NORMAL – By a 6-1 count at their regularly-scheduled meeting Monday night, Normal Town Council members approved amending two sections of the Town Code which would help pave the way for an Uptown business to have outdoor seating in an on-the-street parking space.

The request was made by owners of Stave, a beer and wine establishment at 111 W. North St. To permit sales and consumption of food and alcoholic beverages in an on-street parking space, amendments needed to be made to the Town Public Code concerning liquor and public ways.

Town Staff researched to discover what other communities had to see if it would even be possible to allow this in Normal. The on-street cafes are referred to as parklets. What Town Staff discovered is that parklets are becoming very popular and common in central business districts nationally. The Town’s research found them in Iowa City, Iowa, and in Illinois in Urbana and Yorkville.

The Town has drafted an ordinance which would allow for a pilot program for parklets to be allowed in Normal. Among the pilot program’s stipulations: It would only be in effect for 2018, expiring Oct. 15, would only apply to Stave, and the Town’s public works director would have to approve the seating layout.

Also, the seating would need to be on a platform, and the platform could not interfere with the flow of vehicle traffic. Also under the conditions of the program, the Town also retains the right to discontinue the program at any time, including for temporary circumstances.

“More communities are doing this all the time,” Town Planner Mercy Davison told Council members, adding the move amounted to an investment in infrastructure for the establishment.

But Council Member Jeff Fritzen said he had concerns about vehicles coming around the round-about off of Beaufort St., saying that turn “is fairly tight.”

“I have a safety concern with this,” Fritzen added. “Once you do a pilot program, others want it and I would rather see where this winds up” before making a determination whether it should be continued.

Fritzen said parking in Uptown also plays a role. Davison said parking blocks at one end of the outdoor café for safety are part of the plan. She said a block of that type is there already. Before the vote was taken, Council Member Kevin McCarthy expressed the opinion the Town should at least give it a try.

Children’s Discovery Museum, Normal Theater Named “Two Greatest Places” In Illinois: Before the 45-minute meeting closed, City Manager Pam Reece announced Children’s Discovery Museum and Normal Theater had been named two of “Illinois’ 200 Great Places” by American Institute of Architects, honoring what the organization calls “built environments.”

AIA Illinois will present both locations with individual plaques to recognize the honor, Reece told Council members. All 200 locations AIA Illinois honored are featured on a website, www.illinoisgreatplaces.com.

Planned Unit Development Gets Conditional Approval: Council members unanimously approved a resolution which conditionally approved a preliminary planned unit development east of 201 McKnight, to become known as “The Park.”

The property owner plans to develop the land east of the Starplex Cinemas on 4.76 acres of land. The plan includes construction of 13 buildings which will house 85 units which will allow for 294 beds. Townhomes on the property will be 2 ½ stories with varying exteriors and porch styles. The complex will meet Town Code by making sure it has 170 spaces.

The development received unanimous approval by a 7-0 vote of the McLean County Regional Planning Commission. That vote followed a public hearing on May 10.

Proclamation Honors Local Students: Prior to the start of the meeting, two local high school students were honored with a proclamation for successfully completing an innovation award program which is co-sponsored by Millikin University, Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University, and Pontiac Township High School.

Normal Community High School student Lexi Showalter and Normal Community West High School student Becca Nalley were honored with a proclamation read by Normal Mayor Chris Koos honoring them for receiving an innovators award from the universities and the high school for their creating what they call Cybercitizens, a program where senior citizens learn how to use a smartphone during a face-to-face class. So far, the girls say, they have taught older folks at Bible study classes with the seniors wanting to learn about the new technology.

Retiring Town Engineer Attends Final Council Meeting: Gene Brown wrapped up 33 years with the Town of Normal when the Council session ended. Brown retires as Town Engineer. He, too, received a proclamation from the Town, read by Koos, surrounded by Council members.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council meeting of May 7, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of May 16, 2018.

• A resolution approving the final plat of the Normal Main Street Fire Station subdivision (606 S. Main St.) by expedited process and initiating a zoning map amendment from B-1 General Business to S-2 Public Lands & Institutions.

• A resolution conditionally and partially approving a final plat within one and one-half miles of corporate limits by expedited process – A. Ziebarth (south of 19203 N. 1500 East Rd.).

• An ordinance vacating a portion of an alley in the subdivision of Block 6 in the 9th addition to Normal (Off of Fell St. between Mulberry St. and Locust St.). A public hearing was held on this matter prior to the start of the Council session. No one addressed Council members at the hearing.

