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by Steve Robinson

Ratio Architects’ Fee Reduction Approved for Passenger Platform At Uptown Station

Normal Town Council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Town Staff to begin negotiating a supplemental agreement with Indianapolis-based Ratio Architects resulting in a net reduction in the fee the Town will pay with regard to a proposed passenger platform for those boarding southbound trains.
The proposed work will eliminate an overhead pedestrian walkway and supporting towers originally proposed when discussions began in November 2013. As a result of the changes, there will be modifications to the Heating, Ventilation and Cooling (HVAC) systems. There was no discussion among the Council concerning this item prior to their vote.
Originally, in the initial agreement with the Town, Ratio Architects was going to charge a total of $198,607 when the project was to be for construction of an overpass which would help Amtrak passengers get to and from trains pulling into different tracks at Uptown Station.
In a report written by Wayne Aldrich, the Town’s Public Works Director, the Town is now recommending a temporary at-grade pedestrian crossing. Such a crossing would be available only to Amtrak passengers and include safety features such as fencing, gates and audio-visual warnings. In his memo, Aldrich reported both the Union Pacific Railroad and the Illinois Department Of Transportation (IDOT) find this just a temporary solution, and a grade-separated crossing will become a necessity in the future.
As a result of the change, Ratio Architects is agreeing to a net reduction in the amount they are charging the Town, by $26,007, to $172,600. Because high speed rail is what will be used on the tracks once work is completed, the Town will need approval from the Federal Railroad Administration before the Town can use high speed rail funds to pay for the temporary at-grade crossing, Aldrich relayed.
Purchase Of Ball Field Lights For Champion Field Approved: The only other item on the agenda was for Council members to unanimously approve a resolution waiving a formal bidding process and authorize purchase and installation of ball field lights from Oskaloosa, Iowa-based Musco Lighting LLC in the amount of $271,500. The new lights will be installed at Champion Fields. An associated budget adjustment of $330,000 was also necessary to complete this purchase.
In a memo to Council members, Chris Cotten, director of Normal Parks and Recreation, explained the lights and poles on the Maxwell South softball fields need replacing. Maxwell Park is just east of Champion Fields. What’s more, the wooden poles the lights are attached to have warped and split due to age and exposure to weather. Also, Cotten added, purchasing lights that are more up to date updated will result in energy savings for the Town of more than 50 percent. There was also no discussion among Council members prior to the vote on this item.
“Normal 150” Speakers Recognized: Prior to the meeting, Mayor Chris Koos presented gift bags to area residents who served as speakers during the lecture series on the Town, as it celebrated its 150th anniversary last summer and fall. Koos presented the speakers with gift bags on behalf of the Town. The Town sponsored a series of four lectures and two panel discussions centered around varying aspects of the Normal’s history, including race relations, the Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s School, and how transportation evolved over the years within the community. There were also two panel discussions centering on how business changed in the community, first from 1967 through 1993, and then from 1993 to present day.
Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included
• A motion to authorize the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to award a contract to Bloomington-based Stark Excavating, Inc. in the amount of $1,529,836 for the Raab Rd./NCHS to Towanda Barnes Rd. Improvement Project.
• A motion authorizing Town Staff to negotiate three-year engineering continuing service agreements with Clark-Dietz, Inc.; Crawford, Murphy, & Tilly, Inc.; The Farnsworth Group, Inc.; Lewis, Yockey, And Brown, Inc.; Maurer-Stutz, Inc., and Wight & Company to provide engineering services for various Town departments.
• A motion to initiate a zoning map amendment – 303 W. Willow; 409 W. Willow; 212 N. School St.; 211 N. University; 210 N. Main; 212 N. Main; 200 Kingsley; 202 Kingsley; 302 Kingsley; 609 W. College; 203 S. Main; 205 S. Main; 207 S. Main; 301 S. Main/605 Dry Grove; 710 S. Main; and 213 W. Locust (ISU Properties).
• A resolution to accept a proposal from Roanoke, Ill.-based Cloudpoint Geographics in the amount of $35,820 for professional geographic information services.
• A resolution to appropriate $45,000 of the Town’s allotment of Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) funds for the Vernon Ave./Beaufort St. Traffic Signal Upgrade Project.
• A resolution authorizing the use of Motor Fuel Tax funds for the retirement of General Obligation Bonds used for roadway improvements in Uptown Normal.
• A resolution authorizing a contract with Nicor Gas in the amount of $44,810.92 for the relocation of a four-inch gas main in conjuction with the Raab Rd. Improvement Project and approval of a required budget adjustment to Line Item 510-7710-431.20-10 of the Storm Water Management Fund for the expenditure.
• And ordinance amending Section 22.15-4 of the Town Municipal Code regarding licensing requirements for tree trimmers.
• An ordinance amending Chapter 1 Section 19 (Electronic Drafting File Standards)of the Manual of Practice for the design of public improvements in the Town of Normal.
• An ordinance abating the levy of 2015 property taxes for Special Service Area Number One.

