By Steve Robinson | May 30, 2008 - 2:56 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – At Normal’s Unit 5 School Board meeting May 28, Normal Community High School Principal Jeannette Nuckolls was recognized by the Board for her recent nomination as one of Bloomington YWCA’s 19th Annual Women of Distinction Dinner in the Brown Ballroom of Illinois State University’s Bone Student Center. Nuckolls was one of nine women honored at the event.

Charter School Approved: The Board unanimously approved an application for a Charter School with Bloomington-based YouthBuild of McLean County. Suzanne Fitzgerald, YouthBuild’s Executive Director, legal counsel Tom Kennedy, and five YouthBuild graduates now working in the area, spoke prior to the Board vote on the matter.

Fitzgerald said 40 percent of YouthBuild’s participants come from within Unit 5’s boundaries. YouthBuild operates an independent school. The school has the approval of the State Board of Education to operate.

The YouthBuild school would not be overseen by the Unit 5 Board, but rather, by an advisory board assembled by YouthBuild.

Currently, YouthBuild has a vocational site in Carlock and a school site in Bloomington, but wants to relocate closer into Unit 5 territory.

Fitzgerald said YouthBuild accepted just 55 of 198 applications it received for entry into its program last year.

“(YouthBuild) gave me a second chance,” said Mike Donnelly, a 1999 YouthBuild graduate now currently working as the Youth Intervention Officer at Normal Community West High School. “It gave me the chance to get my high school equivalency degree.”

YouthBuild has other programs operating within the state in Decatur, Cahokia, and East St. Louis.

Unit 5 mapDistrict’s “Good News”: As part of its “good news” report for the night, the board recognized the team responsible for the revamped look of the district’s website,

Members of the team honored for their work in updating the site, and recognized by the Board, were: David Harris, Brian Gerike, Deb DeMont, Mary Aper, Tim Franz, Michelle Glatt, Gloria Jameson, Joe Jelinek, and Meghan Leiseberg.

Building Renovations Continue: Renovations will continue at a number of district facilities following unanimous approval by the Board. One of the actions approved were permission for construction of model classrooms at Hudson, Fairview, and Brigham Elementary Schools.

The Board also unanimously approved a life/safety-related upgrade at Eugene Field Elementary, including installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system; and the installation of an elevator.

Construction Management Firm’s Contract OK’d: Board members also unanimously approved the district’s contract with Chicago-based Turner Construction, making that company the construction management firm to oversee the district’s building of a new middle school and two new elementary schools -part of the $96.7 million construction referendum voters approved in February.

Hazardous Busing Areas Recognized: Board members unanimously approved a resolution recognizing areas within the community deemed hazardous, and approved bus transportation for the 2008-09 School Year for students to-and-from school in the affected areas.

Those areas are:

• Lamplighter Subdivision to Towanda Elementary;

• Southgate Estates Trailer Park to Brigham Elementary;

• Airport Rd. between Eagle Crest and College Ave. – for students of Glenn Elementary and Northpoint Elementary;

• Bayberry Apartments to Fairview Elementary;

• Linden St. at College Ave, Mulberry St., and Beaufort St. to Glenn Elementary; and

• Linden St. at the Amtrak Crossing near Beaufort St. to Glenn Elementary.

By Steve Robinson | May 27, 2008 - 10:38 pm
Posted in Category: Pekin Daily Times, Peoria Pirates

FootballGREEN BAY, Wis. – Leading up to the Peoria Pirates’ rematch with Green Bay here at the Resch Center Friday night, Pirates head coach Bruce Cowdrey admits he has been reminding his players to play smart football in order to even the season series with the Blizzard.

It’s almost is unnecessary to remind any of the 3,800 fans who were at Carver Arena May 10 of why: The last-second, second-chance field goal Blizzard kicker Bob Fortstrom used in beating the Pirates, 37-36.

The Pirates faithful who were there were thrilled at that point in the game the home team was winning just before Fortstrom took the field, and Peoria up 36-34.

But with three seconds on the clock, Blizzard kicker Bob Fortstrom’s 29-yard field goal attempt ended with the ball striking the left upright signaling a Peoria victory.

Peoria PiratesBut that delight turned to dismay as officials flagged then- Pirates linebacker Robert Garth for an illegal defense, giving a reset to Fortstrom with no time left on the clock. Forstrom was able to re-kick the field goal from 24-yards out, which he did, successfully, stunning and silencing the home crowd.

