By Steve Robinson | September 27, 2008 - 10:32 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – In what has become the traditional Unit 5 rivalry game, Normal Community High School and host Normal West each had the ball for two possessions before NCHS scored for the first time – on a two yard run by junior running back Travis Mullen, giving the Ironmen a 7-0 lead following the point-after by senior kicker Ethan Cashen.

That was the beginning of what would become a scoreless evening for Normal West in this Big 12 Conference contest, as NCHS chalked up another win in the rivalry, beating the Wildcats, 30-0, before nearly 2,000 fans at West Stadium.

NCHS (4-1) went up 14-0 with just 5.1 seconds in the first quarter when Ironmen senior quarterback Zachery Johnson connected with senior wide receiver Chad Hinshaw on a 58 yard scoring pass, followed by another Cashen extra point, increasing NCHS’ lead to 14-0.

NCHS FootballWest’s defense would stall NCHS during the second quarter, forcing head coach Wes Temples’ Ironmen to settle for a 35 yard field goal at the four minute mark before halftime, putting NCHS up, 17-0.

With 26.7 seconds left until halftime, NCHS employed a little razzle dazzle to go up 24-0 on the Wildcats – with Hinshaw throwing a 43-yard pass to senior receiver Tate Musselman, followed by Cashen’s extra point. The play started out looking like a simple handoff from Johnson to Hinshaw, but fans knew that wasn’t the case when they saw Hinshaw suddenly looking for a receiver.

The last score of the game came on a two-yard run by NCHS senior tight end Andrew Hamer at 3:59 in the third quarter, arriving at what was to be the final score after Cashen missed the extra point.

Mullen led all rushers with 114 yards on 24 carries. Normal West senior running back Darius Bell had 20 carries for 90 yards for the 1-4 Wildcats.

Normal West FootballTemples said his team still needs to work on limiting an opponent’s kickoff return yardage, adding that, “there’s always things to work on, but I’m happy with a victory tonight.

“The victory is a credit to these guys,” Temples continued. “They come out every Monday through Thursday night, they come out and they’re ready to practice, and they practice hard. “(That hard work) is finally starting to carry over to Friday nights.”

“Here’s the thing…,” West head coach Darren Hess began, “We give up big plays. We can’t do that if we’re going to be very effective. We lost the battle of the line of scrimmage tonight, and (NCHS) was more physical…you can’t win many football games like that.

“Until we can eliminate (opponents’) big plays and put the ball in the end zone, we’re going to struggle.”

Friday night, Normal West visits Urbana, while NCHS travels to Decatur Eisenhower.

By Steve Robinson | September 25, 2008 - 5:18 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Wearing black T-shirts with the phrase, “Got Benefits?” on the front, a mix of members from the Unit Five Education Association and the Unit Five Support Personnel Association sat in on the regular meeting of the Unit 5 School Board at District headquarters on Sept. 24.

UFEA and UFSPA members were looking to see when the Board would address their concerns regarding recommendations made by the District’s Insurance Committee to approve enhancements in their vision coverage, as well as a reduction to their office co-pay and prescription drug rates.

“(In August,) UFEA and UFSPA reminded the Board and asked for a response,” said Val Leitenberg, Hudson. “And again, we’ve yet to receive that response.”

Leitenberg said that, to this point, UFEA and UFSPA members had been advised that the benefits would be approved provided UFEA and UFSPA gave Unit 5 roughly $350,000 from Insurance Fund reserves. But to do that, Leitenberg said, would be in violation of the current contracts between the district and UFEA and UFSPA.

The Board did not respond to Leitenberg’s comments during the meeting.

Unit 5 mapProposed Gravel Pit Discussed: A gravel pit, proposed by Stringtown Lakes, LLC, to be worked on near Fox Creek Elementary School, was the other major item addressed in the three-hour meeting.

Board President Jay Reece said that noise, dust, and safety issues were chief among the Board’s concerns regarding the project.