McLean County Board Report
????, Chairman
Recording Secretary:  Judith A. LaCasse

No Meeting This Week

Movie ‘BIKES vs CARS’ to be shown February 17 at Normal Theatre
Bike BloNo, the Bloomington-Normal Marriott, the Normal Theater and the Town of Normal are partnering together to present the fifth annual winter bike movie, BIKES vs CARS.
The movie will be shown on Wednesday, February 17 at 7:00 pm at the Normal Theater, 209 North Street in Normal. Doors will open at 6:30 pm for this free showing; however, a suggested donation of $7 will support Bike BloNo and Walk In Bike Out, an organization that repairs and provides free bikes to community members in need.
Three free bike tune-ups courtesy of the local bike shops (Bloomington Cycle & Fitness, Vitesse Cycle Shop and Wilson’s Cycle) will be raffled off that evening. Attendees are entered in the drawing by donating $7, purchasing or renewing a Bike BloNo membership, purchasing a Bike BloNo t-shirt or donating a bike to Walk In Bike Out.
New this year, the Bloomington-Normal Marriott will be selling a selection of bike-themed beers during the event.
For more information on the event or to RSVP, visit

Valentine’s Big Band Dance February 14

The Illinois State University Jazz Ensembles will present a Valentine’s Big Band Dance from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 14, at The New Lafayette Club, 1602 S. Main St., Bloomington. Admission to the dance is $15 per person at the door.
The event will feature classic big band music from the 1930s and 1940s as well as a wide variety of ballroom dance styles including cha-cha-cha, rhumba, waltz, swing, salsa and samba. All proceeds from the dance will help support jazz activities at Illinois State. A cash bar will be available. Those attending are asked not to wear jeans or T-shirts. For more information, contact Tom Marko at 438-2541 or

Travis Tritt to play Braden Auditorium
on Friday, Feb. 12

Grammy-award and CMA-winning country artist Travis Tritt will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, February 12, at Illinois State University’s Braden Auditorium.
Tickets are currently on sale and the cost is $25, $45, and $55, and can be purchased through, by phone (309) 438-5444, or at the Braden Box Office in the Bone Student Center.
Experience this rare opportunity featuring the multi-platinum artist in an intimate solo-acoustic setting, where his powerful voice and his guitar are the subject of the spotlight. It will be an up-close and personal event punctuated by personal stories and anecdotes about his life and musical influences.
Performing some of his biggest hits, including “T-R-O-U-B-L-E,” “It’s A Great Day to Be Alive” and “Best of Intentions;” the Grand Ole Opry member will bring his award-winning songs to life and leave the audience with a truly memorable experience.
A native of Marietta, Georgia, Tritt is dubbed one of “The Class of ‘89,” which included Country music superstars Garth Brooks, Clint Black, and Alan Jackson; all of whom dominated the charts in the early 1990s. His 25-year career has produced millions in album sales, two Grammy award wins, and multiple No. 1 singles on the country radio charts. Tritt formed Post Oak Recordings in 2012 and released his album The Calm After… through his own record label. The Calm After… is currently available on iTunes and other major digital retailers.
For more information on Tritt, visit his website and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

ISU Speaker Series hosts civil rights advocate Bayard Rustin Feb. 14th
In celebration of Black History Month, Carlos Figueroa of Ithaca College will explore politics at the confluence of race, religion, sexuality, and policy development. He will speak about his latest book with a talk titled “Bayard Rustin: Black Gay Quaker Thinker and Civil Rights & Labor Activist,” at 7 p.m. Monday, February 15, in the Prairie Room of the Bone Student Center.
Figueroa’s talk will be held in conjunction with The Legacy Wall exhibit at Milner Library. The traveling exhibit features “mini-biographies” of lesbian, gay, bisexual (LGBT), and transgender people, and aims to raise awareness of the roles LGBT people have played in shared human history.
The author of the upcoming Quakers, Race and Empire: Political Ecumenism and U.S. Insular Policy Rhetoric, 1898–1917, Figueroa will explore Rustin’s Quaker sensibilities, and how his reliance on Quaker principles–peace, equality, integrity, simplicity, community, and truth – informed his nonviolent protest, and later the coalition building during the black freedom and equality struggles of the 1950s-1960s.
“The way in which Rustin planned, organized, and facilitated important events through his Quakerism provides us with an opportunity to reconsider models for dealing with racial, social, and economic injustices across U.S. cities, including some college campuses today,” said Figueroa, an assistant professor of politics.
Figueroa holds a dual Ph.D. in political science and historical studies from The New School for Social Research. He studied politics, history, and literature abroad at Wroxton College in Oxfordshire, England, and democracy and diversity at the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies.
The talk is sponsored by Illinois State’s Department of History and the Office of the President. The exhibit is sponsored by the Office of the President and Milner Library.
The President’s Speaker Series seeks to bring innovative and enlightening speakers to the campus with the aim of providing the community with a platform to foster dialogue, cultivate enriching ideas, and continue an appreciation of learning as an active and lifelong process. All talks are free and open to the public.

