NORMAL – The young basketball season is already seeing how well the boys has been doing early on with all three teams demonstrating they are hungry to have winning seasons.

Normal Community High School, under Head Coach Dave Witzig, has opened with a 4-0 mark; Normal Community West High, under Head Coach Ed Haferman, has seen his squad split evenly their first four games for a 2-2 mark. Normal University High School, under Head Coach Andrew McDowell, has a 3-1 record now that the first week is under their belt.

Normal Community High School Boys: NCHS’ 4-0 mark has been a tune-up of sorts against non-conference teams in preparation for facing their Big 12 opponents. The Ironmen started the season outpacing Bloomington High School Nov. 20 with a 68-43 win to open the annual Intercity Tournament. They followed that with a 19-point win over University High two days later. On Nov. 24, the Ironmen then outpaced Bloomington Central Catholic, 56-31, and followed that up three days later by escaping past Normal West with a 57-54 victory.

The tune-up completed, the season begins in earnest for Witzig’s troops with two away games, first at Urbana Dec. 1 and at Peoria Manual Dec. 8. The Ironmen won’t experience a home crowd feel until Bloomington High School visits on Dec. 15 for a 7:30p.m. contest.

NCHS Girls Undefeated: Going into his second season, NCHS girls’ basketball Head Coach Dave Feeney has his team red hot already with a 4-0 record and already ripping local opponents including doubling up the score against Unit 5 rival Normal West, 79-35, and a 49-19 pounding over Bloomington High. NCHS will continue facing Big 12 foes in earnest starting Dec. 1 at a road trip in Urbana. From there, the Lady Iron will take on the Rams at Peoria Manual Dec. 8. Their next home game is a week later, Dec. 15 against Bloomington.

Normal Community West High School Boys: After just four games so far this season, Head Coach Ed Hafermann’s Normal Community West High School Wildcats have found themselves going back and forth against opponents as the season begins in that they win one game and lose the next. The 2-2 Wildcats notched wins against Bloomington Central Catholic by 11 points, and Bloomington High by 31 points. But between those, the Wildcats couldn’t find ways to beat either Normal University High, who they lost to by 6, 50-44, or NCHS, who beat them by three, 57-54.

As the conference season begins getting underway, Hafermann’s troops will start out with an easy schedule of one game per week to start December. That schedule begins with traveling to Peoria Richwoods Thursday night for a 7:30p.m. conference game. On Tuesday, Dec. 5, the Wildcats will host St. Joseph-Ogden at 7p.m. for a non-conference game, and follow that up Friday, Dec. 8 traveling to Champaign Centennial for a Big 12 Conference contest.

Normal West Girls Look To Reverse Current 1-5 Course: While NCHS girls are surging, Normal West’s girls’ basketball team is struggling, having only won one of six games so far, a 49-36 win over Intercity rival U-High on Nov. 17. The worst of the six losses came Nov. 21 at the hands of Unit 5 nemesis NCHS which doubled the score and went beyond, beating the Wildcats, 79-35. But if the early games were worrisome for Head Coach Darrelynn Dunn, the future for Normal West as the season gets rolling won’t be any easier with away games at Pontiac, Peoria, and Bloomington upcoming. Pontiac, Peoria, and Rochester are the next three opponents ahead for the Lady Ironmen

University High School Boys: Head Coach Andrew McDowell’s University High Pioneers find themselves off to a positive start at 3-1 as the season begins, having lost their Intercity Tournament opener to NCHS on Nov. 22, 62-43, but then recovering enough to win the next three Intercity Tourney contests. That meant beating Normal West, Central Catholic, and BHS in three games in a four night period. U-High racked up wins beating the Wildcats, 50-44; beating BCC 58-42; and outpacing BHS, 62-37.

Before diving into their Central State Eight season schedule, the Pioneers will face CS8 foe Glenwood on the road Dec. 2 and host non-conference foe Pleasant Plains Dec. 5 to get the season rolling. On Dec. 8, CS8 foe Rochester visits followed four days later on Dec. 12 by non-conference opponent Prairie Central.

