By Steve Robinson | February 26, 2007 - 1:13 am
Posted in Category: Morton HS, Pekin Daily Times

BasketballBLOOMINGTON – Going into their IHSA Class AA Super-Sectional against Kankakee Bishop McNamara Monday, Morton High head coach Bob Becker’s Lady Potters knew there was a lot at stake.

And to celebrate a convincing 52-24 win over the Fightin’ Irish, and to advance to the Elite 8 beginning Friday, Becker’s team will have steaks at an eatery here Tuesday night.

Then, it will be back to finish the business Becker said his team began almost as soon as last season ended – to get to and win the Class AA State Tourney. Buffalo Grove will be the Lady Potters’ first round opponent at Redbird Arena in Normal, starting with a 6:30p.m. tip-off.

But to get there, the Lady Potters (30-1) had to dismantle Bishop McNamara’s offense, and did so handily almost from the start, beginning with back-to-back deuces by senior Tracy Pontius, giving Morton a fast 4-0 lead inside the game’s first two minutes.

Morton High SchoolBishop McNamara (19-11) recovered on a free throw by Laura Schmidt and a basket by Brittany Hasselbring, to put the Fightin’ Irish up 5-4 with 2:42 left in the quarter, but Pontius answered with a basket, followed by a Sydney Stahlberg free throw with 1:17 left in the quarter to give the Lady Potters a 7-5 lead.

The Lady Potters reeled off five more points following that, including a trey by Brooke Bisping with 10.7 seconds left to give Morton a 12-7 lead going into the second quarter.

Morton outscored Kankakee 9-4 in the second quarter – six of those nine came when Bisping and Pontius hit back-to-back threes to open the period, extending their lead to 18-7 at the 5:13 mark. Morton’s defense had kept the Fightin’ Irish from seeing double-digits the entire first half, as Becker’s squad owned a 21-9 halftime lead.

Hasselbring opened the second half by scoring the first basket of the half at 7:47, and putting the Lady Irish in double figures for the first time in the game, but it was clear to the roughly 850 fans in attendance that they were watching Morton sprint while Bishop McNamara continued to struggle.

By the end of the third quarter, Morton had doubled up on their opponents, 34-17.

Bisping and Stahlberg each pocketed 12 points, with all of Bisping’s points coming from beyond the arc. Pontius scored 10 to round out the double-digit action for the Lady Potters.

Hasselbring was the only Lady Irish player in double-digits with 13 points, including going 5-for-7 from the free throw line.

IHSA“(This is) awesome,” Becker said. “They’ve been driven from the end of last year, really, to get here and I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls and they deserve (this).”

At half, it was announced that at the Super-Sectional in Chicago, Buffalo Grove had won their contest, defeating Gurnee Warren, 61-40, and would be the team the Lady Potters would face if they won out against Bishop McNamara.

Becker said he had scouts observe Buffalo Grove recently and that his team’s preparation to face the Bison would begin Tuesday.

By Steve Robinson | February 18, 2007 - 1:16 am
Posted in Category: ISU, The Normalite

ISU 150 yearsNORMAL – Illinois State University began its year-long celebration of its 150th year in historic fashion Thursday, Feb. 16 with a convocation address by noted prize-winning author and historian David McCullough.

McCullough is the first of a series of speakers who will visit ISU over the course of the University’s year-long celebration.

Thursday, before he addressed a packed crowd of students, staff, and members of the Illinois State Historical Society, who were holding their annual two-day conference at ISU, McCullough addressed the media in the Faculty/Staff Commons Room of the Bone Student Center.

“I’m both pleased, and highly complimented to be asked to take part in this celebration, and particularly, to come to a university that has such a long-standing role in how we teach our children,” said McCullough, who has written numerous historical books, including 1776, Truman, and The Johnstown Flood.

McCullough said that leaders need to learn and understand history. He said for history not to be taught or learned by people “diminishes the chances of leaders to excel in their responsibilities.”

McCullough declined, however, to elaborate on whether today’s politicians, President George W. Bush, for example, have been able to use history’s lessons to help in today’s current world circumstances.

“I’m not going to pass judgment on current politicians of either party or of any position,” McCullough said. “That’s not my role.

“I will say that President Bush is far better read than most people realize,” McCullough said, attempting to debunk a public perception that the Commander-In-Chief chooses not to pay attention to media reports.

He said further that Bush has “a sense of history.”

David McCullough“I don’t think it’s possible to have a father who was President of the United States and not have a certain sense of history,” McCullough said of the Texas Republican incumbent

McCullough said in order for history to capture the interest of young minds will have to begin with “revising how we teach our teachers. That’s paramount.”

“We are graduating far too many teachers from schools of education who have learned nothing but education,” McCullough said, explaining that those who want to enter the field should graduate in some other field of study.