By Steve Robinson | May 7, 2018 - 10:13 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members approved a “Welcoming” Ordinance at the governing body’s regularly-scheduled session Monday in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station while an overflow crowd of nearly 200 residents watched. The ordinance passed by a 5-2 vote with Council members Scott Preston and Jeff Fritzen voting against the measure.

The Town has been working with the Keeping Families Together Coalition, a group representing a number of different organizations who has had members who have been meeting with Town Staff to help recognize Normal as a Welcoming community. Former City Manager Mark Peterson, current City Manager Pam Reece, and Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner met to discuss areas of interest which included building a long-term relationship between the Coalition’s members and the Town.

Among the provisions of the ordinance are: Town employees will not ask questions about a resident’s citizenship or immigration status unless required by statute, ordinance, Federal law, court order, or if deemed necessary for criminal investigation; and Normal Police will not investigate individuals solely on matters regarding immigration violation.

A total of 15 residents addressed Council members, 14 of whom encouraged passage of the ordinance. Dontae Latson, president and Chief Executive Officer of McLean County YWCA, told Council members passing the ordinance would be “a strong first step in the right direction.” Resident Richard Greenfield told Council members, “I know for some, this will be a tough vote but I urge you to vote for it because it’s the right thing to do.”

“The ordinance has been carefully discussed,” mentioned Charlotte Alvarez, a member of the group Keeping Families Together. “Being undocumented is not a crime. This ordinance is a solution that works best for this community at this time.”

But resident and former Town Council candidate Ron Ulmer was one of two citizens opposing the measure’s passage. “Are we searching for a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist?” he asked Council members. Resident Karl Sila also spoke against the ordinance’s passage, saying undocumented residents take jobs from legal citizens, and deemed the process the Council was going through that night “a waste of time.” He said he encouraged people to come into the country legally.

As the discussion among Council members began, Mayor Chris Koos, back at his first meeting since having cancer surgery last month, admitted this was a divisive issue. ”This ordinance doesn’t tell ICE ‘You can’t come into our community.’” ICE is the Federal government’s division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, overseen by the Department of Homeland Security.

Council Member R. C. McBride everyone involved in the process of getting this ordinance assembled has not had an easy time in doing it. McBride thanked Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner for his efforts where the ordinance was concerned. Council Member Kathleen Lorenz reminded this issue can be a partisan one and asked Bleichner if NPD’s membership supports the ordinance completely. Bleichner said his department wants to show dignity and respect to people who the ordinance is designed to help. “I’ve gotten nothing but positive comments about this ordinance from our staff,” Bleichner responded.

“For me, I support the substance and substance of what this ordinance is trying to be,” Preston said of his no vote. He said his no vote came because he felt such enforcement of such a matter should be done at Town Staff level and that Town Council members shouldn’t “get into the weeds of how Town Staff operates” on matters. He said NPD already a number of things the ordinance asks and for the Council to step in to oversee something already being done didn’t make sense to him.

Prior to the meeting, a rally by supporters of the measure was held at the roundabout in Uptown and many of those people who attended the rally brought signs supporting passage of the measure into the Council session. During public comment on the matter, a total of 15 residents addressed Council members supporting its passage while one speaker voiced opposition to it.

Resolution Requesting TIF Extension Passes: There was only one other item Council members addressed during the session which, with a brief break, lasted around three hours. Council Members unanimously approved a resolution requesting legislative approval for a 12 year extension of the Tax Increment Financing district in order to continue improvements within Uptown. To receive that requires legislative approval. The current Uptown Normal TIF, which lasts for 23 years, was created in May 2003 and will expire in 2026. A 12 year extension would allow the TIF to continue to exist until 2038 and would help the Town to do work in Uptown in an area from the roundabout to Mulberry Street northbound.

Seven governing entities would need to be involved and approve the extension, as well. Those include: City of Bloomington, Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District, Heartland Community College Board, Normal Township, Central Illinois Regional Airport Authority, McLean County Board, and Normal-based Unit 5 School District Board.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council meeting of April 16, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of May 2, 2018.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the purchase of four (4) refuse collection trucks from Arlington Heights-based Cumberland Servicenter, Inc. in the amount of $1,271,428.

• A resolution authoring payment to Bloomington-based Stark Excavating, Inc. in the amount of $34,184.73 for emergency sewer repairs on Samantha Street.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the City Manager to enter into construction and service agreements with CIRBN, LLC. to install fiber optic infrastructure at three elevated water storage tanks.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and accepting a quote from Ferguson Water Works to replace remaining water meters and readers and approval of the necessary budget adjustments. This item was pulled for a brief discussion by Council members and approved by a 4-3 vote with Council Members Kevin McCarthy, McBride, and Lorenz voting against it.

