By Steve Robinson | April 16, 2018 - 10:13 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – As part of the omnibus agenda for Normal Council members at their regularly-scheduled meeting Monday night in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, Council members unanimously approved a resolution authorizing a change of ownership of the Bloomington-Normal Marriott and Conference Center, 201 Broadway, from John Q. Hammons Hotels And Resorts, based in Springfield, Mo. to New York-based investment firm JD Holdings. JD Holdings is an affiliate of Alpharetta, Ga.-based Atrium Hospitality. Atrium Hospitality has 49 hotel properties in 26 states.

The Hammons group also seeks to turn over the hotel’s Carol A. Reitan Conference Center, named after the Town’s first female mayor from the 1970s, over to the new owners as well as the parking garage structure across from the hotel, on Beaufort St.

John Q. Hammons, founder of the company that has owned the hotel since it opened in late summer 2009, died in 2013. Hammons’ company has been selling off properties in the last years, City Manager Pam Reece told reporters after the meeting. Published reports out of Hammons company home base, Springfield, Mo., indicate that after filing for bankruptcy, Hammons’ company has had a number of its properties sold to JD Holdings

Reece added the Town doesn’t have a list of improvements it wants to see the new owners implement right away after taking ownership.

Koos Surgery Successful: Reece also reported that prostate surgery was successful for Mayor Chris Koos, who took a leave of absence from his elected position April 3. The surgery took place the next day, Reece said. The diagnosis came about after receiving the results of Prostate Specific Antigen, or PSA tests Koos underwent in December.

Reece said she spoke with the Mayor April 15, and she said he hopes to be back to his duties with the Town in about a week. From April 3-7, Council Member Kevin McCarthy handled Mayoral duties, the result of Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Fritzen being on vacation until April 7. Fritzen has the most seniority and serves as Mayor Pro Tem when Koos can’t make meetings.

Liquor Commission Approves License For New Owners Of Swinger’s: Prior to the Council session, Council members, meeting in their capacity as members of Normal Local Liquor Commission, held a special session during which they unanimously approved a Class D (All liquor on premises consumption) license for Fine Eatz, LLC, doing business as Swingers’ Grille, 1304 Cross Creek Dr. The business had been closed by previous owners in January.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council meeting of April 2, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of April 11, 2018.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the purchase and installation of an outdoor warning siren from Bloomington-based Innotech Communications at a cost of $25,954.49.

• A resolution to award the bid for water main and service line materials to Bloomington-based Water Products, Inc.

NORMAL – Last month, during the only regular meeting held, members of Normal-based Unit 5 School District’s Board, four students asked the Board to consider changing the name of the holiday held every second Monday in October from Columbus Day to “Indigenous People’s Day.” That triggered a request from Board Member David W. Fortner to ask the district to have a resolution making the change in the name ready for a vote at the Board’s next meeting April 11. At the Board’s regularly scheduled meeting at district headquarters, Board members heard the results of the research the matter produced. Members of the district administration will report back to the students who made the request.

Curt Richardson, attorney for Unit 5, explained to Board members that after having researched State school code, a change in the name of the day is permissible. He also said State school code also allows for days to be designated Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The State’s General Assembly has already designated the last Monday in September to be honored as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, he explained. He added the district has no specific curriculum for Columbus Day.

Ray Epperson, deputy superintendent, contributed to the presentation, explaining students in fourth and sixth grades and at the high schools, for example, receive some instruction concerning how the country was discovered, but it’s the older students who learn about Indigenous Peoples.

Board Member Mike Trask asked if there were options the group recommended. The third member of the research team, Dayna Brown, director of communication and community relations for the district, told Board members she wants to go back to the students who made the original request and present what the Board members decide on the matter.

If after hearing from Brown about the discussion at the meeting and they still aren’t satisfied, Board Member Barry Hitchins suggested, the students who brought this to the Board’s attention should take it up with State legislators. He named State Sen. Dan Brady and State Sen. Jason Barickman as two who the kids could take their case to.

Board Member David W. Fortner asked the trio what penalty would the district face should it decide, for example, to opt to say no to honoring Columbus Day. Richardson said doing that would put the district’s recognition as a school district by the State in jeopardy. Trask added that the discussion sounded like the district was talking about going against State school code, and that was something he objected to.

Board Member Meta Mickens-Baker said she wasn’t comfortable with providing another day away from school for this.

“We can’t fight legislators over Columbus Day,” Board Member Joe Cleary said. “We’re already fighting with them over funding.” He said he thought a “commemorative” day could be an alternative to what was being considered. The Board anticipates voting on the matter at a future meeting.

Transportation Update: Board members received a brief report from officials representing the bus company which provides student transportation for the district, Cincinnati, Ohio-based First Student Bus Co., including location manager Mark Bohl. The district has worked with the company to begin a customer liaison program which will keep watch for customer issues and work to improve accuracy of bus service. Bohl told Board members First Student has managed to improve their service over the past year.

Last Day Of School Set: As part of their omnibus agenda, Board members unanimously approved that Wednesday, May 23 will be the last day of school for students in the 2017-18 school year.

