By Steve Robinson | October 24, 2007 - 4:07 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – The time for a decision as to whether Normal’s Unit 5 School Board should ask voters to decide by referendum on paying for construction of new facilities as well as improvements to existing schools is running short.

By the board’s Nov. 28 meeting, voters will know whether to expect a referendum measure on the Feb. 5 ballot. Estimates on building and renovations ranged between $100 million and $120 million.

The board took no action during its most recent regular meeting on Oct. 24. But, board members did discuss options open to them to correct cash flow problems the district has been facing. However, the board took no action on those options.

The district has been barrowing money for a few months each spring to cover expenses while waiting for either tax revenue or state aid to come through.

At the group’s last meeting on Oct. 10, the board heard from representatives of Warrenville-based PMA Financial Network, Inc. At that meeting, PMA representatives said the district needed to brace for increased operating costs should a referendum approving construction of new schools pass.

Increasing facilities also would call for the need to increase staff. Currently, there are 853 teachers in the district. Unit 5 administrators project that 989 teachers would be needed by Fiscal Year 2013.

Unit 5 mapNCHS Doubles Its “Good News”: Dr. Jeanette Nuckolls, Principal of Normal Community High School presented the board with two “good news” items. First, she recognized senior Kyle A. Beasley for his achieving the highest composite score possible on his ACT test.

Kyle’s score of 36 puts him in league with only 45 other students statewide, out of a possible 136,000, who took the test this spring as part of the Prairie State Achievement Exam.

Kyle is the son of Steve and Angie Beasley of Normal.

Nuckolls also recognized Greg Summers, a senior, for becoming the 2007 recipient of the “Harry Hightower Youth Community Service Award,” given by the Bloomington-Normal Chapter of the NAACP.

Winning the award earned Summers a $250 cash prize and a one-year youth membership in the local NAACP chapter. He received his award on Oct. 11 at the local chapter’s annual NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet.

The award is named in honor of the late Harry Hightower, past president of the local NAACP chapter who also served the organization at the state level as a treasurer for all of the NAACP branches statewide.

The award was created to celebrate the success of a young person who is involved in community service throughout the Bloomington-Normal community. It also acknowledges the efforts of a local minority high school senior who embraces diversity while participating in community service projects and other community-based activities.

Washington PoliceWASHINGTON – Imagine buying a home for which every piece of material it took to build it was completely donated.

Now imagine the profits from the sale of the house, including the realtor’s commission, also being donated for a good cause.

Athletes who participate in events put on by Normal-based Special Olympics Illinois won’t have to imagine because, in a Thursday ceremony at the newly constructed two-story home at 1700 Retriever Lane, in the Mallard Crossing Subdivision of Washington, an area developer will donate a check in the amount of profit made from the construction and sale of the dwelling.

The profits will go to Special Olympics Illinois, an organization which offers year-round training and competition in 19 sports for 20,000 athletes ages 8 years and older with intellectual disabilities.

Once the house was finished this Summer, Tammi Robinson, a nurse working in Peoria, bought the house, which sits on a corner lot.

Titanium Development, Scott Underwood Homes, Underwood & Associates Realtors, and Washington Cabinet Works teamed with LS Building Products, subcontractors and suppliers to donate labor and materials to build the residence.

The home sold for $259,900, with all profits from the sale of the home being donated to the Law Enforcement Torch Run to benefit Special Olympics Illinois.

How much profit? SOI received a check from the venture in the amount of $40,000 at Thursday’s ceremony.

“We’re thrilled with this,” said Jeff Hensen, director of special events for Special Olympics Illinois. “We’re tremendously thankful to Scott and all the partners, David Thornburg and Robert Brown, and to (Washington Police) Chief Jim Kuchenbecker, who have been involved with this.”

Special OlympicsHaving seen the work Special Olympics does to improve the lives of the athletes it serves, Kuchenbecker said he knew the community of Washington could find a unique way to raise funds for Special Olympics Illinois.

Kuchenbecker said he approached Underwood about donating the home once it was built. That, of course, meant that all the materials would be donated, too, to take things a step further.