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Bill Linneman
In Pursuit Of Laughter

Helen J. Leake's Gardeners Tips
Check your plants for frost heaving

Capitol Facts by Rich Miller
Gov. Rauner now feels free to be himself

Classic Colcalsure
Forgetful Moments

Normal Town Council Report
Ratio Architects’ Fee Reduction Approved for Passenger Platform At Uptown Station

Unit 5 School Board Report
Transportation Money Issues Draw Attention At Unit 5 Board Strategic Session

McLean County Board Report

by Steve Robinson

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Statehouse Update

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Unit 5 School Board Report

by Steve Robinson

Transportation Money Issues Draw Attention At Unit 5 Board Strategic Session

At the Jan. 27 regularly scheduled meeting of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board, Board members heard from members of the district’s strategic planning committee on six items of importance to the district: Special Education; Curriculum and Instruction; Community Partnerships; Co-curricular matters; Transportation; and Facilities.
The individual panels have been meeting since October, using facilitators to help their conversations along in the sessions. Although progress updates on those six subjects were presented to Board members, it was Transportation – a subject where the district could be facing tight budgeting due to the State not having a budget yet for fiscal year 2016 – that drew the most conversation.
Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, and Kevin Woods, owner of The Woods Consulting Group and the facilitator for the discussions on the Transportation issue, told Board members that particular committee numbering 28 members has been working since their formation to seek ideas for saving the district money. That could mean the possibility of start and stop times for elementary schools getting looked at to see if they need to be changed. The subject came up, Daniel explained, as part of trying to continue the district’s goal to provide “safe transportation within budget in a timely manner. We want to provide a tactical approach to transportation issues.”
Daniel said that means the district could need to make changes in how transportation is done within the district. To assess community opinion on the subject, the district will have already distributed a survey by Jan. 29 to parents, Unit 5 staff, high school students, and members of district strategic committees to seek input. From there, ideas targeted to solve the problem will be presented to Board members on Feb. 19 followed by a review session on Feb. 24. Daniel said he hopes a solution will receive a final vote at the Board’s March 9 meeting
The district currently has a spending deficit in its Transportation fund of $1 million, Daniel told Board members. “That can’t happen next year,” he added.
In response to Daniel’s and Woods’ presentation, Board Member John Puzauskas responded, “First Student is our vendor,” referring to the Cincinnati, Ohio-based firm that took over operations of district school buses since first signing a contract with Unit 5 in 2012. Unit 5’s governing board unanimously approved renewing the contract last year for three years. Puzauskas said First Student needs to participate in the process to help the district reduce costs. Of the busing company, Puzauskas said, “They need to make some decisions.”
Board Member Denise Schuster said she was concerned changes made as a result of budget trimming might cause longer bus rides for some students. She said students should not have to see time in the classroom reduced as a result of any changes made to trim the Transportation budget. “We’ve been running a deficit in Transportation, and using Education fund money” to make up for it, she explained. “But we’re running out of money.”
“Transportation is bleeding us as a district,” Daniel said. He said the one thing Unit 5 can’t do to correct the situation is take money intended for classes.”
Board Member Barry Hitchins proposed the idea the district should host a Town Hall-style meeting to get input from community members on the transportation issue.
While addressing reporters following the meeting, Daniel addressed Puzauskas’ point about what the district expects of First Student to help with reducing costs. “What we have asked them to do is find a configuration for delivery of service that would still transport students on a timely basis and still provide safe transportation, and do so with the budget in mind,” he said.
Daniel said the district is trying to work to provide transportation services using 70 percent of the money the State should be reimbursing the district for transportation costs rather than a full reimbursement.
Daniel said the district has had conversations with First Student, adding representatives from the bus line “have been very cooperative and trying to work hand in hand with us in finding ways to reduce buses and reduce routes. We’ve been very appreciative of that.”
Board Approves Selling Bonds To Pay For Life Safety Projects: Board members unanimously approved a measure to allow the district to sell a figure not to exceed $18 million School Fire Prevention and Safety Bonds as a way of raising money for carrying out necessary life safety projects throughout the district. State law required a public hearing take place before Board members could take action. No members of the public addressed the issue.

