By Steve Robinson | January 13, 2019 - 10:03 pm
Posted in Category: LeRoy, Lexington, The Normalite

It’s Heart Of Illinois Conference/McLean County Tournament time again. The 108th annual event starts Saturday at El Paso Gridley High School with opening round action and runs through to a girls’ championship game and a boys’ championship game, both at Shirk Center on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus on Saturday, Jan. 26. The tourney will take its customary break on Wednesday, Jan. 23.

Former local broadcaster L. A. Decker has served as public address announcer for the entire tourney at Shirk for a number of years now and has taken the pulse of the event for some time, predicting which teams will get furthest. The one thing Decker does not do, however, is predict who will win championship games. He said upholding that personal policy helps him maintain objectivity. He does, however, almost sound like a pro scout at times in his analysis which helps novice fans and students of the game know what is going on with local teams.

Lexington Girls Seeded Third: Decker points to the girls’ teams seeded first and second in the tournament as being “head and shoulders above” the remaining teams in the field. Those would be top seed Eureka (19-2 overall and 10-0 HOIC) and second seed Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (17-4 overall and 8-1 HOIC). But coming right behind them are the Lexington Lady Minutemen (13-2 overall and 7-1 HOIC), earning the third seed. The key to Eureka is, according to Decker, “They don’t rebuild when they have new players. They retool.”

“Lexington could surprise some people,” Decker said, adding they would not be the only team to do so, saying the same about fourth seeded Ridgeview. Lexington has only lost a conference game and a non-conference game so far. “The Minutemen girls are definitely the surprise team from what I have seen in the records,” Decker said. The Ridgeview Mustangs were 15-4 overall and 7-1 Conference at this writing.

The Lady Minutemen recently lost to Dwight, a loss which halted a 9-game winning streak for head coach Bill Elias’ crew.

“Tremont beat LeRoy Jan. 8,” Decker reminded. “That vaulted the Turks ahead of LeRoy in the standings.

Decker said he sees Elias’ team in the final four of the tournament, along with the other top three seeds, but cautions either Deer Creek-Mackinaw or El Paso Gridley could sneak in to disrupt the scenario. With all the first round games at EPG Saturday, eighth seed Flanagan-Cornell will face ninth seed Heyworth to open the tournament on Saturday at 11:30a.m. Fourth seed Ridgeview hosts 13th seed Fisher at 1p.m. Fifth seed Dee-Mack hosts 12th seed Tri-Valley at 2:30p.m. Seventh seed EPG hosts 10th seed LeRoy at 4p.m. Sixth seed Fieldcrest takes on 11th seed Tremont to close out the day at 5:30p.m.

Decker said he “sees the chalk holding up” meaning the top four seeds survive their challenges, with Eureka facing GCMS for the title.

LeRoy Boys Seeded Fifth: GCMS is the top seed in the Boys’ Tournament bracket, with the Falcons owning a 15-2 record as of Sunday, including a perfect 7-0 conference mark. Deer Creek-Mackinaw is seeded second at 15-3 and 4-0 conference, and Tremont is seeded third. The Turks have a 15-4 overall record which includes being 4-2 in conference play. LeRoy, the fifth seed, has the highest seed in the Boys’ bracket of county schools, just below fourth seed Fieldcrest. While that won’t be seen as encouraging to some readers of this column, Decker said LeRoy (9-4 overall and 6-1 Conference as of this writing) should not be overlooked or counted out once play begins.

Head coach Rodney Kellar’s Ridgeview Mustangs are 10-8 overall and 3-4 in conference, and seeded ninth in the tournament. They are slated to take on eight seed Downs Tri-Valley to start the day Saturday at 11:30a.m. Lexington boys, seeded 13th, will open the tournament against fourth seed Fieldcrest Saturday at 1p.m. LeRoy’s fifth seed puts them against 12th seed Fisher in a 2:30p.m. matchup. Seventh seed Eureka meets 10th seed Flanagan-Cornell in a 4p.m. contest. Sixth seed EPG finishes the day at 5:30p.m. against 11th seed Heyworth.

Although they are the last single-digit seed, Decker said, he doesn’t know if that makes the Mustangs a longshot or the wild card in the race. He added Tremont is likely the team to watch because the Turks “have spoiled a few parties for teams” when on the court this year.

Lexington’s boys’ team has struggled in the early season, Decker said. The Minutemen as of Sunday were 7-11 overall and winless in six tries in conference play. Last season, the Minutemen “held their own,” as Decker explained it, against HOIC opponents but have yet to demonstrate that skill this season. Decker predicts GCMS and Tremont will square off for the championship.

Regardless of who wins, there will be bragging rights attained for the winners, disappointment and possibly a few tears shed by the defeated, but the games and their outcomes will at least give us a week where we can try to take our minds off of any winter blahs we may be encountering and give us time to enjoy the competition.

