NORMAL – Plans for a new five-story building which would stretch from Beaufort Ave. to College Ave. which would have mixed usage received passage from Normal Town Council members at the governing body’s regular meeting in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station Monday night. Council members unanimously passed an ordinance authorizing a redevelopment agreement between the Town and Miami, Fla.-based Bush Development LLC for construction of the structure.

The Town would like to construct a five-story, 220,000 sq. ft. building on the site where currently properties at 104 and 108 E. Beaufort St. currently stand. 104 E. Beaufort St. has been vacant for months, and is the location of a mural which was begun on the building in 2011. The building in-between, 106 E. Beaufort St. – is occupied by Windy City Wieners restaurant.

The total cost of the project is $29.2 million but the project would receive a Tax Increment Financing contribution of not more than $8 million over the life of the TIF which was recently extended thanks to State approval to 2026. The Town has had a Tax Increment Finance plan in progress since 2003.

The Town will incur expenses associated with the project related to electric utility relocation and electric connections for certain East Beaufort St. businesses. Funds for the project are part of the Town’s 2019-20 budget.

The proposed plan for the site consists of one building all along Constitution Blvd. from Uptown Circle on the south to College Ave. on the north. A private parking lot would be located to the east of the building.

The plan would require demolition of 104 and 108 E. Beaufort.

But passage didn’t take place until after Council members heard from citizens who addressed Council prior to the vote. Mike Kerber questioned tearing down the older building citing in his opinion that, one of the newer additions to Uptown, CVS Pharmacy, which began operations in 2009, “is as ugly as sin.” He added he wants to see the older buildings in Uptown saved from a wrecking ball.

Mentioning the One Uptown Building On The Circle still has no business tenants, Joel Studebaker, a Normal Public Library Trustee, told Council members said One Uptown was built “to improve this market and it hasn’t.”

Mike Matejka told Council members he was in favor of the plan and hoped Bush Construction would employ local laborers to participate in the construction of the new building.

“I’m in favor of development, but not this,” stated Former Normal Mayoral candidate Marc Tiritilli to Council members. He stated one-third of the cost of the project is too expensive, adding, “We’re tired of having school district monies taken from us” for such projects. To that point, both Mayor Chris Koos and Council Member R. C. McBride objected to a suggestion that such a project takes money from Normal-based Unit 5 School District in an effort to complete any project.

“Unit 5 does great work and this body is a partner in that,” McBride responded during the discussion prior to voting on the measure. “I get a little upset when we’re told we’re diverting funds from public schools.”

A piece of art is likely to be sacrificed when 104 E. Beaufort St. is torn down. A mural which was painted by numerous artists on the west wall of the building will be lost when the building is demolished. The mural was begun in 2011 when The Pod art studio opened at the location. The Pod closed in January. Numerous artists each had a section of the mural in which to express themselves.

“It was a beautiful piece of art and it’s sad it can’t be saved,” commented Council Member Chemberly Cummings during the discussion prior to the vote.

Council Approves Measures Related To Ameren Power Station: Council members passed a quartet of measures relating to a power station located at 807-809 Pine St . , operated by Ameren Illinois . Council members first passed a site plan for the property, upon which the utility sought to expand the station. They next unanimously passed an ordinance vacating an easement located on the Marquerite Subdivision at Lot #3, located at 807 Pine St .

Council members next voted unanimously to rezone the property to S-2 Public Lands and Institutions. Previous to this change, 807 Pine St. was zoned M-1 Restricted Manufacturing and 809 Pine St. was zoned M-2 General Manufacturing. The final measure Council members unanimously passed concerning this property was to approve a resolution approving the final plat of Normal Route 66 subdivision which covered the entire property.

Council Certifies, Acknowledges Support For Maxwell Park Project: Council members unanimously approved a resolution which certified and acknowledged the Town’s support of an application with Illinois Department of Natural Resources through the Open Space Land and Acquisition (OSLAD) grant. OSLAD is a matching program which provides up to 50 percent of the grant agreement shortly after the grant agreement is executed. Communities applying for the grant, which can be used for development projects solely, the community applying for the grant must demonstrate the ability the remaining cost of the project prior to receiving the funds.

Normal Parks and Recreation Department set aside $20,000 for development for fiscal year 2018-19 as part of its master plan to upgrade Maxwell Park, according to the report submitted to Council members by Doug Damery, director of parks and recreation for the Town. Hitchcock Design Group, which has offices in Chicago and the Chicago suburb of Naperville , has been working with the Town on a plan for the park, according to Damery.

