By Steve Robinson | June 29, 2021 - 11:21 am
Posted in Category: News, The Normalite

NORMAL – In 24 years with the Town of Normal, Director of Public Works Wayne Aldrich has had held a few positions, and with each one seemed to be a key player in advancing the Town into the future. All that work, in three positions representing the Town, has left Aldrich little time to relax. But relaxing is exactly what he will do as he will retire at the end of this month.

Folks would look at what he has accomplished and would say his time away is well deserved. He began with the Town in 1997 as Town Engineer. From there, he became Downtown Development Director in 2002 (before the Town rebranded its center to be called Uptown in 2009), and is wrapping up his career with the Town as director of public works, a post he took on in 2014.

“For me, Uptown was an exciting project,” the 61-year-old Aldrich said, explained he was tapped by then-City Manager Mark Peterson to tackle it. He added the direction he believed he received from Normal Town Council members was they were thinking, “go big.”

He said he knew Uptown “was going to be an involved project, and important project, and “that excited me in a way.” He added when it came to such projects, dealing with roads and infrastructure were things he had experience dealing with. That’s because he worked for Illinois Department of Transportation before signing on with the Town.

Among the parts of the project he said he had great familiarity with included buildings, development, and some aspects of construction. “What parts of the project wasn’t familiar with I was willing to learn,” he added.

Aldrich said he worked “with a great team” at City Hall and other departments in Town to accomplish assembling the Uptown that Normal residents are now familiar with. To Aldrich’s thinking, that team began with Normal Town Council members who authorized the project at the beginning, giving their approval and seeking assistance at Federal and State levels to find funds for it. From there, he credited Peterson and Town Staff, as well as consultants the Town worked with for their efforts in making it a reality.

“We had a great team and the project is exceptional in that sense that a city of this size tackled such a project and that it was successful,” Aldrich said.

Normal began benefitting from Aldrich’s skills in 1997, coming from Illinois Department of Transportation where he worked for 14 years, time he spent as a project engineer where his main projects centered around roads and bridges.

As a young man, he said, he did construction work, so IDOT assigned him to numerous construction projects, the bulk of them in the Twin Cities, including Interstate 39. As a design engineer, he helped develop the area around Veteran’s Parkway.

Looking back on his time with Normal, Aldrich said he considers himself “fortunate” his time he spent with the Town gave him opportunities to be involved with diverse projects. From the experiences working for the Town afforded him, Aldrich said, “I just learned about different types of engineering, different types of ways different professions link into development.”

In doing projects for the Town, Aldrich said he learned he was representing project owners, specifically the Town. “I think that’s kind of important because in every aspect, you act as the owner,” he explained. He said representing the Town in that regard is something he said he will miss the most.

Aldrich said another aspect of his work he’ll miss is interacting with area residents and business owners. He explained he recently went through Uptown with coworkers and was stopped by business owners who wanted to chat with him. He said businesses were impacted by disruptions created by the construction during the development phase, but that business owners wanted to chat with him when he came by recently.

Of the projects he was involved with on behalf of the Town, Aldrich said, “We always had a great team, great consultants, and good contractors.”

He said among the more challenging assignments he experienced during the Uptown redevelopment was moving of Commerce Bank and Busey Bank both from temporary to permanent facilities.

One remaining project Aldrich will not get to finish managing because of his exit is the underpass project which, once completed, would help get Amtrak passengers from one trackside to another. It’s a project which began with paying for research on it being approved by Town Council members in June 2017.

Currently, Aldrich said, “That project is in a good state right now. We’ve identified the funding for it. All the agencies are on board with it including the railroad, Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois Commerce Commission. That’s a project that even if it’s me standing out here and watching it develop, I’d like to be involved with, or just to keep track of because it’s a major project and I had a role to play in the development of it.” That project, he said, is still in the planning phase which includes identifying funding, and finalizing agreements with the railroads that pass through and make stops at Uptown.

At present, Aldrich said, the underpass stands between two phases – planning and final design. He said he will miss not being in on the construction phase. “If funding is in place and the agreements are in place, construction will move pretty quickly,” Aldrich advised.

Reece Notes Aldrich’s Been Responsible For “Major Capital Projects”: Aldrich’s boss, City Manager Pam Reece, was quick to credit him with “coordinating some major, major capital projects over the years.” At one point, demonstrating one of them by stretching her arms to display the building her office sits in on the second floor of Uptown Station, first put to use by the Town in 2012.

