NORMAL – It was a piece of news Normal Town Council Member Chemberly Cummings saved for comments and announcements toward the end of Monday’s Normal Town Council session Monday in Council Chambers. But it is a prestigious first for Normal.

Cummings announced she has been selected as one of 41 local and State officials to be part of the eighth annual Edgar Fellows Program.Those community officials selected will gather in Champaign August 4-8.

The Edgar Fellows Program is an initiative designed by former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar to inspire respectful and collaborative leadership to address the state’s major challenges. Forty-One participants selected this year were chosen from a field of 169 nominees and reflect Illinois’ political, racial, ethnic and geographic diversity. They include elected and appointed officials from all levels of government, leaders of non-profit organizations and individuals who are making their mark in the business world.

The 2019 class will bring the number of fellows who have completed the program to 313. After completing the initial program, fellows continue to meet at least twice annually at alumni gatherings designed to increase their knowledge and help build their professional networks.

Street Resurfacing Project Prompts Questions: Other than approval of minutes of the Council’s Aug. 5 meeting and approving payment of expenditures, the only other omnibus item which would be looked at and approved had to do with the accepting of bids and awarding of a contract to Bloomington-based Rowe Construction Co., a division of United Contractors Midwest, Inc., of $792,662.17 for the base bid and alternative #1 for the 2019 General Street Resurfacing Project.

Council Member Karyn Smith, while motioning that the measure be approved, questioned why there ever only seems to be one company – Rowe – who ever applies for the assignments. Town Chief Engineer Ryan Otto explained the Town has tried to make other potential contractors aware of such assignments but that when bids come in for the jobs, Rowe turns out to be the only company submitting bids for them.

Final Plat For Grieder II Subdivision Conditionally Approved: Council members unanimously approved the final plat of the Grieder II Subdivision expanding property which currently sits at 2242 W. Raab Rd. That expansion would expand eastward as a result. The subdivision takes up 2.54 acres of land and the owner of the proposed subdivision owns the surrounding 75 acres. Such a subdivision request would require a preliminary plan for the Town to review but, in this case, the applicant is requesting the requirement for the preliminary plan be waived.

When this project came before Normal Planning Commission on Aug. 8, no members of the public testified and the measure passed unanimously, 5-0.

Sarah Sturgill Appointed To Children’s Discovery Museum Board: Sarah Sturgill, an optometrist with Bloomington-based Gailey Eye Clinic, has been appointed to the Children’s Discovery Museum Board. Ms. Sturgill serves patients at both locations of the clinic, in Bloomington and Danville. She will be filling an open seat which has an initial term which expires on June 30, 2022.

New Economic Development Council CEO Introduced: Council members were formally introduced by City Manager Pam Reece to Patrick Hoban as the new chief executive officer of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council. He has held similar positions prior to coming to the Twin Cities, most recently in Tinley Park.

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

• Approval of minutes of regular meeting held Aug. 5, 2019.

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Aug.19, 2019.

By Steve Robinson | August 16, 2019 - 10:51 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – On Aug. 14, two days before the 2019-20 school year opened for Normal-based Unit 5 School District, child safety was the topic of concern presented by one parent at the public comments portion of the regularly-scheduled meeting of Unit 5 School Board. The cause for the parents to bring it to Board members attention was the arrest of Glenn Elementary School first grade teacher Jonathon Hovey. Normal Police arrested Hovey and charged him with molesting two of his students.

At the meeting held at district headquarters, Glenn Parent Claire Hedden recounted for Board members, first of all that her child is not one of Hovey’s alleged victims. She added that while she was volunteering in Hovey’s classroom one day in April, the school’s Principal, Cari Oester, escorted Hovey from the room.

Hedden said neither she nor any of the other parents in Hovey’s class received communication of any kind from the school regarding Hovey’s removal. She said weeks went by before the school told parents Hovey’s removal was for “personal reasons.” Allegations concerning Hovey surfaced in 2005.

