NORMAL – During a work session prior to Normal Town Council’s regularly scheduled meeting July 20 in Council Chambers, Council member received an update on a program which has the desire of decreasing vehicle accidents and fatalities.

The program, known as Go Safe, was funded by a grant awarded McLean County Regional Planning Commission by Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), explained Commission Executive Director Raymond Lai. The Vision Zero campaign was developed in Switzerland with its primary goal being working toward having a world of work without accidents and illness. MCRPC Executive Director Raymond Lai and Senior Transportation Planner Jennifer Sicks walked Council members through potential improvements Go: Safe Program suggests.

Lai introduced Council members to a plan which began in Switzerland in 1997 but has been moving steadily worldwide. Chicago and Portland, Ore. are affiliated with the program, and if Normal were to sign on to the program, it would be just the second community in Illinois to do so, Lai explained.

Go: Safe organizers sought comment throughout March from the public concerning the project, Lai explained, followed by the local group drawing up an action plan by early April. Two committees, a steering committee and a committee to establish areas of concern, were established to examine items to address.

Lai said among the priorities the program aims to address are: Equity, education, enforcement, economic impact, and evaluation. Lai said the ultimate goal of this program is to have zero traffic fatalities or life-changing injuries in the community by 2030. While that might seem far off, Lai said, “It takes time for human behavior to change and for the community to work together in a comprehensive way to reach that goal,” Lai added.

Among the ways transportation can be carried out safely, Sicks added, include: For the Town to continue to prioritize and target transit stops for infrastructure improvements, and completely interconnect walking and bicycling networks with bus routes to increase public transit and add bus lanes and areas for pedestrians.

Sicks listed 11 streets which MCRPC has listed which either need review or have known safety issues. Those streets include: N. Main St. (College Ave. to Olive St.); Veterans Pkwy. (Shepard to Hamilton); Illinois Rt. 9 (Airport Rd. to Martin Luther King Dr.); E. College Ave. (Grandview Dr. to Veterans Pkwy.); S. Main St. (Veterans Pkwy. To R.T. Dunn Dr.); Gregory St. (Parkside Rd. to Main St.); W. Beaufort St. (Main St. to Linden Ave.); N. Main St. (Raab Rd. to College Ave.); S. Main St. (Veterans Pkwy. To Hamilton); E. Lincoln Rd. (Mercer Ave. to Veterans Parkway); N. University St. (Willow St. to Beaufort Ave.); Parkway Plaza Dr. (Veterans Pkwy. to Susan St.); and Wylie Dr. (College Ave. to U.S. 150).

To get residents to think in terms of safety through Go: Safety, Sicks showed MCRPC will be promoting it on its own page as well as launching a community-wide campaign. She pointed out all communities in the area as well as subset communities such as campuses of Illinois State University and local grade schools could become involved in the program. Local organizations could also take a stake in the program as a means of promoting the cause, Sicks said.

Families could sign up to take a Go: Safe participant, either as a driver or a pedestrian by pledging to obey certain driving rules such as removing distractions such as cell phones, or making sure to cross streets at intersections.

Mayor Chris Koos noted he did not see anything in the presentation concerning substance abuse issues. Sicks said that subject is being addressed by the State of Illinois and that Go: Safety does address it. Council Member Karyn Smith asked if a Regional Planning Commission staffer will be given charge of this program to oversee. Lai responded such a thing is part of his group’s future plans. For now, his group is trying to work with governmental entities until then.

Council Member Stan Nord requested Lai return to Council to inform the governmental body on the direction incidents are going in, either up or down. Nord also asked if there was a community that has had success which Normal could model itself after in this program to which Lai explained the program is still fairly new to America making such data currently incomplete.

Council Member Kevin McCarthy mentioned non-motorized vehicles sales and economic development in the community are increasing, and that reducing accidents are the intent of the community. He added, “Our community and others that focus on multi-modal safety are going to, frankly, attract the workforce of the future.”

Koos concluded by saying, in this case, “Zero is a good goal to have. Whether we get there or not, it’s not from a lack of trying.”

