By Steve Robinson | July 7, 2014 - 10:29 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council

Town of Normal NORMAL – Approval to begin planning for the first of three new fire stations Normal Fire Department’s chief said are needed to improve service to a growing community, and a positive report on the fire department by an insurance rating service received attention at the regularly-scheduled Normal Town Council meeting at Normal City Hall July 7.

Council members unanimously approving an omnibus agenda item allowing the Town to enter into an agreement with Bloomington-based BLDD Architects for schematic design and design development for a new fire station, the first of three anticipated for the Town in a long-range planning report Normal Fire Chief Mick Humer presented to Council members during a work session on the subject in June 2013.

Under a plan drawn up by the Town, the Town of Normal will relocate its three existing fire stations over a 10-year period in an effort to enhance fire and rescue services it provides to the community. The Town put out a request for design services in March 2013.

A total of 19 architectural firms submitted responses to the Town’s request. A committee made up of Humer and members of his staff, Deputy City Manager Pam Reece, and then-Town Corporation Counsel Steve Mahrt reviewed proposals from the 19 firms, narrowing the list of potential candidates to six. The Town’s committee met with representatives from the six firms, deciding on BLDD Architects.

BLDD Architects was the only local firm of the six finalists. The other firms were from Peoria, Oak Brook, Itasca, Chicago, and Arlington Heights.

NFD Station #2, located on the corner of North Adelaide St. and Gregory St., is in the most need of attention, a Town Staff report to Council members explaining a proposed new fire station for that area will take Station #2’s place. But, the report explains, the original Station #2 building will remain in use afterward as a new NFD headquarters.

Normal Gets A Positive Rating: The other piece of news relating to NFD came as City Manager Mark Peterson told Council members NFD had received a Class 2 Fire Rating from Insurance Service Office, an organization that rates communities on how well a fire department serves its community. The rating has an affect on rates citizens in a community pay for property and casualty insurance, Peterson explained. Insurance Service Office uses a scale of 1-to-10, with 1 being the best possible score. Normal, Peterson said, ranked a 2.

“That says something about our preparedness,” Peterson told Council members. “A 2 is a pretty good accomplishment for a community of our size.”

Appointments, Reappointments To Children’s Museum Board: Council members unanimously approved the appointment of Sally Tucker and Marlene Dietz to the Children’s Discovery Museum Foundation’s Board of Directors. Tucker is a retired Bloomington District #87 educator, who most recently served as president of the board that oversees The Baby Fold. Her term will expire on June 30, 2017. Marlene Dietz is the wife of Dr. Larry Dietz, president of Illinois State University. Dietz’s term on the Board will expire on June 30, 2016. Council members also approved three reappointments to CDM Board of Directors, giving Lesley Reeter, Kelly Harbert, and Jason Chambers each terms that will expire on June 30, 2017.

Day Attends First Council Meeting: Monday’s session was the first for Brian D. Day, the Town’s new corporation counsel. He did not participate in the session, however, which lasted 16 minutes. Day succeeds Steve Mahrt, who served as Corporation Counsel for the Town for 31 years, retiring June 2. Day reported for his new job on June 23.

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

• Approval of minutes of the Regular Council meeting held June 16, 2014.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of July 2, 2014.

• A resolution to accept bids and award a contract to Towanda-based Laesch Electric, Inc. in the amount of $206,853 for the Airport Rd./Raab Rd. traffic signal installation.

• A resolution to accept bids and award a contract to Bloomington-based Stark Excavating, Inc. in the amount of $799,000 for the improvement to Raab Rd. from 800 feet west of Airport Rd. to 200 feet west of North Pointe Dr.

• An ordinance granting a special use permit for Normal Main, LLC to construct and maintain a temporary parking lot (707 W. Beaufort St.).

BaseballManager Brooks Carey and his troops will have spent the recent holiday weekend at Schaumburg, taken Monday off and then come home to The Corn Crib to face Joliet Tuesday & Wednesday. A third game is set for Thursday against the Slammers, starting at 7p.m. Friday through Sunday, July 11-13, the CornBelters will be at Traverse City for three games before the Frontier League All-Star Game Break.

That meant I got back on this beat on a week when the ‘Belters were on the road, so I decided to see how the team’s season looked from General Manager Kyle Kreger’s perspective. “In terms of making any roster moves last year with our pitching, I don’t think we made any moves until, maybe, August,” Kreger acknowledged. “This season, it has been almost completely the opposite of that.”

