Relay For LifeNORMAL – For Dennis Fries and his wife, Jan, the name of the team of 15 friends they assembled to participate in the 20th annual Relay For Life of McLean County event says it all. They called their team Survivors And Supporters.

That because some of the members of the group have had reoccurances with the disease and are in remission, and they know that while they take their fight head-on, they have friends, spouses, and others who are supporting them through their struggle. Dennis Fries, for example, has had to battle the disease three times over the last 17 years. Teammate Tade Layden is a four-year survivor and working toward getting to the next doctor’s appointment where he’s hoping to hear he’s cancer-free.

This year’s event, held from noon-to-noon Friday, June 27 and Saturday, June 28, raised a total of $364,512 with a total of 1,000 participants on 110 teams circling the track around Wildcats Field, at Normal Community West High School, for a full 24-hours, and enjoying numerous activities centering on the event’s history using the theme “Remember When…” At one point during the event, a total of 2,000 people had joined the gathering, which included a dinner for survivors and caregivers.

The Fries and Layden were joined on the team by friends Toni Wheeler, and Howard Cotten. Cotten lost his wife, Mary Catherine, over six years ago to the disease. Most of the members of the “Friends And Supporters” Relay team belong to Kinghts Of Columbus Chapter #574, based in Bloomington.

Layden was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2010. He is hopeful his five-year anniversary visit with his doctor will show the disease is in remission. For Cotten, watching his wife battle the disease for eight years prior to it taking her life was difficult.

For Dennis Fries, the biggest benefit to being part of Relay For Life overall is an education patients and their families receive. “You learn you aren’t the only one going through this, and that there is a lot of support out there.”

Jan Fries expanded on the supportive aspect she and her husband received thanks to donations made to Relay For Life of McLean County, and support of the American Cancer Society (ACS). “My husband was in a hospital in St. Louis for quite a few weeks recovering from treatments,” Jan Fries explained. “Quite a few years ago, the American Cancer Society was there for us to have a place to stay and have a place to even use our laptop and to give us further information.”

Jan Fries said when her husband was diagnosed 17 years ago, he was only given two years to live. The treatments he has received have helped him despite the fact of there being a history with the disease on both sides of his family.

“It’s our sincere hope that by giving back through Relay that we can help someone else,” Jan Fries said. “They’ve done a lot for us and we’re just trying to give back.”

Community Cancer Center To Celebrate 15 Years This Fall: The Twin Cities have been fortunate to be home to the Community Cancer Center, located at 407 E. Vernon Ave, Normal, for the last 15 years. Community Cancer Center staffers, including Executive Director Joe Prosser, formed a team at this year’s Relay event, marching side-by-side with many of their patients. Prosser said the Community Cancer Center, which began as a joint venture of what was then Normal’s BroMenn Medical Center and St. Joseph Hospital in Bloomington, will hold a formal celebration fundraiser Oct. 15.

Prosser said Relay For Life of McLean County “helps promote what we do and what we provide for cancer patients in the community. So I think having that association with Relay For Life allows people to know we are here.”

American Cancer Society Exec.VP Pays Relay Visit: Among those who visited Relay For Life of McLean County this year was Nancy Yaw, executive vice president of the Lake Shore Division of the American Cancer Society. During her visit to our Relay, she met with Relay organizing committee members, many volunteers, and cancer survivors. ACS’ Lake Shore Division is comprised of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

“Having Nancy Yaw here was a wonderful show of support from ACS,” explained Dede Verplaetse, spokeswoman for Relay For Life of McLean County. “She was a wonderful speaker, having addressed us all prior to the ‘Survivor Walk.’ Her energy was very good. She was very happy with what she saw here as she went around speaking to as many volunteers as she could.”

The Talberts Got Local Event Started: When Bill & Freida Talbert put the very first Relay For Life event together in McLean County in 1995, they raised $63,894.45 thanks to 22 teams of 12-14 people, and were able to honor 26 survivors. This year’s event honored nearly 400 survivors with a dinner and during a moving “Survivor Walk” around the track surrounding Wildcat Field.

To date, Relay For Life of McLean County has raised $7,613,633 since the first Relay event was held here in 1995. The current fiscal year for Relay For Life of McLean County will end on August 31, allowing for donations to be applied to our 2014 Relay total.