• A motion to reject bids for the Route 66 trail connection Constitution Trail extension from the Towanda Ave./Shelbourne Drive intersection to the Beech St./Pine St. intersection.

By Steve Robinson | April 16, 2018 - 10:13 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – As part of the omnibus agenda for Normal Council members at their regularly-scheduled meeting Monday night in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, Council members unanimously approved a resolution authorizing a change of ownership of the Bloomington-Normal Marriott and Conference Center, 201 Broadway, from John Q. Hammons Hotels And Resorts, based in Springfield, Mo. to New York-based investment firm JD Holdings. JD Holdings is an affiliate of Alpharetta, Ga.-based Atrium Hospitality. Atrium Hospitality has 49 hotel properties in 26 states.

The Hammons group also seeks to turn over the hotel’s Carol A. Reitan Conference Center, named after the Town’s first female mayor from the 1970s, over to the new owners as well as the parking garage structure across from the hotel, on Beaufort St.

John Q. Hammons, founder of the company that has owned the hotel since it opened in late summer 2009, died in 2013. Hammons’ company has been selling off properties in the last years, City Manager Pam Reece told reporters after the meeting. Published reports out of Hammons company home base, Springfield, Mo., indicate that after filing for bankruptcy, Hammons’ company has had a number of its properties sold to JD Holdings

Reece added the Town doesn’t have a list of improvements it wants to see the new owners implement right away after taking ownership.

Koos Surgery Successful: Reece also reported that prostate surgery was successful for Mayor Chris Koos, who took a leave of absence from his elected position April 3. The surgery took place the next day, Reece said. The diagnosis came about after receiving the results of Prostate Specific Antigen, or PSA tests Koos underwent in December.

Reece said she spoke with the Mayor April 15, and she said he hopes to be back to his duties with the Town in about a week. From April 3-7, Council Member Kevin McCarthy handled Mayoral duties, the result of Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Fritzen being on vacation until April 7. Fritzen has the most seniority and serves as Mayor Pro Tem when Koos can’t make meetings.

Liquor Commission Approves License For New Owners Of Swinger’s: Prior to the Council session, Council members, meeting in their capacity as members of Normal Local Liquor Commission, held a special session during which they unanimously approved a Class D (All liquor on premises consumption) license for Fine Eatz, LLC, doing business as Swingers’ Grille, 1304 Cross Creek Dr. The business had been closed by previous owners in January.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council meeting of April 2, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of April 11, 2018.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the purchase and installation of an outdoor warning siren from Bloomington-based Innotech Communications at a cost of $25,954.49.

• A resolution to award the bid for water main and service line materials to Bloomington-based Water Products, Inc.

By Steve Robinson | April 2, 2018 - 10:40 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members had nothing on their agenda to handle immediately at their regularly scheduled meeting Monday in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station. However, for the next month, Mayor Chris Koos will be taking a leave of absence from his elected position as he undergoes treatment for prostate cancer. He told the session prior to adjourning the meeting the diagnosis came about after receiving the results of Prostate Specific Antigen, or PSA tests he underwent in December.

Koos leave began Tuesday. From Tuesday through April 7, Council Member Kevin McCarthy will handle Mayoral duties, the result of Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Fritzen being on vacation until April 7. Fritzen has the most seniority and serves as Mayor Pro Tem when Koos can’t make meetings.

McCarthy has the next most seniority among Council members, having been first elected in 2012. McCarthy said he wished Koos, 69, “a speedy, easy recovery.”

Koos credited “great family genes” for his health up to this point, adding he had never had any instances of cancer previously. He told reporters he planned on spending his recovery period “catching up on some reading and binge watching.”

In his absence, the two stores Koos owns, Vitesse Cycle Shop and Often Running, located along Linden Ave., he said, will be overseen by “lead managers.”

First Female City Manager: The brief meeting also capped off the first meeting as City Manager for Pam Reece, who succeeded Mark Peterson who retired after 30 years with the Town on March 30. Peterson was, first, assistant city manager for 10 years before becoming city manager for the last 20. Reece is the Town’s first female city manager.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the public hearing of March 5, 2018.

• Approval of the minutes of the public hearing of March 19, 2018.

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council meeting of March 19, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of March 28, 2018

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the purchase of a Toro groundsman mower from Berkeley , Mo.-based MTI Distributing via the Illinois State Contract Pricing-Contract #4018513.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the purchase of several pieces of golf course maintenance equipment via the National Cooperative Contract Solutions Program of the National Joint Powers Alliance (NJPA).

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the purchase of several pieces of golf course maintenance equipment via the National Cooperative Contract Solutions Program of the National Intergovernmental Purchasing Alliance (National IPA).

