playground included newly purchased equipment and better accessibility to the playground for children with disabilities. The Town of Normal owns the park and paid for the updating. Prairieland Elementary’s Parent-Teacher Organization donated a merry-go-round for the youngsters to enjoy. A rubberized surface serves as the flooring for the play area as opposed to mulch, which many playgrounds are often seen placed on. Accessibility to the structure for children with disabilities is incorporated into the structure as there are ramps to access the various levels of the equipment for youngsters to enjoy.

Last month, Normal Town Council members unanimously voted to approve a resolution to waive the formal bidding process and award a contract to Charlotte, N.C.-based GameTime Gym in care of Cunningham Associates, Inc. for purchase of a modular playground unit, individual units, and surfacing for Carden Park, located at 1300 E. Raab Rd, near the school. The purchase was made possible under the cooperative purchasing program provided through Franklin, Tenn.-based OMNIA Partners. At their Oct. 21 meeting, Council members agreed to spend $179,963.29 with an associated budget adjustment for the purchase of the equipment.

“Playgrounds provide communities with safe spaces to play together and engage with one another,” Mayor Chris Koos said to begin his remarks to about 40 youngsters, their teachers, and media members gathered for the event. “Playground activities enhance children’s physical, social, and emotional skills – all which contribute to increased self-confidence, better coordination, and improved critical thinking.

“Truly, playgrounds are one of the most fundamental amenities municipalities can provide which contribute to the quality of life of its residents,” Koos said. “Carden Park stands today as an outstanding example of this, and the Town of Normal is pleased to reopen this play area which shares space with Prairieland Elementary School.

“The Town understands how important this area is to neighborhood children of all ages, and especially to those who attend Prairieland,” Koos added. He added this park is the most recent of the Town’s 18 parks which has received upgrades in the form of improved accessibility and new playground equipment.

Koos thanked Unit 5 administrators and Prairieland Elementary School administrators, who attended the ceremony, he said, “for their help and assistance in choosing inclusive and accessible concepts for their playground.”

“I want to thank the Town of Normal for this incredible project,” Scott Peters, principal of Prairieland Elementary, told the gathering of about 20 people present for the event. Explaining plans for the playground upgrade began in September 2021, and in deciding what the school wanted for the playground, it had to be accessible to not just for Prairieland’s 475 students in kindergarten through fifth grade during the school year, it had to be accessible to “the community around this park.” He explained there is often plenty of activity during hours when school is not is session, and said the park “is a heavily-used area during the summer.”

“We’re super excited, not just for our Prairieland family here, but for the community at large,” Peters said. He added Prairieland students got a say in terms of how the equipment would look, as they were asked to choose the colors for the equipment. “They’ve done a great job of playing and watching as all this was happening and getting anxious for this very moment.” The fifth graders surrounded Peters as he formally cut the ribbon to officially open the newly created playground.

Peters said with a new surface under them, and ramps to grab hold of, the playground will be more accessible for students. He said students would ask him, almost daily, when the playground would be ready for their enjoyment.

Carden Park is a 5-acre park provided through a cooperative partnership with McLean County Unit 5 School District, and is adjacent to the school. The park has a path connecting to Constitution Trail on Raab Road and features Safety Town, an educational program for pre-school children. Ball fields were developed for the park in 2017-2018.

Koos explained Carden Park’s playground was first installed in 2001. Even with those items the park had to offer, the park “was ready for a facelift,” Koos said, adding, “And we are proud of this update which provides improved equipment, and more inclusive playground activities and opportunities.”

In addition, Koos told the gathering, “The community can also look forward to a new look for Safety Town in Carden Park thanks to a grant from State Farm Insurance.

City Manager Pam Reece and Council Member Kathleen Lorenz were among the local dignitaries on hand for the event.