“You cannot graduate from this university without taken some courses in history,” McCullough said. He said that that is not the case at a number of other universities in the country.

“That is a terrible mistake,” McCullough said. “If you have teachers who don’t know the subject they’re teaching, whether it’s history or mathematics or English literature or whatever, (the problem) goes beyond that.

“You can’t love what you don’t know,” McCullough explained. “The great teachers, the effective teachers, the teachers that can change lives are those teachers who love what they are teaching.”

To drive that point home, McCullough quoted Margaret McFarlane, who taught teachers at the University of Pittsburgh.

McCullough said McFarlane said attitude is what matters in education. “McFarlane said attitudes aren’t taught, they’re caught. It is the attitude of the teacher toward the subject they are teaching.”

McCullough said children who grew up watching Public Broadcasting’s “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” saw an example of what loving to learn meant because the program’s host, Fred Rogers, studied under McFarlane and used the same technique of loving to learn, trying to pass it to his young viewers.

After that press conference, McCullough moved on to participate in the University’s 150th anniversary convocation ceremony, which recognized staff and faculty for their accomplishments. At the conclusion of his talk in Braden Auditorium, ISU President Al Bowman and Karl Kasten, Chairman of ISU’s Board of Trustees, presented McCullough with an Honorary Doctorate of Literature degree as the crowd provided thunderous applause.

Following the convocation ceremony, McCullough autographed copies of his books at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore on the second floor of the Bone Student Center.

Other speakers due to visit ISU over the course of the next year include Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, and singer Naomi Judd.

By Steve Robinson | February 17, 2007 - 1:22 am

Farmer CityFARMER CITY – An owner of other buildings surrounding an abandoned building in downtown Farmer City said he hopes a DeWitt County Circuit Court judge will, on Wednesday, approve a judicial deed which will give the city permission to tear down the abandoned building that stands between his business and the other buildings he owns on that block.

Were the judge to grant the judicial deed for the property, that would remove the rights of the property’s last owner, who abandoned the property, located at 211 S. Main St., and would allow the city to own the property without there being a lien placed on it.

Once the city is granted the deed, it plans to demolish the building due to numerous problems associated with it.

But, at a hearing last month, instead of granting the deed to the city, DeWitt County Circuit Court Judge Stephen H. Peters ordered the city to continue searching for the building’s owners, Basri “Boz” Emini and Emini’s wife, Sevda Keyifli.

Steve Barrow, owner of Steve’s Antique Center, 213 S. Main St., said he hopes that, following the scheduled Wednesday hearing in Clinton, Judge Peters will approve the city’s request to obtain the deed and then, see the city demolish the building.

In addition to being proprietor of a restaurant that Emini proposed putting in that building, Barrow said Keyifli owned the building, and Emini owned legal title to the vacant lot next to the restaurant when the couple left town in 1998.

But since Emini and Keyifli’s departure, the structure has been and is in disrepair. The building’s walls and roof have both steadily decayed from a combination of age and not being tended to. That has meant the city has had to step in with some repairs.

The city has already had to spend money to put plywood sheets on the roof of Barrow’s shop adjacent to the collapsing building to keep the decay of the vacant building from spreading to his shop.

Further, Barrow said the abandoned property has become both a hazard to local residents and a hangout for local teens late at night. He said the city cut down on that with barricades at the back of the building. But still, Barrow said, demolishing it would resolve those problems entirely.

In addition to his shop, Barrow also owns the buildings which house businesses at 205, 207, 209, and 213 S. Main St. Included in that group of buildings is Chef’s Kitchen restaurant, at 209 S. Main, operated by Sue Shaffer. The eatery just opened last October.

Since Emini and Keyifli left town almost a decade ago, the property has not been used, deteriorating with every passing year.

In addition to paying for repairs, Joswiak said, the city has spent between $1,000-$1,500 in legal fees as a result of trying to get the matter resolved, which has included trying to find the couple per Judge Peters’ orders.

By the restaurant’s not being in operation for almost nine years, that has also meant the area’s taxing bodies have lost $3,000 in tax revenue, as well, during the same nine-year period.

Farmer CityFARMER CITY – Although the Farmer City city council had a feasibility study done earlier this month to determine if a recently vacated building would be suitable as a new city hall, the council voted Monday to take no further action for such a project.

But at Monday night’s regular council session, the council voted unanimously to defeat a resolution asking a local architect firm to do more detailed work related to how the city could possibly make future use the building.

The multi-building structure that was consideration for City Hall’s new home is on N. Main St., one block from the current City Hall. It sits on S. Main St. and was home to Central Illinois Ag, an Atlanta, Ill.-based farm implement dealer, moved from the N. Main St. location in December to Mansfield. The compound of buildings has been vacant since.