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MCLP Seeks Community Leaders to Join the Class of 2017

The Multicultural Leadership Program (MCLP) is seeking applicants for the Class of 2017. The nine month program kicks off with orientation at the end of July and ends with graduation in April 2017.
MCLP is an intense professional development curriculum that provides a framework to those with the interest and potential to step into leadership roles within our communities. MCLP focuses on cultivating emerging leaders to strengthen and support communities across Central Illinois. This leadership program develops cultural competencies and diversity of thought among its participants.
“MCLP transformed the way I looked at everything” stated Michael Wolf of Farnsworth Group, a 2013 Multicultural Leadership Program graduate.
Upon graduation, these well-rounded leaders possess increased self-awareness and the skills and perspectives to thoughtfully and effectively collaborate with people of all ages and backgrounds. Today, more than 100 alumni of MCLP utilize the lessons they learned through the program to better serve their organizations and communities.
The five key areas of development for a participant include:
1. Know Ones True Self – “the values you stand for”
2. Appreciate Diverse Perspectives and Decision-making Styles
3. Be a Servant Leader: Serve and Lead with Courage
4. Develop Leadership Skills
5. Build a Network of Community Leaders
Applicants must be at least 21 years old and live or work in McLean County. Additionally, candidates may come from all community sectors: business, non-profit, community at large, etc. Online applications are available at and are due by April 28. Those interested in learning more about the program are invited to attend a Recruitment Reception on March 5. Please check the website for details on the location and time.
Please contact the MCLP office at or (309) 556-3589 with questions.

HCE Units to study History/Mysteries of McLean County
McLean County Home and Community Education groups will be learning about “History/Mysteries of McLean County” during their February meetings. The Fact Find is “Time to Dream and Plan Your Garden”. 
Other programs and workshops:  1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 8, Ribbon Wreath by Fran Burns, Extension Office, 1615 Commerce Parkway, Bloomington—reservations, fees and supplies list by Feb. 2, call Edna at 309-662-5520; 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 15, Community Service Day, making bags for walkers and hats, scarves and mittens and seat belt covers, Farm Bureau Building, near Interstate Center Dr., Bloomington, call Karen at 309-826-9559; 2-3:30 p.m. Feb. 15, Read and Share, “The Rosie Project” by Graimie Simsion, Extension Office Boardroom, call LaVon at 309-661-6391.
Our Annual Friendship/Membership Tea will be held on February 20 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Mennonite Church of Normal, Cottage and Hovey, Normal. The Bloomington Tea Ladies will present the program, “Treasure Thy Friend.”  Bring your own cup and saucer. Members are $5 and guests are free.  Call Kathryn for tickets at 309-275-8898.
On Feb. 23 at 1 p.m., a free program, “Straw Bale Gardening” will be presented by Kelly Allsup at Christ Lutheran Church, 311 Hershey Rd, Normal.  Contact Delilah Finnegan at 309-532-0314 for more information.
The public is welcome at all meetings and programs. Individual units meet as follows:                  
Normal: 9:15 a.m. Feb.1, Evergreen Place, Gregory & Adelaide, Normal, program by Doris Kurtock; 309-452-6750.
Downs: 9:30 a.m. Feb. 2, Down’s Fire Station, meeting followed by lunch, program by Ruth Hood; 309-661-9251.
Eastsiders: 9 a.m. Feb. 5, Extension Office, lesson by Jeri Richardson and fact find by Lynda Kobs, hostesses -  Delilah Finnegan, Karen Hill, Ann Schultz and Edna Chancellor; 309-310-9205.
Money Creek:  11:30 a.m. Feb. 8, Lexington Community Center, bring sack lunch, 309-365-8304.
Towanda: 7 p.m. Feb. 8, Towanda Community Building, lesson by Kathleen Emery and hostesses are Jeanie Wager and Connie Carstens; 309-663-4796.
Dale: 9:30 a.m. Feb. 10, breakfast at Denny’s, Normal, program by Nancy Susedik, fact find by Anne Noud; 309-829-8975.
Dry Grove: 9:30 a.m. Feb. 11, brunch at Denny’s, Normal, programs by Mary Mohr and Ann Bevans; 309-452-7059.
Lexington: 1:30 p.m. Feb 15, Lexington Community Center, lesson by Alice Wick and hostess is Dorothy Myers; 309-365-8055.
Night Owls:  7 p.m. Feb. 17, home of Kathryn McNeely, 2012 E. Lincoln St. Bloomington, lesson by Rosemary Martin and hostess is Arlene Sieg; 309-275-6723.