NORMAL – When Normal Community High School plays their first football game at home on Sept. 3, they will not be playing at Ironmen Field — and the reason for that has nothing to do a cancellation or the game being moved to another venue. It has everything to do with honoring one of the school’s more recognized head coaches. That’s because, prior to that Ironmen first home game against Big 12 Conference foe Peoria Manual, the moniker of the stadium the team has played in since 1996 will be formally changed to Dick Tharp Field.

Board members unanimously approved the measure, part of the Board’s omnibus agenda, to make the change at their July 19 meeting. Tharp coached the Ironmen for 22 seasons from 1968 until 1988. During that time, his teams amassed a 158-50-5 record, making him the Ironmen’s winningest coach in school history. His teams reached IHSA quarterfinals seven times managing to finish in 2nd place to close out their 1974 season. The team also made eight playoff appearances. The team was also the 1974 Class 4A State Runner-Up. No district funds will be used for this change. Any costs will be covered by private donations.

Former NCHS head coach Mike Goodwin explained the notion to make the change was brought up when the school moved from its previous location on Kingsley Street, but that there were many other priorities needing to be addressed then and the notion about naming the stadium got benched. With NCHS preparing for their 125th football season this year, he said, the timing seemed appropriate. Goodwin said a conversation between himself and current Ironmen head coach Jason Drengwitz which put the idea of naming the field after Tharp in motion.

The name change will happen in a ceremony preceding the Ironmen’s 2021 season home opener Friday, Sept. 3 prior to NCHS hosting Big 12 Conference foe Peoria Manual at 7p.m.

District Elaborates On How Sex Ed Will Be Taught: School Board President Amy Roser addressed issues which the Board had heard public comment on at the Board’s lone meeting in June and again during this session. On the subject of sex education, State Senate Bill 818 allows for age-appropriate material to be taught, Roser explained. She added the bill puts requirements on the subject if school districts offer comprehensive sex education at various grade levels.

“Unit 5 does not teach sex education at the elementary level, and therefore, is not required to follow the resulting K-5 guidelines,” Roser said. She added, “Unit 5 does teach sex education as part of our health curriculum at the secondary level, and is thus, subject to the resulting grade 6 through 12 guidelines.” She added both abstinence and contraception are part of the district’s curriculum with teaching materials used are “evidence based and medically accurate.”

She added the district has a task force which reviews its health education curriculum as a result of passage of SB 818. Task force members, she said, “use National Sex Education Standards as a resource along with training from the Illinois State Schools Alliance.” As a result, what will be taught “is expected to be more inclusive and affirming for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.” A junior high task force will examine the curriculum this fall, she added. She mentioned parents do have the right to opt their students out of this instruction.

NCHS’ “Good News” Regarding Track & Field: Those attending the meeting were informed about a 1st place finish achieved by Leslie Fisher in the triple jump with a distance of 14.67 meters. This not only helped the team but also was a personal achievement for Leslie.

Board members were also informed about members of Normal Community High School’s Track and Field team’s most recent accomplishment – finishing in 3rd place in Class 3A while competing in Illinois High School Association Track and Field Championship at Eastern Illinois University’s campus on June 19. NCHS Principal Dave Johnson acknowledged the efforts of head coach Chad Aubin, and assistant coaches Megan Starkey, Kyrin Tucker, and Grant Basting for their efforts for the successful season the team experienced.

First Student Reps Address Coming School Year: Unit 5’s 2021-22 school year is about a month away and representatives from the district’s busing provider, Cincinnati, Ohio-based First Student Bus Co. gave Board members a brief presentation on their preparedness with students returning to classrooms. Nick Sorey, location manager for the bus company, told Board members, “We are excited to go,” and followed that up by introducing Zachary Corey, safety manager for handling Unit 5. That’s after transporting 1,700 students to and from summer school daily this year, Sorey explained, adding that was done with an on-time performance rate of 97 percent throughout the previous school year and into summer school.

Sorey said First Student needs 147 drivers to be able to cover all routes, and added that as of the meeting, the firm “is on track to be above that at the start of school.”

Opposition To Mandating Masks Continues: Some members of the audience of roughly 50 people attending the session refused to adhere to the State mandate concerning wearing masks and displayed signs registering their opposition to the mandate.

Kari Donoho, a college instructor, said, “There is not a single study that proves that masking works. It is an unproven conjecture at best, and an evil fear mongering control tactic at worst.”