An open meeting, sponsored by a group called Concerned Neighbors of Fox Creek will be held at Fox Creek Elementary on Tuesday, Sept. 30 at 5:30p.m. The McLean County Board is slated to take up the matter in sessions on Nov. 5 and 6.

Bill Wetzel, representing Stringtown Lakes, LLC, in addressing the Unit 5 Board, said his group is only looking for a five-year permit on the site, in order to create a lake for a new proposed subdivision.

“We’re mindful of issues regarding the school,” Wetzel told Board members. He said his group would put in special provisions to make sure their work would be shut down at times when the school has special events planned.

“This is as near a non-issue as can be,” Wetzel said. He said his group is also getting a noise evaluation on its equipment since that equipment would be used near the school.

Board member John Puzauskas said he was concerned about the level of noise “being aimed in the direction of the school” as a result of the project. He said he wanted an analysis of the noise factor for the school.

“I’ve not been contacted by anyone from an (opposing) group,” Wetzel told Puzauskas. “We welcome and encourage (anyone wanting to see for themselves what the noise level is).”

Wetzel said his group has another similar project in Heyworth, that he encouraged Board members to arrange to visit, to hear for themselves the volume of noise while work on that site is in progress.

Board Member Wendy Cannell said she was concerned about the possibility of asbestos being present on a site, asking Wetzel what the procedure was in the event asbestos is discovered at a site being worked on.

Wetzel responded by saying that, when and if a “contaminating material” like asbestos were found during their process, all excavating would be stopped.

“It will take (all) seven of us to take action on the matter,” Reece told Wetzel. “We may all have opinions, but we will not act independently.”

Other Items Addressed: Following a brief public hearing in the course of the meeting, Board members approved a budget resolution for the 2008-09 school year.

Among the items approved on the Board’s omnibus agenda was the cancellation of the Board’s regularly scheduled second meeting in November, set for Nov. 26.

“Good News” From Hoose Elementary: Two fifth grade students from Colene Hoose Elementary School and their teacher were honored as part of the “good news” report to the Board at the meeting.

Teacher Leisa Barbour and her students, Sean Kennedy and Alexys Ogorek, were recognized for representing their school at the State Farm Insurance Patriots’ Day Program held at the Interstate Center on Sept. 11.

Both Sean, son of Larry and Lucilia Kennedy; and Alexys, daughter of Mike and Dawn Ogorek, wrote letters to soldiers, and had their letters read at the Patriots’ Day event.

By Steve Robinson | September 23, 2008 - 7:21 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – Normal Community High School outscored Champaign Centennial 21-0 in the first quarter, and, in fact, kept the visiting Chargers scoreless for half the game, on their way to a 49-20 Big 12 Conference victory at Ironmen Field on Sept. 19.

NCHS began scoring at 11:46 in the first quarter when junior running back Travis Mullen scored the first of four touchdowns he would have on the night – a 65 yard romp on the first play from scrimmage after the Ironmen received the opening kickoff. NCHS owned a quick 7-0 lead following what would be the first of senior kicker Ethan Cashen’s extra points on the night.

NCHS (3-1) went up 14-0 on a 1-yard run by junior running back Matt Smith, with 6:55 left in the first quarter.

Following a poor Champaign punt by junior kicker Jake Schilling, Ironmen junior running back Jamar Simon’s 1-yard touchdown run with 2:58 in the same quarter capped a brief 4-play drive, increasing NCHS’ lead, 21-0, going into the second quarter.

NCHS FootballIronmen senior quarterback Zachery Johnson connected with senior wide receiver Chad Hinshaw on a 34 yard pass with 11:50 to go in the second quarter, increasing NCHS’ lead, 28-0.

Junior running back Rayvonte Rice put Champaign Centennial (1-3) on the scoreboard for the first time at 6:29 in the same quarter on a 4-yard run, concluding a 10-play, 57-yard march. Schilling’s point-after was good, cutting NCHS’ lead, 28-7.