Council Approves License Agreement With ISU: Council members unanimously approved a license agreement with Illinois State University for the use of the College Ave. right of way between Main and Kingsley Streets

Liquor Commission Approves Gaming License Applications: Town Council members serving in their capacity as Normal Local Liquor Commission, unanimously approved two video gaming license applications for a pair of local restaurants. Commissioners approved a gaming license for Bradford Lane Italian Foods, LLC doing business as Rosati’s Pizza of Normal, 1720 Bradford Lane . They also granted a gaming license for Min Zhou, Inc., doing business as Kochi Sushi, 1540 E. College Ave.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Oct. 1, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Oct. 10, 2018.

• A resolution partially and conditionally approving the final development plan for The Park at Constitution Trail Centre.

• A resolution partially and conditionally approving the final plat for The Park at Constitution Trail Centre Planned Unit Development.

By Steve Robinson | October 11, 2018 - 10:59 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Members of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board unanimously a resolution authorizing district Business Manager Marty Hickman to seek bids for and later award contracts to companies for diesel fuel and gasoline.

Once the bids are announced they are subject to a future Board vote. Among the parameters bidders must meet are that diesel fuel must be at a cost of $2.60 or lower per gallon and that gasoline must be at a cost of $2.20 or lower per gallon.

But although the amounts are set in this instance, one district official would like to see legislation introduced which would change bidding requirements on such commodities. Curt Richardson, attorney for the school district, explained he has reached out to both State Rep. Dan Brady (R-105th) and State Sen. Jason Barickman (R-53rd) to see if they would be willing to look into sponsoring legislation which would support such a measure once crafted.

Having such legislation would allow the district to react more quickly to changes in market prices for such commodities. As the process is now, between the times the district advertises for bids, receives them, opens them, and then has a measure for approval for paying a vendor for such goods, the market price of those goods risks going one direction or another which could not sit well with vendors when Board members approve the measure.

Hickman said currently, once the district posts it’s taking bids for such commodities, the bid has to remain advertised for 10 days by law. Once those bids are opened and a company and their price have been accepted, that process needs to be timed to have a Board meeting at which Board members would vote to accept the proposed bid.

“With diesel fuel prices, for example, you never know what can happen overnight,” Hickman said. Richardson submitted a draft of legislation which would try to reduce the time involved in the process from posting to a school board approving how much they would pay for such commodities.

Were such legislation to pass, Hickman said, “if there’s a drop in fuel prices, we could move in more quickly to lock in a contract at a low price” Under current rules, he added, “it takes so long to go through the process, we don’t want to lock into a contract at a price the vendor won’t take.”

“In the end, doing this would help us get the lowest price for taxpayers,” Hickman said.

Superintendent Issues Caution Concerning Teacher Shortage: In his superintendent comments at the meeting Dr. Mark Daniel told the gathering concerns about a teacher shortage are well-founded and that it may be not just on the horizon but in progress. He said heading off such a shortage was something it had in mind when the district increased pay for starting teachers.

But he said evidence of the shortage was recently cited during a conference conducted by the Large Unit District Association which indicated numbers of education certification and licensure tests for teachers saw a 74 percent decline from the 2012-13 school year and the 2016-17 school year.

Oakdale Elementary Says ‘Thank You” Twice Publicly: Elizabeth Holtz, principal at Oakdale Elementary School had twice the “good news” report to present to Board members, which included twice the “thank you”s for work that had been done around the school during the summer. First, she thanked members of Eastview Christian Church for their members’ donation of time and effort in terms of improvements around the school.

Eastview members came out and re-surfaced the playground blacktop, provided a new roof for the school’s tool shed, and completed numerous landscape projects needing finishing at the school.

Holtz explained in a memo to district superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel and Board members that each year, Eastview members partner with local community members to provide various services at no cost through The Serve Project, a continuous program of serving to help others the church established. Holtz explained Eastview contacted Unit 5 with interest in providing services to Oakdale Elementary, as they had previously partnered with the school through other charitable causes. In the same way the Dollar Donation provided transportation for

Church members also helped as they re-surfaced the school blacktop included adding painted lines which provide students with game opportunities during both recess and lunch. Also painted onto the blacktop were Basketball court lines a kickball field, as well as four square, and hopscotch squares, all ready for action.

“Every single day, there are kids out there playing and it has been a huge blessing,” Holtz told Board members.

