By Steve Robinson | December 4, 2017 - 10:05 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – With a unanimous vote, Normal Town Council members approved an ordinance authorizing the 2017 property tax levy. The 2017 levy totals $12,958,494, which is an increase of $783,694 from the 2016 levy, an increase of 6.44 percent. Council members reviewed the levy at their Nov. 6 meeting and directed Town Staff to prepare the ordinance. A public hearing was required to be held prior to the vote because the increase in the property tax was over five percent.

General fund operations and Normal Public Library operations funding were the only two of the levy’s six components that have no dollar increases mentioned. They are the only funds that have local control, as well.

The other four components do have increases and break down this way: The police pension contribution was increased by 13.64 percent, or $275,600, to $2,296,600; Fire pension contribution was increased by 21.17 percent, or $364,200, to $2,084,200; and Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund contribution was increased by 8.71 percent, to $1,721,930. The Town’s annual Medicare/Social Security contribution registered the smallest increase of less than less than one-half percent, to $1,351,964. The Town, by State law, must maintain contributions to these four funds.

The measure passed but not before local residents had their say during the public hearing. Eleven residents spoke before Council members, most of them opposed to the increase. Craig Stimpert told Council members that he has “the utmost respect for police and fire service employees, and Town employees but he pointed out the Town has increased property taxes each year for the past 11 years.

Ed Neaves, treasurer for Illinois Realtors Group, which represents realtors Statewide, told Council members, “We’re asking government to do no harm to realtors trying to sell a house. Quit going back to property owners every time you need money.” Stimpert and Neaves were among 11 residents who addressed Council members about the proposed increase, the majority of them opposed to it.

During the Council discussion following the public hearing, Council Member Chemberly Cummings told the gathering of between 40-50 residents present about the statute which the Town operates behind which allows for consideration of raising property taxes. She also credited the audience members who spoke for having “trust in a roomful of people to share your heart, and we appreciate that.”

Council Member Kevin McCarthy told the gathering the Town’s general fund has not had an increase to its coffer in 12 years, belaying concerns about how the new money coming in would be used.

The Town of Normal only has control of roughly 17.3 percent of a resident’s tax bill, a report prepared for Council members by Andrew Huhn, the Town’s director of finance. The remaining governing bodies controlling the tax bill (and their percentage of control in 2016) include: Unit 5 School District (60.8 percent); McLean County (10.6 percent); Heartland Community College (6.8 percent); Normal Township (2.7 percent); Normal Water Reclamation District (2.1 percent); and Central Illinois Airport Authority (1.4 percent).

Property Taxes From Certain Bonds Approved For Abatement: Council members unanimously approved 11 ordinances authorizing abating of 2017 Property Taxes for debt service. The ordinances abated over $5.7 million in property taxes for the following bonds: 2008 bonds issued in August 2008; 2009 bonds issued in July that year to refund the 2003 bond; 2009(A) bonds issued in July that year; 2010(A) bonds issued November that year; 2012 bonds issued September that year to refund 2004 bonds; 2013 bonds issued November that year to refund 2005 bonds; 2014 bonds issued November that year; 2016(A) bonds issued March that year to refund 2006 bonds; 2016(B) bonds issued March that year; 2017(A) bonds issued March that year to refund 2007 bonds; and 2017(B) bonds issued March that year to refund 2007 bonds. The total amount of the bonds was $6,543,152. But there were Supranational/Sovereign/Agency bonds, or SSA bonds, totaling $796,899 that was not abated. As a result, the total of the bonds abated was $5,746,253.

Latest Community Investment Plan Approved: Before Council members finished out the roughly 2 ½ session, they received an update from Andrew Huhn, Town Finance Director, concerning the Community Investment Plan for the Town for Fiscal year 2017-18 through FY 2022-23. The proposed plan for that calendar period includes a total of 183 capital projects that are to be completed over a six-year period beginning with this fiscal year. Those projects, Huhn explained, total roughly $94.6 million.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Nov. 20, 2017.