On the next series of downs for Champaign Centennial, NCHS defensive back Hinshaw intercepted a pass from quarterback Meiko Locksley. NCHS drive ended successfully when Mullen scored three plays later on a 3-yard run, increasing the Ironmen’s lead, 35-7.

Champaign Centennial ate up the last 1:40 on the clock going toward halftime, using an 8-play, 75 yard drive for their next score – a 13 yard pass from Locksley to senior wide receiver Jonathan Davidson. Schilling’s extra point was good, but NCHS entered halftime with a 35-14 lead.

Champaign Centennial had the only score of a very defense-oriented third quarter when Rice ran for a 1-yard touchdown with four minutes remaining in the period. But Schilling missed the point-after, giving NCHS a 35-20 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Champaign Centennial FootballMullen’s last score of the night – a 2 yard run with 1:37 left in the contest – gave NCHS a 42-20 lead. Mullen ended his night leading all rushers with 20 carries for 149 yards.

NCHS’ defense had another pivotal role in scoring when, in the closing seconds of the game, sophomore defensive back Jared Cross intercepted a rushed Locksley pass and scored on an 18-yard run into the end zone.

After the game, NCHS head coach Wes Temples said, “From the get-go, the kids played well…they played well.”

Temples admitted, looking forward to this Friday’s cross-town showdown at Normal West High, that getting ready for that game “will be a fun week.”

By Steve Robinson | September 16, 2008 - 10:26 pm
Posted in Category: Pekin Daily Times, Special Olympics

Special OlympicsPEKIN – A Pekin couple who have coached Special Olympics athletes locally have been selected to be coaches for Team USA at the 2009 Special Olympics Winter Olympics Games in Boise, Idaho next winter.

Larry and Barb Needham, Pekin, have been selected to join Team USA’s coaching contingent when the Winter Olympics open with competitions at various venues in Boise from Feb. 7-13, 2009.

Larry, head coach of the Pekin-based Tri-County Independents Powerlifting team, will be going to Winter Games as a coach for Figure Skating; while Barb, who has coached speed skating at Special Olympics Illinois State Winter Games, will be Team USA’s head coach for Speed Skating at the Boise event.

Larry Needham will be coaching three male and one female athlete, while Barb will coach three female athletes.

Special OlympicsBoth Needhams are on committees responsible for Special Olympics Illinois’ State Bowling and State Basketball tournaments, as well as SOI State Summer Games.

About each of them being named as a coach, Barb Needham said, “We’re pleased about it. We’re kind of excited about it.”

Both Needhams have each been assigned three athletes from their respective sports to work with during the Winter Games. None of those athletes are from Illinois.

Special Olympics Winter 2009The Needhams will have their first face-to-face sessions with their assigned athletes when they attend a three-day training camp in Colorado in December.

The Needhams each have previous experience with international Special Olympics events. Larry was a speed skating coach at the 2001 World Winter Games in Alaska and a speed skating volunteer at the 1997 World Winter Games in Toronto, Canada. Larry was a Powerlifting coach at Special Olympics 2006 National Games in Ames, Iowa. Barbara was a speed skating coach at the 1993, 1997 and 2005 World Winter Games in Reno, Nevada; Toronto, Canada; and Nagano, Japan, respectively.

Up to 3,000 athletes from more than 100 countries will compete in seven Olympic-type sports: Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating, floor hockey, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and speed skating.

Area Athlete Going To Winter Games: Chad Gatlin, 34, son of Jay and Carol Manthey, Peoria Heights, an athlete with Peoria-based Heart of Illinois Special Recreation Association, will participate in the Winter Games in Speed Skating.

By Steve Robinson | September 15, 2008 - 10:35 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Local developer Ralph Endress’ proposed development – an apartment complex along Constitution Trail – will go as almost planned, as a result of Monday’s Normal Town Council meeting.