University High School Girls: Head Coach Laura Sellers’ players’ year has not started positively, going winless in their first five contests. After a game at CS8 rival Sacred Heart Griffin Dec. 1, Sellers’ troops will hit the road, visiting conference rival Chatham Glenwood before hosting non-conference opponent Mattoon. After that, the Pioneers visit two non-conference opponents, at Pekin on Dec. 4 at 7p.m. and at Prairie Central Dec. 7 at 7p.m.

Cornerstone Christian Academy Boys: The season is young for all teams at this juncture, but Head Coach John Schippert’s troops have already started the season with an 0-3 disadvantage, having lost to Stanford Olympia, El Paso Gridley, and Roanoke Benson. The last two contests ended with the Cyclones losing to EPG and Roanoke Benson by 20 points or more.

Cornerstone Christian Academy Girls: While Cornerstone’s boys seek a first victory, the girls’ basketball team, under Head Coach Jared Brothers, wants to get ahead of its current 3-4 mark. Their recent win was to Peoria Christian Tuesday night, 46-31. That score indicates some improvement because combined, Brothers’ team only scored a total of 13, 22, and 17 points in their first three games.

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members held a work session prior to their regularly-scheduled meeting on Nov. 20 prior to their regularly-scheduled session to address matters concerning a recent study done on parking in Uptown and a plan for on Electronic Vehicle charging in Uptown. There were no public comments during the additional session.

The Council session which followed had neither any new business or issues up for discussion from Council members before it was adjourned by Mayor Koos.

Parking Study Presented: Assistant City Manager Eric Hanson began discussion about a parking study explaining the Town actually began looking at the matter in the fall of 2021 as events were resuming following the COVID pandemic. No formal action was taken during this session but would a future Council meeting.

Hanson explained key elements of parking the Town wanted to look at were: Adequacy, Occupancy, Management, Operations, and Inventory. He explained the Town asked Chicago-based Desman Design Management to do a study on the Town’s parking availability. He added Normal is not unique to needing to have discussions about parking as most cities have challenges regarding parking.

Town Finance Director Andrew Huhn guided Council members through the study first with categories analyzed five areas which included: Applied Technological Improvements, Fees and Rate Changes, System Management Improvements, Amenity Improvements, and Access and Supply Allocation. He also explained Uptown Normal already has 131 parking spaces available which are free for drivers for a three-hour limit.

The first of Desman’s recommendations Huhn said is for the Town to install credit card enabled single-spaced meters. Huhn said doing that “will generate more revenue but we’ll have to circle back around to see how the Council feels about a paid system for on-street and lots.” Secondly, Desman recommended retaining a pay-by-phone provider to help with virtual parking fee collection. The system would also help inform drivers about available spaces, parking rates, and Town parking policies.

Another recommendation from Desman, Huhn said, would be to place the parking control system drivers get their parking stub from deeper into the parking deck. He added Desman’s recommendation to do so would help improve traffic flow into and out of the garage. Also suggested was for the Town to purchase Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) technology which would increase efficiency in the parking system.

Huhn added a Desman suggestion the Town consider ending its first hour of free on-street parking in anticipation of further parking demands on the Town and to increase revenue. He explained Desman’s study saw nearly 20,000 cars parked in Uptown for an hour or less but that removing that free hour had potential to earn the Town between $16,000 and $17,000 in additional revenue for the Town.

Most communities nowadays “don’t have your most convenient parking as the free parking,” City Manager Pam Reece pointed out to Council members, adding, “We’ve been different – we’ve been the opposite of that.”

Mayor Chris Koos let off discussion by saying, “Parking decks are not inexpensive to maintain.” He added the Town is “eating” the expenses it takes to operate parking decks, adding, “as those decks get older, and require more significant capital investment, we’re going to have to decide where those dollars come from.”

Council Member Karyn Smith said she would want to see how much money from street parking the Town would see generated versus public criticism meters would create, and added she would like to see the Town maintaining the first hour of parking as free on the streets of Uptown. Council Member Scott Preston agreed with keeping Uptown’s current street parking arrangement in tact. He added he was open to parking for Amtrak patrons not being free to help the Town generate income.

