Town of NormalNORMAL – As part of their omnibus agenda, Normal Town Council members voted unanimously to approve a resolution changing which Town official will handle matters related to Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF). Since he became City Manager in 1998, Mark Peterson has handled the duties associated with representing the Town on IMRF matters.

But after the Council’s unanimous vote during their meeting Monday in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, the responsibilities of handling IMRF matters will become part of Deputy City Manager Pamela Reece’s responsibilities.

IMRF have been part of Reece’s duties previously, but Peterson had final approval. Dealing with such matters now becomes part of Reece’s job scope. A Council resolution in 1998 gave Peterson authority concerning IMRF after he succeeded David Anderson as City Manager when Anderson retired.

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

• Approval of minutes of the regular meeting on May 15, 2017.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures as of May 31, 2017.

• A motion to approve recommended Harmon Arts Grant Awards.

• A resolution to award the bid for the installation of a standby generator for the North Booster Station located at the intersection of Raab Rd. and School St., to Wm. Masters, Inc. at a total cost of $73,480.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and accepting a proposal from Deer Creek, Ill.-based Municipal Emergency Services for the purchase of replacement self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) in the amount of $344,560 and approving an associated budget adjustment.

• A resolution authorizing a lease amendment with Subway Real Estate, LLC for premises located at 11 Uptown Circle, Suite 100 in Uptown Station.

• An ordinance establishing prevailing wage rates.

By Steve Robinson | June 3, 2017 - 10:58 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Steve RobinsonA State final of any sport should be an occasion for family to see a loved one participate if they have the opportunity. With their presence at one of the diamonds at Eastside Centre in East Peoria, the family of Heyworth High School Softball freshman pitcher Adyson Slayback – probably between 12 to14 of the family ranging from youngsters to grandparents – made that clear as they readied to cheer on the young lady who took to the pitcher’s circle against Goreville in the first semifinal game of Illinois High School Association Class 1A State Tournament.

“They played a pretty tough conference schedule and made it through to the end, so here we are,” said Ron Slayback, Adyson’s grandfather, who along with wife Luanne, prepared to cheer their granddaughter and her teammates on to a victory in what was the Lady Hornets very first appearance at State.

Adyson plays for Bloomington-Normal Girls Softball Association (BNGSA) Angels in the summer, Ron Slayback said. Adyson’s folks are Jeremiah “J. J.” Slayback and Robin Petersen. “It’s great to have our family all here,” Ron Slayback said. In 2015, Heyworth High’s Softball team made it to Sectional final, but not further. But last year, the team struggled. Getting to State this year under head coach George Van Winkle indicates there was a course correction.

“Last year, they had the bats but struggled in the circle,” Ron Slayback said. “This year, I think it kind of surprised them that a freshman is their number one pitcher.”

For Ron’s son, J. J. Slayback, attending a game his daughter is pitching is not a calm matter. It’s not even one where he can sit to watch. He said he spends most of his time while she’s in the circle pacing. And he probably will have to consider looking into some heavy-duty shoe leather after this past weekend.

It wasn’t just love of family that could be witnessed in the stands at this contest. The boyfriend of Heyworth first baseman and 2017 HHS graduate Somer Marlett, Brett Egan, came to cheer his girlfriend and her teammates on to victory. Their relationship has an interesting twist. You see, Egan is a 2017 graduate of Heart Of Illinois Conference rival LeRoy High School.

In the year and a half Marlett and Egan have dated, he said, it was interesting partly because of all the razzing he took from his friends for having taken up dating a member of conference opponent school. Seeing Marlett and her teammates get to State “Is great,” Egan said. “I’m really happy for her. It’s great for the conference because their team represents the conference very well.”

Egan was a three-sport athlete himself at LHS, playing football, basketball, and baseball. Marlett is also multifaceted as far as sports are concerned, having played basketball and softball. “Having played sports connects us better,” Egan said. “I think we both know when we say anything about a game and when not to.”

Egan and Marlett will both be attending Heartland Community College in Normal this fall, and from there, on to Illinois State University. Egan said the relationship began when a friend on the traveling softball team Marlett was on introduced the two. The parents of these two recent graduates are Joe and Nikki Egan, and Bryan and Tina Marlett.