New Bus Purchases Approved: Board members unanimously approved a purchase of two 34-passenger buses at a cost of $64,521 each. The buses are both equipped with wheelchair lifts and were purchased using money left over from $7 million in working cash bonds Board members have approved over the last two years.

Hayek Departing Soon: At the next Board meeting, Board President Jim Hayek, Jr. will not be present. At that meeting, slated for April 25 meeting, new officers – President, Vice President, and Secretary – will be selected. Hayek said he has not set a resignation date. A job transfer to Phoenix, Ariz. announced at the only meeting the Board had last month is the reason for his resignation. Under State law, the Board will have 45 days from the date the resignation takes effect to appoint a successor. Also, that person would have to run for election the spring of the next election cycle.

By Steve Robinson | April 10, 2018 - 10:59 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

NORMAL – Eight days not playing baseball due to poor weather conditions after having been on the road down south was bound to get to a team sooner or later. For Normal Community High School as they took on Unit 5 arch rival Normal Community West, sooner was the first inning on Tuesday on their home field. That four-run first inning was all it took for the visiting Wildcats to beat the Ironmen, 4-2, in what were still blustery conditions.

The contest was the Big 12 Conference season opener for both teams, and Normal West (5-6 overall and 1-0 Big 12) wasted no time getting runs on the scoreboard thanks to a lead-off walk by designated hitter Brennan Diedrich. That was followed by a base hit by first baseman Jake Marti, who achieved a first base hit for his team in the game against NCHS starter J.D. Thiele. A base hit by catcher Ben Smith drove home Diedrich and Marti to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.

With the next batter, right fielder Cody Hardt at the plate, Smith stole second. Hardt singled and the pair advanced to second and third on a balk called against Ironmen starting pitcher Thiele. A single by left fielder C. J. Lewis brought Hardt and Smith across the plate with one out for a 4-0 lead.

Walks were the mode used to get two runs across the plate for NCHS (5-2) in the home half of the fourth inning. With one out, right fielder Sam Kahwaji singled. He was followed by first baseman Jacob Russo who walked. With two on, the next batter, first baseman Logan Fricker, also walked. With bases loaded, Normal West pitcher McCade Brown walked in Kahwaji and Russo before Normal West pitcher Tyler Thierry grounded out and was followed by a walk of left fielder Brody Fletcher. That resulted in what turned out to be the final score. The inning ended with designated hitter Nick Gilhaus striking out on a Brown pitch. Gilhaus was one of 11 batters who struck out with Brown on the mound. The victory gave Brown a 3-1 record.

Of Brown’s fourth inning struggles, Normal West head coach Chris Hawkins said, “He had one tough inning and getting his control back.” Prior to this contest, the Wildcats’ last game was a road game at Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin on April 2, Hawkins explained.

NCHS head coach Ryan Short encouraged his players to “have a short memory about that first inning.” Once they did that, he said, his players did well. “We did have some base runners in the first two or three innings, but we just couldn’t get anybody around.”

Short said his team practices under these conditions as much as possible to adjust to the cold because during the season, it’s likely to be like that until mid-May.

By Steve Robinson | April 2, 2018 - 10:40 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members had nothing on their agenda to handle immediately at their regularly scheduled meeting Monday in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station. However, for the next month, Mayor Chris Koos will be taking a leave of absence from his elected position as he undergoes treatment for prostate cancer. He told the session prior to adjourning the meeting the diagnosis came about after receiving the results of Prostate Specific Antigen, or PSA tests he underwent in December.

Koos leave began Tuesday. From Tuesday through April 7, Council Member Kevin McCarthy will handle Mayoral duties, the result of Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Fritzen being on vacation until April 7. Fritzen has the most seniority and serves as Mayor Pro Tem when Koos can’t make meetings.

McCarthy has the next most seniority among Council members, having been first elected in 2012. McCarthy said he wished Koos, 69, “a speedy, easy recovery.”

Koos credited “great family genes” for his health up to this point, adding he had never had any instances of cancer previously. He told reporters he planned on spending his recovery period “catching up on some reading and binge watching.”

In his absence, the two stores Koos owns, Vitesse Cycle Shop and Often Running, located along Linden Ave., he said, will be overseen by “lead managers.”

First Female City Manager: The brief meeting also capped off the first meeting as City Manager for Pam Reece, who succeeded Mark Peterson who retired after 30 years with the Town on March 30. Peterson was, first, assistant city manager for 10 years before becoming city manager for the last 20. Reece is the Town’s first female city manager.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the public hearing of March 5, 2018.

• Approval of the minutes of the public hearing of March 19, 2018.

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council meeting of March 19, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of March 28, 2018

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the purchase of a Toro groundsman mower from Berkeley , Mo.-based MTI Distributing via the Illinois State Contract Pricing-Contract #4018513.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the purchase of several pieces of golf course maintenance equipment via the National Cooperative Contract Solutions Program of the National Joint Powers Alliance (NJPA).