Kuchenbecker said Underwood was on board immediately with the idea and approached building suppliers with the notion of donating materials to the cause. He started by talking to Troy Reed from East Peoria-based LS Building Products.

It didn’t take long for Underwood to get Reed to join in on the venture. Reed, in turn, went to his suppliers seeking material donations.

Kuchenbecker, Underwood, Thornburg, Brown, and Reed will all be part of Thursday’s ceremony. Also attending the ceremony will be Doug Snyder, President and CEO of Special Olympics Illinois.

Also scheduled to be present for the presentation is Joe Peña, President of the Illinois Chiefs of Police Association and Director of Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run, as well as other representatives from the Special Olympics community.

When it was realized how much profit had been made from this project, even Kuchenbecker said he was surprised by the total of the donation.

“What we thought would only be a couple of thousand dollars turned into $40,000, so we’re going to be able to do a great thing for these athletes,” he said.

By Steve Robinson | October 20, 2007 - 9:31 am
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – From both the perspective of a high school football fan and a game statistician, how Normal Community High School scored 13 points in the first five minutes of their homecoming game against Danville must have seemed mind-boggling.

NCHS’ perfect season closed out at 9-0 Friday night as the Big 12 Conference regular season ended with the Ironmen defeating conference foe Danville, 47-14, before a homecoming game sellout crowd at Ironmen Stadium.

Although Danville (5-4) won the pre-game coin toss and took the ball first, the Vikings fumbled on their third play, with senior defensive back Chad Hinshaw recovering for the Ironmen at his team’s 47-yard line.

Senior quarterback Alex Buck breezed through Danville defenders on a 46-yard run, down to the Danville 7. On the next play, senior running back Dan Moore scored, followed by Hinshaw’s extra point, putting NCHS up, 7-0, and not even two minutes had come off the clock.

Danville fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and NCHS senior defensive back Kennedy Freeman picked up the loose ball and gave the Ironmen the Danville 33-yard line from which to start their next possession, with 10:14 on the clock.

One pass later – from Buck to senior wide receiver Austin Davis – NCHS had their second score, and a 13-0 lead after the missed Hinshaw point-after try.

And after all that, there was still 10 minutes left in the first quarter.

Moore’s 54 yard run on the third play of NCHS’ next possession, with 7:50 left in the quarter, put NCHS up 20-0, following Hinshaw’s successful point-after.

After Danville punted again, it took just one play for the Ironmen to score again, thanks to a 51-yard run by Freeman. Hinshaw’s extra point put NCHS up, 27-0, with 6:26 left in the opening quarter.

NCHSThe Vikings used a 10-play, 88-yard drive to score their first touchdown on the night, as senior quarterback Kendall Carter connected with sophomore wide receiver Derrick Cunningham on a 36-yard pass with 2:30 left in the opening quarter, cutting NCHS’ lead, 27-7 after the extra point by senior kicker Janelle Henshold.

Although the Ironmen opened the game with such a scoring spree, they only managed one touchdown in the second quarter, with Buck keeping the ball for a 33-yard running touchdown, with 11:40 on the clock. Hinshaw’s point-after gave NCHS a 34-7 halftime cushion.

A punt by Danville that more resembled a pop-fly helped NCHS get their first score of the third quarter. Each team had had a possession by the time Danville’s Henshold had to punt the ball back to NCHS.

But, the ball went off the side of his foot and straight up and only slightly back, giving NCHS the Danville 38-yard line as its next starting point, with 5:24 in the third quarter.

What followed was Buck’s 38-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Chris Ward with 5:20 left in the quarter, followed by Hinshaw’s point-after, putting NCHS up, 41-7.

Hinshaw closed out NCHS’ scoring on the night with a 57-yard punt return for a score, putting the Ironmen up, 47-7, after a botched two-point try.

With the IHSA “Mercy” rule in play after that score – a rule allowing for a continuously running clock once a team has a 40-point lead – Danville scored for the last time on the night in the fourth quarter on a 5-yard pass from Carter to junior wide receiver Mikel Brigham, followed by a successful point after by Henshold.