Hedden wants to know how complaints are passed on when there’s a change in school administration. She added that she was curious as to why parents of all kids who were in Hovey’s class were never notified concerning the situation. She also questioned Board members as to why no public meeting was held with parents or Normal Police concerning the matter, adding she wondered why Illinois Department of Children and Family Services did not receive word from the district concerning Hovey. Neither Board members, nor Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, gave replies directly to Hedden’s comments.

In April, the district placed Hovey on paid administrative leave. Hovey had a scheduled hearing date in a McLean County Law And Justice Center courtroom Aug. 16. At that hearing, media reports indicated Hovey pleaded not guilty to two counts of predatory sexual assault, and four counts of aggravated sexual assault abuse. Predatory sexual assault is a Class X felony while aggravated sexual assault is a Class 2 felony.

Change Related To Final Exams Approved: Board members voted unanimously to approve a change concerning which students can be exempted from taking a final exam at the end of a semester. The change approved will allow any junior or senior with an “A” grade average in a class on the last day of the semester to be exempt from taking a class’ final exam.

Dan Lamboley, director of secondary education for the district, in a memo to Daniel and Board members, reminded that before the policy change, students carrying an A or a B average were permitted to be exempt from finals provided they had no more than six absences from the class over the period of the semester. “It has been realized that final exams should be used to not only assess students learning but the exam itself as a learning opportunity,” Lamboley wrote in his memo.

Lamboley added, “If students who have consistently shown that they have met the standards are exempt from the final assessment, the teacher can better focus on those students that have not met the standard yet.” He said he be checking with principals at Normal Community High School and Normal Community West High School by the end of the new school year to see how effective the change was at each location.

Board member Alan Kalitzky told Lamboley he would like to hear an update at the end of school year on how the change affected the high schools. Board Member Mike Trask told Lamboley he would like to know what school staff thought of how the change worked as opposed to the previous policy’s use. Board Member Amy Roser added she would like to know how the change impacted students who had “B” grades going into their finals.

One Final Transportation Update Before Buses Rolled Out: With two days until school opened Aug. 16, Board members got a last update on how the district’s transportation provider, Cincinnati, Ohio-based First Student Bus Co., was finalizing preparations to get students from home to school and back again. Four representatives from First Student, including Robert Pawlik, location manager, and Chris Coyle, area general manager, informed Board members on progress with just one day before classes by the time of the meeting.

To add to what is already a stressful time trying to get routes ironed out before picking up students, First Student drivers were going through their dress rehearsal while students attending Illinois State University and their families were trying to maneuver around in the community as well, according to Joe Adelman, operations director for Unit 5, addressing Board members.

By Steve Robinson | August 5, 2019 - 10:39 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Time was, when you wanted to get a six-pack of your favorite beer or another sort of liquor, it required you to get in your car, drive to the store, you’re your car, go into the store, find the aisle or designated cooler with your favorite beverage, choose said beverage, pay for it at checkout, and then go back to your car.

Monday night, at their regularly-scheduled session in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, Normal Town Council members voted unanimously to shorten that journey to getting your favorite brew or flavor of liquor. With two Council members absent, the five remaining members of the governing body unanimously approved an ordinance amending the Town’s Liquor Code regarding delivering of alcohol, service locations, and movie theater licensing.

As the ordinance was drafted by Town Staff, the amendment would permit both curbside and delivery of alcohol provided the retailer holds a Class A (All Liquor – Off-Premises Consumption) license, and the facility seeking the Class A license must be 10,000 sq. ft. or greater.

In addition, licensees must meet a number of requirements, including: Must register their curbside/pick-up service with the Town Clerk, and have their employees attend basset training – something that employees will be required to do if the employees are making deliveries of alcoholic liquor.

