By Steve Robinson | April 16, 2018 - 10:13 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – As part of the omnibus agenda for Normal Council members at their regularly-scheduled meeting Monday night in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, Council members unanimously approved a resolution authorizing a change of ownership of the Bloomington-Normal Marriott and Conference Center, 201 Broadway, from John Q. Hammons Hotels And Resorts, based in Springfield, Mo. to New York-based investment firm JD Holdings. JD Holdings is an affiliate of Alpharetta, Ga.-based Atrium Hospitality. Atrium Hospitality has 49 hotel properties in 26 states.

The Hammons group also seeks to turn over the hotel’s Carol A. Reitan Conference Center, named after the Town’s first female mayor from the 1970s, over to the new owners as well as the parking garage structure across from the hotel, on Beaufort St.

John Q. Hammons, founder of the company that has owned the hotel since it opened in late summer 2009, died in 2013. Hammons’ company has been selling off properties in the last years, City Manager Pam Reece told reporters after the meeting. Published reports out of Hammons company home base, Springfield, Mo., indicate that after filing for bankruptcy, Hammons’ company has had a number of its properties sold to JD Holdings

Reece added the Town doesn’t have a list of improvements it wants to see the new owners implement right away after taking ownership.

Koos Surgery Successful: Reece also reported that prostate surgery was successful for Mayor Chris Koos, who took a leave of absence from his elected position April 3. The surgery took place the next day, Reece said. The diagnosis came about after receiving the results of Prostate Specific Antigen, or PSA tests Koos underwent in December.

Reece said she spoke with the Mayor April 15, and she said he hopes to be back to his duties with the Town in about a week. From April 3-7, Council Member Kevin McCarthy handled Mayoral duties, the result of Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Fritzen being on vacation until April 7. Fritzen has the most seniority and serves as Mayor Pro Tem when Koos can’t make meetings.

Liquor Commission Approves License For New Owners Of Swinger’s: Prior to the Council session, Council members, meeting in their capacity as members of Normal Local Liquor Commission, held a special session during which they unanimously approved a Class D (All liquor on premises consumption) license for Fine Eatz, LLC, doing business as Swingers’ Grille, 1304 Cross Creek Dr. The business had been closed by previous owners in January.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council meeting of April 2, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of April 11, 2018.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the purchase and installation of an outdoor warning siren from Bloomington-based Innotech Communications at a cost of $25,954.49.

• A resolution to award the bid for water main and service line materials to Bloomington-based Water Products, Inc.

NORMAL – Last month, during the only regular meeting held, members of Normal-based Unit 5 School District’s Board, four students asked the Board to consider changing the name of the holiday held every second Monday in October from Columbus Day to “Indigenous People’s Day.” That triggered a request from Board Member David W. Fortner to ask the district to have a resolution making the change in the name ready for a vote at the Board’s next meeting April 11. At the Board’s regularly scheduled meeting at district headquarters, Board members heard the results of the research the matter produced. Members of the district administration will report back to the students who made the request.

Curt Richardson, attorney for Unit 5, explained to Board members that after having researched State school code, a change in the name of the day is permissible. He also said State school code also allows for days to be designated Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The State’s General Assembly has already designated the last Monday in September to be honored as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, he explained. He added the district has no specific curriculum for Columbus Day.

Ray Epperson, deputy superintendent, contributed to the presentation, explaining students in fourth and sixth grades and at the high schools, for example, receive some instruction concerning how the country was discovered, but it’s the older students who learn about Indigenous Peoples.

Board Member Mike Trask asked if there were options the group recommended. The third member of the research team, Dayna Brown, director of communication and community relations for the district, told Board members she wants to go back to the students who made the original request and present what the Board members decide on the matter.

If after hearing from Brown about the discussion at the meeting and they still aren’t satisfied, Board Member Barry Hitchins suggested, the students who brought this to the Board’s attention should take it up with State legislators. He named State Sen. Dan Brady and State Sen. Jason Barickman as two who the kids could take their case to.

Board Member David W. Fortner asked the trio what penalty would the district face should it decide, for example, to opt to say no to honoring Columbus Day. Richardson said doing that would put the district’s recognition as a school district by the State in jeopardy. Trask added that the discussion sounded like the district was talking about going against State school code, and that was something he objected to.

Board Member Meta Mickens-Baker said she wasn’t comfortable with providing another day away from school for this.

“We can’t fight legislators over Columbus Day,” Board Member Joe Cleary said. “We’re already fighting with them over funding.” He said he thought a “commemorative” day could be an alternative to what was being considered. The Board anticipates voting on the matter at a future meeting.

Transportation Update: Board members received a brief report from officials representing the bus company which provides student transportation for the district, Cincinnati, Ohio-based First Student Bus Co., including location manager Mark Bohl. The district has worked with the company to begin a customer liaison program which will keep watch for customer issues and work to improve accuracy of bus service. Bohl told Board members First Student has managed to improve their service over the past year.