“Raising parking structure fees would put pressure on on-street fees if it remains free,” explained Council Member Kevin McCarthy, adding he was open to “some on-street parking charges.” He said such charges would merit discussion. Mayor Koos mentioned Town administrators will want to know Council’s outlook on maintenance of the structures.

Electric Vehicle Charging Network Plan: The second item brought before Council members was a way to increase the number of electric charging stations for electric vehicles. City Manager Pam Reece introduced the discussion by saying Town officials were looking to establishing a vehicle charging network. She explained there are already grant programs available which would save vendors the time of having to seek grant programs for establishing charging stations.

Town Planner Mercy Davison opened the discussion explaining electric vehicles have been part of the fabric of Normal since 2009 and that has helped establish Normal as a community looking forward on the subject of electronic vehicles. She said the Town leased six EV cars and bought six more for a total of 12 in the Town’s vehicle fleet.

She added the Town began by having 47 EV charging stations a decade ago servicing eight different kinds of electronic vehicles. She added the largest number of EV cars are located on the east sides of both Bloomington and Normal. In the Twin Cities, there are two dozen charging stations available to EV drivers.

Davison added Sprague Super Service in Normal is a historic independent gas station on Route 66 which is also looking into grant funding to insert an electric renewal unit at its facility. She added the Town is seeking to apply for an account with ChargePoint, a California-based company which helps establish charging stations worldwide.

She informed Council members there were 181 electronic vehicles registered in McLean County in 2018, and that number has increased to 1,310 registered vehicles in 2023 – an increase of 623.8 percent since their debut five years ago. On average, Davison said, currently, electric vehicles make up about 10 percent of vehicles on the road, and added the increase in electric vehicles now on the road is “a significant increase.”

Davison asked Council members how they felt about the Town’s charging stations continuing to allow EV car owners to use the chargers for free. She said she asked because that policy is “not as common now as it used to be” in other locations. She also wanted to gauge whether the Town preferred owning versus leasing the charging equipment. She also wanted to hear Council opinions concerning where to place priority locations for charging stations.

City Manager Pam Reece said while Town Staff have opinions on which options to use concerning charging stations, it would be Council members’ opinion Town officials would be most interested in hearing.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved By Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council meeting of November 6, 2023.

• Approval of the minutes of the special meeting of November 13, 2023.

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of November 15, 2023.

• Motion to reject the bid from O’Shea Builder of Springfield, IL for the Town of Normal – Parking Deck Improvements Project.

• An Ordinance renewing the Intergovernmental Master Agreement between the Town of Normal and The Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS)

• A resolution authorizing purchase of one (1) 2024 Ford F-550 One Ton 4×4 Truck from Bob Ridings Fleet Sales in the Amount of $56,628.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing purchase and installation of a dump bed and snowplow for a Ford F-550 Truck from Koenig Body and Equipment, Inc. and an associated budget adjustment.

• A resolution conditionally reapproving the final plat for Heartland Community College second addition (West Raab Road).

By Steve Robinson | November 18, 2023 - 10:42 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Normal-based Unit 5’s Board of Education discussed proposing a nearly $151 million property tax levy for 2023 – that amount is roughly 10 percent higher than what it was last year. But in the process, the District would also plan to lower its overall tax rate.

The plan calls for reducing the tax rate about 24 cents, to about $5.28 per $100 of equalized assessed valuation [EAV].

The Board discussed the proposal Wednesday during its meeting at Normal West Community High School. A public hearing and vote by Board members is set for Dec. 20 at Normal West’s auditorium.

Reading Levels Show Increases Across Grade Levels: In addition to that information, District Assistant Superintendent Michelle Lamboley informed Board members that District enrollment has grown again, as it has for the past six years. As of the first day of the current school year in August, she explained, Unit 5’s enrollment increased every year over the past six years. She said the District has an enrollment of “around 12,500 students currently.”

Among the benchmarks that have increased from the last couple school years which Lamboley showed Board members was an increase in student reading ability from fall semester 2022-23 to spring semester 2022-23. From the graphic shown Board members, students reading-comprehension ability stood at 81.12 percent in fall 2022-23 and increased to 83.84 percent by the following spring.

