By Steve Robinson | November 26, 2011 - 10:57 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

At the end of every high school sports season, the local conferences dole out their awards for players to give them special recognition. Most of the time, you find this information in the local daily paper as a quick blurb of a few paragraphs, as well as on the “Scoreboard” page, usually wedged between the standings of whatever pro leagues they fit in-between.

There is nothing wrong with that if you work for the local paper and are responsible for the stat page. But not everyone thinks to check that page, and grandmothers, unless they think to look on the daily paper’s scoreboard page, aren’t likely to see a detailed report of how their grandson the running back, or granddaughter the middle hitter, was honored by the time their respective season came to a close.

That is where I thought I would help our readers to catch up now that the season is over.

Ladies First: Central Catholic High School did not just score a championship season when they won the Corn Belt Conference in Volleyball this season. They also saw two of their own pick up league honors in the process. Meredith Boe and Danielle Davis are among four players who were unanimous selections to the all-Corn Belt Conference first team. University High senior Maggie Dunbar was also among the unanimous selections this season.

On the Soccer field, our area schools were represented by the time the season was over, too, as Normal Community High School’s soccer squad had four players received honors, putting the Ironmen in a tie with Urbana for the most of any squad. NCHS senior Jake Wallace and junior Austin Bange were among seven selections chosen again this year, and among 13 unanimous selections. Other Ironmen receiving honors were seniors Spencer Smith and Jacob Seger. Normal Community West High School seniors Alex Cordero and Geoffrey Kohlhase were named to the Conference’s 1st Team. Bloomington High School honorees were juniors John Kissel and Cody Speer.

On the gridiron, the guys from the local high schools received accolades, too. U-High defensive back Jim Solberg, Normal West defensive back Jon Maebane, and NCHS linebacker Brent Spack were among the local players who found themselves named to Illinois High School Football Coaches Association all-state teams. Players selected for each of the eight all-state teams were honored during state championship games Thanksgiving weekend in Champaign.

Maebane, a senior safety on head coach Darren Hess’ squad, was singled out for a top honor, having been named as Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year, leading seven first-team selections from the Wildcats on the all-conference football team roster. The Wildcats won the Big 12 Conference crown with a school-best 10-1 record this season.

The Wildcats had some other unanimous selections for awards in addition to Maebane. Wildcats senior defensive lineman Nick Bell; senior offensive lineman Everett Lightle; and junior quarterback Alex Jefferson also found themselves as first-team selections, chosen unanimously.

While some students are getting accolades for how they have done this past season, others are looking at their futures and making decisions to agree to become student-athletes at universities.

Those local students who given a verbal commitment, their chosen sport, (and the college of their choice) include: Normal West’s Wes Sery. Baseball (Northern Illinois); NCHS’ Anthony Beane, Basketball (Illinois State); Central Catholic’s Boe, Volleyball (St. Louis University); and University High’s Dunbar, Volleyball (Wisconsin).

For the rest of us, we go through another change of seasons. Some of us can refer to the change as going from Fall to Winter. For those of us who write about sports on a fairly regular basis, it is time to shift our mindsets from Football and Volleyball to Basketball.

Lots and lots – and lots – of basketball.

I hope you folks will come along and cheer on your favorite local high school teams as the season progresses.

NORMAL – At their meeting on Nov. 21 at Normal City Hall, Normal Town Council members received an update concerning the proposed re-branding of the group serving business owners in the Uptown Normal area. This group would become known as Uptown Partners (UP).

Jill Guth, from JSM Development, which manages the Uptown Commons building, gave a presentation to the Council about UP. UP is a group that consists of Uptown Normal stakeholders and businesses, and has as its goal to promote the interests of its members as they relate to the Uptown area.

Guth explained a steering committee was formed about 15 months ago, consisting of Uptown property owners, retailers, Illinois State University, and Town officials to look into the best way to “fund more comprehensive marketing of Uptown Normal.”

