The Pantagraph from Bloomington, Illinois on September 21, 1999 · Page 3
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The Pantagraph from Bloomington, Illinois · Page 3

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Tuesday, September 21, 1999
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A3 The Pantagraph Tuesday, September 21, 1999 air Witch' film contest packs theater lilt By DAN CARDEN Pantagraph staff Perhaps the only thing more frightening than the psychological terror wrought by mysterious screams and breaking twigs when lost in the woods is facing the line to get into a theater where five spoofs and one serious video mimic one of the blockbuster movies of the summer. Eager fans started arriving at 5 p.m. Monday at the Normal Theater for the Blair Witch Contest Gala, a big-screen showing of the six finalists 'in a contest to see who could best match the shaky handheld camera stylings and lost-in-the-woods fear factor of "The Blair Witch Project." By 6:30 p.m., when the doors finally opened, people waiting to get in the theater were lined down North Street, curving around the block and in line on Broadway Street, almost all the way to Beaufort Street. With a capacity of only 395 people, the Normal Theater was forced to turn away almost as many people as got into the building for the free showing. "We didn't think we were going to get in; we were wrapped clear around the building," said Cindy Smith of Normal, who got in line at 6:10 p.m. The doors shut for the final time just as the folks who got in line around 6:35 p.m. slipped into their seats for the show. And what a show they got. Stunning dialogue like, "No, no that's somebody else's toaster" and the infamous apology scene, "I'm sorry to the people in the checkout line who had 10 items, when I had 22," was accompanied by humor like that in a "Wizard of Oz" take on "Blair Witch" where Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion, and Toto (for a while) get lost in the woods because they wandered off the yellow-brick road. It kept the audience in stitches, and each entry was rewarded with thunderous applause. After viewing the six finalists, attendees pulled a ballot from an "Official Blair Witch Barf Bag" provided in case of motion sickness from the shaky footage and chose their favorite. "The Wicked Witch of the West Project" was the big winner. Directors Brian Ulrich and Abe Scheuermann received a specially designed tro- "We didn't think we were going to get in; we were wrapped clear around the building." Cindy Smith of Normal L... For those who didn't get into the theater last night, or who just want to see them again, the six finalist videos will be shown again Monday at 7 p.m. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. for the free showing, and theater staff advise getting in line early. This audience will not vote for a favorite. The results from last night's voting were: "The Wicked Witch of the West Project" 120 "The Lehr Vitch Project" 67 "The Blair, Which Project?" 57 "The Blairwich Project" 44 "The Contest" 32 "The Extra Credit Project" 28 77 ..r phy featuring the Blair Witch stick figure, 25 passes to the Normal Theater and a package of other prizes. He didn't take first place, but Mike Zima, a student at Bradley University in Peoria, was just happy he made the final cut. His film, "The Contest," was the lone serious take on "Blair Witch." "To be able to sit here and to have my movie shown in front of all of these people is a rush," Zima said. He said it was clear when many in the audience jumped in their seat as something moved in the tent during his movie that his movie was a success even though he did not win the contest. I , .'1 x The PantagraphLLOYO YOUNG Above: David Gray, right, and Danna Southard set up a tent one they used in their Blair Witch Contest movie entry outside the Normal Theater Monday night. The drama students from Illinois State University worked with classmate Peter Zielinski to make 'The Blair, Which Project?" one of six finalists shown Monday night. Left: Devon Lovell's face filled the Normal Theater during one of her scenes in 'The Lehr Vitch Project." Normal developer drops sign request By MARY ANN FORD Pantagraph staff Customers of a future commercial site north of Greenbriar subdivision may be able to get there by way of Hershey .Road eventually, but whether there's a sign to greet them there remains to be seen. Tracy Shepard, who owns the property with his brother, Greg Shepard, withdrew a request for a 30-foot sign at the corner of the future Shepard Road and Hershey Road after it became apparent that the Normal City Council would follow the Planning Commission and deny the request. The sign would identify major tenants of the commercial area. The sign was not part of the original annexation agreement the Shepards made with Normal for the 177-acre North-Land Commercial Subdivision, and it was vehemently opposed by nearby Green-briar subdivision residents. "I think it's big and ugly," said Amanda Wells of 1824 Taft Drive during a public hearing that preceded the council meeting. "I would ask the developer to live up to his original plan," added Jim Irwin of 1804 Johnson Drive. Many council members tended to agree. "I'm not totally against the sign," said member Glenn Gordon, "but I'd like a nicer one like the College Hills Mall