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by Steve Robinson

Council Approves 2015-20 Community Investment Plan

During their regularly-scheduled session held Monday, Dec. 15th, Normal Town Council members unanimously approved the Town’s Community Investment Plan (CIP) for the period covering fiscal years 2015 through 2020. The proposed 2015-2020 CIP includes 127 capital projects that are to be completed over the course of a six-year period beginning during the current fiscal year.
Those 127 projects have a total approximate cost of $60.1 million. CIP report also identifies another set of potential additional projects, with a cost of $100.5 million, which are not being recommended over the six-year period.
The project that will see the most money spent on it during the FY 2015 and FY 2016 period will be for construction of an overhead walkway to be installed at Uptown Station for pedestrians to cross railroad tracks at Uptown Station. Although that project has a $6.5 million price tag, Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is footing $5.6 million of the project through a high-speed rail fund. In addition, the Town received $1.25 million from Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) to pay for grade crossing protection.  As a result of those incoming funds, the Town’s share of the project is only $114,080.
The Town was mandated by IDOT, ICC, and Union Pacific Railroad to close its grade level crossing and seek another means of crossing.
In terms of the funding categories on the Town’s CIP, Utility Service and Transportation account for expenditures of 49 percent and 27 percent, respectfully. The categories called Parks and Open Spaces, and Public Facilities combined account for 24 percent of capital expenditures in the CIP report. The projected expenditure in these combined categories is down by $776,000 than in the previous year’s CIP report, according to Town Staff.
Town Council members are slated to have a budget work session on Thursday, Jan. 15 in Council Chambers, located on the fourth floor of Uptown Station. City Manager Mark Peterson reminded Council members any projects not slated for funding which Council members would like to be considered for funding should be brought to the attention of Town Staff.
CIP is a document used by Town Council members in prioritizing spending on major capital projects. Every December, Council members review Town Staff recommendations for proposed capital projects. Town Council members will formally approve the mix of projects when considering the Town’s proposed capital and operating budget in March.
Connect Transit GM Addresses Council: In his annual report to Council members, Andrew Johnson, General Manager of Connect Transit, the local bus company, gave Council members an update concerning the service. Johnson said Connect Transit “had another good year” in fiscal year 2014, with ridership up by 25 percent. He said the bus service has had a 40 percent increase in ridership over the course of the last three years.
Johnson said the transit service is conducting research regarding implementation of a fixed stop system for riders to be able to catch buses at designated points along routes. Currently, riders can be picked by buses at not just designated stops but also at most street corners. Connect Transit is working on scheduling open house events to discuss the proposed change, which would go into effect sometime next spring, Johnson said.
Johnson said Connect Transit received a Federal Transit Administration grant worth $2 million to purchase eight low floor buses. He added the company has also begun placing advertising on their buses in an effort to take in additional revenue.
He said Connect is also working to expand transfer points along the system. Currently, there are three central transfer points for riders. They are in front of the McLean County Law & Justice Center, The Shoppes At College Hills, and Eastland Mall.
Johnson said Connect Transit receives 85 percent of its funding from Federal and State dollars. The remainder is what commuters contribute to the fare box.
  “Ridership is exploding, but we continue to hear that what service is being provided is not enough,” Peterson, an ex-officio member of Connect Transit’s Board of Directors, told Council members. “The service is great but it would be great to invest more money to improve service.”
Chemberly Cummings Appointed To Children’s Museum Board: Council members approved the appointment of Chemberly Cummings to the Children’s Discovery Museum Foundation Board. An Ohio native, Cummings has supported youth development through programs in Ohio, Arizona, and McLean County. She served with the Women’s Build program in Bloomington and has been a child/youth and women’s ministry leader at her church, in addition to being a volunteer for Junior Achievement since 2013. Cummings will serve an abbreviated term which will expire June 30. Following that, she will be reappointed to a full three-year term which will expire on June 30, 2018.
Public Hearing On CDBG Grant Held: A public hearing was held prior to the Council session concerning a proposed amendment to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program. No members of the public addressed the Council on the issue.
Liquor Commission: Prior to the meeting, Council members, meeting as the Normal Local Liquor Commission, unanimously approved a liquor license application for CY Heritage Inn of Bloomington Opco, LLC, doing business as Bloomington-Normal Courtyard, 310-A Greenbriar Dr. The hotel applied for a Class E-Hotel liquor license. The application was necessary because the business is changing hands.
Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:
• Approval of minutes of regular meeting held Dec. 1, 2014.
• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Dec. 10, 2014.
• A motion to waive the formal bidding process and approve the purchase of a 2015 ambulance from Alexis, Ill.-based Alexis Fire Equipment at a cost of $190,000.
• A motion extending participation in the Diabetes Disease Management Program for one year.
• A resolution authorizing the execution of an amendment to the redevelopment agreement with The Rock Restaurant LLC for rear porch reconstruction at 201-203 North St.
• An ordinance amending Chapters 11, 11.1, 11.2, 11.3, and 11.4 of the Town of Normal Municipal Code to adopt Administrative Adjudication.
• An ordinance amending Section 11.1 of the Town of Normal Municipal Code – adopting the Illinois Plumbing Code.
• An ordinance amending Section 11.3 of the Town of Normal Municipal Code – adopting the 2014 National Electric Code.