Guth said the committee considered the formation of a Special Services Area for the Uptown area as a means of obtaining revenue. SSAs have a limited operating time frame during which they are used.

To raise revenue, Guth said, the organizing committee determined that imposing a tax on retailers to raise funds in the current economy is not a prudent solution to getting funding.

Guth said the organizing committee looked at how Uptown merchants would address issues such as how to handle garbage service, snow removal, the placement of banners, general maintenance, and marketing the Uptown district to patrons.

Guth said the organizing committee sought answers to those issues and realized the Uptown Normal Business Association “had been around for several years,” Guth said.

“So, we had an organization in place,” Guth said. “Was there a way to refocus, reorganize, rebrand that organization?” And further, do the updating while meeting the needs of the business owners, she said.

“We thought, ‘yes, there is,’” Guth said. “This is not rocket science. This has been done in other downtowns across the country, where you create an Uptown marketing organization, and you ask for voluntary membership and sponsorships to funds it.”

Guth said the group’s membership needed not only funding, but increased participation by business owners who had possibly not been involved before.

Getting new members would require rebranding the group that devotes itself to business owners in Uptown, Guth said. “In order to re-energize it, we needed to change its name.

“We chose the name Uptown Partners because we think it’s a partnership between the retailers and the property owners, Illinois State University, and the Town of Normal,” Guth explained. “It should everybody working together to market and promote Uptown.”

Guth said a marketing committee was formed which included representatives from JSM, ISU, the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, the Children’s Discovery Museum, Normal Public Library, and the Town.

Guth said the group created a list of target audiences to which the Town should be marketing itself to. Those target audiences include the local residents; ISU faculty, students and staff; as well as people from Peoria and Champaign looking for a day trip.

Guth said UP is looking to expand its Board of Directors, giving other business members the chance to participate in the process. She said the group would put together a “comprehensive marketing plan” to work together to promote the Town. She said using an updated website, as well as the social media forums of Facebook and Twitter would also be part of the promotions process.

Guth said there could be membership funds raised using a couple different price levels, such as Business and Corporate. Guth said what UP proposes to the Council is that, for every dollar it raises through the public sector, they would like the Town to match, up to $25,000.

“Uptown Normal Business Association is not going away,” Guth said. “What’s going to be happening is UNBA will be doing business as Uptown Partners.”

Guth said UP hopes to have a formal kickoff by March 1.

Ordinances Related To Taxes Pass: In addition to hearing Guth’s report, Council members passed a pair of ordinances concerning taxes. First, members of the governing body unanimously passed an ordinance authorizing the 2011 Property Tax Levy. Council reviewed the 2011 Property Tax Levy at their October 17 meeting and directed Town staff to prepare a tax levy ordinance. No public hearing was required on the levy because it was less than five percent.

The total recommended tax levy for 2011 is $9,880,000, are the entities it contributes to include the Town’s General Fund, Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, Social Security, Police Pension fund, Fire Pension fund, and Normal Public Library. The net recommended property tax levy is $198,000, which is an increase of 2.1 percent over last year’s levy.

In addition, Council members passed ordinances authorizing the abatement of 2011 Property Taxes for Debt Service. In total the vote allowed the Town to abate property taxes for General Bond obligations for the years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2009(A), and 2010(A), totaling $5,927,879.

By Steve Robinson | November 22, 2011 - 10:55 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

The holidays kickoff this week with a gathering for thanks on Thursday. On Thanksgiving, we willbe grateful for the blessings we all have. Some of us may even take time out towatch a little football on Turkey Day (Three NFL games alone that day!), butThanksgiving also, for some folks, kicks off parade season, too.

My folks admitthey are not big on parades, my father especially (“Didn’t you ever wonder whywe never went to any?,” he asked me once recently. The answer was that he andmy mom were not big on them, so we never went to any, as I understand hisexplanation).

As I grow older,I have made sure to take in the ISU Homecoming Parade in the last few years. Solong as I have a place to lean and it turns out to be a good spot to seeeverything clearly, I can enjoy the parade.

