By Steve Robinson | July 28, 2009 - 10:20 pm
Posted in Category: Special Olympics

Special OlympicsPEKIN – The closer it gets to the second weekend in September, don’t be surprised if you happen to see the coaching staff and members of the T-Ball team from Pekin Park District’s Illinois River Valley Special Recreation Association checking out the skies, looking for fair weather to get some state championship games in.

Last year’s Special Olympics State T-Ball and Softball games in Decatur were cancelled by fall rains and, now that IRVSRA T-Ball has qualified for State this year, they would not want a meteorological repeat of last year’s weather to spoil it.

The team, co-coached by Bill Wireman, Gail Smith, and David Campbell, will be going to the State T-Ball Finals in Decatur, part of Special Olympics Illinois’ Outdoor Sports Festival, being held Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 12 and 13.

IRVSRA T-Ball managed to sweep their two opponents in District competition this past weekend at Land of Lincoln Softball Complex in Springfield, giving the players and their trio of co-coaches the chance to look forward to playing in the big game this fall.

Members of the IRVSRA Flames T-Ball team are: Annette Bartley, Carol Ann Benjamin, David Campbell, Kathy Dekyser, Erin Fitzanko, Donald Frakes, Mike Haskins, Donald Hrivnak, Dennis Madura, Sherilyn Niemeyer, Doug Phillips, Judith Rich-Smith, Kevin Thompson, James Wireman, and Anna Harker.

IRVSRA started the day in District play on Saturday with a four-inning 22-15 win over the Carterville, Ill.-based Progress Port Smashers. Smith said all of IRVSRA’s players “did really well in that game. We saw a lot of homers and triples.”

In their second game of the day, IRVSRA edged out the River Valley Rockers, 24-20, after five innings. Each game IRVSRA played lasted one hour.

“That second game was much tougher,” Smith conceded.

“They had some guys who could really hit the ball,” explained Co-Coach Bill Wireman. He said having a game resulting in double digit points depends on the fielders.

“If we hit the ball and it goes into the outfield, and if the fielders can’t get to it, we will run it,” Wireman said. “(River Valley Rockers) had a couple guys who hit the ball in to the sunset.”

“We figured where they were hitting the ball,” Wireman said. “They were hitting it in the same place all the time. That meant we rearranged our fielding to stop them.”

The Flames entered District competition with a season record of 2-1, and after Saturday’s games, are eagerly awaiting State competition with a 4-1 mark.

IRVSRA needed to win both games to go to State in the Fall, Smith said. To split the pair would have meant a second place finish and no trip to State.

Other sports athletes participate in that are part of the Outdoor Sports Festival include: Golf, held in Forsyth, and an equestrian competition, held in Decatur. A total of 670 athletes from across the state participated in the Outdoor Sports Festival last year.

By Steve Robinson | July 21, 2009 - 9:04 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Looking to help generate income for the Town Water Department, Normal Town Council members unanimously approved a rate hike in water bills over the next five years.

The current usage rate cost per 1,000 gallons is $3.96. That will go up to $4.95 on Oct. 1, and go up roughly 30 cents a year through 2012, when the cost will be $6.07.

Maintenance costs will also go up as well. Currently, the flat monthly maintenance rate is $2.50. On Oct. 1, that will jump to $3.75. In 2010, it will increase to $4.05. From there, it will increase annually by 50 cents, finishing out at $5.55 in 2013.

Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan Accepted: Council members heard from an ad hoc committee which has been studying the Town’s bicycle and pedestrian system in an attempt to identify ways in which the system could be improved.

Mayor Chris Koos had the committee appointed in late 2007. By April 2008, Council members asked Town staff to develop a Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan.

At Monday’s meeting, Council members saw and heard a presentation by Rory Renfro, senior planner for Alta Planning and Design, based in Portland, Ore.

Renfro said that, even in this current financial climate, it would be possible for Normal to find funding sources which would help the Town pay to construct bike paths, and upgrade sidewalks and pedestrian crossings.

The ad hoc committee, made up of 17 members, met with citizens to find solutions to matters such as finding easier ways to get to the trails in the area. A new pedestrian/bike system would make it easier, Renfro said.

Renfro said Normal should consider establishing what he called “bicycle boulevards,” – streets located in residential areas, but which the Town would try to encourage the public to use. Renfro said part of that encouragement would be a campaign asking drivers to reduce their speed in order to match cyclists. He said that, in many cities across America, such streets are seen as “family friendly.”

Renfro also encouraged the Town to post wayfinding signs for bike riders, to improve railroad crossing signage, and update the community’s current road map.

Renfro said such ideas need to be coordinated with the City of Bloomington, Illinois Department of Transportation, and Illinois State University.

“One thing I like about this is that the people in Normal are so committed to this,” Renfro said. “It’s a 20-year plan, but we tried to make things that could be done quickly.”