McLean County Board Report
Enterprize Zone expanded in downtown Bloomington
Matt Sorensen, Chairman
Recording Secretary:  Judith A. LaCasse

 At the regular meeting of the McLean County Board on Tuesday, December 16, 2014, the McLean County Board approved the County Board meeting dates for Calendar Year 2015 and the Holiday Schedule for County Employees for the Year 2015. 
The County Board approved a “Resolution of the McLean County Board Establishing an Ordinance Describing and Designating an area located partially within the City of Bloomington, the Town of Normal, the City of Gibson City, County of Ford and unincorporated McLean County as an Enterprise Zone, and an Intergovernmental Agreement concerning Enterprise Zone Designation and Operation.
The Board approved the renewal of Multi-Disciplinary Domestic Violence Grants from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority for Court Services, the Sheriff’s Department and the State’s Attorney’s Office.

In The December 18 2014 Printed Normalite:
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Bill Linneman
Small Town Illini

Helen J. Leake's Gardeners Tips
Taking care of those holiday plants

The Spectator by Jim Bennett
The Prayer and the Teddy Bear

Capitol Facts by Rich Miller
Illinois will miss Judy Baar Topinka

They Call me Spence
The power of song

Classic Colcalsure
The Perfect Gift

Normal Town Council Report
 by Steve Robinson

Council Approves 2015-20 Community Investment Plan

Unit 5 School Board Report
 by Steve Robinson
Unit 5 to Recieve Money for Early Childhood Education

McLean County Board Report

Regular meeting this week

Capitol Commentary from Senator Bill Brady
New laws for 2015

Subpoenas issued for Neighborhood Recover Initiative investigation

Publisher Ed Pyne - Pyne Needles
The Origin of Kissing Under the Mistletoe

Chimperscage - by Alan Look

A New Best Look Magazine arrived November 15th!


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Mystery Photo, Legal Notices, Obituaries, Service Directory, School and Senior Information, and Classified advertisements