Cowdrey said he has not replayed the episode with his team going into this game, however.

“I’ve been telling (our players) that the only thing they’ve got to do now is not beat themselves,” the veteran coach said.

“If (we think and play in those terms), we’ve got a chance (against Green Bay),” he said.

Forstrom, labeled the beneficiary of the fateful call against Peoria, was 1-for-2 in field goal tries versus Lexington last week, both, ironically, from 24 yards, with one successful and one returned.

Green Bay BlizzardOn May 16 against Midwest Division leader Lexington, Green Bay (5-3,3-1 Div.), home of the fifth-best scoring defense in af2, ran behind the 6-2 Horsemen all night, unable to overcome them.

That was with Blizzard quarterback Collin Drafts completing 18-of-28 passes for 259 yards and six touchdowns, 4 of those caught by receiver Scott Burnoski. The Blizzard had a bye last week.

Brock, The Businessman: Phillip Brock admits he didn’t pay much attention to his schoolwork as a youngster, and that it sometimes took his mother, Leah, using a little corporal encouragement in the form of a belt once in a while, to move the process along.

He said he would sit in classes and hear speakers talk about the importance of a good education, but, at the time, the thought had not sunk in.

Now, as a 26-year-old coming up in the 50-yard football world, Brock has had the chance to see today’s students and pass along the message that getting an education is essential.

And when Brock tells students an education is a necessity, he knows what he is talking about. He has a degree in Business Administration from Southern University, based in Brock’s hometown of New Orleans. And he is putting his education to work as the operator of a mobile car-washing-and-detailing business in New Orleans.

“I played in recreational (football) leagues as a kid, but if I didn’t handle my business in the classroom, (my mother saw to it that) I couldn’t play football,” Brock, the eldest of five siblings, said.

AF2What he said he tells kids: “Keep your head up. Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can’t do. School is very important (because) you can’t accomplish anything without school or respect for your parents or elders.”

Currently, Brock is hanging near the top of the class in af2’s rushing categories, placing ninth in scoring, with 18 touchdowns, and 4 successful two-point conversions. His touchdowns are evenly divided between rushes and pass receptions.

Cowdrey said a talent like Brock won’t stay in Peoria long. “He’s a great ball player. He shouldn’t be playing at this level,” Cowdrey said. “He really shouldn’t. And he won’t be next year. He ought to be at a higher level of the game.”

Squib Kicks: Buffalo, N.Y. has been awarded an arenafootball2 franchise by the Arena Football League, and will begin play in 2009. If a lease can be secured with HSBC Arena, former Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas and possibly former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly will serve as minority owners while Rochester businessman Bob Bartosiewicz as the majority owner. Buffalo joins Milwaukee in af2’s 2009 expansion list.

By Steve Robinson | May 25, 2008 - 10:30 pm
Posted in Category: Pekin Daily Times, Peoria Pirates

FootballPEORIA – Returning to the Peoria Pirates lineup fresh from his nuptials last week, eceiver Phil Brock scored five times, racking up 120 yards as the Pirates beat the visiting Iowa Barnstormers, 45-35, at Carver Arena.

For his efforts, Brock won Offensive Player of the Game honors.

A crowd of 3,800 watched Brock the Pirates strike first, leading 7-0, on his four-yard touchdown runat 11:25 in the first quarter, capping a 6-play, 30-yard drive, followed by a successful extra-point by kicker Nathan Palkovic.

Iowa running back Joe Brannen’s two-yard run at 7:40 of the same quarter topped a 5-play, 36-yard drive, and tied the score at 7-all following kicker Joe Glas’ extra point, where it stayed going into the second quarter.

Peoria PiratesRunning back J.J. Payne put Iowa (3-5) in front, 14-7, on a two-yard run, concluding a 5-play, 42-yard drive that began the second quarter, and was followed up with another Glas point-after.

But Brock, who ended his night as offensive player of the game with nine catches for 107 yards, scored his second touchdown of the night, and provided the starting point for it when he took the ensuing Iowa kickoff 42 yards, down to the Barnstormers’ 12-yard line. Four plays later, Brock scored from 4-yards out, catching a pass from quarterback Jason Rascati, but Palkovic missed the extra point, keeping Iowa in front, 14-13, at 10:15 in the second quarter.

Iowa wide receiver Errick McCown scored the first of two touchdowns in the second quarter, being on the receiving end of a 20-yard pass from Brannen at the 6:33 mark, increasing Iowa’s lead to 21-13 following Glas’ PAT.