Council member Jeff Fritzen asked Renfro if there were options in the plan for streets where cyclists could only go one way, thus preventing traffic problems for themselves or motorists. Renfro said that was possible and that Dayton, Ohio was one city where such one way biking streets were being used.

City Manager Mark Peterson said if the Town takes on this task, it should be done correctly from the start.

Mayor Chris Koos said there were things in the plan “that we’ll have to budget for…, and the public will ask for.” Koos suggested the Town investigate looking into grants to help finance part of the project.

On another transportation-related matter, Council members unanimously approved a motion accepting a report by and the recommendations of the Uptown Parking Management Committee for the Beaufort St. Parking Deck.

Annexation Agreement Approved: Council members approved a trio of resolutions concerning 106 acres of land which iDev, LLC is seeking to develop.

Known as the Schaefer Farm, the land is bounded by Raab Rd. to the north, Hershey Rd. to the west, Shepard Rd. to the south, and Eagle’s Landing Subdivision to the east.

The development plan iDev, LLC submitted to the Town calls for nearly 300 detached single family homes and 58 attached single family units.

Council members approved an annexation agreement with iDev, LLC, approved an ordinance annexing the property, and an ordinance rezoning the property. A total of 294 lots would be rezoned Single Family Residential, and 58 would be rezoned Mixed Residential.

Council members also unanimously approved annexing the property to the Town of Normal .

Virginia Ave. Bridge Replacement: Council members also approved two resolutions concerning the replacement of a bridge on Virginia Ave.

First, Council passed a resolution authorizing the execution of an agreement with Illinois Department of Transportation to use $1,414,977 in federal stimulus dollars for the bridge to be replaced. The federal law which the funds would come from is known as the Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Council members also passed a supplemental resolution appropriating $275,500 of Motor Fuel Tax funds for the replacement of the Virginia Ave. Bridge over Sugar Creek, east of Main St.

Town staff estimates the construction cost for the bridge replacement to be $1,610,000. The Town is receiving $1,414,977 from the Federal government, with the Town being responsible for the remaining $105,000 in construction costs plus engineering costs of $180,000.

Water Treatment Filter Replacement: Council members conditionally accepted a bid from North Carolina-based Industrial Construction Services for the water treatment plant filter replacement project at a cost of $1,325,900.

Liquor Licenses Granted, Fines Imposed: Normal Liquor Commission members met prior to the Council session, granting a license to a restaurant that will be opening a beer garden, and the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, while imposing fines to six other establishments.

Commissioners unanimously granted a request for a hotel liquor license to Normal Catering Co., Inc., doing business as Bloomington-Normal Marriott, 210 Broadway Ave.

Commissioners also approved an Outdoor Garden and Sidewalk Café liquor license for Maggie Miley’s, 126 E. Beaufort St., for the area at the front of the building.

Four other establishments individually received fines of $250 each for a first offense of selling liquor to minors. One establishment was fined $1,000 for a second offense. The fines were the result of a liquor audit conducted on June 17.

The establishments and their fine amounts are:

• Kroger Limited Partnership, IJ-347, doing business as Kroger’s, 1550 E. College Ave., $250, for a first offense.

• Mac’s Convenience Stores, LLC, doing business as Circle K #139, 300 N. Main St., $250, for a first offense.

• Casey’s Retail Company, doing business as Casey’s General Store #2267, 1930 N. Linden Ave., $250, for a first offense.

• American Drug Stores, LLC, doing business as Osco Drug #3073, 901 S. Cottage Ave., $1,000, for a second offense.

• Budget Liquors Inc., doing business as Budget Liquors, 200 S. Linden St., $250, for a first offense.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the reconvened public hearing of July 6, 2009.

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of July 15, 2009.

• A motion authorizing Town Staff to purchase landscape plantings in an amount not to exceed $15,000 for the Uptown Streetscape on North St., from Fell Ave. to the Uptown Circle.

• A motion to award the bid for a Water Department service truck with utility body to Eureka, Ill.-based Mangold Ford Mercury at a net cost of 31,403.

• A motion to waive the formal bidding process and accept a quotation from Bloomington-based Rowe Construction Co. to complete street pavement repairs on Claremont Commons and East Raab Rd. for the total amount of $37,115.80.

• A motion to waive the formal bidding process and to authorize Town Staff to execute a supplemental agreement with Chicago-based Cotter Consulting, Inc. for enhanced commissioning services for the Multimodal Transportation Center Project in the amount of $85,705 and approval of an associated budget adjustment.

• A resolution authorizing a supplemental agreement with Chicago-based Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects LLC for the design of the Gateway Plaza in the amount of $53,750 and authorizing a budget adjustment of $3,750.