CHAMPAIGN – Decatur St. Teresa may have outpaced Tri-Valley in their Illinois High School Association Class 2A Championship game, 29-22 Saturday at Memorial Stadium on University of Illinois’ campus, but Vikings Head Coach Josh Roop told reporters afterward it may be 15 or 20 years to determine if, even after the loss, whether this season was a success as a whole for the team.

Rupp said once the players come back after that much time has gone by and they have become husbands and fathers and raised families of their own will the measure of success of the season in which the Vikings finished 11-2 be able to be estimated to its fullest. Rupp said he and his coaching staff started to see selflessness from their players as the season went on.

Vikings Scored Early: The Vikings managed to heel the Bulldogs who had managed to end the drive deep in Tri-Valley territory, turning the ball over putting Vikings perilously close to their own end zone. But the Bulldogs pushed further scoring a safety, getting a quick 2-0 lead at the 7:53 mark in the first quarter. Each team’s defense added pressure from that point on, resulting in that being the only points scored in the quarter.

At 4:34 in the second quarter, a drive Tri-Valley initiated from their own 21 yard line and was continuing at the Bulldogs’11 yard line was disrupted by a turnover on downs as Bulldogs defenders giving Decatur St. Teresa the ball at that point. Three plays later, senior quarterback Joe Brummer connected with senior wide receiver Bryce Hendrix on an 87 yard touchdown pass with 2:25 until halftime followed by a successful 2-point by Brummer to senior wide receiver Jeremy Walker increasing the Bulldogs’ lead to 8-0.

Senior wide receiver Blake Regenold took the ensuing kickoff back to midfield for the Vikings where Tri-Valley began their next drive which lasted for 7 rushing plays ending in Regenold’s 3 yard dash for a touchdown with 11 seconds left until halftime, followed by Regenold pushing through Bulldogs defenders for a successful 2-point conversion. When the half ended, the game was tied 8-all.

Decatur St. Teresa (13-0) returned the ensuing kickoff and started their next set of downs at the Bulldogs 32 yard line. Twelve plays later, senior running back Christion Harper dashed 22 yards into the end zone to cap a 4 play 54 yard drive. That was followed by a successful 2 point conversion pass play, putting the Bulldogs up, 16-8 with 9:57 until halftime.

After receiving the ensuing kickoff, Tri-Valley started their next drive from their own 32 yard line. Keeping the ball on the ground, the Vikings’ offense chewed yardage as they got past Bulldog defenders until the 12th play of the drive when senior quarterback Andy Knox connected with sophomore wide receiver Cole Klein on a 22 yard touchdown with 3:43 left in the half. The Vikings were not able, however, to complete a 2-point conversion play, resulting in the Bulldogs holding a 16-14 lead going into halftime.

Four plays after St. Teresa received the ball to begin the second half, senior running back Elijah Wills slipped past Bulldogs defenders dashing 76 yards for a touchdown with 2:19 left in the third quarter followed by an extra point by senior kicker Billy Guyse, putting his team up, 23-14.

Tri-Valley carried the ensuing kickoff back to its own 31 to begin their next drive which ended after nine plays with Regenold running through opposing defenders a second time for a touchdown followed by a 2-point conversion run by Knox, cutting Decatur St. Teresa’s lead to one, 23-22, with 11:07 left in the contest.

With 6:06 left in the contest, Guyse’s 9 yard pass reception from Brummer capped a 10 play 80 yard drive which concluded with a failed 2-point try, resulting in the final score.

At the 2:43 mark, St. Teresa was near midfield and appeared to have called timeout and players headed toward their sidelines, and yet, the clock continued to run. That prompted Roop to run onto the field to check with game officials about why the clock was running. Tri-Valley finally did call time with 1:59 remaining.

Bulldogs Head Coach Mark Ramsey admitted this victory made up for what he classified as “a heartbreaking loss in the semis last year.” He said he was proud of his team for “putting up a heck of a fight” which went back and forth throughout the contest.