Dr. Weikle Provides Strategic Planning Update: District Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle reminded that in September, the District asked parents, students, and staff to complete a survey as the District began updating its Strategic Planning. Dr. Weikle explained the District’s Strategic Plan’s steering committee has been reviewing the results and is still researching what information still needed. She said the District received over 6,600 responses from that first survey.

She said the District is, again, asking district stakeholders to some additional questions she said will help the District “develop a plan for Unit 5’s future.” She said District families and staff were sent out a follow-up survey to obtain more information. She said a survey will be sent to students in Grades 6-12 prior to fall break seeking some additional input.

Northpoint Elementary’s “Good News” : Matt Harr, principal at Northpoint Elementary School, reported to Board members Crystal Greenwald, a crossing guard and noon hour supervisor at the school, has been awarded the 2023 Outstanding Crossing Guard Of The Year by All City Management. The company’s website indicates All City Management “is a family-established business that has been committed to the safety of children for over 38 years.” ACM oversees 311 programs across 22 states.

Greenwald has been the crossing guard at College Ave. and Woodfield St. for the past four years. Harr told Board members, “She was chosen for her overall exceptional performance, her accountability, her caring service, her moral integrity, and obviously, safety.”

Harr added, “We are very proud to have her as part of our team and keeping every student safe on her watch.”

George L. Evans Junior High School’s “Good News”: Brett Papoccia, Associate Principal at George L. Evans Junior High School addressed Board members accompanied by members of the school’s Softball team. Papoccia credited Head Coach Dawn Kelley-Lett with leading the Eagles to a 23-win season, losing just three games all season, finishing fourth in Illinois Elementary School Association Softball Tournament after dropping a 6-0 decision to Lemont, Ill.-based Old Quarry Junior High School placing the Eagles in 4th place to end the season with a 23-3 record.

Papoccia added this was the first time any EJHS Softball team had reached the State tournament. “It truly was an exciting season and first time any EJHS team had made it to the State tournament,” Papoccia told Board members explaining, “It truly was very historic and exciting for our building.”

“Evans Junior High is so very proud of how these students represented Eagle Nation in a State competition, not just with their play, but how they played and how our coaches coached the game,” Papoccia said. “They truly exemplified what we talk about when we talk about being the good in our school. We’re so very proud of them.” Board President Kelly Pyle added the Board was very proud of what the team had achieved.

“Good News” About Illinois School Board Members Day: District Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle informed audience members the date of the meeting, Nov. 15, was the Statewide observance of “School Board Members Day” in Illinois. She added School Board members serve as “unpaid volunteers for the benefit of the community.”

She said Board members work “to ensure the opportunities offered by the District are equitable for all of our families and staff, and that resources of the District are used wisely.” Board members, Dr. Weikle added, put in “countless hours” on District work, attending meetings, and other responsibilities “most community members will never hear, see, or read about.” Dr. Weikle then personally thanked the seven Board members for the time they spend on behalf of the District.

NORMAL – For Dennis Garrigus, being drafted into the U. S. Army in 1969 meant knowing he would have to serve two years at the base he started at, Kentucky’s Fort Knox for basic training but also had with it the possibility of being sent to Viet Nam to aid the American cause against North Vietnamese fighters.

And although it has been decades since his days in uniform, Garrigus to this day told the gathering of 40 people at the annual Veteran’s Day meeting of the Illinois State Society’s Sons of the American Revolution meeting “it is still hard to describe what you experienced” then.

Garrigus was the keynote speaker at the group’s annual event held Nov. 10 at St. Luke Union Church in Bloomington. “I want you to journey with me and see what veterans” experienced, he explained.

Back then, draftees only needed to serve two years, Garrigus said, and added his superiors made draftees aware “you’ll probably wind up in Viet Nam.” He said superiors tried to encourage draftees to sign up for four years to receive training to advance to become, among other positions, a warrant officer or a helicopter pilot.

Two things Garrigus said he had never had much experience with were extended time away from home except for periodic trips to visit grandparents, and handling firearms. “It took me a while and some extra training to get the Marksman’s badge,” he admitted. From there, he was shipped off to what was then Fort Polk in Louisiana, named after Confederate Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk of Tennessee.

