THUMBS UP TO… a sound stage plan. It seems like everything is going right for the auditorium renovation at Streator High School. First the district was able to undertake the massive project without increasing the property tax rate. Then at last week’s board meeting a representative from the Green & Associates architecture firm identified seven areas of savings that make it possible to renovate dressing rooms beyond the original plan of adding restrooms and bringing them up to code.
Superintendent Matt Seaton said the project remains on schedule and on budget — how often do you hear that when public money is involved? — and gains were made by things like eliminating acoustic material in a few areas where there were found to have no purpose and switching to straight walls instead of curved around the stage area. This kind of flexible, creative approach to renovations serves both the taxpayers who effectively own the property as well as the faculty and students who will use the auditorium for years to come because the result will be a more comprehensive overhaul. We hope that all such projects proceed in this refreshing fashion.
THUMBS DOWN TO… a track technicality. Our sports reporter Charlie Ellerbrock made this case quite well in a column last week, but we’d also like to ding the IHSA for a questionable decision affecting standout Newark competitor Connor Swanson. At the state track and field meet last month, Swanson severely sprained his left ankle during long jump warmups. He could barely walk, let alone run and jump, but because he’d done so well in the preliminary competition the day before, he ended up with a third-place medal.
The problem came when the hurdle finals arrived. Swanson was seeded fifth out of nine finalists, and all nine finishers get medals. Swanson did compete, hobbling through the race and around the hurdles. But a track judge disqualified him for touching the hurdles with his hands, even though the IHSA rules don’t explicitly bar such contact and it clearly provided no competitive advantage. Rather than reward Swanson for his grit, the IHSA punished him. If the medal didn’t matter, he would’ve just headed home hours earlier. It’s hard to understand what the IHSA gains from Swanson’s loss, but hopefully the situation will spark change so future competitors aren’t affected in the same manner.
THUMBS UP TO… a center of activity. Lots of people have been very busy in Naplate over the last two years rehabilitating the old St. Mary’s Catholic Church Parish Hall into a community center set to open any day now. After a February 2017 tornado effectively destroyed the church, the village bought the hall for a nominal fee with an eye toward creating a new asset for the village and its residents. Work has included electrical, flooring and roofing repairs plus work on the heating and air conditioning systems, and the result is something we hope everyone can be proud of in a little town known for prizing its unique identity.
Naplate Trustee Misty Crawford said people are already approaching the village with rental inquiries, which certainly goes to prove the space fills a local need. Community Center Committee Chairman Bob Rick said the Village Board is looking into a USDA grant that might alleviate the costs the village has expended thus far. While any money from the feds would be helpful, we hope village officials feel that no matter what their hard work has resulted in a wonderful new community space. May their contributions be long remembered.
THUMBS DOWN TO… Statehouse stalling. Call it delay tactics or procrastination, just don’t call what happened at in Springfield last week good governance. Despite the fact the regular legislative session started in January, and despite the fact everyone knew where the Memorial Day weekend fell on the General Assembly’s calendar, the last week of session included enough cram sessions and near all-nighters to make a college sophomore proud, virtually all of which focused on controversial and important topics that will chart the future of Illinois for years to come.
Whatever your feelings on things like recreational marijuana, abortion rights, firearm owner regulations, gambling expansion or the entire state budget, it should be easy to find consensus that the best way for lawmakers to carry out the public’s business is to do so over the course of several months with full hearings during working hours and after enough advance notice to let people weigh in with their opinions. Shoving so many key elements of lawmakers’ job into such a tiny window at the end of May might serve someone’s interest, but it sure as heck doesn’t serve the will of the people.