‘Belters Set Record With 6 All-Stars Named: The Frontier League announced the players who will play in the league All-Star Game on Wednesday, July 16 at GCS Park in Sauget, Ill., home of the Gateway Grizzlies. A record six CornBelters will suit up for the mid-season affair. They are: Pitchers Cullen Babin and Alan Oaks; first baseman Aaron Dudley; outfielders Sam Judah and Mike Schwartz; and catcher Tyler Shover.

Babin was named a starter in the rotation for Normal after appearing in six games out of the pen. In five of the six, Babin has gone 4-1 and has a 2.90 Earned Run Average on the season with two complete games including a one hit game against the Frontier Greys. Oaks has also made life tough on opponents this season, appearing in 18 games for the ‘Belters, posting a 0.84 ERA while recording seven saves and 24 strikeouts in just over 21 innings pitched.

Dudley has continued to make life tough on opposing defenses this season, hitting .287 on the year with 16 doubles, five home runs and 27 RBI. Judah is batting .321 on the season with five home runs, 36 RBIs, and 14 doubles to his credit so far. Schwartz was selected as the only starter in the lineup from Normal and is the team’s only two-time all-star selection. Schwartz is currently hitting .350, giving him the second best average in the league for an outfielder and the sixth best average overall. Schwartz has seven home runs, 11 doubles, and 36 RBIs on the season. Shover is batting .306 thus far this season with one home run, six doubles, and 17 RBIs.

Cornbelters 5th AnniversaryThe Season At The Midway Point: “Our hitting and our offense has been great, but our pitching has struggled,” Kreger said. He added the reason there wasn’t a panic over how the CornBelters started their season, with a 3-7 mark, was because “we knew being a pitching coach was where Brooks cut his teeth in this business, and as a pitching coach the first two seasons here.” He did that in a CornBelters uniform under veteran manager Hal Lanier.

Because of Carey’s experience, Kreger said, “we knew that, eventually, he would find guys from a starting pitching standpoint.” Kreger said the bullpen players have done well, but that the team was seeking out consistency in its starting pitching. That, Kreger said, has been the challenge thus far this season.

Kreger said the team is thrilled for right-handed pitcher Cole Brocker, who had his contract purchased by the Atlanta Braves earlier this month. An Appleton, Wis. native, Brocker appeared in 19 games for the CornBelters this season. In those contests, he posted a 1.50 ERA over 30 innings while striking out 36 batters. He exited Normal with a 1-1 record and recorded one save.

Kreger said it will be interesting to see how Normal’s pitching staff does moving forward now that Brocker has advanced. Kreger said with the Frontier League mid-season break approaching, Normal is “in a perfect position” to give players not selected a rest, giving them time to recharge for the second half of the season.

“The pitching has been there for us all along, the offense has been there for us all along,” Kreger said. He added it will be interesting to see how Carey replace Brocker in the bullpen.

Frontier LeagueEaster Seals “Walk With Me” Fundraiser At The Corn Crib July 19: Kreger mentioned an event that, although unrelated to baseball and the CornBelters, still involves the use of their home field. On Saturday, July 19, The Corn Crib will be the site for the “Walk With Me” fundraiser to benefit Easter Seals. A registration hour kicks off that event starting at 8:30a.m. The CornBelters and The Corn Crib have had other types of charity events in the past, even on dates when the team was not in town.

“Those are the types of events, even when there isn’t a game, that show exactly why the ball park is here,” Kreger said. “We do that to involve the community on a day when the team may not be here. It’s to get people to see the park, and be a part of the park. We love events like that.”

“Banana Derby” Coming Aug. 12: As far as team promotions go, Kreger said there will be a number of them coming in the second half of the season, but the one he is touting first off is the “Banana Derby,” which will be held Tuesday, Aug. 12 when the Gateway Grizzlies visit town. Now I know what you must be asking yourselves by now – what is a “Banana Derby”? It’s small monkeys riding like jockeys on dogs. They perform primarily at county fairs and other such events. Kreger said Normal just happened to be at the midway point between two other communities where “Banana Derby” organizers had scheduled performances, and, always looking for something unique to bring CornBelters fans, Kreger said the team could not resist the opportunity to bring the derby here.

When it comes to booking promotions for games, Kreger said the team knows there are fans who come to the ball park “seeking uniqueness.” As he explains it, “the more unique you are, the more you think outside the box, the better the fan response you’re going to get.”