This year’s Relay For Life of McLean County event had four co-chairs at its helm, guiding an organizing committee of roughly 30-35 people putting the event together. The co-chairs for this year’s event were Verplaetse, Leanne Hinshaw, Mary Kerber, and Sandy McBurney.

“We’re, as always, just very pleased with everyone who comes out to this event and for every dollar that is raised because it goes to such wonderful research and services for those fighting cancer,” Verplaetse concluded.

Relay For LifeBloomington, Illinois – June 28,2014 – Relay For Life of McLean County recently completed celebrating its 20th anniversary during this year’s event which ran for 24 hours, from 12 Noon Friday, June 27 through 12 Noon Saturday, June 28 at Normal Community West High School.

This year’s event raised a total of $364,512 with a total of 1,000 participants on 110 teams circling the track around Wildcats Field for a full 24-hours, and enjoying numerous activities.

When Bill & Freida Talbert put the very first Relay For Life event together in McLean County in 1995, they raised $63,894.45 thanks to 22 teams of 12-14 people, and were able to honor 26 survivors. This year’s event honored nearly 400 survivors with a dinner and during a moving “Survivor Walk” around the track surrounding Wildcat Field.

Of this year’s event, Dede Verplaetse, spokeswoman for Relay For Life of McLean County, said, “We are proud to be able to look back at how much fun we have had while being able to raise money to finish the fight against cancer.”

Among those who visited our Relay this year was Nancy Yaw, executive vice president of the Lake Shore Division of the American Cancer Society. During her visit to our Relay, she met with Relay organizing committee members, many volunteers, and cancer survivors. Relay For Life of McLean County was very honored by her visit.

To date, Relay For Life of McLean County has raised $7,613,633 since the first Relay event was held here in 1995. The current fiscal year for Relay For Life of McLean County will end on August 31, allowing for donations to be applied to our 2014 Relay total.

More information may be obtained by contacting either Dede Verplaetse (VER-plates) at 309-261-5521 or Steve Robinson at 309-242-7838.

By Steve Robinson | June 16, 2014 - 10:27 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Normal Town Council members voted 6-1 to amend parts of the Town’s Municipal Code during their regular meeting, held Monday in Council Chambers at Normal City Hall. Areas of concern included off-street loading and parking and Community Design Standards. A ban on dropping off or collecting interstate bus and train passengers while in Uptown Circle went into effect on Monday. Parking spaces with time limits for such activity have been relocated from the Uptown Circle to the level between the first and second floors of the Uptown Station parking garage.

But it wasn’t parking regulations but, rather, a change in landscaping regulations that caused the most conversation among Council members.

The Town Code change that caused the largest amount of conversation involved a change concerning interior landscaping and the minimum number of trees in a given parking lot. Town officials are proposing increasing the size of a minimum landscaping island in parking lots from 150 feet to 175 feet. As a result, the number of trees required within the interior of a parking lot currently by Town Code requires one tree per every 20 parking spaces. Council members voted 6-1 to change that to one tree per every 10 parking spaces. Council Member Cheryl Gaines cast the lone opposing vote.

But Council Member Jeff Fritzen reminded that, for parking lots of so-called big box stores which have 1,000 parking slots, that would mean the stores would have to plant 100 trees.

“I guess I want to live in a community where we ask how many trees do we get to have rather than how many do we need to have,” Gaines told Council members.

City Manager Mark Peterson said he would like to return to a future Council session with recommendations from Town staff in hand to give Council members a chance to look at modified language concerning how the size of a parking lot should be defined, in terms being either “large” or “small.”

Following the session, Gaines said she “wanted to make sure we had enough green space in those lots.” She added she felt that changing the number of trees would change the amount of green space in the parking lots of the so-called big box stores.

Amtrak Station Overpass Approved: Council members unanimously approved a design for the overpass that will be built to help get Amtrak patrons from Uptown Station at the north end of the tracks to the south side of the tracks. Construction of the overpass is slated to begin this fall and take 10 months to complete.

To answer a question by Council Member Sonja Reece, Wayne Aldrich, director of public works, explained that bicyclists who ride along the eastern section of the Constitution Trail near the station to get from one point to another will have to an alternative route down Linden St.