Last Day Of School Set: As part of their omnibus agenda, Board members unanimously approved that Wednesday, May 23 will be the last day of school for students in the 2017-18 school year.

New Bus Purchases Approved: Board members unanimously approved a purchase of two 34-passenger buses at a cost of $64,521 each. The buses are both equipped with wheelchair lifts and were purchased using money left over from $7 million in working cash bonds Board members have approved over the last two years.

Hayek Departing Soon: At the next Board meeting, Board President Jim Hayek, Jr. will not be present. At that meeting, slated for April 25 meeting, new officers – President, Vice President, and Secretary – will be selected. Hayek said he has not set a resignation date. A job transfer to Phoenix, Ariz. announced at the only meeting the Board had last month is the reason for 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.

By Steve Robinson | April 2, 2018 - 10:40 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members had nothing on their agenda to handle immediately at their regularly scheduled meeting Monday in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station. However, for the next month, Mayor Chris Koos will be taking a leave of absence from his elected position as he undergoes treatment for prostate cancer. He told the session prior to adjourning the meeting the diagnosis came about after receiving the results of Prostate Specific Antigen, or PSA tests he underwent in December.

Koos leave began Tuesday. From Tuesday through April 7, Council Member Kevin McCarthy will handle Mayoral duties, the result of Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Fritzen being on vacation until April 7. Fritzen has the most seniority and serves as Mayor Pro Tem when Koos can’t make meetings.

McCarthy has the next most seniority among Council members, having been first elected in 2012. McCarthy said he wished Koos, 69, “a speedy, easy recovery.”

Koos credited “great family genes” for his health up to this point, adding he had never had any instances of cancer previously. He told reporters he planned on spending his recovery period “catching up on some reading and binge watching.”

In his absence, the two stores Koos owns, Vitesse Cycle Shop and Often Running, located along Linden Ave., he said, will be overseen by “lead managers.”

First Female City Manager: The brief meeting also capped off the first meeting as City Manager for Pam Reece, who succeeded Mark Peterson who retired after 30 years with the Town on March 30. Peterson was, first, assistant city manager for 10 years before becoming city manager for the last 20. Reece is the Town’s first female city manager.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the public hearing of March 5, 2018.

• Approval of the minutes of the public hearing of March 19, 2018.

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council meeting of March 19, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of March 28, 2018

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the purchase of a Toro groundsman mower from Berkeley , Mo.-based MTI Distributing via the Illinois State Contract Pricing-Contract #4018513.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the purchase of several pieces of golf course maintenance equipment via the National Cooperative Contract Solutions Program of the National Joint Powers Alliance (NJPA).

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the purchase of several pieces of golf course maintenance equipment via the National Cooperative Contract Solutions Program of the National Intergovernmental Purchasing Alliance (National IPA).

• A resolution to accept bids and award a contract to Bloomington-based Stark Excavating, Inc. in the amount of $187,811.81 for the Watkins Drive improvement project from Towanda Ave. to the Shoppes At College Hills ring road.

• A resolution to award a bid for the Walnut Street and Mulberry Street water main replacement projects to Stark Excavating, Inc. at a total cost of $791,949 plus up to a potential $15,000 bonus for early completion.

• A resolution authorizing the renewal of the Town’s participation in the Municipal Insurance Cooperative Agency (MICA) insurance program for the plan year 2018-2019 beginning on May 1, 2018.

• A resolution authorizing an assignment under redevelopment agreements for The Flats developments.

NORMAL – He served the Town of Normal as an assistant city manager for 10 years before being promoted to the City Manager’s post 20 years ago when the then-City Manager retired. And when it came time to recall Mark R. Peterson’s accomplishments over those three decades, Peterson was humbled by the celebration thrown in his honor at the Carol A. Reitan Conference Center of the Bloomington-Normal Marriott on March 29. His last day on the job was March 30.

“That wasn’t me,” he said humbly of everything he had done in the last 20 years overseeing Town Staff. He told the gathering of roughly 300 people the long list of accomplishments attributed to his work for the Town, “That’s not me. That’s the employees.” He asked Normal Town Staff to raise their hands so they could be acknowledged.

“It takes a team to accomplish what needs to be done by the Town,” Peterson told the gathering. “And I play a small part in that. The Mayor and Council are a team and they deserve credit,” Peterson said, for what gets accomplished by the Town. “I appreciate the accolades, but it’s a lot of people who make things happen in this community.”

Of his successor, Pamela Reece, who has served as first assistant city manager and currently deputy city manager, Peterson said, “She is going to be fantastic.”

Peterson told Mayor Chris Koos and Town Council members past and present who turned out for the celebration, “You’ve made my job easier, and you’ve made the jobs of the staff easier because of your support and your progressive approach to things, and the fact that we work as a team.”

The job of City Manager is not known for being a long-term gig. The person in that position is in it provided they are taking care of Town business to the satisfaction of a mayor and council. But Peterson told the gathering the elected officials he served and the staff he oversaw were two reasons why he stayed here. “It’s been a very rewarding career.”