The new Town amendment to the liquor code would prohibit delivery if the customer receiving the delivery is intoxicated. The employee making the delivery must confirm the recipient of the delivery is 21-years-old or older.

The ordinance amendment states curbside deliveries may not occur outside the hours relating to the Class A license, which would be from 7a.m.-1a.m. on Sundays through Thursdays, and from 7a.m. through 1:45a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The ordinance contains reciprocal language so Bloomington liquor holders with a facility of 10,000 sq. ft. or greater may make deliveries within the Town of Normal.

Nord Defends “Lone Wolf” Status: During final comments by Council members before the meeting adjourned, Council Member Stan Nord responded to comments Mayor Chris Koos made in a letter to Bloomington officials in which he referred to Nord as a “lone wolf” for Nord meeting with Bloomington Fire Department officials on his own concerning trying to merge Twin Cities’ fire departments. Nord is also accused by Koos of attempting to lure a Bloomington business to occupy space in Uptown Normal.

During closing comments before the meeting adjourned, Nord responded to Koos’ criticism, stating he’s proud to be a lone wolf when it comes to protecting taxpayers from wasteful spending. Nord added he would not ask Koos to apologize or to take back the false statements which were sent to the City of Bloomington and then then became public knowledge through the media.

Council Member Kevin McCarthy added to the discussion objecting to Nord’s claims of Town government not watching its spending habits when taxpayer dollars are being used, going so far as to remind Nord the Council cut jobs to reduce spending.

When the meeting began with a vote on the omnibus agenda, Nord asked to discuss seven of the eight items on that agenda. Items on the omnibus agenda are approved on a single vote. Two of the items Nord pulled for discussion from the omnibus agenda were items he said fellow new Council Member Karyn Smith had asked him to ask about, although Smith was not present for the session.

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

• Approval of minutes of the Regular Council meeting held July 15, 2019.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of July 31, 2019.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and executing a three-year agreement with Santa Fe Springs, Calif.-based All City Management Services, Inc. for school crossing guard management services.

• A resolution authorizing execution of an intergovernmental agreement with Illinois State University pertaining to fire protection services.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the execution of a contract with Lombard, Ill.-based Just In Time Pool & Spa Service in the amount of $132,460 for the Fairview Family Aquatic Center zero depth entry pool resurfacing project.

• A resolution to accept bids and award a contract to Bloomington-based Stark Excavating, Inc. for the 2019 sump pump discharge and storm sewer improvement project in the amount of $575,000.

• An ordinance establishing parking restrictions along both sides of Shelbourne Drive from School St. to Charlotte Drive for the implementation of bike lanes.

• An ordinance repealing the adoption of the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code, Town Municipal Code Section 11.4-1G.

By Steve Robinson | August 4, 2019 - 10:20 pm
Posted in Category: District 87, News, The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – With the number of days in summer vacation dwindling down for students, getting kids ready for school is on the minds of many parents these days. And if all children were on a level playing field for the school year from the very first day, that, too, would benefit the children, their families, and their teachers. That level playing field means holding to the belief that all families could afford the supplies needed for a child’s routine school day. Sadly though, there are students who need a little help to accomplish this.

Those students in need to acquire those supplies will receive that help by attending a by invitation only “Back 2 School” Party, to be held at Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington on Tuesday, Aug. 13 from 12 Noon-5p.m. Also, from 5p.m.-6p.m., an express line to pick up supplies will also be available.

The “Back 2 School” Party is jointly sponsored by the Back To School Alliance through Illinois Prairie Foundation in conjunction with Normal-based Unit 5 School District and Bloomington School District #87.

Students eligible to participate at this party are entering Kindergarten through 8th grade at either a Unit 5 or District #87 school, and qualify for a free or reduced lunch, as identified by the school, and have met all registration requirements for this coming school year. Those requirements include having physicals and immunizations prior to entering certain grades.