Council Member Kevin McCarthy asked City Manager Mark Peterson whether there would be a change in the hours of the building as a result of both construction and people trying to get to Constitution Trail. Currently, the building is open to the public from 6:30a.m.-10:30p.m. Peterson said those hours could change based on arrival and departure times of Amtrak trains once high speed rail comes through town.

Design Change For ISU Gallery Approved: Council members unanimously approved a resolution conditionally approving waivers from the Town’s Uptown Design Code to allow the University Galleries of Illinois State University to use signs that can be seen from 84 inches away from the column on which they are posted. Current design regulations only allow for signs to be seen from 60 inches from the column. The Uptown Design Review Commission held a public hearing on the matter on June 9, but no members of the public addressed the matter.

ISU is moving a section of its University Galleries to the first floor of Uptown Station. Council members also approved allowing the Gallery to have a projecting sign that would be 21 square feet in size. Council members approved a waiver to make this possible. Uptown Design Code allows for signs to be 12 square feet in size. Although the vote to approve the waivers was unanimous, it was a 6-0 vote because Council Member Chuck Scott withdrew from participating in discussing or casting a vote on the matter, as he is an ISU employee.

Matejka Appointed To Normal Planning Commission: Mike Matejka was unanimously appointed to the Normal Planning Commission, filling the vacancy left by the resignation of Jeff Feid. Feid exited to accept an appointment to the Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation Board. Matejka moved to Normal, but he is no stranger to civic engagement, having been a Bloomington City Council member for 18 years. He is or has served on numerous boards in the area, including United Way of McLean County, McLean County Historical Society, and the Transportation For Illinois Coalition.

A graduate of ISU, Matejka has a Master’s degree in Labor Studies from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst. He is currently Legislative Affairs Director for Great Plains Labors District Council, editor of Grand Prairie Union News, and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Illinois’ Institute for Labor and Industrial Relations.

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

• Approval of minutes of the Regular Council meeting held June 2, 2014.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of June 11, 2014.

• A motion to waive bids and authorize the purchase of a subscription to Microsoft Office 365 through the State Joint Purchasing Program from CDW-G at an annual cost of $58,481.98.

• A motion to recommend Harmon Arts Grant Awards.

• A motion to accept bids and award a contract to Pontiac, Ill.-based H. J. Eppel & Co. in the amount of $125,472 for the construction of Constitution Trail extension from Kerrick Rd. to Ziebarth Rd.

• A supplemental resolution to appropriate $415,950 of the Town’s allotment of Motor Fuel Tax funds for the improvement of Raab Rd from 800 feet west of Airport Rd. to 200 feet west of North Pointe Dr.

• A resolution authorizing execution of an agreement with the University of Illinois for groundwater Level Monitoring.

• A resolution authorizing a guaranteed maximum price amendment with Peoria-based Mangieri Companies, Inc. for construction of the ISU Galleries at Uptown Station in the total amount of $1,605,000.

• A resolution conditionally and partially re-approving the seventh addition to Vineyards Subdivision.

• A resolution approving an amended preliminary plan for a portion of Collie Ridge Subdivision (northeast corner of Beech St. & Shelbourne Dr.).

By Steve Robinson | June 14, 2014 - 6:40 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – At a celebration of life memorial service held in the hotel conference center that bears her name, Carol Reitan was remembered for the various roles she played in life: Town Council member, Mayor, State Senate candidate, civic leader, wife, mother, and grandmother.

Roughly 220 people gathered in the Redbird Room of the Carol A. Reitan Conference Center to remember her and share stories on Friday, June 13. Reitan died May 12.

Many of Reitan’s list of accomplishments often were found preceded by the words “founding member,” as in having helped to found the McLean County Affordable Housing Coalition, Illinois Prairie Community Foundation, and Alternatives To Jail Community Coalition; or “board member,” as in belonging to, among others, the boards of American Association of University Women. She was also asked to be part of mapping out the community’s future, participating in helping prepare Normal’s “2015 Report.”