The victory also extends NCHS’ current consecutive winning streak to 23 straight victories. As a result, Head coach Hud Venerable’s troops are certain to host an Illinois High School Association 1st Round playoff game this weekend.

Although NCHS continued to employ its running game against the Vikings, NCHS senior quarterback Alex Buck completed 3-of-3 passes on the night for 94 yards and two touchdowns.

“It was a good ninth game for us, especially against a really quality team,” Venerable said. “Offensively, it was a good test for us, and I thought we handled things well.”

While he said he saw nothing different in how NCHS was defensively compared to last year, Danville head coach B. J. Luke said he did notice a difference offensively compared to last year.

“They seemed bigger compared to last year,” Luke said. “They’re a little more physical in front than they were last year.”

By Steve Robinson | October 15, 2007 - 9:39 am
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – The Normal Town Council voted unanimously, 5-0, with two members absent, to authorize the preparation of the 2007 Property Tax Levy ordinance.

Council members Cheryl Gaines and Jeff Fritzen were absent from the meeting.

State law requires that the council meet at least 20 days prior to approving the property tax levy ordinance so that it can determine the amount of the levy.

State law further states that a comparison must be made to the tax levy from the previous year in order to determine what percentage the new levy can be increased.

Town staff recommended to the council that the levy be increased by 4.83 percent over last year’s levy.

City Manager Mark Peterson said the Town is projecting a drop in tax rates, with the cost of assessed valuation going from 75.8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in 2007, down to 74.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for 2008.

Omnibus Agenda Approved: Among the omnibus agenda items the council approved were:

• A motion to accept the water treatment plant chemical bids for November 2007 through October 2008 and to authorize staff to negotiate an extension of the current carbon dioxide contract.

• A motion to waive the formal bidding process and award a contract under the U. S. Communities Purchasing Program to LaGrange, Ill.-based NuToys Leisure Products for the purchase of modular skate park equipment in the amount of $63,988.

• A motion to initiate a zoning map amendment (near E. Pine St., between the One Normal Plaza PUD and the Savannah Green PUD).

• A resolution authorizing execution of an agreement with Champaign-based Ratio Architects for a City Hall office space study and approval of a required budget amendment.

• A resolution authorizing the execution of an agreement with the Union Pacific Railroad to relocate existing railroad signal equipment from Fell Ave. to Linden St. in conjunction with the hotel/conference center parking deck and the multimodal transportation center projects in an amount not to exceed $122,000.

• A resolution to appropriate $945,400 in Motor Fuel Tax Funds for the construction of Ziebarth Rd. from Pipeline Rd. West to approximately 1600’ west of Glendale Lane.

• A resolution conditionally and partially approving an amended final development plan for the Shoppes at College Hills planned unit development. Darden Restaurants, Inc. is proposing constructing a new Red Lobster restaurant at the southwest corner of Von Maur Dr. and Veterans Parkway, directly north of another restaurant in that area, Logan’s Roadhouse.

Liquor Commission Approves Application: Prior to the meeting, the Normal Liquor Commission unanimously voted to levy fines against five town businesses for selling liquor to persons under the age of 21.

Those businesses and the amount of the fine assessed are:

• Tri-Star Marketing, doing business as Super Pantry #22, 610 W. Raab Rd., was assessed a $1,000 fine for what was a second offense.

• Tri-Star Marketing, doing business as Super Pantry #21, 402 N. Main St., was assessed a $250 fine for what was a first offense.

• Foul Shots, Inc., 706 ½ W. Beaufort Ave., was assessed a $1,000 fine for a second offense.

• Mac’s Convenience Stores, doing business as Circle K #21, 1701 Parkway Plaza Dr., was assessed a $250 fine for a first offense.

• VS Enterprises, Inc., doing business as University Liquors, 706 W. Beaufort Ave., was assessed a $250 fine for a first offense.

The Commission also reported that 17 liquor license holders elected to pay their regular license fee in two installments. However, the Commission reported that one establishment failed to meet the Sept. 28 deadline and was charged with a late fee of $100 per day, as required by Town code.