Peoria (3-5) struck back, coming within two, 21-19, when Rascati scored from 10 yards out, concluding a two-play, 48-yard drive that Brock contributed the other 38 yards in a dash from Peoria’s 2 to get it started. Brock had three returns for 71 yards total. The Pirates tried a two-point conversion to tie the game after the Rascati score, but it failed, keeping Iowa in front, 21-19, with 4:33 left in the half.

Iowa BarnstormersIowa extended their lead as halftime approached with McCown scoring from seven yards out on a Brannen pass, increasing Iowa’s lead, 28-19, leaving a collective sinking feeling among the Pirates faithful.

Brock helped narrow Iowa’s lead immediately in the third quarter, scoring on another Rascati pass, this time from 12 yards out, to cut Iowa’s advantage to 28-25, with 12:42 left in the quarter after another failed Palkovic kick.

Iowa got their what was to be their final score of the night on an 8-yard Brannen pass to receiver Robert Kilow with 7:30 left in the third quarter, concluding Iowa’s longest possession of the night – 8 plays covering 30 yards in over 3 ½ minutes. Glas’ point-after increased Iowa’s lead to 35-25.

Brock scored two of Peoria’s last three scores, getting the Pirates within four after another failed two-point try by Rascati, cutting Iowa’s lead, 35-31, at 2:45 in the third quarter, capping Peoria’s longest drive of the night of 46 yards on six plays, holding the ball over four minutes.

Although Iowa held the35-31 at the start of the fourth quarter, Pirates receiver Darren Paige saw it didn’t last. Paige’s 21-yard reception from Rascati ended a 5-play, 46-yard drive, giving Peoria its first lead of the game, with 9:05 left in the contest.

AF2Brock punctuated the victory with his 5-yard reception from Rascati, part of a 2-play, 14-yard drive in Iowa territory after the Barnstormers lost the ball on downs. Palkovic’s point-after gave Peoria the end result it wanted, and stopped a three-game losing skid.

“Running back is my original position,” Brock said. “A win is what we needed, so I told the coach, ‘just put it on my back.’ I did it for the team…all for the team.”

“It wasn’t an easy game, trust me,” Pirates head coach Bruce Cowdrey said afterward. “It was a tough-fought game. It wasn’t easy at all. Our defense stepped up the second half and did a real nice job.”

“I thought we played a very fine first half,” Iowa head coach John Gregory said. “The second half, I thought we made some really dumb mistakes. We had confusion on pass protection at critical times and we overthrew wide-open receivers. That can’t happen.”

The Pirates travel to Green Bay Friday for a rematch with the Blizzard, with hopes of avenging the 37-36 loss they suffered in the last moments of that game here on May 10.

By Steve Robinson | May 22, 2008 - 10:27 pm
Posted in Category: Pekin Daily Times, Peoria Pirates

FootballPEORIA – The promotion for the fans at this week’s af2 game between Peoria and visiting Iowa Barnstormers is “Building The Future Night.”

After seeing the Peoria transaction reports the league released this week as the Pirates prepare to host a resurrected Iowa Barnstormers team Saturday at 7p.m. at Carver Arena, some may not think that a coincidence.

Pirates head coach Bruce Cowdrey was dealing again this week, sending receiver Devin Dennis and linebacker William Freeman to the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz and getting back defensive back Andre Burns, a one-year man from Missouri Western.

Peoria PiratesAdditional muscle is coming in from Alex Wiese, a 6-foot, 244 pound fullback/linebacker assigned to the Pirates by the league this week.

At 2-5, Peoria is trying to stop its freefall, having lost three straight, two of the last three to division rivals Green Bay and Quad City. Iowa is in a 3-4 tie with Quad City in the Midwest Division after losing to Oklahoma City, 62-56 last week. A victory over slumping Peoria would keep the Barnstormers from losing two straight.

About Iowa: Head Coach John Gregory coached that original Barnstrormers’ team seven years ago when it was part of af2, when they were owned by James Foster. Last October, current Barnstormers Owner Jeff Lamberti announced that Gregory would be returning to Des Moines to once again lead the Barnstormers.

The Iowa Barnstormers were originally in af2’s parent league, the Arena Football League, in the 1990s. At that time, Gregory gave a tryout to a relatively unknown and undrafted quarterback named Kurt Warner. Warner, of course, was able to parlay his AFL success into an NFL career, including a win in Super Bowl XXXIV over the Tennessee Titans in 2000.