Early Voting Begins February 4th for Normal and McLean County
Per State Board of Elections, all presidential petition objections have been removed. Our ballots (McLean County) are officially “certified” by the State. Early Voting will Begin February 4 at our office at the Government Center. The internet address to all Early Voting locations, dates and times is http://il-mcleancounty.civic And also, you’ll be able to register to vote, change your address, or request a ballot be mailed to you so you don’t have to risk bad weather on Election Day!
Remember, first time ever! Early Voting at Eastland Mall! For entire County, including City of Bloomington voters. Saturdays and Sundays. Noon until 6:00 pm, Feb. 20 & 21, Feb. 27 & 28, March 5 & 6
Kathy Michael
McLean County Clerk

Actor Giancarlo Esposito to headline Black History Cultural Dinner Feb. 24th
Award-winning actor, director, and education advocate Giancarlo Esposito will be the guest speaker at the Black History Cultural Dinner at 5 p.m. Wednesday, February 24, in the Brown Ballroom of the Bone Student Center.
Tickets for the dinner are available online. Tickets are $20, or one swipe of a meal plan for Illinois State students. Tickets are available online only, and will not be sold at the door.
During the dinner, Esposito will share his journey as an actor and an artist with a will to succeed despite the hurdles many people of color face while trying to break into “the industry.”
The event is sponsored by Illinois State’s University Housing Services, Campus Dining Services, the Association of Residence Halls, Hewett-Manchester Student Association, East Campus Diversity Coalition, and MECCPAC, a Dean of Students’ Diversity Initiative.
Esposito is a celebrated television, film, and stage actor, whose career spans decades and includes more than 60 films. Television audiences know him best for his iconic portrayal of drug kingpin Gustavo “Gus” Fring in AMC’s award-winning series Breaking Bad, for which he won the 2012 Critics Choice Award and earned a 2012 Emmy nomination. Other notable roles include Spike Lee films such as School Daze and Do The Right Thing, as well as Rabbit Hole, The Usual Suspects, Smoke, and The Last Holiday.
In 2007, through his production company, Quiet Hand Productions, Esposito made his feature directorial debut with the film Gospel Hill. He also co-starred with Danny Glover, Angela Bassett, Julia Stiles, Taylor Kitsch, and Samuel L. Jackson. Quiet Hand Productions aspires to make “conscious content” films that focus on the inspirational.

Heartland Theatre Co. Opens ‘Clybourne Park’ Thursday, Feb. 11
Heartland Theatre Company opens Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris, on Thursday, February 11, with a Pay-What-You-Can Preview.  Performances continue through February 27. The play is sponsored by Mike and Cindy Kerber.
Rhys Lovell, Artistic Director at Heartland, directs Clybourne Park, which features a mix of Heartland and ISU actors: John Bowen, Anastasia Ferguson, John Fischer, Joshua McCauley, Elante Richardson, Michelle Woody, Tim Wyman and Kristi Zimmerman.
Clybourne Park explodes in two outrageous acts set fifty years apart. Act One takes place in 1959, as nervous (white) community leaders anxiously try to stop the sale of a home to a black family. Act Two is set in the same house in the present day, as the now predominantly African-American neighborhood battles to hold its ground in the face of gentrification. Winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. [Mature Language & Themes]
Performances are February 11, 12, 13 and 18, 19, 20, 21 and 25, 26, 27. Note:  There is NO performance on February 14 or 28
Sunday, February 21 Panel Discussion After The Matinee:
“Gentrification; How is This Play an Agent of Change?” with guests Meghan Burke, IWU Sociology Dept. Asst. Professor and Duane Boutte, ISU School of Theatre & Dance Asst. Professor
Ticket Prices: General Admission - $15, Senior Discount - $12, Student Discount - $5. Group Rates Available:  Email for a rate quote.
Curtain Times: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2:00 p.m. Sunday matinees (No performance on Sunday, November 8.) Location: 1110 Douglas St, One Normal Plaza, Community Activity Center
For Reservations Call 309 452 8709 or email Reservations Recommended for all performances except Pay-What-You-Can. No reservations taken on that night only for other than season ticket holders.
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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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Historic North Street

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coming next to the Historic
All seats $7• Refreshments $1
Doors open 6:30 pm • Showtime 7:00 pm
Prize drawing every night
Great cartoons before classic movies
Hotline: 454-9722

Ip Man 3
Fri & Sun, Feb 5 & 7 • 7:00 PM
The third entry in the film series based on the life of kung fu grandmaster Yip Man, with Donnie Yen reprising the title role. Unrated / 105 min. In Cantonese with English subtitles. Dynamic Martial Arts of Bloomington-Normal will present a brief lecture and demonstration of WingTsun Kung Fu techniques right at 7:00, with the film immediately following.