Parent Dawn Bergeron told Board members she raised two children in the district and has one child remaining in Unit 5. She told Board members masking is unhealthy and “compromises our kids’ health, not to mention their psychological well-being. It blows my mind how many people cannot see through the deception we are being fed.”

Parent Mollie Emery, who also introduced herself as a fill-in school nurse for the district, said her child did regress last year in what had been learned, and “pray that we, as a district, a board, and a community, can encourage choice and student-centered decisions.” She said she was bothered by the fact the State of Illinois is now fully open but that schoolchildren “were being forced to wear masks.” She added nieces and nephews in Iowa didn’t miss school time and aren’t wearing masks.

Dana Niswonger told Board members he believes children should be in school because it helps them to learn in that setting. But he added he understands if young people pick up the Covid virus, there is a potential of them spreading it. He suggested that until a vaccine is found for school age kids, that a mask mandate be put into place. That comment prompted some voices in the audience to say “no.”

Parent Christina Faulkner said there was “no evidence or documentation that proves masks work,” adding evidence of “more and more districts going mask optional for the fall.”

Parent Jason McCullough told Board members, “My children will not be your students nor your sources of revenue if you continue this mask madness.” He added he was pulling his kids out of the district because of how the district was handling the pandemic currently. Parent Danielle Renee said she also opposed mandated mask mandates, explaining, “the only people who should be making health decisions about my children are my husband and myself.”

Critical Race Theory, Diversity Addressed In Public Comments: Another different matter was brought up when Marc Judd addressed Board members saying he objected to the teaching of Critical Race Theory, explaining, “CRT is racist. It seeks to divide us into a black America and a white America. There is one race and one blood – the human race. God made all of us in his image.” Judd also objected to sex education being taught, saying teaching that subject was “not the government’s business” and doing so was the job of parents. He said parents who don’t want their children being taught sex education could request the child be asked to opt out of it. He added even a student being opted out won’t keep them being with kids who took part in the classes. He requested the district return to “classic education.”

Public Comment Concerning Disciplinary Practices Mentioned: Courtney Marks addressed concerns of a parental group which has concerns about what the group sees as inequity in the district with matters concerning disciplinary practices related to black students, hiring practices to incorporate a more diverse staff, and academic achievement among those students in the district.

NORMAL – By a 6-1 count, Normal Town Council members voted to approve a resolution to enter into an agreement with United States Department of Transportation to receive a grant which would aid the Town to pay for the underpass project at Uptown Station. The grant came courtesy of the federal 2019 BUILD Transportation Grants Program. The Federal funds would provide up to $24 million, or 93 percent of the funding needed for the project. Council members needed to approve an associated budget adjustment. Council Member Stan Nord cast the lone opposing vote.

The grant agreement will provide the Town $13 million in funding through the BUILD grant provided by U.S. Department of Transportation and an additional $3 million through additional Federal funds, giving the Town $16 million for the project. The funds will pay for the project’s second phase involving final design and third phase involving construction. The Town applied for the grant in July 2019, with word of how much the Town would receive arriving in November that year.

While the project’s first phase has been in progress, funding for the project has come from Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois Commerce Commission. ICC contributed $6.25 million – $5 million from the State’s Rebuild Illinois Capital Fund and $1.25 million in Crossing Protection Funds. Other funding included $7.9 million, or 33 percent, in non-Federal funds; and $1.6 million, or slightly over 7 percent from the Town.

Mayor Chris Koos explained large projects like this were “always looked at with the best interest of the community in mind.” He added the vision current and former Town Councils had produced Normal having Diamond Star Motors, Constitution Trail, Rivian Motors, and Normal Theater. “These are the kind of decisions that we have to make and we do so knowing we are improving the quality of life and economic development in our community.”

Nord reminded construction estimates for the project were done prior to America beginning to experience the pandemic, in 2020, which altered how business was conducted over a year ago. “Since the pandemic, construction prices have gone way up.” He cited lumber prices increased by 171 percent, and steel costs have doubled. Sources he cited included Daily Construction Journal and Associated Contractors of America.