In an effort to purge military forts of any Confederate-related names, fort has been renamed Fort Johnson in honor of Sgt. William Henry Johnson, an African-American World War I Medal of Honor recipient from North Carolina. Garrigus said that fort also had the nickname of “Tiger Land” because it was, as Garrigus explained, “The next step before Vietnam.” The flight from his California-based military base to Vietnam was an 18-hour flight which took him from California to Anchorage, Alaska to Japan before arriving to serve his country in Vietnam.

He drew the biggest laugh from audience members when he recalled the difference in the female flight attendants on the plane going to Japan and ones who were on the flight from Japan to Vietnam. He recalled the first flight’s attendants were “young and pretty” while the military style attendants en route to Vietnam were not. He described the attendants on the last leg of his journey as “seasoned veterans.”

Garrigus said on the last leg of the journey, soldiers on board were informed they would be part of the 101st Airbourne Unit. He said that surprised him because he had never had any parachute training. But he quickly learned helicopters were also part of section he was in which gave him some relief as to what he would be dealing with.

He was stationed at what the military calls an artillery base. Garrigus explained that involved clearing a hilltop for artillery and prepped bunkers to be in with the artillery behind them. Garrigus said “you don’t get much sleep” in bunkers, not to mention finding rats running about on the support beams of the bunkers.

Garrigus said he got used to not having a hot shower while on duty, but rather what were known as “Australian showers” – a five gallon bucket dumped from above you and came after opening a spicket.

He also recalled being stationed near the Demilitarized Zone, or what was known as the DMZ close to the border of North and South Vietnam. He also recalled taking helicopter assignments into the jungle. Those nights were equipped with a few days’ worth of food and water and 200 rounds of machine gun ammunition for both you and your fellow soldiers. He said all that equipment adds an extra 125 pounds to any soldier’s frame.

A detail Garrigus had assigned to him was to collect personal belongings of fellow soldiers who got killed in battles his troop was involved in. One item Garrigus said affected him was a set of praying hands among his belongings. “I opened that up,” Garrigus said with emotion in his voice. “It had this prayer in it.” It was what is known as the Serenity Prayer.

The Serenity Prayer says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference.”

He took a vacation in Hawaii where he proposed to his girlfriend, now wife, Michelle. Of his proposal, Garrigus said, “she said yes.” After that, he said, “Getting back on the plane to go back to Vietnam was more difficult.” One other more tragic duty Garrigus said he needed to perform was to escort the body of his brother-in-law who was killed in action back to the States. It was an emotional moment for Garrigus to recall.

Garrigus said every soldier’s day ended checking for leeches as they found ways to attach themselves to soldiers. He added a change of clothes would come where the troops were about every two weeks and be dumped in a pile leaving soldiers to just pick what they needed out of the pile.

One of his last details, Garrigus said, was for the detail he was in to guard the South China Sea. He joked, “I don’t know, maybe the Army thought we would be attacked from the sea or not….” About all that detail involved, he said, included watching local villagers come and go who were doing work for us.”

“Also, everything’s green,” Garrigus said with a chuckle, “Including the underwear they supplied.” He said one of the joys he experienced was being able to drink water from the mountain streams soldiers came across. The mountains they came across, he said, reminded him of Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains.

He said his first night in the jungle of South Vietnam was during the winter months and monsoon season. “It rains all the time in monsoon season,” Garrigus recalled. Part of being in that sort of environment meant soldiers “needed to control your mind because you hear rain dripping or maybe a tree limb falling.” Sounds like that, he said, might prompt a new soldier to think an enemy soldier was sneaking from behind. Garrigus recalls being frightened his first few nights in the jungle.

Garrigus said his tour of duty concluded at Fort Hood, Texas driving an armored personnel carrier. He joked, “I didn’t know how to drive a stick shift let alone a big truck like that.”

The session closed with SAR President Gordon Bidner asking Garrigus to lead attendees in reciting “The Lord’s Prayer.”