• Approval of Town of Normal Expenditures for payment as of Nov. 29, 2017.

• A motion extending the Diabetes Disease Management Program for one year.

• A resolution requesting permission to close a portion of U. S. Highway 51 for the annual Jaycees Christmas Parade.

• A resolution authorizing the renewal of a joint agreement with the City of Bloomington and the Ecology Action Center for an energy efficiency program.

• A motion to authorize an amendment to the FY 2017-18 Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) budget for the general fund.

• A resolution to accept bids and award a contract to Bloomington-based Stark Excavating, Inc. in the amount of $59,799 for the Adelaide Street sanitary extension project along West College Ave.

• A resolution authorizing the City Manager to accept a bid in the amount of $904,063.06 from New York-based Presidio Networked Solutions Group, LLC for the purchase of network infrastructure.

• A resolution to conditionally approve a final plat for the Miller Storage Subdivision (2717 N. Main ).

• A resolution approving a property tax settlement agreement.

• An ordinance approving a redevelopment agreement for the property located at 1404 Fort Jesse Rd.

ray regalYou never know just who you might encounter on vacation, even when you’re trying to get away from the Twin Cities for a while.

On the way to my vacation to watch Illinois State University’s Men’s Basketball team take on host Nevada-Reno, I had to take a flight that made connections at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. That meant changing terminals. Once I got to the terminal to meet up with the connecting flight, I passed a kiosk manned by folks the airport calls their “Ambassadors,” – folks who volunteer to give help such as directions to restrooms and other needs, to the travelers they see pass by them, some of those travelers needing assistance, every day.

I wore a baseball cap with ISU’s Reggie Redbird mascot as I went through the airport, and as I passed one kiosk, the gentleman manning it saw what I was wearing and called out, “Go You Redbirds!” The fact he called out the current battle cry of this hometown team that far from home caught my attention because it was exact. He didn’t just say “Go Redbirds” or “Go Cardinals” as some folks mistakenly are prone to do if they aren’t familiar with the area, but specifically, “Go You Redbirds!”

That caught my attention enough that I pulled out my cell phone and asked if I could interview him. Meet Ray Regal, ISU Class of 1972, who has lived in Dallas for a number of years and for about the last 10 had worked in a clothing store at DFW International before retiring a year ago. Once he retired, Regal joined a corps of 643 Airport Ambassadors who offer assistance to travelers to help them get through to their destination while they are at the 18,500 sq. acre facility. DFW International’s Ambassador Program will turn 20 years old next year, according to Mehdi Mowstowfi, a shift supervisor for the program.

Regal, 67, majored in Speech Communication/Radio-Television and minored in History during his time at ISU. He did radio work on campus at ISU’s National Public Radio affiliate, WGLT FM. Once he graduated from ISU, he worked at radio stations in Taylorville, Springfield, and Princeton, getting as far hitting the airwaves as Kansas City, Mo. before needing to make a career switch.

“Kansas City is basically where my radio career ended,” Regal said. “I did sportscasting and other things at the time and had a lot of fun doing it.”

A number of Regal’s memories of ISU centered around the protests on campus against the Vietnam war, he explained. “There were interesting happenings on the quad by the Old Main Bell then,” he said.

He said one of his most memorable WGLT interviews he conducted was with athlete Joanie Weston, who went on to fame as a star of roller derby in the 1950s and 1960s.

Regal said the last time he visited Normal and the campus was “about 10 years ago and I couldn’t believe how much the campus had changed.”

By Steve Robinson | December 3, 2017 - 10:36 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Steve RobinsonTo Pavani Nukala, life is expressed through song. Anyone who attended the Illinois High School Association State Volleyball Tournament at Redbird Arena last month got to hear the Normal Community High School senior sing the National Anthem twice on Championship day.

“I started singing 12 years ago,” Pavani said. The songs she first sang probably wouldn’t be found topping American charts though. “I started singing North Indian classical music, something I started learning in 7th grade.”

