By Steve Robinson | June 18, 2018 - 10:41 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – The committee that decides which non-profit groups should receive Harmon Arts Grants, named after and presented to winners by former Normal Mayor Paul Harmon and his wife, Sandy, found themselves with some extra cash thanks to one recipient from last year who was unable to fulfill the task they had asked grant money for.

City Manager Pam Reece explained the Galleries at Illinois State University returned to the committee $4,000 recently. The grant awards had already been announced late last month. But since then, the committee has awarded a little more to the smaller amounts some of the groups had asked for. Of the returned $4,000, the committee awarded an additional $1,500 to groups, making the total prize given out this year $26,500 instead of the $25,000 announced earlier. As a result of the reimbursed money, organizers of Concerts On The Quad at Illinois State University received a grant of $1,500.

Other grant recipients, and the grants they were awarded are: Illinois Symphony Orchestra, $2,000; Illinois State University’s Shakespeare Festival, $2,000; Prairie Fire Theatre, $2,000; YWCA Express Yourself, $1,950; Midwest Institute of Opera at ISU, $1,850; University Galleries at ISU, $1,750; Heartland Theatre, $1,500; McLean County Arts Center, $1,500; Twin Cities Ballet, $1,500; USA Ballet, $1,500; Further Jazz, $1,200; Illinois Chamber Music Festival at Illinois Wesleyan University, $1,200; Brass Band of Central Illinois, $1,100; Normal Community West High School Bands, $1,000; Sound Of Illinois, $1,000; Illinois Voices Theatre, $750; Community Players Theatre, $600; and Crossroads Area Student Theatre (CAST), $600.

As former Mayor Paul Harmon announced each winning group in reverse order, and Council members sat in the audience watching, Mayor Chris Koos handed the representative for the group an envelope with their grant money inside.

Council Discusses Money Spent On Riparian Waterways: In certain sections of Town, water and land mesh. Council members voted unanimously to spend $100,000, paying Monee-based Cardno, Inc. to see how such lands can be developed. Public Works Director Wayne Aldrich told Council members finding other communities which have such a unique situation with land and water would give Normal an opportunity for Normal to learn.

He answered a question put to him by Council Member Kathleen Lorenz by saying residents with these unique properties – part land and part water – as the water being part of their backyards. But he added, neighbors do complain about erosion.

Board Appointments And A Reappointment Approved: Council members approved two appointments to two separate commissions and a reappointment to another. As a result of their unanimous vote, Todd E. Bugg has been appointed to the Town’s Historic Preservation Commission. Bugg is filling the vacancy left as a result of the resignation of Kristen Allen. Bugg will be on the Commission to serve out the remainder of Allen’s term which expires on March 31. He graduated from University of Illinois and Illinois College of Law and has practiced law for 27 years. He is a partner in the firm of Dunn Law Firm, LLP.

As a result of another unanimous Council vote, Julie Hile has been appointed to the Board of Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System. Hile is filling a vacancy left by the resignation of Jennifer McDade, and her term will run July 1 through June 30, 2021. She is a senior performance consultant with the Hile Group.

Council members unanimously approved reappointing Ben Harmon to the Children’s Discovery Museum Foundation Board for a term which will expire on June 30, 2021.

Former City Manager Peterson Receives Honor: Normal ’s previous City Manager, Mark Peterson, received an award from his peers in that profession on June 14 in Collinsville . Peterson was presented with the Robert B. Morris Lifetime Achievement Award at a meeting of members of Illinois City/County Manager’s Association.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council meeting of June 4, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of June 13, 2018.

• A resolution conditionally reapproving a final plat for the first addition to the MP-One subdivision.

• A resolution awarding the bid for concrete to the low bidder, Bloomington-based Stark Excavating, Inc. at a price per cubic yard of $103 for High Early Mix and $89 for S. I. Mix.

• A resolution authorizing a contract with Hoerr Construction, Inc. for the 2018 sanitary and storm sewer cleaning and televising contract in the amount of $341,690.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the City Manager to enter into a contract with Lake Mary, Fla.-based Superion, LLC for the purchase of TRAKiT software and related professional services.

• An ordinance amending the Town Liquor Code concerning video gaming for pari-mutuel premises and concerning secondary premises licenses for limited hour licenses.

By Steve Robinson | June 13, 2018 - 10:19 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Having lost Jim Hayek, Jr. off Normal-based Unit 5 School District Board as of the end of last month, the district is currently in search of his replacement. The procedure for finding someone to replace him should cause Board members to become quick studies with the procedure after hearing that Joseph Cleary will step down soon as a Board member, as well.