Meet the Patels
Saturday, February 6, 7:00 PM
Sunday, February 7, 1:00 PM
Filmmaker Geeta V. Patel follows her brother, Indian-American actor Ravi V. Patel, as he embarks on a quest to find a wife and make his family happy. PG / 88 min. A Beyond Normal Films Choice

The Normal Humor Open Mic Night
Monday, February 8 • 9:00 PM
Let’s welcome back The Normal Humor for another great evening of comedy. Sign up for this & all future open mics will begin the Monday before the event & close the Friday before the event.

Tuesday, Feb. 9 • 7:00 PM
Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), who owns a nightclub in Casablanca, discovers his old flame Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) is in town with her husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid). Laszlo is a famed rebel, and with Germans on his tail, Ilsa knows Rick can help them get out of the country. PG / 102 min.

The Princess Bride
Wednesday, Feb. 10 • 7:00 PM
A fairy tale adventure about a beautiful young woman and her one true love. He must find her after a long separation and save her. They must battle the evils of the mythical kingdom of Florin to be reunited with each other. Based on the William Goldman novel “The Princess Bride”. PG / 98 min.



issue of Best Look Magazine  Available
Best Look Magazine is a quarterly sports and leisure magazine featuring sports, events, and people primarily from McLean County.  Every story has a photo and every photo has a story. The magazine is published by Alan Look Photography.  Please check it out at your convenience at
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Heartland art exhibit features environmentally friendly works by Melanie Scott-Dockery
Melanie Scott-Dockery: Then and Now is on display now through March 4 in the Joe McCauley Gallery, located in room 2507 of the Instructional Commons Building (ICB) on Heartland’s Normal campus, 1500 W. Raab Road. An artist reception will be held on Thursday, March 3 from 4:00-5:30 p.m. at the gallery.
In Then and Now, Scott-Dockery blends her art with materials created or grown in her garden and kitchen. This production and use of botanical materials reflects her drive for “capturing change and transformation.”
“This body of work was spurred by a desire to stop purchasing ready-made supplies encased in plastic or metal and to connect my art practice to my gardening practice,” states Scott-Dockery. While she still works with acrylic and oil paints, she believes “it is important to consider the environmental impact of how we work as artists. I am far from having the answers, but I do want to engage in discussion to explore the possibilities.”
The current exhibit includes anthotype photograms on paper, a painting composed with plant dyes on canvas, cloches filled with milkweed seed and fluff, pastel and charcoal drawings, a variety of seeds and a box filled with next spring’s plantable art media. Also on display are samples of her handmade milkweed papers, some saturated with seeds, that visitors are encouraged to touch.
Exhibits, events, and parking at Heartland’s Joe McCauley Gallery are free. Gallery hours are weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on days the College is open. For more information about this exhibit, contact Danell Dvorak, gallery coordinator, at or call Heartland’s Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Department at (309) 268-8620.
Melanie Scott-Dockery completed a Master of Fine Arts at Northern Illinois University in 2004 and a Bachelor of Arts in fine art at the University of Southern Indiana in 1997. During the summer of 1995 she studied art in Florence, Italy through Indiana University’s overseas program.
Since the early 1990s, she has exhibited her work throughout the Midwest of the United States with exhibits at the McLean County Art Center in Bloomington, Woman Made Gallery in Chicago, the Around the Coyote Art Festival in Chicago and The Project Lodge in Madison, WI.
Scott-Dockery lives in Bloomington, teaches art part-time and tends a large garden.

Women in Communications Crystal Awards event to be held Thursday, Feb. 25
Join us for the annual Association for Women in Communications Crystal Awards Red Carpet Event on Thursday, Feb. 25 at the DoubleTree by Hilton. A cash bar and social will begin at 5:30 pm with the program starting at 6:00 pm. Note: Early bird pricing is available until January 31.
The evening is a celebration for AWC and community members alike as we honor outstanding women in an elegant affair. The Bloomington-Normal chapter will spotlight women of excellence by presenting the following honors during the event: Outstanding Woman in Communications, AWC Communication Innovation, Crystal Award and Student Scholarship.
The Outstanding Woman in Communications is a community member who exemplifies professional excellence and embodies the ideals of communication. The award winner displays a daily dedication to the craft as well as an understanding of the potential of communication as a tool to build and strengthen relationships, and reach into the community.
Nominees for Outstanding Woman in Communications for 2016 include: Susan Blystone of Illinois State University and Stephanie Adomaitis of Marcfirst.
The AWC Communication Innovation Award honors a woman who has achieved excellence in communicating a project, mission, or event, even though it is above and beyond her professional duties. Though she is not a communications professional, the innovator captures audiences and carries the ideal of communication as a way to create connections and further a goal.
Nominees for the AWC Communication Innovation Award for 2016 include: Sara Mayer of the City of Bloomington, Judy Brown of the Illinois Theatre Consortium, Deborah Halperin of Illinois Wesleyan University, Jennifer Sedbrook of OSF Healthcare, and Jamie Sennett of Illinois State University.
Also celebrated at the event will be the top AWC member of the year, honored with the Crystal Award. Chapter members nominated are Heather Wagner of the Town of Normal and Sarah Julian of COUNTRY Financial. The AWC student scholarship will also be awarded that night.
Reservations are required for the dinner. Admission to the dinner is $50 per person, or a table of 8 for $300. Early bird pricing ($40 per person) is available until January 31. Make your reservations through the events tab at