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Unit 5 School Board Report

by Steve Robinson

Unit 5 To Receive Grant Money for Early Childhood Education

Governor Pat Quinn announced Dec. 10 that Illinois has won an $80 million federal investment in early childhood education. Illinois will receive $20 million annually for four years through the Preschool Development Grants competition, which is part of President Obama’s call in 2013 to expand access to high-quality preschool to every child in America. Thirty-six states competed for a total of $250 million annually over four years to provide children from low-income households with access to early childhood education. The announcement is part of Governor Quinn’s Birth to Five Initiative, which expands access to early learning opportunities.
Administrators and School Board members for Normal-based Unit 5 School District learned the district would receive a share of that grant money.   The federal program is designed to increase access to education for four-year-old children from families below 200 percent of the poverty level (approximately $47,700 annually for a family of four). School districts and communities partnered with states were invited to apply.
Illinois selected its partners, including Unit 5, using a number of criteria including: number of children with very high educational needs; lack of existing publicly-funded programs for preschoolers; capacity to link these new programs to a continuum of early education services; partnerships between community-based organizations and school districts; and readiness to open new classrooms by August 2015.
Illinois received the maximum $80 million award for the Expansion Grant to be distributed over four years. The Expansion Grants are designed for states with larger state-funded preschool programs or states that have received a Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant. Terms of the award allow a maximum of $20 million per year to be distributed to help build, develop and expand high-quality preschool programs for low to moderate-income families.
In the first year alone, these Preschool Development Grant awards will serve more than 33,000 additional children in high-quality preschool programs across the nation.
Pepper Ridge Elementary’s Quartet Of “Good News” Items: Sarah Edwards, principal at Pepper Ridge Elementary School, presented Unit 5 Board members with a quartet of “good news” items during the Board’s Dec. 10 meeting held at Kingsley Junior High School. Her first item centered around the school’s Garden Club. Teacher Jennifer has worked for the past two years to make the garden a success. Corbly began the school’s Garden Club last year and students have come out “in full force,” Edwards explained to help with it. There are close to 90 students in the club, which meets in the fall and the spring after school. Edwards explained to Board members  students in the club till, plant, weed, water, and harvest the garden under Corbly’s supervision.
Corbly has also worked with fellow Pepper Ridge teacher Kimberly Page to use some of fruits and vegetables harvested in the school’s monthly food deliveries to the school’s student families in need through the Promise Council.
Recently, Corbly, along with fellow Pepper Ridge teacher Donna Leamer, applied for a grant to increase the opportunities of the Garden Club. Corbly and Leamer wrote and submitted the grant, and recently were notified they were awarded $1,000 for the Garden Club.
Pepper Ridge Elementary’s nurse, Jane Tucker, was the next person Edwards honored before Board members. Tucker has been the nurse at Pepper Ridge for the past seven years. Edwards praised Tucker for her diligence in checking all student medical records, making sure they are in compliance with immunizations and physicals. She also keeps staff informed about student allergies and illnesses that could impact their health. She attends meetings about particular students to provide leadership and information.
Edwards explained Tucker works closely with the school’s families to provide assistance and information when necessary. She calls parents to check on students when they have been ill or in an accident, and keeps parents informed about accidents that happen at school.
Edwards added Tucker offers support when parents need tools to keep their children happy and healthy. Some of these include assistance with doctor’s appointments, hygiene items, and glasses.
Edwards explained Tucker takes on leadership roles in at Pepper Ridge and at the district level, in part by serving as the school’s wellness coordinator. Tucker also sits on the district’s Wellness Committee.
In addition, she serves as a mentor for young nurses through the America’s Promise School Project at Illinois State University. As part of this project, student nurses come to Pepper Ridge each semester and work under Tucker’s supervision to learn about the job of a school nurse. 
Edwards also introduced Board members to Jennifer Ficek, a fourth grade teacher at Pepper Ridge Elementary, and has been a part of the school since the first year it opened. Edwards explained Ficek has worked to educate herself on the workshop model in the areas of reading, writing, and math over the past five years. Doing so has often included hosting visiting educators from Unit 5 and throughout the state.
Edwards explained Ficek differentiates her instruction to each child’s individual level and need, working closely with families to inform and educate them about ways their students can strengthen their skills and improve their achievement. Edwards explained Ficek steps up daily to provide leadership, which has included voluntarily assisting with afternoon bus duty, a task teachers at Pepper Ridge are responsible for twice a week. But Ficek assists with this duty five days a week, Edwards informed.