In addition, the basketball hoops were repainted, and rims and nets were added. Volunteers also saw to it the shed’s roof was redone.

In addition, Mulch was provided around the base of all the trees on the property, as well as laid around the school sign and front garden area.

Holtz also introduced Board members to Normal Community High School student Ben Brown, who along with various community members helped to continue with the improvements at the school. But for Brown, his efforts toward the community were part of duties he performed as he sought the goal of becoming an Eagle Scout.

Brown created and planned out a garden space at the school for his project, enlisting assistance from community businesses and volunteers. Brown’s garden includes providing garden boxes, seeds and plants, grass, dirt, benches, food donations, and monetary donations to help make the garden become a reality. The garden also has a library thanks to a local organization called A Little Free Library. In this library, students are provided with free books to take home to read and bring them back in exchange for a new book.

The efforts have provided the school with an outdoor learning space which, Holtz explained, has already seen plenty of use.

Gina Tenuta Named New Principal At Fairview Elementary: Dr. James Harden, executive director of human resources and student services, introduced Gina Tenuta as the new principal at Fairview Elementary School. Tenuta assumes her new duties Jan. 1. She is currently associate principal and athletic director at George L. Evans Junior High School. Tenuta will take over from retired Bloomington School District #87 Principal Jim Cooper who has been serving as interim principal. Cooper stepped in on a temporary basis after Lori Harrison, the school’s principal last year, left the district over the summer.

PBIS Presentation Made: Board members heard from Nancy Braun, who serves as a coach for district schools concerning its Positive Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program. Braun reported to Board members all 23 of the district’s schools – elementary, junior highs, and high schools – have achieved varying levels of success in implementing PBIS in their schools. PBIS originated from language used in a 1997 amendment to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This portion of IDEA was very specific in pinpointing methods of identification and support of positive behaviors in the classroom.

Since the 2014-15 school year, the number of district schools receiving recognition for their efforts for PBIS has grown. Also since that school year, Braun told Board members, only one school – Pepper Ridge Elementary – has been every year since 2014-15.

PBIS schools are rated with awards ranging from Platinum to Gold to Silver to Bronze. District schools receiving Platinum ranking were: Benjamin Elementary, Cedar Ridge Elementary, Colene Hoose Elementary, and Northpoint Elementary, Chiddix Junior High School, and George L. Evans Junior High School.

Unit 5 Schools receiving a Gold ranking were: Fox Creek Elementary, Glenn Elementary, Grove Elementary, and Sugar Creek Elementary.

District Schools receiving a Silver ranking were: Brigham Elementary, Carlock Elementary, Fairview Elementary, Oakdale Elementary, Parkside Elementary, Pepper Ridge Elementary, Prairieland Elementary, Towanda Elementary, Kingsley Junior High School, and Normal Community High School. Hudson Elementary and Normal Community West High School received Bronze designations.

By Steve Robinson | October 1, 2018 - 10:50 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Without discussion, Normal Town Council members unanimously approved appointing Nick Moran to fill a vacancy on the Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority, the governing body which oversees Central Illinois Regional Airport.

Moran will fill a Board seat vacated by Beth Whisman, whose term expires on April 30, 2022. Moran has been employed at Commerce Bank for 17 years, currently in the position of vice president of the bank’s Commercial Banking Division based in Bloomington.

Among his community activities, Moran serves on the board of American Red Cross, president of 5Khaos, a charity obstacle race, and the marketing committee of Illinois Prairie Foundation. He also volunteers on the Parent Teacher Organization of Sugar Creek Elementary School. He was also a founding member of McLean County Chamber of Commerce’s young professionals group which was once known as NeXt Professionals.

A Lamont, Ill. native, Moran and his wife, Kathy, have three children, ages 5, 7, and 9.

Three Seats Up For Election, Two Candidates Announced: When voters go to the polls next spring to determine who will sit on Normal Town Council, there will be three seats to be voted for. Two one-term incumbents have said they will run again, while a third veteran has not announced his intentions as yet.

Kathleen Lorenz and R. C. McBride, elected in 2015, each have declared their intentions to run for second terms. Jeff Fritzen, who has served on the Council from 1983-1999, and then after a four-year hiatus, ran again in 2003, hasn’t announced whether he will run for what would be his fifth term this time around. If he seeks re-election, it would be for a ninth term.

“I have a genuine desire to continue to serve the community,” Lorenz said Monday. Having had four years of experience after winning what was Sonja Reece’s seat on the Council at the time, and growing and learning from being on Council during that time has enthused her to run again, she explained.