During the Board member comments section toward the end of the meeting, Cleary, who teaches construction management at Illinois State University, announced he had been offered a similar position at California Polytechnic State University, known as Cal-Poly, in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Cleary did not state when he would submit his resignation from the Board.

But when Cleary formally turns in his resignation, under State law, the Board will have 45 days from the date the resignation takes effect to appoint a successor. Also, that person would have to run for election the spring of the next election cycle. The Board is currently going through applications from citizens wishing to replace Hayek.

Cleary was appointed to the Board following the resignation of Denise Schuster in spring 2016. Schuster, an employee of State Farm Insurance, as is Hayek, exited the Board because of a job transfer to Dallas, Texas for her husband. In April 2016, Cleary was sworn in to complete Schuster’s term, and successfully ran for a term of his own the following spring.

“Unit 5 is still a great district,” Cleary said in answer to a media question as to whether the State’s witnessing an exodus of residents partly because its financial status, had anything to do with his own departure. He said the State’s situation had nothing to do with his own exit, and that “I was presented with a teaching opportunity on the west coast. My family loves it here. We have family here, so we will visit as often as we can.” Cleary and his wife, Karmon, have a boy who will enter 4th grade and a girl who will enter 6th grade in the fall.

Amended Budget Approved: Prior to Cleary’s announcement, Board members conducted business which included unanimously approving an amended budget for the coming school year. The district will have $169 million with which to operate. The district is looking at each of the operating funds the district has – Education, Operations and Maintenance, Transportation, and Working Cash – having some surplus money on hand to the tune of $2.3 million, according to the report presented to Board members by Business Manager Marty Hickman.

There is still some money yet to come in, Hickman told Board members, as Unit 5 is expecting roughly $2.7 million in payments for Special Education and Transportation due the district from the State.

Board Votes For District To Join Insurance Co-Op: In addition, Board members unanimously approved a resolution agreeing to become part of Suburban School Cooperative Insurance Pool (SSCIP) for its insurance needs. SSCIP operates financially on an annual calendar whereas the district operates on a fiscal calendar. As a result, Hickman said, Unit 5 would need to pay for its membership for the second half of this calendar year as well as for all of 2019 to start that relationship. After that, beginning with the start of 2020, Unit 5 would pay an annual amount to SSCIP.

By Steve Robinson | June 1, 2018 - 10:17 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Prior to the regular meeting of Normal Town Council members on June 18 in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, the Town will award their annual Harmon Arts Grant to groups which applied for them in hopes of being able to enrich the community through their talents.

The list of 18 groups who will share in grants totaling $25,000 was approved by Council members as part of that omnibus vote at Monday’s Council session. Other than omnibus items, there were no general orders or new business at this meeting.

The Town received a total of 28 applications for grants totaling $74,297. That figure is down from last year when the Town received 30 grant requests totaling $90,067, according to a report prepared for Council members by Interim City Manager Teri Legner.

Although none of the groups receiving a grant applied for one this large, the maximum grant awarded is $5,000, and the programs or projects receiving grant money must be taking place between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019. Former Mayor Paul Harmon, current Mayor Chris Koos, City Manager Pam Reece, and Legner make up the committee to determine grant winners.

The Harmon Arts Grant Program is named for the former mayor and was established in 1993 to help promote various forms of art in the community. A total of $25,000 in the Town’s general fund is where dollars for the grants come from.

Grant applications are evaluated according to numerous criteria, including: They must take place within Normal and be administered by non-profit groups; They must be programs which serve a large number of patrons; and can include quasi-arts programs.

The grant recipients, and the grants they were awarded are: Illinois Symphony Orchestra, $2,000; Illinois State University’s Shakespeare Festival, $2,000; Prairie Fire Theatre, $2,000; YWCA Express Yourself, $1,950; Midwest Institute of Opera at ISU, $1,850; University Galleries at ISU, $1,750; Heartland Theatre, $1,500; McLean County Arts Center, $1,500; Twin Cities Ballet, $1,500; USA Ballet, $1,500; Further Jazz, $1,200; Illinois Chamber Music Festival at Illinois Wesleyan University, $1,200; Brass Band of Central Illinois, $1,100; Normal Community West High School Bands, $1,000; Sound Of Illinois, $1,000; Illinois Voices Theatre, $750; Community Players Theatre, $600; and Crossroads Area Student Theatre (CAST), $600.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the public hearing of May 21, 2018.

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council meeting of May 21, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of May 30, 2018.

• A resolution to approve bids and award a contract to Champaign Signal and Lighting Company for the Beaufort St ./Vernon Ave. traffic signal upgrade project.

• Supplemental Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) resolution in the amount of $31,600 for the Beaufort St ./Vernon Ave. traffic signal upgrade project.