As it turned out, by the time the semifinal Heyworth got to ended, J. J. Slayback wasn’t the only family member who felt agony. Goreville’s Blackcats blanked Heyworth in the contest on May 2, 11-0. In the third place game, efficient defensive play had both sides scoreless for four innings before Princeville doubled Heyworth’s run production for a 5-3 lead at the end of the fifth inning, adding one more in the sixth inning for a 6-3 win.

“Getting to State, you’ll leave no worse than fourth place,” J. J. Slayback reminded. “We were playing on house money at that point and the cards didn’t get dealt our way. But I’m proud of these girls.”

You get the feeling from what one saw this past weekend that Heyworth shouldn’t be counted out in Softball in the future. I know I’ll make a point of checking how they are doing next season.

BaseballEAST PEORIA – It wasn’t the outcome the Lady Hornets were looking for when they got to the Illinois High School Association State Softball Finals, but their efforts allowed them to claim 4th place in Class 1A after dropping a 6-3 decision to Princeville in the consolation game at Eastside Centre here on June 3.

Princeville Wins 6-3; Heyworth Takes 4th In Class 1A: Witnessed by 300 fans, the consolation game between the Lady Hornets and the Lady Princes was scoreless for four innings, both squads’ defense having their say. Then, in the top half of the fifth inning, Heyworth (22-12) got started with a single up the middle from right fielder Madison Riley. After second baseman Alexandra Williams flied out to Princeville catcher Molly Davis for Heyworth’s first out, left fielder Maddie Quattro singled and advanced to second base on an error by Davis.

With runners at second and third, Riley scored on a single by shortstop Ashley McKinney, giving Heyworth a 1-0 lead. Next, Hornets first baseman Somer Marlett singled and advanced to second on a poor Princeville throw while McKinney and Quattro scored, increasing the Lady Hornets’ lead to 3-0. Heyworth catcher Maddie Sims and pitcher Adyson Slayback ended the inning by lining out and striking out, respectfully.

Heyworth HornetsPrinceville (26-9) countered in the bottom of the fifth inning, as with one out, a single to left field by center fielder Chloe Lane advanced second baseman Natalie Cokel to second after having been walked. A shot into center field by third baseman Caitlin Pullen moved her from first to second on the defensive throw, scoring Cokel, 1-0, while Lane moved to third. Lane scored on a fielder’s choice increasing the lead, 3-2, and moved Pullen to third. Princeville shortstop Jessica DeVries singled and stole second giving Pullen a chance to score, tying the game at 3-3.

Princeville first baseman Madison Roe’s triple scored DeVries, putting the Lady Princes in front, 4-3. A single by pitcher Haley Holt scored Roe, upping the lead to 5-3. Heyworth went down in order in the bottom of the sixth inning when center fielder D’Laney Gardner, shortstop Paige Schiffman, and right fielder Madison Riley went out in order.

Princeville tacked on another run in the bottom of the sixth inning, making Princeville’s lead, 6-3, as Cokel scored to lead off the inning having gotten to second on a wild pitch by Heyworth’s Slayback and scored on a Lane single. In the top of the seventh, Holt sat down Williams, Quattro, and McKinney to prevent a Hornets rally.

Holt (23-6) was the winning pitcher for Princeville while Slayback (15-8) took the loss.

Heyworth head coach George VanWinkle choked up a little as he talked about media members afterward, wiping a tear or two after the team received their trophy and medallions from tourney officials for their efforts.

“A good team beat us today, that’s all you can say,” VanWinkle said. “I’m just tickled to death that we’re here. These kids…the seniors especially, have been with me since they were in sixth grade.” VanWinkle struggled to hold his emotions in check while talking about the girls he’s been coaching for that long.

McKinney said she felt good about the fact she and her teammates made it to State, but added, “Also though, it’s a sad time because my days of playing softball are over.”

“We felt a little more confident going into this game than on Friday against Goreville,” explained Gardner. “But some games don’t always end the way you want them to. Both McKinney and Gardner have plans to attend Heartland Community College this fall.

IHSALosing To Goreville, 11-0, In Semis Sent Hornets To Consolation Game: The Hornets’ optimism toward playing in the championship game got dashed fairly quickly on June 2 as the opponents from Goreville, a community roughly 90 minutes from the Illinois-Kentucky line, blanked the Lady Hornets, 11-0. As a crowd of 550 fins watched, the Blackcats crossed Heyworth’s path first for a home run off of Slayback in the top of the third inning when first baseman Camren Anderson launched a pitch over the fence in deep left field to help her team take a 1-0 lead. Then, to lead off the top of the fourth inning, designated player Macy Goins singled, which began what turned out to be a long frustrating defensive half-inning for Heyworth.