• A resolution authorizing a supplemental agreement with Indianapolis-based Ratio Architects for additional architectural design services related to adding an additional floor of office space, one level of parking deck, and interior design for the Multimodal Transportation Center Project in the amount of $645,000 and approval of an associated budget adjustment.

• A resolution authorizing the release of Executive Session minutes from Dec. 15, 2008; and Jan. 20 and March 16, 2009.

• A resolution authorizing execution of a license agreement with Maggie Miley’s to occupy the alley for a rear patio.

• A resolution conditionally approving a site plan for Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System.

By Steve Robinson | July 20, 2009 - 9:03 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Recipients of the Town’s Harmon Arts Grant Program were honored by former Normal Mayor Paul Harmon and current Mayor Chris Koos in a ceremony which took place prior to the start of Monday’s scheduled meetings of the Normal Liquor Commission and Normal Town Council.

Harmon said 29 groups applied for grants from the program, with 21 grants being awarded. In total, the program gave out $72,000. Harmon said the average grant request submitted was $2,500, and that the average of the amount of money given out was $1,200.

The winners, and the grant amounts received are:

• Bloomington-Normal Youth Symphony, $1,000;

• Brass Band of Central Illinois, $750;

• Community Players Theatre, $1,000;

• Heartland Theatre Company, $2,000;

• Holiday Spectacular, $1,000;

• Illinois State University Concerts On The Quad, $1,500;

• Illinois State University New Music Festival, $600;

• Illinois State University Shakespeare Festival, $3,000;

• Illinois State University’s University Galleries, $1,000;

• Illinois Symphony Orchestra, $1,000;

• Illinois Wesleyan University Chamber Music Festival, $500;

• Indian Music Society of Central Illinois, $500;

• McLean County Arts Center, $1,000;

• McLean County Museum of History, $900;

• Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, $700;

• Normal Community West High School Bands, $2,200;

• Prairie Fire Theatre, $1,500;

• Pratt Music Foundation, $1,250;

• Sound of Illinois Chorus, $600;

• Twin Cities School of Dance, $1,000;

• USA Ballet, $2,000.

“What you do, especially in this economy, is hard to do,” Koos told the grant recipients. “We’re proud of you. Keep it up.”

By Steve Robinson | July 10, 2009 - 10:20 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Thanks to a measure unanimously approved by Normal’s Unit 5 School Board, monitoring activities on school buses will get easier for drivers because of new surveillance equipment.

At the Board’s July 8 meeting, Board members approved spending $184,450 to pay for installation of Gatekeeper Security System cameras and software to be placed in 85 of the district’s school buses.

Fifty of the buses which the system will be installed in have run on primary school routes, but have had no monitoring equipment of any kind, explained Jim Gillmeister, district Chief Financial Officer, in a memo to Board members and District Superintendent Gary Niehaus.

The cost, per bus, for equipment and installation is $2,170. In his memo to the Board, Gillmeister said that as new buses are purchased and older buses are replaced, a Gatekeeper system would be installed in each new bus prior to being delivered to the district.

The price of installation of the system in new buses would be included in the total price of new buses, Gillmeister said.

The surveillance cameras on the buses would have tape which could be downloaded by administrators, giving them instant information about any incidents, he explained. Each camera would have two weeks’ worth of tape inside of it.

Drivers would be able to date stamp tape with a press of a button, he explained, making finding tape of any incident easier.

Upon receiving the update about the Gatekeeper system, Board Member Wendy Cannell said, “I’m thrilled with this. It shows our dedication to safety to our kids.”

Niehaus said a letter will go out to parents prior to the start of the school year which will detail the expectations of students who ride the bus. He said the letter will indicate that there will be tape surveillance in both the front and back of buses.

Unit 5 mapDistrict Receives Some State Reimbursement: Gillmeister reported the State of Illinois has reimbursed Unit 5 some of the funds it owes the district, but not all of it, apparently, in light of no FY 2010 budget having been passed.

Gillmeister said the State owed Unit 5 $4 million. As of Wednesday, July 8, Gillmeister said the State has paid $1.9 million for the 2008-09 School year. Gillmeister said Unit 5 is still owed $2.1 million by the State. He said that of the remaining money due, $1.1 million is for Special Education costs and $1 million is for transportation costs.

When a budget is passed by Springfield, it will also mean Unit 5 will get $300,000 for playgrounds for the district schools, courtesy of work done by State Rep. Dan Brady (R-88th Dist.). Niehaus publicly thanked Brady for his efforts in securing those funds.

Forum On Redistricting On Aug. 10: Unit 5 held three public forums last month to get input on redistricting. A final proposal for redistricting will be presented at a public forum on Monday, Aug. 10 at Normal Community High School, beginning at 7p.m. The Board will vote on the final redistricting plan at its regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 12 at District headquarters, 1809 W. Hovey Ave., starting at 7p.m.