• A resolution accepting the low bid and awarding a contract to Astoria , Ill.-based K. K. Stevens Publishing Co. for the printing of Normal Parks & Recreation Department’s Fall, Winter/Spring, and Summer Activity Guides in the amount of $28,155.66 plus postage.

• A resolution authorizing the filing of the Town’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) 2018-2019 Annual Action Plan.

• A resolution to waive the formal bidding process and accept a quote from Elgin , Ill.-based Drydon Equipment, Inc. for the replacement of the Halogen valve emergency shut-off system at the water treatment plant at a cost of $35,985.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and executing an agreement with Santa Fe Springs , Calif.-based All City Management Services, Inc. in the amount not to exceed $82,872 for school crossing guard management services.

• An ordinance establishing prevailing wage rates.

By Steve Robinson | May 23, 2018 - 10:06 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

In February, he announced his intentions to resign from Normal-based Unit 5 School Board due to a job transfer through his employer, State Farm Insurance. At that governing body’s meeting May 23 at district headquarters, Jim Hayek, who had been a Board member for three years, formally announced he was stepping down at the end of the evening. The Board held a closed door one-hour session, followed by the public meeting which lasted 45-minutes, followed by another closed door session.

“I’ve learned a lot from you and I just want to wish you the best,” said Board Member Taunia Leffler. Board Member Joe Cleary told Hayek he was envious because he was moving to a constantly warmer climate in Arizona.

“I’ll just always remember you for having a strategic mind and a general calmness that you brought to the table,” said Board President Barry Hitchins. “We had heated meetings over the three years here. You just always seemed calm, cool, and collected.”

“You moved us forward with our strategic plan,” Board Member Mike Trask said in beginning his tribute. Calling Hayek “a great mentor,” Trask added, “I’ve enjoyed conversations with you, and although we haven’t always agreed with each other, we’ve respected each other’s opinions.”

“Thank you for your leadership, thank you for your mentoring,” District Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel extended to Hayek. “I think I’ve learned many things from you, and I know Phoenix is going to be a better place because you and your family are going to be there.”

Hayek’s resignation becomes effective May 30. Under State law, Unit 5 will have 45 days from that date to appoint a successor. That person, after taking office, will have to formally run for the seat in the primary elections next spring.

In addition to Hayek’s departure, the Board will need a new clerk due to LaNell Greenberg, who has held the job for four years, moving on to become assistant to Nikki Maurer, associate principal at Normal Community High School. Greenberg has held numerous positions throughout the district during a14-year career with the district.

Normal Community High’s “Good News”: On May 10, the Normal Community High School’s Chapter of Best Buddies was named the Illinois Chapter of the Year by the national organization. Currently, more than 100 Best Buddies chapters in the State of Illinois. Earlier this semester, NCHS’ chapter named the Regional Chapter of the Year at the Annual Best Buddies Walk.

Best Buddies is an organization founded in 1989 with a mission to establish a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. NCHS’ has grown over the years, with about 50 general education students and 25 students with disabilities who are paired through the program to bond at school during classroom and other weekly activities. This occurs by simply spending time together at school or out in the community. The teachers who serve as sponsors for the Best Buddies program at NCHS are Erin Sanders, Angie Cardiff, Brandy Sherrick and Amy Veselak.

NCHS assistant principal Natalie Shumaker and Addie Smith, an NCHS junior who has served as the president of the group this year, addressed Board members. “Our club has changed so many lives,” Smith told Board members. “It has changed my life, as well. We’re causing a ripple affect and we look forward to having a better year next year.”

In an emotional response to the presentation, Trask said his daughter has been “a beneficiary” of being part of the group. “I can’t tell you what its done for her.”

Parkside Elementary’s “Good News”: Team building was the goal of a program which took place in May at Parkside Elementary School. Assistant Principal Beth Goken explained Principal Ryan Weichman had team building in mind, and each day for a week earlier this month, seven teams competed in a unique team building event. Among the personal aspects of this were committing acts of kindness and showing team spirit among other challenges. Parkside students were included in many of the activities the program involved.

District’s “Good News”: Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, brought to the attention of those attending the meeting news about the Tales of English Language Learners, or TELL exhibit. This exhibit, which was created collaboratively by Illinois State University students enrolled in School of Teaching and Learning, and School of Art Graphic Design courses, features stories of English Language Learners in Bloomington-Normal schools and at ISU.

TELL displays the journeys of students through their stories, cultural traditions, challenges, and dreams for the future. The exhibit seeks to reduce misconceptions and prejudice about the faces and voices of English Language Learners, or ELLs, in our community, and aspires to raise public awareness and create positive dialogue.