By Steve Robinson | October 13, 2007 - 9:35 am
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – A recent audit done by a Peoria firm indicates Normal’s Unit 5 School District appears to be on the right track when it comes to handling its money, particularly at a time when the school board is seeking to put a referendum on the Feb. 5 ballot to build a middle school and pay for facility upgrades to other district facilities.

In his report to Unit 5 school board members at a regularly scheduled Oct. 10 meeting at district headquarters, Thomas R. Peffer, CPA, with the Peoria-based firm of Gorenz and Associates, Ltd., who conducted the audit, indicated the district has saved $2.1 million on what it spends in energy costs – a savings of 29 percent.

Peffer also indicated auditors discovered the district has budgeted money for emergencies. He said the audit noted Unit 5 has enough financial reserves on hand that could carry them for almost three months, should it needed to be used.

Peffer said while that was a positive, for Unit 5 to store enough reserves for a four-month period would be best.

The board also heard from consultants representing Warrenville-based PMA Financial Network Inc. PMA consultants presented a report which targeted the district’s operating expenses.

New schools means increased cost of operating them. PMA consultants gave the district four possible “cost assumptions” for the board to mull over with regard to the proposed building improvements.

In the operating model PMA consultants presented, Unit 5 could:

• During Fiscal Year 2010, build an addition to Sugar Creek Elementary. PMA consultants say district operating costs, as a result, would increase by $200,000.

• During Fiscal Year 2011, build two new elementary schools. Unit 5 operating costs would increase by $1.3 million as a result.

• During Fiscal Year 2012, build a proposed middle school. Unit 5 operating costs would increase by $1.1 million.

Unit 5 mapNCHS’ “Good News”: Dr. Jeanette Nuckolls, Principal of Normal Community High School, presented her school’s “Good News” report to the board by recognizing NCHS senior Travis Johnson, who recently became one of 140,000 black students nationwide who is requesting to be considered in the 2008 National Achievement Program.

Travis, son of Dean and Linda Johnson, is among nearly 3,000 national Achievement Scholarship Program participants being referred to colleges and universities nationwide, as a result.

The National Achievement Scholarship Program began in 1964 specifically with the goal of honoring black American high school students who demonstrate academic promise.

District “Good News”: Unit 5’s grounds supervisors Jeff Monahan and Doug Johnson were saluted at the meeting in the second “Good News” item mentioned at the meeting. Monahan, Johnson, and their crew did some beautification work on the grounds of the district’s Field Service Center.

Enrollment Up Over 2 Percent: For the period ending September 30, Unit 5 has seen its ranks increase by 236 students across the district. That’s an increase of 2.36 percent, according to John Pye, assistant superintendent of operations and human resources.

With an increase of 286 more students in Unit 5 classrooms as opposed to the same time last year, there are a total of 12,429 students attending Unit 5 schools. The same-day enrollment comparison measured numbers for Sept. 30 as opposed to the same day a year earlier.

At the elementary level, 233 new pupils sat in classrooms in one of the district’s 15 schools. With the exception of Brigham Elementary and Oakdale Elementary, all the elementary schools showed increased populations.

Brigham Elementary lost 14 students over the same day last year, dropping their attendance to 402 students. Oakdale Elementary lost 30 students over the same day last year, dropping their attendance to 470 students.

Kindergarten students continue to be the biggest block of students at the elementary level, with 996 students divided into 44 sections across the district. That means there are between 18 and 27 students per class at that level, according to the district’s figures.

Among the junior highs, only Kingsley Junior High showed a population drop from the same time last year. Kingsley had 968 students in class on Sept. 30 – down 29 students from a year ago.

Chiddix Junior High’s population increased by just 6 students at the same time a year

ago, reporting 882 students attending. That’s compared to the bulge of 43 new students over the same time last year at Parkside Junior High, where the total student population is now 952 students.

One high school continues to gain students while another’s numbers continue to decline. Normal West High School saw 59 new students as opposed to September a year ago. West’s population now stands at 1,661 students.

By contrast, NCHS lost 26 students compared to last year at that time, and now has a student population of 1,776 students.