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the purchase of several pieces of golf course maintenance equipment via the National Cooperative Contract Solutions Program of the National Intergovernmental Purchasing Alliance (National IPA).

• A resolution to accept bids and award a contract to Bloomington-based Stark Excavating, Inc. in the amount of $187,811.81 for the Watkins Drive improvement project from Towanda Ave. to the Shoppes At College Hills ring road.

• A resolution to award a bid for the Walnut Street and Mulberry Street water main replacement projects to Stark Excavating, Inc. at a total cost of $791,949 plus up to a potential $15,000 bonus for early completion.

• A resolution authorizing the renewal of the Town’s participation in the Municipal Insurance Cooperative Agency (MICA) insurance program for the plan year 2018-2019 beginning on May 1, 2018.

• A resolution authorizing an assignment under redevelopment agreements for The Flats developments.

By Steve Robinson | - 2:18 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

NORMAL – If someone had told Bryan Bloodworth when he entered Illinois State University as a freshman in 1974 that his life’s work would involve both writing about sports, and being part of a team’s administrative hierarchy, he probably wouldn’t have believed them. The same is true for when he was notified by a college friend that he would be among five new inductees into the Hall Of Fame of The Vidette, Illinois State University ’s student newspaper. The Vidette has been in business helping students learn the many facets of the newspaper industry since it was first published in 1889.

Bloodworth will be inducted in a ceremony April 14 at a dinner in the Circus Room of the Bone Student Center . Currently, Bloodworth, a Marshall , Ill. native, is working for WGLT FM, the University’s National Public Radio affiliate as a reporter.

When Bloodworth arrived at ISU in the fall of 1974, he had aspirations to learn how to get into coaching despite the fact that he was born with just one arm, his left. “I’d never thought about writing,” Bloodworth said. In high school, he was a team manager and would submit articles on games to the local weekly newspaper.

“The big thing about The Vidette was it paid work, and who doesn’t want money?” Bloodworth asked rhetorically. “And I went over and talked to them and got hired.” Once on staff, he started writing small sports stories about Club sports teams like Soccer and Rugby . He moved up to become the paper’s sports editor in 1976.

At the same time, he applied for a part-time writing job with The Pantagraph, the local daily, where he wrote on local sports. “The experience I got at The Vidette was why I was able to get on at The Pantagraph because it was hands-on experience,” Bloodworth said.

Bloodworth, 61, became sports editor of The Pantagraph, succeeding retiring Jim Barnhart in 1992, making him only the third sports editor the daily had ever had behind Fred Young and Barnhart. Bloodworth retired from the paper in 2006 after 30 years. From there, he went to work for the management group that ran what was known as U. S. Cellular Coliseum in Downtown Bloomington, home of a United Hockey League franchise and an indoor football team.

In 2010, he followed his boss at the time, Jerry McBurney, to Arizona to be part of the management team that ran a UHL team there. But six months later, team ownership changed hands and the new owners cleaned house dismissing McBurney, Bloodworth, and all their staff associated with the team.

Bloodworth returned to central Illinois after that and went to work for radio station WJBC AM. That lasted for five years. But now, Bloodworth is staying in radio thanks to WGLT. He has also had occasion to string for The Normalite.

Award Details: Bloodworth was nominated to the Vidette Hall Of Fame by a friend from those days known then as Laura Young, now Laura Young Samuels. Bloodworth said the two hadn’t talked in years but he received an email from her telling him she had nominated him for the honor. A congratulatory email from Vidette General Manager John Plevka confirming the news followed.

“I was surprised,” Bloodworth said about his reaction to the news. “It was kind of cool, and it’s humbling. I’m proud of it.”

“The Vidette is a great avenue for students,” Bloodworth reminded. He said that is because of the hands-on experience students get in all facets of producing a newspaper. “It gives you the everyday experience. You can’t learn that in a classroom.”

“I’ve never felt I’ve worked a day in my life when it came to newspapers,” explained Bloodworth, a father of three grown children, and grandfather of two children, with one more on the way. “It’s something I enjoy and I enjoy meeting people. And it’s never the same because every story is different.”

Donewald Fired By ISU Is Biggest Story: In addition to doing daily journalism, in 1998, Bloodworth co-edited a book with Roger Cushman, director of news and publications for Illinois State University, titled, “100 Years Of Illinois State University Basketball.” The book has a forward from former ISU player, All-American, and former broadcaster Doug Collins.

But the biggest story of Bloodworth’s writing career came in 1989 when ISU opted to fire head men’s basketball coach Bob Donewald after 11 seasons — three while the Redbirds were an independent team and eight as Missouri Valley Conference members – at the end of the 1988-89 season.

“It was a big controversy because Bob had his supporters, and then there were a lot of people who’d gotten tired of him and his ways,” Bloodworth recalled. “There was a division in town. It was a surprise. No one thought he would get fired. My life changed for about a month after that because every day, there was some story we were chasing.”

Bloodworth said he felt the Pantagraph’s sports staff did a good job on the Donewald story because “one day, one side would be upset with me, and the next day, the other side was upset with me.”