“In exchange for having the responsibilities regarding registration and health records current, we give the kids a free back pack with supplies to get the kids started on the year,” explained Jan Meadows, co-chair of the Back2School Alliance event, along with Taunia Leffler. Leffler is also a board member for Normal-based Unit 5 School District.

“Basically, on day one, we want everyone ready on the first day of school,” Meadows said of the event’s primary goal. A committee of 15 area residents work year-round toward the success of this event, Leffler added.

Children who fall within Federal guidelines concerning such things as reduced lunches are eligible to attend, but must have received an invitation where they registered to attend school. Students must bring the invitation with them to the event. Parents can check with school offices about obtaining the invitations, Meadows said. She said invites would have also come through daily mail to eligible families, as well.

Leffler said about 1,600 kids received backpacks filled with supplies for the child’s grade level last year. Meadows said the Alliance tries to maximize every dollar spent by taking advantage of sales for supplies stores advertise as the school year gets closer. She added the group takes in donations for supplies, too. Typically, Meadows said, those 1,600 are evenly divided per grade level at this event.

Leffler said the Alliance also takes monetary donations through Illinois Prairie Community Foundation which the Alliance uses for any needed purchases, as well. In addition, Back2Alliance has a link on its Facebook page which allows for monetary donations using PayPal.

In addition to the necessary supplies for students, parents and their kids can find out about groups or organizations of interest for kids. Leffler said representatives from both public libraries, Girl Scouts, Boys & Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal, and other organizations will be present “to offer services to the kids.”

Leffler said there are still supplies the effort is in need of. She said those include: Pencils, composition notebooks, dry erase markers, and Post-It notes. “We know we are really in need of those things right now,” Leffler said.

Leffler and Meadows said there are a number of locations where supplies can be dropped off which the Alliance will pick up in time for the event. Those drop off locations include: HyVee, Wal-Mart in both Normal and Bloomington, Meijer in Normal, and Bloomington Public Library. In addition, such donations are being collected at both the main offices for both Unit 5 and Bloomington School District #87.

In addition to the Alliance’s own efforts, Meadows said, The Salvation Army has had collection boxes out in the community gathering supplies, as well. Meadows said this is the first year the Salvation Army has assisted in the Alliance’s effort. Another partnership the Alliance has forged for their effort is with Midwest Food Bank, which donated some space at its facility located at 2031 Warehouse Rd. in Normal for the Alliance to assemble backpacks. Leffler said this is the first year for that partnership.

“We really appreciate being able to store our supplies there year-round, but also use the space for our packing efforts,” Leffler said, adding the packing effort in preparation for the Aug. 13 event takes 300 volunteers. During the school year, Meadows added, Back2School Alliance also gets a helping hand from students enrolled in Vocational Transitional Assistance Program, (VTAP), which operates out of Eugene Field School.

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members were observed at their regularly-scheduled meeting Monday, not just by community members wanting to witness government in action, but also by 10 members of the local branch of the international group known as Friends Forever. Local Rotary Clubs helped facilitate Normal becoming one of the American communities where five Israeli high school students and five Arab students meet to work on joint community projects in communities throughout the United States. This was the seventh visit made to the Twin Cities by students from Friends Forever. the group sent students here on their first visit to the Twin Cities in 2013.

At Monday’s session, Council members heard from two Israeli citizens – an Israeli young woman and an Arab young man – as they informed Council members about the experiences they have been having in the program. The teens will be in this country, and the community for two weeks, observing and becoming involved in community projects.

Council members heard from a teenage Israeli young woman named Hod Malka and a teenage Arab young man named Sari Okal. The pair spoke of their lifestyles in their homeland to the gathering among other subjects.

Council members also heard from a young man who is an alumni of the program, identified as Yoav. “I am here tonight to help out the program,” Yoav said. “I am helping draw up the schedule for this year’s group.” He said since his involvement a few years ago as a participant, “I decided to step up and take a big role in this moment and decided to be a leader.” He added being in the program gave him the confidence to decide to become a leader. He said he has been working with 10th graders helping them “understand their place and help them work out their differences.”