Most notable, Reece said, was the position of Uptown Redevelopment Director which meant, in part, coordinating construction of the entire Uptown Station, coordinating placing new water and sewer lines throughout Uptown, and construction of Uptown roundabout.

“Wayne’s been a primary project manager and coordinator of Uptown redevelopment in terms of implementation,” Reece explained. She quickly added that when Aldrich had previous assignments given him by Town administration, such as city engineer, he tackled bridge projects and other infrastructure improvements.

“What makes Wayne so successful at what he does is he’s very sharp,” Reece said, adding, “He builds relationships with folks and he does what he says he’s going to do. He has the skills to manage exceptionally large projects and small projects.”

His work has helped the Town, Reece said bridge relationships with the Town with State and Federal authorities, as well, she added.

As Public Works Director, Reece said, Aldrich has overseen its four divisions – streets, sewer, fleet, and waste removal. “He’s been really pivotal in trying to expand our recycling program, and multi-family recycling,” she added. He’s really had a leadership role in the organization that, I think, has impacted our community in a big way by making sure we’re providing exceptional services, expanded services over the years under his direction, and of course, the outcome of the Uptown Redevelopment project.”

Concerning the Uptown Redevelopment project, Reece added Aldrich sought Federal funding for the project. “He’s known far and wide in the public works industry and the municipal services industry.”

“He’s mentored others, and he’s leaving our organization in a much better place than before he got here,” Reece said.

NORMAL – Heavy rains late in the day and early evening on June 25 and June 26 caused problems for businesses and drivers, particularly along Main Street, and specifically for a pair of established businesses which intersect near Advocate BroMenn Medical Center.

Both on Friday and Saturday, June 25 and 26, that weather created problems for area businesses in that neighborhood both days including flooding of their parking lots, as well as the parking lot for the Medical Center nearest Main Street. Rain waters stretched across Main Street to the businesses, and at one point, although the convenience store stands on raised concrete, its gas pumps area was under water rendering them useless.

Next door, at Monical’s Pizza, their parking lot flooded and their basement received some water, explained the store’s general manager, Brian Plotner.

For Casey’s General Store Convenience Store, 1301 S. Main St., the water rush meant waist deep or slightly higher water in the area around its gas pumps. The business’ building itself was unaffected, explained store manager Mercedes Bundy, because the store building sits on a raised concrete platform, the brainchild of the building’s original owner.

But next door, at Monical’s Pizza, 1219 S. Main St., matters were a little more difficult, Plotner explained. His store is slightly lower to the ground which meant the restaurant had flooding issues, including its dumpster floating off the property at one point as a result of Friday’s downpour and the restaurant closing roughly 30 minutes earlier than usual, around 10:30p.m.

In addition, Saturday’s rains began around 3:30p.m. with the downpour increasing to the point Plotner had his employees park in a section of Casey’s lot. Plotner added he stopped delivery service around 4:15p.m. Saturday because the flooding prompted him to move his store vehicles across the street to sit at Casey’s and delivery drivers would have to walk with product to the cars as a result of the flooding.

Also by that time, he said, his business only had a couple of phone-in orders which Plotner said he cancelled for the safety of his employees explaining he was concerned about potential injuries due to parking blocks in the parking lot.

Saturday’s rain produced another issue: The restaurant’s dumpster floated away from its confinement but not far from the restaurant forcing Plotner to call a company to retrieve it and put it back in place.

“They were really great about letting us do that,” Plotner said about the neighboring business’ assist.

Over at Casey’s, Bundy said her parking lot was the only part of the store’s premises affected by the hip-deep and slightly higher water. No water entered the store, she said.

Flood waters crossed Main Street intruding on a lower parking lot at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center located directly across from Casey’s.

Rains Caused Temporary Stoppages For Connect Transit: Connect Transit, the Twin Cities’ public transit provider, also experienced temporary service stoppages at a couple of points on both Friday and Saturday as a result of the rains, explained Shelly Perry, operations manager for Connect Transit. Shelly Perry, operations manager for the transit service. She explained the rains prompted the company to halt service once per day – from 8:45p.m.-9p.m. Friday night, and again from 3:30p.m.-7p.m. Saturday meaning buses stayed in place at their nearest transfer point.

During those times, Perry said, buses remained in place while assessments of Twin Cities roads could be made. Once waters started receding, she said, the system went back to picking up and dropping off passengers.