Rupp reminded his team was making its third appearance at State Finals and were now 1-2 as a result of Saturday’s outcome. Admitting his team didn’t start the season playing “up to our potential,” Rupp added, “It’s an amazing experience with an amazing group of young men.” He added that the previous senior class and current senior class of players were really close and the community bonded with those players last year and this year giving an indication of what experiencing what he called “community football” is like.

“Our captains and our senior leadership just didn’t want to quit,” Rupp added. “We played our best football at the end of the year, and that is really what I am proud of. These guys went to another level. I saw them play for one another. I saw them pick each other up, build each other up, and build off of each other.”

Rupp said the way that a team can get a school to come together and get a community behind those kids to carry themselves in the right way and grow up and mature before your eyes – “that’s really what this group of kids did for the community this year. I’m really, really proud of them.”

“I love these guys and we worked really hard for this,” Regenold said. “We really meshed well going into the playoffs. It means a lot to everyone to have this experience.”

During critical moments of their key drives to move down field, Knox explained, “we just had to be a team, working together. Junior center Jacob Bischoff added St. Teresa’s defensive backs were “pretty quick” in not allowing Vikings receivers to get very far once they had the ball.

Knox said although the way the game ended wasn’t the result the Vikings wanted, “its been really fun playing with the guys and building up relationships. These are all my brothers and I wouldn’t trade anything for them.”

By Steve Robinson | November 21, 2022 - 10:24 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – To continue development in a community sometimes requires a City Council to approve rezoning a specific area to make the change wanted to become reality. Normal Town Council members demonstrated this at their regularly scheduled meeting Monday night in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station by unanimously approving the rezoning of 300 Shelbourne Dr.

That land was rezoned from S-1 University to a combination of R-1B Single-Family, R-2 Mixed Residential, R-3A Medium Density Residential, and S-2 Public Lands and Institutions. Normal Town Council approving this would permit the further development and use of property within unused and underutilized land. Council members voted unanimously to make rezoning possible.

Town Planner Mercy Davison said before anything can be done with the property, rezoning it was required because it had been zoned for use of Illinois State University for student housing, primarily single students. The change the Town sought was to change the zoning of the property from S-1 University to a combination of R-1B Single Family, R-2 Mixed Residential, R-3A Medium Density Residential, and S-2 Public Lands and Institutions.

Davison said Council will see this property again for approval of final plats for Mixed Residential and Single Family housing units.

Council Approves Preliminary Subdivision Plan, Other Resolutions For Shelbourne Drive Property: Council members unanimously approved a resolution which approved a preliminary subdivision plan for 300 Shelbourne Dr. In approving the proposed preliminary subdivision plan, Town Council members gave approval to permitting reoccupation of an existing multifamily complex, as well as development of single-family attached and detached housing, and future development of a public or quasi-public use area.

Last August, the development company called 300 Spot bought the property owned by Illinois State University for about $1 million. The address was once an address known for being a location where the University housed married students. ISU stopped using the complex five years ago. Before the University stopped using it, the property served as on-campus housing for about a half century, primarily for the benefit of married students, graduate students, and international students.

A total of 32 lots are part of the property ranging in size from 0.23 acres to 11.66 acres, and the land would include public streets on the property. At their Nov. 10 meeting, Normal Planning Commission members voted unanimously to support the preliminary plan. The company’s development plans for the property received unanimous approval, 4-0, from Normal Planning Commission Nov. 10 at a public hearing.

Council members unanimously approved a resolution for a Planned Unit Development at that location, as well. That means Council would permit reoccupation of an existing multifamily complex on an infill site at that location. The Town’s Comprehensive Plan approved several years ago calls for a mixture of residential building types throughout the community. The Town report to Council members explained the proposed Shelbourne PUD will help meet the current demand for residential units of all types.

