NORMAL – Voters in Normal on Tuesday will have a number of people seeking to retain seats and to do that by either unseating incumbents or trying to retain their seat for another four-year term. Some offices, such as seats on Normal Township board have a mix of Democrat and Republican candidates. There are also candidates who seek seats on governing bodies who want to offer their talents in service to their community.

NORMAL TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR RACE: Incumbent Township Supervisor Sarah Grammer, a Democrat, is seeking a second four-year term, and faces opposition from Republican challenger Amy Conklin, who is mounting a write-in campaign.

Grammer, a Democrat on the ballot, said keep services provided by the Association of Retired Citizens “growing as we come out of the pandemic, as well as going out after more grant money so that we can weather the pandemic.” ARC’s building has been physically closed since the pandemic started in March last year, Grammer said, but ARC has been providing a number of virtual activities for seniors to enjoy including tai chi, yoga, arts and crafts, and book club sessions.

“We took most of our programming and turned it into on-line programming,” Grammer stated about how the Township pivoted to help residents once they were unable to enter the building as a result of the pandemic. She added the Township has been able to not just continue to operate during the crisis, but that with the building void of activity, improvements to the almost 40 year old structure were allowed to be made without interruption.

She added the Township is looking at being able to resume on-site programming in May, abiding by State-mandated guidelines related to COVID.

She said she is most proud of being able to add nearly 3,000 sq. ft. for classes to take place in at the facility. She said the Township refinanced the loan it had on the building at a lower interest rate and without extending the length of the loan. ”We knew older residents are vulnerable to having to move if taxes get too high,” she explained. “We’re really careful that we’re not putting improvements at the senior center that didn’t end up costing people their homes, so to speak.” She said worked with local banks to reduce the interest rate paid, replaced the building’s HVAC system and repurposed 3,000 sq. ft. of storage space for use for activities.

NORMAL TOWNSHIP BOARD OF TRUSTEES CANDIDATES: Eight candidates are seeking four seats on the Normal Township Board of Trustees. All four of the current officeholders – Democrats Sally Pyne, Dayna Schickedanz, and Arlene Hosea have their names on the ballot while Republican Ray Ropp is seeking another term this election as a write-in candidate. Of uppermost importance to those running for Board of Trustee seats this term is getting the Activities and Recreation Center, located at 600 E. Willow St., up and running again for seniors to use in person once the now year-long concludes. ARC was closed in early March 2019 as a result of the pandemic and has been running virtual programs during the past year.

“Getting the ARC reopened safely for all of our 4,000 members” is the priority Democrat incumbent Township Trustee Sally Pyne believes is the Board’s top priority. “We just to follow the rules so people can return in a safe way so we don’t have any COVID spread there.” She said she has heard from ARC users who were grateful for the closure to avoid any virus-spreading issues. She said the closure did allow for a large solar array to be installed on the building’s rooftop. The array was paid for with a grant the Township applied through the State of Illinois Solar for All Program and has a value of $600,000. She added the Township is preparing bids for a company to create greenspace outside on ARC property. The Township has not put the project up for bid as yet, she said.

Appointed three years ago by Grammer to fill a vacancy created by a Trustee who exited the community, Democrat incumbent Township Trustee Dayna Schickedanz is running her first race to be elected to her post for the first time. Schickedanz said the Township has had a moratorium on some issues as a result of COVID, among them area utilities not being able to go collect outstanding debts from residents with past due accounts. As a result, she said, “I think the Township’s general assistance fund is going to be sort of a bigger thing this year as people start to come out of COVID and people start to experience those hardships again.”

She added what she called “an unseen positive” of the community is that “we ward off homelessness. We ward off people who are struggling.”

“The Township does a great job of making sure everybody in our community has an opportunity to remain in their homes and remain with working water and working power,” Schickedanz explained. Among projects she said she has aided as a Trustee was to see the governing body partner with the School Street Food Pantry which helps Illinois State University students who are facing food insecurity.

“Staying the course and making sure our funds are being allocated correctly and that our ARC Center is opened in a smart way so we aren’t putting anyone at risk” are top priorities for the Township from her point of view, she explained. She added continuing to maintain the Township’s 25 miles of roads would rank at the top of her list behind addressing COVID-related matters. She said she also wants to see the Township address upkeep of their East Mulberry St. facility.