Ficek is also a member of the building CORE team, School Culture Committee, and leads the Social Committee. She was instrumental in planning the 20-year celebration at Pepper Ridge last year. Edwards added Ficek extends her leadership to the district level in many ways, as well, serving as the fourth grade teacher leader and often presents to her grade level on institute days.Ficek has served on numerous committees and task forces over the years. She has worked closely with Moe Backe to develop reading and writing curriculum. She also worked with Jennifer Gill on the math task force.
Edwards concluded her presentation by introducing Kim Miller, a special education teacher at Pepper Ridge Elementary who works with students in our specialized services program. Edwards reports Miller works to develop relationships with students and families in an effort to enhance their educational experience. “If you were to visit Kim’s room on any day, at any time, you would see her deeply engaged with her students,” Edwards reported. “Kim might be working at a center with a few students, sitting on the carpet for a whole group lesson, escorting students to general education for inclusion, assisting a student with a sensory break, providing a treat to a student’s service dog for good behavior and support, or just spending a few moments talking with a student to help improve their day.”
Edwards explained Miller not only works with students at school, but she also works with families, making parents feel comfortable with their child’s educational plan. During meetings with parents, Miller always brings pictures of the child to make the reports on a child’s progress meaningful.
This year the school’s specialized services program expanded from two classrooms to three, Edwards reported. Two new teachers joined the team as a result.
Prairieland Elementary’s “Good News”: Carmen Bergmann, principal at Prairieland Elementary School, updated Board members on an event that took place for that school’s students on October 25, known as “Make a Difference Day.” Bergmann relayed the Prairieland community pulled together to do much needed work on landscaping and grounds at the school.
The work began in September when the Pomis Family and the Pack 19 Boy Scouts spent two days working in our butterfly garden to cut back weeds and overgrowth. Next, Bergmann explained, Lynn Dillon, one of the Prairieland administrative assistants, placed Prairieland on the “Make a Difference” website. Working with Jodi Pomis, Dillon set a plan in motion for the work and arrange for the necessary materials to create low maintenance landscaping. On October 24, Jeremy Cruthis, general manager of the Chateau Hotel and Conference Center and a Prairieland parent, spent the entire day at Prairieland with some of his workers, tilling the ground and laying down weed barriers in the amphitheater and around the trees in the front of the building.
Later that day, McLean County Asphalt delivered a truck full of river rock that they sold to the school at their cost. The school’s parent organization helped pay for the rock.
By October 25, the Prairieland grounds were filled with parents, students, and staff members who shoveled rock, pulled weeds, and cleared overgrowth from medians for four hours! It was an unbelievable sight and a true testament to the strong commitment that Prairieland families have for the school.
The volunteers who signed in on October 25 for the” Make a Difference Day” were: Chandra Kammari and friends; the Jenkins family; the Pomis family; the Behrends family; the Nord family; the Fitzgerald family; the Meilinger family; the Pabst family; Bradyn and Michelle Whitehead; Mallory, Beth and Will Witzemann; the Nafzinger family; Cole and Lynn Dillon; Brett Kirkwood; Stephanie and Molly Mook; the Kaeb family; the Rucker family; the Johnson family; and Dana and Peyton Brown.
Cedar Ridge Elementary’s “Good News”: Cedar Ridge Elementary School Principal Karrah Jensen also presented Board members with a “Good News” report concerning the work done by all the volunteers in her school who participated in the annual “Make A Difference Day.” For the past four years, volunteers at Cedar Ridge Elementary who have been involved with this program have shown the true meaning of giving, reported Jensen. This year, she detailed, the program helped has helped 35 families and over 96 children.
District’s “Good News”: The “Those Who Excel” Awards Program, presented by Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) annually recognizes and honors people and groups who have made outstanding contributions to public and nonpublic elementary and secondary education. Unit 5 was honored to have seven award winners in this annual statewide program.
This year’s Unit 5 Those Who Excel winners were: Classroom Teacher – MaryLynn Meredith, Prairieland Elementary and Towanda Elementary; Award of Excellence School Administrator – Sarah Edwards, Pepper Ridge Elementary; Award of Excellence Educational Service Personnel (non-certificated) –  Dayna Brown, Unit Office; Award of Excellence Student Support Personnel (certificated) – Rosann Emerson, Normal Community West High School; Award of Excellence School Board Member/Community Volunteer - Shad Wagehoft, George L. Evans Junior High School; Award of Excellence/Early Career Educator – Heather Rogers, Cedar Ridge Elementary; Award of Merit (Team) – Instructional Technology Coaches.
In addition, MaryLynn Meredith, received Special congratulations for having been a finalist for Illinois State Board of Education’s “Teacher Of The Year” award, an honor given annually by ISBE.