Koos acknowledged construction prices have gone up but was quick to add they also have dropped in the months since the pandemic began. He also reminded Nord construction will not begin on the underpass until sometime in the next year and a half to two years. “We don’t know what those prices will be” at that time, he told Nord.

Reece explained to Council members it will be “a couple of months” before she returns to Council with plans for the design phase of the project.

Public comment on both sides of the underpass issue came from former Mayor Paul Harmon, retired City Manager Mark Peterson, former Town Council member Cheryl Gaines, and resident Jonathan Seiden who encouraged Council members in their effort to get the project started financially, and from Patrick Hoban, chief executive officer of Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council. Views opposed to the project came from former Normal Town Council candidate Karl Sila.

Parking Issue Addressed: Nord said he made note the Town lost $12,678 in revenue regarding parking garages in Uptown. He asked that Town Staff look into a solution for that. City Manager Pam Reece responded, saying Council members will have an item related to parking on the agenda for their Aug. 2 meeting. Reece said Council will be presented a study which addresses parking in the decks and on street parking. Reece added the study will “make recommendations on solutions.”

She added it would be a Council members’ decision to recommend the Town cease charging for parking and make parking at Uptown’s two garages a free parking situation. But Reece was quick to say free parking was not recommended, and that Council approve conducting a scheduled study on the matter to find out a way to solve the matter. When Council members voted to approve the omnibus agenda, which this item was part of, it was approved with a 6-1 vote as Nord voted in opposition.

Water Main Extension Project Discussed, Approved: Council members unanimously approved a resolution awarding a bid to Bloomington-based Stark Excavating for water main extension projects at White Oak Rd. and Hovey Ave. at a cost of $1,600,862.50 plus a potential bonus of $15,000 for early completion.

Children’s Discovery Museum Board Reappointments Approved: Council members heard of three reappointments to the Children’s Discovery Museum Foundation Board. Rob Widmer, Terry Ogunleye, and Paul Scharnett will serve another term. Widmer currently serves as Board Chair while Scharnett serves as vice chair.

Normal Police Receive Reaccreditation: Reece recognized Normal Police Department for been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) since 1994. This year’s honor wasn’t NPD’s first, but rather, a list of honors CALEA has recognized the department with. In 2005, NPD was selected as a Flagship Agency. CALEA’s Flagship program was created to acknowledge achievements and expertise of some of the most successful CALEA accredited agencies.

In 2011, 2014 and 2017 the Department was recognized as a Meritorious Agency for achieving and maintaining CALEA Accreditation for 15 or more continuous years. The department received CALEA’s Accreditation with Excellence Award in 2014 and 2017. The Excellence Award is given by the commission to those agencies that underwent reaccreditation through the Gold Standard Assessment model and who most embody the effective use of accreditation as a model to deliver enhanced public safety services and management professionalism. Accreditation by CALEA is an award that symbolizes professionalism, excellence and competence.

Liquor Commission Meeting Cancelled: Although scheduled to precede Monday’s Council session, the meeting of the Normal Local Liquor Commission was cancelled.

Amtrak To Resume Full Service Through Uptown Station: At a press conference Monday afternoon, an official from Amtrak announced the rail line will resume using 10 trains – 5 running to and 5 running back to Uptown from St. Louis. Magliari said trains running to St. Louis will allow passengers to go beyond the river city to Texas and California as well.

Marc Magliari, Amtrak spokesman, announced all downstate passenger rail service, which Amtrak has with IDOT, was restored as of Monday. Scott Speegle, passenger rail communications manager for IDOT, added the State agency “has worked closely with Amtrak to serve as many people as we were able to, but also taking into account the safety precautions that were needed, as well as being financially responsible with State money. We feel now is a great time to start our service back up.”

Koos called Amtrak’s move “a boon for our community and for transportation in the Midwest.”

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

• Approval of minutes of the regular meeting of July 6, 2021.

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of July 14, 2021.

• A resolution to accept a proposal for line sludge removal from Clyman, Wis.-based United Liquid Waste Recycling.

By Steve Robinson | July 6, 2021 - 10:42 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members quickly addressed a pair of omnibus items during their meeting held Tuesday night in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station Tuesday night. One dealt with purchase of a piece of equipment for the Town Water Department while the second dealt with extension of the sanitary sewer being extended in areas west of Rivian Motorway. The meeting was held Tuesday because Town offices were closed to observe the 4th of July Federal Holiday on Monday. One Council member, Stan Nord, was absent from the session.

