By Steve Robinson | February 16, 2009 - 10:20 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – As a result of a unanimous vote by the Normal Town Council at the body’s regular meeting Monday night at Normal City Hall, the Town and Normal Hospitality, LLC, developers of the five-story Crowne Plaza Hotel on the Town’s north end currently under going renovations, have mutually agreed to terminate the redevelopment agreement.

A mutual termination of the agreement between the Town and Normal Hospitality, LLC was one of four options Town staff presented to Council members in preparation for the vote on the issue at Monday’s meeting.

In addition to mutually terminating the agreement with the developer, among the other options the Council could have chosen included reporting the wage violations to the Illinois Department of Labor without terminating the agreement, or do nothing and let the situation stand as is.

At the Council’s regular meeting on Jan. 20, Council members voted 4-1 to table discussion concerning terminating the Town’s redevelopment agreement with the developers.

The Town gave Normal Hospitality, LLC until Feb. 11 to produce updated records relating to the developer’s payment of prevailing wages to workers involved with the project.

As part of its agreement with the Town, Normal Hospitality, LLC agreed to pay prevailing wages to workers involved with the project.

Passed by the Illinois Legislature in the 1940’s, the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act requires contractors and subcontractors to pay laborers, workers and mechanics employed on public works projects in Illinois no less than the general prevailing rate of wages, consisting of hourly cash wages plus fringe benefits, for work of similar character in the locality, in this case, the county, where the work is performed.

Last October, the Town notified Normal Hospitality of problems regarding documentation concerning payment of prevailing wages. Problems continued, forcing the Town to send a second letter to Normal Hospitality on Nov. 18.

By December 15, Normal Hospitality submitted payroll reports concerning the various contractors working on the project, but after reviewing the reports, Town staff had numerous concerns, including contracts that did not contain language that spoke of payment of the prevailing wage.

Town staff also found incomplete time reporting forms for workers; and workers having told Town staff that they were paid in cash with no proper payroll or subcontractor documentation.

City Manager Mark Peterson informed Council members last month that the Town had not spent any money on this project to date. Normal Hospitality, LLC has a target date to open the hotel of early April.

Fred Rottermund, vice president of Normal Hospitality, LLC, told Council members last month that his organization had intentions providing prevailing wage information, but that they were dealing with separate sub-contractors, one of whom has not provided the information needed.

But in a letter to Normal City Manager Mark Peterson, dated Feb. 10 – the day before Normal Hospitality, LLC was to have the prevailing wage information turned in to the Town – Rottermund requested the suspension of the mutual development agreement.

“It sounds as though this group will revamp this hotel without an agreement,” Council member Cheryl Gaines said.

“I wish the Crowne Plaza developers the best of luck,” added Council member Adam Nielsen. “This is a very important property in this community. You can’t have a five-story eyesore at the (entryway) to our community.”

Council member Sonja Reece added that the developers should maintain contact with people who have planned events at the hotel, making sure they inform these potential guests if work being done to the hotel is on schedule, or will be delayed.

Council Conditionally Rezones Property: Council members unanimously passed two related measures pertaining to property a Normal church owns and wishes to zone for residential use.

First, Council members passed a resolution approving an amended preliminary plan for the Heartland Community Church subdivision. The church owns roughly 27 acres of land on the west side of N. Linden St. That land is zoned for single family residences. The church was approached by an Ohio-based developer, PIRHL, LLC, to build low income senior housing on that land.

Council members also passed an ordinance conditionally rezoning the North Linden St. property to an S-2 classification – Public Lands And Institutions.

Planning Commission Appointee Announced: Council members unanimously approved the appointment of Robert Bradley to the Normal Planning Commission. Bradley is filling the Commission post left vacant since Jeanne Moonan exited the Commission last September.

Bradley, 1 Ardith Dr., is a professor of Politics and Government at Illinois State University, and has been at ISU for 25 years. He was recently appointed to the University’s Bone/Braden Task Force.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the Council’s regular meeting held Feb.2, 2009.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Feb.11, 2009.