Town officials’ report to Council members explained the proposed Preliminary PUD includes the several key elements including 14 residential buildings containing 100 units (divided into 50 1-bedroom units and 50 2-bedroom units), seven one-story buildings containing 1-bedroom units, seven 2-story buildings containing 2-bedroom units, and a 4,000 sq. ft. community building with laundry facilities and a community room. In addition, the parking lot which has approximately 150 spaces and an auxiliary, will also have a 25-space parking lot on the east side of the PUD.

The area would also include Recreational areas, including playgrounds and a basketball court, and addition landscaping would be added near the existing buildings. The existing access point to Shelbourne Dr. would stay the same, but the applicant to the property would re-stripe Shelbourne Dr. in order to provide a left turn lane into the complex.

In addition, Council members unanimously approved a final development plan for the Shelborne Planned Unit Development. by approving the proposed final development plan for the Shelbourne PUD, the Town Council would permit reoccupation of an existing multifamily complex on an infill site. The Town’s Comprehensive Plan calls for a mix of residential building types throughout the community. The proposed Shelbourne PUD would help meet the current demand for residential units of various types. Council members’ last vote related to this PUD was to unanimously approve conditional approval of the final plat for the proposed unit development.

Council Approves Amending Town Sign Code: With Council Member Kevin McCarthy absent from the session, Council members voted 4-2 in favor of approving new rules concerning when temporary signage is used. Mayor Chris Koos was joined by Council Members Kathleen Lorenz, Chemberly Harris, and Karyn Smith in approving the measure while Council Members Stan Nord and Scott Preston voted against it.

In a report prepared for Council members, Town Planner Mercy Davison explained current Town sign code treats signs related to real estate, political campaigns, and general interest signs differently from other types of signs. The proposed amendment to Town sign code would eliminate distinctions by establishing regulations on temporary signs based on residential and non-residential zoning with almost no concern about sign content.

As a result, there will be new limits specific to the number and sizes of signs permitted on each Normal property. The new rules go into effect Jan. 1, and limit both the number and sizes of signs permitted on each property. The change was brought about to aid Normal’s sign code into complying with recent U.S. Supreme Court case law.

Nord made a motion to delay the start of the rules until April 7, three days after the spring election on April 4. That measure was voted down by a 5-1 count with Nord casting the lone approving vote.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved By Council included:

• Approval of minutes from the regular Council meeting of Nov.7, 2022.

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Nov. 16, 2022.

• A resolution to waive the formal bidding process and authorizing the purchase of a Toro Groundsmaster 5900 Series from MTI Distributing, Inc. via Minnesota state contract pricing – contract #206789.

By Steve Robinson | November 20, 2022 - 10:31 pm
Posted in Category: Ridgeview, The Normalite

COLFAX – When one team beats another during the course of playoffs, it’s easy for high school players to forget that the season they have just finished experiencing came with many high points and very few low points. Ridgeview-Lexington Mustangs Head Coach Hal Chiodo needed to remind his players that Saturday on their home turf after the tough day they experienced Saturday.

The Mustangs lost to Camp Point Central, 44-8, in the Illinois High School Association Class 1A Semi-final football game held on Ridgeview High School’s home field. The loss came one game short of the 2nd ranked Mustangs going to IHSA Class 1A State Championship, ending a season which had more positives than negatives as the Chiodo’s troops finished the season with a 12-1 mark, the only loss on the season coming Saturday.

After winning the officials’ coin toss and opting to receive the ball, Senior running back Ross Riley scored Camp Point Central’s first touchdown of the game from five yards out completing an 11 play 87 yard drive at 6:52 in the first quarter. Riley followed that up scoring on a 2-point conversion running play putting the Panthers up, 8-0.

After getting the ball on the ensuing kickoff, Ridgeview (12-1) could only move the ball six yards on three plays needing to punt. The kicked ball going into the end zone for a touchback started Camp Point Central’s next drive on their own 20 yard line. Nine plays later, senior running back Gavin Graves dashed past Mustangs defenders for a touchdown with 2:01 left in the opening quarter, followed by Graves following that up with a successful 2-point conversion pass to junior running back Drew Paben, giving the Panthers a 16-0 lead going into the second quarter.