In their last regular session two weeks ago, council members heard from Dave Leonatti, an architect with the Springfield-based firm of Melotte, Morse, and Leonatti, who the city retained to look into the current condition of the building.

The city paid the architectural firm $3,775 for the work on which they presented earlier this month – money that came out of the city’s general fund. Had the council approved further research by the architects, it would have cost the city $6,220.

“The council still hasn’t decided if it’s in the best interest of the city to move forward with the purchase of the building,” said City Manager David Joswiak. Therefore, (the council wants) to hold off until they look at some other options.”

Joswiak said that, while the Central Illinois Ag facility “is not out of the picture” as a prospective site for the new city hall, “the council just wants to take a look at options other than to purchase the Central Illinois Ag facility.”

Among the other options, Joswiak said, would be to either build an entirely new facility, or to build on either property the city would need to acquire or already owns.

“We just haven’t flushed all that out yet,” Joswiak said.

He said he plans to tour a new government facility in which was just built in Bement, south of Monticello.

A public comment on the subject came from council seat candidate Tom McNutt. McNutt asked the council whether the Farmer City/DeWitt County Fairgrounds was being considered as a possible site being considered.

There is continued negotiations about the use of the fairgrounds property for commercial use because the lease between the city and Fair’s management expires in November of 2009.

In light of the contract expiring in almost two full years, Joswiak said it is a distant option.

Joswiak said there is no timetable set for having a new city hall up and running.

Joswiak said that any sort of deadline concerning a new municipal building is “self-imposed. (We know that) what we have right now is inadequate and we know we have to do something.

“It’s a matter of deciding what that something is and what is the best way to move forward,” Joswiak said.

Thanks to a unanimous vote by the council, the town will apply for a government grant to help recoup part of the cost of manpower used by the city during the ice storm which hit the state Dec. 1.

City Manager David Joswiak said the city can apply to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to receive funds which would reimburse the town in part for the labor of city workers during the storm just after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Monday, Joswiak informed council members that the city will apply for what is called a “sub-grant” from IEMA, who will receive the funds from the federal FEMA.

Joswiak said the city hopes to receive “$70,000 in eligible costs, and we could or should get 75 percent of that.”

Joswiak said the money, when received, would go to pay the city for manpower used to restore downed power lines and the replacement of some power poles damaged in the storm.

Diesel Fuel Purchase: The council voted unanimously to spend nearly $15,000 to purchase 7,500 gallons of diesel fuel from Bloomington-based Evergreen FS, Inc.

The total of the bill for the fuel was $14,765.53. That works out to roughly $1.96 a gallon plus an environmental tax.

By Steve Robinson | February 12, 2007 - 1:24 am
Posted in Category: News, Pekin Daily Times, Peoria Rivermen

Wedding CakeWASHINGTON –- Michael Bell and Annette Kidder will be married on Valentine’s Day. But they will have to wait for the first period of Wednesday’s American Hockey League game between the Peoria Rivermen and the San Antonio Rampage to go into its first intermission first.

That’s because Bell, 29, and Kidder, 26, both Washington, who were married almost 10 years ago and have three small children, didn’t have the traditional ceremony when they first tied the knot.

In his entry letter for the contest, Bell wrote, “(Marrying at the Rivermen game) would give us a get a unique chance for what we consider a new and fun start to our already great marriage.”

Bell and Kidder are one of four couples who won a free wedding ceremony during the Peoria Rivermen’s “Weddings On Ice” promotion.

Bell and Kidder will be joined by three other couples from Galva, Bloomington, and Canton who will tie the knot during the first intermission of Wednesday’s AHL contest.

Although they are not regular hockey fans, Bell said he heard about the wedding promotion that Peoria radio station WIXO FM 105.7 has put on for the last three years, and decided on a lark to enter himself and Kidder for a chance to say their “I do”s in such a fashion.

The station received 30 entries vying for the prize, said Charity Schultz, WIXO FM’s local sales manager.

Peoria Rivermen“I always thought it was kind of funny to get married at a Rivermen game,” Bell said. “But I had known about the contest for the last few years and a friend of mine, Don Maston, and his wife entered and won and were one of the couples last year.”

As part of the promotion, the grooms get a free rented tuxedo, a local florist provides boutonnières and bouquets, the brides get their hair and nails done for free from a local salon, and the team provides for cake and photos taken during the ceremony.

The ceremony will be conducted by Matt Bahan, WIXO’s morning show host, who is ordained.

As an added prize, one of the couples will win airfare to go anywhere in the continental U. S. Kidder said if she and Bell win the trip the station is giving away, they would “go somewhere…probably Florida.”

She said that relatives from both sides of their families were excited to hear that the couple was getting hitched all over again, even during a first period intermission with roughly 5,500 of their closest friends in the Carver Arena stands watching.