Perry said inclement weather usually causes such stoppage procedures to be put into effect, and that Friday’s and Saturday’s episodes were the first time Connect Transit had to employ them this year.

By Steve Robinson | June 21, 2021 - 10:04 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members voted unanimously to approve a resolution giving permission for a second amended preliminary subdivision plan for Blackstone Trails subdivision. With Council’s approval of this, developers can continue the build-out of a residential subdivision. The developer, iDev, LLC, purchased the roughly 106.48 acres of land for such a purpose in 2009.

The current submitted amended preliminary subdivision plan is for the north half of the subdivision in accordance with an agreement approved by Council members in 2019. The majority of the property was zoned R-1B Single Family Residential, but a strip of land along Shepard Rd. and a portion of Hershey Rd. were zoned R-2 Mixed Residential.

The preliminary plat was approved by Council members in 2009 followed by Council approval of the first final plat a year later. The final plat on the first addition was approved by Council members in May 2013. In January 2019, Council members approved a zoning map amendment rezoning roughly 1.69 acres at the development’s southwest end to be S-2 Public Lands and Institutions so the Town could develop land for use to place a new Normal Fire Department station.

Council members received this item to approve after Normal Planning Commission held a public hearing to review the 2nd amended preliminary subdivision plan where Commission members voted 7-0 to approve the plan. Before the vote at that session, NPC members heard from a resident of that area who posed a number of questions concerning design factors for the new structures.

Council Vote Grants Raise For City Manager Reece: With Council Member Chemberly Cummings absent from the session, Council members voted 5-1 approving a resolution amending the base salary of City Manager Pam Reece. Council Member Stan Nord cast the lone opposing. He explained Tuesday he asked for release of the minutes of the executive session Council members held in a special meeting on June 14. He said he wants those minutes released so the public can hear the discussion Council members had concerning the matter.

But Reece told Council members minutes from June 14’s executive session aren’t due to be released until the Council’s next meeting on Tuesday, July 6. The meeting will be held that day because Monday, July 5 is when municipalities will celebrate the July 4th holiday, which falls on a Sunday this year.

Reece, a 30-year employee of the Town, has a contract to work at her post until March 31, 2024. Her annual salary as of April 1, 2019 was set at $190,550 with an adjustment a year later of $$5,716.50 and a further raise of $4,733.50 effective April 1.

Public Works Director Wayne Aldrich To Retire: Toward the end of the session, Reece announced Public Works Director Wayne Aldrich has announced his intention to retire in August after serving the Town for 24 years. Monday was his last time at a Council session. “We could talk for hours on the impact he has had on this organization,” Reece said. Aldrich joined the Town in 1997 starting as Town Engineer. From there, Reece said, Town officials moved him into the role of Uptown Development Director. In April 2002, Aldrich was appointed by then-City Manager Mark Peterson to coordinate the Uptown Renewal Plan as the Town’s Uptown Development Director.

“Wayne has led what has been the most impactful and remarkable municipal project in the State of Illinois, and certainly in the Town of Normal, leading Uptown Development,” Reece said, adding Council members currently sit in a Council Chambers that came to be courtesy of Aldrich’s leadership when Uptown Station was constructed.

“His legacy in our organization and our community is probably indescribable,” Reece concluded.

Aldrich, who was in the gallery, spoke briefly, saying his time with the Town “has always been exciting and we’ve got a great team.” He added he was thankful for the support he received of three City Managers he served under (the late David Anderson, Peterson, and now Reece), as well as support from Town Council members for being able to complete some of the projects he had done.

Technical Services With Regional Planning Commission Approved: Nord asked an omnibus item concerning a resolution for the Town going into an agreement with McLean County Regional Planning Commission be discussed because of his concern that a consultant working on a project is also on the board of Connect Transit. Council members voted 5-1 to approve the measure with Nord voting against.

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

• Approval of minutes of the special meeting of June 7, 2021.

• Approval of minutes of the regular meeting of June 7, 2021.

• A resolution to accept a five-year proposal from Valparaiso, Ind.-based M. E. Simpson Co. for large meter testing services.

• A resolution to Accept Bids and Award a Contract to J.G. Stewart Contractors, Inc. for the Landmark Drive Sidewalk – West Sidewalk Construction Project in the Amount of $320,295.

• A resolution to Accept a Proposal with Crawford, Murphy and Tilly Engineers for a Hydraulic Model of the Water Distribution System at a Total Cost Not to Exceed $115,000 and Approve an Associated Budget Adjustment.