Goreville (25-8) added six runs while the Lady Hornets accounted for two of their three errors in the contest by that point. The Blackcats went on to score one more run in the sixth inning and another two in the seventh inning to round out their scoring effort. With the victory, Blackcats pitcher Cheyenne Walker increased her record to 12-3, while Slayback finished with a 15-7 mark.

Regarding the semifinal, VanWinkle said, “The reality is, we got beat by a really good team. It’s not that we played that poorly. They just flat out beat us.”

“I was really upset, but what can you do?” Slayback said of that loss. “I’m very glad we had the chance to make it to State with these girls. They were amazing.”

By Steve Robinson | May 29, 2017 - 10:05 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Cornbelters, The Normalite

BaseballWith Cubs great Ryne Sandberg coming to The Corn Crib on Sunday, May 28 to coach third base for the ‘Belters against Frontier League opponent Lake Erie, and then meet, greet, and sign autographs for fans, you would expect a large crowd for the occasion. And there was one – a total of 3,525 faithful showed up to get a chance to see the one-time Cubs second baseman and third baseman give directions and encouragement to guys trying to either get into or back to the minors thanks to a shot with the CornBelters.

And the autograph line stretched from the entrance to Suite 201 at the ballpark, where Sandberg awaited the folks — all the way to the very first concession stand nearest the stair entrance that leads to the parking lot, a distance I would guess is about 250 feet. I met up with some folks, one before she entered the ballpark, and one in line, who both had interesting stories of their own growing up Cubs fans and looking forward to a chance to meet the guy who fans came to know simply as “Ryno.”

CornbeltersFor Bethany Theobald, being a Cubs fan who grew up in enemy territory (aka St. Louis), “We would go to at least one game at Busch Stadium in full Cubs gear and take pictures at the St. Louis Zoo, which, of course, got us a couple of funny looks..”

“We did this for years from when we were young until we were 17,” Theobald, now 34, said. She carried a sweatshirt and a couple of Sandberg baseball cards she said were part of her collection and in better shape than the bulk of the cards she had saved over the years. She wanted to get the two 1985 Sandberg cards signed.

The second person I saw that really intrigued me was in line to get a second base bag signed. Paul Slack, an Ottawa resident made the trip down to The Corn Crib with his wife, Shelli and his teenage daughter to get the mission accomplished. The base was purchased at a Cubs game during which Major League Baseball was selling game-used merchandise. Slack bought the bag at a Cubs game against Cincinnati on Aug. 12, 2012.

“I made the decision to buy the base in hopes Ryne Sandberg would sign it for me,” Slack said. The base isn’t the only item in Slack’s collection, it turns out. His basement man-cave at his two-story home is all-Cubs, the majority of it a shrine to Sandberg. He has more than a few items personally autographed by the guy who spent a career defending either second or third base.

Frontier League“I told my wife she could have the rest of the house, but to just give me the basement” for the extensive collection, Slack said. He has other items Sandberg has signed for him in the past, mostly when he was managing the Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League in 2007 and 2008 before the Cubs moved him to the Tennessee Smokies of the Southern League in 2009. From there, Sandberg was promoted again to manage the Triple-A Iowa Cubs for a single season in 2010, which was followed by managing the Lehigh Valley IronPigs of the International League for two years. Toward the end of the 2012 season, the team that drafted Sandberg out of high school in 1978 in the 20th round, the Philadelphia Phillies, hired him to manage the Phillies and finish out the 2012 season. Sandberg would manage the Phillies for one more full season in 2013 and for 74 games in 2014 until he was fired and replaced by Pete Mackanin.

Slack didn’t have the base when Sandberg was in Peoria, he said. “So basically, I’ve been waiting for the right time ever since.”

Slack said he spent Game 6 of the Cubs’ World Series against Cleveland last year “pacing a lot” as he watched the Indians lead that game in the late innings before the Cubs came from behind for the victory.

“He was my favorite player growing up,” Slack said of Sandberg. “I’ve stuck with him and he’s a class act.”

By Steve Robinson | May 25, 2017 - 10:13 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Normal-based Unit 5 School District received an update concerning its financial status and the latest update from a local legislator as the clock continues to tick toward what both educators and legislators hope will not be a third consecutive year without a State budget. State Sen. Jason Barickman (R – 53rd) sat before members of the Board of Education and pointed the finger for why Springfield hasn’t produced a budget currently in the direction of Chicago Public Schools.