sign." "A mall-type sign would be more desirable to me," said Council-woman Sonja Reece, especially since a larger one would not be visible from Greenbriar anyway, she said.But that wasn't the only loss the Shepards suffered Monday night. The council also rejected a request to allow two permanent billboards along Veterans Parkway rather than the original number approved in the annexation agreement. The pact allowed one permanent billboard and two temporary ones. Jim Scherer, who plans to build a Saturn dealership at the Shepard development, got more positive results. The council approved his 3-acre site plan after learning the town's administrative staff encouraged Scherer to soften the west side of the building with canopies. Vehicle law includes trailers For many years the town of Normal has had an ordinance prohibiting vehicles from parking on a public street for more than 24 consecutive hours. It didn't matter if the vehicle was operable or abandoned, a car or a truck, a construction trailer or a boat trailer the rule was the same. Or so officials thought. They found out otherwise recently when they asked a boat trailer owner to move the trailer off the street. The owner refused. And there was little officials could do because a review of the or dinance revealed it referred to "motorized vehicles," not non-motorized, such as trailers. That changed Monday night when the City Council amended the ordinance to prohibit "vehicles" from being parked on the street for more than 24 hours. Bicycles are excluded from the ordinance. While the town will continue to ask owners first to move the vehicle if it is in violation of the ordinance, it does have the authority to issue a ticket or have the vehicle towed. Council plans early for budget By STEVE ARNEY Pantagraph staff A commitment to parks, downtown renewal and law enforcement are among elements in Bloomington's upcoming budget, but the city isn't yet ready to promise funds to an anti-gang initiative called Youth Impact. A two-hour discussion Monday saw members of the City Council also asking for a stronger commitment to traffic enforcement. It's very early in the budgeting season, but the summer budget session is an annual council tradition in its third year. It gives the City Council an idea of what it will be asking the taxpayers to shoulder when it passes its property tax levy in November or December. The budget's general fund, which includes the bulk of city services, is expected to total about $45 million and increase by $122,000 over this year. The, levy is expected to raise $11.5 million of that. New and improved parks A portion of the budget proposal called the "five-year capital improvement budget" shows the city aggressively buying land and developing parks. The biggest project is $4 million to convert farmland near Empire Street and Airport Road into a 30-acre park. There is $584,000 projected for development of a park on the northeast side at Eagle-crest East subdivision and plans to buy land south of Ireland Grove Road for a southeast park. The budget proposal advocates upgrades of existing parks, including a new bath house and renovation of the Holiday Park Pool, a new clubhouse at High land Park and a new football field and parking at White Oak Park. The council recently approved funding for a comprehensive study of Miller Park. Downtown manager, grants The City Council is almost sure to approve a proposal next week to fund a downtown executive director who answers to the central business district's new commission. Aldermen were polled in advance of last week's hiring of Michael Hahn, who is from Mason City, Iowa. The proposal is for five years at $141,000 per year to pay Hahn and a secretary, plus rent, utilities and various expenses. Aldermen anticipate the commission will find a way to fund the position after that. The city administration is getting tentative support for up to $100,000 in facade grants to help downtown property owners improve the appearance of building exteriors. Building owners could qualify for a $10,000 grant if they also spent at least that much. The administration likes the approach, because it improves the downtown's appearance while giving the city the ability to control quality while not imposing regulations on exterior changes. New officers, lawyer coming The City Council also voiced tentative approval for hiring four more police officers, bringing the total to 103 in Blooming-ton. Three would be allocated to the patrol division and one to the prevention and community outreach program. Elected officials, including Alderman Skip Crawford, advocated greater emphasis on traffic enforcement and asked about putting radar guns in every City's combined tax rate set to drop, just a little By Pantagraph staff Bloomington's tax rate should decrease very slightly in the coming year, lowering the city's tax on a $100,000 home by $3.11. The early estimates, released by officials for a City Council budget workshop Monday, show the combined rate for city government and the public library at a combined rate will be $1.39 per $100 assessed valuation next year. That's down from the current combined rate of $1.40. In dollars, that means city property taxes on a $100,000 house go from $466.89 to $463.78. It doesn't necessarily translate into a tax cut overall for city property owners, because other taxing