• An ordinance amending Ordinance No. 5838, concerning an easement vacation for the resubdivision of lot #2 in the first addition to Eagle’s Landing Commercial Subdivision at 1290 Healing Stone.

NORMAL – Two of Illinois State University’s better-known alumni returned to their alma mater Saturday each to receive another honor Saturday: To become laureates to the Lincoln Academy of Lincoln. The pair were honored at the ceremony held at Illinois State University’s Braden Auditorium were former NBA player and Chicago Bulls head Coach Doug Collins and former U. S. United Nations Ambassador Dr. Donald McHenry. Also being honored was Dr. Robert T. Fraley, a Fellow of the American Association For The Advancement of Science.

This was the 56th convocation and investiture of laureates to the Lincoln Academy of Illinois, and took place in Braden Auditorium of ISU’s Bone Student Center Saturday with a few hundred invited guests attending the ceremony and dinner which followed. Award for professional achievement and public service. The honor is presented to people with ties to Illinois for outstanding contributions in science, education, religion, social services, medicine, government, business, labor, the arts, agriculture and athletics

Collins Spoke Of Faith, Passion, Resiliency: Collins was introduced to the audience by ISU President Larry H. Dietz, who reminded Collins played on the U. S. Olympics team in Munich, Germany in 1972 before suiting up to play professionally in the NBA after being drafted in 1973 for the Philadelphia 76ers. He also coached for NBA’s Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, and 76ers. Dietz reminded Collins has also been part of broadcast teams for five Summer Olympics games.

Collins began his speech by joking that he would feel more comfortable if he were at Horton Field House, the arena where he played for the Redbirds in the early 1970s, wearing his number 20 jersey, then added, “I’m just honored and humbled to be here tonight to accept this prestigious award. I always tell people to dream big. Well, I outdid my dream.”

He said he wanted to choose words that he thought would describe him to those gathered for this event. “Number one is proud,” he said. “Proud to be born and raised in Illinois, son of a sheriff,” he explained. “I was named after Sen. Paul Douglas.” Douglas, in fact is his middle name.

He told the story of joking with actor Ron Howard about Collins telling the actor he lived above the Franklin County Jail where his father was sheriff, his uncle was a sheriff’s officer, and his grandmother was the cook, all while his family lived one floor above the jail. He said he joked with Howard that the actor “was playing out his life story” when young Howard starred as Opie in the 1960s comedy, “The Andy Griffith Show.”

He went on to say, “I was so blessed to be coached by Benton head coach Rich Herrin, who helped make me the man I am today. He said when he got to ISU and connected with the late Redbirds head coach Will Robinson, the coach “was like a father figure to me.” He joked that nowadays, younger people recognize him as “that guy who coached Michael Jordan.”

Collins said he told Dr. Dietz every time he comes to campus, the word joy comes to mind “because all I have is positive experiences about my time here.” Those days, he said, included living in Wilkins Hall, practices at Horton Field House, the teammates and coaches. “My life was joyful – more joyful than I felt I could ever feel.

Passion was the next word Collins said came to mind, explaining, “It’s the driving force in all the accomplishments in my life.” Faith was another word central to his life, Collins said, explaining his Christian faith has helped him “navigate the highs and the lows” in his life.

Grit and Resiliency were two more words that have shaped his life, Collins said, adding those helped him as he went through his professional sports career. Love, Collins said, was the last of the words he said shaped him explaining he met the love of his life, wife Kathy 49 years ago in front of Watterson Towers to go play volleyball together. He said they married a year later “and she’s been stuck with me ever since.” It was a line that produced laughter from those gathered.

To Dr. Donald McHenry, ISU Became Like His Territory: An East St. Louis native, Dr. Donald McHenry earned his Bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University before earning a Master’s degree at Southern Illinois University, but he also studied at Georgetown University. Dr. McHenry told the gathering the ceremony reminded him of the French word Terroir, a word describing climate, soil, temperature, and topography. “Illinois and this University are my terroir,” Dr. McHenry said. “They are the elements which formed me and my journey through life to this point. Those elements have contributed a great deal to what I was able to accomplish.”

“From here, from this University and this Land of Lincoln, I set out to see what I could do with the contributions that the University and the land had contributed to me,” Dr. McHenry explained. “Illinois, and indeed, the United States, are a part of a much larger machine. What we do here is greatly influenced by what happens around the world.”

Speaking of the current pandemic, Dr. McHenry said, “We won’t solve it for ourselves until we solve it for all the world. We won’t solve the devastation of climate change until we solve it for all citizens of the world.”