Any yet, while those accomplishments were recognized, it was Carol Reitan the person who received the attention at the memorial service. “What an honor it is to celebrate her life with all of you,” said Reitan’s daughter Julia, of San Francisco. “You are her colleagues, her collaborators. I like to think of you as co-conspirators,” she added, receiving chuckles from those gathered.

“Watching people come through the door today, it reminded me of how much Mom like talking about all of you,” Julia Reitan said. “She was always talking with me about someone she was meeting with or doing something with. She really liked the people that she worked with.” Son Tom Reitan of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, explained to those gathered the event gave him a chance to meet up with “familiar faces,” some of whom were familiar to both he and his mother.

Former Mayor Paul Harmon reminded the gathering Reitan appointed him to the Normal Planning Commission in 1972. “Thereafter,” Harmon said, “She was always a mentor and supporter of most of my endeavors. But most of all, Carol was just a really good friend.” Harmon’s friendship with Earl and Carol Reitan began when Harmon and his wife, Sandra, assisted with Mrs. Reitan’s mayoral bid in 1971 and 1972.

Harmon recalled that during that election, Reitan found herself behind her challenger, realtor Hal Riss, by 50 votes with one precinct left to be counted. By the time that last precinct’s ballots had been tallied, Reitan’s campaign had discovered she had won the Mayor’s race by 100 votes. Harmon explained Reitan was campaigning, partly, on lifting a liquor sales ban, while Riss wanted Normal to remain a “dry” town.

“The last precinct was, predominately, a student precinct,” Harmon said, adding, “It was probably the only time the students of ISU have elected a mayor of Normal.” It was a line that produced smiles and some laughs.

Normal Town Council member Cheryl Gaines told the gathering Reitan went to work with her at Collaborative Solutions Institute. Gaines said Reitan was “an idea person.” There was an electric car in the corner of the room where the memorial service was held. Gaines said, “It wasn’t just the concept of an electric car that was important to Carol. It was the concept of saving energy.”

Gaines said one observation Reitan made about herself was particularly striking. Gaines, Reitan, and the staff at their office were in the midst of a cleaning session when, Gaines explained, Reitan said she thought she “was a much better tool mule than a racehorse.”

“That comment struck me,” Gaines told the gathering. “It speaks to what Carol’s life is about. She expected to work right next to the people she was working with, and share the load.”

Gaines said she and Reitan loved to chat and “laugh until our jaws ached.” Gaines added she and Reitan “probably covered most of the county in search of good food,” going to as many eateries as possible.

Gwen Pruyne was a neighbor to Earl and Carol Reitan for three decades beginning in the 1950s. At that time, Reitan worked at what was then known as Illinois State Normal University. Pruyne recalled her family joining the Reitans and some other neighbors for New Year’s Day potlucks that went on for nearly 40 years, beginning in the 1960s. Pruyne said her husband joked that Carol coming across as a forward-thinking person, and looking toward the future, she might not have a fondness for traditions. Pruyne recalled turning to him and saying, “Remember – she’s married to an historian.”

“Carol really put a crack in the glass ceiling when she ran for Mayor,” Pruyne said.

Julie Payne came to know Reitan for the last 10 years through an informal social group known as “the WW’s,” who would have dinners together somewhat regularly. During those dinners and other conversations she had with Reitan, Payne said she received some imparted wisdom. Among the things Payne said learned from her friend: Be curious; Allow curiosity and imagination to ruminate and percolate (Reitan preferred ideas that had some substance to them, Payne said.); Share your creative ideas with others because doing so could lead to learning other ideas from like-minded people.

Payne said the last thing she said she learned from Reitan was to be courageous.

Doing all these things takes action on the part of a person, Payne said. She explained taking action was a form of love on Carol Reitan’s part. “Carol lived a life of love by laying down her best ideas, her time, her talent, and her energy to make this place we call home a better place for everyone.”

Unit 5NORMAL – During their regularly-scheduled meeting on June 11, members of Normal-based Unit 5 District School Board used a unanimous vote for items on their omnibus agenda – numerous items taken care of with a single vote – to, among other things, approve a contract with Cincinnati, Ohio-based First Student Bus Co. to provide service in picking up and returning students to and from school, and terminating 56 bus drivers and monitors who were employed by the district and represented by Council 31 of the American Federation of State, Community, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Unit 5’s contract with First Student runs through June 30, 2015.