I have even beenin a couple Christmas parades as part of the group from Relay For Life of McLeanCounty. I can’t march, so sitting in a float waving to the crowd gives one aninteresting perspective on the event.

By the time you readthis column, one of our local high schools will have already made an appearancein a parade in New York City. The Bloomington High School Marching Raiders willrecognize those who have served our country, having taken part in the 92ndannual New York City Veterans’ Day Parade on Nov. 11.

While in the “Big Apple,” BHS’ band alsoperformed in the Band of Pride Tribute to Heroes in Times Square.

Published reports indicated BHS Bandmembers also had a chance to visit the sights such as the 9/11 NationalMemorial Park, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty andEllis Island. A Broadway show was also on BHS’ travel agenda.

BHS isn’t the only onehitting the road over the holiday. The University High SchoolMarching Pioneers will be in Jacksonville, Fla., for the Progressive Gator Bowlparade and halftime show. The Marching Pioneers leave coldcentral Illinois on Thursday, Dec. 29. The parade is on its traditional date ofNew Year’s Eve, and the game is on Monday, Jan. 2. A visit to the UniversalOrlando theme park is also part of the itinerary for the Marching Pioneers.

Closer to home,the marching Minutemen from Lexington High School will be part of the Farmer City Christmas parade onNov. 20.

The holidays will be filled with fun times, familygatherings, and for some of us, plenty of basketball games to attend, too. In afew weeks, I will try to help you map out your roundball agenda as our localschools get ready to participate in area tournaments. One thing I can tell youabout that is the schedule of games for the State Farm Bloomington-NormalHoliday Tournament comes out on Dec. 13.

For now though, have a greatThanksgiving, enjoy the turkey and trimmings, the friends, the family, thefootball, and the parades.

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members voted 6-1 to enter into an Intergovernmental agreement with three other city governments in the region to enter into legal action, if need be, to stop the landfill from accepting Polychlorinated Biphenyls, or PCBs.

Clinton Landfill #3, a subsidiary of Area Disposal Service, Inc., has applied to the

U. S. Environmental Protection Agency for authorization to accept PCBs at their facility. PCBs are known carcinogen and are known to pose a substantial threat to human life in ingested or otherwise introduced into the human body.

A number of local governments have organized to work to raise objections to PCBs being disposed of at Clinton Landfill #3. Currently, the City of Champaign, the City of Urbana, the Village of Savoy, and Champaign County have indicated a willingness to join with Normal to oppose any delivery of PCBs at the Clinton Landfill.

Under the Intergovernmental agreement, Normal’s share of the legal fees involved would be 20.7 percent of the cost of the governmental effort. A report from Town Staff indicates the intergovernmental group will contract with the Peoria-based law firm of Hasselberg, Williams, Grebe, Snodgrass, and Birdsall to handle any litigation from this matter.

A report to Council members by Town staff indicated the State of Illinois has already approved Clinton Landfill be allowed to accept PCBs. However, the regional administrator for the Federal EPA has not acted to authorize Clinton Landfill to receive PCBs.

Under the terms of the agreement, Normal may withdraw from the arrangement with 45 days notice to the other governing bodies. However, if the Town does withdraw from the agreement, it would be obligated to pay for any costs incurred by the group until the date of withdrawl.

“Legal action is warranted because the aquifer provides water to Normal and Bloomington,” City Manager Mark Peterson told Council members.

Council member Adam Nielsen cast the lone dissenting ballot. He said he was not comfortable with the Council simply taking the word of another community concerning this issue as reason enough to join in on the agreement. He said he would like to have representatives from Area Disposal Service, Inc. come before the Council to explain the matter further.

Council member Jason Chambers presented a counter-argument, saying a wrong decision could lead to the issue of a contaminated water table for a future Town Council to have to deal with 30 or 40 years down the road.

Council member Chuck Scott said it would be best to have representatives from Area Disposal Service, Inc. address the Council on this matter “sooner rather than later.”