No Meeting On July 22: There is no Board meeting scheduled for July 22. The next Board meeting is set for Aug. 12.

Construction Update: Board members were informed that poor weather and an unexpected nature-related issue have slowed construction progress at the sites of two new elementary and one new junior high school being built by the district.

Richard Ach of Turner Construction informed Board members that, due to the rains experienced in June, work crews lost 35 days at the site of the new Benjamin Elementary School. Ach said work was able to continue at the other construction sites – Cedar Ridge Elementary and George L. Evans Middle School.

But, at the George L. Evans Middle School site, Ach said, crews had run into another issue – a layer of glacier till located about eight feet down in the ground. Ach said lime will have to be put on the site where the glacier till was found in order to make the affected section of ground level.

The cost of that repair is around $55,000, Ach said. He said the extra work would set back the construction from 7-10 days. Such a delay will, likely, push back the completion date set for the school of July 1, 2010.

George L. Evans Junior High is one of three new schools being built as a result of the passage of a $96.7 million construction and renovation referendum approved in February 2008 by Unit 5 voters.

Track Repair And Resurfacing Work Approved: Board members approved a bid for repair and resurfacing of the track at Normal Community West High School. The work will be done by St. Charles, Ill.-based Track Surfaces Co., who submitted a bid of $67,000 to do the job.

Personnel Matters: There will be some new faces in different school buildings as a result of moves announced by the district.

Among the personnel moves announced at by Niehaus:

• Mike Clark, assistant principal at Normal Community High School, has been named associate principal at Parkside Junior High School.

• Matt Harr, assistant principal at Kingsley Junior High School, has been named associate principal at KJHS.

• Marlys Bennington, who will become the first principal at the new Benjamin Elementary when it opens in 2010, has been assigned as an additional administrator at KJHS.

• Nathaniel Cunningham, a school administrator from Ball-Chatham School District 5, has been named the new Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources. For the next year, Cunningham will work side-by-side with Assistant Superintendent John Pye, who plans to retire in June 2010.

• Carol Frericks, Literacy Director for Quincy Public Schools, joins Unit 5 as Director of Literacy and Intervention. A 28-year education veteran, Frericks serves as literacy coach for Pre-K through 12th grade students. She received her bachelor’s degree at Quincy University in elementary and special education and her master’s degree in educational administration at Illinois State University.

• Wes Caldwell, dispatcher in the district’s transportation department, has been promoted to transportation supervisor.

By Steve Robinson | July 7, 2009 - 10:40 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Normal Town Council members were presented with a glimpse of how a new multimodal transportation center would further change the look of Uptown Normal, in a presentation by the architectural firm responsible for its design.

The four-story multimodal transportation center would be a transportation central hub, from which Amtrak, long-distance bus services such as Burlington Trailways, and the local Bloomington-Normal Public Transportation Service buses would service the Town under one roof.

Plans for such a facility, scheduled to be built along Beaufort St. would further change the look of the community from its location on the site of the former Schnebly’s Texaco station in Uptown Normal.

In addition to meeting the transportation needs of the community by providing transportation needs on the building’s ground floor, several Town of Normal offices would be moved from City Hall to occupy the second and third floors, and the chambers for Normal Town Council, as well as other Town governing bodies, would be moved to the building’s fourth floor.

Over the last decade, the Town, working with architects from Indianapolis-based Ratio Architects, Inc., has seen the design of the structure change in the six years since that firm was asked by the Town to design such a facility.

In the plans the architects have presented over the years, the proposed building has gone from being a four-story structure to a three-story structure, and back to a four-story building, City Manager Mark Peterson told Council members.

Peterson said the design of the facility is “98 percent complete.”

Peterson said the Town wants to be “shovel ready” for this project when the Town is granted funding for it through the Federal Government’s American Investment and Recovery Act.

“We’re really excited to pull this out of the drawer and bring it to life,” said Rob Proctor, Jr., principal architect for Ratio Architects, Inc., in his opening comments to Council members.

While giving a virtual tour presentation to Council members, Proctor indicated that the building’s first floor would be an area for travel ticket purchases, waiting areas, with exits leading to both trains and buses.

The second floor would be Town administrative offices, including City Clerk, Uptown Development offices, and Town Legal Counsel.

The third floor would house departments such as the Town Finance Department, and Industrial Technology.

The fourth floor would be considered the “community floor,” Proctor said. This would be a room for meetings of government bodies like Normal Town Council, with seating for an audience of up to 115 people.

A four-story parking garage would be constructed next to the transportation center, which would have as its biggest outstanding features, a large circular clock at the front of the building facing Beaufort Ave.

“As an iconic building, it’s the closest thing to a courthouse (Normal would have),” Peterson said. “The building becomes the centerpiece of the area.”

Proctor said his firm sees the structure being able to last for the Town to have between 75-100 years worth of use from it.