McBride said he was happy with what the Council has accomplished for the Town in the last four years, including being awarded a AAA Bond rating and a balanced budget. He also pointed to the Council passing a Welcoming Families ordinance and introducing multi-family recycling.

Candidates must file between Nov. 19-26, explained Town Clerk Angie Huonker, with petitions due in by 5p.m. on the last day to her office. Anyone wishing to file can get petitions from either her office at Normal City Hall or the McLean County Clerk’s Office, or Illinois State Board of Elections.

At this time, other than Lorenz and McBride, Huonker said, her office is not aware of any other candidates who have petitions out at this time. She said her office won’t know that until those candidates submit their petitions during the filing period.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Sept. 17, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Sept.26, 2018.

• A resolution to accept water treatment chemical bids from November 2018 through October 2019.

• An ordinance granting a Special Use Permit for a temporary parking lot at 612 Kingsley.

• An ordinance granting a Special Use Permit for a temporary parking lot at 603 Dale.

By Steve Robinson | September 27, 2018 - 10:59 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Jane Collins made sure those who made the concrete walkway rounding the inner part of the property near Eugene Field after a year plus of labor received a proper “thank you” during the regularly-scheduled meeting of Normal-based Unit 5 Board of Education Sept. 26.

The walkway surrounding the inner grounds of Eugene Field School complete, during a “good news” item at the meeting, Collins, the school’s administrator, passed along her and the school’s thanks to all involved in making the walkway a reality. A formal ceremony to announce the project, including groundbreaking, was held in May 2017. Students saw the finished product when they returned to class as the current school year started Aug. 16.

Eugene Field School, once an elementary school when it opened over 80 years ago, is now home to an Adapted Learning Program, a Secondary Services Program for young people ages 18-21, a vocational training center, a vocational transitional training program, and Decker Industries.

The walkway was dedicated to one of the school’s first students, Reggie Whittaker, who attended the school as a fifth grader in the 1936-37 school year. Work began work on the walkway shortly after the groundbreaking.

Among those Collins thanked were: Ronald C. Morehead, President of Local 18 of Bloomington-Normal Trades and Labor Assembly. Also thanked were Nick Blazevich, Ray Bosquez, Joe Carr, Justin Dumyahn, Scott Gregory, Dick Huddleston, Steve Lowe, Gage Nimmo, Scott Nimmo, Chris Patterson, Dennis Rich, Kevin Taylor, and Mark West of Laborers Local 362.

In addition, Collins thanked Ray Lello, Danny Martinez, Jr., Doug Meyers, Ronnie Paul, Chuck Porter, Tony Sipes, and Elliot Vinson, from Bloomington-based Stark Excavating Co. Brent Williams from Midwest Construction Rentals also received acknowledged appreciation.

Collins’ thanks continued to Alan Batterman, Jim McKinney, and Bill Speary who were Teamsters members who drove trucks hauling the needed concrete, and the dispatcher who coordinated the trucks, Curtis Eichen. She also acknowledged Rob Ditchen, the concrete supervisor for McLean County Asphalt Co., Inc.

Unit 5 personnel were not left out in Collins’ appreciation for what was done for the school. She started with Operations Manager Joe Adelman, and Unit 5 staffers Doug Johnson, Kaine Hilt, Norm Hicks, and Chad Merritt.

Hudson Elementary School’s “Good News”: Board members heard from Scott Myers, principal of Hudson Elementary School, as he introduced them to second grade teachers Amanda Hunt and Becky Braman. Hunt and Braman, Myers explained, have introduced a new mentoring program into the school which puts students in “multi-grade family teams.” The teams meet weekly on Monday and Friday mornings with students to discuss such things as character traits, goals such as self-esteem and empathy, and showing kindness toward others.

He explained there are student mentors in the group giving positive reminders to fellow classmates each day during morning announcements.

School Year 2018-19 Budget Approved: Board members unanimously approved a budget for the coming school year. District leaders presented Board members a tentative budget for the next fiscal year that has a structural deficit totaling close to $5.9 million. To close that gap, Board members unanimously approved borrowing up to $16.5 million using bonds. Doing that will create an increase in property taxes for local residents. For example, the owner of a $177,000 home will see an increase of roughly $204 in their tax bill in each of the next two years.