Recognized By Leaders: State leaders and organizations paid tribute to Peterson during the ceremony. The first of the honors bestowed on Peterson came from Normal Town Council members who presented Peterson with a proclamation celebrating his career and recognizing March 30 as “Mark R. Peterson Day” in the Town of Normal . In addition, Mayor Chris Koos informed Peterson the plaza surrounding the roundabout in Uptown was being christened “Mark R. Peterson Plaza.” Upon seeing the artist’s rendering of that, Peterson could be seen brushing away tears.

In addition, Dorothy David, City Manager for the City of Champaign , representing Illinois City/County Management Association, called Peterson “a mentor and a role model. It has been a pleasure to work with Mark all these years,” David said, and presented him with a plaque from ICCMA recognizing him for his years of service. David said she met Peterson as he was finishing his tenure as City Manager in Liberty , Mo. , the community he worked in before being hired to start working in Normal 30 years ago. At that time, Peterson was coming to Normal to become assistant city manager under then-City Manager David Anderson .

Jane Chamberlain, a staff member representing State Rep. Dan Brady (R-105th) presented Peterson with a framed copy of a resolution which was passed by the Illinois General Assembly declaring March 30 “Mark Peterson Day” in Illinois. In addition, U. S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth honored Peterson with a proclamation, Durbin including a framed U. S. flag which had flown over the U. S. Capitol, each of them presenting a letter of congratulations, as well.

Normal Fire Chief Mick Humer and NFD Union Representatives from Local 2442, President Matt Hill and Vice President Matt Steinkoenig, presented Peterson with an NFD fireman’s hat. “We’d like to thank Mark for his years of service and everything he’s done for the fire department,” Humer told the gathering. He added that was especially true regarding getting the new fire station along Main St. near the Illinois State University campus open. NFD’s new Station #1 opened in November. Humer and his men presented Peterson with a badge and a fireman’s helmet.

Normal Town Council members gave Peterson the gift of a print of the Normal Theater created by Ken Cashman. He also received video congratulations from U. S. Rep. Rodney Davis and U. S. Rep. Darin LaHood.

Peterson also participated in a comedic video depicting what Peterson’s time in retirement might be like, something enjoyed by the audience.

Various family were in attendance for this event including: Peterson’s wife, Rebecca; His son, Tanner; Son Adam and daughter-in-law Holly Ann, and their daughter, Elise; and Peterson’s brother, Kent.

NORMAL – Planning a party for a retiring colleague you’ve worked with for years can be fun and gets done, usually, by a group of four or five coworkers who each take on a specific aspect of the planning to make the party a success. But when the people planning the party are elected officials, doing that to a successful conclusion has some unique characteristics.

For openers, the planners of the party, being city officials, can’t all meet together at the same time because under State law, such a meeting being held by the officials without public notice given about the meeting would violate the State’s Open Meetings Act. The Open Meetings Act requires all meetings of public officials be posted as to date, time, and subject matter.

So when the Town went about planning the retirement party of City Manager Mark Peterson to celebrate his 30 years with the Town, 20 of those at his current position, certain steps needed to be taken.

For Deputy City Manager Pamela Reece, that has meant having email exchanges with Mayor Chris Koos and Normal Town Council members and asking them to only email her back. This was done because for three Council members to meet together, even to coordinate party plans, would constitute a quorum for a meeting.

Reece said the goal of planning the party “was to avoid getting into any group dialogue, and the Mayor has, really, been directing Town Staff on how Mark’s party should be.”

Reece said Normal Town Council members have, on occasion, “emailed me one-on-one if they have ideas. But then, the Mayor has been giving Town Staff direction.” She said that under Koos’ direction, Town Staff has been handling the planning. “We would never want to put an elected official in a situation that would potentially risk violating the Open Meetings Act,” Reece said, reminding that to violate the law could potentially be a felony.

“This was a unique event because it’s a fun event,” Reece said. “Mark has had a stellar career in Normal , and you want to make sure you’re getting all of the Council’s input on what the recognition should be like.”

Reece said Dan Irvin, director of communications for the Town, and Sandy Fedden, executive assistant to Peterson, have also played roles to make the retirement event, slated for Thursday, March 29 from 4p.m.-7p.m., a success. The retirement reception will be held at the Carol A. Reitan Conference Center of the Bloomington-Normal Marriott.

The event is open to folks who have worked with Peterson during all facets of his tenure with the Town, but Reece said, to make sure everybody “gets the word,” the Town issued invites to “people who have done business with the Town over the years. That included current and past Town Council members, members of certain boards which help the community or members of Illinois City and County Managers Association, of which Peterson belongs to.

Council Member R. C. McBride admits if he or any other Council member had an idea for the party, they would need to pitch it individually to other Council members for feedback to avoid being in violation of the law. “It’s an unintended consequence of the Open Meetings Act,” he explained.