Seeking her second term on the Township Board, Democratic Township Trustee Candidate Arlene Hosea, retired from her job as director of Campus Dining Services at Illinois State University, said she agrees the most pressing issue for the Township is getting the ARC opened again. She said restarting that program safely for participants and staff safely has to be a top priority. She called the virtual program which has been running since the pandemic started a year ago “robust,” but said getting ARC up and running for in-person activities is important. “ARC staff did an excellent job building in the midst of a crisis they didn’t expect,” she added. She said the Township has been a good steward with its money. After the Township has gotten past COVID, she said, Hosea said she would like to see newly-renovated ARC spaces utilized. But she wants the building opened safely first before that can happen, she explained.

“Right now, the Township is responsible for assistance programs,” stated Democrat Township Trustee Candidate Mary Wuhrmann, seeking her first term as a Trustee. “In a year with the pandemic, they’ve had more requests because of the repercussions of the pandemic. She said she is impressed with what she has seen the Trustees do over the past year. She added what she saw also encouraged her to run for a seat as a Trustee “to become more involved with the decision making process, and to be part of the progress they’ve made and continue that progress over the last four years.” Wuhrmann said by becoming an elected member of the Township Board, she wants to be able to continue to help the Township to provide the services it provides. Wuhrmann taught for 22 years in Stanford-based Olympia School District as a reading recovery teacher.

Seeking a first term as a Normal Township Trustee, Republican candidate Art Rodriguez stated he is seeking his “first and last term” as a member of the governing body. “If you really come in with the right idea of trying to make a vision smaller than you’ll only need to seek one term,” he explained. Part of his philosophy is that “longevity corrupts the individual.” With that logic in mind, Rodriguez added, “The biggest issue for the Township is the taxation of the properties.” He cited a $500,000 home in California raises the same taxes on a $150,000 home in Normal. “We’re giving a lot away when we don’t have to,” he reasoned. “We can’t be giving away taxpayers’ money to corporations that are making massive dollars.” He said making the ARC more efficient is another priority he would like to see is another concern. Past ARC-related issues, Rodriguez said, he wants to see local property taxes reduced to help residents. He said the area is losing population as a result of increasing cost of living expenses.

Reopening of ARC is also a top priority for Republican Township Trustee Candidate Carl Haney, he said, as he runs for his first term on the Township Board. “I want to see members of that group get back to associate and collaborate and be able to have that ability to get together and to have that community.” A 21-year U.S. Air Force veteran achieving rank of Lt. Colonel, being elected to the Township Board “would give me the chance to serve again,” he explained. “They did a wonderful job with getting virtual activities up and running,” Haney said.

He expressed concern for people who may have participated at ARC up until it shut down but now may feel isolated as a result of not having contact with others there as a result of the pandemic. After COVID, Haney wants to make sure “very good fiscal responsibility is there making sure, ultimately, the Township money that we get from taxpayers assures that it serves the Township.” He added he believes the Township is “doing a great job” with its primary responsibilities which he said included completing real estate assessments, maintenance of rural roads and bridges, and general assistance.

Several items top the concerns list for Republican Candidate Floyd Aper. Aper, seeking his first term, said among them are what amount of money exits Township coffers to pay the Town of Normal for road repair. He said that tab amounts to over $300,000 paid to the Town to maintain roads. Of this practice, Aper said, “I assume that started some years ago as the Town annexed more and more property which was actually in the Township.” He believes the Township’s tax base’s dollars shouldn’t pay for Town of Normal roads. Like other candidates, Aper said he wants to see the ARC open to its constituents as soon as it possible.

He said he also objects to governing bodies at any level – local, State, or Federal – providing money to non-profit organizations when such activity, he said, can be done freely at an individual’s choice. “That’s not a function of the Township’s budget,” Aper reasoned. He cited Township dollars being allocated to be given to non-profits.

“I just don’t think that’s a function of government because each entity is structured to do certain things,” Aper said. He said he believes part of such money goes to pay for after-school activities operated by the Town. He called such financial gestures “very noble, but that’s all tax money. To me, we shouldn’t be supportive of everybody for everything.”

“We’ve been closed for quite a period of time because of the COVID virus and I think people are anxious to get back in the groove and doing things they want us to do and I think we should provide those services that our membership has been waiting for,” explained Ray Ropp, a Republican write-in Township Trustee candidate seeking to keep his incumbent Board seat. He said he believes most folks who want to return to the center either are scheduling or have gotten vaccinations. As for opting to be a write-in candidate, Ropp said he made that decision after Grammer objected to the Township’s financial statement not returned to the Township from the County Clerk’s Office. Ropp said he no problem with the statement not being returned because he “didn’t believe people’s statements ever got looked at after an election period.”

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