As a result of the vote to approve First Student’s contract, the AFSCME-represented drivers will become unemployed as of July 31. Recently, First Student has used banners on small school buses parked in front of district schools to advertise for drivers to come work for them. Between 25-30 Unit 5 drivers were present for the meeting, a few of them speaking during the meeting’s public comments segment. After the vote was finalized, the drivers represented by AFSCME Council 31 chanted, “Shame On You!” to Board members seven times before leaving the meeting.

Kent Beauchamp, who is a Council 31 representative based in Springfield, reminded Board members the district had been sent a letter by AFSCME’s attorneys informing the district the move to terminate the drivers “would be illegal,” because the union still could go back to the courts to appeal decisions made by the 4th District Appellate Court, which ruled in favor of the district. He was followed by four district bus drivers represented by AFSCME who addressed Board members.

“I’d like to reiterate what our attorneys told you earlier,” Beauchamp said. AFSCME’s lawyers told Unit 5 “dismissing our members is illegal and our lawyer urged you not to do it.”

Besides, Beauchamp said, “Shoving these people out the door is something not to be proud of, but rather, to be ashamed of.” He added First Student’s method of making profits was “to pay drivers and monitors less than what Unit 5 pays drivers and monitors.”

Driver Charita Jeffrey told Board members, “I’m very disappointed that you’ve decided to terminate our jobs.”

Jeanne Calhoon, a 25-year employee told Board members she was hoping to still be behind the wheel for the district for another three years and then retire. “I feel betrayed by Unit 5,” Calhoon said. “I have put in many years with Unit 5 and have a good rapport with many parents.”

“This decision is just so shameful,” driver J. B. Johnson told Board members. “It could have gone a whole other way. I am so sad that the Board members and the district superintendent didn’t try to do better for us. It’s really shameful.’

Neither any of the Board members, nor district superintendent, Dr. Gary Niehaus, responded to comments made by the soon-to-be terminated drivers.

Public Hearings Approve Budget, Allow Waiver: Board members unanimously approved the remainder of the 2013-14 school year budget following a pubic hearing, during which, there were no public comments. The public hearing was needed prior to the district’s need to amend the budget to account for items including an overestimation of property tax revenue. The district anticipates taking in $64.3 million in property tax revenue, a readjusted figure that is down roughly $1 million from what was previously anticipated. The public hearing was needed before such an adjustment could be approved by Board members. Following the public hearing on this matter, Board members unanimously approved the measure.

The second public hearing was needed prior to a Board vote to allow for a waiver of up to four school improvement days to be added to the district calendar. Those four days would be divided into half-day segments. This item is brought before Board members every five years. Board members unanimously approved the waiver after a public hearing during which, there were no public comments.

Evans Junior High’s “Good News”: The evening began with George L. Evans Junior High School Associate Principal Trevor Chapman honoring two students who had advanced to State competition and earned medals, making their fellow students and school proud. Seventh graders Zach Wolford and Deja Wills each earned medals during the recent Illinois Elementary School Association State Track Meet.

Wolford came away with two medals, having finished first in the Seventh Grade Boys 800 meter run with a time of two minutes and eight seconds, earning a gold medal. He followed that up with a second place finish in the Seventh Grade Boys’ 1600 meter run with a time of four minutes and 51 seconds, earning him second place. Wolford is the son of Michael and Deborah Wolford. When Chapman mentioned Wolford’s accomplishment in the 1600 meter, there were a couple low whistles of astonishment from the crowd. “He obviously did very well,” Chapman told Board members.

Meanwhile, Wills made an addition to IESA’s record books by setting a new seventh grade record in Girls’ Pole Vault at the State event, going over the bar at 10 feet, 1 inch, breaking the old mark by an inch. It was an accomplishment that brought applause from those in the meeting’s audience. She doesn’t appear to be ready to stop any time soon, Chapman told Board members, as she will spend part of her summer competing in various meet so she can work toward a goal of trying for hurtling over the 11 foot mark by the end of the summer. Deja is the daughter of Nekisha Wills of Bloomington.