bodies might raise rates and because increasing property value leads to higher property assessment and higher taxes. It does show, however, a continued philosophy at city hall to try to match cost of services to the amount of money levied on property and to try to keep levy increases under 5 percent. Until two years ago, the policy was to set a levy so that the city rate was $1.50 per $100 of assessed valuation, said City Manager Tom Hamilton. "Our levy is going up at a slower rate than the assessed valuation of the community," Hamilton said before the budget work session. "Therefore, our rate continues to drop." As for overall property tax burden, the city manager said: "No one's tax bills went down. Mine sure didn't." City government's portion of next year's bill will be $1.15 per $100 assessed valuation and the Bloomington Public Library's will be 24 cents, according to projections. As proposed, the tax levy will increase from $13.3 million to $13.9 million. The equalized assessed valuation of the entire city is $950 million this year. Officials estimate a 5 percent increase to $998 million. squad car. "I'd like to see us really toughen up on that," Mayor Judy Markowitz said of speeding. Chief Richard Ryan said while the new officers aren't for the traffic division, all patrol officers are expected to enforce traffic laws. In addition, the legal department is slated to get a third attorney. City Manager Tom Hamilton said it will help the city bring code violations, written by police and city inspectors, to court more effectively. Anti-gang program The Youth Impact gang-intervention program operates through the non-profit agency Project Oz, but its loss of federal grant money resulted in a request that Bloomington, Normal and McLean County fund a $250,000 annual' program. Alderman Mike Matejka said officials need more information about how the money would be spent. ISU students help dig up New Mexico's past at site of ancient pueblo By SCOTT RICHARDSON Pantagraph staff An Illinois State University expedition spent the summer stepping back in time to unearth the secrets of an ancient pueblo deep in America's Southwest. The first phase of the five-year study took students in associate professor James Ski-bo's La Frontera Field School to live in a makeshift encampment at Joyce Well in New Mexico. The archaeological site lies in a remote area populated today by rattlesnakes and scorpions, just two miles north of the Mexican border. The scientific mission offers a glimpse into daily life within the 300-room pueblo, last occupied in the latei300s about a century before Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World. On Monday, Skibo pronounced the early stages of the effort a success. The ISU group, along with students from New Mexico State University, assembled essential pieces of an archaeological puzzle focusing on the purpose of features scientists call l:-- -Jl 7zm w Era The 1999 NMSUISU Archaeology Field School was conducted in the area of Joyce Well in the "boot heel" of New Mexico from June 21 to July 2. "ball courts," he said. The ball courts are located on the outskirts of villages. Each is about 75 yards long, 45 yards wide and pointed in a north-south direction. They are surrounded by low earthen berms, with low rock walls about a foot or two high, running along the east and west sides. Their purpose, whether for sport or religious ceremonies, remains unknown. "We don't have any idea," Skibo said. "Clearly, it was some kind of community-wide function." Before traveling west to live without electricity or running water during the study, students knew they would be among the first ever to excavate a ball court. They carefully uncovered one at Joyce Well, which resembles several similar ball courts found about 60 miles south of the site at Casas Grandes, a city of 5,000 from the same time period. What ISU and NMSU students didn't know was that they would also stumble onto another ball court at a previously unknown site three miles from Joyce Well. Another unexpected discovery came when they realized the Joyce Well ball court actually is built on top of a more ancient one. Why? "We're just beginning to peek into that," Skibo said. Yet another surprise of the trip came when the professors Skibo and his NMSU counterpart, Bill Walker rediscovered a "trincheras," or terrace system, cut in the side of a small mountain by people who lived in the area long before the 14th century residents of Joyce Well. Called "the Fortress," the site was lost after its initial discovery in the 1930s. Its name reflects the purpose of the terraces. Though some hills were terraced for farming, Skibo said scientists believe the ones at the Fortress were made so inhabitants could build their homes to overlook the surrounding countryside. The expedition researchers also found two caves at the Fortress containing artifacts, such as broken pieces of pottery and simple stone tools, which also were found in two rooms of the Joyce Well pueblo. Skibo said the bonus discoveries of the additional ball court and the Fortress have led to a decision to do an extensive inventory of other nearby archaeological sites when the expedition returns next summer. The La frontera Field School Web site is http:gauss.nmsu.edulludemanjwell9W jwWindex.htm .

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