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Normal Community Ironmen, Normal Community West Wildcats, Ridgeview Mustangs, University High School Pioneers, Central Catholic Saints, Lexington Minutemen, ElPaso Gridley Titans, Illinois State University Redbird, Illinois Wesleyan Titan, State Farm Holiday Classic, McLean County Tournament, HOI Conference, Heart of Illinois

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Great cartoons before classic movies
Hotline: 454-9722

Thur - Sun • Dec. 18-21
Wednesday, Dec. 24
An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed. (1946/130 min.)

Fri & Sat • Dec. 26 & 27
Archeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the US government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. (PG/1981/112 min.)


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21st Annual Festival of Trees Raises $230,537 to support programs of The Baby Fold
Great support and successful events helped Festival exceed fundraising goal

The Baby Fold held the annual check presentation this evening for the 2014 Festival of Trees.  The 21st annual Festival raised $230,537 to help children and families served by The Baby Fold.  The funds raised totaled nearly $11,000 more than the 2013 event!
“This is the best Christmas present our children, families and agency could receive,” said Baby Fold President/CEO Dianne Schultz. “We are grateful to all of the volunteers, businesses, churches  and community organizations who work to make this event possible. Because of this generous community support, we were able to raise critical funds that help support the needs of children and families in our community through programs like Foster Care and Healthy Start.”
This year more than 9,000 guests visited the Festival of Trees at the Interstate Center decorated with hundreds of custom trees, wreaths and holiday decorations. The familiarity and ease of location, lower expenses, record sponsorships, the popularity of Avanti’s Family Night and two sell out events including the Opening Night gala and Breakfast with Santa contributed to these revenues. In addition, the Festival auction sold 598 holiday items including trees, gingerbread items along with wreaths, centerpieces, celebrity items!
More than 800 volunteers were involved in the event; with over 600 for the set up, operation and tear down of the event.
Highlights from the 2014 Festival included Opening Night, The Taste of The Holidays-a returning hit event, Café and Avanti’s Family Night Breakfast with Santa.  We also introduced a coat check, a new bidding system in Silent Auction Pro and provided a Sunday worship service with HOPE United Methodist Church!  The Festival of Trees is the single largest fundraising event of the year for The Baby Fold and was held November 21-23rd.
The 2015 Festival is scheduled for November 20-22 with Opening Night on November 19, 2015.
The Baby Fold is committed to serving the needs of the most vulnerable children and families in our community. The Festival of Trees is a key fundraiser that helps to support the programs and services that are provided through The Baby Fold. They focus on improving the lives of children and families by building safe, loving, healthy

Normal Announces Utility Billing Enhancements
The Town of Normal has made enhancements to the online utility bill payment service making it more convenient for customers. The new process allows for easy registration and a quick response with access information. In addition to making one-time credit card payments, customers may now enroll in automatic recurring online payments. No late fees, no shutoffs, no worries!
Additionally, paperless e-billing is a free service providing customers the convenience to receive and view their statements online. Users can stay more organized and have access to their bill even when away from home, all while helping the environment.
For more information about online utility bill payment, paperless e-billing and other payment options, visit or contact Laura Gibbons, (309) 454-9516.