Unit 5 mapNormal Community West High’s “Good News”: Dave Johnson, principal of Normal Community High School, introduced Board members to the latest Unit 5 team to come away with hardware from an Illinois High School Association sports tournament. Normal West’s Soccer team, coached by Val Walker, Karen Kenney, Brennan Gunville, and Curtis Roof, came away from their first trip to State finishing in second place. West got to the State final by winning a semi-final match over Darien, Ill.-based Hinsdale South High School, 1-0. In the State Championship, West faced Lake Forest High School, taking the opponents through two overtimes and a penalty kick before dropping a 2-1 decision, ending their year by collecting a State second place trophy, finishing their season with a 27-2 mark. Normal West Principal Dave Johnson told Board members, “not only are they an amazing group on the field, but off the field, they are a great group of students who represent Normal West to the highest degree.”

Members of Normal West’s Soccer team are: Emily Bangen, Alicen Bender, Karina Cordero, Natalie Freeman, Emilie Hapgood, Amber Helton, Allison Hieb, Kourtney Lescher, Kate Lorenz, Tess Marcordes, Grace Maynard, Allie Mitchell, Carolyn Peters, Alex Rich, Carly Ringer, Mallory Roberts, Emma Rutledge, Rachel Schuette, Rachel Sherman, Keely Theobald, Abby Thompson, Gabi Toulon and Coaches Val Walker, Karen Kenney, Brennan Gunville, and Curtis Roof.

Board Approves Insurance Renewals: Board members unanimously approved renewals of a pair of insurance policies during the session. First, Board members gave an approving nod to renewing Property, General Liability, Auto, Board Legal Liability, Umbrella, and Excess Umbrella for an annual premium of $1,014,214 from a trio of insurers – Wright Specialty Insurance, National Casualty Insurance, and CV Starr Indemnity. The premium’s cost was 2.46 percent below the previous amount paid for the insurance previously.

Board members also unanimously agreed to renew the district’s worker’s compensation policy with Safety National Insurance, with a self-insured retention amount of $400,000 and a $100,000 deductible. The policy is valid for one year.

A “Thank You” To Niehaus, District Assistant Donna Evans: Board members got in a final “thank you,” not just to Niehaus, who is retiring at the end of the month, but also to Donna Evans, who, in addition to being administrative assistant to Niehaus, serves as clerk of the Board of Education. Taking minutes at Board meetings is just one of the duties she performs in that capacity.

“We’ll miss you, and we thank you for your hard work,” Board President John Puzauskas told both Niehaus and Evans. Board member Mike Trask called both Niehaus’ and Evans’ exits “bittersweet.” He said the district had been through “some really trying times,” citing the shooting incident at NCHS in September 2012, as an example.

To Evans specifically, Board member Wendy Maulson said, “I want to thank you. You are so diligent at your job.” To Niehaus, Maulson added, “It has been an honor and a pleasure and a blessing to work with you.”

Unit 5 appointed LaNell Greenberg to assume the administrative post after Evans’ retirement. She begins her duties July 1. But she was not the only person who will assume different duties, as Marty Hickman, the district’s director of technology, has been tapped to become the district’s treasurer during the 2014-15 school year. He begins those duties on July 1.

Final Enrollment Figures: Board members were presented with final enrollment figures for the 2013-14 school year which wrapped up when the school year ended June 2. The one-day count was taken on the last day and measured against the last day from last school year. On the last day this year, there were 13,358 students in class versus 13,401 students present on the last day of school last year. That represents a drop of 43 students, or .32 percent.

Only the elementary schools showed a drop in attendance in their same day attendance figure, with 6,921 students in class on the last day this year versus 7,044 last year – a drop of 123 students, or 1.75 percent. The district’s four junior high schools registered an increase of 57 students total in class from the last day last year, or a 1.9 percent jump, to 3,061 students. NCHS and Normal West High showed a jump of nearly 2/3 of one percent in student population on the last day this year as compared to last year. NCHS had 1,877 students in class on the last day, while Normal West had 1,499.

No June 25 Meeting; Next Meeting July 9: There will be no second Board meeting in June. The Board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 9, at District Headquarters, 1809 W. Hovey Ave. The session will begin at 7p.m. Dr. Mark Daniel will begin his duties as district superintendent on July 1, and the July 9 meeting will be his first as superintendent.