• A motion to award the bid for a backhoe loader for the Town Water Department to Martin Equipment of Illinois.

• A resolution authorizing a four-year extension of the Town’s Well Service Contract with Aurora, Ill.-based Layne Western, Inc.

• A resolution authorizing execution of a License Agreement with U.S. Congressional Representative Debbie Halvorson (D-11th District).

• An ordinance amending the Town Municipal Code – Various Zoning-related fees.

• An ordinance abating the Levy of 2008 Property Taxes for Special Service Area Number One.

By Steve Robinson | February 14, 2009 - 6:30 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

BasketballNORMAL – A 9-0 run by Normal Community High in the fourth quarter, featuring a three and a layup by junior guard Kevin Bischoff, helped the Ironmen en route to a 47-43 Big 12 Conference road win at Normal West on Feb. 13.

A crowd of just over 3,000 fans watched as West (11-13, 4-6 Big 12) overcame threes by NCHS senior guard Shaquille Florez and senior guard Kedric Williams, which gave NCHS an 8-4 lead with 3:50 in the first quarter.

West responded with three baskets by senior forward Christian Baker and a trey with a minute to go in the quarter from junior guard Tyler Bell to help give West a 9-8 lead going into the second quarter.

West held an 11-8 lead until Bischoff hit back-to-back unanswered threes at 7:02 and 6:30 in the second quarter, putting NCHS (20-5, 9-2 Big 12) up, 14-11. Bell hit a three at 5:46, tying the game at 14-all, but three West fouls on NCHS senior forward Tate Musselman put Musselman in line to go 4-for-6 from the free throw line, increasing NCHS’ lead — aided by Bischoff’s third trey of the quarter – 21-18, with 3:34 left until halftime.

Both teams would exchange three-pointers before the half ended, with the game tied at 26-all going into the third quarter.

West’s defense held NCHS at bay to open the third quarter, allowing Baker to hit back-to-back unanswered deuces, putting the Wildcats up, 30-26 with 5:49 left in the quarter.

NCHSBut two unanswered treys by Bischoff at the two minute, and 1:28 marks of the period, put NCHS in front, 32-30. NCHS would take a 34-32 lead into the fourth quarter.

Bell would start the fourth quarter with a trey that would give West what would turn out to be its last lead of the night, 35-34 with 7:29 left in the game.

From there NCHS went on its 9-0 scoring spurt, highlighted by Bischoff’s trey and deuce. The unanswered scoring streak would give NCHS a 45-37 lead.

Senior guard Kedric Williams led NCHS’ scoring with 17 points, including four treys. Bischoff followed Williams in double figures, with 11 points.

West senior forward Christian Baker led the Wildcats’ scoring drive with 14 points. He was followed in double figures by Bell’s 11 points on the night, including three three-point shots.

“West creates a lot of mismatches for you,” said NCHS head coach Dave Witzig said. “West did a good job of sticking to their game plan and battling back…”

Friday’s win marked the fifth season in the last eight years that NCHS has won 20 games in a season.

Normal West“It’s a nice little marker for us,” Witzig said. “When we start the season and we’re talk to the kids about team goals, we put the number ‘20’ up on the board (to indicate you want to see) 20 wins. It’s nice to get to that 20-win mark with three games left.

“Our ultimate goal is to play well in the (Illinois High School Association) Regionals, so, this (win) is just a sign of the good things (our team) has been doing.”

“To (NCHS’) credit, Bischoff got off some big threes,” West head coach Brian Cupples said afterward.

“We had a bad stretch in the fourth quarter,” Cupples said. “I just didn’t think we got shots that we wanted to take.

“But credit (NCHS) because they defended us, they did a good job,” Cupples said.

“We gave up some uncontested threes that we shouldn’t have and that was a disappointment,” Cupples said. He added his team tried switching between man-to-man and zone coverage to throw the Ironmen off track.