Purchase Of Equipment For Town Water Department Approved: Council members voted unanimously approved a resolution to waive formal bidding process and accept a quote from Perry, Ga.-based Utility Service Co., Inc. for the purchase and installation of a pax tank mixing system for use in the Town’s west reservoir located on West College Ave. near Interstate 55. The reservoir, constructed in 1983, holds 4 million gallons of water.

In a report submitted to Council by Town Director of Water John Burkhart, the reservoir has experienced periods “low chlorine residuals, stratification, nitrification, and poor circulation.” Such problems, Burkhart added in his report, “are typical of a ground storage reservoir.” The problems the reservoir have had which this repair would address become more apparent in summer and fall months, due to warmer weather,” Burkhart’s report added.

In answer to a question from Council Member Karyn Smith, Burkhart explained the new system was replacing a system which wasn’t working as well as anticipated. The system being replaced was approved by Council in 2008. Of the system approved for purchase at Monday’s session, Burkhart responded to a question from Council Member Scott Preston explaining the hope is the new system will last 20 years.

Council Members Kathleen Lorenz and Kevin McCarthy each commended Burkhart of his department’s efforts when it comes to performing preventative maintenance on the Town water system.

Work On Design For West College Ave. Sanitary Sewer Extension Approved: Council members unanimously approved a resolution to enter into an agreement with Springfield-based offices of Crawford, Murphy & Tilly to perform engineering design services for a sanitary sewer extension for West College Ave. The Town would spend an amount not to exceed $60,000 and required a corresponding budget adjustment. The project will provide sewer system access for future development which would take place in areas along and west of Rivian Motorway. The preliminary cost of the extension is $1.1 million.

In his report to Council members, Town Engineer Ryan Otto explained with ongoing expansion at Rivian Automotive going on, opportunity for further development in that area means necessary infrastructure needs to be available to support it as that area continues to expand.

Otto’s report added existing sewer service is not available either along or west of Rivian Motorway. The Town’s current sewer service is provided to existing businesses and Rivian Automotive, but ends roughly 2,800 feet east of the Rivian facility. His report said the proposed 18-foot sanitary sewer extension will serve roughly 630 acres of undeveloped land west of Rivian Motorway. The extension of sewer line would allow new businesses to develop in that area, his report added.

Council Member Smith Reminds Residents To Keep Yard Waste Out Of Curbs: The recent downpours we have experienced have caused some yard waste to move from yards to curbs and near gutters, Smith pointed out. She encouraged residents to keep their curbs free of such waste to prevent it from blocking storm drains. She said such debris like weeds and small tree branches can be put in cans for disposal if the cans have stickers from the Normal Public Works Department designating what the debris is. She added such debris must be in the yard and not in the street in order to be collected by the Town. She added residents who see clogged drains should contact the Public Works Department to make them aware of the problem.

Craft Beer Bingo Month Mentioned To Raise Money For Children’s Museum: Council Member Kevin McCarthy reminded attendees during July. Five participating breweries are holding a month-long fundraiser with monies going to Children’s Discovery Museum. Bingo-style game cards can be picked up at, and money raised from the event will benefit CDM. The breweries taking part are: Medici, Destihl, Keg Grove Brewing Co., Lil Beaver Brewery, and White Oak Brewing. Players have until Aug.7 to turn in their game cards and cash prizes will be awarded Aug. 9.

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

• Approval of minutes of the special Council meeting of June 14, 2021.

• Approval of minutes of the regular meeting of June 21, 2021.

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of June 30, 2021.

• A resolution to accept proposal with Boston, Mass.-based CDM Smith for an ammonia removal study at a total cost not to exceed $140,956 and approve an associated budget adjustment of $956.

• A resolution authorizing a four-year well rehabilitation and repair services agreement with Fenton, Mo.-based Layne Christensen, a Granite Co.

• A resolution to approve executive session minutes, to release executive session minutes from minutes in 2021 held March 29 and June 14; and to retain confidentiality for executive session minutes held June 19, 2017, February 18, 2019, April 15, 2019, and June 21, 2021.