“This material does not break down,” Peterson added. “It doesn’t go away…We’re actually downstream from the aquifer.” Normal, like a number of other communities in the area, relies on an aquifer located in Mahomet for its water.

Council Receives An Update From B-N Public Transit’s New G.M.: Council members also heard from the new general manager of Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System in a brief presentation. Andrew Johnson became BNPTS’ new boss in August, after having spent 14 years with the transit system in Waukesha, Wis.

Members of the board of directors of BNPTS were present as Johnson introduced himself to Council members and updated them on the service’s status.

Johnson said BNPTS has a total of 94 employees, both full- and part-time, and operates six days a week on an annual budget of $8.8 million. He informed Council members that ridership increased 20 percent in fiscal year 2011 and is currently on target to average around 22 percent by the end of fiscal year 2012.

He said that translates to1.8 million boardings, or rides given, in the last fiscal year, and BNPTS is on target to range between 2-2.5 million boardings by the end of fiscal year 2012.

“We have a re-energized work force,” Johnson said of BNPTS’ staff. He said the organization is looking at redesigning routes, as well as changing routes so as to better serve the community once Uptown Station opens next summer, as well as improving service to Illinois State University.

He said BNPTS’ fleet of 49 buses includes 14 which Johnson said are nearing the end of their “useful life” since the company started using them in 2004.

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

• Approval of minutes of the Regular Meeting held Nov. 7, 2011.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Nov. 16, 2011.

• A motion to waive the formal bidding process and to authorize Town staff to purchase bicycle racks and bicycle amenities from Minneapolis, Minn.-based Dero Bike Rack Co. with $20,428.22 in Energy Block Grant Funds.

• A motion to waive the formal bidding process and approve the purchase of diesel fuel from Bloomington-based Evergreen FS, Inc.

• A motion approving a funding request from the YWCA for the McLean County Wheels To Work Program.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and accepting a proposal from Peoria-based Heartland Parking, Inc., doing business as Security Parking Systems, for Parking Access and Revenue Control (PARC) equipment for the Uptown Station Parking Deck in the amount of $289,956.

• An ordinance amending Section 11.3.1, 11.3.3, and 11.3.4 of the Town Municipal Code – Adopting the 2011 National Electric Code.

• An ordinance amending Chapter 18 of the Town Municipal Code – Personnel.

• An ordinance rezoning property in the Town of Normal – 206 Pine St.

By Steve Robinson | November 12, 2011 - 10:05 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL –At their Nov. 9 meeting, members of Normal-based Unit 5 School Districtunanimously approved the hiring of three new members of their administrativeteam.

Dr.Sandra Wilson has been named as Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum andInstruction. Currently, Wilson is director of secondary education, a positionshe has held since 2008. She spent five years in Charleston as a principal andfour years as an assistant principal. Previous to becoming an administrator,Wilson taught at two Unit 5 Schools, Colene Hoose Elementary and ParksideElementary. She has also taught in Charleston and Heyworth.

She has a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Illinois State Universityand a Master’s degree from ISU in Educational Administration. She earned aSpecialist Degree in Educational Administration from Eastern IllinoisUniversity, as well as a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Indiana StateUniversity.

She will take over the post of Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum andInstruction from Jim Braksick, who is retiring from Unit 5 in June.

Board members approved the naming of Michelle Lamboley to become Director of SpecialEducation. Lamboley has been the assistant director for Special Education forthe district since 2008. Prior to that, she was director of special servicesfor Downs-based Tri-Valley School District 3. Lamboley has spent several yearsas a Learning and Behavioral Specialist, and as a Special Education SupportSpecialist while employed by Unit 5.

Lamboley graduated from ISU with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Education. ISUalso awarded her a Director of Special Education Endorsement. Lamboley willreplace Chuck Hartseil, who is retiring in June.

M. Curt Richardson has been hired as the attorney for the district. As a partnerin the law firm of Miller, Hall & Triggs, Richardson specializes in schoollaw. Miller, Hall & Triggs hired Richardson in 2002, when he was fresh outof law school. He became a partner with the firm in January 2010. He will beginhis new position with the district on Dec. 1.