Iowa BarnstormersThe Barnstormers relocated to New York in 2000, becoming the New York Dragons.

Gregory asked Dick Adams, an assistant coach who was part of Cowdrey’s ArenaCup III championship staff in 2002, if he would join the Dragons’ staff in 2003.

Unfortunately for Adams and the rest of Gregory’s Dragons coaching staff, it was an all-too-short experience, lasting four weeks, ending in being fired when the Dragons went winless in the first four weeks of the AFL season. Charles B. Wang, who was owner of the Dragons at the time, axed Gregory and his staff after a one-point loss to Las Vegas in AFL’s week 4 of that season.

Although Gregory retired after his team’s New York minutes in 2003, he accepted an offer to be head coach of af2’s Arkansas Twisters luring him out of retirement to take over that franchise for four games into the 2005 season.

AF2Under Gregory, the Twisters found themselves in the playoffs in 2006 and 2007.

Seven seasons have gone by since Iowa faced a Pirates team, led at the time by then-head coach Gary Porter, a Pirates quarterback in 2000 under Cowdrey. In 2001, Cowdrey was head coach of af2’s Pensacola Barracudas.

One Win Each: The series between the two teams stands at just one win each. Over 9,200 fans saw Peoria win the first meeting against Iowa in Carver Arena on May 4, 2001 by the score of 48-34. On June 9, Iowa’s 62-20 home win evened the series.

Neither team made the playoffs that season, with Peoria finishing 7-9, tied for fourth in what was then a seven-team division, and Iowa finished at 9-7 in third but mathematically did not qualify for the playoffs.

Squib Kicks: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton quarterback and former Pirates quarterback Ryan Vena and Quad City defensive back Kevin Adams were named, respectfully, Offensive Player and ADT Defensive Player of the Week for Week 8 of the 2008 season.

By Steve Robinson | May 21, 2008 - 10:24 am
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – At their meeting at City Hall Monday, the Normal Town Council went looking for lockbox services to help with collecting incoming utility payments.

Instead, the subject of lockboxes unlocked a discussion surrounding loyalty to local merchants to get the same job done.

The Town had put out a request for proposals last month, with seven banks responding by a May 19 deadline. The banks that responded were: Hickory Point Bank (Decatur); Commerce Bank (Kansas City, Mo.); First National Bank (DeKalb, Ill.); US Bank (Chicago); Regions Bank (Orlando, Fla.); Central Illinois Bank (Naperville, Ill.); and JP Morgan Chase (Carol Stream, Ill.).

Council members were presented with a resolution for conditionally authorizing a four-year agreement with Hickory Point Bank to provide the lockbox services.

That did not sit well with Council Member Sonja Reece, who proposed changing to a bank with local ties that could offer the same service.

Council Member Jeff Fritzen added that Commerce Bank has stayed active in the community and has been witness to, and affected by, the growth around it. He cited the bank physically having to relocate within Uptown in recent months as proof of that.

Council Member Jason Chambers wondered if bids for the lockbox collection services ought not be advertised again to see if another alternative could be found. Reece countered Chambers’ suggestion, saying, “This is not the time to reopen for bidding. This isn’t an $8 million project.”

The council took two votes on the matter. First, they voted 4-3 to reject the resolution authorizing the agreement with Hickory Point Bank. Voting for rejection were Council Members Reece, Fritzen, Cheryl Gaines, and Mayor Koos. Council Members Adam Nielsen, Chuck Scott, and Chambers voted for the agreement.

Once the original agreement was struck down, a motion was made to look into lockbox services with Commerce. That motion passes by a 6-1 count, with only Council Member Scott voting in opposition.

Currently, the Town processes all utility bills through a joint effort of the Water and Finance Departments.

Fairview Aquatic To Be Renovated: Council members heard from Carol Stream-based Williams Aquatics, Inc. regarding planned improvements to the Fairview Family Aquatics Center. The slide structure was constructed in 1982, thus managing to be used for at least five years beyond what was expected at that time, according to staff reports to the council prior to the meeting. The total renovation would cost the Town $2.45 million.

Hood Fills Zoning Board Vacancy: Council members unanimously approved Koos’ recommendation of Janet Hood to fill the vacancy on the Normal Zoning Board of Appeals. Hood is replacing Kathleen Lorenz, who stepped down earlier this year to fill a vacancy on the Normal Planning Commission. Hood’s term would expire in 2011. Employed by BroMenn Healthcare, Hood has served previously on volunteer committees with the McLean County Chamber of Commerce.

