Monthly Archives: December 2008

Just About Normal’s Top 10 for 2008

With the calendar’s changing over to 2009, it’s time for Just About Normal to tick off the Top 10 accomplishments for the Town of Normal in 2008.   It was a productive year, so I will be hard pressed to limit my list to 10.

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Filed under Lists, Town Council

State Farm-funded NPD youth intervention program making progress

Mary Ann Ford’s story in Tuesday’s Pantagraph provides a nice overview of the new Normal Police Youth Intervention Program.   This program is an attempt to address the problem of children (ages 8-13) who are getting into trouble at school or at home by linking the kids and their parents with community resources.

It’s good to see that school personnel are becoming aware of the program and are making referrals. 

It’s even better to see that parents are embracing the assistance and their children are benefiting.

Thanks to State Farm for working with the Town of Normal and providing a very generous level of funding to make it happen.

For more information about the program, contact Nikki Wilder at NPD at 454-9600.

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Is it really going to be 64 Saturday in Normal?

Just checking the Weather Channel forecast for Normal and Saturday’s predicted high of 64 looked to be a misprint.  We’ve had some pretty crazy weather so far this winter.    Ice storms and single digit highs followed by near record high temperatures.  

We return Sunday after a  spending week away in Florida.    At least the car won’t be covered with ice in the airport parking lot.

I’ll admit that the weather hasn’t been much of an issue here.

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Crews doing an excellent job keeping Normal streets clear and safe

Last winter proved to be a busy season for the snow plow drivers in the Town of Normal’s Public Works department.  They were  called on to handle several major storms and did a tremendous job, generating few complaints.

This winter looks to be equally as challenging, yet crews have risen to the occasion and are doing an excellent job staying on top of the snow and ice.

If I were giving a grade, I would give them an A.  

The dreaded ice storm has arrived and I saw a couple of trucks putting down salt earlier in the evening, which was a good sign.  With the weather forecast calling for freezing rain to fall  through the early morning hours, crews will have their work cut out of them again.  

A neighbor shared with me this morning his observation that there seemed to be a lot of cars left on the street in violation of the Town’s snow removal ordinance after Tuesday’s 2-3 inch snowfall.   I noticed the same thing.   Despite the parked cars, the streets were in great shape Wednesday morning.

Still, there might be a need for some residents to brush up on the Town’s snow and ice removal policy, including the on-street parking restrictions that take effect when it snows 2 inches or more.

Reading the policy,  there is a method to the madness. 

I’m sure I’ll receive plenty of comments and have more to say about snow removal as this winter throws more snow and ice our way.

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Filed under Snow and Ice Removal, Transportation, Uncategorized

Bad soil proves to be a costly commodity for Normal

img_0025Bad soil was a recurring theme at Monday night’s Normal Town Council meeting. 

Bad soil meant having to spend $165,000 more than was budgeted for a major new sewer line that serves a developing area of north-central Normal.

Bad soil resurfaced later in the meeting to spoil the original plans for the foundation at the Uptown Marriott hotel-conference center and parking deck, this time carrying a much bigger price tag — $860,000.

Here’s what happened:

  • The Town negotiated and the council approved a so-called “guaranteed maximum price”  for Hammons to build the Town-owned parking deck of $8.4 million;
  • But when the general contractor discovered bad soil would not accommodate the original footings, the plans had to change;
  • New plans meant the Town was on the hook for any additional expenses for the modified footings;
  • The town’s construction agent and Town staff concurred that the bad soil obligated the Town for the added expenses which were budgeted;
  • The funds to pay for the expense come from Uptown bond proceeds with a dedicated revenue source which do not compete with operating revenues.

My not-so-amazing powers of deduction figured out:

  • The Town is legally obligated to pay up;
  • Not paying JQH would likely invite a lawsuit that the Town could not win;
  • As tempting as it was, voting “no” was not an option.

Clearly, completing a well constructed hotel-conference – parking deck with a proper foundation is important.   Outside of a few (badly needed, in my opinion) fascade improvements, the deck is nearly completed and its 500 spaces will be a welcome addition late next spring.

The Marriott will be the biggest economic development driver in Uptown, so bad soil or not, the parking deck needed to be built.

The bad soil experience show that large projects like Uptown can create large unexpected expenses. 

And that’s precisely why I opposed construction of the water feature.

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Filed under Budget, Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, Town Council, Uptown Normal

Underwood House could lose its carbon footprint

img_0022I had the opportunity to participate in a meeting Friday to begin discussing ideas  for turning the Town-owned Underwood House  at 900 South Linden into an educational showcase for the latest in applied green energy technology.

Meeting participants included a local builder, Town staff, environmental educators from Heartland Community College and Illinois State University, and Farr and Associates.

At the council’s Nov. 17 meeting, we hired Farr and Associates of Chicago to conduct a feasibility study.   While I stated my vote for the feasibility study should not be interpreted as a vote for further funding, I am convinced there is tremendous potential. 

I can easily envision educational benefits for school children, college students, homeowners, residential and commercial property owners, and buiding industry professionals, if the Underwood House project moves forward.

Based on what I heard at the meeting, I am also confident in the potential for receiving the necessary funding from entities supporting renewable energy.  

People really are watching what our community is up to in this area of energy conservation, renewables, and sustainability.

A demonstration house that stays at the cutting edge of  green technology can demonstrate to citizens how they can adapt their homes to save on energy consumption and how much they can save on their utility bills.   With ISU and Heartland’s emphasis on renewable energy research and education, the possibilities are exciting.  

We discussed how energy saving technologies could be demonstrated and tested at Underwood House.   I left the meeting confident in Farr’s competence and committment to develop a workable feasibilty plan incorporating the suggestions of a broad range of stakeholders.

There’s no question that the next Congress will consider climate change legislation that may include mandatory reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions and some sort of cap and trade program.   This week, California passed its own program.

This issue is not going away.

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Filed under Green, Town Council, Uncategorized

Gov. Corruption

This is the one of the most amazing and riveting court documents I’ve ever read.

I’ve paged through it a few times, and I find it unbelievable that a governor of the state of Illinois could spend so much time working against the clock, scheming different ways to shake down hospital executives, contractors, newspapers, and other politicians.   The criminal complaint describes a governor who is completely obsessed with leveraging every project, every decision, every waking moment for campaign cash, a new job, or a corporate directorship for his wife.   

Gov. Pay to Play races to collect as much cash as possible before Jan. 1 when new ethics laws take effect.   He’s looking feverishly for a new job or a place to “parachute” if the legislature begins impeachment hearings.  He is fixated on extorting the firings of newspaper editorial writers.  

Ugh.

He planted a “for sale” sign on the open U.S. senate seat, but if he couldn’t get anything tangible upfront, he’d take it himself and resurrect his career for a 2016 presidential run.  

Huh?

You’ve heard the details and watched the news coverage.  I applaud the U.S. Attorney for arresting the governor now before the nut could commit any more crimes or do any more damage to our state. 

I shared the outrage of  Mr. Fitzgerald when he said “the conduct was enough to make Lincoln turn over in his grave.”   And I feel terrible for the state of politics in Illinois.  We need more than a political house cleaning.  We need a disinfecting.   We need Patrick Fitzgerald to stay on the job until the job is finished.

Meanwhile the governor says on tape that he feels “stuck” in his job and doesn’t know how he can face another two years as governor.

Please, do yourself and the citizens of Illinois a favor, sir.

Unstick yourself and resign.

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Filed under Illinois politics