Substitute Teacher Issues To Be Concern Of New Panel: Board members heard the district will form a panel which will address issues brought to the district’s attention by substitute teachers who addressed the Board at this meeting and at the governing body’s Sept. 12 session. Dr. James Harden, executive director of human resources and student services for the district, informed Board members an advisory committee consisting of substitute teachers, members of Unit Five Education Association and Unit Five Support Professionals Association, which represents support staff in the district, will meet for the first time on Oct. 9 to address concerns raised by the substitutes.

Learning By Playing Returning To District Kindergarten: Board members heard from Deb Honniger, Early Learning Instructional Coach for the district, and Kathy Reardon, Kindergarten teacher at Fox Creek Elementary School, Bloomington. Honniger and Reardon informed Board members that after years of being absent, play time is back for district kindergarten classes.

Honniger informed Board members 40 minutes of free play time, which has been absent from district schools for a few years, has returned. She explained such activity helps children’s brains and imaginations. She said it’s done in what she called a “teacher-engaged” style and helps to form emotional and academic skills. In one class, the instructors informed, children used water-filled bottles to study different sounds made using them.

Reardon related children using blocks in her class to build a Wal-Mart building. She said that prompted one child to consider the fact the building would need a sign, which he took the initiative to make for the creation. Other children, she added, began creating the road around their creation.

In another instance, Reardon said, children used blocks to build a castle. That exercise, Reardon explained, helped teach youngsters about various shapes, such as cylinder-shaped blocks.

“We want our time in the classroom to stick with them,” Honniger told Board members.

By Steve Robinson | September 17, 2018 - 10:50 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – At their regularly-scheduled session Monday night in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, Normal Town Council members heard the Town has won an award for historic preservation, specifically for work done concerning Broadview Mansion. Specifically, the award was earned by the Town in the category of stewardship.

The Town received a 2018 Preservation Award from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation for efforts in preserving the Edwardian-style home built in 1906 which sits at the corner of Fell and Highland Avenues and is operated by the Immanuel Bible Foundation.

Council Member Kathleen Lorenz attended a function hosted by Landmarks Illinois in Chicago on Saturday to accept the award. Lorenz said the collaboration between the Town and Immanuel Bible Foundation needs to be credited with the success of preserving the building and for which the award was received.

Planned Unit Development, Rezoning On Lincoln College Property Approved: Council members unanimously approved a trio of resolutions related to the Lincoln College property at 715-755 W. Raab Rd. College officials are wanting to change how the nearly 9.2 acres are used. First, the College, which is in three buildings, sought to scale back to one academic building adjacent to Raab Rd. and to sell off portions of the remainder of the property.

Doing what the college wants accomplished would require rezoning the property and then create a Planned Unit Development, or PUD, so the properties could be divided into new lots and rezoned. Parts of the land will be rezoned from S-2 Public Land and Institutions to B-1 General Business.

Normal Planning Commission members held a public hearing on the proposed re-subdivision on Sept 6 where no members of the public addressed the issue and only Lincoln College representatives were in attendance. The Planning Commission voted 6-0 on the re-subdivision. That vote on the measure sent it on to Normal Town Council.

Council members first unanimously approved a resolution for the final plat for the fourth re-subdivision of the property. The second measure they approved unanimously related to the property was its rezoning

Finally, Council members unanimously passed a resolution conditionally approving a final development plan for the Lincoln Colleges residences, located at 717-731 W. Raab Rd., the area to be referred to now as Fairlawn Capital PUD. That PUD can now be zoned R-3A Medium Density Multi-Family Residence.

The PUD was needed to be established on this property, according to the memo prepared for Council members by Town Planner Mercy Davison, because Town Code limits the number of such buildings to one per lot unless a PUD is in place.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Sept. 4, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Sept.12, 2018.

• A resolution accepting base bid Alternatives 1, 3, and 4 and awarding a contract to Springfield-based Henson-Robinson Co. for replacement of roofing systems at the water treatment plant in the amount of $156,200 and an associated budget adjustment.

• A resolution accepting base bid and Alternative 1 and awarding a contract to Chenoa-based Union Roofing Co., Inc. for the replacement of low slope roofing systems at the Community Activity Center in the amount of $67,390.

• A resolution authorizing a contract with Watseka, Ill.-based Freehill Asphalt, Inc. for the 2018 Towanda Ave. concrete pavement crack and joint sealing contract in the amount of $66,223.

• A resolution authorizing the City Manager to enter into a Small Government Enterprise License Agreement with Redlands, Calif.-based Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. for software licensing and related services for the Town’s Geographic Information System