Richardson graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree inPolitical Science. He received his Juris Doctor at Southern Illinois UniversitySchool of Law.

Normal West High’s “Good News”: Board members heard from Tom Eder, principal at Normal Community West High School, concerningan accomplishment achieved by 14 students and their Family and Consumer Scienceteacher, Sara Riley. On October 27 and 28, Riley’s class joined with HeartlandCollege to prepare the Breakfast Bar, Luncheon Buffet, andAfternoon Snack for the Sustainable Universities and Colleges Symposium atHeartland Community College. Among the 350 attendees at this symposium was Gov.Pat Quinn.

All of these students have been educated in food preparation and service inCulinary Arts and Food for Thought classes, taught by Riley. The students whoparticipated in this event were: Mathew Clark, Shannel Wallace, Nathan Ploense, JulianCampos, Jarred Shifflet, Zach Thomas, Alison McCauley, Alesha Angsten, Ariel Fournier, AieshaEchols, John Leary, Patrick Waldschmidt, Laterica Barber, and Niki Strasser.

Eder explained that Riley networked with Elaine Sebald, Director of the Bloomington Farmer’sMarket and Janet Hill-Getz of Heartland to arrange for her students to use onlylocal food products to prepare the meals for conference attendees.

Riley was asked to be the “guest chef” for theoccasion and was invited to involve her students. She agreed to develop this asa learning project/field trip. It sprang naturally from a unit of study onlocal foods that she incorporates in her curriculum. Eder said the Weststudents performed at the level of a professional catering service, applyingtheir knowledge in an authentic setting. He added that they received numerouscompliments from the conference attendees and the Heartland staff.

Riley told Board members that the class spent many meetings in preparation for theevent, and that many of the guests “thought we were a professional cateringcompany.” She said some guests thought the food was being prepared by “a teamof college students.”

Eder added he went to the event at one point. “Sarahad our students outfitted as professionals. They looked professional. I wentback and saw them at the food preparation area. It was just a terrific,terrific experience.”

Oakdale Elementary’s “Good News”: It took a couple of tries, but the persistence of some Oakdale Elementary Schoolstaff members paid off recently, according to what the school’s principal,Darrin Cooper, told Board members.

Cooper publicly recognized Oakdale teachers Christopher King, Pat Buikema, CarolBurger, Jill Lyons and Barb Skaggs for their collective work in submitting andreceiving a Dollar General Literacy Grant.

This was the second time the school applied for the Dollar General grant. This time,school administrators learned Oakdale would be a recipient and recently receiveda check for $3,000. This grant money is being used to expand the resources forour literacy program in grades K-5, to allow our staff more opportunities tomeet students’ needs.

District’s “Good News”: Tuesday, Nov. 15 was designated “National School Board Members Day”across the country. In advance of that day, Niehaus honored each Board memberwith a certificate, thanking them for their hard work and efforts on the partof the district.

In part the certificate reads, “Our school board members serve withoutmonetary compensation to make public education the best it can be for everychild. As elected officials, school board members are the voice of their communities, serving first and foremost in the best interest ofour school children.”

It continues: “Often we take for granted the service that these educationadvocates provide. Taking time out to say ‘thank you’ is the least we can do asthey provide vision and leadership forstudent achievement, academic programs, district funding, and school facilities. Their service ensures that decisions about our schools are made locally bythose most familiarwith the needs of our community.”

All of the Board members were recognized: Gail Ann Briggs, Wendy Maulson, Meta Mickens-Baker, Mark Pritchett,John Puzauskas, Jay Reece and Mike Trask.

Next Meeting On Dec. 14: Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, this was the only meeting Unit5’s Board will have in November. The Board will only have one meeting inDecember, as well, because of the Christmas holiday. That meeting will be heldon Wednesday, Dec. 14, starting at 7p.m., at District headquarters, 1809 W.Hovey Ave., Normal.