From there, Pavani said, “I started learning choral music. And more recently, I’ve been in a pop group at school.” If you didn’t know kids at NCHS had formed a pop group, don’t feel bad. Neither did I. The group’s name is Key Of She. Being an all-female group, they sing primarily female-oriented tunes, Pavani said. Key Of She travels to area churches to perform, she added. In addition, Key Of She also tours nursing homes during the holidays bringing lyrical cheer to residents and staff, Pavani said.

To be allowed to sing the National Anthem at State Volleyball, Pavani, whose father and mother are Prasad and Lakshmi Nukala, said she auditioned last year for a district level choir overseen by Illinois Music Educators Association (ILMEA). Pavani was ranked first among sopranos who tested for the opportunity to sing the anthem when she went before the judges, and getting her past that moved her on to an all-State competition. From there, she was selected to perform. Her instructor through this process was NCHS Music teacher Ben Luginbuhl.

“Doing this was a big deal for me since I was selected at district level,” Pavani said. “I then worked hard for it at the State level.”

Pavani said she hasn’t made a decision about which college she will attend yet, but said she does have a career goal in mind. She wants to be a pediatrician. “Singing for me has been a kind of a stress reliever,” Pavani said. “Once I go to Pre-Med or Med School, I can use music as a stress reliever.” Pavani said she also believes she can use music to calm her patients when the time comes.

Matt Troha, assistant executive director for Volleyball at IHSA, said after IHSA gets the list of IMEA’s top singers, “IHSA tries to make the singers work out for our events based on geography and try to get some of the top kids to sing at State events.”

With a few State Championship events in town every year, working it out so that local kids like Pavani can perform before local crowds like she did at Redbird Arena last month works out to everyone’s benefit.

Here’s hoping this young lady can achieve her dreams to help treat sick kids while she continues to carry a song in her heart.

Relay For LifeBloomington, Illinois – NOVEMBER 21, 2017 – Everyone may know November 28 is “Giving Tuesday,” a day during which Americans set aside time to either donate to or work on behalf of a favorite charity. But anyone who knows Bloomington resident Barb Gallick knows that since becoming a member of a team of family and friends who raise money for Relay For Life of McLean County, that effort means spending many days planning, promoting, and/or hosting fundraisers which raise money for the American Cancer Society.

Gallick’s Relay Team, “Fishing For A Cure,” has been participating in Relay For Life of McLean County’s annual June event since 2009 as a result of supporting family members who contracted the disease. “But now, it’s grown to become a group of friends and family,” Gallick explained. A total of 15 people were on the team for 2017’s annual event, ranging in age from 9 to 61.

“We raise money all year round,” Gallick said. Team members have held fundraisers featuring Thirty-One-brand bags, Pampered Chef products, a women’s luncheon every spring, and even continues to sell a cookbook of recipes compiled from family and friends which is sold on a continuing basis. In addition, various team members who are into crafts like crocheting sell those handmade items to add to the total raised by the team.

When “Fishing For A Cure” turned in money for their first Relay event, the group raised “Just over $1,000,” Gallick said. That was strictly from collecting donations from family and friends. Since then, Gallick said, with the various fundraisers, the team sets for itself an annual goal of $5,000. In 2017, the team’s effort raised just over $10,000.

Since the team was founded for the 2009 Relay event to now, Gallick said, “Fishing For A Cure” has raised between $40,000-$45,000 for Relay For Life of McLean County.

This team’s membership has been tested at times by the disease, including losing a loved one, Gallick said. “When our team has grown, what dollars we’ve raised has grown.”

“I can’t imagine that ‘Giving Tuesday’ hasn’t been impactful,” Gallick said. “It’s the perfect time to make people aware when they’re spending money on gifts and trying to find deals. I think it’s important to always have an alternative view to say, ‘If I can give a little bit, it will make a difference to people dealing with cancer.’”

“The incredible members of Fishing For A Cure relay team care deeply about our mission to eliminate cancer. We hope their story will inspire others in our community to help raise funds that continue our research to fight this disease, and help the many programs the American Cancer Society continues to provide,” added Kimberly Wright, Community Manager for ACS’ Peoria Office. Relay For Life of McLean County is overseen by ACS’ Peoria office.