Each ELL story is a combination of determination, hope, and challenges. It is more important than ever to share the stories of ELLs through which we can understand better and celebrate the diversity and commonality of human experience.

Dr. Rabia Hos has been instrumental in forging a partnership between ISU and Unit 5 English Learners Programs.

NORMAL – By a 6-1 count at their regularly-scheduled meeting Monday night, Normal Town Council members approved amending two sections of the Town Code which would help pave the way for an Uptown business to have outdoor seating in an on-the-street parking space.

The request was made by owners of Stave, a beer and wine establishment at 111 W. North St. To permit sales and consumption of food and alcoholic beverages in an on-street parking space, amendments needed to be made to the Town Public Code concerning liquor and public ways.

Town Staff researched to discover what other communities had to see if it would even be possible to allow this in Normal. The on-street cafes are referred to as parklets. What Town Staff discovered is that parklets are becoming very popular and common in central business districts nationally. The Town’s research found them in Iowa City, Iowa, and in Illinois in Urbana and Yorkville.

The Town has drafted an ordinance which would allow for a pilot program for parklets to be allowed in Normal. Among the pilot program’s stipulations: It would only be in effect for 2018, expiring Oct. 15, would only apply to Stave, and the Town’s public works director would have to approve the seating layout.

Also, the seating would need to be on a platform, and the platform could not interfere with the flow of vehicle traffic. Also under the conditions of the program, the Town also retains the right to discontinue the program at any time, including for temporary circumstances.

“More communities are doing this all the time,” Town Planner Mercy Davison told Council members, adding the move amounted to an investment in infrastructure for the establishment.

But Council Member Jeff Fritzen said he had concerns about vehicles coming around the round-about off of Beaufort St., saying that turn “is fairly tight.”

“I have a safety concern with this,” Fritzen added. “Once you do a pilot program, others want it and I would rather see where this winds up” before making a determination whether it should be continued.

Fritzen said parking in Uptown also plays a role. Davison said parking blocks at one end of the outdoor café for safety are part of the plan. She said a block of that type is there already. Before the vote was taken, Council Member Kevin McCarthy expressed the opinion the Town should at least give it a try.

Children’s Discovery Museum, Normal Theater Named “Two Greatest Places” In Illinois: Before the 45-minute meeting closed, City Manager Pam Reece announced Children’s Discovery Museum and Normal Theater had been named two of “Illinois’ 200 Great Places” by American Institute of Architects, honoring what the organization calls “built environments.”

AIA Illinois will present both locations with individual plaques to recognize the honor, Reece told Council members. All 200 locations AIA Illinois honored are featured on a website,

Planned Unit Development Gets Conditional Approval: Council members unanimously approved a resolution which conditionally approved a preliminary planned unit development east of 201 McKnight, to become known as “The Park.”

The property owner plans to develop the land east of the Starplex Cinemas on 4.76 acres of land. The plan includes construction of 13 buildings which will house 85 units which will allow for 294 beds. Townhomes on the property will be 2 ½ stories with varying exteriors and porch styles. The complex will meet Town Code by making sure it has 170 spaces.

The development received unanimous approval by a 7-0 vote of the McLean County Regional Planning Commission. That vote followed a public hearing on May 10.

Proclamation Honors Local Students: Prior to the start of the meeting, two local high school students were honored with a proclamation for successfully completing an innovation award program which is co-sponsored by Millikin University, Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University, and Pontiac Township High School.

Normal Community High School student Lexi Showalter and Normal Community West High School student Becca Nalley were honored with a proclamation read by Normal Mayor Chris Koos honoring them for receiving an innovators award from the universities and the high school for their creating what they call Cybercitizens, a program where senior citizens learn how to use a smartphone during a face-to-face class. So far, the girls say, they have taught older folks at Bible study classes with the seniors wanting to learn about the new technology.

Retiring Town Engineer Attends Final Council Meeting: Gene Brown wrapped up 33 years with the Town of Normal when the Council session ended. Brown retires as Town Engineer. He, too, received a proclamation from the Town, read by Koos, surrounded by Council members.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council meeting of May 7, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of May 16, 2018.

• A resolution approving the final plat of the Normal Main Street Fire Station subdivision (606 S. Main St.) by expedited process and initiating a zoning map amendment from B-1 General Business to S-2 Public Lands & Institutions.

• A resolution conditionally and partially approving a final plat within one and one-half miles of corporate limits by expedited process – A. Ziebarth (south of 19203 N. 1500 East Rd.).

• An ordinance vacating a portion of an alley in the subdivision of Block 6 in the 9th addition to Normal (Off of Fell St. between Mulberry St. and Locust St.). A public hearing was held on this matter prior to the start of the Council session. No one addressed Council members at the hearing.