Connect Transit to Host Public Listening Sessions Feb. 10 & 11
Connect Transit will host two public listening sessions in the month of February, as part of its Comprehensive Operational Analysis. Employees of the transit system will be soliciting ideas, comments and thoughts from Bloomington-Normal citizens about current and future transit service, potential route changes, and service expansion. These sessions will take place:
Wednesday, February 10 from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm at Pepper Ridge Elementary School,  2602 Danbury Drive, Bloomington.
Thursday, February 11 from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm in at Prairieland Elementary School, 1300 E. Raab Rd, Normal.
“We are always working to improve public transportation in Bloomington-Normal,” said Andrew Johnson, General Manager of Connect Transit. “To help us provide the most efficient and effective bus service, it is critical that the community provide their input as we conduct this important analysis of Connect Transit.”
These sessions are designed to provide a convenient forum for members of the community to share feedback and conversation about the future of Connect Transit routes and services in relation to Connect Transit’s COA surveys, input sessions, and data collection.  No decisions will be made at this time; this will be a purely informational session for all in attendance.
For more information on Connect Transit bus services, call Connect Transit at (309) 828-9833 or log on at

Free Income Tax Preparation Sites Open This Saturday
With tax season underway, trained volunteers are ready to offer free tax help to eligible community members. United Way of McLean County (UWMC) is once again partnering with the Bloomington-Normal VITA Foundation to prepare and file tax returns at four IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites in Bloomington-Normal. Eligible residents of McLean County are invited to visit a VITA site and complete their free federal and state tax returns now through April 14.
VITA promotes community-wide financial stability by linking McLean County residents to essential income-based resources. Providing free tax preparation helps low-income individuals and families access these often costly services. According to the IRS, the National Society of Accountants recently conducted a survey which showed that the average cost of professional tax preparation is $261.
IRS-certified volunteers help ensure individuals receive tax credits they may qualify for such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. These credits serve as important income supports for individuals and families.
For those interested in visiting a VITA site, volunteers are available to prepare free federal and state returns at the locations and times listed below. You can also visit BN VITA at
• Heartland Community College, 1500 W. Raab Road, Normal, Workforce Development Center, Room 3601. Tuesday: 5-8 p.m.; Thursday: 5-8 p.m.
• Bloomington Housing Authority, 104 E. Wood Street, Bloomington. Monday: 5-8 p.m.; Saturday 9-12 (noon)
• United Way of McLean County, 201 E. Grove St. Bloomington, IL 61701, 309.828.7383
• Mid Central Community Action, 1301 W. Washington St., Bloomington. Wednesday: 5-8 p.m. (By appointment only. Call 309.829.0691)
• Normal Activity Center, 1110 Douglas St., Normal. Friday: 9:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. (By appointment only. Call 309.888.9099)
• Western Avenue Community Center, 600 N. Western Ave., Bloomington. Friday (Feb 5th – April 18th) 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Who is eligible?
• Single individuals with no dependents and income of $35,000 or less
• Single with dependents and income of $55,000 or less
• Married with combined incomes of $55,000 or less
Information and documents to bring to your appointment:
• Tax information such as W-2, 1099, 1095A, etc.
• Social Security cards or ITINs for all persons on the return
• Government issued photo ID
• Copy of your 2014 Federal Tax Return

Normal Library hosting new poetry reading series ‘Poetry is Normal’
The Normal Public Library announces a new poetry reading series called “Poetry is Normal” to be held every other month on the third Thursday of the month at 7:30 p.m. in the library’s Cafe. The first meeting, on February 18, will celebrate love poems in general and Shakespeare’s love sonnets in particular. Participants are invited to bring and read aloud a love poem of their own and/or a love sonnet by William Shakespeare.
The focus on Shakespeare is in honor of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and part of #DiscoverWill, a statewide library-based celebration of a national tour of his First Folio. In Illinois, Shakespeare’s First Folio, on loan from the Folger Shakespeare Library, will be on display at Lake County Forest Preserve District’s Lake County Discovery Museum in Wauconda during the month of February. Participating libraries across the state will offer February programming in the #Discover Will: Illinois Libraries Celebrate Shakespeare’s First Folio initiative. Normal Public Library is participating by launching “Poetry is Normal” in February with love sonnets.
Future “Poetry is Normal” events will focus on original poems by local poets or the sharing aloud of favorite poems on themes to be determined. In 2016, the “Poetry is Normal” series will take place at 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Cafe at the Normal Public Library, 206 W. College Avenue, Normal, Illinois on February 18, April 21, June 16, August 18, October 20, and December 15. The program, intended for adult poets and poetry lovers, is free and open to the public.
The “Poetry is Normal” reading series will be facilitated by two part-time employees of the Normal Public Library, poet Kathleen Kirk and ISU student Rachel Weishar. Kirk facilitated a poetry workshop in the library’s Community Room from 2000 to 2007 for RHINO Magazine. She is currently the poetry editor for Escape Into Life, an online magazine of culture and the arts.
For more information: (309) 454-1757 or