Operating And Capital Investment Budget Approved: Council members unanimously approved the Town’s Operating and Capital Investment Budget for fiscal year 2018-2019. The Town adjusted its budget upward by over $3.3 million over the previous fiscal year. The Operating and Capital Investment Budget for the current fiscal year stands at $128,996,652. The upward change in the total of the budget relates to a change in spending for vehicle and equipment needs, and refinancing some of the Town’s debt to a lower interest rate, according to a report submitted to the Council by Town Finance Director Andrew Huhn.

Amended Final Development Plan For One Normal Plaza PUD Approved: Council members unanimously approved a resolution approving an amended final development plan for the Planned Unit Development at One Normal Plaza, located at 613 Oglesby. According to the report given Council members by Town Planner Mercy Davison, a potential new owner for the property seeks to open an event rental business at that address. To complete the process, it was required the development plan for One Normal Plaza be amended. The proposed business would rent tents, tables, and chairs, among other items, and either make deliveries as needed or have customers pick up goods at the location.

Normal Planning Commission held a hearing on the request to amend the development plan at their July 3 meeting. The applicant’s attorney was the only person who spoke at the hearing, where commissioners voted 4-0 in favor of amending the plan for it to be returned to the Council.

Resolution Supporting Connect Transit Working Group Approved: Council members unanimously passed a resolution which showed the Council to be in support of the mission of a working group being established by Connect Transit, the in-town public transportation provider.

The working group is examining transit in the community and the future of transit here, but part of the evening included criticism from a former Mayoral candidate concerning one of Connect Transit recent actions – to seat the son of a transit board member onto the working group panel. Former Normal Mayoral Candidate Marc Tiritilli criticized Connect Transit for placing the son of Connect Board Member Julie Hile on the working group. Hile’s son is disabled and relies on Connect Transit’s service.

Tiritilli also criticized Connect Transit’s decision to employ a facilitator for the working group at a cost of over $53,000. Tiritilli argued that cash could have put to better use by every full-fare Connect Mobility rider free rides for a year. Connect Transit’s website indicates the cost for using the mobility service ranges from $2 to $4 each way depending on the length of the trip.

Luis Figueroa Appointed To Normal’x Human Relations Commission: Luis Figueroa was introduced as being recently appointed to the Town’s Human Relations Commission. An employee of Country Financial, Figueroa is a graduate of Illinois State University currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Counseling at Lincoln Christian University. He will be filling an open seat on the Commission which is set to expire March 31. After that, Figueroa will be eligible for reappointment to a full four year term on the Commission. Figueroa’s wife, Amanda, teaches at Colene Hoose Elementary School. The Figueroas are expecting their first child.

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

• Approval of minutes of regular meeting held July 1, 2019.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of July 10, 2019.

• A resolution authorizing a contract with Peoria-based Hoerr Construction, Inc. for the 2019 sanitary and storm sewer cleaning and televising contract in the amount of $354,070.80.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing a project change order from Bloomington-based George Gildner, Inc. in the amount of $31,112.67 for the Ridgemont Area Water Main Replacement Project, add three additional days to time of contract and authorize an associated budget adjustment.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the Children’s Discovery Museum Executive Director to execute an agreement with Lincolnwood, Ill.-based Luci Creative, LLC to design/build the new “Healthy Me!” exhibit in an amount not to exceed $350,000.

• A resolution conditionally approving the final plat of the Fiala Brothers Subdivision (119, 121, 123, and 127 E. Beaufort).

• Supplemental resolution for Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) project closeout in the amount of $506,062 for the Raab Rd. – NCHS to Towanda Barnes Rd. Project and final Town payment.

• A resolution retaining confidentiality of executive session minutes from June 19, 2017, and Feb. 18 and Apr. 15, both 2019.