By Steve Robinson | February 12, 2009 - 10:21 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – At the Feb. 11 meeting of Normal’s Unit 5 School Board, 12 teachers from seven of its 18 schools who have received National Board Certification were honored.

The 12 teachers receiving the Certification, and their schools, are: Amy Burns and Donna Sliney (Grove Elementary); Laura Dickenson, Julia Hinman, Deanna Wilst, and Laura Kukuck (Normal Community West High); Carrie Leonard (Normal Community High); Carol Johnson and Marylynn Meredith (Prairieland Elementary); Lisa Goeken-Galliart (Chiddix Junior High); Trisha Warner (Kingsley Junior High); and Phillip Nevels (Parkside Junior High).

A reception for the teachers was held prior to the start of Wednesday’s meeting. Each member was introduced by Jim Braksick, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, and certificates were handed out by Kurt Swearingen, Unit 5’s director of elementary education.

This group of 12 joins 45 Unit 5 teachers who have received National Board Certification previously.

An audience of roughly 40 people who were on hand for the meeting gave the new certification recipients a standing ovation.

Staggered Class Hours Discussed: District Superintendent Gary Niehaus has previously informed the Board that he would like to see Unit 5 have staggered start times for elementary school, middle school, and high school students, beginning next August.

Under the plan suggested by Niehaus and under consideration by the Board, beginning this fall, the elementary school day would run from 8:30a.m.-3:15p.m.; the middle school day would run from 7:45a.m.-3p.m.; and the high school day would run from 7:15a.m.-2:30p.m.

Both Normal Community High and Normal West High Schools currently have a “zero hour” class period, which, under the proposed time change, would be moved to the end of the school day, serving as a ninth period. High school students would have the option of taking a ninth period class rather than a first period class, if so desired.

Students taking the first period class would see their classes start at 7:15a.m. and end at 2:30p.m. Students taking “zero hour” classes would start their class day at 8:15a.m. and end their school day at 3:20p.m.

However, Niehaus said, there would be no bus service from the high schools to home for students who take the ninth period option.

He said freshmen and sophomores opting to take ninth period classes would be the most affected by not having bus service. He said juniors and seniors probably would not because they would be driving themselves or getting rides with friends who drive.

The district formed a 10-person ad hoc committee last fall to discuss the staggered times issue, Niehaus told Board members. Those committee members were in attendance at the Board meeting.

Niehaus admitted to Board members that, when it comes to changes of this nature, the students adjust well.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Linda Moorehead, Carlock, who said her youngest child will graduate from high school in 2011, told the Board she had concerns about what affect the early time would have on students.

Unit 5 mapShe cited concerns by the National Sleep Foundation on the affects of sleep deprivation and its relation to academic performance.

After the Board meeting, Niehaus said the sleep deprivation issue was discussed by the ad hoc committee. “(That subject) was always on the table (when we met),” Niehaus said. “(But,) we felt having the second start time (of 8:15) kind of took care of that because (8:15) is 15 minutes later than when their school day starts at now.”

The current high school day runs from 7:55a.m.-3:10p.m.

2009-2010 School Calendar Approved: Board members unanimously approved the District’s full school calendar for the 2009-2010 school year. The first day of classes, a half-day session is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 19, with Thursday, Aug. 20 being the first full day of classes.

Construction Bid Approved: Board members unanimously approved a bid for construction of a water main for George L. Evans Junior High School, slated to be built in south Bloomington and ready for completion by 2010. Groundbreaking on the junior high school is set for this spring.

Bloomington-based George Gildner Plumbing & Heating, Inc. was awarded the project, having submitted a low bid of $1,083,115. Gildner was one of seven companies to submit bids to do work on the project.

Custodians Get New Contract: Board members unanimously approved a five-year contract for 103 custodians and maintenance workers. The custodians and maintenance workers are all members of Local 362 of Laborers’ International Union of North America. Union members have been working without a contract since June. The new agreement extends until 2013.