Barn Keepers to meet Thursday, February 11
The Barn Keepers members will be meeting Thursday, February 11, at 7 p.m. at the Evergreen FS Building at 402 N Hershey Rd. Bloomington.
The program will be presented by Lori Fuoss who is a retired teacher of the Tremont School System.
Her program titled “Our Hidden Heritage: How a Group of Grade School Students Helped Communities to Appreciate Local Barns and their Histories” will center on the Tremont Grade School Barn Buddy barn preservation efforts, including how the “Barn Buddies” came to be. This will include how the students created a calendar, learning from others and in turn teaching about our rich heritage through local barns. Mrs. Fuoss will share barn stories they have uncovered, and the over-all Barn Buddy Calendar experience over eight years.
Lori Fuoss says, “I came to have a love for barns and history after spending much of my childhood summers on my grandparents’ century farm in Northern Michigan. After living in various states, I earned my teaching degree at Illinois State University, was hired to teach, and settled in Central Illinois. She and her husband, Mike and three children live in Tremont. After a wonderful teaching career of 30 years, I retired last May and look forward to whatever comes my way!”
 This meeting is open to the public and anyone who has an interest in barns is welcome to attend.

Master Gardener’s Home, Lawn and Garden Day to be Sat., March 5
The 14th annual University of Illinois Extension McLean County Master Gardener Home, Lawn and Garden Day will be hosted at Central Catholic High School in Bloomington, Illinois on Saturday, March 5. It is an all-day gardening extravaganza in which attendees get inspired, visit local vendors and interact with other knowledge seekers. Attendees will attend the keynote session, three breakout sessions, one mini-session with a Master Gardener, and breakfast and lunch for a $50 registration fee. Registration is open until February 26 and classes fill up fast. For registration please visit or stop by the McLean County Extension office at 1615 Commerce Parkway, Bloomington for more details. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program or have further questions please contact Brittnay Haag at the Extension office at (309) 663-8306.
Just a few classes highlighted at this year’s event includes Herbal Tea Gardens by McLean County Master Gardener Diane Boeck; String Ball Gardening by Mary Leach from the Peoria Orchid Society; and Seven Steps to Set Up Your Home Landscape Design by Patrick Murphy, Horticulturist and Curator of the Fell Arboretum at Illinois State University. Dr. Lesley Deem from the University of Illinois Pollinatarium will talk about plants to include in the garden for larvae and adult butterflies.
Amanda Thomsen is one of the most popular garden bloggers of our generation. The name of the blog is “Kiss My Aster;” an eye brow-raising name for a woman loved by gardeners young and old. She writes for the popular trade journal, Greenhouse Grower, and is often highlighted in Fine Gardening magazine. Her mission, according to the editors, is to “youngify” the content. This year she brings her garden philosophies and easy to apply gardening hacks. Her keynote presentation is entitled “150 Ways to Create a Fantastic Yard Totally Tailored to You.” Attendees will be inspired and ready to take on the gardening season.
Amanda Thomsen, garden blogger and author, has gained popularity with her laid back approach to writing how she would talk to her best friend. She doesn’t pretend to have the perfect garden and has no intention to do so. She describes gardening and personal expression and baulks at the idea of a pristine garden. She embraces the garden tasks as a form of anger management.  Growing up in a family that idealized Jim Crockett’s Victory Garden ideals, she became a garden blogger when there weren’t blogs about gardening, first writing about her experiences as a garden center employee. She does not boast accolades but only describes it as “hot fudge” on top of a need to write about all things gardening.
The ever popular Shane Cultra from County Arbors Nursery in Urbana will open the day focusing on “New and Exciting Plants for 2016.” Shane is known for his charismatic presentations, super star amongst the Master Gardeners and will sure to have you running to the garden centers to buy the hot new plants for the year.
For more information please contact Kelly Allsup, Extension unit educator, Horticulture-Livingston, McLean and Woodford Unit at (309) 663-8306, or email Kelly at


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