ABOUT “GIVING TUESDAY”: Entering its sixth year, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year and a growing catalog of resources.

RELAY 2017 NUMBERS: Relay For Life of McLean County wrapped up it 23rd annual event raising $300,786.47 at the conclusion of the 2017 event and had 70 teams comprised of 657 participants, and 220 survivors and caregivers at their annual Relay event, held from 4p.m.June 23 to 4p.m. June 254, 2017, at Normal Community High School.

Since it began in McLean County in 1994, Relay For Life of McLean County has raised over $8.3 Million to fight cancer.

PLANNING FOR RELAY 2018: Planning for our 2018 campaign has begun. Getting involved with Relay For Life of McLean County would be the perfect way to cap off “Giving Tuesday.” You can find a link to our Relay by visiting www.relayforlife.org/mcleanil.

More information may be obtained by contacting either Catina Struble 309-706-5367 or Steve Robinson at 309-242-7838.

By Steve Robinson | November 20, 2017 - 10:01 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Without an objecting vote, Normal Town Council members passed an ordinance approving the Town of Normal 2040 Comprehensive Plan. The unanimous vote took place during the governing body’s regularly-scheduled meeting Monday in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station. A subgroup of members from Town of Normal 2040 Committee met with Council members addressed Council members in August.

This meeting, Mercy Davison, Town Planner, told Council members the committee now had its proposed comprehensive plan which laid out, among other things, three primary trends in land use for the Town to consider. These items have shown themselves to be desired among Normal residents in the past 50 years.

The first is a desire for the Town to be able to accommodate increasing walk- and bike-oriented lifestyles of residents. Doing this would accommodate a moderate number of businesses located within biking or walking distance of businesses, employers, and services, the report indicates.

The second is a desire on the part of residents from the Town for a need for alternative transportation, the result of a decline in auto ownership and usage the Town has noted in recent years.

The third is noted by the committee in terms of less use of what it called “real life retail,” the result of people doing a hefty percentage of their shopping online currently. The committee report notes that, as a result of online sales “it is almost certain that the current amount of commercial and retail spaces in our community will be more than sufficient for years to come.”

Davison also noted that the Town’s population has doubled between 1970 and 2015, and that in that same period, land use has multiplied by two-and-a-half times in the same period. But she said, the Town’s east side “lacks serious public infrastructure. She said that means buildings, roads, and power supplies will be needed to accommodate an anticipated additional 14,000 people who could live in that part of Town over the years between now and 2040.

She cited for Council members a study done by McLean County Regional Planning Commission which said housing in the area was reasonably affordable. However, the Commission also noted there are very few options available to aid homeless people and limited housing options available to persons between ages 18-64 who are disabled. Most people in this last group, Davison said, live with family while they wait for a place of their own.

Mary Jefferson Reappointed To Regional Planning Commission: Council members unanimously approved reappointing Mary Jefferson to the McLean County Regional Planning Commission for another three-year term. Her current appointment expires at the end of this year, and her reappointment will keep her seated on the Commission until Dec. 31, 2020.

Jeffrey Kroesch Appointed To Sister Cities Committee: Council members unanimously approved appointing Jeffrey Kroesch to the Asahikawa Sister Cities Committee. A former exchange student, Kroesch is an Illinois State University graduate currently employed as an eighth grade Language Arts teacher at Bloomington School District #87.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Nov. 6, 2017.

• Approval of Town of Normal Expenditures for payment as of Nov. 15, 2017.

• A resolution authorizing the execution of an intergovernmental agreement for the police shooting range facility with the City of Bloomington.

• A resolution approving a lease extension for the Ecology Action Center at 202 W. College Ave.

• A resolution to approve a final plat for Lot 1 of resubdivision of Lot 7 in the fifth addition to North-Land Commercial Subdivision (Menards).

• A resolution to approve a final plat for the resubdivision of Lots 9 & 10 in the seventh addition to North-Land Subdivision (Duff St.).