• A resolution to accept bids and award a contract to Bloomington-based Stark Excavating, Inc. in the amount of $187,811.81 for the Watkins Drive improvement project from Towanda Ave. to the Shoppes At College Hills ring road.

• A resolution to award a bid for the Walnut Street and Mulberry Street water main replacement projects to Stark Excavating, Inc. at a total cost of $791,949 plus up to a potential $15,000 bonus for early completion.

• A resolution authorizing the renewal of the Town’s participation in the Municipal Insurance Cooperative Agency (MICA) insurance program for the plan year 2018-2019 beginning on May 1, 2018.

• A resolution authorizing an assignment under redevelopment agreements for The Flats developments.

NORMAL – He served the Town of Normal as an assistant city manager for 10 years before being promoted to the City Manager’s post 20 years ago when the then-City Manager retired. And when it came time to recall Mark R. Peterson’s accomplishments over those three decades, Peterson was humbled by the celebration thrown in his honor at the Carol A. Reitan Conference Center of the Bloomington-Normal Marriott on March 29. His last day on the job was March 30.

“That wasn’t me,” he said humbly of everything he had done in the last 20 years overseeing Town Staff. He told the gathering of roughly 300 people the long list of accomplishments attributed to his work for the Town, “That’s not me. That’s the employees.” He asked Normal Town Staff to raise their hands so they could be acknowledged.

“It takes a team to accomplish what needs to be done by the Town,” Peterson told the gathering. “And I play a small part in that. The Mayor and Council are a team and they deserve credit,” Peterson said, for what gets accomplished by the Town. “I appreciate the accolades, but it’s a lot of people who make things happen in this community.”

Of his successor, Pamela Reece, who has served as first assistant city manager and currently deputy city manager, Peterson said, “She is going to be fantastic.”

Peterson told Mayor Chris Koos and Town Council members past and present who turned out for the celebration, “You’ve made my job easier, and you’ve made the jobs of the staff easier because of your support and your progressive approach to things, and the fact that we work as a team.”

The job of City Manager is not known for being a long-term gig. The person in that position is in it provided they are taking care of Town business to the satisfaction of a mayor and council. But Peterson told the gathering the elected officials he served and the staff he oversaw were two reasons why he stayed here. “It’s been a very rewarding career.”

Recognized By Leaders: State leaders and organizations paid tribute to Peterson during the ceremony. The first of the honors bestowed on Peterson came from Normal Town Council members who presented Peterson with a proclamation celebrating his career and recognizing March 30 as “Mark R. Peterson Day” in the Town of Normal . In addition, Mayor Chris Koos informed Peterson the plaza surrounding the roundabout in Uptown was being christened “Mark R. Peterson Plaza.” Upon seeing the artist’s rendering of that, Peterson could be seen brushing away tears.

In addition, Dorothy David, City Manager for the City of Champaign , representing Illinois City/County Management Association, called Peterson “a mentor and a role model. It has been a pleasure to work with Mark all these years,” David said, and presented him with a plaque from ICCMA recognizing him for his years of service. David said she met Peterson as he was finishing his tenure as City Manager in Liberty , Mo. , the community he worked in before being hired to start working in Normal 30 years ago. At that time, Peterson was coming to Normal to become assistant city manager under then-City Manager David Anderson .

Jane Chamberlain, a staff member representing State Rep. Dan Brady (R-105th) presented Peterson with a framed copy of a resolution which was passed by the Illinois General Assembly declaring March 30 “Mark Peterson Day” in Illinois. In addition, U. S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth honored Peterson with a proclamation, Durbin including a framed U. S. flag which had flown over the U. S. Capitol, each of them presenting a letter of congratulations, as well.

Normal Fire Chief Mick Humer and NFD Union Representatives from Local 2442, President Matt Hill and Vice President Matt Steinkoenig, presented Peterson with an NFD fireman’s hat. “We’d like to thank Mark for his years of service and everything he’s done for the fire department,” Humer told the gathering. He added that was especially true regarding getting the new fire station along Main St. near the Illinois State University campus open. NFD’s new Station #1 opened in November. Humer and his men presented Peterson with a badge and a fireman’s helmet.

Normal Town Council members gave Peterson the gift of a print of the Normal Theater created by Ken Cashman. He also received video congratulations from U. S. Rep. Rodney Davis and U. S. Rep. Darin LaHood.

Peterson also participated in a comedic video depicting what Peterson’s time in retirement might be like, something enjoyed by the audience.

Various family were in attendance for this event including: Peterson’s wife, Rebecca; His son, Tanner; Son Adam and daughter-in-law Holly Ann, and their daughter, Elise; and Peterson’s brother, Kent.