“The State is on autopilot,” Barickman told Board members. He said something that most people sitting at kitchen tables know full well: When spending exceeds money coming in, then a payment delay is the result. The State is behind on Transportation and Special Education reimbursements to Unit 5.

Before Barickman spoke to Board members, the Board heard from District Business Manager Marty Hickman, who informed them Springfield owes the district debt totaling $8.1 million for those two kinds of payments, also sometimes referred to as categioricals. Hickman said if the fourth of the five payments due the district were to arrive on or before the June 30 deadline, the last day of the current fiscal year, Unit 5 would have a balanced budget in both transportation and Special Education. If the district were to receive a fifth payment from Springfield, the district would have surplus funds when fiscal year 2017-18 began.

Hickman said there are two variables which the district needs to concern itself as the new fiscal year approaches: If actual property tax payment amounts turn out to be different than anticipated and If categorical payments arrive from the capitol.

Board Member Mike Trask said special needs students, their families, and the staff who work with them are the ones the budget problems have had the most effect on. He said the situation may prompt the district to borrow from its working cash fund, but there isn’t a great amount to work with there. Barickman chimed in on this discussion saying, “We need to help and I don’t know where we go from here.”

Barickman said Chicago Public Schools receive 30 to 40 percent in mandated categoricals because of a block grant.

Multiple “Good News” Items Were Presented: As far as good news reports the Board heard, they were plentiful, starting with the “Not In Our School” initiative and concluding with details on winners of a trip to the nation’s capitol for two students who attend Bloomington Area Career Center.

“Good News” From Not In Our Schools”: Camille Taylor, a retired Unit 5 teacher, now co-chairs the “Not In Our Schools” initiative and presented Board members an update on what the schools involved in the initiative have done as the school year progressed to promote inclusiveness. Currently seven of the 18 schools in the district are involved with “Not In Our School.” Among those items mentioned were: At Cedar Ridge Elementary, fifth grade students have a “Leave A Positive Footprint” program; At Eugene Field Elementary, Principal Jane Collins held an in-service with all staff that centered on diversity, cooperation, and acceptance; Fox Creek Elementary kicked off this school year with an all-school assembly revolving around the subject; At Hudson Elementary, students designed bulletin boards and wrote and made announcements: Glenn Elementary Schools students all took a pledge against bullying; Normal Community West High students held a cultural showcase showing the diversity of the student body; Normal Community High School students held a cultural fair and held a post-election unity discussion.

Fairview Elementary’s “Good News: Board members heard from Amy McKuhen, Youth Market Director for the local office of the American Heart Association, who introduced Joan Everson, a teacher at Fairview Elementary School, who, for the 35 years she has taught there, has tried to keep kids active. Everson has made keeping kids healthy a priority in all her time at the school. AHA, through McKuhen, wanted to make sure Everson was honored as she prepares to retire from teaching after 35 years. McKuhen credited Everson for her efforts in trying to keep kids healthy, which included reinforcing the message to kids they should get 60 minutes of exercise daily, and to make sure they eat a fruit and a vegetable at every meal, and to resist using tobacco.

This year, Fairview students responded by donating $7,500 to the American Heart Association. As a result of doing that, Fairview Elementary received $500 in certificates good for the purchase of physical education equipment from US Games. As a result of Everson’s efforts over the years, McKuhen told Board members, Fairview students are responsible for raising a total of $116,731.87 for AHA in those years. Of Everson, McKuhen said, “Her commitment to our mission has changed the lives of so many. Thank you doesn’t seem like nearly enough.”

Parkside Junior High School’s “Good News”: Jennifer McCoy, athletic director at Parkside Junior High School announced to Board members that 11 girls qualified for the 7th Grade 33rd AA Series Illinois Elementary School Association Track and Field State Championship held on May 19 and 20, 2017. The athletes, their events, and how they finished were:

Averie Hernandez placed 2nd in the High Jump, and 39th in the 100 meter run; as well as participated in both the 4 x 100; and 4 x 400 relays. Lilian Lay finished 40th in the 100 meter dash, and was part of both 4 x 100; and 4 x 400 relays. Taylor Yaklich placed 6th in the 800 meter run, — missing setting a school record by less than two seconds; and placed 5th in the 1600meter run, and served as an alternate for the school’s 4×400 team. Sixth grader Alex Reinhart placed fifth in the 400 meter run, and was part of the school team that ran both the 4 x 100; and 4 x 400.