“All About Normal” Participants Honored: Prior to the start of the meeting, Mayor Koos honored the 21 most recent members of the eight-week educational course taught by various Town staff called “All About Normal.”

During each weekly 2 1/2 session, class members learn about particular aspects of local government, including public safety, finance, parks and recreation and other areas. Facility tours, interactive exercises or other field demonstrations are also part of the curriculum in this class, for which there is no cost. The Town offers the All About Normal program once a year in the late winter and early spring.

The Spring 2008 Class members honored at Monday’s meeting were: Cindy Brown, Myron Hawk, Diana Maldonado, Karen Gibson, Gwen Dewispelaere, Stephen Sochotsky, Mary Ann Ekena, Carl Ekena, Karen Timmerman, Aileen Wilson, Kenneth Kemp, Jim Yarborough, Jay Aeilts, Ann Rich, Kayleen Heiniger, Jack Cain, Laura Cain, Mboka Mwilamwe, Janet Goucher, Gary Blakney, and Charles Alsberry.

Museum Board Honors Nielsen: Council member Nielsen was honored with a proclamation by the board of the Children’s Discovery Museum. Nielsen served as the Museum’s Board president from September 2004 until March. The proclamation was presented to him by Dr. Holly Paska, the current chair of the Museum Board.

ISU To Lease In Uptown: Mayor Koos announced that Illinois State University will lease up to 20,000 sq. ft. in the One Main Development Project, designated Uptown One, Uptown Two, and Uptown Three.

State Farm Helps NPD: Mayor Koos announced Normal Police will have a new position shortly – a Youth Intervention Specialist. The Youth Intervention Specialist will work with 8-13-year-olds who have committed minor offenses in hopes of aiming them in a more positive direction.

The position is being funded by the Bloomington-based insurer at a cost of $163,000 over a three-year period.

Omnibus Agenda Approved: Items approved on the Council’s omnibus agenda include:

• Approval of the minutes of the Council’s regular meeting of May 5, 2008.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of May 14, 2008.

• A motion to waive the formal bid process and authorize the purchase of a 2008 Dodge Caravan for the Normal Fire Prevention Division to Hillsboro, Ill.-based Wright Automotive in the amount of $16,784.

• A motion to waive the bidding process and accept a quote from Bloomington-based Associated Contractors Co., Inc. for the installation of dryvit on the north concrete wall at the Water Treatment Plant at a cost of $$38,360.

• A motion to waive the formal bidding process and accept a quotation submitted by McLean County Asphalt for paving of cart paths at Ironwood Golf Course in the amount of $47,834.

• A motion to approve a budget amendment of $71,000 to overlay the southbound lanes of Towanda Ave. from Jersey Ave. to Vernon Ave. in conjunction with the City of Bloomington’s 2008-09 General Resurfacing Program.

• A resolution naming the new outdoor amphitheater at 611 S. Linden Ave. the “Connie J. Link Amphitheater.” Link, who died from Cancer in January, served as director, producer, business manager, and had numerous non-credited roles in her years in Summer Theater in the community.

• A resolution authorizing an application for a Public Transportation Capital Assistance Grant with the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Division of Public and Intermodal Transportation for City Hall parking lot modifications and intersection improvements to provide for intercity bus activities in the amount of $150,000.

• A resolution approving an Intergovernmental agreement for funding of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission of McLean County.

• A resolution authorizing execution of an agreement with Bloomington-based PATH, Inc. for completion of the Town’s Consolidated Plan for the Community Development Block Grant Program.

• A resolution authorizing for the City Manager to engage Chicago-based Mesirow Financial to serve as the Town’s Financial Advisor and provide Remarketing Services for the 2003 Variable Rate Bond Issue.

• A resolution authorizing the extension of a lease agreement for the Normal Police Department Substation, located at 623 Orlando Ave.

• A resolution authorizing a lease agreement with Illinois State University for office space located at 305 S. Linden St.

• A conditional resolution partially approving the Final Plat of a portion of the Trails On Sunset Lake subdivision.

• A resolution conditionally approving an amended preliminary development plan for Constitution Trail Centre planned unit development – Discount Tire Co., Inc.

• A resolution authorizing execution of a real estate contract with James and Kathleen Elder – 601 S. Linden.

• An ordinance dedicating Right of Way – Linden and Vernon Intersection.