Camp Point Central (12-0) kicked off so the Mustangs could start their next set of downs but that possession was brief, starting on the Mustangs’ 39 yard line, and Ridgeview-Lexington wound up turning the ball over after 10 plays ending in an incomplete pass. That gave Camp Point Central the ball at their own 24 yard line. Ten plays later, senior running back Isaac Genenbacher dodged past Mustangs defenders for a 3 yard touchdown. Although the Panthers’ 2-point conversion was foiled by Mustang defenders, they owned a 22-0 lead with 6:34 until halftime.

The Mustangs took the Panthers’ ensuing kickoff and started at their own 48 yard line. But they couldn’t get past Panthers defenders in their attempt to get a first down forcing a turnover, giving Camp Point Central the ball back at midfield. Four plays later, Riley scored his third touchdown of the day from 3 yards out with 2:48 left in the first half, but the Mustangs’ defense prevented the 2-point conversion. The Panthers now led 28-0 with 2:48 left in the first half.

Ridgeview sought to avoid punting whenever they had possession and that resulted in another turnover ending the Mustangs’ next possession which began at their own 48, ending four plays later at Camp Point Central’s 44 yard line. Four plays later, Genenbacher scored his second touchdown of the day from 5 yards out with 10 seconds left in the half followed by Riley dashing past Mustangs defenders for the 2-point conversion. The Panthers owned a 36-0 halftime lead as a result.

Camp Point Central opened the second half with a kickoff that had the Mustangs starting play from their own 1 yard line. But they could only get as far as their own 29 yard line in nine plays before having to punt, starting the Panthers’ next drive at Ridgeview’s 43 yard line. Nine plays later, Riley scored from five yards out followed by junior running back Conner Griffin’s 2-point conversion play, putting the Panthers up, 44-0. Riley’s touchdown prompted game officials employed IHSA’s “Mercy Rule,” using a continuously running clock, stopping it only for timeouts taken by a team or because of an injury.

Ridgeview Senior quarterback Alec Thomas scored the Mustangs only touchdown at the end of a 15 play 80 yard drive with 5:52 left in the contest. That was followed by the 6 foot-2 passer pushing past defenders for a successful 2-point conversion resulting in the eventual final score.

“We played every week and every game and risen to the occasion,” Chiodo told reporters afterward. “Today, we just didn’t have it.” “From play number one,” the veteran coach said, his players found themselves trying to control but unable to control Panthers at the line of scrimmage. “They just destroyed us at the line of scrimmage…that’s where it all started.”

The Mustangs got very minimal help from one player the Mustangs helped the team succeed this season, all-State tailback Kaden Farrell. The 5 foot-10, 190 pound senior running back was only on the field for only three carries because of an ankle injury, and was only able to gain 5 yards in the game. Chiodo said Farrell’s absence “took a lot of life out of us because he does make so many plays for us. We count on him a lot. We just didn’t have it today.”

Despite the disappointment, Chiodo said he was pleased that his team will be able to look back at the fact his team has gotten to IHSA Final Four two years in a row. “We need to be proud of that,” Chiodo said. “We need to be proud of what we’ve done, and the way we’ve played all year, and the way we’ve been.” He added the team “can’t let this disappointment ruin two great seasons.”

“We’ve played tough as nails all year,” explained Camp Point Central Head Coach Brad Dixon. Saturday’s game was the first time since week eight that the Panthers had to travel for a game. In discussing his team’s mindset for this contest, Dixon said, “today was one of those games where our players didn’t care about the opponent. They show up to play for each other and today was one of those games.

“Ridgeview’s a great team and we have all the respect for them,” Dixon said. He added that from watching film on the Mustangs, his team would have to be alert to dealing with Farrell, adding his team knew they would need to stick to their game plan to succeed. “Our guys really stepped up,” Dixon said.