National Guard Readiness Center dedicated at Heartland Community College

Federal, state and local officials gathered on Sunday, Dec. 14 to dedicate the Illinois Army National Guard Readiness Center on the campus of Heartland Community College in Normal. Twenty-two full-time and approximately 200 part-time service members will work out of the The $18 million Readiness Center.
The Readiness Center houses the 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, formerly based in Chicago, which includes several units with the capability to carry out domestic emergency missions. These include search and extraction teams, chemical, nuclear and biological decontamination units, as well as military police, firefighting, engineer and communications units. The facility provides easy highway and airport access to aid in statewide response.
The new facility is designed to achieve LEED Silver-level sustainability certification and has approximately 56,000 total square feet, including 18,000 square feet of shared space. There are eight classrooms that Heartland Community College will use on weekdays for law enforcement training, a traffic safety school, truck driver training, first-responder training and enhanced continuing education culinary classes. Heartland will allow the Illinois Army National Guard to access its auditorium, fitness center and classrooms during the Guard’s training assemblies.
The federal government provided $11.4 million in military construction funds. The new Readiness Center will receive approximately $2.8 million in federal funds each year, $2.7 million of which will be invested in the Normal and Bloomington area. The college contributed $376,000 toward the facility.
“We are excited to expand our relationship with the Normal community and enhance our presence in Central Illinois,” Daniel Krumrei, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, said. “This partnership with Heartland Community College leads to a community relationship that enhances our ability as the Illinois National Guard to help our neighbors, protect our state and defend our nation.”
“The Normal Readiness Center is a great addition to campus,” Heartland Community College President Rob Widmer said. “This public-public partnership affords the college use of additional classrooms and parking for students and provides the Illinois Army National Guard the opportunity to access existing campus classroom, meeting and fitness resources. It’s a win-win for all of us.”

Toys for Tots Partners with UAW Local 2488 to Purchase Toys
With the help of the UAW Local 2488, Toys for Tots went on a shopping spree to benefit children in our community.  Every year, the UAW Local 2488 collects money from their members to purchase toys. This year, they spent about $12,000 to purchase new toys at Toys R Us in Bloomington on Tuesday, December 16th.
Toys for Tots of McLean County has already distributed about 5,000 toys to agencies and the families that they serve.  The Salvation Army will be distributing Toys for Tots toys on Thursday, December 18th at  the Corps Community Center.  There are currently 1690 children signed up to receive toys on the 18th. The partnership with the UAW Local 2488 is very imperative to the program and its ability to reach the large amount of children every year.
For years McLean County Toys For Tots was affiliated with the drive based with the “Charlie Company” Marine Reserve Unit in Peoria Illinois. However in McLean County the drive was run by a group of dedicated volunteers made up of local businesses and retired Marines. Prior to Christmas 2000, it was decided that the McLean County drive would apply to the Marine Toys For Tots Foundation to be an independent campaign or Local Community Organization. That designation was granted. For over a decade McLean County Toys For Tots has worked to make sure children in need in our community would have a brighter Christmas.

Help feed sheltered animals through Wags Express donation program
Siblings Nathan and Nikki Kemp, owner of Wags Express, have created a program that will help all sheltered animals in Central Illinois.
Wags Express is taking donations from animal lovers every­where and then providing regional shelters charitable gifts in the form of dog, cat and other pet foods.
Get involved by calling 309-820-7824 and tell Nikki or Nathan of your wish to donate and to which shelter, if you have a favorite, that you want your charitable donation delivered, either in your name or anonymously.
Food donations help defer the high cost of sheltering and caring for pets of all kinds until they find a loving home. All charitable gifts are made solely to help take care of sheltered animals.
So this is the time for all of us to get into that “holiday spirit” and feed those animals who are less fortunate than the ones we have at home-or do it in memory of those great pets we all have had that made a house a home.


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