By Steve Robinson | November 7, 2023 - 9:38 am
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council

NORMAL –Three dozen Illinois State University students were in attendance at Monday’s Normal Town Council meeting to register their objections to Council members about representatives from the rental companies they pay for their apartments walking in to their apartments with very little prior notice, if any. As a result of such complaints, Normal Town Council members, by a 5-2 vote, approved an ordinance which requires property owners to give tenants proper notice of such visits.

Council Members Kathleen Lorenz and Scott Preston cast opposing votes explaining they wanted to do further research regarding legal aspects of the matter among other reasons.

Prior to the vote, Council members heard from 13 students, among them, an Illinois State University Student Government Association member who said one maintenance person entered her apartment while she showered.

Another student, Jimmy Holmes, an ISU senior, said he supports the new 12 hour notice. He explained his prior experience with apartment maintenance employees included receiving a text message from maintenance staff three minutes prior to their arrival. Holmes described such actions on maintenance staff members as “predatory.”

Council Member Andy Byars said the ordinance received “double thumbs up from me” adding he wasn’t concerned renters will do the type of action that took place in this instance.

Council Member Chemberly Harris told the gathering she could relate to the students’ complaints because she had had a similar incident happen to her when she was in her mid-20s, explaining someone came into her apartment unannounced. At the time, she explained, she didn’t know she had rights as a renter from that happening.

Development Plan For Raising Cane’s Approved: Council members unanimously approved a resolution which approved an amended final development plan for Shoppes At College Hills for the proposed Raising Cane Restaurant which specializes in chicken. The new restaurant, which formerly had at its location a Beauty Brands, a spa and salon establishment, would have the current building razed to be replaced by a 2,800 sq. ft. building at the existing site.

Included among the new amenities the restaurant would be drive through access and green space. There are only 28 parking spaces but Town Code mandates the business have 38 parking spaces. There is room to stack 22 cars in the drive-through. The company estimates roughly 70 percent of its business takes place in its drive through lane.

Council member Kathleen Lorenz expressed an opinion the business will need to watch to make sure vehicles and pedestrians are watching each other in such a confined space.

Cannabis Business Receives Special Use Permit: By a 6-1 count, Council members approved an ordinance granting a special use permit for adult-use cannabis for a business called Ayr Wellness, located at 1730 Bradford Lane. In November, Town Council members approved allowing cannabis-related businesses within Normal, including adult-use dispensaries. The newly-approved location would give Normal two businesses selling such products, the other being Beyond/Hello.

Council Approves Motion Authorizing Preparing 2023 Property Tax Levy: Council members unanimously approved for preparation of the 2023 Property Tax Levy. Residents’ property taxes help produce revenue for the Town to be able to finance the Town’s operations, pension and retirement obligations as well as operation of Normal Public Library. The Town establishes the levy which is collected Town-wide, and that levy is spread across all taxable properties based upon the equalized assessed value (EAV) of each property.

The Town’s proposed tax levy for fiscal year 2024-25 is $10,085,448 while the Normal Public Library’s proposed tax levy is $4,203,164.

The Town’s portion of the property tax bill amounts to roughly 10.7 percent while Normal Public Library’s portion is roughly 4.5 percent of the total bill. With the growth in EAV, the proposed levy is expected to result in a slight decrease for residential property owners.

Council Approves Regulation Concerning “Small Cell” Towers: Council members unanimously approved an ordinance concerning regulating small cell wireless facilities. By passing the ordinance, Normal Town Council members approved amending regulations which would help to ensure safer and more aesthetic installation of those kinds of towers. The function of small cell towers is to assist capacity of large cell towers, especially in areas where there is high demand for such services such as streaming, taking part in online classes, and downloading large files of information.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved By Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council meeting of Oct. 16, 2023.

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Nov. 1, 2023.

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

• A resolution to award the bid for the Osage St. watermain extension project to Bloomington-based George Gildner, a total cost of $136,320.

• A resolution to award the bid for installation of auto flushing devices to George Gildner, a total cost of $85,735.

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

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and accepting the proposal and authorizing staff to execute a contract with Securitas for Uptown security services and associated budget adjustment.

• An ordinance amending the Town of Normal traffic code regarding “time limit” parking (Section 23, Division 5 –Parking Rules).