By Steve Robinson | January 7, 2019 - 10:48 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Developers unveiled what they have in mind for the proposed five-story building on the east side of the Roundabout during the regularly-scheduled meeting of Normal Town Council Monday night. During the meeting in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, representatives from Iowa-based Bush Construction laid out their vision for what that section of Uptown could look like once construction is completed, a project they have dubbed Trail East. They also laid out a proposed time table of when work on the project would begin.

Jerrod Engler, vice president of construction for the construction firm told Council members the five-story structure would be a 120 sq. ft. mix of brick and paneling, and that second and third floors already had companies already interested in becoming tenants. Private residences would make up the fifth floor, he added.

Engler explained the developers envision the building having a food mart located where it faces the corner of College Ave. and Constitution Blvd. Another tenant showing an interest and being added to the project is Windy City Wieners restaurant, currently located at 108 E. Beaufort St. Windy City Wieners, Slingshot Cowork at 106 E. Beaufort St., and the building which formally housed The Pod art center at 104 E. Beaufort St. would all come down to make way for the proposed development.

Town Public Works Director Wayne Aldrich told Council members all utilities for the new building would go underground along E. Beaufort St. and the Town will foot the bill for making that possible. He added construction could result in some street closures. He added the Town has been in contact with and will stay in contact with property and building owners in the area throughout the construction period.

John E. Bishop, senior architectural manager for The Farnsworth Group, told Council members structural design on the project would begin in May and implementing the design would begin in June. Anticipated completion for the roughly $30 million project would be August of 2020.

The proposed development had residents both in support of it and against it speak to Council members prior to the developers’ presentation. Resident Stan Nord in telling Council members he opposed the project, adding, “The Town should subsidize $4,200 per month rents. Normal is more than Uptown. Other parts of Town have needs.”

Resident Mike Matejka told Council members he supported the project and added he hoped the developers would use local union workers in the construction process.

In voicing his objection to the project, former Mayoral Candidate Marc Tiritilli told Council members, “Preserving artwork was mentioned when this project was brought up. Let’s shift to keep the artwork. There are ways to preserve the historic nature of this town.”

Mural Relocation Discussed: Concerning artwork located at 104 E. Beaufort St., Council members unanimously approved a resolution to waive the formal bid process and authorized City Manager Pam Reece to enter into an agreement with Bloomington-based The Farnsworth Group for removal and relocation of the mural there in anticipation of that location becoming part of the future development in Uptown discussed earlier in the meeting. In 2011, an art business, The Pod, located at that address, began giving access to artists to create a mural on the building’s west side which was visible from the Roundabout.

But the business closed in January 2017 and the store has been vacant since. During public comments to Council members at the start of the meeting, current Town Council candidate Karyn Smith registered objections to the destruction of the mural as being part of what would happen in order for the proposed five-story building to go up on that site. Smith said the change in the cost of construction of the five story building is all due to a change made by the developer.

Although not part of the original plan when Council members approved the plan in October, 106 E. Beaufort St., too, along with 104 and 108 were slated to be torn down for the building site. That change moved the project’s cost up by $800,000, from $29.2 million to $30 million. The Town’s contribution, too, has jumped as a result, from $8 million in future property taxes to $8.65 million in property and sales taxes.

Reece told Council members the cost involved in removing the mural from the building and relocating was researched by the Town and found to run between $56,200 and $81,560. She added the Town may seek to recover costs incurred in the project from the building’s previous tenants.

Council Approves Special Use For Rooming House: Council members unanimously approved a special use permit for a building in a residential neighborhood. A two-story home at 405 Normal Ave. is being considered as a rooming house for use by Alpha Omicron sorority. The sorority would like to use the building to house 23 students and a house mother. Normal’s Zoning Board of Appeals gave conditional approval to the project at their Dec. 18 meeting.

James Knightright lives a couple doors down from the building and told Council members he wasn’t concerned about the students who would be coming into his neighborhood, but rather that the process used by the Town “excluded locals” to give their say on the matter. In addition, he told Council members a parking ban on that street in force from 6a.m.-9a.m. was “inconvenient and treats students disrespectfully.”

Widmer Appointed To Children’s Discovery Museum Board: Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Fritzen announced to the gathering the appointment of Rob Widmer to the Children’s Discovery Museum Foundation Board. Recently retired as President of Heartland Community College, Widmer, a grandfather of 11 children, has had opportunities to experience first-hand. He is filling an open seat of the Board and his term expires July 30, 2021.

Two Omnibus Items Approved: Council unanimously approved two omnibus items: Approval of minutes from the Council’s regular meeting of Dec. 17, 2018, and payment of Town expenditures as of Jan. 3, 2019.