Dr. Robert T. Fraley Also Honored As Lincoln Laureate: A man with no connection to ISU was also named a Lincoln Laureate at this ceremony. Dr. Robert T. Fraley, currently a Fellow of the American Advancement of Science and a St. Louis resident also had this honor bestowed upon him.

Previous Lincoln Laureates: Collins, Dr. McHenry, and Dr. Fraley join a select group of Laureates which has included Senators Adlai E. Stevenson II, Everett Dirksen, and Alan Dixon; Chicago Bears head coach George Halas, and former Bears linebacker Dick Butkus; Columnist and Broadcaster Irv “Kup” Kupcinet; Comedian Jack Benny; Former Governors Richard Ogilvie, Otto Kerner, and Jim Edgar; Actors Charlton Heston and Burl Ives; and broadcasters Bill Kurtis, John Chancellor, and Paul Harvey.

NORMAL – Not every high school sports team receives the chance to play for a State championship on their home field. That is usually the sort of thing every player dreams about when the thought crosses their mind. But for Normal’s University High Pioneers, who were a number one seed, faced another number one seed, Freeburg, and wound up playing in the third place game after losing to the team nicknamed the Midgets at Duffy Bass Field on Saturday. As a result of that loss, the Pioneers found themselves playing for and placing third after a 7-5 win over Central State 8 foe Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin.

U-High 7, Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin 5 To Take 3rd Place: U-High (32-4) went to work early against the Cyclones with lead off batter Karson Bonaparte walking followed by being his being driven home by outfielder Chase Adams to start the scoring, 1-0, with a blast into center field for a double. A fielder’s choice helped Evan Jones get on base and later score courtesy of Jack Bach’s home run over the left field wall, putting the Pioneers up before SHG came to bat, 3-0.

U-High was able to add two more runs in the 4th inning courtesy of Matt Armstrong’s single sending Bach and Matthew Davenport across home plate for two more runs, putting U-High up, 5-0. Springfield SHG (cut that lead to 5-2 in the bottom of the 5th inning when Jack Schafer’s single sent home Paul Gilmore who singled and Jayden Davis who walked. Those runs reduced U-High’s lead, 5-2.

The Pioneers advantage increased an inning later to 6-2 when Jones got on base and was singled in by Daniel Mosele. The Cyclones kept pace in that inning, too, adding three runs beginning the inning with Louie Bartletti’s leadoff walk, followed by singles from Nic Crowe and Gilmore, a walk given Jaydon Davis, and single by Schafer reduced U-High’s lead to 6-5. Senior Macallen Conklin led off the top of the 7th inning with a home run which cleared the left field wall.

Winning pitcher Chase Adams struck out eight and walked one in 4 2/3 innings of work.

“I wasn’t surprised about the heart our players showed that last game,” explained Pioneers head coach Steve Paxson, elaborating knowing they were playing for third place might have created a situation where his players’ effort might not have been what he did see throughout the contest. He said the team showed they put in what was needed to win the contest. “I’m just really proud to have coached this group. They’re really a special group.”

Five-Run 3rd Inning Puts Freeburg Over U-High, 5-3: Freeburg (35-3 following this game) employed a five-run third inning to overcome a Pioneers lead earlier in the semifinal contest to defeat the Pioneers, 5-3, to advance to the Class 2A Championship while sending the Pioneers to the 3rd place game to face the Cyclones. U-High scored two runs in the top of the 2nd inning as Evan Jones walked and advanced to 2nd base on a wild pitch. The next batter, Carson Beal, flew out to left field for the first out of the inning, and was followed by Mosele who doubled scoring Beale, putting U-High up, 1-0. A single by Davenport got Mosele home for U-High’s second run of the inning, giving the Pioneers an early 2-0 lead.

In the top of the 3rd inning, Adams would push U-High up, 3-0, on a single and stolen base followed a base hit by Macallen Conklin.

But Freeburg scored all five of their runs in the bottom of the third inning. The scoring barrage began as with one out, Austin York and Jacob Blomencamp led off the inning with a walk and single, respectfully, and then committed a double steal. From there, Colin Bruggemann singled, scoring the pair, cutting the Pioneers’ lead, 3-2. The next batter, Eli Hoerner singled deep into right field, and was followed by Eli Hill would be walked. The pair then committed a double steal and the bases were loaded when Hayden Ott singled completing the scoring.