The school’s relay teams put up a good showing, too, with the school’s 4 x 200 meter team of Carly Donalson, Sophie Kurdys, Miya Webb, Brianna Wright, and alternate, Ashleigh Horton finishing 27th in the event.

In the 4 x 100 meter, PJHS’ team of Averie Hernandez, Lilian Lay, Alex Reinhart, and Naomi Elliott with Sydnee Scott as the alternate) took 2nd Place. This was the same relay team that broke the school record at sectionals two weeks ago with an amazing time of 53:12. While they did not break this time at State, they came close, finishing with a time of 53:23.

In the 4 x 400 relay, PJHS’ team of Hernandez, Lay, Reinhart, and Elliott with Yaklich as the alternate, learned that they would need to shave an additional 6 seconds off of their previous record to contend for first or second place in the event, and they did, with a time of 4:19:03, they shattered their previous record.

PJHS doubled up on good news as the school’s principal, Ryan Weichman, presented a report to Board members concerning a project the school had been working on which finally was dedicated earlier this month. With the help of school parent Ryan Scritchlow and his company, Scritchlow Enterprises, the school now has a walkway which makes the grounds accessible to all of its students. The school had a workday where a number of the school’s parents pitched in complete the job. The pathway around the school will mean increased participation for the school’s disabled students, Weichman explained in his memo to district superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel and Board members. Weichman’s report included a slideshow of the parents in action as the walkway came together.

Unit 5 mapKingsley Junior High’s “Good News”: Board members were introduced to Janel Sebeny, who is the English Language Arts building chair at the school. Prinicipal Shelly J. Erickson credited Sebeny for activities she participated in numerous organizations that help students. Sebeny is president-elect of the Illinois Reading Council and is Grants Committee Chair for MID-State Reading Council. “Janel is a valuable resource for other teachers,” Erickson reported. She also mentioned Sebeny is also past president of the Illinois Reading Conference, a function at which 3,500 people were present. “We just want to say thank you for all you do,” Erickson told Sebeny.

Normal Community West High School Doubles “Good News” Items: Like PJHS, Normal Community West High School presented two “good news” items in its presentation to the Board, with Principal Dave Johnson making the presentation. First, senior Ben Zinn, a cross country and track athlete was recognized, as he was recently named the State of Illinois’ male recipient of the National Intercollegiate Athletic Administrators Association’s Scholar Athlete Essay Award at the Illinois Athletic Directors Association state conference on Sunday, May 7, where Zinn read his award-winning essay at the state conference. He also read his essay to Board members and those assembled for the meeting, and it was well-received. Zinn is a three-year letter winner in both cross country and track and a member of the National English, Spanish, Math, and Social Studies Honor Societies. He will be attending the University of Illinois next fall and majoring in computer science.

The school also honored four Biological Engineering students, presenting to the Board Emily Johnson, Madison Miko, John Sherman, and Nick Watson. This quartet, while being in the school’s Biological Engineering Class, participated in EnergizeME Infographic Challenge, sponsored by U. S. Department of Energy. The purpose of the challenge is to enhance knowledge and foundational knowledge of Bioenergy. The Challenge is also designed to encourage creativity and engagement through arts-based learning of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, or STEM.

During the program, students conducted a laboratory investigation to study ways to optimize producing biodiesel fuels from algae. A project Sherman and Watson collaborated on, “Hydrothermal Liquidification of Algae” was selected as the competition’s overall winner. Sherman and Watson will make a presentation concerning their project at a conference at the Department of Energy in Washington, D. C. and receive a tour there of various facilities.

Bloomington Area Career Center’s “Good News”: Nikki Meyer, a coordinator at Bloomington Area Career Center, introduced Board members to five students who were among 72 students who competed at the SkillUSA State Competition in April. There were over 2,000 competitors who took part from Illinois. BACC had 11 students who qualified and five of them placed in their specific category. The student, their school, their category, and how they placed are: Cara Logan, Normal Community High School, 1st place in Emergency Medical Technician; Emma Brown, NCHS, 2nd place in Nurse Assisting; Bryce Carlisle, NCHS, 2nd place in Technical Computer Applications; Cheyenne Broquarsd, NCHS, 3rd place in Job Skill Demonstration; and Michaela Goodman, Normal West, 3rd place in Nurse Assisting.