High School Enrollment Drops: With the exception of one notable change in same-day attendance figures at the Town’s two high schools between last year and now, Unit 5 continues to show cause of building new schools with the increased number of students attending.

Unit 5 had 12,695 students in class at its 15 elementary schools, three junior highs, and two high schools on Jan. 30, when one-day enrollment counts were taken. That is a 1.58 percent increase from the same time last year, when 12,498 students attended Unit 5 schools.

The surprise in the report presented to the Board by Assistant Superintendent John Pye, was that enrollment at Normal’s two high schools has dropped by slightly over four percent from the same time last year.

NCHS had 1,817 students in class on Jan. 30, while Normal West had 1,698 students accounted for. Together, the two schools had 3,515 students as of Jan. 30. But on Jan. 31, 2008, both high schools had a total of 3,375 students accounted for. The change is a decline of 4.15 percent.

At the junior high level, the district only saw an increase of just four students for the three junior highs. The total enrollment on Jan. 30 for Kingsley, Chiddix, and Parkside Junior High Schools was 2,858 students, as opposed to 2,854 students at the same time last year.

By Steve Robinson | February 6, 2009 - 10:31 pm
Posted in Category: Olympia HS, Pekin Daily Times, U-High

BasketballNORMAL – Stanford Olympia High discovered that, the longer their game at Corn Belt foe Normal University High went on, the closer the host Pioneers got to the Spartans and even closer to frustrating an Olympia offense bent on adding another victory for the season.

Although Normal U-High tried to make a run at the Spartans, Olympia kept them at bay for a 47-37 Corn Belt Conference win.

Olympia (19-4, 9-2 Corn Belt) jumped out to a 13-7 lead after one quarter, on a pair of treys by senior guard Brady Cremeens and an additional trey by senior forward Trevor Strubhar.

Each side was only able to score 11 points a piece in the second quarter, and two baskets by senior forward Luke Harbers, added to a basket and free throw by junior guard Peter Schiller, cut Oly’s halftime lead to 24-18.

OlympiaIn the third quarter, U-High clamped down on the Spartans, holding them to going 1-for-17 in that period, forcing Olympia’s defense into action throughout the period. Only junior guard Spencer Pratt was able to get a bucket for the Spartans the entire quarter, while U-High junior forward Connor Brown scored five points, including a trey in the period. Olympia entered the fourth quarter with a one-point lead, 26-25, going into the fourth quarter.

Although Strubhar scored five of Olympia’s first seven points of the fourth quarter, giving Oly a 33-27 lead, U-High (6-16, 4-7 Corn Belt) pulled within three, 33-30, on a trey by Brown with 3:27 left in the contest.

U-High junior guard Eric Robb fouled Cremeens with 2:17 left in the game, and Cremeens sank both free throws, putting Oly up, 35-33.

After each side took a time out at that point, Cremeens added to his total for the night, sinking a three, and a pair of free throws after being fouled. Those baskets pushed Oly up, 40-35, en route to their final score.

Strubhar had 15 points to lead all scorers. He was followed by 13 from Cremeens and 10 from senior forward Matt Frahm. Brown was U-High’s lone player in double-figures, finishing the night with 17 points.

U-High“I am just pleased (with the victory),” said Olympia head coach Gerry Thornton. “It was an ugly win, but it’s the kind of win that will win a conference championship, maybe (a win) that will win a regional or a sectional like we did last year.

“We’ve been begging these guys to guard all year long,” Thornton said of his team. “And, our guys guarded (U-High) pretty well. By and large, I thought our defense was pretty solid.

“They slowed the game down (and) they ran the clock,” Thornton said. “For a team that averages 65 (points) a game like us, they make us play (at) their pace.”

“I thought our kids did a real nice job on the defensive end of dictating the tempo and showing patience on offense,” said U-High head coach Bob Fitzgerald. “Our patience on offense caused them to lose their rhythm a little bit.”