But the residents of two 3-story apartment buildings Endress has proposed to build will have to live without a “party deck” Endress was hoping to make as part of the new structure.

Council members voted 5-2 to approve a resolution conditionally approving the preliminary development plan for the complex, to be known as Willow Trails Apartments.

What residents of the new complex will not be seeing is against a proposed “party deck,” Endress had in mind for the structure.

Mayor Chris Koos mandated Endress to seek a way to clean up debris off of the nearby Trail from those apartments.

Two existing buildings, located at 101 E. Willow and 104 E. Locust, would be demolished to make way for the new complex. A third apartment building, a two-story, 8-unit structure located at 98 E. Locust St., would be incorporated into the development.

The new construction would increase the number of residents from 67 to 140, and the total number of parking spaces for the facility from 140 to 144, including five handicapped parking slots.

There was some concern over a possible increase in garbage being strewn onto Constitution Trail as a result of the apartments being so close to it. Mayor Chris Koos said he wanted to see a trail-side clean-up plan put into effect.

Endress said he had a landscaping plan for the complex’s parking area. He also mentioned a raised patio was part of the project, but Council members were opposed to that idea.

Council members tackled a parking issue, voting unanimously for an amendment to a Town ordinance which would decrease the dimensions of parking spaces, from 20 feet deep down to 17 feet.

“Birkey’s” Resolutions Approved: Council members approved two resolutions concerning proposed land development sought by Birkey’s Farm Store, Inc.

First, Council members unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the execution of a pre-annexation agreement with Paul Bates and Birkey’s Farm Store, Inc., pertaining to a 20+/- acre parcel south of 2000 North Rd, East of I-39, West of 1425 East Rd, and North of Ziebarth Rd.

Council members then passed a conditional resolution which partially approved the final plat of a subdivision located within 1 ½ miles of the Town Corporate Limits for use by Birkey’s Farm Store, Inc.

A public hearing was held prior to the Council session to hear residents’ comments about annexation of the Birky’s property. No one spoke at the hearing.

One Main Expenditure Approved: Council members unanimously approved a motion authorizing an expenditure to One Main Development in the amount of $107,948 and the approval of an associated budget adjustment. The expenditure is for the second phase of the Alley B construction.

Appointment To HRC Approved: Council members unanimously approved the appointment of Vince Hummel, 1630 Erin Dr., to Normal’s Human Relations Commission. Hummel is filling the vacancy left by the resignation of Michael Pullins from the Commission.

Hummel, an employee of State Farm Insurance, is active in that company’s Hispanic Employees Resource Group.

Omnibus Agenda Approved: Council members unanimously approved the following items on the Council’s omnibus agenda:

• Approval of the minutes of the Council’s regular meeting on Sept. 2 , 2008.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Sept. 10, 2008.

• A motion to waive the formal bid process and authorize the purchase of an AFIX Automated Fingerprint and Palm Print Identification System in the amount of $37,000

• A motion to authorize staff to negotiate a final scope of services with Portland, Ore.-based Alta Planning and Design to prepare a Town-wide Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.

• A motion to approve a semi-annual salary schedule adjustment for classified Town employees.

• A resolution authorizing an extension of a billing contract for emergency medical services with Michigan-based AccuMed Billing, Inc. and execution of acknowledgement and release.

• A resolution authorizing the execution of a contract with St. Louis-based Peckham, Guyton, Alberes, and Viets, Inc. (PGAV) – One Normal Plaza TIF Project – and approval of the required budget amendment.

• A resolution authorizing execution of a municipal gas use tax collection agreement with Nicor.

• A supplemental resolution to appropriate $40,000 of Motor Fuel Tax funds for the bituminous resurfacing of various streets for the 2008 Street Resurfacing Project.

• A resolution conditionally approving an amended preliminary development plan for Constitution Centre PUD – Wendy’s Constitution Trail Centre Lot 9.

• An ordinance amending the Town of Normal Comprehensive Plan – Map E.1.